cataloguing in Bodo 2014


Bodo
A Short History of the Russian Digital Shadow Libraries
2014


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A short history of the Russian digital shadow libraries
Balazs Bodo, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam

“What I see as a consequence of the free educational book distribution: in decades generations of people
everywhere in the World will grow with the access to the best explained scientific texts of all times.
[…]The quality and accessibility of education to poors will drastically grow too. Frankly, I'm seeing this as
the only way to naturally improve mankind: by breeding people with all the information given to them at
any time.” – Anonymous admin of Aleph, explaining the reason d’étre of the site

Abstract
RuNet, the Russian segment of the internet is now the home of the most comprehensive scientific pirate
libraries on the net. These sites offer free access to hundreds of thousands of books and millions of
journal articles. In this contribution we try to understand the factors that led to the development of
these sites, and the sociocultural and legal conditions that enable them to operate under hostile legal
and political conditions. Through the reconstruction of the micro-histories of peer produced online text
collections that played a central role in the history of RuNet, we are able to link the formal and informal
support for these sites to the specific conditions developed under the Soviet and post Soviet times.

(pirate) libraries on the net
The digitization and collection of texts was one of the very first activities enabled by computers. Project
Gutenberg, the first in line of digital libraries was established as early as 1971. By the early nineties, a
number of online electronic text archives emerged, all hoping to finally realize the dream that was
chased by humans every since the first library: the collection of everything (Battles, 2004), the Memex
(Bush, 1945), the Mundaneum (Rieusset-Lemarié, 1997), the Library of Babel (Borges, 1998). It did not
take long to realize that the dream was still beyond reach: the information storage and retrieval
technology might have been ready, but copyright law, for the foreseeable future was not. Copyright
protection and enforcement slowly became one of the most crucial issues around digital technologies.

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2616631

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And as that happened, the texts, which were archived without authorization were purged from the
budding digital collections. Those that survived complete deletion were moved into the dark, locked
down sections of digital libraries that sometimes still lurk behind the law-abiding public façades. Hopes
for a universal digital library can be built was lost in just a few short years as those who tried it (such as
Google or Hathitrust) got bogged down in endless court battles.
There are unauthorized texts collections circulating on channels less susceptible to enforcement, such as
DVDs, torrents, or IRC channels. But the technical conditions of these distribution channels do not enable
the development of a library. Two of the most essential attributes of any proper library: the catalogue
and the community are hard to provide on such channels. The catalog doesn’t just organize the
knowledge stored in the collection; it is not just a tool of searching and browsing. It is a critical
component in the organization of the community of “librarians” who preserve and nourish the
collection. The catalog is what distinguishes an unstructured heap of computer files from a wellmaintained library, but it is the same catalog, which makes shadow libraries, unauthorized texts
collections an easy target of law enforcement. Those few digital online libraries that dare to provide
unauthorized access to texts in an organized manner, such as textz.org, a*.org, monoskop or Gigapedia/
library.nu, all had their bad experiences with law enforcement and rights holder dismay.
Of these pirate libraries, Gigapedia—later called Library.nu—was the largest at the turn of the 2010’s. At
its peak, it was several orders of magnitudes bigger than its peers, offering access to nearly a million
English language documents. It was not just size that made Gigapedia unique. Unlike most sites, it
moved beyond its initial specialization in scientific texts to incorporate a wide range of academic
disciplines. Compared to its peers, it also had a highly developed central metadata database, which
contained bibliographic details on the collection and also, significantly, on gaps in the collection, which
underpinned a process of actively solicited contributions from users. With the ubiquitous
scanner/copiers, the production of book scans was as easy as copying them, thus the collection grew
rapidly.
Gigapedia’s massive catalog made the site popular, which in turn made it a target. In early 2012, a group
of 17 publishers was granted an injunction against the site (now called Library.nu; and against iFile.it—
the hosting site that stored most of Library.nu’s content). Unlike the record and movie companies,
which had collaborated on dozens of lawsuits over the past decade, the Library.nu injunction and lawsuit
were the first coordinated publisher actions against a major file-sharing site, and the first to involve
major university publishers in particular. Under the injunction, the Library.nu adminstrators closed the
site. The collection disappeared and the community around it dispersed. (Liang, 2012)
Gigapedia’s collection was integrated into Aleph’s predominantly Russian language collection before the
shutdown, making Aleph the natural successor of Gigapedia/library.nu.

Libraries in the RuNet

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2616631

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The search soon zeroed in on a number of sites with strong hints to their Russian origins. Sites like Aleph,
[sc], [fi], [os] are open, completely free to use, and each offers access to a catalog comparable to the late
Gigapedia’s.
The similarity of these seemingly distinct services is no coincidence. These sites constitute a tightly knit
network, in which Aleph occupies the central position. Aleph, as its name suggests, is the source library,
it aims to seed of all scientific digital libraries on the net. Its mission is simple and straightforward. It
collects free-floating scientific texts and other collections from the Internet and consolidates them (both
content and metadata) into a single, open database. Though ordinary users can search the catalog and
retrieve the texts, its main focus is the distribution of the catalog and the collection to anyone who
wants to build services upon them. Aleph has regularly updated links that point to its own, neatly packed
source code, its database dump, and to the terabytes worth of collection. It is a knowledge infrastructure
that can be freely accessed, used and built upon by anyone. This radical openness enables a number of
other pirate libraries to offer Aleph’s catalogue along with books coming from other sources. By
mirroring Aleph they take over tasks that the administrators of Aleph are unprepared or unwilling to do.
Handling much of the actual download traffic they relieve Aleph from the unavoidable investment in
servers and bandwidth, which, in turn puts less pressure on Aleph to engage in commercial activities to
finance its operation. While Aleph stays in the background, the network of mirrors compete for
attention, users and advertising revenue as their design, business model, technical sophistication is finetuned to the profile of their intended target audience.
This strategy of creating an open infrastructure serves Aleph well. It ensures the widespread distribution
of books while it minimizes (legal) exposure. By relinquishing control, Aleph also ensures its own longterm survival, as it is copied again and again. In fact, openness is the core element in the philosophy of
Aleph, which was summed up by one of its administrators as to:
“- collect valuable science/technology/math/medical/humanities academic literature. That is,
collect humanity's valuable knowledge in digital form. Avoid junky books. Ignore "bestsellers".
- build a community of people who share knowledge, improve quality of books, find good and
valuable books, and correct errors.
- share the files freely, spreading the knowledge altruistically, not trying to make money, not
charging money for knowledge. Here people paid money for many books that they considered
valuable and then shared here on [Aleph], for free. […]
This is the true spirit of the [Aleph] project.”

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Reading, publishing, censorship and libraries in Soviet-Russia
“[T]he library of the Big Lubyanka was unique. In all probability it had been assembled out of confiscated
private libraries. The bibliophiles who had collected those books had already rendered up their souls to
God. But the main thing was that while State Security had been busy censoring and emasculating all the
libraries of the nation for decades, it forgot to dig in its own bosom. Here, in its very den, one could read
Zamyatin, Pilnyak, Panteleimon Romanov, and any volume at all of the complete works of Merezhkovsky.
(Some people wisecracked that they allowed us to read forbidden books because they already regarded
us as dead. But I myself think that the Lubyanka librarians hadn't the faintest concept of what they were
giving us—they were simply lazy and ignorant.)”
(Solzhenitsyn, 1974)
In order to properly understand the factors that shaped Russian pirate librarians’ and their wider
environments’ attitudes towards bottom-up, collaborative, copyright infringing open source digital
librarianship, we need to go back nearly a century and take a close look at the specific social and political
conditions of the Soviet times that shaped the contemporary Russian intelligentsia’s attitudes towards
knowledge.

The communist ideal of a reading nation
Russian culture always had a reverence for the printed word, and the Soviet state, with its Leninist
program of mass education further stressed the idea of the educated, reading public. As Stelmach (1993)
put it:
Reading almost transplanted religion as a sacred activity: in the secularized socialist state, where the
churches were closed, the free press stifled and schools and universities politicized, literature became the
unique source of moral truth for the population. Writers were considered teachers and prophets.
The Soviet Union was a reading culture: in the last days of the USSR, a quarter of the adult population
were considered active readers, and almost everyone else categorized as an occasional reader. Book
prices were low, alternative forms of entertainment were scarce, and people were poor, making reading
one of the most attractive leisure activities.
The communist approach towards intellectual property protection reflected the idea of the reading
nation. The Soviet Union inherited a lax and isolationist copyright system from the tsarist Russia. Neither
the tsarist Russian state nor the Soviet state adhered to international copyright treaties, nor did they
enter into bilateral treaties. Tsarist Russia’s refusal to grant protection to foreign authors and
translations had primarily an economic rationale. The Soviet regime added a strong ideological claim:
granting exclusive ownership to authors was against the interests of the reading public, and “the cultural
development of the masses,” and only served the private interests of authors and heirs.
“If copyright had an economic function, that was only as a right of remuneration for his contribution to
the extension of the socialist art heritage. If copyright had a social role, this was not to protect the author

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from the economically stronger exploiter, but was one of the instruments to get the author involved in
the great communist educational project.” (Elst, 2005, p 658)
The Soviet copyright system, even in its post-revolutionary phase, maintained two persistent features
that served as important instruments of knowledge dissemination. First, the statutorily granted
“freedom of translation” meant that translation was treated as an exception to copyright, which did not
require rights holder authorization. This measure dismantled a significant barrier to access in a
multicultural and multilingual empire. By the same token, the denial of protection to foreign authors and
rights holders eased the imports of foreign texts (after, of course the appropriate censorship review).
Due to these instruments:
“[s]oon after its founding, the Soviet Union became as well the world's leading literary pirate, not only
publishing in translation the creations of its own citizens but also publishing large numbers of copies of
the works of Western authors both in translation and in the original language.” (Newcity, 1980, p 6.)
Looking simply at the aggregate numbers of published books, the USSR had an impressive publishing
industry on a scale appropriate to a reading nation. Between 1946 and 1970 more than 1 billion copies of
over 26 thousand different work were published, all by foreign authors (Newcity, 1978). In 1976 alone,
more than 1.7 billion copies of 84,304 books were printed. (Friedberg, Watanabe, & Nakamoto, 1984, fn
4.)
Of course these impressive numbers reflected neither a healthy public sphere, nor a well-functioning
print ecology. The book-based public sphere was both heavily censored and plagued by the peculiar
economic conditions of the Soviet, and later the post-Soviet era.

Censorship
The totalitarian Soviet state had many instruments to control the circulation of literary and scientific
works. 1 Some texts never entered official circulation in the first hand: “A particularly harsh
prepublication censorship [affected] foreign literature, primarily in the humanities and socioeconomic
disciplines. Books on politics, international relations, sociology, philosophy, cybernetics, semiotics,
linguistics, and so on were hardly ever published.” (Stelmakh, 2001, p 145.)
Many ‘problematic’ texts were only put into severely limited circulation. Books were released in small
print runs; as in-house publications, or they were only circulated among the trustworthy few. As the
resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of June 4, 1959, stated: “Writings by
bourgeois authors in the fields of philosophy, history, economics, diplomacy, and law […] are to be
published in limited quantities after the excision from them of passages of no scholarly or practical

1

We share Helen Freshwater’s (2003) approach that censorship is a more complex phenomenon than the state just
blocking the circulation of certain texts. Censorship manifested itself in more than one ways and its dominant
modus operandi, institutions, extent, focus, reach, effectiveness showed extreme variations over time. This short
chapter however cannot go into the intricate details of the incredibly rich history of censorship in the Soviet Union.
Instead, through much simplification we try to demonstrate that censorship did not only affect literary works, but
extended deep into scholarly publishing, including natural science disciplines.

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interest. They are to be supplied with extensive introductions and detailed annotations." (quoted in
Friedberg et al., 1984)
Truncation and mutilation of texts was also frequent. Literary works and texts from humanities and
social sciences were obvious subjects of censorship, but natural sciences and technical fields did not
escape:
“In our film studios we received an American technical journal, something like Cinema, Radio and
Television. I saw it on the chief engineer's desk and noticed that it had been reprinted in Moscow.
Everything undesirable, including advertisements, had been removed, and only those technical articles
with which the engineer could be trusted were retained. Everything else, even whole pages, was missing.
This was done by a photo copying process, but the finished product appeared to be printed.” (Dewhirst &
Farrell, 1973, p. 127)
Mass cultural genres were also subject to censorship and control. Women's fiction, melodrama, comics,
detective stories, and science fiction were completely missing or heavily underrepresented in the mass
market. Instead, “a small group of officially approved authors […] were published in massive editions
every year, [and] blocked readers' access to other literature. […]Soviet literature did not fit the formula
of mass culture and was simply bad literature, but it was issued in huge print-runs.” (Stelmakh, 2001, p.
150)
Libraries were also important instruments of censorship. When not destroyed altogether, censored
works ended up in the spetskhrans, limited access special collections established in libraries to contain
censored works. Besides obvious candidates such as anti-Soviet works and western ‘bourgeois’
publications, many scientific works from the fields of biology, nuclear physics, psychology, sociology,
cybernetics, and genetics ended up in these closed collections (Ryzhak, 2005). Access to the spetskhrans
was limited to those with special permits issued by their employers. “Only university educated readers
were enrolled and only those holding positions of at least junior scientific workers were allowed to read
the publications kept by the spetskhran” (Ryzhak, 2005). In the last years of the USSR, the spetskhran of
the Russian State Library—the largest of them with more than 1 million items in the collection—had 43
seats for its roughly 4500 authorized readers. Yearly circulation was around 200,000 items, a figure that
included “the history and literature of other countries, international relations, science of law, technical
sciences and others.” (Ryzhak, 2005)
Librarians thus played a central role in the censorship machinery. They did more than guard the contents
of limited-access collections and purge the freely accessible stocks according to the latest Party
directives. As the intermediaries between the readers and the closed stacks, their task was to carefully
guide readers’ interests:
“In the 1970s, among the staff members of the service department of the Lenin State Library of the
U.S.S.R., there were specially appointed persons-"politcontrollers"-who, apart from their regular
professional functions, had to perform additional control over the literature lent from the general stocks
(not from the restricted access collections), thus exercising censorship over the percolation of avant-garde

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aesthetics to the reader, the aesthetics that introduced new ways of thinking and a new outlook on life
and social behavior.” (Stelmakh, 2001)
Librarians also used library cards and lending histories to collect and report information on readers and
suspicious reading habits.
Soviet economic dysfunction also severely limited access to printed works. Acute and chronic shortages
of even censor-approved texts were common, both on the market and in libraries. When the USSR
joined its first first international copyright treaty in its history in 1973 (the UNESCO-backed Universal
Copyright Convention), which granted protection to foreign authors and denied “freedom of
translation,” the access problems only got worse. Soviet concern that granting protection to foreign
authors would result in significant royalty payments to western rightsholders proved valid. By 1976, the
yearly USSR trade deficit in publishing reached a million rubles (~5.5 million current USD) (Levin, 1983, p.
157). This imbalance not only affected the number of publications that were imported into the cashpoor country, but also raised the price of translated works to the double that of Russian-authored books
(Levin, 1983, p. 158).

The literary and scientific underground in Soviet times
Various practices and informal institutions evolved to address the problems of access. Book black
markets flourished: “In the 1970s and 1980s the black market was an active part of society. Buying books
directly from other people was how 35 percent of Soviet adults acquired books for their own homes, and
68 percent of families living in major cities bought books only on the black market.” (Stelmakh, 2001, p
146). Book copying and hoarding was practiced to supplement the shortages:
“People hoarded books: complete works of Pushkin, Tolstoy or Chekhov. You could not buy such things.
So you had the idea that it is very important to hoard books. High-quality literary fiction, high quality
science textbooks and monographs, even biographies of famous people (writers, scientists, composers,
etc.) were difficult to buy. You could not, as far as I remember, just go to a bookstore and buy complete
works of Chekhov. It was published once and sold out and that's it. Dostoyevsky used to be prohibited in
the USSR, so that was even rarer. Lots of writers were prohibited, like Nabokov. Eventually Dostoyevsky
was printed in the USSR, but in very small numbers.
And also there were scientists who wanted scientific books and also could not get them. Mathematics
books, physics - only very few books were published every year, you can't compare this with the market in
the U.S. Russian translations of classical monographs in mathematics were difficult to find.
So, in the USSR, everyone who had a good education shared the idea that hoarding books is very, very
important, and did just that. If someone had free access to a Xerox machine, they were Xeroxing
everything in sight. A friend of mine had entire room full of Xeroxed books.”2
From the 1960s onwards, the ever-growing Samizdat networks tried to counterbalance the effects of
censorship and provide access to both censored classics and information on the current state of Soviet

2

Anonymous source #1

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society. Reaching a readership of around 200,000, these networks operated in a networked, bottom-up
manner. Each node in the chain of distribution copied the texts it received, and distributed the copies.
The nodes also carried information backwards, towards the authors of the samizdat publications.
In the immediate post-Soviet political turmoil and economic calamity, access to print culture did not get
any easier. Censorship officially ended, but so too did much of the funding for the state-funded
publishing sector. Mass unemployment, falling wages, and the resulting loss of discretionary income did
not facilitate the shift toward market-based publishing models. The funding of libraries also dwindled,
limiting new acquisitions (Elst, 2005, p. 299-300). Economic constraints took the place of political ones.
But in the absence of political repression, self-organizing efforts to address these constraints acquired
greater scope of action. Slowly, the informal sphere began to deliver alternative modes of access to
otherwise hard-to-get literary and scientific works.
Russian pirate libraries emerged from these enmeshed contexts: communist ideologies of the reading
nation and mass education; the censorship of texts; the abused library system; economic hardships and
dysfunctional markets, and, most importantly, the informal practices that ensured the survival of
scholarship and literary traditions under hostile political and economic conditions. The prominent place
of Russian pirate libraries in the larger informal media economy—and of Russian piracy of music, film,
and other copyrighted work more generally—cannot be understood outside this history.

The emergence of DIY digital libraries in RuNet
The copying of censored and uncensored works (by hand, by typewriters, by photocopying or by
computers), the hoarding of copied texts, the buying and selling of books on the black market, and the
informal, peer-to-peer distribution of samizdat material were integral parts of the everyday experience
of much of educated Soviet and post-Soviet readers. The building and maintenance of individual
collections and the participation in the informal networks of exchange offered a sense of political,
economic and cultural agency—especially as the public institutions that supported the core professions
of the intelligentsia fell into sustained economic crisis.
Digital technologies were embraced by these practices as soon as they appeared:
"From late 1970s, when first computers became used in the USSR and printers became available,
people started to print forbidden books, or just books that were difficult to find, not necessarily
forbidden. I have seen myself a print-out on a mainframe computer of a science fiction novel,
printed in all caps! Samizdat was printed on typewriters, xeroxed, printed abroad and xeroxed, or
printed on computers. Only paper circulated, files could not circulate until people started to have
PCs at home. As late as 1992 most people did not have a PC at home. So the only reason to type
a big text into a computer was to print it on paper many times.”3
People who worked in academic and research institutions were well positioned in this process: they had
access to computers, and many had access to the materials locked up in the spetskhrans. Many also had
3

Anonymous source #1

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the time and professional motivations to collect and share otherwise inaccessible texts. The core of
current digital collections was created in this late-Soviet/early post-Soviet period by such professionals.
Their home academic and scientific institutions continued to play an important role in the development
of digital text collections well into the era of home computing and the internet.
Digitized texts first circulated in printouts and later on optical/magnetic storage media. With the
emergence of digital networking these texts quickly found their way to the early Internet as well. The
first platform for digital text sharing was the Russian Fidonet, a network of BBS systems similar to
Usenet, which enabled the mass distribution of plain text files. The BBS boards, such as the Holy Spirit
BBS’ “SU.SF & F.FANDOM” group whose main focus was Soviet-Russian science fiction and fantasy
literature, connected fans around emerging collections of shared texts. As an anyonmous interviewee
described his experience in the early 1990s…
“Fidonet collected a large number of plaintext files in literature / fiction, mostly in Russian, of course.
Fidonet was almost all typed in by hand. […] Maybe several thousand of the most important books,
novels that "everyone must read" and such stuff. People typed in poetry, smaller prose pieces. I have
myself read a sci-fi novel printed on a mainframe, which was obviously typed in. This novel was by
Strugatski brothers. It was not prohibited or dissident, but just impossible to buy in the stores. These
were culturally important, cult novels, so people typed them in. […] At this point it became clear that
there was a lot of value in having a plaintext file with some novels, and the most popular novels were first
digitized in this way.”
The next stage in the text digitization started around 1994. By that time growing numbers of people had
computers, scanning peripherals, OCR software. Russian internet and PC penetration while extremely
low overall in the 1990s (0.1% of the population having internet access in 1994, growing to 8.3% by
2003), began to make inroads in educational and scientific institutions and among Moscow and
St.Petersburg elites, who were often the critical players in these networks. As access to technologies
increased a much wider array of people began to digitize their favorite texts, and these collections began
to circulate, first via CD-ROMs, later via the internet.
One of such collection belonged to Maxim Moshkov, who published his library under the name lib.ru in
1994. Moshkov was a graduate of the Moscow State University Department of Mechanics and
Mathematics, which played a large role in the digitization of scientific works. After graduation, he started
to work for the Scientific Research Institute of System Development, a computer science institute
associated with the Russian Academy of Sciences. He describes the early days of his collection as follows:
“ I began to collect electronic texts in 1990, on a desktop computer. When I got on the Internet in 1994, I
found lots of sites with texts. It was like a dream came true: there they were, all the desired books. But
these collections were in a dreadful state! Incompatible formats, different encodings, missing content. I
had to spend hours scouring the different sites and directories to find something.
As a result, I decided to convert all the different file-formats into a single one, index the titles of the books
and put them in thematic directories. I organized the files on my work computer. I was the main user of
my collection. I perfected its structure, made a simple, fast and convenient search interface and

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developed many other useful functions and put it all on the Internet. Soon, people got into the habit of
visiting the site. […]
For about 2 years I have scoured the internet: I sought out and pulled texts from the network, which were
lying there freely accessible. Slowly the library grew, and the audience increased with it. People started
to send books to me, because they were easier to read in my collection. And the time came when I
stopped surfing the internet for books: regular readers are now sending me the books. Day after day I get
about 100 emails, and 10-30 of them contain books. So many books were sent in, that I did not have time
to process them. Authors, translators and publishers also started to send texts. They all needed the
library.”(Мошков, 1999)

In the second half of the 1990’s, the Russian Internet—RuNet—was awash in book digitization projects.
With the advent of scanners, OCR technology, and the Internet, the work of digitization eased
considerably. Texts migrated from print to digital and sometimes back to print again. They circulated
through different collections, which, in turn, merged, fell apart, and re-formed. Digital libraries with the
mission to collect and consolidate these free-floating texts sprung up by the dozens.
Such digital librarianship was the antithesis of official Soviet book culture: it was free, bottom-up,
democratic, and uncensored. It also offered a partial remedy to problems created by the post-Soviet
collapse of the economy: the impoverishment of libraries, readers, and publishers. In this context, book
digitization and collecting also offered a sense of political, economic and cultural agency, with parallels
to the copying and distribution of texts in Soviet times. The capacity to scale up these practices coincided
with the moment when anti-totalitarian social sentiments were the strongest, and economic needs the
direst.
The unprecedented bloom of digital librarianship is the result of the superimposition of multiple waves
of distinct transformations: technological, political, economical and social. “Maksim Moshkov's Library”
was ground zero for this convergence and soon became a central point of exchange for the community
engaged in text digitization and collection:
[At the outset] there were just a couple of people who started scanning books in large quantities. Literally
hundreds of books. Others started proofreading, etc. There was a huge hole in the market for books.
Science fiction, adventure, crime fiction, all of this was hugely in demand by the public. So lib.ru was to a
large part the response, and was filled by those books that people most desired and most valued.
For years, lib.ru integrated as much as it could of the different digital libraries flourishing in the RuNet. By
doing so, it preserved the collections of the many short-lived libraries.
This process of collection slowed in the early 2000’s. By that time, lib.ru had all of the classics, resulting
in a decrease in the flow of new digitized material. By the same token, the Russian book market was
finally starting to offer works aimed at the popular mainstream, and was flooded by cheap romances,
astrology, crime fiction, and other genres. Such texts started to appear in, and would soon flood lib.ru.
Many contributors, including Moshkov, were concerned that such ephemera would dilute the original
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library. And so they began to disaggregate the collection. Self-published literature, “user generated
content,” and fan fiction was separated into the aptly named samizdat.lib.ru, which housed original texts
submitted by readers. Popular fiction--“low-brow literature”—was copied from the relevant subsections
of lib.ru and split off. Sites specializing in those genres quickly formed their own ecosystem. [L], the first
of its kind, now charges a monthly fee to provide access to the collection. The [f] community split off
from [L] the same way that [L] split off from lib.ru, to provide free and unrestricted access to a
fundamentally similar collection. Finally, some in the community felt the need to focus their efforts on a
separate collection of scientific works. This became Kolhoz collection.

