aaaarg in Adema 2009

ing that
seems to be simply ignored for the larger good of aggregating and sharing
resources on the web. As is stated clearly for instance in an
[interview]( with
Sean Dockray, who maintains AAAARG:

_" The project wasn’t about criticizing institutions, copyright, authority,
and so on. It was simply about sharing knowledge. This wasn’t as general as it
sounds; I mean literally the sharing of knowledge between various individuals
and groups

skop]( research wiki on
media art, has continued to run since the dissolving of Burundi.

is stated on their website, AAAARG is a conversation platform, or
alternatively, a school, reading group or journal, maintained by Los Angeles
artist[ Sean Dockray](
"Sean Dockray"). In the true spirit of Critical Theory, its aim is t

etween: ‘ _But rather than
thinking of it like a new building, imagine scaffolding that attaches onto
existing buildings and creates new architectures between them_.’ To be able to
access the texts and resources that are being ‘discussed’ at AAAARG, you need
to register, after which you will be able to browse the
[library]( From this library, you can download
resources, but you can also upload content. You can subscribe to their
[feed]( (RSS/XML) and [like
Monoskop](, also maintains a [Twitter
account]( on which updates are posted. The most
interesting part though is the ‘extra’ functions the platform offers: after
you have made an account, you can make your own collections, aggre

alternative (thematically ordered) way into the texts archived on the site.
You also have the possibility to make comments or start a discussion on the
texts. See for instance their elaborate [discussion
lists]( The AAAARG community thus serves both
as a sharing and feedback community and in this way operates in a true p2p
fashion, in a way like p2p seemed originally intended. The difference being
that AAAARG is not based on a distributed network of computers, but is based
on one platform, to which registered users are able to upload a file (which is
not the case on Monoskop for instance – only downloading here).

I found the image underneath which depicts AAAARG.ORG's article index
organized as a visual map, showing the connections between the different
texts. This map was created and posted by AAAARG user john, according to

![Connections-v1 by

Where focuses again on the text itself - typed out versions of
books - Monoskop works with more modern versions of textual distribution:
scanned versions or full ebooks/pdf’s with all the possibilities they offer,
taking a lot of content from Google

» Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the 'underground movement' of (pirated) theory text sharing](

11. Pingback: [Urgh! AAAARG dead? « transversalinflections](

12. [nick knouf](

June 18, 2010


This is Nick, the author of the JJPS project; thanks for the tweet! I actually
came across this blog post while doing background research for the project and
looking for discussions about AAAARG; found out about a lot of projects that I
didn't already know about. One thing that I haven't been able to articulate
very well is that I think there's an interesting relationship between, say,
Kenneth Goldsmith's own poetry and his founding of Ubu W

aaaarg in Barok 2014

zzy anchors_ presented on the blog of the initiative last year,
which in order to overcome the need for versioning employs diff algorithms to
locate the referred section, although it is too complicated to be explained in
this setting.[1] Aaaarg has recently implemented in its PDF reader an option
to generate URLs for a particular point in the scanned document which itself
is a great improvement although it treats texts as images, thus being specific
to a particular scan of a book, and gener

published on the website of Digital Publishing Toolkit initiative,
followed by another [summary of the
the-motion-of-publishing/) by Irina Enache.

The online repository Aaaaarg [has
introduced]( the
reference-link function in its document viewer, see [an

aaaarg in Barok 2014

ted it as a side project, an offshoot, which by the fact of being online may not be only an archive of selected
source literature for the Monoskop research but also a resource for others, mainly
students in the humanities. A few months later I found Aaaarg, then oriented
mainly on critical theory and philosophy; there was also Gigapedia with publications without thematic orientation; and several other community library portals
on password. These were the first sources where I was finding relevant liter

aaaarg in Barok 2018

In the end, one should not feel guilty for publishing with MIT Press.
But at the same time, one should neither feel guilty for scanning and sharing
such a book with others.
You know, there’s fighting, there are court cases.
[Aaaaarg](/Aaaaarg "Aaaaarg"), a digital library run by our dear friend [Sean
Dockray](/Sean_Dockray "Sean Dockray"), is facing a Canadian publisher.
Open Library is now facing the Authors Guild for lending scanned books
deaccessioned from libraries.
They need our

aaaarg in Dean, Dockray, Ludovico, Broekman, Thoburn & Vilensky 2013

on is
better than competition’. Finally, I’m finishing a book called Post-Digital
Print, about the historical and contemporary relationship between offline
and online publishing.3
Sean Dockray (SD) About five years ago, I wrote this description:
AAAARG is a conversation platform - at different times it performs as a school, or
a reading group, or a journal.
AAAARG was created with the intention of developing critical discourse outside
of an institutional framework. But rather than thinking of it like a new building,