The genesis of a million book scientific library
A Kolhoz (Russian: колхо́ з) was one of the types of collective farm that emerged in the early Soviet
period. In the early days, it was a self-governing, community-owned collaborative enterprise, with many
of the features of a commons. For the Russian digital librarians, these historical resonances were
intentional.
The kolhoz group was initially a community that scanned and processed scientific materials: books and,
occasionally, articles. The ethos was free sharing. Academic institutes in Russia were in dire need of
scientific texts; they xeroxed and scanned whatever they could. Usually, the files were then stored on the
institute's ftp site and could be downloaded freely. There were at least three major research institutes
that did this, back in early 2000s, unconnected to each other in any way, located in various faraway parts
of Russia. Most of these scans were appropriated by the kolhoz group and processed into DJVU4.
The sources of files for kolhoz were, initially, several collections from academic institutes (downloaded
whenever the ftp servers were open for anonymous access; in one case, from one of the institutes of the
Chinese academy of sciences, but mostly from Russian academic institutes). At that time (around 2002),
there were also several commercialized collections of scanned books on sale in Russia (mostly, these were
college-level textbooks on math and physics); these files were also all copied to kolhoz and processed into
DJVU. The focus was on collecting the most important science textbooks and monographs of all time, in
all fields of natural science.
There was never any commercial support. The kolhoz group never had a web site with a database, like
most projects today. They had an ftp server with files, and the access to ftp was given by PM in a forum.
This ftp server was privately supported by one of the members (who was an academic researcher, like
most kolhoz members). The files were distributed directly by burning files on writable DVDs and giving the

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DJVU is a file format that revolutionized online book distribution the way mp3 revolutionized the online music
distribution. For books that contain graphs, images and mathematical formulae scanning is the only digitization
option. However, the large number of resulting image files is difficult to handle. The DJVU file format allows for the
images of scanned book pages to be stored in the smallest possible file size, which makes it the perfect medium for
the distribution of scanned e-books.

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DVDs away. Later, the ftp access was closed to the public, and only a temporary file-swapping ftp server
remained. Today the kolhoz DVD releases are mostly spread via torrents.” 5
Kolhoz amassed around fifty thousand documents, the mexmat collection of the Moscow State
University Department of Mechanics and Mathematics (Moshkov’s alma mater) was around the same
size, the “world of books” collection (mirknig) had around thirty thousand files, and there were around a
dozen other smaller archives, each with approximately 10 thousand files in their respective collections.
The Kolhoz group dominated the science-minded ebook community in Russia well into the late 2000’s.
Kolhoz, however, suffered from the same problems as the early Fidonet-based text collections. Since it
was distributed in DVDs, via ftp servers and on torrents, it was hard to search, it lacked a proper catalog
and it was prone to fragmentation. Parallel solutions soon emerged: around 2006-7, an existing book site
called Gigapedia copied the English books from Kolhoz, set up a catalog, and soon became the most
influential pirate library in the English speaking internet.
Similar cataloguing efforts soon emerged elsewhere. In 2007, someone on rutracker.ru, a Russian BBS
focusing on file sharing, posted torrent links to 91 DVDs containing science and technology titles
aggregated from various other Russian sources, including Kolhoz. This massive collection had no
categorization or particular order. But it soon attracted an archivist: a user of the forum started the
laborious task of organizing the texts into a usable, searchable format—first filtering duplicates and
organizing existing metadata first into an excel spreadsheet, and later moving to a more open, webbased database operating under the name Aleph.
Aleph inherited more than just books from Kolhoz and Moshkov’s lib.ru. It inherited their elitism with
regard to canonical texts, and their understanding of librarianship as a community effort. Like the earlier
sites, Aleph’s collections are complemented by a stream of user submissions. Like the other sites, the
number of submissions grew rapidly as the site’s visibility, reputation and trustworthiness was
established, and like the others it later fell, as more and more of what was perceived as canonical
literature was uploaded:
“The number of mankind’s useful books is about what we already have. So growth is defined by newly
scanned or issued books. Also, the quality of the collection is represented not by the number of books but
by the amount of knowledge it contains. [ALEPH] does not need to grow more and I am not the only one
among us who thinks so. […]
We have absolutely no idea who sends books in. It is practically impossible to know, because there are a
million books. We gather huge collections which eliminate any traces of the original uploaders.
My expectation is that new arrivals will dry up. Not completely, as I described above, some books will
always be scanned or rescanned (it nowadays happens quite surprisingly often) and the overall process of
digitization cannot and should not be stopped. It is also hard to say when the slowdown will occur: I
expected it about a year ago, but then library.nu got shut down and things changed dramatically in many
respects. Now we are "in charge" (we had been the largest anyways, just now everyone thinks we are in
5

Anonymous source #1

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charge) and there has been a temporary rise in the book inflow. At the moment, relatively small or
previously unseen collections are being integrated into [ALEPH]. Perhaps in a year it will saturate.
However, intuition is not a good guide. There are dynamic processes responsible for eBook availability. If
publishers massively digitize old books, they'll obviously be harvested and that will change the whole
picture.” 6
Aleph’s ambitions to create a universal library are limited , at least in terms of scope. It does not want to
have everything, or anything. What it wants is what is thought to be relevant by the community,
measured by the act of actively digitizing and sharing books. But it has created a very interesting strategy
to establish a library which is universal in terms of its reach. The administrators of Aleph understand that
Gigapedia’s downfall was due to its visibility and they wish to avoid that trap:
“Well, our policy, which I control as strictly as I can, is to avoid fame. Gigapedia's policy was to gain as
much fame as possible. Books should be available to you, if you need them. But let the rest of the world
stay in its equilibrium. We are taking great care to hide ourselves and it pays off.”7
They have solved the dilemma of providing access without jeopardizing their mission by open sourcing
the collection and thus allowing others to create widely publicized services that interface with the
public.They let others run the risk of getting famous.

Mirrors and communities
Aleph serves as a source archive for around a half-dozen freely accessible pirate libraries on the net. The
catalog database is downloadable, the content is downloadable, even the server code is downloadable.
No passwords are required to download and there are no gatekeepers. There are no obstacle to setting
up a similar library with a wider catalog, with improved user interface and better services, with a
different audience or, in fact, a different business model.
This arrangement creates a two-layered community. The core group of the Aleph admins maintains the
current service, while a loose and ever changing network of ‘mirror sites’ build on the Aleph
infrastructure.
“The unspoken agreement is that the mirrors support our ideas. Otherwise we simply do not interact with
them. If the mirrors do support this, they appear in the discussions, on the Web etc. in a positive context.
This is again about building a reputation: if they are reliable, we help with what we can, otherwise they
should prove the World they are good on their own. We do not request anything from them. They are free
to do anything they like. But if they do what we do not agree with, it'll be taken into account in future
relations. If you think for a while, there is no other democratic way of regulation: everyone expresses his
own views and if they conform with ours, we support them. If the ideology does not match, it breaks
down.”8

6

Anonymous source #1
Anonymous source #2
8
Anonymous source #1
7

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The core Aleph team claims to exclusively control only two critical resources: the BBS that is the home of
the community, and the book-uploading interface. That claim is, however, not entirely accurate. For the
time being, the academic minded e-book community indeed gathers on the BBS managed by Aleph, and
though there is little incentive to move on, technically nothing stands in the way of alternatives to spring
up. As for the centralization of the book collection: many of the mirrors have their own upload pages
where one can contribute to a mirror’s collection, and it is not clear how or whether books that land at
one of the mirrors find their way back to the central database. Aleph also offers a desktop library
management tool, which enables dedicated librarians to see the latest Aleph database on their desktop
and integrate their local collections with the central database via this application. Nevertheless, it seems
that nothing really stands in the way of the fragmentation of the collection, apart from the willingness of
uploaders to contribute directly to Aleph rather than to one of its mirrors (or other sites).
Funding for Aleph comes from the administrators’ personal resources as well as occasional donations
when there is a need to buy or rent equipment or services:
“[W]e've been asking and getting support for this purpose for years. […] All our mirrors are supported
primarily from private pockets and inefficient donation schemes: they bring nothing unless a whole
campaign is arranged. I asked the community for donations 3 or 4 times, for a specific purpose only and
with all the budget spoken for. And after getting the requested amount of money we shut down the
donations.”9
Mirrors, however, do not need to be non-commercial to enjoy the support of the core Aleph community,
they just have to provide free access. Ad-supported business models that do not charge for individual
access are still acceptable to the community, but there has been serious fallout with another site, which
used the Aleph stock to seed its own library, but decided to follow a “collaborative piracy” business
approach.
“To make it utmost clear: we collaborate with anyone who shares the ideology of free knowledge
distribution. No conditions. [But] we can't suddenly start supporting projects that earn money. […]
Moreover, we've been tricked by commercial projects in the past when they used the support of our
community for their own benefit.”10
The site in question, [e], is based on a simple idea: If a user cannot find a book in its collection, the
administrators offer to purchase a digital or print copy, rip it, and sell it to the user for a fraction of the
original price—typically under $1. Payments are to be made in Amazon gift cards which make the
purchases easy but the de-anonymization of users difficult. [e] recoups its investment, in principle,
through resale. While clearly illegal, the logic is not that different from that of private subscription
libraries, which purchase a resource and distribute the costs and benefits among club members.

9

BBS comment posted on Jan 15, 2013
BBS comment posted on Jan 15, 2013

10

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Although from the rights holders’ perspective there is little difference between the two approaches,
many participants in the free access community draw a sharp line between the two, viewing the sales
model as a violation of community norms.
“[e] is a scam. They were banned in our forum. Yes, most of the books in [e] came from [ALEPH], because
[ALEPH] is open, but we have nothing to do with them... If you wish to buy a book, do it from legal
sources. Otherwise it must be free.[…]
What [e] wants:
- make money on ebook downloads, no matter what kind of ebooks.
- get books from all the easy sources - spend as little effort as possible on books - maximize profit.
- no need to build a community, no need to improve quality, no need to correct any errors - just put all
files in a big pile - maximize profit.
- files are kept in secret, never given away, there is no listing of files, there is no information about what
books are really there or what is being done.
There are very few similarities in common between [e]and [ALEPH], and these similarities are too
superficial to serve as a common ground for communication. […]
They run an illegal business, making a profit.”11
Aleph administrators describe a set of values that differentiates possible site models. They prioritize the
curatorial mission and the provision of long term free access to the collection with all the costs such a
position implies, such as open sourcing the collection, ignoring takedown requests, keeping a low profile,
refraining from commercial activities, and as a result, operating on a reduced budget . [e] prioritizes the
expansion of its catalogue on demand but that implies a commercial operation, a larger budget and the
associated high legal risk. Sites carrying Aleph’s catalogue prioritize public visibility, carry ads to cover
costs but respond to takedown requests to avoid as much trouble as they can. From the perspective of
expanding access, these are not easy or straightforward tradeoffs. In Aleph’s case, the strong
commitment to the mission of providing free access comes with significant sacrifices, the most important
of which is relinquishing control over its most valuable asset: its collection of 1.2 million scientific books.
But they believe that these costs are justified by the promise, that this way the fate of free access is not
tied to the fate of Aleph.
The fact that piratical file sharing communities are willing to make substantial sacrifices (in terms of selfrestraint) to ensure their long term survival has been documented in a number of different cases. (Bodó,
2013) Aleph is unique, however in its radical open source approach. No other piratical community has
given up all the control over itself entirely. This approach is rooted in the way how it regards the legal
status of its subject matter, i.e. scholarly publications in the first place. While norms of openness in the
field of scientific knowledge production were first formed in the Enlightenment period, Aleph’s
11

BBS comments posted on Jul 02, 2013, and Aug 25, 2013

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copynorms are as much shaped by the specificities of post-Soviet era as by the age old realization that in
science we can see further if we are allowed “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

Copyright and copynorms around Russian pirate libraries
The struggle to re-establish rightsholders’ control over digitized copyrighted works has defined the
copyright policy arena since Napster emerged in 1999. Russia brought a unique history to this conflict. In
Russia, digital libraries and their emerged in a period a double transformation: the post-Soviet copyright
system had to adopt global norms, while the global norms struggled to adapt to the emergence of digital
copying.
The first post-Soviet decade produced new copyright laws that conformed with some of the international
norms advocated by Western rightsholders, but little legal clarity or enforceability (Sezneva & Karaganis,
2011). Under such conditions, informally negotiated copynorms set in to fill the void of non-existent,
unreasonable, or unenforceable laws. The pirate libraries in the RuNet are as much regulated by such
norms as by the actual laws themselves.
During most of the 1990’s user-driven digitization and archiving was legal, or to be more exact, wasn’t
illegal. The first Russian copyright law, enacted in 1993, did not cover “internet rights” until a 2006
amendment (Budylin & Osipova, 2007; Elst, 2005, p. 425). As a result, many argued (including the
Moscow prosecutor’s office), that the distribution of copyrighted works via the internet was not
copyright infringement. Authors and publishers, who saw their works appear in digital form, and
circulated via CD-ROMs and the internet, had to rely on informal norms, still in development, to establish
control over their texts vis-à-vis enthusiastic collectors and for-profit entrepreneurs.
The HARRYFAN CD was one of the early examples of a digital text collection in circulation before internet
access was widespread. The CD contained around ten thousand texts, mostly Russian science fiction. It
was compiled in 1997 by Igor Zagumenov, a book enthusiast, from the texts that circulated on the Holy
Spirit BBS. The CD was a non-profit project, planned to be printed and sold in around 1000 copies.
Zagumenov did get in touch with some of the authors and publishers, and got permission to release
some of their texts, but the CD also included many other works that were uploaded to the BBS without
authorization. The CD included the following copyright notice, alongside the name and contact of
Zagumenov and those who granted permission:
Texts on this CD are distributed in electronic format with the consent of the copyright holders or their
literary agent. The disk is aimed at authors, editors, translators and fans SF & F as a compact reference
and information library. Copying or reproduction of this disc is not allowed. For the commercial use of
texts please refer directly to the copyright owners at the following addresses.
The authors whose texts and unpublished manuscripts appeared in the collection without authorization
started to complain to those whose contact details were in the copyright notice. Some complained
about the material damage the collection may have caused to them, but most complaints focused on
moral rights: unauthorized publication of a manuscript, the mutilation of published works, lack of
attribution, or the removal of original copyright and contact notices. Some authors had no problem
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appearing in non-commercially distributed collections but objected to the fact that the CDs were sold
(and later overproduced in spite of Zagumenov’s intentions).
The debate, which took place in the book-related fora of Fidonet, had some important points.
Participants again drew a significant distinction between free access provided first by Fidonet (and later
by lib.ru, which integrated some parts of the collection) and what was perceived as Zagumenov’s forprofit enterprise—despite the fact that the price of the CD only covered printing costs. The debate also
drew authors’ and publishers’ attention to the digital book communities’ actions, which many saw as
beneficial as long as it respected the wishes of the authors. Some authors did not want to appear online
at all, others wanted only their published works to be circulated.
Lib.ru of course integrated the parts of the HARRYFAN CD into its collection. Moshkov’s policy towards
authors’ rights was to ask for permission, if he could contact the author or publisher. He also honored
takedown requests sent to him. In 1999 he wrote on copyright issues as follows:
The author’s interests must be protected on the Internet: the opportunity to find the original copy, the
right of attribution, protection from distorting the work. Anyone who wants to protect his/her rights,
should be ready to address these problems, ranging from the ability to identify the offending party, to the
possibility of proving infringement.[…]
Meanwhile, it has become a stressing question how to protect authors-netizens' rights regarding their
work published on the Internet. It is known that there are a number of periodicals that reprint material
from the Internet without the permission of the author, without payment of a fee, without prior
arrangement. Such offenders need to be shamed via public outreach. The "Wall of shame" website is one
of the positive examples of effective instruments established by the networked public to protect their
rights. It manages to do the job without bringing legal action - polite warnings, an indication of potential
trouble and shaming of the infringer.
Do we need any laws for digital libraries? Probably we do, but until then we have to do without. Yes, of
course, it would be nice to have their status established as “cultural objects” and have the same rights as
a "real library" to collect information, but that might be in the distant future. It would also be nice to
have the e-library "legal deposits" of publications in electronic form, but when even Leninka [the Russian
State Library] cannot always afford that, what we really need are enthusiastic networkers. […]
The policy of the library is to take everything they give, otherwise they cease to send books. It is also to
listen to the authors and strictly comply with their requirements. And it is to grow and prosper. […] I
simply want the books to find their readers because I am afraid to live in a world where no one reads
books. This is already the case in America, and it is speeding up with us. I don’t just want to derail this
process, I would like to turn it around.”

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Moshkov played a crucial role in consolidating copynorms in the Russian digital publishing domain. His
reputation and place in the Russian literary domain is marked by a number of prizes12, and the library’s
continued existence. This place was secured by a number of closely intertwined factors:







Framing and anchoring the digitization and distribution practice in the library tradition.
The non-profit status of the enterprise.
Respecting the wishes of the rights holders even if he was not legally obliged to do so.
Maintaining active communication with the different stakeholders in the community,
including authors and readers.
Responding to a clear gap in affordable, legal access.
Conservatism with regard to the book, anchored in the argument that digital texts are not
substitutes for printed matter.

Many other digital libraries tried to follow Moshkov’s formula, but the times were changing. Internet and
computer access left the sub-cultural niches and became mainstream; commercialization became a
viable option and thus an issue for both the community and rightsholders; and the legal environment
was about to change.

Formalization of the IP regime in the 2000s
As soon as the 1993 copyright law passed, the US resumed pressure on the Russian government for
further reform. Throughout the period—and indeed to the present day—US Trade Representative
Special 301 reports cited inadequate protections and lack of enforcement of copyright. Russia’s plans to
join the WTO, over which the US had effective veto power, also became leverage to bring the Russian
copyright regime into compliance with US norms.
Book piracy was regularly mentioned in Special 301 reports in the 2000s, but the details, alleged losses,
and analysis changed little from year to year. The estimated $40M USD losses per year throughout this
period were dwarfed by claims from the studios and software vendors, and clearly were not among the
top priorities of the USTR. For most of the decade, the electronic availability of bestsellers and academic
textbooks was seen in the context of print substitution, rather than damage to the non-existent
electronic market. And though there is little direct indication, the Special 301 reports name sites which
(unlike lib.ru) were serving audiences beyond the RuNet, indicating that the focus of enforcement was
not to protect US interests in the Russian market, but to prevent sites based in Russia to cater for
demand in the high value Western-European and US markets.
A 1998 amendment to the 1993 copyright law extended the legal framework to encompass digital rights,
though in a fashion that continued to produce controversy. After 1998, digital services had to license
content from collecting societies, but those societies needed no permission from rightsholders provided
they paid royalites. The result was a proliferation of collective management organizations, competing to
license the material to digital services (Sezneva and Karaganis, 2011), which under this arrangement
12

ROTOR, the International Union of Internet Professionals in Russia voted lib.ru as the “literary site of the year” in
1999,2001 and 2003, “electronic library of the year” in 2004,2006,2008,2009, and 2010, “programmer of the year”
in 1999, and “man of the year” in 2004 and 2005.

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were compliant with Russian law, but were regarded as illegal by Western rights holders who claimed
that the Russian collecting societies were not representing them.
The best known of dispute from this time was the one around the legality of Allofmp3.com, a site that
sold music from western record labels at prices far below those iTunes or other officially licensed
vendors. AllofMP3.com claimed that it was licensed by ROMS, the Russian Society for Multimedia and
Internet (Российское общество по мультимедиа и цифровым сетям (НП РОМС)), but despite of that
became the focal point of US (and behind them, major label) pressure, leading to an unsuccessful
criminal prosecution of the site owner and eventual closure of the site in 2007. Although Lib.ru had
some direct agreements with authors, it also licensed much of its collection from ROMS, and thus was in
the same legal situation as AllofMP3.com. .
Lib.ru avoided the attention of foreign rightholders and Russian state pressure and even benefited from
state support during the period, the receiving a $30,000 grant from the Federal Agency for Press and
Mass Communications to digitize the most important works from the 1930’s. But the chaotic licensing
environment that governed their legal status also came back to haunt them. In 2005, a lawsuit was
brought against Moshkov by KM Online (KMO), an online vendor that sold digital texts for a small fee.
Although the KMO collection—like every other collection—had been assembled from a wide range of
sources on the Internet, KMO claimed to pay a 20% royalty on its income to authors. In 2004 KMO
requested that lib.ru take down works by several authors with whom (or with whose heirs) KMO claimed
to be in exclusive contract to distribute their texts online. KMO’s claims turned out to be only partly true.
KMO had arranged contracts with a number of the heirs to classics of the Soviet period, who hoped to
benefit from an obscure provision in the 1993 Russian copyright law that granted copyrights to the heirs
of politically prosecuted and later rehabilitated Soviet-era authors. Moshkov, in turn, claimed that he
had written or oral agreements with many of the same authors and heirs, in addition to his agreement
with ROMS.
The lawsuit was a true public event. It generated thousands of news items both online and in the
mainstream press. Authors, members of the publishing industry, legal professionals, librarians, internet
professionals publicly supported Moshkov, while KMO was seen as a rogue operator that would lie to
make easy money on freely-available digital resources.
Eventually, the court ruled that KMO indeed had one exclusive contract with Eduard Gevorgyan, and that
the publication of his texts by Moshkov infringed the moral (but not the economic) rights of the author.
Moshkov was ordered to pay 3000 Rubles (approximately $100) in compensation.
The lawsuit was a sign of a slow but significant transformation in the Russian print ecosystem. The idea
of a viable market for electronic books began to find a foothold. Electronic versions of texts began to be
regarded as potential substitutes for the printed versions, not advertisements for them or supplements
to them. More and more commercial services emerged, which regard the well-entrenched free digital
libraries as competitors. As Russia continued to bring its laws into closer conformance with WTO
requirements, ahead of Russia’s admission in 2012, western rightsholders gained enough power to
demand enforcement against RuNet pirate sites. The kinds of selective enforcement for political or

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business purposes, which had marked the Russian IP regime throughout the decade (Sezneva &
Karaganis, 2011), slowly gave way to more uniform enforcement.