New Formations

imagine scaffolding that attaches onto existing buildings and creates new

cisions, works of fiction, government declarations, poetry
collections and so on. There is no moderation.
It’s hard to imagine it now as anything other than it is - which is really
a library, and not a school, a reading group, or a journal! Still, AAAARG
supports quite a few self-organised reading groups, it spawned a sister project
called The Public School, and now produces a small online publication,
‘Contents’. It’s used by many people in many ways, and even when that use is

occur, our editors would cease to be interested, so whatever
institutional affiliations we might be open to now that we would not have been
several years ago, it remains a delicate balance.
NT Sean, you talk very evocatively of AAAAARG as a generative ‘scaffolding’
between institutions. Can you say more about this? Does this image of
scaffolding relate to discourses of media ‘independence’ or ‘institutional
critique’? And if scaffolding is the more abstract aspect of AAAAARG - its
Materialities Of Independent Publishing 165

8. http://www.
publicationsuniaayp; http://

9. http://www.

governing image - can you talk concretely about how specific aspects of the
AAAAARG platform function to further (and perhaps also obstruct) the
scaffolding? It would be interesting to hear too if this manner of existence
runs into any difficulties - do some institutions object to having scaffolding
constructed amidst them?
SD The i

e academy. ‘Scaffolding’ was
meant to allude to both networked communication media and to prefigurative,
improvisational quasi-institutions. It suggested the possibility of the office
worker who shuts her door and climbs out the window.
How did AAAAARG actually function with respect to this image? For
one, it circulated scans of books and essays outside of their normal paths
(trajectories governed by geographic distribution, price, contracts, etc.) so
that they became available for people that prev

movements’ to ‘DEPOSITORY TO
SCIENCES PLEASE.’ These groupings could be shared so that anyone might
add a text into an Issue, an act of collective bibliography-making. The idea
was that AAAAARG would be an infinite resource, mobilised (and nurtured)
by reading groups, social movements, fringe scholars, temporary projects,
students, and so on.
My history is too general to be accurate and what I’m about to write is too
specific to be true,

o Occupy Everything, but also the ongoing haemorrhaging of
social wealth into the financial industry - has certainly re-oriented political
discourse and one’s sense of what is possible.
As regards your earlier question, I’ve never felt as though AAAARG has had
any agential power because it’s never really been an agent. It didn’t speak or

New Formations

make demands; it’s usually been more of a site of potential or vision of what’s
coming (for better or worse) than a vehicle for makin

or original,
rather it actively explored and exploited the affordances of asynchronous,
networked communication. But all of this is rather commonplace for what’s
called ‘piracy,’ isn’t it?
Anyway, yes, some entities did object to the site - AAAARG was ultimately
taken down by the publisher Macmillan over certain texts, including Beyond
NT AAAAARG’s name has varied somewhat over time. Can you comment
on this? Does its variability relate at all to the structure and functionality of

NT The expression ‘independent media’ may still have some tactical use to
characterise a publishing space and practice in distinction from commercial
media, but it’s clear from what Pauline and Sean say here that Mute and
AAAAARG have moved a long way from the analytic frameworks of media
‘independence’ as some kind of autonomous or liberated media space. We
might characterise these projects more as ‘topological’ media forms: neither
Materialities Of Independent Publi

on the material form and physical characteristics of the printed book
appears to leave little room for a digital future of this medium. Sean, I want
to ask you two related questions on this theme. What happens to the sensory
properties of paper in AAAAARG - are they lost, reconfigured, replaced with
other sensory experiences? And what happens to the book in AAAAARG, once
it is digitised and becomes less a self-enclosed and autonomous object than, as
you put it, part of an ‘infinite resource’?