Closure of the Legal Regime
The legal, economic, and cultural conditions under which Aleph and its mirrors operate today are very
different from those of two decades earlier. The major legal loopholes are now closed, though Russian
authorities have shown little inclination to pursue Aleph so far:
I can't say whether it's the Russian copyright enforcement or the Western one that's most dangerous for
Aleph; I'd say that Russian enforcement is still likely to tolerate most of the things that Western
publishers won't allow. For example, lib.ru and [L] and other unofficial Russian e-libraries are tolerated
even though far from compliant with the law. These kinds of e-libraries could not survive at all in western
countries.13
Western publishers have been slow to join record, film, and software companies in their aggressive
online enforcement campaigns, and academic publishers even more so. But such efforts are slowly
increasing, as the market for digital texts grows and as publishers benefit from the enforcement
precedents set or won by the more aggressive rightsholder groups. The domain name of [os], one of the
sites mirroring the Aleph collection was seized, apparently due to the legal action taken by a US
rightholder, and it also started to respond to DMCA notices, removing links to books reported to be
infringing. Aleph responds to this with a number of tactical moves:
We want books to be available, but only for those who need them. We do not want [ALEPH] to be visible.
If one knows where to get books, there are here for him or her. In this way we stay relatively invisible (in
search engines, e.g.), but all the relevant communities in the academy know about us. Actually, if you
question people at universities, the percentage of them is quite low. But what's important is that the
news about [ALEPH] is spread mostly by face-to-face communication, where most of the unnecessary
people do not know about it. (Unnecessary are those who aim profit)14
The policy of invisibility is radically different from Moshkov’s policy of maximum visibility. Aleph hopes
that it can recede into the shadows where it will be protected by the omerta of academics sharing the
sharing ethos:
In Russian academia, [Aleph] is tacitly or actively supported. There are people that do not want to be
included, but it is hard to say who they are in most cases. Since there are DMCA complaints, of course
there are people who do not want stuff to appear here. But in our experience the complainers are only
from the non-scientific fellows. […] I haven't seen a single complaint from the authors who should
constitute our major problem: professors etc. No, they don't complain. Who complains are either of such
type I have mentioned or the ever-hungry publishers.15

13

Anonymous source #1
Anonymous source #1
15
Anonymous source #1
14

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The protection the academic community has to offer may not be enough to fend off the publishers’
enforcement actions. The option to recede further into the darknets and hide behind the veil of privacy
technologies is one option the Aleph site has: the first mirror on I2P, an anonymizing network designed
to hide the whereabouts and identity of web services is already operational. But
[i]f people are physically served court invitations, they will have to close the site. The idea is, however,
that the entire collection is copied throughout the world many times over, the database is open, the code
for the site is open, so other people can continue.16

On methodology
We tried to reconstruct the story behind Aleph by conducting interviews and browsing through the BBS
of the community. Access to the site and community members was given under a strict condition of
anonymity. We thus removed any reference to the names and URLs of the services in question.
At one point we shared an early draft of this paper with interested members and asked for their
feedback. Beyond access and feedback, community members were helping the writing of this article by
providing translations of some Russian originals, as well as reviewing the translations made by the
author. In return, we provided financial contributions to the community, in the value of 100 USD.
We reproduced forum entries without any edits to the language, we, however, edited interviews
conducted via IM services to reflect basic writing standards.

16

Anonymous source #1

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Friedberg, M., Watanabe, M., & Nakamoto, N. (1984). The Soviet Book Market: Supply and Demand.
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Komaromi, A. (2004). The Material Existence of Soviet Samizdat. Slavic Review, 63(3), 597–618.
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Lessig, L. (2013). Aaron’s Laws - Law and Justice in a Digital Age. Cambridge,MA: Harward Law School.
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HAw1i4gOU4
Levin, M. B. (1983). Soviet International Copyright: Dream or Nightmare. Journal of the Copyright Society
of the U.S.A., 31, 127.
Liang, L. (2012). Shadow Libraries. e-flux. Retrieved from http://www.e-flux.com/journal/shadowlibraries/
Newcity, M. A. (1978). Copyright law in the Soviet Union. Praeger.
Newcity, M. A. (1980). Universal Copyright Convention as an Instrument of Repression: The Soviet
Experiment, The. In Copyright L. Symp. (Vol. 24, p. 1). HeinOnline.
Patry, W. F. (2009). Moral panics and the copyright wars. New York: Oxford University Press.
Post, R. (1998). Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation. Getty Research Institute for
the History of Art and the Humanities.
Rieusset-Lemarié, I. (1997). P. Otlet’s mundaneum and the international perspective in the history of
documentation and information science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science,
48(4), 301–309.
Ryzhak, N. (2005). Censorship in the USSR and the Russian State Library. IFLA/FAIFE Satellite meeting:
Documenting censorship – libraries linking past and present, and preparing for the future.
Sezneva, O., & Karaganis, J. (2011). Chapter 4: Russia. In J. Karaganis (Ed.), Media Piracy in Emerging
Economies. New York: Social Science Research Council.
Skilling, H. G. (1989). Samizdat and an Independent Society in Central and Eastern Europe. Pa[Aleph]rave
Macmillan.
Solzhenitsyn, A. I. (1974). The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation,
Parts I-II. Harper & Row.
Stelmach, V. D. (1993). Reading in Russia: findings of the sociology of reading and librarianship section of
the Russian state library. The International Information & Library Review, 25(4), 273–279.
Stelmakh, V. D. (2001). Reading in the Context of Censorship in the Soviet Union. Libraries & Culture,
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23

Draft Manuscript, 11/4/2014, DO NOT CITE!
Гроер, И. (1926). Авторское право. In Большая Советская Энциклопедия. Retrieved from
http://ru.gse1.wikia.com/wiki/Авторское_право

24


cataloguing in Medak, Mars & WHW 2015


Medak, Mars & WHW
Public Library
2015


Public Library

may • 2015
price 50 kn

This publication is realized along with the exhibition
Public Library • 27/5 –13/06 2015 • Gallery Nova • Zagreb
Izdavači / Publishers
Editors
Tomislav Medak • Marcell Mars •
What, How & for Whom / WHW
ISBN 978-953-55951-3-7 [Što, kako i za koga/WHW]
ISBN 978-953-7372-27-9 [Multimedijalni institut]
A Cip catalog record for this book is available from the
National and University Library in Zagreb under 000907085

With the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the
European Union

ZAGREB • ¶ May • 2015

Public Library

1.
Marcell Mars, Manar Zarroug
& Tomislav Medak

75

Public Library (essay)
2.
Paul Otlet

87

Transformations in the Bibliographical
Apparatus of the Sciences
(Repertory — Classification — Office
of Documentation)
3.
McKenzie Wark

111

Metadata Punk
4.
Tomislav Medak
The Future After the Library
UbuWeb and Monoskop’s Radical Gestures

121

Marcell Mars,
Manar Zarroug
& Tomislav Medak

Public library (essay)

In What Was Revolutionary about the French Revolution? 01 Robert Darnton considers how a complete collapse of the social order (when absolutely
everything — all social values — is turned upside
down) would look. Such trauma happens often in
the life of individuals but only rarely on the level
of an entire society.
In 1789 the French had to confront the collapse of
a whole social order—the world that they defined
retrospectively as the Ancien Régime — and to find
some new order in the chaos surrounding them.
They experienced reality as something that could
be destroyed and reconstructed, and they faced
seemingly limitless possibilities, both for good and
evil, for raising a utopia and for falling back into
tyranny.02
The revolution bootstraps itself.
01 Robert H. Darnton, What Was Revolutionary about the
French Revolution? (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press,
1996), 6.
02 Ibid.

Public library (essay)

75

In the dictionaries of the time, the word revolution was said to derive from the verb to revolve and
was defined as “the return of the planet or a star to
the same point from which it parted.” 03 French political vocabulary spread no further than the narrow
circle of the feudal elite in Versailles. The citizens,
revolutionaries, had to invent new words, concepts
… an entire new language in order to describe the
revolution that had taken place.
They began with the vocabulary of time and space.
In the French revolutionary calendar used from 1793
until 1805, time started on 1 Vendémiaire, Year 1, a
date which marked the abolition of the old monarchy on (the Gregorian equivalent) 22 September
1792. With a decree in 1795, the metric system was
adopted. As with the adoption of the new calendar,
this was an attempt to organize space in a rational
and natural way. Gram became a unit of mass.
In Paris, 1,400 streets were given new names.
Every reminder of the tyranny of the monarchy
was erased. The revolutionaries even changed their
names and surnames. Le Roy or Leveque, commonly
used until then, were changed to Le Loi or Liberté.
To address someone, out of respect, with vous was
forbidden by a resolution passed on 24 Brumaire,
Year 2. Vous was replaced with tu. People are equal.
The watchwords Liberté, égalité, fraternité (freedom, equality, brotherhood)04 were built through
03 Ibid.
04 Slogan of the French Republic, France.fr, n.d.,
http://www.france.fr/en/institutions-and-values/slogan
-french-republic.html.

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M. Mars • M. Zarroug • T. Medak

literacy, new epistemologies, classifications, declarations, standards, reason, and rationality. What first
comes to mind about the revolution will never again
be the return of a planet or a star to the same point
from which it departed. Revolution bootstrapped,
revolved, and hermeneutically circularized itself.
Melvil Dewey was born in the state of New York in
1851.05 His thirst for knowledge was found its satisfaction in libraries. His knowledge about how to
gain knowledge was developed by studying libraries.
Grouping books on library shelves according to the
color of the covers, the size and thickness of the spine,
or by title or author’s name did not satisfy Dewey’s
intention to develop appropriate new epistemologies in the service of the production of knowledge
about knowledge. At the age of twenty-four, he had
already published the first of nineteen editions of
A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing
and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library,06 the classification system that still bears its
author’s name: the Dewey Decimal System. Dewey
had a dream: for his twenty-first birthday he had
announced, “My World Work [will be] Free Schools
and Free Libraries for every soul.”07
05 Richard F. Snow, “Melvil Dewey”, American Heritage 32,
no. 1 (December 1980),
http://www.americanheritage.com/content/melvil-dewey.
06 Melvil Dewey, A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a
Library (1876), Project Gutenberg e-book 12513 (2004),
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12513/12513-h/12513-h.htm.
07 Snow, “Melvil Dewey”.

Public library (essay)

77

His dream came true. Public Library is an entry
in the catalog of History where a fantastic decimal08
describes a category of phenomenon that—together
with free public education, a free public healthcare,
the scientific method, the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, Wikipedia, and free software, among
others—we, the people, are most proud of.
The public library is a part of these invisible infrastructures that we start to notice only once they
begin to disappear. A utopian dream—about the
place from which every human being will have access to every piece of available knowledge that can
be collected—looked impossible for a long time,
until the egalitarian impetus of social revolutions,
the Enlightment idea of universality of knowledge,
and the expcetional suspenssion of the comercial
barriers to access to knowledge made it possible.
The internet has, as in many other situations, completely changed our expectations and imagination
about what is possible. The dream of a catalogue
of the world — a universal approach to all available
knowledge for every member of society — became
realizable. A question merely of the meeting of
curves on a graph: the point at which the line of
global distribution of personal computers meets
that of the critical mass of people with access to
the internet. Today nobody lacks the imagination
necessary to see public libraries as part of a global infrastructure of universal access to knowledge
for literally every member of society. However, the
08 “Dewey Decimal Classification: 001.”, Dewey.info, 27 October 2014, http://dewey.info/class/001/2009-08/about.en.

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M. Mars • M. Zarroug • T. Medak

emergence and development of the internet is taking place precisely at the point at which an institutional crisis—one with traumatic and inconceivable
consequences—has also begun.
The internet is a new challenge, creating experiences commonly proferred as ‘revolutionary’. Yet, a
true revolution of the internet is the universal access
to all knowledge that it makes possible. However,
unlike the new epistemologies developed during
the French revolution the tendency is to keep the
‘old regime’ (of intellectual property rights, market
concentration and control of access). The new possibilities for classification, development of languages,
invention of epistemologies which the internet poses,
and which might launch off into new orbits from
existing classification systems, are being suppressed.
In fact, the reactionary forces of the ‘old regime’
are staging a ‘Thermidor’ to suppress the public libraries from pursuing their mission. Today public
libraries cannot acquire, cannot even buy digital
books from the world’s largest publishers.09 The
small amount of e-books that they were able to acquire already they must destroy after only twenty-six
lendings.10 Libraries and the principle of universal
09 “American Library Association Open Letter to Publishers on
E-Book Library Lending”, Digital Book World, 24 September
2012, http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/americanlibrary-association-open-letter-to-publishers-on-e-booklibrary-lending/.
10 Jeremy Greenfield, “What Is Going On with Library E-Book
Lending?”, Forbes, 22 June 2012, http://www.forbes.com/
sites/jeremygreenfield/2012/06/22/what-is-going-on-withlibrary-e-book-lending/.

Public library (essay)

79

access to all existing knowledge that they embody
are losing, in every possible way, the battle with a
market dominated by new players such as Amazon.
com, Google, and Apple.
In 2012, Canada’s Conservative Party–led government cut financial support for Libraries and
Archives Canada (LAC) by Can$9.6 million, which
resulted in the loss of 400 archivist and librarian
jobs, the shutting down of some of LAC’s internet
pages, and the cancellation of the further purchase
of new books.11 In only three years, from 2010 to
2012, some 10 percent of public libraries were closed
in Great Britain.12
The commodification of knowledge, education,
and schooling (which are the consequences of a
globally harmonized, restrictive legal regime for intellectual property) with neoliberal austerity politics
curtails the possibilities of adapting to new sociotechnological conditions, let alone further development, innovation, or even basic maintenance of
public libraries’ infrastructure.
Public libraries are an endangered institution,
doomed to extinction.
Petit bourgeois denial prevents society from confronting this disturbing insight. As in many other
fields, the only way out offered is innovative mar11 Aideen Doran, “Free Libraries for Every Soul: Dreaming
of the Online Library”, The Bear, March 2014, http://www.
thebear-review.com/#!free-libraries-for-every-soul/c153g.
12 Alison Flood, “UK Lost More than 200 Libraries in 2012”,
The Guardian, 10 December 2012, http://www.theguardian.
com/books/2012/dec/10/uk-lost-200-libraries-2012.

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M. Mars • M. Zarroug • T. Medak

ket-based entrepreneurship. Some have even suggested that the public library should become an
open software platform on top of which creative
developers can build app stores13 or Internet cafés
for the poorest, ensuring that they are only a click
away from the Amazon.com catalog or the Google
search bar. But these proposals overlook, perhaps
deliberately, the fundamental principles of access
upon which the idea of the public library was built.
Those who are well-meaning, intelligent, and
tactfull will try to remind the public of all the many
sides of the phenomenon that the public library is:
major community center, service for the vulnerable,
center of literacy, informal and lifelong learning; a
place where hobbyists, enthusiasts, old and young
meet and share knowledge and skills.14 Fascinating. Unfortunately, for purely tactical reasons, this
reminder to the public does not always contain an
explanation of how these varied effects arise out of
the foundational idea of a public library: universal
access to knowledge for each member of the society produces knowledge, produces knowledge about
knowledge, produces knowledge about knowledge
transfer: the public library produces sociability.
The public library does not need the sort of creative crisis management that wants to propose what
13 David Weinberger, “Library as Platform”, Library Journal,
4 September 2012, http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/09/
future-of-libraries/by-david-weinberger/.
14 Shannon Mattern, “Library as Infrastructure”, Design
Observer, 9 June 2014, http://places.designobserver.com/
entryprint.html?entry=38488.

Public library (essay)

81

the library should be transformed into once our society, obsessed with market logic, has made it impossible for the library to perform its main mission. Such
proposals, if they do not insist on universal access
to knowledge for all members, are Trojan horses for
the silent but galloping disappearance of the public
library from the historical stage. Sociability—produced by public libraries, with all the richness of its
various appearances—will be best preserved if we
manage to fight for the values upon which we have
built the public library: universal access to knowledge for each member of our society.
Freedom, equality, and brotherhood need brave librarians practicing civil disobedience.
Library Genesis, aaaaarg.org, Monoskop, UbuWeb
are all examples of fragile knowledge infrastructures
built and maintained by brave librarians practicing
civil disobedience which the world of researchers
in the humanities rely on. These projects are re-inventing the public library in the gap left by today’s
institutions in crisis.
Library Genesis15 is an online repository with over
a million books and is the first project in history to
offer everyone on the Internet free download of its
entire book collection (as of this writing, about fifteen terabytes of data), together with the all metadata
(MySQL dump) and PHP/HTML/Java Script code
for webpages. The most popular earlier reposito15 See http://libgen.org/.

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M. Mars • M. Zarroug • T. Medak

ries, such as Gigapedia (later Library.nu), handled
their upload and maintenance costs by selling advertising space to the pornographic and gambling
industries. Legal action was initiated against them,
and they were closed.16 News of the termination of
Gigapedia/Library.nu strongly resonated among
academics and book enthusiasts circles and was
even noted in the mainstream Internet media, just
like other major world events. The decision by Library Genesis to share its resources has resulted
in a network of identical sites (so-called mirrors)
through the development of an entire range of Net
services of metadata exchange and catalog maintenance, thus ensuring an exceptionally resistant
survival architecture.
aaaaarg.org, started by the artist Sean Dockray, is
an online repository with over 50,000 books and
texts. A community of enthusiastic researchers from
critical theory, contemporary art, philosophy, architecture, and other fields in the humanities maintains,
catalogs, annotates, and initiates discussions around
it. It also as a courseware extension to the self-organized education platform The Public School.17
16 Andrew Losowsky, “Library.nu, Book Downloading Site,
Targeted in Injunctions Requested by 17 Publishers,” Huffington Post, 15 February 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.
com/2012/02/15/librarynu-book-downloading-injunction_
n_1280383.html.
17 “The Public School”, The Public School, n.d.,
https://www.thepublicschool.org/.

Public library (essay)

83

UbuWeb18 is the most significant and largest online
archive of avant-garde art; it was initiated and is lead
by conceptual artist Kenneth Goldsmith. UbuWeb,
although still informal, has grown into a relevant
and recognized critical institution of contemporary
art. Artists want to see their work in its catalog and
thus agree to a relationship with UbuWeb that has
no formal contractual obligations.
Monoskop is a wiki for the arts, culture, and media
technology, with a special focus on the avant-garde,
conceptual, and media arts of Eastern and Central
Europe; it was launched by Dušan Barok and others.
In the form of a blog Dušan uploads to Monoskop.
org/log an online catalog of curated titles (at the
moment numbering around 3,000), and, as with
UbuWeb, it is becoming more and more relevant
as an online resource.
Library Genesis, aaaaarg.org, Kenneth Goldsmith,
and Dušan Barok show us that the future of the
public library does not need crisis management,
venture capital, start-up incubators, or outsourcing but simply the freedom to continue extending
the dreams of Melvil Dewey, Paul Otlet19 and other
visionary librarians, just as it did before the emergence of the internet.

18 See http://ubu.com/.
19 “Paul Otlet”, Wikipedia, 27 October 2014,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Otlet.

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M. Mars • M. Zarroug • T. Medak

With the emergence of the internet and software
tools such as Calibre and “[let’s share books],”20 librarianship has been given an opportunity, similar to astronomy and the project SETI@home21, to
include thousands of amateur librarians who will,
together with the experts, build a distributed peerto-peer network to care for the catalog of available
knowledge, because
a public library is:
— free access to books for every member of society
— library catalog
— librarian
With books ready to be shared, meticulously
cataloged, everyone is a librarian.
When everyone is librarian, library is
everywhere.22


20 “Tools”, Memory of the World, n.d.,
https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/tools/.
21 See http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/.
22 “End-to-End Catalog”, Memory of the World, 26 November 2012,
https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/end-to-end-catalog/.

Public library (essay)

85

Paul Otlet

Transformations
in the Bibliographical Apparatus
of the Sciences [1]
Repertory — Classification — Office
of Documentation
1. Because of its length, its extension to all countries,
the profound harm that it has created in everyone’s
life, the War has had, and will continue to have, repercussions for scientific productivity. The hour for
the revision of the old order is about to strike. Forced
by the need for economies of men and money, and
by the necessity of greater productivity in order to
hold out against all the competition, we are going to
have to introduce reforms into each of the branches
of the organisation of science: scientific research, the
preservation of its results, and their wide diffusion.
Everything happens simultaneously and the distinctions that we will introduce here are only to
facilitate our thinking. Always adjacent areas, or
even those that are very distant, exert an influence
on each other. This is why we should recognize the
impetus, growing each day even greater in the organisation of science, of the three great trends of
our times: the power of associations, technological
progress and the democratic orientation of institutions. We would like here to draw attention to some
of their consequences for the book in its capacity

Transformations In The Bibliographical
Apparatus Of The Sciences

87

as an instrument for recording what has been discovered and as a necessary means for stimulating
new discoveries.
The Book, the Library in which it is preserved,
and the Catalogue which lists it, have seemed for
a long time as if they had achieved their heights of
perfection or at least were so satisfactory that serious
changes need not be contemplated. This may have
been so up to the end of the last century. But for a
score of years great changes have been occurring
before our very eyes. The increasing production of
books and periodicals has revealed the inadequacy of
older methods. The increasing internationalisation
of science has required workers to extend the range
of their bibliographic investigations. As a result, a
movement has occurred in all countries, especially
Germany, the United States and England, for the
expansion and improvement of libraries and for
an increase in their numbers. Publishers have been
searching for new, more flexible, better-illustrated,
and cheaper forms of publication that are better-coordinated with each other. Cataloguing enterprises
on a vast scale have been carried out, such as the
International Catalogue of Scientific Literature and
the Universal Bibliographic Repertory. [2]
Three facts, three ideas, especially merit study
for they represent something really new which in
the future can give us direction in this area. They
are: The Repertory, Classification and the Office of
Documentation.
•••

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Paul Otlet

2. The Repertory, like the book, has gradually been
increasing in size, and improvements in it suggest
the emergence of something new which will radically modify our traditional ideas.
From the point of view of form, a book can be
defined as a group of pages cut to the same format
and gathered together in such a way as to form a
whole. It was not always so. For a long time the
Book was a roll, a volumen. The substances which
then took the place of paper — papyrus and parchment — were written on continuously from beginning to end. Reading required unrolling. This was
certainly not very practical for the consultation of
particular passages or for writing on the verso. The
codex, which was introduced in the first centuries of
the modern era and which is the basis of our present
book, removed these inconveniences. But its faults
are numerous. It constitutes something completed,
finished, not susceptible of addition. The Periodical
with its successive issues has given science a continuous means of concentrating its results. But, in
its turn, the collections that it forms runs into the
obstacle of disorder. It is impossible to link similar
or connected items; they are added to one another
pell-mell, and research requires handling great masses of heavy paper. Of course indexes are a help and
have led to progress — subject indexes, sometimes
arranged systematically, sometimes analytically,
and indexes of names of persons and places. These
annual indexes are preceded by monthly abstracts
and are followed by general indexes cumulated every
five, ten or twenty-five years. This is progress, but
the Repertory constitutes much greater progress.

Transformations In The Bibliographical
Apparatus Of The Sciences

89

The aim of the Repertory is to detach what the
book amalgamates, to reduce all that is complex to
its elements and to devote a page to each. Pages, here,
are leaves or cards according to the format adopted.
This is the “monographic” principle pushed to its
ultimate conclusion. No more binding or, if it continues to exist, it will become movable, that is to
say, at any moment the cards held fast by a pin or a
connecting rod or any other method of conjunction
can be released. New cards can then be intercalated,
replacing old ones, and a new arrangement made.
The Repertory was born of the Catalogue. In
such a work, the necessity for intercalations was
clear. Nor was there any doubt as to the unitary or
monographic notion: one work, one title; one title,
one card. As a result, registers which listed the same
collections of books for each library but which had
constantly to be re-done as the collections expanded,
have gradually been discarded. This was practical
and justified by experience. But upon reflection one
wonders whether the new techniques might not be
more generally applied.
What is a book, in fact, if not a single continuous line which has initially been cut to the length
of a page and then cut again to the size of a justified
line? Now, this cutting up, this division, is purely
mechanical; it does not correspond to any division
of ideas. The Repertory provides a practical means
of physically dividing the book according to the
intellectual division of ideas.
Thus, the manuscript library catalogue on cards
has been quickly followed by catalogues printed on
cards (American Library Bureau, the Catalogue or

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Paul Otlet

the Library of Congress in Washington) [3]; then by
bibliographies printed on cards (International Institute of Bibliography, Concilium Bibliographicum)
[4]; next, indices of species have been published on
cards (Index Speciorum) [5]. We have moved from
the small card to the large card, the leaf, and have
witnessed compendia abandoning the old form for
the new (Jurisclasseur, or legal digests in card form).
Even the idea of the encyclopedia has taken this
form (Nelson’s Perpetual Cyclopedia [6]).
Theoretically and technically, we now have in
the Repertory a new instrument for analytically or
monographically recording data, ideas, information. The system has been improved by divisionary cards of various shapes and colours, placed in
such a way that they express externally the outline
of the classification being used and reduce search
time to a minimum. It has been improved further
by the possibility of using, by cutting and pasting,
materials that have been printed on large leaves or
even books that have been published without any
thought of repertories. Two copies, the first providing the recto, the second the verso, can supply
all that is necessary. One has gone even further still
and, from the example of statistical machines like
those in use at the Census of Washington (sic) [7],
extrapolated the principle of “selection machines”
which perform mechanical searches in enormous
masses of materials, the machines retaining from
the thousands of cards processed by them only those
related to the question asked.
•••

Transformations In The Bibliographical
Apparatus Of The Sciences

91

3. But such a development, like the Repertory before it, presupposes a classification. This leads us to
examine the second practical idea that is bringing
about the transformation of the book.
Classification plays an enormous role in scientific thought. If one could say that a science was a
well-made language, one could equally assert that
it is a completed classification. Science is made up
of verified facts which are organised in a structure
of systems, hypotheses, theories, laws. If there is
a certain order in things, it is necessary to have it
also in science which reflects and explains nature.
That is why, since the time of Greek thought until
the present, constant efforts have been made to improve classification. These have taken three principal directions: classification studied as an activity
of the mind; the general classification and sequence
of the sciences; the systematization appropriate to
each discipline. The idea of order, class, genus and
species has been studied since Aristotle, in passing
by Porphyrus, by the scholastic philosophers and by
modern logicians. The classification of knowledge
goes back to the Greeks and owes much to the contributions of Bacon and the Renaissance. It was posed
as a distinct and separate problem by D’Alembert
and the Encyclopédie, and by Ampère, Comte, and
Spencer. The recent work of Manouvrier, Durand
de Cros, Goblot, Naville, de la Grasserie, has focussed on various aspects of it. [8] As to systematics,
one can say that this has become the very basis of
the organisation of knowledge as a body of science.
When one has demonstrated the existence of 28 million stars, a million chemical compounds, 300,000

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Paul Otlet

vegetable species, 200,000 animal species, etc., it is
necessary to have a means, an Ariadne’s thread, of
finding one’s way through the labyrinth formed by
all these objects of study. Because there are sciences of beings as well as sciences of phenomena, and
because they intersect with each other as we better
understand the whole of reality, it is necessary that
this means be used to retrieve both. The state of development of a science is reflected at any given time
by its systematics, just as the general classification
of the sciences reflects the state of development of
the encyclopedia, of the philosophy of knowledge.
The need has been felt, however, for a practical
instrument of classification. The classifications of
which we have just spoken are constantly changing, at least in their detail if not in broad outline. In
practice, such instability, such variability which is
dependent on the moment, on schools of thought
and individuals, is not acceptable. Just as the Repertory had its origin in the catalogue, so practical
classification originated in the Library. Books represent knowledge and it is necessary to arrange them
in collections. Schemes for this have been devised
since the Middle Ages. The elaboration of grand
systems occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries
and some new ones were added in the 19th century. But when bibliography began to emerge as an
autonomous field of study, it soon began to develop
along the lines of the catalogue of an ideal library
comprising the totality of what had been published.
From this to drawing on library classifications was
but a step, and it was taken under certain conditions
which must be stressed.

Transformations In The Bibliographical
Apparatus Of The Sciences

93

Up to the present time, 170 different classifications
have been identified. Now, no cooperation is possible if everyone stays shut up in his own system. It
has been necessary, therefore, to choose a universal
classification and to recommend it as such in the
same way that the French Convention recognized
the necessity of a universal system of weights and
measures. In 1895 the first International Conference
of Bibliography chose the Decimal Classification
and adopted a complete plan for its development. In
1904, the edition of the expanded tables appeared. A
new edition was being prepared when the war broke
out Brussels, headquarters of the International Institute of Bibliography, which was doing this work,
was part of the invaded territory.
In its latest state, the Decimal Classification has
become an instrument of great precision which
can meet many needs. The printed tables contain
33,000 divisions and they have an alphabetical index consisting of about 38,000 words. Learning is
here represented in its entire sweep: the encyclopedia of knowledge. Its principle is very simple. The
empiricism of an alphabetical classification by subject-heading cannot meet the need for organising
and systematizing knowledge. There is scattering;
there is also the difficulty of dealing with the complex expressions which one finds in the modern terminology of disciplines like medicine, technology,
and the social sciences. Above all, it is impossible
to achieve any international cooperation on such
a national basis as language. The Decimal Classification is a vast systematization of knowledge, “the
table of contents of the tables of contents” of all

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treatises. But, as it would be impossible to find a
particular subject’s relative place by reference to
another subject, a system of numbering is needed.
This is decimal, which an example will make clear.
Optical Physiology would be classified thus:
5 th Class
3rd Group
5th Division
7th Sub-division

Natural Sciences
Physics
Optics
Optical Physiology

or 535.7
This number 535.7 is called decimal because all
knowledge is taken as one of which each science is
a fraction and each individual subject is a decimal
subdivided to a lesser or greater degree. For the sake
of abbreviation, the zero of the complete number,
which would be 0.5357, has been suppressed because
the zero would be repeated in front of each number.
The numbers 5, 3, 5, 7 (which one could call five hundred and thirty-five point seven and which could
be arranged in blocks of three as for the telephone,
or in groups of twos) form a single number when
the implied words, “class, group, division and subdivision,” are uttered.
The classification is also called decimal because
all subjects are divided into ten classes, then each
of these into at least ten groups, and each group
into at least ten divisions. All that is needed for the
number 535.7 always to have the same meaning is
to translate the tables into all languages. All that is
needed to deal with future scientific developments

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in optical physiology in all of its ramifications is to
subdivide this number by further decimal numbers
corresponding to the subdivisions of the subject
Finally, all that is needed to ensure that any document or item pertaining to optical physiology finds
its place within the sum total of scientific subjects
is to write this number on it In the alphabetic index
to the tables references are made from each word
to the classification number just as the index of a
book refers to page numbers.
This first remarkable principle of the decimal
classification is generally understood. Its second,
which has been introduced more recently, is less
well known: the combination of various classification numbers whenever there is some utility in expressing a compound or complex heading. In the
social sciences, statistics is 31 and salaries, 331.2. By
a convention these numbers can be joined by the
simple sign : and one may write 31:331.2 statistics
of salaries.01
This indicates a general relationship, but a subject also has its place in space and time. The subject
may be salaries in France limited to a period such as
the 18th century (that is to say, from 1700 to 1799).
01 The first ten divisions are: 0 Generalities, 1 Philosophy, 2
Religion, 3 Social Sciences, 4 Philology, Language, 5 Pure
Sciences, 6 Applied Science, Medicine, 7 Fine Arts, 8 Literature, 9 History and Geography. The Index number 31 is
derived from: 3rd class social sciences, 1st group statistics. The
Index number 331.2 is derived from 3rd class social sciences,
3rd group political economy, 1st division topics about work,
2nd subdivision salaries.

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The sign that characterises division by place being
the parenthesis and that by time quotation marks
or double parentheses, one can write:
33:331.2 (44) «17» statistics — of salaries — in
France — in the 17th century
or ten figures and three signs to indicate, in terms
of the universe of knowledge, four subordinated
headings comprising 42 letters. And all of these
numbers are reversible and can be used for geographic or chronologic classification as well as for
subject classification:
(44) 31:331.2 «17»
France — Statistics — Salaries — 17th Century
«17» (44) 31:331.2
17th Century — France — Statistics — Salaries
The subdivisions of relation and location explained
here, are completed by documentary subdivisions
for the form and the language of the document (for
example, periodical, in Italian), and by functional
subdivisions (for example, in zoology all the divisions by species of animal being subdivided by biological aspects). It follows by virtue of the law of
permutations and combinations that the present
tables of the classification permit the formulation
at will of millions of classification numbers. Just as
arithmetic does not give us all the numbers readymade but rather a means of forming them as we
need them, so the classification gives us the means

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of creating classification numbers insofar as we have
compound headings that must be translated into a
notation of numbers.
Like chemistry, mathematics and music, bibliography thus has its own extremely simple notations:
numbers. Immediately and without confusion, it
allows us to find a place for each idea, for each thing
and consequently for each book, article, or document and even for each part of a book or document
Thus it allows us to take our bearings in the midst
of the sources of knowledge, just as the system of
geographic coordinates allows us to take our bearings on land or sea.
One may well imagine the usefulness of such a
classification to the Repertory. It has rid us of the
difficulty of not having continuous pagination. Cards
to be intercalated can be placed according to their
class number and the numbering is that of tables
drawn up in advance, once and for all, and maintained with an unvarying meaning. As the classification has a very general use, it constitutes a true
documentary classification which can be used in
various kinds of repertories: bibliographic repertories; catalogue-like repertories of objects, persons,
phenomena; and documentary repertories of files
made up of written or printed materials of all kinds.
The possibility can be envisaged of encyclopedic
repertories in which are registered and integrated
the diverse data of a scientific field and which draw
for this purpose on materials published in periodicals. Let each article, each report, each item of news
henceforth carry a classification number and, automatically, by clipping, encyclopedias on cards can

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be created in which all the results of international
scientific cooperation are brought together at the
same number. This constitutes a profound change
in the technology of the Book, since the repertory
thus formed is simultaneously a constantly up-dated book and a cooperative book in which are found
printed elements produced in all locations.
•••
4. If we can realize the third idea, the Office of Documentation, then reform will be complete. Such an
office is the old library, but adapted to a new function. Hitherto the library has been a museum of
books. Works were preserved in libraries because
they were precious objects. Librarians were keepers.
Such establishments were not organised primarily
for the use of documents. Moreover, their outmoded
regulations if they did not exclude the most modern
forms of publication at least did not admit them.
They have poor collections of journals; collections
of newspapers are nearly nonexistent; photographs,
films, phonograph discs have no place in them, nor
do film negatives, microscopic slides and many other “documents.” The subject catalogue is considered
secondary in the library so long as there is a good
register for administrative purposes. Thus there is
little possibility of developing repertories in the
library, that is to say of taking publications to pieces and redistributing them in a more directly and
quickly accessible form. For want of personnel to
arrange them, there has not even been a place for
the cards that are received already printed.

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The Office of Documentation, on the contrary, is
conceived of in such a way as to achieve all that is
lacking in the library. Collections of books are the
necessary basis for it, but books, far from being
considered as finished products, are simply materials which must be developed more fully. This
development consists in establishing the connections each individual book has with all of the other
books and forming from them all what might be
called The Universal Book. It is for this that we use
repertories: bibliographic repertories; repertories of
documentary dossiers gathering pamphlets and extracts together by subject; catalogues; chronological
repertories of facts or alphabetical ones of names;
encyclopedic repertories of scientific data, of laws,
of patents, of physical and technical constants, of
statistics, etc. All of these repertories will be set up
according to the method described above and arranged by the same universal classification. As soon
as an organisation to contain these repertories is
created, the Office of Documentation, one may be
sure that what happened to the book when libraries
first opened — scientific publication was regularised
and intensified — will happen to them. Then there
will be good reason for producing in bibliographies,
catalogues, and above all in books and periodicals
themselves, the rational changes which technology and the creative imagination suggest. What is
still an exception today will be common tomorrow.
New possibilities will exist for cooperative work
and for the more effective organisation of science.
•••

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5. Repertory, Classification, Office of Documentation are therefore the three related elements of a
single reform in our methods of registering scientific discoveries and making them available to the
greatest number of people. Already one must speak
less of experiments and uncertain trials than of the
beginning of serious achievement. The International Institute of Bibliography in Brussels constitutes
a vast intellectual cooperative whose members are
becoming more numerous each day. Associations,
scientific establishments, periodical publications,
scientific and technical workers of every kind are
affiliating with it. Its repertories contain millions of
cards. There are sections in several countries02 . But
this was before the War. Since its outbreak, a movement in France, England and the United States has
been emerging everywhere to improve the organisation of the Book. The Office of Documentation has
been suggested as the solution for the requirements
that have been discussed.
It is important that the world of science and
technology should support this movement and
above all that it should endeavour to apply the new
methods to the works which it will be necessary to
re-organise. Among the most important of these is
the International Catalogue of Scientific Literature,
that fine and great work begun at the initiative of the
Royal Society of London. Until now, this work has
02 In France, the Bureau Bibliographique de Paris and great
associations such as the Société pour l’encouragement de
l’industrie nationale, l’Association pour l’avancement des
sciences, etc., are affiliated with it.

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been carried on without relation to other works of
the same kind: it has not recognised the value of a
card repertory or a universal classification. It must
recognise them in the future.03 ❧

03 See Paul Otlet, “La Documentation et I’information au service de I’industrie”, Bulletin de la Société d’encouragement
de l’industrie nationale, June 1917. — La Documentation au
service de l’invention. Euréka, October 1917. — L’Institut
International de Bibliographie, Bibliographie de la France,
21 December 1917. — La Réorganisation du Catalogue international de la littérature scientifique. Revue générale des
sciences, IS February 1918. The publications of the Institute,
especially the expanded tables of the Decimal Classification,
have been deposited at the Bureau Bibliographique de Paris,
44 rue de Rennes at the apartments of the Société de l’encouragement. — See also the report presented by General
Sebert (9] to the Congrès du Génie civil, in March 1918 and
whose conclusions about the creation in Paris of a National
Office of Technical Documentation have been adopted.

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Editor’s Notes
[1] “Transformations operées dans l’appareil bibliographique
des sciences,” Revue scientifique 58 (1918): 236-241.
[2] The International Catalogue of Scientific Literature, an enormous work, was compiled by a Central Bureau under the
sponsorship of the Royal Society from material sent in from
Regional Bureaus around the world. It was published annually beginning in 1902 in 17 parts each corresponding to
a major subject division and comprising one or more volumes. Publication was effectively suspended in 1914. By the
time war broke out, the Universal Bibliographic Repertory
contained over 11 million entries.
[3] For card publication by the Library Bureau and Library of
Congress, see Edith Scott, “The Evolution of Bibliographic
Systems in the United States, 1876–1945” and Editor’s Note
36 to the second paper and Note 5 to the seventh paper in
International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge; Selected Essays of Paul Otlet, translated and edited by
W. Boyd Rayward. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1990: 148–156.
[4] Otlet refers to the Concilium Bibliographicum also in Paper
No. 7, “The Reform of National Bibliographies...” in International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge; Selected
Essays of Paul Otlet. See also Editor’s Note 5 in that paper
for the major bibliographies published by the Concilium
Bibliographicum.
[5] A possible example of what Otlet is referring to here is the
Gray Herbarium Index. This was “planned to provide cards
for all the names of vascular plant taxa attributable to the

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Western Hemisphere beginning with the literature of 1886”
(Gray Herbarium Index, Preface, p. iii). Under its first compiler, 20 instalments consisting in all of 28,000 cards were
issued between 1894 and 1903. It has been continued after
that time and was for many years “issued quarterly at the
rate of about 4,000 cards per year.” At the time the cards
were reproduced in a printed catalogue by G. K. Hall in 1968,
there were 85 subscribers to the card sets.
[6] Nelson’s Perpetual Loose-Leaf Encylcopedia was a popular,
12-volume work which went through many editions, its
principle being set down at the beginning of the century.
It was published in binders and the publisher undertook to
supply a certain number of pages of revisions (or renewals)
semi-annually after each edition, the first of which appeared
in 1905. An interesting reference presumably to this work
occurs in a notice, “An Encylcopedia on the Card-Index System,” in the Scientific American 109 (1913): 213. The Berlin
Correspondent of the journal reports a proposal made in
Berlin which contains “an idea, in a sense ... already carried
out in an American loose-leaf encyclopedia, the publishers
of which supply new pages to take the place of those that
are obsolete” (Nelsons, an English firm, set up a New York
branch in 1896. Publication in the U.S. of works to be widely
circulated there was a requirement of the copyright law.)
The reporter observes that the principle suggested “affords
a means of recording all facts at present known as well as
those to be discovered in the future, with the same safety
and ease as though they were registered in our memory, by
providing a universal encyclopedia, incessantly keeping
abreast of the state of human knowledge.” The “bookish”
form of conventional encyclopedias acts against its future
success. “In the case of a mere storehouse of facts the in-

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finitely more mobile form of the card index should however
be adopted, possibly,” the author goes on making a most interesting reference, “in conjunction with Dr. Goldschmidt’s
Microphotographic Library System.” The need for a central
institute, the nature of its work, the advantages of the work
so organised are described in language that is reminiscent
of that of Paul Otlet (see also the papers of Goldschmidt
and Otlet translated in International Organisation and
Dissemination of Knowledge; Selected Essays of Paul Otlet).
[7] These machines were derived from Herman Hollerith’s
punched cards and tabulating machines. Hollerith had
introduced them under contract into the U.S. Bureau of
the Census for the 1890 census. This equipment was later
modified and developed by the Bureau. Hollerith, his invention and his business connections lie at the roots of the
present IBM company. The equipment and its uses in the
census from 1890 to 1910 are briefly described in John H.
Blodgett and Claire K. Schultz, “Herman Hollerith: Data
Processing Pioneer,” American Documentation 20 (1969):
221-226. As they observe, suggesting the accuracy of Otlet’s
extrapolation, “his was not simply a calculating machine,
it performed selective sorting, an operation basic to all information retrieval.”
[8] The history of the classification of knowledge has been treated
in English in detail by E.C. Richardson in his Classification
Theoretical and Practical, the first edition of which appeared
in 1901 and was followed by editions in 1912 and 1930. A
different treatment is given in Robert Flint’s Philosophy as
Scientia Scientarium: a History of the Classification of the
Sciences which appeared in 1904. Neither of these works
deal with Manouvrier, a French anthropologist, or Durand

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de Cros. Joseph-Pierre Durand, sometimes called Durand
de Cros after his birth place, was a French physiologist and
philosopher who died in 1900. In his Traité de documentation,
in the context of his discussion of classification, Otlet refers
to an Essai de taxonomie by Durand published by Alcan. It
seems that this is an error for Aperçus de taxonomie (Alcan,
1899).
[9] General Hippolyte Sebert was President of the Association française pour l’avancement des sciences, and the Société d’encouragement pour l’industrie nationale. He had
been active in the foundation of the Bureau bibliographique
de Paris. For other biographical information about him see
Editor’s Note 9 to Paper no 17, “Henri La Fontaine”, in International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge;
Selected Essays of Paul Otlet.

English translation of the Paul Otlet’s text published with the
permission of W. Boyd Rayward. The translation was originally
published as Paul Otlet, “Transformations in the Bibliographical
Apparatus of the Sciences: Repertory–Classification–Office of
Documentation”, in International Organisation and Dissemination of Knowledge; Selected Essays of Paul Otlet, translated and
edited by W. Boyd Rayward, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1990: 148–156.

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public library

http://aaaaarg.org/

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McKenzie Wark

Metadata Punk

So we won the battle but lost the war. By “we”, I
mean those avant-gardes of the late twentieth century whose mission was to free information from the
property form. It was always a project with certain
nuances and inconsistencies, but over-all it succeeded beyond almost anybody’s wildest dreams. Like
many dreams, it turned into a nightmare in the end,
the one from which we are now trying to awake.
The place to start is with what the situationists
called détournement. The idea was to abolish the
property form in art by taking all of past art and
culture as a commons from which to copy and correct. We see this at work in Guy Debord’s texts and
films. They do not quote from past works, as to do
so acknowledges their value and their ownership.
The elements of détournement are nothing special.
They are raw materials for constructing theories,
narratives, affects of a subjectivity no longer bound
by the property form.
Such a project was recuperated soon enough
back into the art world as “appropriation.” Richard
Prince is the dialectical negation of Guy Debord,

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in that appropriation values both the original fragment and contributes not to a subjectivity outside of
property but rather makes a career as an art world
star for the appropriating artist. Of such dreams is
mediocrity made.
If there was a more promising continuation of
détournement it had little to do with the art world.
Détournement became a social movement in all but
name. Crucially, it involved an advance in tools,
from Napster to Bitorrent and beyond. It enabled
the circulation of many kinds of what Hito Steyerl
calls the poor image. Often low in resolution, these
détourned materials circulated thanks both to the
compression of information but also because of the
addition of information. There might be less data
but there’s added metadata, or data about data, enabling its movement.
Needless to say the old culture industries went
into something of a panic about all this. As I wrote
over ten years ago in A Hacker Manifesto, “information wants to be free but is everywhere in chains.”
It is one of the qualities of information that it is indifferent to the medium that carries it and readily
escapes being bound to things and their properties.
Yet it is also one of its qualities that access to it can
be blocked by what Alexander Galloway calls protocol. The late twentieth century was — among other
things — about the contradictory nature of information. It was a struggle between détournement and
protocol. And protocol nearly won.
The culture industries took both legal and technical steps to strap information once more to fixity
in things and thus to property and scarcity. Inter-

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estingly, those legal steps were not just a question of
pressuring governments to make free information
a crime. It was also a matter of using international
trade agreements as a place outside the scope of de­
mo­­cratic oversight to enforce the old rules of property. Here the culture industries join hands with the
drug cartels and other kinds of information-based
industry to limit the free flow of information.
But laws are there to be broken, and so are protocols of restriction such as encryption. These were
only ever delaying tactics, meant to shore up old
monopoly business for a bit longer. The battle to
free information was the battle that the forces of
détournement largely won. Our defeat lay elsewhere.
While the old culture industries tried to put information back into the property form, there were
other kinds of strategy afoot. The winners were not
the old culture industries but what I call the vulture
industries. Their strategy was not to try to stop the
flow of free information but rather to see it as an
environment to be leveraged in the service of creating a new kind of business. “Let the data roam free!”
says the vulture industry (while quietly guarding
their own patents and trademarks). What they aim
to control is the metadata.
It’s a new kind of exploitation, one based on an
unequal exchange of information. You can have the
little scraps of détournement that you desire, in exchange for performing a whole lot of free labor—and
giving up all of the metadata. So you get your little
bit of data; they get all of it, and more importantly,
any information about that information, such as
the where and when and what of it.

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It is an interesting feature of this mode of exploitation that you might not even be getting paid for your
labor in making this information—as Trebor Scholz
as pointed out. You are working for information
only. Hence exploitation can be extended far beyond
the workplace and into everyday life. Only it is not
so much a social factory, as the autonomists call it.
This is more like a social boudoir. The whole of social
space is in some indeterminate state between public
and private. Some of your information is private to
other people. But pretty much all of it is owned by
the vulture industry — and via them ends up in the
hands of the surveillance state.
So this is how we lost the war. Making information free seemed like a good idea at the time. Indeed, one way of seeing what transpired is that we
forced the ruling class to come up with these new
strategies in response to our own self-organizing
activities. Their actions are reactions to our initiatives. In this sense the autonomists are right, only
it was not so much the actions of the working class
to which the ruling class had to respond in this case,
as what I call the hacker class. They had to recuperate a whole social movement, and they did. So our
tactics have to change.
In the past we were acting like data-punks. Not
so much “here’s three chords, now form your band.”
More like: “Here’s three gigs, now go form your autonomous art collective.” The new tactic might be
more question of being metadata-punks. On the one
hand, it is about freeing information about information rather than the information itself. We need
to move up the order of informational density and

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control. On the other hand, it might be an idea to
be a bit discreet about it. Maybe not everyone needs
to know about it. Perhaps it is time to practice what
Zach Blas calls infomatic opacity.
Three projects seem to embody much of this
spirit to me. One I am not even going to name or
discuss, as discretion seems advisable in that case.
It takes matters off the internet and out of circulation among strangers. Ask me about it in person if
we meet in person.
The other two are Monoskop Log and UbuWeb.
It is hard to know what to call them. They are websites, archives, databases, collections, repositories,
but they are also a bit more than that. They could be
thought of also as the work of artists or of curators;
of publishers or of writers; of archivists or researchers. They contain lots of files. Monoskop is mostly
books and journals; UbuWeb is mostly video and
audio. The work they contain is mostly by or about
the historic avant-gardes.
Monoskop Log bills itself as “an educational
open access online resource.” It is a component part
of Monoskop, “a wiki for collaborative studies of
art, media and the humanities.” One commenter
thinks they see the “fingerprint of the curator” but
nobody is named as its author, so let’s keep it that
way. It is particularly strong on Eastern European
avant-garde material. UbuWeb is the work of Kenneth Goldsmith, and is “a completely independent
resource dedicated to all strains of the avant-garde,
ethnopoetics, and outsider arts.”
There’s two aspects to consider here. One is the
wealth of free material both sites collect. For any-

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body trying to teach, study or make work in the
avant-garde tradition these are very useful resources.
The other is the ongoing selection, presentation and
explanation of the material going on at these sites
themselves. Both of them model kinds of ‘curatorial’
or ‘publishing’ behavior.
For instance, Monoskop has wiki pages, some
better than Wikipedia, which contextualize the work
of a given artist or movement. UbuWeb offers “top
ten” lists by artists or scholars which give insight
not only into the collection but into the work of the
person making the selection.
Monoskop and UbuWeb are tactics for intervening in three kinds of practices, those of the artworld, of publishing and of scholarship. They respond to the current institutional, technical and
political-economic constraints of all three. As it
says in the Communist Manifesto, the forces for social change are those that ask the property question.
While détournement was a sufficient answer to that
question in the era of the culture industries, they try
to formulate, in their modest way, a suitable tactic
for answering the property question in the era of
the vulture industries.
This takes the form of moving from data to metadata, expressed in the form of the move from writing
to publishing, from art-making to curating, from
research to archiving. Another way of thinking this,
suggested by Hiroki Azuma would be the move from
narrative to database. The object of critical attention
acquires a third dimension, a kind of informational
depth. The objects before us are not just a text or an
image but databases of potential texts and images,
with metadata attached.