nd generalised their own experiences with these objects. I see no reason
why future readers’ experiences with various forms of digital publishing
won’t cohere into something similar, feelings of attachment, enclosure,
impenetrability, and so on.
AAAARG is stuck in between both worlds. So many of the files on the site
are images of paper (usually taken with a scanner, but occasionally a camera)
packaged in a PDF. You can see it in the underlines, binding gradients,
folds, stains, and tears; and you

aaaarg in Dekker & Barok 2017

ss, clearly showing the influence
of a changing back-end system. Are you interested in the
idea of sharing and circulating texts as a new way not just
of accessing and distributing but perhaps also of production—and publishing? I’m thinking how Aaaaarg started as
a way to share and exchange ideas about a text. In what
way do you think Monoskop plays (or could play) with these
kinds of mechanisms? Do you think it brings out a new
potential in publishing?


Besides the standard literature in infor

ating alternative
indexes of persons, things and terms, making full-text
search possible, making visual search possible—across
the whole of corpus as well as its parts, and so on. Isn’t
this what makes a difference? To be sure, websites such
as Aaaaarg and Monoskop have explored only the tip of


Indeed, looking at the archive in many alternative ways has





the iceberg of possibilities. There is much more to tinker

access to knowledge informed by the positions of the Yugoslav



Marxist school Praxis; Sean’s work is critical of the militarization and commercialization of the university (in the
context of which Aaaaarg will always come as secondary, as
an extension of The Public School in Los Angeles); Kenneth
aims to revive the literary avant-garde while standing on the
shoulders of his heroes documented on UbuWeb; Sebastian
Lütgert and Jan Berger are the most se

aaaarg in Dockray 2010

skip pages. The scan is partial,
subjective. You and I will scan the same book in

About the Author

Sean Dockray is a Los Angeles-based artist. He is a
co­-director of Telic Arts Exchange and has initiated several
collaborative projects including AAAARG.ORG and The
Public School. He recently co-organized There is
noth­ing less passive than the act of fleeing, a 13-day seminar at
various sites in Berlin organized through The Public School
that discussed the promises, pitfalls, and possibilities for

aaaarg in Dockray 2013

much a passage into a space as it is an apparatus enclosing the individual. (In this sense, Open Access is one configuration of this apparatus). Two projects that I have worked within over the past 7 years – a file-­‐sharing website for texts, AAAARG.ORG, and a proposal-­‐based learning platform, The Public School – are ongoing efforts in escaping this regime of access in order to create some room to actually understand all of these conditions, their connection to larger processes, and the p

amework within which people propose ideas for things they want to learn about with others; a rotating committee might organize this proposal into an actual class, bringing together a group of strangers and friends who find a way to teach each other. AAAARG.ORG is a collective library comprised of scans, excerpts, and exports that members of its public have found important enough to share with each other. They are premised, in part, on the proposition that making these kinds of spaces is an active, cont

aaaarg in Dockray & Liang 2015

d, it is not explicit. Not only is there no statement as
such, there was never a process prior to the library in which something like a
social contract was designed._


> _I did ask users to write out a short statement of their reason for joining
Aaaaarg and have around fifty thousand of these expressions of intention. I
think it’s more interesting to think of the social contract, or at least a
"general will," in terms of those. If Rousseau distinguished between the will
of all and the general will

s a way into
our impossible selves; they share a space with dreams, but rarely do we think
of the violation of the right to access as fundamentally being a violation of
our right to dream. Your compilation of the reasons that people wanted to join
Aaaaarg may well be thought of as an archive of one-sentence-long dreams of
the ludic library. _


> _If for Bachelard the house protects the dreamer, the library for me is a
ludic shelter, which brings me back to an interesting coincidence. I don’t

ation,” and as a concept it cannot be reduced to any
other mental category. He feels that no language really has an exact
equivalent to the word fun but the closest he comes in his own language is the
Dutch word _aardigkeit, _so the line between aaaarg and aaard may have well
have been dreamt of before even started._


> _More soon,_


> _Lawrence_



aaaarg in Fuller & Dockray 2011

l equivalent in France, so then, geographically and linguistically,
and therefore also in a certain sense conceptually, the life of a book
exhibits these weird delays and lags and accelerations, so that's a good
example. I'm interested in what role Aaaaarg plays in that kind of
proliferation, the kind of things that books do, where they go and how they
become manifest. So I think one of the things Aaaaarg does is to make books
active in different ways, to bring out a different kind of potential in

**SD:** Yes, the debate has tended so far to get stuck in those three actors
because people tend to end up picking a pair and placing them in o

one can definitely see why some sort of predictability is helpful and

**MF:** So that leads me to wonder whether there are models of publishing that
are emerging that work with online distribution, or with the kind of thing
that Aaaaarg does specifically. Are there particular kinds of publishing
initiatives that really work well in this kind of context where free digital
circulation is understood as an a priori, or is it always in this kind of
parasitic or cyclical relationship?


y work actually; I don't know how well,
say, Australian publisher, works for example. 3 I like a lot of what
they publish, it's given visibility when distributes it and that's a
lot of what a publisher's role seems to be (and what Aaaaarg does as well).
But are you asking how well it works in terms of economics?

**MF:** Well, just whether there's new forms of publishing emerging that work
well in this context that cut out some of the problems ?

**SD:** Well, there's also the blog. C

ys around.

**MF:** That's what I'm thinking, that the book is a particular kind of thing
which has it's own quality as a form of media. I also wonder whether there
might be intermediate texts, unfinished texts, draft texts that might
circulate via Aaaaarg for instance or other systems. That, at least to me,
would be kind of unsatisfactory but might have some other kind of life and
readership to it. You know, as you say, the blog is a collection of relatively
occasional texts, or texts that are a work in progress, but something like
Aaaaarg perhaps depends upon texts that are finished, that are absolutely the
crystallisation of a particular thought.


Image: The Tree of Knowledge as imagined by Hans Sebald Beham in his 1543
engraving _Adam and Eve_

**SD:** Aaaaarg is definitely not a futuristic model. I mean, it occurs at a
specific time, which is while we're living in a situation where books exist
effectively as a limited edition. They can travel the world and reach certain
places, and yet the readership is greatly outpacing the spread and
availability of the books themselves. So there's a disjunction there, and
that's obviously why Aaaaarg is so popular. Because often there are maybe no
copies of a certain book within 400 miles of a person that's looking for it,
but then they can find it on that website, so while we're in that situation it

**MF:** So it's partly based on a kind

even preview. That's obviously another asymmetry, even though, geographically
speaking, I'm in an identical position, just that my subject position has
shifted from affiliated to unaffiliated.

**MF:** There's also this interesting way in which Aaaaarg has gained
different constituencies globally, you can see the kind of shift in the texts
being put up. It seems to me anyway there are more texts coming from non-
western authors. This kind of asymmetry generates a flux. We're getting new
alliances b

tes a new form of paratext to the text, acting as a
kind of meta-index, they're a new form of publication themselves. To publish a
bibliography that actively links to the text itself is pretty cool. That also
makes me think within the structures of Aaaaarg it seems that certain parts of
the library are almost at breaking point - for instance the alphabetical

**SD:** Which is funny because it hasn't always been that alphabetical
structure either, it used to just be everything on one page, an

e are problems of scale.

**MF:** So I guess there's also this kind of question that emerges in the
debate on reading habits and reading practices, this question of the breadth
of reading that people are engaging in. Do you see anything emerging in
Aaaaarg that suggests a new consistency of handling reading material? Is there
a specific quality, say, of the issues? For instance, some of them seem quite
focused, and others are very broad. They may provide insights into how new
forms of relationships to

l reading behavior? For instance are there people who download the
entire list? Or do you see people being relatively selective? How does the
mania of the net, with this constant churning of data, map over to forms of

**SD:** Well, in Aaaaarg it's again very specific. Anecdotally again, I have
heard from people how much they download and sometimes they're very selective,
they just see something that's interesting and download it, other times they
download everything and occasionally I hear about this mania of mirroring the
whole site. What I mean about being specific to Aaaaarg is that a lot of the
mania isn't driven by just the need to have everything; it's driven by the
acknowledgement that the source is going to disappear at some point. That
sense of impending disappearance is always there, so I think that drives a lot