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The object of any avant-garde is always to practice the relation between aesthetics and everyday
life with a new kind of intensity. UbuWeb and
Monoskop seem to me to be intimations of just
such an avant-garde movement. One that does not
offer a practice but a kind of meta-practice for the
making of the aesthetic within the everyday.
Crucial to this project is the shifting of aesthetic
intention from the level of the individual work to the
database of works. They contain a lot of material, but
not just any old thing. Some of the works available
here are very rare, but not all of them are. It is not
just rarity, or that the works are available for free.
It is more that these are careful, artful, thoughtful
collections of material. There are the raw materials here with which to construct a new civilization.
So we lost the battle, but the war goes on. This
civilization is over, and even its defenders know it.
We live in among ruins that accrete in slow motion.
It is not so much a civil war as an incivil war, waged
against the very conditions of existence of life itself.
So even if we have no choice but to use its technologies and cultures, the task is to build another way
of life among the ruins. Here are some useful practices, in and on and of the ruins. ❧

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http://midnightnotes.memoryoftheworld.org/

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Tomislav Medak

The Future After the Library
UbuWeb and Monoskop’s
Radical Gestures

The institution of the public library has crystallized,
developed and advanced around historical junctures
unleashed by epochal economic, technological and
political changes. A series of crises since the advent
of print have contributed to the configuration of the
institutional entanglement of the public library as
we know it today:01 defined by a publicly available
collection, housed in a public building, indexed and
made accessible with a help of a public catalog, serviced by trained librarians and supported through
public financing. Libraries today embody the idea
of universal access to all knowledge, acting as custodians of a culture of reading, archivists of material
and ephemeral cultural production, go-betweens
of information and knowledge. However, libraries have also embraced a broader spirit of public
service and infrastructure: providing information,
01 For the concept and the full scope of the contemporary library
as institutional entanglement see Shannon Mattern, “Library
as Infrastructure”, Places Journal, accessed April 9, 2015,
https://placesjournal.org/article/library-as-infrastructure/.

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education, skills, assistance and, ultimately, shelter
to their communities — particularly their most vulnerable members.
This institutional entanglement, consisting in
a comprehensive organization of knowledge, universally accessible cultural goods and social infrastructure, historically emerged with the rise of (information) science, social regulation characteristic
of modernity and cultural industries. Established
in its social aspect as the institutional exemption
from the growing commodification and economic
barriers in the social spheres of culture, education
and knowledge, it is a result of struggles for institutionalized forms of equality that still reflect the
best in solidarity and universality that modernity
had to offer. Yet, this achievement is marked by
contradictions that beset modernity at its core. Libraries and archives can be viewed as an organon
through which modernity has reacted to the crises
unleashed by the growing production and fixation
of text, knowledge and information through a history of transformations that we will discuss below.
They have been an epistemic crucible for the totalizing formalizations that have propelled both the
advances and pathologies of modernity.
Positioned at a slight monastic distance and indolence toward the forms of pastoral, sovereign or
economic domination that defined the surrounding world that sustained them, libraries could never
close the rift or between the universalist aspirations
of knowledge and their institutional compromise.
Hence, they could never avoid being the battlefield
where their own, and modernity’s, ambivalent epis-

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temic and social character was constantly re-examined and ripped asunder. It is this ambivalent
character that has been a potent motor for critical theory, artistic and political subversion — from
Marx’s critique of political economy, psychoanalysis
and historic avant-gardes, to revolutionary politics.
Here we will examine the formation of the library
as an epistemic and social institution of modernity
and the forms of critical engagement that continue
to challenge the totalizing order of knowledge and
appropriation of culture in the present.
Here Comes the Flood02
Prior to the advent of print, the collections held in
monastic scriptoria, royal courts and private libraries
typically contained a limited number of canonical
manuscripts, scrolls and incunabula. In Medieval
and early Renaissance Europe the canonized knowledge considered necessary for the administration of
heavenly and worldly affairs was premised on reading and exegesis of biblical and classical texts. It is
02 The metaphor of the information flood, here incanted in the
words of Peter Gabriel’s song with apocalyptic overtones, as
well as a good part of the historic background of the development of index card catalog in the following paragraphs
are based on Markus Krajewski, Paper Machines: About
Cards & Catalogs, 1548–1929 (MIT Press, 2011). The organizing idea of Krajewski’s historical account, that the index
card catalog can be understood as a Turing machine avant
la lettre, served as a starting point for the understanding
of the library as an epistemic institution developed here.

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123

estimated that by the 15th century in Western Europe
there were no more than 5 million manuscripts held
mainly in the scriptoria of some 21,000 monasteries and a small number of universities. While the
number of volumes had grown sharply from less
than 0.8 million in the 12th century, the number of
monasteries had remained constant throughout that
period. The number of manuscripts read averaged
around 1,000 per million inhabitants, with the total
population of Europe peaking around 60 million.03
All in all, the book collections were small, access was
limited and reading culture played a marginal role.
The proliferation of written matter after the invention of mechanical movable type printing would
greatly increase the number of books, but also the
patterns of literacy and knowledge production. Already in the first fifty years after Gutenberg’s invention, 12 million volumes were printed, and from
this point onwards the output of printing presses
grew exponentially to 700 million volumes in the
18th century. In the aftermath of the explosion in
book production the cost of producing and buying
books fell drastically, reducing the economic barriers to literacy, but also creating a material vector
for a veritable shift of the epistemic paradigm. The
03 For an economic history of the book in the Western Europe
see Eltjo Buringh and Jan Luiten Van Zanden, “Charting
the ‘Rise of the West’: Manuscripts and Printed Books in
Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through
Eighteenth Centuries”, The Journal of Economic History 69,
No. 02 (June 2009): 409–45, doi:10.1017/S0022050709000837,
particularly Tables 1-5.

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emerging reading public was gaining access to the
new works of a nascent Enlightenment movement,
ushering in the modern age of science. In parallel
with those larger epochal transformations, the explosion of print also created a rising tide of new books
that suddenly inundated the libraries. The libraries
now had to contend both with the orders-of-magnitude greater volume of printed matter and the
growing complexity of systematically storing, ordering, classifying and tracking all of the volumes
in their collection. An once almost static collection
of canonical knowledge became an ever expanding
dynamic flux. This flood of new books, the first of
three to follow, presented principled, infrastructural and organizational challenges to the library that
radically transformed and coalesced its functions.
The epistemic shift created by this explosion of
library holdings led to a revision of the assumption
that the library is organized around a single holy
scripture and a small number of classical sources.
Coextensive with the emergence and multiplication of new sciences, the books that were entering
the library now covered an ever diversified scope
of topics and disciplines. And the sheer number of
new acquisitions demanded the physical expansion of libraries, which in turn required a radical
rethinking of the way the books were stored, displayed and indexed. In fact, the flood caused by the
printing press was nothing short of a revolution in
the organization, formalization and processing of
information and knowledge. This becomes evident
in the changes that unfolded between the 16th and
the early 20th in the cataloging of library collections.

The Future After the Library

125

The initial listings of books were kept in bound
volumes, books in their own right. But as the number of items arriving into the library grew, the constant need to insert new entries made the bound
book format increasingly impractical for library
catalogs. To make things more complicated still,
the diversification of the printed matter demanded
a richer bibliographic description that would allow
better comprehension of what was contained in the
volumes. Alongside the name of the author and the
book’s title, the description now needed to include
the format of the volume, the classification of the
subject matter and the book’s location in the library.
As the pace of new arrivals accelerated, the effort to
create a library catalog became unending, causing a
true crisis in the emerging librarian profession. This
would result in a number of physical and epistemic
innovations in the organization and formalization
of information and knowledge. The requirement
to constantly rearrange the order of entries in the
listing lead to the eventual unbinding of the bound
catalog into separate slips of paper and finally to the
development of the index card catalog. The unbound
index cards and their floating rearrangement, not
unlike that of the movable type, would in turn result in the design of filing cabinets. From Conrad
Gessner’s Bibliotheca Universalis, a three-volume
book-format catalog of around 3,000 authors and
10,000 texts, arranged alphabetically and topically,
published in the period 1545–1548; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s proposals for a universal library
during his tenure at the Wolfenbüttel library in the
late 17th century; to Gottfried van Swieten’s catalog

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Tomislav Medak

of the Viennese court library, the index card catalog and the filing cabinets would develop almost to
their present form.04
The unceasing inflow of new books into the library
prompted the need to spatially organize and classify
the arrangement of the collection. The simple addition of new books to the shelves by size; canonical
relevance or alphabetical order, made little sense
in a situation where the corpus of printed matter
was quickly expanding and no individual librarian
could retain an intimate overview of the library’s
entire collection. The inflow of books required that
the brimming shelf-space be planned ahead, while
the increasing number of expanding disciplines required that the collection be subdivided into distinct
sections by fields. First the shelves became classified
and then the books individually received a unique
identifier. With the completion of the Josephinian
catalog in the Viennese court library, every book became compartmentalized according to a systematic
plan of sciences and assigned a unique sequence of
a Roman numeral, a Roman letter and an Arabic
numeral by which it could be tracked down regardless of its physical location.05 The physical location
of the shelves in the library no longer needed to be
reflected in the ordering of the catalog, and the catalog became a symbolic representation of the freely
re-arrangeable library. In the technological lingo of
today, the library required storage, index, search
and address in order to remain navigable. It is this
04 Krajewski, Paper Machines, op. cit., chapter 2.
05 Ibid., 30.

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127

formalization of a universal system of classification
of objects in the library with the relative location of
objects and re-arrangeable index that would then in
1876 receive its present standardized form in Melvil
Dewey’s Decimal System.
The development of the library as an institution of
public access and popular literacy did not proceed
apace with the development of its epistemic aspects.
It was only a series of social upheavals and transformations in the course of the 18th and 19th century
that would bring about another flood of books and
political demands, pushing the library to become
embedded in an egalitarian and democratic political culture. The first big step in that direction came
with the decision of the French revolutionary National Assembly from 2 November 1789 to seize all
book collections from the Church and aristocracy.
Million of volumes were transferred to the Bibliothèque Nationale and local libraries across France.
In parallel, particularly in England, capitalism was
on the rise. It massively displaced the impoverished rural population into growing urban centers,
propelled the development of industrial production and, by the mid-19th century, introduced the
steam-powered rotary press into the book business.
As books became more easily, and mass produced,
the commercial subscription libraries catering to the
better-off parts of society blossomed. This brought
the class aspect of the nascent demand for public
access to books to the fore. After the failed attempts
to introduce universal suffrage and end the system
of political representation based on property entitlements in 1830s and 1840s, the English Chartist

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Tomislav Medak

movement started to open reading rooms and cooperative lending libraries that would quickly become
a popular hotbed of social exchanges between the
lower classes. In the aftermath of the revolutionary
upheavals of 1848, the fearful ruling classes heeded
the demand for tax-financed public libraries, hoping
that the access to literature and edification would
ultimately hegemonize the working class for the
benefits of capitalism’s culture of self-interest and
competition.06
The Avant-gardes in the Library
As we have just demonstrated, the public library
in its epistemic and social aspects coalesced in the
context of the broader social transformations of
modernity: early capitalism and processes of nation-building in Europe and the USA. These transformations were propelled by the advancement of
political and economic rationalization, public and
business administration, statistical and archival
procedures. Archives underwent a corresponding and largely concomitant development with the
libraries, responding with a similar apparatus of
classification and ordering to the exponential expansion of administrative records documenting the
social world and to the historicist impulse to capture the material traces of past events. Overlaying
the spatial organization of documentation; rules
06 For the social history of public library see Matthew Battles,
Library: An Unquiet History (Random House, 2014) chapter
5: “Books for all”.

The Future After the Library

129

of its classification and symbolic representation of
the archive in reference tools, they tried to provide
a formalization adequate to the passion for capturing historical or present events. Characteristic
of the ascendant positivism of the 19th century, the
archivists’ and librarians’ epistemologies harbored
a totalizing tendency that would become subject to
subversion and displacement in the first decades of
the 20th century.
The assumption that the classificatory form can
fully capture the archival content would become
destabilized over and over by the early avant-gardist
permutations of formal languages of classification:
dadaist montage of the contingent compositional
elements, surrealist insistence on the unconscious
surpluses produced by automatized formalized language, constructivist foregrounding of dynamic and
spatialized elements in the acts of perception and
cognition of an artwork.07 The material composition
of the classified and ordered objects already contained formalizations deposited into those objects
by the social context of their provenance or projected onto them by the social situation of encounter
with them. Form could become content and content
could become form. The appropriations, remediations and displacements exacted by the neo-avantgardes in the second half of the 20th century pro07 Sven Spieker, The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy (MIT
Press, 2008) provides a detailed account of strategies that
the historic avant-gardes and the post-war art have developed toward the classificatory and ordering regime of the
archive.

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Tomislav Medak

duced subversions, resignifications and simulacra
that only further blurred the lines between histories
and their construction, dominant classifications and
their immanent instabilities.
Where does the library fit into this trajectory? Operating around an uncertain and politically embattled universal principle of public access to knowledge
and organization of information, libraries continued being sites of epistemic and social antagonisms,
adaptations and resilience in response to the challenges created by the waves of radical expansion of
textuality and conflicting social interests between
the popular reading culture and the commodification of cultural consumption. This precarious position is presently being made evident by the third
big flood — after those unleashed by movable type
printing and the social context of industrial book
production — that is unfolding with the transition
of the book into the digital realm. Both the historic
mode of the institutional regulation of access and
the historic form of epistemic classification are
swept up in this transformation. While the internet
has made possible a radically expanded access to
digitized culture and knowledge, the vested interests of cultural industries reliant on copyright for
their control over cultural production have deepened the separation between cultural producers and
their readers, listeners and viewers. While the hypertextual capacity for cross-reference has blurred
the boundaries of the book, digital rights management technologies have transformed e-books into
closed silos. Both the decommodification of access
and the overcoming of the reified construct of the

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131

self-enclosed work in the form of a book come at
the cost of illegality.
Even the avant-gardes in all their inappropriable
and idiosyncratic recalcitrance fall no less under
the legally delimited space of copyrightable works.
As they shift format, new claims of ownership and
appropriation are built. Copyright is a normative
classification that is totalizing, regardless of the
effects of leaky networks speaking to the contrary.
Few efforts have insisted on the subverting of juridical classification by copyright more lastingly than
the UbuWeb archive. Espousing the avant-gardes’
ethos of appropriation, for almost 20 years it has
collected and made accessible the archives of the
unknown; outsider, rare and canonized avant-gardes and contemporary art that would otherwise remained reserved for the vaults and restricted access
channels of esoteric markets, selective museological
presentations and institutional archives. Knowing
that asking to publish would amount to aligning itself with the totalizing logic of copyright, UbuWeb
has shunned the permission culture. At the level of
poetical operation, as a gesture of displacing the cultural archive from a regime of limited, into a regime
of unlimited access, it has created provocations and
challenges directed at the classifying and ordering
arrangements of property over cultural production.
One can only assume that as such it has become a
mechanism for small acts of treason for the artists,
who, short of turning their back fully on the institutional arrangements of the art world they inhabit,
use UbuWeb to release their own works into unlimited circulation on the net. Sometimes there might

132

Tomislav Medak

be no way or need to produce a work outside the
restrictions imposed by those institutions, just as
sometimes it is for academics impossible to avoid
the contradictory world of academic publishing,
yet that is still no reason to keep one’s allegiance to
their arrangements.
At the same time UbuWeb has played the game
of avant-gardist subversion: “If it doesn’t exist on
the internet, it doesn’t exist”. Provocation is most
effective when it is ignorant of the complexities of
the contexts that it is directed at. Its effect starts
where fissures in the defense of the opposition start
to show. By treating UbuWeb as massive evidence
for the internet as a process of reappropriation, a
process of “giving to all”, its volunteering spiritus
movens, Kenneth Goldsmith, has been constantly rubbing copyright apologists up the wrong way.
Rather than producing qualifications, evasions and
ambivalences, straightforward affirmation of copy­
ing, plagiarism and reproduction as a dominant
yet suppressed mode of operation of digital culture re-enacts the avant-gardes’ gesture of taking
no hostages from the officially sanctioned systems
of classification. By letting the incumbents of control over cultural production react to the norm of
copying, you let them struggle to dispute the norm
rather than you having to try to defend the norm.
UbuWeb was an early-comer, starting in 1996
and still functioning today on seemingly similar
technology, it’s a child of the early days of World
Wide Web and the promissory period of the experimental internet. It’s resolutely Web 1.0, with
a single maintainer, idiosyncratically simple in its

The Future After the Library

133

layout and programmatically committed to the
eventual obsolescence and sudden abandonment.
No platform, no generic design, no widgets, no
kludges and no community features. Only Beckett
avec links. Endgame.
A Book is an Index is an Index is an Index...
Since the first book flood, the librarian dream of
epistemological formalization has revolved around
the aspiration to cross-reference all the objects in
the collection. Within the physical library the topical designation has been relegated to the confines of
index card catalog that remained isolated from the
structure of citations and indexes in the books themselves. With the digital transition of the book, the
time-shifted hypertextuality of citations and indexes
became realizable as the immediate cross-referentiality of the segments of individual text to segments
of other texts and other digital artifacts across now
permeable boundaries of the book.
Developed as a wiki for collaborative studies of
art, media and the humanities, Monoskop.org took
up the task of mapping and describing avant-gardes and media art in Europe. In its approach both
indexical and encyclopedic, it is an extension of
the collaborative editing made possible by wiki
technology. Wikis rose to prominence in the early
2000s allowing everyone to edit and extend websites running on that technology by mastering a
very simple markup language. Wikis have been the
harbinger of a democratization of web publishing
that would eventually produce the largest collabo-

134

Tomislav Medak

rative website on the internet — the Wikipedia, as
well as a number of other collaborative platforms.
Monoskop.org embraces the encyclopedic spirit of
Wikipedia, focusing on its own specific topical and
topological interests. However, from its earliest days
Monoskop.org has also developed as a form of index
that maps out places, people, artworks, movements,
events and venues that compose the dense network
of European avant-gardes and media art.
If we take the index as a formalization of cross-referential relations between names of people, titles
of works and concepts that exist in the books and
across the books, what emerges is a model of a relational database reflecting the rich mesh of cultural
networks. Each book can serve as an index linking
its text to people, other books, segments in them.
To provide a paradigmatic demonstration of that
idea, Monoskop.org has assembled an index of all
persons in Friedrich Kittler’s Discourse Networks,
with each index entry linking both to its location
in the digital version of the book displayed on the
aaaaarg.org archive and to relevant resources for
those persons on the Monoskop.org and the internet. Hence, each object in the library, an index
in its own right, potentially allows one to initiate
the relational re-classification and re-organization
of all other works in the library through linkable
information.
Fundamental to the works of the post-socialist
retro-avant-gardes of the last couple of decades has
been the re-writing of a history of art in reverse.
In the works of IRWIN, Laibach or Mladen Stilinović, or comparable work of Komar & Melamid,

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135

totalizing modernity is detourned by re-appropriating the forms of visual representation and classification that the institutions of modernity used to
construct a linear historical narrative of evolutions
and breaks in the 19th and 20th century. Genealogical
tables, events, artifacts and discourses of the past
were re-enacted, over-affirmed and displaced to
open up the historic past relegated to the archives
to an understanding that transformed the present
into something radically uncertain. The efforts of
Monoskop.org in digitizing of the artifacts of the
20th century avant-gardes and playing with the
epistemic tools of early book culture is a parallel
gesture, with a technological twist. If big data and
the control over information flows of today increasingly naturalizes and re-affirms the 19th century
positivist assumptions of the steerablity of society,
then the endlessly recombinant relations and affiliations between cultural objects threaten to overflow
that recurrent epistemic framework of modernity’s
barbarism in its cybernetic form.
The institution of the public library finds itself
today under a double attack. One unleashed by
the dismantling of the institutionalized forms of
social redistribution and solidarity. The other by
the commodifying forces of expanding copyright
protections and digital rights management, control
over the data flows and command over the classification and order of information. In a world of
collapsing planetary boundaries and unequal development, those who control the epistemic order

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Tomislav Medak

control the future.08 The Googles and the NSAs run
on capturing totality — the world’s knowledge and
communication made decipherable, organizable and
controllable. The instabilities of the epistemic order
that the library continues to instigate at its margins
contributes to keeping the future open beyond the
script of ‘commodify and control’. In their acts of
re-appropriation UbuWeb and Monoskop.org are
but a reminder of the resilience of libraries’ instability that signals toward a future that can be made
radically open. ❧

08 In his article “Controlling the Future—Edward Snowden and
the New Era on Earth”, (accessed April 13, 2015, http://www.
eurozine.com/articles/2014-12-19-altvater-en.html), Elmar
Altvater makes a comparable argument that the efforts of
the “Five Eyes” to monitor the global communication flows,
revealed by Edward Snowden, and the control of the future
social development defined by the urgency of mitigating the
effects of the planetary ecological crisis cannot be thought
apart.

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137

138

public library

http://kok.memoryoftheworld.org

139

Public Library
www.memoryoftheworld.org

Publishers
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Tomislav Medak
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English translation of the Paul
Otlet’s text published with the permission of W. Boyd
Rayward. The translation was originally published as
Paul Otlet, “Transformations in the Bibliographical
Apparatus of the Sciences: Repertory–Classification–Office
of Documentation”, in International Organisation and
Dissemination of Knowledge; Selected Essays of Paul Otlet,
translated and edited by W. Boyd Rayward, Amsterdam:
Elsevier, 1990: 148–156. ❧
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This publication, realized along with the exhibition
Public Library in Gallery Nova, Zagreb 2015, is a part of
the collaborative project This Is Tomorrow. Back to Basics:
Forms and Actions in the Future organized by What, How
& for Whom / WHW, Zagreb, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm
and Latvian Center for Contemporary Art / LCCA, Riga, as a
part of the book edition Art As Life As Work As Art. ❧

Supported by
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Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia
Croatian Government Office for Cooperation with NGOs
Creative Europe Programme of the European Commission.
National Foundation for Civil Society Development
Kultura Nova Foundation

This project has been funded with support
from European Commision. This publication reflects
the views only of the authors, and the Commission
cannot be held responsible for any use which may be
made of the information contained therein. ❧
Publishing of this book is enabled by financial support of
the National Foundation for Civil Society Development.
The content of the publication is responsibility of
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cataloguing in Thylstrup 2019


Thylstrup
The Politics of Mass Digitization
2019


The Politics of Mass Digitization

Nanna Bonde Thylstrup

The MIT Press

Cambridge, Massachusetts

London, England

# Table of Contents

1. Acknowledgments
2. I Framing Mass Digitization
1. 1 Understanding Mass Digitization
3. II Mapping Mass Digitization
1. 2 The Trials, Tribulations, and Transformations of Google Books
2. 3 Sovereign Soul Searching: The Politics of Europeana
3. 4 The Licit and Illicit Nature of Mass Digitization
4. III Diagnosing Mass Digitization
1. 5 Lost in Mass Digitization
2. 6 Concluding Remarks
5. References
6. Index

## List of figures

1. Figure 2.1 François-Marie Lefevere and Marin Saric. “Detection of grooves in scanned images.” U.S. Patent 7508978B1. Assigned to Google LLC.
2. Figure 2.2 Joseph K. O’Sullivan, Alexander Proudfooot, and Christopher R. Uhlik. “Pacing and error monitoring of manual page turning operator.” U.S. Patent 7619784B1. Assigned to Google LLC, Google Technology Holdings LLC.