**SD:** It's a different kind of mania, and usually we get lost in this
thinking that people need to possess everything but there is this weird
preservation instinct that people have, which is slightly different. The
dominant sensibility of Aaaaarg at the beginning was the highly partial and
subjective nature to the contents and that is something I would want to
preserve, which is why I never thought it to be particularly exciting to have
lots of high quality metadata - it doesn't have the publ

smal in that way, but I don't mind that so much. I read something
on the Internet which said it was like being in the porn section of a video
store with all black text on white labels, it was an absolutely beautiful way
of describing it. Originally Aaaaarg was about trading just those particular
moments in a text that really struck you as important, that you wanted other
people to read so it would be very short, definitely partial, it wasn't a
completist project, although some people maybe treat it in

the scan being something that comes out of a labour in
relationship to an object, to the book, and the export is something where the
whole life of the text has sort of been digital from production to circulation
and reception). I happen to think of Aaaaarg in the realm of the scan and the
bootleg. When someone actually scans something they're potentially spending
hours because they're doing the work on the book they're doing something with
software, they're uploading.

**MF:** Aaaarg hasn't introduced file quality thresholds either.

**SD:** No, definitely not. Where would that go?

**MF:** You could say with PDFs they have to be searchable texts?

**SD:** I'm sure a lot of people would prefer that. Even I would prefer it a
lot o

aaaarg in Giorgetta, Nicoletti & Adema 2015
series; projects such as
[Vectors]( and
[Scalar](; and collaborative knowledge production,
archiving and creation projects, from wiki-based research projects to AAAARG.

**DG, VN: In which way does a digital container influence its content? Does
the same book — if archived on different platforms, such as _Internet Archive_
, _The Pirate Bay_ , _Monoskop Log_ — still remain the same cultural item?**

JA: In shor

aaaarg in Hamerman 2015

n the populist sense;
rather, they focus on bringing high theoretical discourses to people outside
the academy. Accordingly, they attract a modest but engaged audience of
critics, artists, designers, activists, and scholars.

The activities of Aaaaaarg and Public Library may fall closer to ‘ _[peer
preservation]( ’
than ‘peer production,’ as the desires to share information
widely and to preserve these collections ag

arts journalism more frequently than the more
aggressively anti-copyright sources; more on-the-record and mainstream
visibility likely -- but doesn’t necessarily -- equate to wider usage.

**From Alternative Space to Alternative Media**

Aaaaaarg _[locates itself as a
‘scaffolding’]( between institutions, a platform that unfolds between instituti

c of alternative art spaces/artist-run spaces that
challenge the “white cube” and the art market; instead, they showcase ways of
making that are often ephemeral, performative, and anti-commercial.

Lawrence Liang refers to projects such as Aaaaaarg as “ _[ludic
libraries]( ,” as
they encourage a sense of intellectual play that deviates from well-
established norms of utility, seriousness, purpose, and property.

Just as alternati

aaaarg in Marczewska, Adema, McDonald & Trettien 2018

ing about the poethics—the ethics and the
aesthetics—of any act of making work public that is so crucial
to all discussions of open access (OA) publishing.


I am writing this piece having just uploaded a PDF of my recent
book to aaaarg; a book published by Bloomsbury as a hardback
academic monograph retailing at £86—and that is after the
generous 10% discount offered on the publisher’s website. The
book focuses on copying and reproduction as perhaps the most
prominent forms of

aaaarg in Mars, Medak & Sekulic 2016

a court case against Library Genesis and
Science Hub and by the end of 2015 the
court in New York issued a preliminary
injunction ordering the shut-down of
their domains and access to the servers. At
the same time, a court case was brought
against Aaaaarg in Quebec.
Shadow public libraries are also a
reminder of how technological complexity does not have to be harnessed only in
the conversion of socialised resources back
into the simplified formulaic logic of private property, how we can take technolo

aaaarg in Mars & Medak 2017

short genealogy of these projects?
MM & TM: Founded in 1996, Ubu was one of the first online repositories.
Then, in 2001, started distributing texts in critical theory. After got shot down in early 2004, it took another year for Aaaaarg to emerge
and Monoskop followed soon thereafter. In the latter part of the 2000s, Gigapedia
started a different trajectory of providing access to comprehensive repositories.
Gigapedia was a game changer, because it provided access to thousands and