#
Acknowledgments

I am very grateful to all those who have contributed to this book in various
ways. I owe special thanks to Bjarki Valtysson, Frederik Tygstrup, and Peter
Duelund, for their supervision and help thinking through this project, its
questions, and its forms. I also wish to thank Andrew Prescott, Tobias Olsson,
and Rune Gade for making my dissertation defense a memorable and thoroughly
enjoyable day of constructive critique and lively discussions. Important parts
of the research for this book further took place during three visiting stays
at Cornell University, Duke University, and Columbia University. I am very
grateful to N. Katherine Hayles, Andreas Huyssen, Timothy Brennan, Lydia
Goehr, Rodney Benson, and Fredric Jameson, who generously welcomed me across
the Atlantic and provided me with invaluable new perspectives, as well as
theoretical insights and challenges. Beyond the aforementioned, three people
in particular have been instrumental in terms of reading through drafts and in
providing constructive challenges, intellectual critique, moral support, and
fun times in equal proportions—thank you so much Kristin Veel, Henriette
Steiner, and Daniela Agostinho. Marianne Ping-Huang has further offered
invaluable support to this project and her theoretical and practical
engagement with digital archives and academic infrastructures continues to be
a source of inspiration. I am also immensely grateful to all the people
working on or with mass digitization who generously volunteered their time to
share with me their visions for, and perspectives on, mass digitization.

This book has further benefited greatly from dialogues taking place within the
framework of two larger research projects, which I have been fortunate enough
to be involved in: Uncertain Archives and The Past’s Future. I am very
grateful to all my colleagues in both these research projects: Kristin Veel,
Daniela Agostinho, Annie Ring, Katrine Dirkinck-Holmfeldt, Pepita Hesselberth,
Kristoffer Ørum, Ekaterina Kalinina Anders Søgaard as well as Helle Porsdam,
Jeppe Eimose, Stina Teilmann, John Naughton, Jeffrey Schnapp, Matthew Battles,
and Fiona McMillan. I am further indebted to La Vaughn Belle, George Tyson,
Temi Odumosu, Mathias Danbolt, Mette Kia, Lene Asp, Marie Blønd, Mace Ojala,
Renee Ridgway, and many others for our conversations on the ethical issues of
the mass digitization of colonial material. I have also benefitted from the
support and insights offered by other colleagues at the Department of Arts and
Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen.

A big part of writing a book is also about keeping sane, and for this you need
great colleagues that can pull you out of your own circuit and launch you into
other realms of inquiry through collaboration, conversation, or just good
times. Thank you Mikkel Flyverbom, Rasmus Helles, Stine Lomborg, Helene
Ratner, Anders Koed Madsen, Ulrik Ekman, Solveig Gade, Anna Leander, Mareile
Kaufmann, Holger Schulze, Jakob Kreutzfeld, Jens Hauser, Nan Gerdes, Kerry
Greaves, Mikkel Thelle, Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, Knut Ove Eliassen, Jens-Erik
Mai, Rikke Frank Jørgensen, Klaus Bruhn Jensen, Marisa Cohn, Rachel Douglas-
Jones, Taina Bucher, and Baki Cakici. To this end you also need good
friends—thank you Thomas Lindquist Winther-Schmidt, Mira Jargil, Christian
Sønderby Jepsen, Agnete Sylvest, Louise Michaëlis, Jakob Westh, Gyrith Ravn,
Søren Porse, Jesper Værn, Jacob Thorsen, Maia Kahlke, Josephine Michau, Lærke
Vindahl, Chris Pedersen, Marianne Kiertzner, Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Stig
Helveg, Ida Vammen, Alejandro Savio, Lasse Folke Henriksen, Siine Jannsen,
Rens van Munster, Stephan Alsman, Sayuri Alsman, Henrik Moltke, Sean Treadway,
and many others. I also have to thank Christer and all the people at
Alimentari and CUB Coffee who kept my caffeine levels replenished when I tired
of the ivory tower.

I am furthermore very grateful for the wonderful guidance and support from MIT
Press, including Noah Springer, Marcy Ross, and Susan Clark—and of course for
the many inspiring conversations with and feedback from Doug Sery. I also want
to thank the anonymous peer reviewers whose insightful and constructive
comments helped improve this book immensely. Research for this book was
supported by grants from the Danish Research Council and the Velux Foundation.

Last, but not least, I wish to thank my loving partner Thomas Gammeltoft-
Hansen for his invaluable and critical input, optimistic outlook, and perfect
morning cappuccinos; my son Georg and daughter Liv for their general
awesomeness; and my extended family—Susanne, Bodil, and Hans—for their support
and encouragement.

I dedicate this book to my parents, Karen Lise Bonde Thylstrup and Asger
Thylstrup, without whom neither this book nor I would have materialized.

# I
Framing Mass Digitization

# 1
Understanding Mass Digitization

## Introduction

Mass digitization is first and foremost a professional concept. While it has
become a disciplinary buzzword used to describe large-scale digitization
projects of varying scope, it enjoys little circulation beyond the confines of
information science and such projects themselves. Yet, as this book argues, it
has also become a defining concept of our time. Indeed, it has even attained
the status of a cultural and moral imperative and obligation.1 Today, anyone
with an Internet connection can access hundreds of millions of digitized
cultural artifacts from the comfort of their desk—or many other locations—and
cultural institutions and private bodies add thousands of new cultural works
to the digital sphere every day. The practice of mass digitization is forming
new nexuses of knowledge, and new ways of engaging with that knowledge. What
at first glance appears to be a simple act of digitization (the transformation
of singular books from boundary objects to open sets of data), reveals, on
closer examination, a complex process teeming with diverse political, legal,
and cultural investments and controversies.

This volume asks why mass digitization has become such a “matter of concern,”2
and explores its implications for the politics of cultural memory. In
practical terms, mass digitization is digitization on an industrial scale. But
in cultural terms, mass digitization is much more than this. It is the promise
of heightened access to—and better preservation of—the past, and of more
original scholarship and better funding opportunities. It also promises
entirely new ways of reading, viewing, and structuring archives, new forms of
value and their extraction, and new infrastructures of control. This volume
argues that the shape-shifting quality of mass digitization, and its social
dynamics, alters the politics of cultural memory institutions. Two movements
simultaneously drive mass digitization programs: the relatively new phenomenon
of big data gold rushes, and the historically more familiar archival
accumulative imperative. Yet despite these prospects, mass digitization
projects are also uphill battles. They are costly and speculative processes,
with no guaranteed rate of return, and they are constantly faced by numerous
limitations and contestations on legal, social, and cultural levels.
Nevertheless, both public and private institutions adamantly emphasize the
need to digitize on a massive scale, motivating initiatives around the
globe—from China to Russia, Africa to Europe, South America to North America.
Some of these initiatives are bottom-up projects driven by highly motivated
individuals, while others are top-down and governed by complex bureaucratic
apparatuses. Some are backed by private money, others publically funded. Some
exist as actual archives, while others figure only as projections in policy
papers. As the ideal of mass digitization filters into different global
empirical situations, the concept of mass digitization attains nuanced
political hues. While all projects formally seek to serve the public interest,
they are in fact infused with much more diverse, and often conflicting,
political and commercial motives and dynamics. The same mass digitization
project can even be imbued with different and/or contradictory investments,
and can change purpose and function over time, sometimes rapidly.

Mass digitization projects are, then, highly political. But they are not
political in the sense that they transfer the politics of analog cultural
memory institutions into the digital sphere 1:1, or even liberate cultural
memory artifacts from the cultural politics of analog cultural memory
institutions. Rather, mass digitization presents a new political cultural
memory paradigm, one in which we see strands of technical and ideological
continuities combine with new ideals and opportunities; a political cultural
memory paradigm that is arguably even more complex—or at least appears more
messy to us now—than that of analog institutions, whose politics we have had
time to get used to. In order to grasp the political stakes of mass
digitization, therefore, we need to approach mass digitization projects not as
a continuation of the existing politics of cultural memory, or as purely
technical endeavors, but rather as emerging sociopolitical and sociotechnical
phenomena that introduce new forms of cultural memory politics.

## Framing, Mapping, and Diagnosing Mass Digitization

Interrogating the phenomenon of mass digitization, this book asks the question
of how mass digitization affects the politics of cultural memory institutions.
As a matter of practice, something is clearly changing in the conversion of
bounded—and scarce—historical material into ubiquitous ephemeral data. In
addition to the technical aspects of digitization, mass digitization is also
changing the political territory of cultural memory objects. Global commercial
platforms are increasingly administering and operating their scanning
activities in favor of the digital content they reap from the national “data
tombs” of museums and libraries and the feedback loops these generate. This
integration of commercial platforms into the otherwise primarily public
institutional set-up of cultural memory has produced a reconfiguration of the
political landscape of cultural memory from the traditional symbolic politics
of scarcity, sovereignty, and cultural capital to the late-sovereign
infrapolitics of standardization and subversion.

The empirical outlook of the present book is predominantly Western. Yet, the
overarching dynamics that have been pursued are far from limited to any one
region or continent, nor limited solely to the field of cultural memory.
Digitization is a global phenomenon and its reliance on late-sovereign
politics and subpolitical governance forms are shared across the globe.

The central argument of this book is that mass digitization heralds a new kind
of politics in the regime of cultural memory. Mass digitization of cultural
memory is neither a neutral technical process nor a transposition of the
politics of analog cultural heritage to the digital realm on a 1:1 scale. The
limitations of using conventional cultural-political frameworks for
understanding mass digitization projects become clear when working through the
concepts and regimes of mass digitization. Mass digitization brings together
so many disparate interests and elements that any mono-theoretical lens would
fail to account for the numerous political issues arising within the framework
of mass digitization. Rather, mass digitization should be approached as an
_infrapolitical_ process that brings together a multiplicity of interests
hitherto foreign to the realm of cultural memory.

The first part of the book, “framing,” outlines the theoretical arguments in
the book—that the political dynamics of mass digitization organize themselves
around the development of the technical infrastructures of mass digitization
in late-sovereign frameworks. Fusing infrastructure theory and theories on the
political dynamics of late sovereignty allows us to understand mass
digitization projects as cultural phenomena that are highly dependent on
standardization and globalization processes, while also recognizing that their
resultant infrapolitics can operate as forms of both control and subversion.

The second part of the book, “mapping,” offers an analysis of three different
mass digitization phenomena and how they relate to the late-sovereign politics
that gave rise to them. The part thus examines the historical foundation,
technical infrastructures, and (il)licit status and ideological underpinnings
of three variations of mass digitization projects: primarily corporate,
primarily public, and primarily private. While these variations may come
across as reproductions of more conventional societal structures, the chapters
in part two nevertheless also present us with a paradox: while the different
mass digitization projects that appear in this book—from Google’s privatized
endeavor to Europeana’s supranational politics to the unofficial initiatives
of shadow libraries—have different historical and cultural-political
trajectories and conventional regimes of governance, they also undermine these
conventional categories as they morph and merge into new infrastructures and
produce a new form of infrapolitics. The case studies featured in this book
are not to be taken as exhaustive examples, but rather as distinct, yet
nevertheless entangled, examples of how analog cultural memory is taken online
on a digital scale. They have been chosen with the aim of showing the
diversity of mass digitization, but also how it, as a phenomenon, ultimately
places the user in the dilemma of digital capitalism with its ethos of access,
speed, and participation (in varying degrees). The choices also have their
limitations, however. In their Western bias, which is partly rooted in this
author’s lack of language skills (specifically in Russian and Chinese), for
instance, they fail to capture the breadth and particularities of the
infrapolitics of mass digitization in other parts of the world. Much more
research is needed in this area.

The final part of the book, “diagnosing,” zooms in on the pathologies of mass
digitization in relation to affective questions of desire and uncertainty.
This part argues that instead of approaching mass digitization projects as
rationalized and instrumental projects, we should rather acknowledge them as
ambivalent spatio-temporal projects of desire and uncertainty. Indeed, as the
third part concludes, it is exactly uncertainty and desire that organizes the
new spatio-temporal infrastructures of cultural memory institutions, where
notions such as serendipity and the infrapolitics of platforms have taken
precedence over accuracy and sovereign institutional politics. The third part
thus calls into question arguments that imagine mass digitization as
instrumentalized projects that either undermine or produce values of
serendipity, as well as overarching narratives of how mass digitization
produces uncomplicated forms of individualized empowerment and freedom.
Instead, the chapter draws attention to the new cultural logics of platforms
that affect the cultural politics of mass digitization projects.

Crucially, then, this book seeks neither to condemn nor celebrate mass
digitization, but rather to unpack the phenomenon and anchor it in its
contemporary political reality. It offers a story of the ways in which mass
digitization produces new cultural memory institutions online that may be
entwined in the cultural politics of their analog origins, but also raises new
political questions to the collections.

## Setting the Stage: Assembling the Motley Crew of Mass Digitization

The dream and practice of mass digitizing cultural works has been around for
decades and, as this section attests, the projects vary significantly in
shape, size, and form. While rudimentary and nonexhaustive, this section
gathers a motley collection of mass digitization initiatives, from some of the
earliest digitization programs to later initiatives. The goal of this section
is thus not so much to meticulously map mass digitization programs, but rather
to provide examples of projects that might illuminate the purpose of this book
and its efforts to highlight the infrastructural politics of mass
digitization. As the section attests, mass digitization is anything but a
streamlined process. Rather, it is a painstakingly complex process mired in
legal, technical, personal, and political challenges and problems, and it is a
vision whose grand rhetoric often works to conceal its messy reality.

It is pertinent to note that mass digitization suffers from the combined
gendered and racialized reality of cultural institutions, tech corporations,
and infrastructural projects: save a few exceptions, there is precious little
diversity in the official map of mass digitization, even in those projects
that emerge bottom-up. This does not mean that women and minorities have not
formed a crucial part of mass digitization, selecting cultural objects,
prepping them (for instance ironing newspapers to ensure that they are flat),
scanning them, and constructing their digital infrastructures. However, more
often than not, their contributions fade into the background as tenders of the
infrastructures of mass digitization rather than as the (predominantly white,
male) “face” of mass digitization. As such, an important dimension of the
politics of these infrastructural projects is their reproduction of
established gendered and racialized infrastructures already present in both
cultural institutions and the tech industry.3 This book hints at these crucial
dimensions of mass digitization, but much more work is needed to change the
familiar cast of cultural memory institutions, both in the analog and digital
realms.

With these introductory remarks in place, let us now turn to the long and
winding road to mass digitization as we know it today. Locating the exact
origins of this road is a subjective task that often ends up trapping the
explorer in the mirror halls of technology. But it is worth noting that of
course there existed, before the Internet, numerous attempts at capturing and
remediating books in scalable forms, for the purposes both of preservation and
of extending the reach of library collections. One of the most revolutionary
of such technologies before the digital computer or the Internet was
microfilm, which was first held forth as a promising technology of
preservation and remediation in the middle of the 1800s.4 At the beginning of
the twentieth century, the Belgian author, entrepreneur, visionary, lawyer,
peace activist, and one of the founders of information science, Paul Otlet,
brought the possibilities of microfilm to bear directly on the world of
libraries. Otlet authored two influential think pieces that outlined the
benefits of microfilm as a stable and long-term remediation format that could,
ultimately, also be used to extend the reach of literature, just as he and his
collaborator, inventor and engineer Robert Goldschmidt, co-authored a work on
the new form of the book through microphotography, _Sur une forme nouvelle du
livre: le livre microphotographique_. 5 In his analyses, Otlet suggested that
the most important transformations would not take place in the book itself,
but in substitutes for it. Some years later, beginning in 1927 with the
Library of Congress microfilming more than three million pages of books and
manuscripts in the British Library, the remediation of cultural works in
microformat became a widespread practice across the world, and microfilm is
still in use to this day.6 Otlet did not confine himself to thinking only
about microphotography, however, but also pursued a more speculative vein,
inspired by contemporary experiments with electromagnetic waves, arguing that
the most radical change of the book would be wireless technology. Moreover, he
also envisioned and partly realized a physical space, _Mundaneum_ , for his
dreams of a universal archive. Paul Otlet and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Henri
La Fontaine conceived of Mundaneum in 1895 as part of their work on
documentation science. Otlet called the Mundaneum “… an Idea, an Institution,
a Method, a Body of work materials and collections, a Building, a Network.” In
more concrete, but no less ambitious terms, the Mundaneum was to gather
together all the world’s knowledge and classify it according to a universal
system they developed called the “Universal Decimal Classification.” In 1910,
Otlet and Fontaine found a place for their work in the Palais du
Cinquantenaire, a government building in Brussels. Later, Otlet commissioned
Le Corbusier to design a building for the Mundaneum in Geneva. The cooperation
ended unsuccesfully, however, and it later led a nomadic life, moving from The
Hague to Brussels and then in 1993 to the city of Mons in Belgium, where it
now exists as a museum called the Mundaneum Archive Center. Fatefully, Mons, a
former mining district, also houses Google’s largest data center in Europe and
it did not take Google long to recognize the cultural value in entering a
partnership with the Mundaneum, the two parties signing a contract in 2013.
The contract entailed among other things that Google would sponsor a traveling
exhibit on the Mundaneum, as well as a series of talks on Internet issues at
the museum and the university, and that the Mundaneum would use Google’s
social networking service, Google Plus, as a promotional tool. An article in
the _New York Times_ described the partnership as “part of a broader campaign
by Google to demonstrate that it is a friend of European culture, at a time
when its services are being investigated by regulators on a variety of
fronts.” 7 The collaboration not only spurred international interest, but also
inspired a group of influential tech activists and artists closely associated
with the creative work of shadow libraries to create the critical archival
project Mondotheque.be, a platform for “discussing and exploring the way
knowledge is managed and distributed today in a way that allows us to invent
other futures and different narrations of the past,”8 and a resulting digital
publication project, _The Radiated Book,_ authored by an assembly of
activists, artists, and scholars such as Femke Snelting, Tomislav Medak,
Dusan Barok, Geraldine Juarez, Shin Joung Yeo, and Matthew Fuller. 9

Another early precursor of mass digitization emerged with Project Gutenberg,
often referred to as the world’s oldest digital library. Project Gutenberg was
the brainchild of author Michael S. Hart, who in 1971, using technologies such
as ARPANET, Bulletin Board Systems (BSS), and Gopher protocols, experimented
with publishing and distributing books in digital form. As Hart reminisced in
his later text, “The History and Philosophy of Project Gutenberg,”10 Project
Gutenberg emerged out of a donation he received as an undergraduate in 1971,
which consisted of $100 million worth of computing time on the Xerox Sigma V
mainframe at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Wanting to make
good use of the donation, Hart, in his own words, “announced that the greatest
value created by computers would not be computing, but would be the storage,
retrieval, and searching of what was stored in our libraries.”11 He therefore
committed himself to converting analog cultural works into digital text in a
format not only available to, but also accessible/readable to, almost all
computer systems: “Plain Vanilla ASCII” (ASCII for “American Standard Code for
Information Interchange”). While Project Gutenberg only converted about 50
works into digital text in the 1970s and the 1980s (the first was the
Declaration of Independence), it today hosts up to 56,000 texts in its
distinctly lo-fi manner.12 Interestingly, Michael S. Hart noted very early on
that the intention of the project was never to reproduce authoritative
editions of works for readers—“who cares whether a certain phrase in
Shakespeare has a ‘:’ or a ‘;’ between its clauses”—but rather to “release
etexts that are 99.9% accurate in the eyes of the general reader.”13 As the
present book attests, this early statement captures one of the central points
of contestation in mass digitization: the trade-off between accuracy and
accessibility, raising questions both of the limits of commercialized
accelerated digitization processes (see chapter 2 on Google Books) and of
class-based and postcolonial implications (see chapter 4 on shadow libraries).

If Project Gutenberg spearheaded the efforts of bringing cultural works into
the digital sphere through manual conversion of analog text into lo-fi digital
text, a French mass digitization project affiliated with the construction of
the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) initiated in 1989 could be
considered one of the earliest examples of actually digitizing cultural works
on an industrial scale.14 The French were thus working on blueprints of mass
digitization programs before mass digitization became a widespread practice __
as part of the construction of a new national library, under the guidance of
Alain Giffard and initiated by François Mitterand. In a letter sent in 1990 to
Prime Minister Michel Rocard, President Mitterand outlined his vision of a
digital library, noting that “the novelty will be in the possibility of using
the most modern computer techniques for access to catalogs and documents of
the Bibliothèque nationale de France.”15 The project managed to digitize a
body of 70,000–80,000 titles, a sizeable amount of works for its time. As
Alain Giffard noted in hindsight, “the main difficulty for a digitization
program is to choose the books, and to choose the people to choose the
books.”16 Explaining in a conversation with me how he went about this task,
Giffard emphasized that he chose “not librarians but critics, researchers,
etc.” This choice, he underlined, could be made only because the digitization
program was “the last project of the president and a special mission” and thus
not formally a civil service program.17 The work process was thus as follows:

> I asked them to prepare a list. I told them, “Don’t think about what exists.
I ask of you a list of books that would be logical in this concept of a
library of France.” I had the first list and we showed it to the national
library, which was always fighting internally. So I told them, “I want this
book to be digitized.” But they would never give it to us because of
territory. Their ship was not my ship. So I said to them, “If you don’t give
me the books I shall buy the books.” They said I could never buy them, but
then I started buying the books from antiques suppliers because I earned a lot
of money at that time. So in the end I had a lot of books. And I said to them,
“If you want the books digitized you must give me the books.” But of the
80,000 books that were digitized, half were not in the collection. I used the
staff’s garages for the books, 80,000 books. It is an incredible story.18

Incredible indeed. And a wonderful anecdote that makes clear that mass
digitization, rather than being just a technical challenge, is also a
politically contingent process that raises fundamental questions of territory
(institutional as well as national), materiality, and culture. The integration
of the digital _très grande bibliothèque_ into the French national mass
digitization project Gallica, later in 1997, also foregrounds the
infrastructural trajectory of early national digitization programs into later
glocal initiatives. 19

The question of pan-national digitization programs was precisely at the
forefront of another early prominent mass digitization project, namely the
Universal Digital Library (UDL), which was launched in 1995 by Carnegie Mellon
computer scientist Raj Reddy and developed by linguist Jaime Carbonell,
physicist Michael Shamos, and Carnegie Mellon Foundation dean of libraries
Gloriana St. Clair. In 1998, the project launched the Thousand Book Project.
Later, the UDL scaled its initial efforts up to the Million Book Project,
which they successfully completed in 2007.20 Organizationally, the UDL stood
out from many of the other digitization projects by including initial
participation from three non-Western entities in addition to the Carnegie
Mellon Foundation—the governments of India, China, and Egypt.21 Indeed, India
and China invested about $10 million in the initial phase, employing several
hundred people to find books, bring them in, and take them back. While the
project ambitiously aimed to provide access “to all human knowledge, anytime,
anywhere,” it ended its scanning activities 2008. As such, the Universal
Digital Library points to another central infrastructural dimension of mass
digitization: its highly contingent spatio-temporal configurations that are
often posed in direct contradistinction to the universalizing discourse of
mass digitization. Across the board, mass digitization projects, while
confining themselves in practice to a limited target of how many books they
will digitize, employ a discourse of universality, perhaps alluding vaguely to
how long such an endeavor will take but in highly uncertain terms (see
chapters 3 and 5 in particular).