the relationship between morality and legality in your (public) engagement. When,
and under which circumstances, can one’s moral actions justify breaking the law?
MM & TM: Marcell has been recently drawn into a lawsuit that was filed
against Aaaaarg for copyright infringement. Marcell, the founder of Aaaaarg Sean
Dockray, and a number of institutions ranging from universities to continentalscale intergovernmental organizations, are being sued by a small publisher from
Quebec whose translation of André Bazin’s What is Cinema? (1967) was twice
scanned and uploaded to Aaaaarg by an unknown user. The book was removed
each time the plaintiff issued a takedown notice, resulting in minimal damages, but
these people are nonetheless being sued for 500.000 Canadian dollars. Should
Aaaaarg not be able to defend its existence on the principle of fair use, a valuable
common resource will yet again be lost and its founder will pay a high price. In this
lawsuit, ironically, there is little economic interest. But many smaller publishers

aaaarg in Sekulic 2018

[digital] technologies start to reproduce”
some technologies used by corporations to enclose can be used to liberate
knowledge and make it accessible. The existence of projects such as Library
Genesis, sci-hub, Public Library/Memory of the World,, monoskop,
and ubuweb, commonly known as shadow libraries, show how building
infrastructure for storing, indexing, and access, as well as supporting
digitization, can not only be put to use by the periphery, but used as a
challenge to the normali

aaaarg in Sollfrank & Dockray 2013



It was in the air at the time already, so I don’t think it’d be an entirely
independent impulse – number one. But I had actually tried to start a couple
of things that had failed. [03:41] Like Aaaaarg – I tried to set up some
physical reading groups that would complement the online archive. So, in Los
Angeles the idea would be that we’d meet and talk about things that were being
posted to the website. So, yes, reading groups. But they never re

t’s, I think, what comes with
the project, which makes it very valuable to a lot of people.

Yes. That’s going back to what I was saying about some of the failures before
The Public School, which was... As the site was growing, as Aaaaarg was
growing, all of a sudden there would be things in there that I didn’t know
about before, that someone felt it was important to share. [19:37] And because
someone felt that it was important to share it, I felt it was important to
read it. And I

mpanies, because they are
sort of gaming the system and the restructuring of the economy, but also how
we consume entertainment, and all this kind of things, and the restructuring
of production around the globe.
[27:59] I don’t think sites like Aaaaarg do anything more than point out a
kind of dynamic that is existing in the world – to think that somehow you can
sort of turn that into something positive, you know, in a way that gets
capitalism to stop exploiting people – like it seems silly

the accounting software. [29:31] A lot of it is
changing through the entire pipeline anyway, so to me, it’s really difficult
to say how publishing is changing because the entire flow, the entire
apparatus is changing.
[29:48] At the beginning, Aaaaarg was a way of bringing readers together, and
to allow readers to sort of give value to certain things that they were
reading. And I think that’s always been a form of publishing to me. [30:09]
Yes, someone is responsible for having the book edited,

nues to have a life, like sometimes it lives for decades and decades, and
it goes between readers, it goes through sidewalk vendors, and used book
stores, and sits on people’s libraries, and goes to public libraries. [30:44]
And I would say that Aaaaarg is sort of in that part of the life cycle.
[30:54] These platforms become sort of new publishers themselves, but I
haven’t really thought that kind of statement through enough. In a way, if
publishing is to make something public and to create publics, then of course,
that’s something that Aaaaarg has done since the beginning. [31:22] It made
things public to people who maybe didn’t exist for before, and it also
produced communities of people around books – I mean, if that’s what a
publication and a publisher does, then, of course, it

aaaarg in Weinmayr 2019

ait (10 November 2014) ‘Is Cady Noland More Difficult To Work With
Than Richard Prince?’, artNet news, cady-noland-as-psychotic-as-richard-prince-162310>

Myers, Julian (26 August 2009) Four Dialogues 2: On AAAARG, San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art — Open Space, dialogues-2-on-aaaarg/>

Nedelsky, Jennifer (1993) ’Reconceiving Rights as Relationship’, Review of
Constitutional Studies / Revue d’études const


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