No exception from the universalizing discourse, another highly significant
mass digitization project, the Internet Archive, emerged around the same time
as the Universal Digital Library. The Internet Archive was founded by open
access activist and computer engineer Brewster Kahle in 1996, and although it
was primarily oriented toward preserving born-digital material, in particular
the Internet ( _Wired_ calls Brewster Kahle “the Internet’s de facto
librarian” 22), the Archive also began digitizing books in 2005, supported by
a grant from the Alfred Sloan Foundation. Later that year, the Internet
Archive created the infrastructural initiative, Open Content Alliance (OCA),
and was now embedded in an infrastructure that included over 30 major US
libraries, as well as major search engines (by Yahoo! and Microsoft),
technology companies (Adobe and Xerox), a commercial publisher (O’Reilly
Media, Inc.), and a not-for-profit membership organization of more than 150
institutions, including universities, research libraries, archives, museums,
and historical societies.23 The Internet Archive’s mass digitization
infrastructure was thus from the beginning a mesh of public and private
cooperation, where libraries made their collections available to the Alliance
for scanning, and corporate sponsors or the Internet Archive conversely funded
the digitization processes. As such, the infrastructures of the Internet
Archive and Google Books were rather similar in their set-ups.24 Nevertheless,
the initiative of the Internet Archive’s mass digitization project and its
attendant infrastructural alliance, OCA, should be read as both a technical
infrastructure responding to the question of _how_ to mass digitize in
technical terms, and as an infrapolitical reaction in response to the forces
of the commercial world that were beginning to gather around mass
digitization, such as Amazon 25 and Google. The Internet Archive thus
positioned itself as a transparent open source alternative to the closed doors
of corporate and commercial initiatives. Yet, as Kalev Leetaru notes, the case
was more complex than that. Indeed, while the OCA was often foregrounded as
more transparent than Google, their technical infrastructural components and
practices were in fact often just as shrouded in secrecy.26 As such, the
Internet Archive and the OCA draw attention to the important infrapolitical
question in mass digitization, namely how, why, and when to manage
visibilities in mass digitization projects.

Although the media sometimes picked up stories on mass digitization projects
already outlined, it wasn’t until Google entered the scene that mass
digitization became a headline-grabbing enterprise. In 2004, Google founders
Larry Page and Sergey Brin traveled to Frankfurt to make a rare appearance at
the Frankfurt Book Fair. Google was at that time still considered a “scrappy”
Internet company in some quarters, as compared with tech giants such as
Microsoft.27 Yet Page and Brin went to Frankfurt to deliver a monumental
announcement: Google would launch a ten-year plan to make available
approximately 15 million digitized books, both in- and out-of-copyright
works.28 They baptized the program “Google Print,” a project that consisted of
a series of partnerships between Google and five English-language libraries:
the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Stanford, Harvard, Oxford (Bodleian
Library), and the New York City Public Library. While Page’s and Brin’s
announcement was surprising to some, many had anticipated it; as already
noted, advances toward mass digitization proper had already been made, and
some of the partnership institutions had been negotiating with Google since
2002.29 As with many of the previous mass digitization projects, Google found
inspiration for their digitization project in the long-lived utopian ideal of
the universal library, and in particular the mythic library of Alexandria.30
As with other Google endeavors, it seemed that Page was intent on realizing a
utopian ideal that scholars (and others) had long dreamed of: a library
containing everything ever written. It would be realized, however, not with
traditional human-centered means drawn from the world of libraries, but rather
with an AI approach. Google Books would exceed human constraints, taking the
seemingly impossible vision of digitizing all the books in the world as a
starting point for constructing an omniscient Artificial Intelligence that
would know the entire human symbol system and allow flexible and intuitive
recollection. These constraints were physical (how to digitize and organize
all this knowledge in physical form); legal (how to do it in a way that
suspends existing regulation); and political (how to transgress territorial
systems). The invocation of the notion of the universal library was not a
neutral action. Rather, the image of Google Books as a library worked as a
symbolic form in a cultural scheme that situated Google as a utopian, and even
ethical, idealist project. Google Books seemingly existed by virtue of
Goethe’s famous maxim that “To live in the ideal world is to treat the
impossible as if it were possible.”31 At the time, the industry magazine
_Bookseller_ wrote in response to Google’s digitization plans: “The prospect
is both thrilling and frightening for the book industry, raising a host of
technical and theoretical issues.” 32 And indeed, while some reacted with
enthusiasm and relief to the prospect of an organization being willing to
suffer the cost of mass digitization, others expressed economic and ethical
concerns. The Authors Guild, a New York–based association, promptly filed a
copyright infringement suit against Google. And librarians were forced to
revisit core ethical principles such as privacy and public access.

The controversies of Google Books initially played out only in US territory.
However, another set of concerns of a more territorial and political nature
soon came to light. The French President at the time, Jacques Chirac, called
France to cultural-political arms, urging his culture minister, Renaud
Donnedieu de Vabres, and Jean-Noël Jeanneney, then-head of France’s
Bibliothèque nationale, to do the same with French texts as Google planned to
do with their partner libraries, but by means of a French search engine.33
Jeanneney initially framed this French cultural-political endeavor as a
European “contre-attaque” against Google Books, which, according to Jeanneney,
could pose “une domination écrasante de l'Amérique dans la définition de
l'idée que les prochaines générations se feront du monde.” (“a crushing
American domination of the formation of future generations’ ideas about the
world”)34 Other French officials insisted that the French digitization project
should be seen not primarily as a cultural-political reaction _against_
Google, but rather as a cultural-political incentive within France and Europe
to make European information available online. “I really stress that it's not
anti-American,” an official at France’s Ministry of Culture and Communication,
speaking on the condition of anonymity, noted in an interview. “It is not a
reaction. The objective is to make more material relevant to European heritage
available. … Everybody is working on digitization projects.” Furthermore, the
official did not rule out potential cooperation between Google and the
European project. 35 There was no doubt, however, that the move to mass
digitization “was a political drive by the French,” as Stephen Bury, head of
European and American collections at the British Library, emphasized.36

Despite its mixed messages, the French reaction nevertheless underscored the
controversial nature of mass digitization as a symbolic, as well as technical,
aspiration: mass digitization was a process that not only neutrally scanned
and represented books but could also produce a new mode of world-making,
actively structuring archives as well as their users.37 Now questions began to
surface about where, or with whom, to place governance over this new archive:
who would be the custodian of the keys to this new library? And who would be
the librarians? A series of related questions could also be asked: who would
determine the archival limits, the relations between the secret and the non-
secret or the private and the public, and whether these might involve property
or access rights, publication or reproduction rights, classification, and
putting into order? France soon managed to rally other EU countries (Spain,
Poland, Hungary, Italy, and Germany) to back its recommendation to the
European Commission (EC) to construct a European alternative to Google’s
search engine and archive and to set this out in writing. Occasioned by the
French recommendation, the EC promptly adopted the idea of Europeana—the name
of the proposed alternative—as a “flagship project” for the budding EU
cultural policy.38 Soon after, in 2008, the EC launched Europeana, giving
access to some 4.5 million digital objects from more than 1,000 institutions.

Europeana’s Europeanizing discourse presents a territorializing approach to
mass digitization that stands in contrast to the more universalizing tone of
Mundaneum, Gutenberg, Google Books, and the Universal Digital Library. As
such, it ties in with our final examples, namely the sovereign mass
digitization projects that have in fact always been one of the primary drivers
in mass digitization efforts. To this day, the map of mass digitization is
populated with sovereign mass digitization efforts from Holland and Norway to
France and the United States. One of the most impressive projects is the
Norwegian mass digitization project at the National Library of Norway, which
since 2004 has worked systematically to develop a digital National Library
that encompasses text, audio, video, image, and websites. Impressively, the
National Library of Norway offers digital library services that provide online
access (to all with a Norwegian IP address) to full-text versions of all books
published in Norway up until the year 2001, access to digital newspaper
collections from the major national and regional newspapers in all libraries
in the country, and opportunities for everyone with Internet access to search
and listen to more than 40,000 radio programs recorded between 1933 and the
present day.39 Another ambitious national mass digitization project is the
Dutch National Library’s effort to digitize all printed publications since
1470 and to create a National Platform for Digital Publications, which is to
act both as a content delivery platform for its mass digitization output and
as a national aggregator for publications. To this end, the Dutch National
Library made deals with Google Books and Proquest to digitize 42 million pages
just as it entered into partnerships with cross-domain aggregators such as
Europeana.40 Finally, it is imperative to mention the Digital Public Library
of America (DPLA), a national digital library conceived of in 2010 and
launched in 2013, which aggregates digital collections of metadata from around
the United States, pulling in content from large institutions like the
National Archives and Records Administration and HathiTrust, as well as from
smaller archives. The DPLA is in great part the fruit of the intellectual work
of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the work
of its Steering Committee, which consisted of influential names from the
digital, legal, and library worlds, such as Robert Darnton, Maura Marx, and
John Palfrey from Harvard University; Paul Courant of the University of
Michigan; Carla Hayden, then of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library and
subsequently the Librarian of Congress; Brewster Kahle; Jerome McGann; Amy
Ryan of the Boston Public Library; and Doron Weber of the Sloan Foundation.
Key figures in the DPLA have often to great rhetorical effect positioned DPLA
vis-à-vis Google Books, partly as a question of public versus private
infrastructures.41 Yet, as the then-Chairman of DPLA John Palfrey conceded,
the question of what constitutes “public” in a mass digitization context
remains a critical issue: “The Digital Public Library of America has its
critics. One counterargument is that investments in digital infrastructures at
scale will undermine support for the traditional and the local. As the
chairman of the DPLA, I hear this critique in the question-and-answer period
of nearly every presentation I give. … The concern is that support for the
DPLA will undercut already eroding support for small, local public
libraries.”42 While Palfrey offers good arguments for why the DPLA could
easily work in unison with, rather than jeopardize, smaller public libraries,
and while the DPLA is building infrastructures to support this claim,43 the
discussion nevertheless highlights the difficulties with determining when
something is “public,” and even national.

While the highly publicized and institutionalized projects I have just
recounted have taken center stage in the early and later years of mass
digitization, they neither constitute the full cast, nor the whole machinery,
of mass digitization assemblages. Indeed, as chapter 4 in this book charts, at
the margins of mass digitization another set of actors have been at work
building new digital cultural memory assemblages, including projects such as
Monoskop and Lib.ru. These actors, referred to in this book as shadow library
projects (see chapter 4), at once both challenge and confirm the broader
infrapolitical dimensions of mass digitization, including its logics of
digital capitalism, network power, and territorial reconfigurations of
cultural memory between universalizing and glocalizing discourses. Within this
new “ecosystem of access,” unauthorized archives as Libgen, Gigapedia, and
Sci-Hub have successfully built “shadow libraries” with global reach,
containing massive aggregations of downloadable text material of both
scholarly and fictional character.44 As chapter 4 shows, these initiatives
further challenge our notions of public good, licit and illicit mass
digitization, and the territorial borders of mass digitization, just as they
add another layer of complexity to the question of the politics of mass
digitization.

Today, then, the landscape of mass digitization has evolved considerably, and
we can now begin to make out the political contours that have shaped, and
continue to shape, the emergent contemporary knowledge infrastructures of mass
digitization, ripe as they are with contestation, cooperation, and
competition. From this perspective, mass digitization appears as a preeminent
example of how knowledge politics are configured in today’s world of
“assemblages” as “multisited, transboundary networks” that connect
subnational, national, supranational, and global infrastructures and actors,
without, however, necessarily doing so through formal interstate systems.45 We
can also see that mass digitization projects did not arise as a result of a
sovereign decision, but rather emerged through a series of contingencies
shaped by late-capitalist and late-sovereign forces. Furthermore, mass
digitization presents us with an entirely new cultural memory paradigm—a
paradigm that requires a shift in thinking about cultural works, collections,
and contexts, from cultural records to be preserved and read by humans, to
ephemeral machine-readable entities. This change requires a shift in thinking
about the economy of cultural works, collections, and contexts, from scarce
institutional objects to ubiquitous flexible information. Finally, it requires
a shift in thinking about these same issues as belonging to national-global
domains to conceiving them in terms of a set of political processes that may
well be placed in national settings, but are oriented toward global agendas
and systems.

## Interrogating Mass Digitization

Mass digitization is often elastic in definition and elusive in practice.
Concrete attempts have been made to delimit what mass digitization is, but
these rarely go into specifics. The two characteristics most commonly
associated with mass digitization are the relative lack of selectivity of
materials, as compared to smaller-scale digitization projects, and the high
speed and high volume of the process in terms of both digital conversion and
metadata creation, which are made possible through a high level of
automation.46 Mass digitization is thus concerned not only with preservation,
but also with what kind of knowledge practices and values technology allows
for and encourages, for example, in relation to de- and recontextualization,
automation, and scale.47

Studies of mass digitization are commonly oriented toward technology or
information policy issues close to libraries, such as copyright, the quality
of digital imagery, long-term preservation responsibility, standards and
interoperability, and economic models for libraries, publishers, and
booksellers, rather than, as here, the exploration of theory.48 This is not to
say that existing work on mass digitization is not informed by theoretical
considerations, but rather that the majority of research emphasizes policy and
technical implementation at the expense of a more fundamental understanding of
the cultural implications of mass digitization. In part, the reason for this
is the relative novelty of mass digitization as an identifiable field of
practice and policy, and its significant ramifications in the fields of law
and information science.49 In addition to scholarly elucidations, mass
digitization has also given rise to more ideologically fuelled critical books
and articles on the topic.50

Despite its disciplinary branching, work on mass digitization has mainly taken
place in the fields of information science, law, and computer science, and has
primarily problematized the “hows” of mass digitization and not the “whys.”51
As with technical work on mass digitization, most nontechnical studies of mass
digitization are “problem-solving” rather than “critical,” and this applies in
particular to work originating from within the policy analysis community. This
body seeks to solve problems within the existing social order—for example,
copyright or metadata—rather than to interrogate the assumptions that underlie
mass digitization programs, which would include asking what kinds of knowledge
production mass digitization gives rise to. How does mass digitization change
the ideological infrastructures of cultural heritage institutions? And from
what political context does the urge to digitize on an industrial scale
emerge? While the technical and problem-solving corpus on mass digitization is
highly valuable in terms of outlining the most important stakeholders and
technical issues of the field, it does not provide insight into the deeper
structures, social mechanisms, and political implications of mass
digitization. Moreover, it often fails to account for digitization as a force
that is deeply entwined with other dynamics that shape its development and
uses. It is this lack that the present volume seeks to mitigate.

## Assembling Mass Digitization

Mass digitization is a composite and fluctuating infrastructure of
disciplines, interests, and forces rooted in public-private assemblages,
driven by ideas of value extraction and distribution, and supported by new
forms of social organization. Google Books, for instance, is both a commercial
project covered by nondisclosure agreements _and_ an academic scholarly
project open for all to see. Similarly, Europeana is both a public
digitization project directed at “citizens” _and_ a public-private partnership
enterprise ripe with profit motives. Nevertheless, while it is tempting to
speak about specific mass digitization projects such as Google Books and
Europeana in monolithic and contrastive terms, mass digitization projects are
anything but tightly organized, institutionally delineated, coherent wholes
that produce one dominant reading. We do not find one “essence” in mass
digitized archives. They are not “enlightenment projects,” “library services,”
“software applications,” “interfaces,” or “corporations.” Nor are they rooted
in one central location or single ideology. Rather, mass digitization is a
complex material and social infrastructure performed by a diverse
constellation of cultural memory professionals, computer scientists,
information specialists, policy personnel, politicians, scanners, and
scholars. Hence, this volume approaches mass digitization projects as
“assemblages,” that is, as contingent arrangements consisting of humans,
machines, objects, subjects, spaces and places, habits, norms, laws, politics,
and so on. These arrangements cross national-global and public-private lines,
producing what this volume calls “late-sovereign,” “posthuman,” and “late-
capitalist” assemblages.

To give an example, we can look at how the national and global aspects of
cultural memory institutions change with mass digitization. The national
museums and libraries we frequent today were largely erected during eras of
high nationalism, as supreme acts of cultural and national territoriality.
“The early establishment of a national collection,” as Belinda Tiffen notes,
“was an important step in the birth of the new nation,” since it signified
“the legitimacy of the nation as a political and cultural entity with its own
heritage and culture worthy of being recorded and preserved.”52 Today, as the
initial French incentive to build Europeana shows, we find similar
nationalization processes in mass digitization projects. However,
nationalizing a digital collection often remains a performative gesture than a
practical feat, partly because the information environment in the digital
sphere differs significantly from that of the analog world in terms of
territory and materiality, and partly because the dichotomy between national
and global, an agreed-upon construction for centuries, is becoming more and
more difficult to uphold in theory and practice.53 Thus, both Google Books and
Europeana link to sovereign frameworks such as citizens and national
representation, while also undermining them with late-capitalist transnational
economic agreements.

A related example is the posthuman aspect of cultural memory politics.
Cultural memory artifacts have always been thought of as profoundly human
collections, in the sense that they were created by and for human minds and
human meaning-making. Previously, humans also organized collections. But with
the invention of computers, most cultural memory institutions also introduced
a machine element to the management of accelerating amounts of information,
such as computerized catalog systems and recollection systems. With the advent
of mass digitization, machines have gained a whole new role in the cultural
memory ecosystem, not only as managers, but also as interpreters. Thus,
collections are increasingly digitized to be read by machines instead of
humans, just as metadata is now becoming a question of machine analysis rather
than of human contextualization. Machines are taking on more and more tasks in
the realm of cultural memory that require a substantial amount of cognitive
insight (just as mass digitization has created the need for new robot-like,
and often poorly paid, human tasks, such as the monotonous work of book
scanning). Mass digitization has thereby given rise to an entirely new
cultural-legal category titled “non-consumptive research,” a term used to
describe the large-scale analysis of texts, and which has been formalized by
the Google Books Settlement, for instance, in the following way: “research in
which computational analysis is performed on one or more books, but not
research in which a researcher reads or displays.”54

Lastly, mass digitization connects the politics of cultural memory to
transnational late capitalism, and to one of its expressions in particular:
digital capitalism.55 Of course, cultural memory collections have a long
history with capitalism. The nineteenth century held very fuzzy boundaries
between the cultural functions of libraries and the commercial interests that
surrounded them, and, as historian of libraries Francis Miksa notes, Melvin
Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, was a great admirer of the
corporate ideal, and was eager to apply it to the library system.56 Indeed,
library development in the United States was greatly advanced by the
philanthropy of capitalism, most notably by Andrew Carnegie.57 The question,
then, is not so much whether mass digitization has brought cultural memory
institutions, and their collections and users, into a capitalist system, but
_what kind_ of capitalist system mass digitization has introduced cultural
memory to: digital capitalism.

Today, elements of the politics of cultural memory are being reassembled into
novel knowledge configurations. As a consequence, their connections and
conjugations are being transformed, as are their institutional embeddings.
Indeed, mass digitization assemblages are a product of our time. They are new
forms of knowledge institutions arising from a sociopolitical environment
where vertical territorial hierarchies and horizontal networks entwine in a
new political mesh: where solid things melt into air, and clouds materialize
as material infrastructures, where boundaries between experts and laypeople
disintegrate, and where machine cognition operates on a par with human
cognition on an increasingly large scale. These assemblages enable new types
of political actors—networked assemblages—which hold particular forms of power
despite their informality vis-à-vis the formal political system; and in turn,
through their practices, these actors partly build and shape those
assemblages.

Since concepts always respond to “a specific social and historical situation
of which an intellectual occasion is part,”58 it is instructive to revisit the
1980s, when the theoretical notion of assemblage emerged and slowly gained
cross-disciplinary purchase.59 Around this time, the stable structures of
modernist institutions began to give ground to postmodern forces: sovereign
systems entered into supra-, trans-, and international structures,
“globalization” became a buzzword, and privatizing initiatives drove wedges
into the foundations of state structures. The centralized power exercised by
disciplinary institutions was increasingly distributed along more and more
lines, weakening the walls of circumscribed centralized authority.60 This
disciplinary decomposition took place on all levels and across all fields of
society, including institutional cultural memory containers such as libraries
and museums. The forces of privatization, globalization, and digitization put
pressures not only on the authority of these institutions but also on a host
of related authoritative cultural memory elements, such as “librarians,”
“cultural works,” and “taxonomies,” and cultural memory practices such as
“curating,” “reading,” and “ownership.” Librarians were “disintermediated” by
technology, cultural works fragmented into flexible data, and curatorial
principles were revised and restructured just as reading was now beginning to
take place in front of screens, meaning-making to be performed by machines,
and ownership of works to be substituted by contractual renewals.

Thinking about mass digitization as an “assemblage” allows us to abandon the
image of a circumscribed entity in favor of approaching it as an aggregate of
many highly varied components and their contingent connections: scanners,
servers, reading devices, cables, algorithms; national, EU, and US
policymakers; corporate CEOs and employees; cultural heritage professionals
and laypeople; software developers, engineers, lobby organizations, and
unsalaried labor; legal settlements, academic conferences, position papers,
and so on. It gives us pause—every time we say “Google” or “Europeana,” we
might reflect on what we actually mean. Does the researcher employed by a
university library and working with Google Books also belong to Google Books?
Do the underpaid scanners? Do the users of Google? Or, when we refer to Google
Books, do we rather only mean to include the founders and CEOs of Google? Or
has Google in fact become a metaphor that expresses certain characteristics of
our time? The present volume suggests that all these components enter into the
new phenomenon of mass digitization and produce a new field of potentiality,
while at the same time they retain their original qualities and value systems,
at least to some extent. No assemblage is whole and imperturbable, nor
entirely reducible to its parts, but is simultaneously an accumulation of
smaller assemblages and a member of larger ones.61 Thus Google Books, for
example, is both an aggregation of smaller assemblages such as university
libraries, scanners (both humans and machines), and books, _and_ a member of
larger assemblages such as Google, Silicon Valley, neoliberal lobbies, and the
Internet, to name but a few.

While representations of assemblages such as the analyses performed in this
volume are always doomed to misrepresent empirical reality on some level, this
approach nevertheless provides a tool for grasping at least some of mass
digitization’s internal heterogeneity, and the mechanisms and processes that
enable each project’s continued assembled existence. The concept of the
assemblage allows us to grasp mass digitization as comprised of ephemeral
projects that are uncertain by nature, and sometimes even made up of
contradictory components.62 It also allows us to recognize that they are more
than mere networks: while ephemeral and networked, something enables them to
cohere. Bruno Latour writes, “Groups are not silent things, but rather the
provisional product of a constant uproar made by the millions of contradictory
voices about what is a group and who pertains to what.”63 It is the “taming
and constraining of this multivocality,” in particular by communities of
knowledge and everyday practices, that enables something like mass
digitization to cohere as an assemblage.64 This book is, among other things,
about those communities and practices, and the politics they produce and are
produced by. In particular, it addresses the politics of mass digitization as
an infrapolitical activity that retreats into, and emanates from, digital
infrastructures and the network effects they produce.

## Politics in Mass Digitization: Infrastructure and Infrapolitics

If the concept of “assemblage” allows us to see the relational set-up of mass
digitization, it also allows us to inquire into its political infrastructures.
In political terms, assemblage thinking is partly driven by dissatisfaction
with state-centric dominant ontologies, including reified units such as state,
society, or capitalism, and the unilinear focus on state-centric politics over
other forms of politics.65 The assemblage perspective is therefore especially
useful for understanding the politics of late-sovereign and late-capitalist
data projects such as mass digitization. As we will see in part 2, the
epistemic frame of sovereignty continues to offer an organizing frame for the
constitution and regulation of mass digitization and the virtues associated
with it (such as national representation and citizen engagement). However, at
the same time, mass digitization projects are in direct correspondence with
neoliberal values such as privatization, consumerism, globalization, and
acceleration, and its technological features allow for a complete
restructuring of the disciplinary spaces of libraries to form vaster and even
global scales of integration and economic organization on a multinational
stage.

Mass digitization is a concrete example of what cultural memory projects look
like in a “late-sovereign” age, where globalization tests the political and
symbolic authority of sovereign cultural memory politics to its limits, while
sovereignty as an epistemic organizing principle for the politics of cultural
memory nonetheless persists.66 The politics of cultural memory, in particular
those practiced by cultural heritage institutions, often still cling to fixed
sovereign taxonomies and epistemic frameworks. This focus is partly determined
by their institutional anchoring in the framework of national cultural
policies. In mass digitization, however, the formal political apparatus of
cultural heritage institutions is adjoined by a politics that plays out in the
margins: in lobbies, software industries, universities, social media, etc.
Those evaluating mass digitization assemblages in macropolitical terms, that
is, those who are concerned with political categories, will glean little of
the real politics of mass digitization, since such politics at the margins
would escape this analytic matrix.67 Assemblage thinking, by contrast, allows
us to acknowledge the political mechanisms of mass digitization beyond
disciplinary regulatory models, in societies where “where forces … not
categories, clash.”68

As Ian Hacking and many others have noted, the capacious usage of the notion
of “politics” threatens to strip the word of meaning.69 But talk of a politics
of mass digitization is no conceptual gimmick, since what is taking place in
the construction and practice of mass digitization assemblages plainly is
political. The question, then, is how best to describe the politics at work in
mass digitization assemblages. The answer advanced by the present volume is to
think of the politics of mass digitization as “infrapolitics.”

The notion of infrapolitics has until now primarily and profoundly been
advanced as a concept of hidden dissent or contestation (Scott, 1990).70 This
volume suggests shifting the lens to focus on a different kind of
infrapolitics, however, one that not only takes the shape of resistance but
also of maintenance and conformity, since the story of mass digitization is
both the story of contestation _and_ the politics of mundane and standard-
seeking practices. 71 The infrapolitics of mass digitization is, then, a kind
of politics “premised not on a subject, but on the infra,” that is, the
“underlying rules of the world,” organized around glocal infrastructures.72
The infrapolitics of mass digitization is the building and living of
infrastructures, both as spaces of contestation and processes of
naturalization.

Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Leigh Star have argued that the establishment of
standards, categories, and infrastructures “should be recognized as the
significant site of political and ethical work that they are.”73 This applies
not least in the construction and development of knowledge infrastructures
such as mass digitization assemblages, structures that are upheld by
increasingly complex sets of protocols and standards. Attaching “politics” to
“infrastructure” endows the term—and hence mass digitization under this
rubric—with a distinct organizational form that connects various stages and
levels of politics, as well as a distinct temporality that relates mass
digitization to the forces and ideas of industrialization and globalization.

The notion of infrastructure has a surprisingly brief etymology. It first
entered the French language in 1875 in relation to the excavation of
railways.74 Over the following decades, it primarily designated fixed
installations designed to facilitate and foster mobility. It did not enter
English vocabulary until 1927, and as late as 1951, the word was still
described by English sources as “new” (OED).75 When NATO adopted the term in
the 1950s, it gained a military tinge. Since then, “infrastructure” has
proliferated into ever more contexts and disciplines, becoming a “plastic
word”76 often used to signify any vital and widely shared human-constructed
resource.77

What makes infrastructures central for understanding the politics of mass
digitization? Primarily, they are crucial to understanding how industrialism
has affected the ways in which we organize and engage with knowledge, but the
politics of infrastructures are also becoming increasingly significant in the
late-sovereign, late-capitalist landscape.

The infrastructures of mass digitization mediate, combine, connect, and
converge upon different institutions, social networks, and devices, augmenting
the actors that take part in them with new agential possibilities by expanding
the radius of their action, strengthening and prolonging the reach of their
performance, and setting them free for other activities through their
accelerating effects, time often reinvested in other infrastructures, such as,
for instance, social media activities. The infrastructures of mass
digitization also increase the demand for globalization and mobility, since
they expand the radius of using/reading/working.

The infrastructures of mass digitization are thus media of polities and
politics, at times visible and at others barely legible or felt, and home both
to dissent as well as to standardizing measures. These include legal
infrastructures such as copyright, privacy, and trade law; material
infrastructures such as books, wires, scanners, screens, server parks, and
shelving systems; disciplinary infrastructures such as metadata, knowledge
organization, and standards; cultural infrastructures such as algorithms,
searching, reading, and downloading; societal infrastructures such as the
realms of the public and private, national and global. These infrastructures
are, depending, both the prerequisites for and the results of interactions
between the spatial, temporal, and social classes that take part in the
construction of mass digitization. The infrapolitics of mass digitization is
thus geared toward both interoperability and standardization, as well as
toward variation.78

Often when thinking of infrastructures, we conceive of them in terms of
durability and stability. Yet, while some infrastructures, such as railways
and Internet cables, are fairly solid and rigid constructions, others—such as
semantic links, time-limited contracts, and research projects—are more
contingent entities which operate not as “fully coherent, deliberately
engineered, end-to-end processes,” but rather as morphous contingent
assemblages, as “ecologies or complex adaptive systems” consisting of
“numerous systems, each with unique origins and goals, which are made to
interoperate by means of standards, socket layers, social practices, norms,
and individual behaviors that smooth out the connections among them.”79 This
contingency has direct implications for infrapolitics, which become equally
flexible and adaptive. These characteristics endow mass digitization
infrastructures with vulnerabilities but also with tremendous cultural power,
allowing them to distribute agency, and to create and facilitate new forms of
sociality and culture.

Building mass digitization infrastructures is a costly endeavor, and hence
mass digitization infrastructures are often backed by public-private
partnerships. Indeed infrastructures—and mass digitization infrastructures are
no exceptions—are often so costly that a certain mixture of political or
individual megalomania, state reach, and private capital is present in their
construction.80 This mixed foundation means that a lot of the political
decisions regarding mass digitization literally take place _beneath_ the radar
of “the representative institutions of the political system of nation-states,”
while also more or less aggressively filling out “gaps” in nation-state
systems, and even creating transnational zones with their own policies. 81
Hence the notion of “infra”: the infrapolitics of mass digitization hover at a
frequency that lies _below_ and beyond formal sovereign state apparatus,
organized, as they are, around glocal—and often private or privatized—material
and social infrastructures.

While distinct from the formalized sovereign political system, infrapolitical
assemblages nevertheless often perform as late-sovereign actors by engaging in
various forms of “sovereignty games.”82 Take Google, for instance, a private
corporation that often defines itself as at odds with state practice, yet also
often more or less informally meets with state leaders, engages in diplomatic
discussions, and enters into agreements with state agencies and local
political councils. The infrapolitical forces of Google in these sovereignty
games can on the one hand exert political pressure on states—for instance in
the name of civic freedom—but in Google’s embrace of politics, its
infrapolitical forces can on the other hand also squeeze the life out of
existing parliamentary ways, promoting instead various forms of apolitical or
libertarian modes of life. The infrapolitical apparatus thus stands apart from
more formalized politics, not only in terms of political arena, but also the
constraints that are placed upon them in the form, for instance, of public
accountability.83 What is described here can in general terms be called the
infrapolitics of neoliberalism, whose scenery consists of lobby rooms, policy-
making headquarters, financial zones, public-private spheres, and is populated
by lobbyists, bureaucrats, lawyers, and CEOs.

But the infrapolitical dynamics of mass digitization also operate in more
mundane and less obvious settings, such as software design offices and
standardization agencies, and are enacted by engineers, statisticians,
designers, and even users. Infrastructures are—increasingly—essential parts of
our everyday lives, not only in mass digitization contexts, but in all walks
of life, from file formats and software programs to converging transportation
systems, payment systems, and knowledge infrastructures. Yet, what is most
significant about the majority of infrapolitical institutions is that they are
so mundane; if we notice them at all, they appear to us as boring “lists of
numbers and technical specifications.”84 And their maintenance and
construction often occurs “behind the scenes.”85 There is a politics to these
naturalizing processes, since they influence and frame our moral, scientific,
and aesthetic choices. This is to say that these kinds of infrapolitical
activities often retire or withdraw into a kind of self-evidence in which the
values, choices, and influences of infrastructures are taken for granted and
accorded a kind of obviousness, which is universally accepted. It is therefore
all the more “politically and ethically crucial”86 to recognize the
infrapolitics of mass digitization, not only as contestation and privatized
power games, but also as a mode of existence that values professionalized
standardization measures and mundane routines, not least because these
infrapolitical modes of existence often outlast their material circumstances
(“software outlasts hardware” as John Durham Peters notes).87 In sum,
infrastructures and the infrapolitics they produce yield subtle but
significant world-making powers.

## Power in Mass Digitization

If mass digitization is a product of a particular social configuration and
political infrastructure, it is also, ultimately, a site and an instrument of
power. In a sense, mass digitization is an event that stages a fundamental
confrontation between state and corporate power, while pointing to the
reconfigurations of both as they become increasingly embedded in digital
infrastructures. For instance, such confrontation takes place at the
negotiating table, where cultural heritage directors face the seductive and
awe-inspiring riches of Silicon Valley, as well as its overwhelmingly
intricate contractual layouts and its intimidating entourage of lawyers.
Confrontation also takes place at the level of infrastructural ideology, in
the meeting between twentieth-century standardization ideals and the playful
and flexible network dynamics of the twenty-first century, as seen for
instance in the conjunction of institutionally fixed taxonomies and
algorithmic retrieval systems that include feedback mechanisms. And it takes
place at the level of users, as they experience a gain in some powers and the
loss of others in their identity transition from national patrons of cultural
memory institutions to globalized users of mass digitization assemblages.

These transformations are partly the results of society’s increasing reliance
on network power and its effects. Political theorists Michael Hardt and
Antonio Negri suggested almost two decades ago that among other things, global
digital systems enabled a shift in power infrastructures from robust national
economies and core industrial sectors to interactive networks and flexible
accumulation, creating a “form of network power, which requires the wide
collaboration of dominant nation-states, major corporations, supra-national
economic and political institutions, various NGOs, media conglomerates and a
series of other powers.”88 From this landscape, according to their argument,
emerged a new system of power in which morphing networks took precedence over
reliable blocs. Hardt and Negri’s diagnosis was one of several similar
arguments across the political spectrum that were formed within such a short
interval that “the network” arguably became the “defining concept of our
epoch.”89 Within this new epoch, the old centralized blocs of power crumbled
to make room for new forms of decentralized “bastard” power phenomena, such as
the extensive corporate/state mass surveillance systems revealed by Edward
Snowden and others, and new forms of human rights such as “the right to be
forgotten,” a right for which a more appropriate name would be “the right to
not be found by Google.”90 Network power and network effects are therefore
central to understanding how mass digitization assemblages operate, and why
some mass digitization assemblages are more powerful than others.

The power dynamics we find in Google Books, for instance, are directly related
to the ways in which digital technologies harness network effects: the power
of Google Books grows exponentially as its network expands.91 Indeed, as Siva
Vaidhyanathan noted in his critical work on Google’s role in society, what he
referred to as the “Googlization of books” was ultimately deeply intertwined
with the “Googlization of everything.”92 The networks of Google thus weren’t
external to both the success and the challenges of Google, but deeply endemic
to it, from portals and ranking systems to anchoring (elite) institutions, and
so on. The better Google Books becomes at harnessing network effects, the more
fundamental its influence is in the digital sphere. And Google Books is very
good at harnessing digital network power. Indeed, Google Books reached its
“tipping point” almost before it launched: it had by then already attracted so
many stakeholders that its mere existence decreased the power of any competing
entities—and the fact that its heavy user traffic is embedded in Google only
strengthened its network effects. Google Books’s tipping point tells us little
about its quality in an abstract sense: “tipping points” are more often
attained by proprietary measures, lobbying, expansion, and most typically by a
mixture of all of the above, than by sheer quality.93 This explains not only
the success of Google Books, but also its traction with even its critics:
although Google Books was initially criticized heavily for its poor imagery
and faulty metadata,94 its possible harmful impact on the public sphere,95 and
later, over privacy concerns,96 it had already created a power hub to which,
although they could have navigated around it, masses of people were
nevertheless increasingly drawn.

Network power is endemic not only to concrete digital networks, but also to
globalization at large as a process that simultaneously gives rise to feelings
of freedom of choice and loss of choice.97 Mass digitization assemblages, and
their globalization of knowledge infrastructures, thus crystalize the more
general tendencies of globalization as a process in which people participate
by choice, but not necessarily voluntarily; one in which we are increasingly
pushed into a game of social coordination, where common standards allow more
effective coordination yet also entrap us in their pull for convergence.
Standardization is therefore a key technique of network power: on the one
hand, standardization is linked with globalization (and various neoliberal
regimes) and the attendant widespread contraction of the state, while on the
other hand, standardization implies a reconfiguration of everyday life.98
Standards allow for both minute data analytics and overarching political
systems that “govern at a distance.”99 Standardization understood in this way
is thus a mode of capturing, conceptualizing, and configuring reality, rather
than simply an economic instrument or lubricant. In a sense, standardization
could even be said to be habit forming: through standardization, “inventions
become commonplace, novelties become mundane, and the local becomes
universal.”100

To be sure, standardization has long been a crucial tool of world-making
power, spanning both the early and late-capitalist eras.101 “Standard time,”
as John Durham Peters notes, “is a sine qua non for international
capitalism.”102 Without the standardized infrastructure of time there would be
no global transportation networks, no global trade channels, and no global
communication networks. Indeed, globalization is premised on standardization
processes.

What kind of standardization processes do we find, then, in mass digitization
assemblages? Internet use alone involves direct engagement with hundreds of
global standards, from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi standards, from protocol standards
to file standards such as Word and MP4 and HTTP.103 Moreover, mass
digitization assemblages confront users with a series of additional standards,
from cultural standards of tagging to technical standards of interoperability,
such as the European Data Model (EDM) and Google’s schema.org, or legal
standards such as copyright and privacy regulations. Yet, while these
standards share affinities with the standardization processes of
industrialization, in many respects they also deviate from them. Instead, we
experience in mass digitization “a new form of standardization,”104 in which
differentiation and flexibility gain increasing influence without, however,
dispensing with standardization processes.

Today’s standardization is increasingly coupled with demands for flexibility
and interoperability. Flexibility, as Joyce Kolko has shown, is a term that
gained traction in the 1970s, when it was employed to describe putative
solutions to the problems of Fordism.105 It was seen as an antidote to Fordist
“rigidity”—a serious offense in the neoliberal regime. Thus, while the digital
networks underlying mass digitization are geared toward standardization and
expansion, since “information technology rewards scale, but only to the extent
that practices are standardized,”106 they are also becoming increasingly
flexible, since too-rigid standards hinder network effects, that is, the
growth of additional networks. This is one reason why mass digitization
assemblages increasingly and intentionally break down the so-called “silo”
thinking of cultural memory institutions, and implement standard flexibility
and interoperability to increase their range.107 One area of such
reconfiguration in mass digitization is the taxonomic field, where stable
institutional taxonomic structures are converted to new flexible modes of
knowledge organization like linked data.108 Linked data can connect cultural
memory artifacts as well as metadata in new ways, and the move from a cultural
memory web of interlinked documents to a cultural memory web of interlinked
data can potentially “amplify the impact of the work of libraries and
archives.”109 However, in order to work effectively, linked data demands
standards and shared protocols.

Flexibility allows the user a freer range of actions, and thus potentially
also the possibility of innovation. These affordances often translate into
user freedom or empowerment. Yet flexibility does not necessarily equal
fundamental user autonomy or control. On the contrary, flexibility is often
achieved through decomposition, modularization, and black-boxing, allowing
some components to remain stable while others are changed without implications
for the rest of the system.110 These components are made “fluid” in the sense
that they are dispersed of clear boundaries and allowed multiple identities,
and in that they enable continuity and dissolution.

While these new flexible standard-setting mechanisms are often localized in
national and subnational settings, they are also globalized systems “oriented
towards global agendas and systems.”111 Indeed, they are “glocal”
configurations with digital networks at their cores. The increasing
significance of these glocal configurations has not only cultural but also
democratic consequences, since they often leave users powerless when it comes
to influencing their cores.112 This more fundamental problematic also pertains
to mass digitization, a phenomenon that operates in an environment that
constructs and encourages less Habermasian public spheres than “relations of
sociability,” from which “aggregate outcomes emerge not from an act of
collective decision-making, but through the accumulation of decentralized,
individual decisions that, taken together, nonetheless conduce to a
circumstance that affects the entire group.”113 For example, despite the
flexibility Google Books allows us in terms of search and correlation, we have
very little sway over its construction, even though we arguably influence its
dynamics. The limitations of our influence on the cores of mass digitization
assemblages have implications not only for how we conceive of institutional
power, but also for our own power within these matrixes.

## Notes

1. Borghi 2012, 420. 2. Latour 2008. 3. For more on this, see Hicks 2018;
Abbate 2012; Ensmenger 2012. In the case of libraries, (white) women still
make out the majority of the workforce, but there is a disproportionate amount
of men in senior positions, in comparison with their overall representation;
see, for example, Schonfeld and Sweeney 2017. 4. Meckler 1982. 5. Otlet and
Rayward 1990, chaps. 6 and 15. 6. For a historical and contemporary overview
over some milestones in the use of microfilms in a library context, see Canepi
et al. 2013, specifically “Historic Overview.” See also chap. 10 in Baker
2002. 7. Pfanner 2012. 8.
. 9. Medak et al.
2016. 10. Michael S. Hart, “The History and Philosophy of Project Gutenberg,”
Project Gutenberg, August 1992,
.
11. Ibid. 12. . 13. Ibid. 14. Bruno Delorme,
“Digitization at the Bibliotheque Nationale De France, Including an Interview
with Bruno Delorme,” _Serials_ 24 (3) (2011): 261–265. 15. Alain Giffard,
“Dilemmas of Digitization in Oxford,” _AlainGiffard’s Weblog_ , posted May 29,
2008, in-oxford>. 16. Ibid. 17. Author’s interview with Alain Giffard, Paris, 2010.
18. Ibid. 19. Later, in 1997, François Mitterrand demanded that the digitized
books should be brought online, accessible as text from everywhere. This,
then, was what became known as Gallica, the digital library of BnF, which was
launched in 1997. Gallica contains documents primarily out of copyright from
the Middle Ages to the 1930s, with priority given to French-speaking culture,
hosting about 4 million documents. 20. Imerito 2009. 21. Ambati et al. 2006;
Chen 2005. 22. Ryan Singel, “Stop the Google Library, Net’s Librarian Says,”
_Wired_ , May 19, 2009, library-nets-librarian-says>. 23. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Annual Report,
2006,
.
24. Leetaru 2008. 25. Amazon was also a major player in the early years of
mass digitization. In 2003 they gave access to a digital archive of more than
120,000 books with the professed goal of adding Amazon’s multimillion-title
catalog in the following years. As with all other mass digitization
initiatives, Jeff Bezos faced a series of copyright and technological
challenges. He met these with legal rhetorical ingenuity and the technical
skills of Udi Manber, who later became the lead engineer with Google, see, for
example, Wolf 2003. 26. Leetaru 2008. 27. John Markoff, “The Coming Search
Wars,” _New York Times_ , February 1, 2004,
. 28.
Google press release, “Google Checks out Library Books,” December 14, 2004,
.
29. Vise and Malseed 2005, chap. 21. 30. Auletta 2009, 96. 31. Johann Wolfgang
Goethe, _Sprüche in Prosa_ , “Werke” (Weimer edition), vol. 42, pt. 2, 141;
cited in Cassirer 1944. 32. Philip Jones, “Writ to the Future,” _The
Bookseller_ , October 22, 2015, future-315153>. 33. “Jacques Chirac donne l’impulsion à la création d’une
bibliothèque numérique,” _Le Monde_ , March 16, 2005,
donne-l-impulsion-a-la-creation-d-une-bibliotheque-
numerique_401857_3246.html>. 34. “An overwhelming American dominance in
defining future generations’ conception about the world” (author’s own
translation). Ibid. 35. Labi 2005; “The worst scenario we could achieve would
be that we had two big digital libraries that don’t communicate. The idea is
not to do the same thing, so maybe we could cooperate, I don’t know. Frankly,
I’m not sure they would be interested in digitizing our patrimony. The idea is
to bring something that is complementary, to bring diversity. But this doesn’t
mean that Google is an enemy of diversity.” 36. Chrisafis 2008. 37. Béquet
2009. For more on the political potential of archives, see Foucault 2002;
Derrida 1996; and Tygstrup 2014. 38. “Comme vous soulignez, nos bibliothèques
et nos archives contiennent la mémoire de nos culture européenne et de
société. La numérisation de leur collection—manuscrits, livres, images et
sons—constitue un défi culturel et économique auquel il serait bon que
l’Europe réponde de manière concertée.” (As you point out, our libraries and
archives contain the memory of our European culture and society. Digitization
of their collections—manuscripts, books, images, and sounds—is a cultural and
economic challenge it would be good for Europe to meets in a concerted
manner.) Manuel Barroso, open letter to Jacques Chirac, July 7, 2007,
[http://www.peps.cfwb.be/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&file=fileadmin/sites/numpat/upload/numpat_super_editor/numpat_editor/documents/Europe/Bibliotheques_numeriques/2005.07.07reponse_de_la_Commission_europeenne.pdf&hash=fe7d7c5faf2d7befd0894fd998abffdf101eecf1](http://www.peps.cfwb.be/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&file=fileadmin/sites/numpat/upload/numpat_super_editor/numpat_editor/documents/Europe/Bibliotheques_numeriques/2005.07.07reponse_de_la_Commission_europeenne.pdf&hash=fe7d7c5faf2d7befd0894fd998abffdf101eecf1).
39. Jøsevold 2016. 40. Janssen 2011. 41. Robert Darnton, “Google’s Loss: The
Public’s Gain,” _New York Review of Books_ , April 28, 2011,
. 42.
Palfrey 2015, __ 104. 43. See, for example, DPLA’s Public Library
Partnership’s Project, partnerships>. 44. Karaganis, 2018. 45. Sassen 2008, 3. 46. Coyle 2006; Borghi
and Karapapa, _Copyright and Mass Digitization_ ; Patra, Kumar, and Pani,
_Progressive Trends in Electronic Resource Management in Libraries_. 47.
Borghi 2012. 48. Beagle et al. 2003; Lavoie and Dempsey 2004; Courant 2006;
Earnshaw and Vince 2007; Rieger 2008; Leetaru 2008; Deegan and Sutherland
2009; Conway 2010; Samuelson 2014. 49. The earliest textual reference to the
mass digitization of books dates to the early 1990s. Richard de Gennaro,
Librarian of Harvard College, in a panel on funding strategies, argued that an
existing preservation program called “brittle books” should take precedence
over other preservation strategies such as mass deacidification; see Sparks,
_A Roundtable on Mass Deacidification_ , 46. Later the word began to attain
the sense we recognize today, as referring to digitization on a large scale.
In 2010 a new word popped up, “ultramass digitization,” a concept used to
describe the efforts of Google vis-à-vis more modest large-scale digitization
projects; see Greene 2010 _._ 50. Kevin Kelly, “Scan This Book!,” _New York
Times_ , May 14, 2006, ; Hall 2008; Darnton 2009;
Palfrey 2015. 51. As Alain Giffard notes, “I am not very confident with the
programs of digitization full of technical and economical considerations, but
curiously silent on the intellectual aspects” (Alain Giffard, “Dilemmas of
Digitization in Oxford,” _AlainGiffard’s Weblog_ , posted May 29, 2008,
oxford>). 52. Tiffen 2007. 344. See also Peatling 2004. 53. Sassen 2008. 54.
See _The Authors Guild et al. vs. Google, Inc._ , Amended Settlement Agreement
05 CV 8136, United States District Court, Southern District of New York,
(2009) sec 7(2)(d) (research corpus), sec. 1.91, 14. 55. Informational
capitalism is a variant of late capitalism, which is based on cognitive,
communicative, and cooperative labor. See Christian Fuchs, _Digital Labour and
Karl Marx_ (New York: Routledge, 2014), 135–152. 56. Miksa 1983, 93. 57.
Midbon 1980. 58. Said 1983, 237. 59. For example, the diverse body of
scholarship that employed the notion of “assemblage” as a heuristic and/or
ontological device for grasping and formulating these changing relations of
power and control; in sociology: Haggerty and Ericson 2000; Rabinow 2003; Ong
and Collier 2005; Callon et al. 2016; in geography: Anderson and McFarlane
2011, 124–127; in philosophy: Deleuze and Guattari 1987; DeLanda 2006; in
cultural studies: Puar 2007; in political science: Sassen 2008. The
theoretical scope of these works ranged from close readings of and ontological
alignments with Deleuze and Guattari’s work (e.g., DeLanda), to more
straightforward descriptive employments of the term as outlined in the OED
(e.g., Sassen). What the various approaches held in common was the effort to
steer readers away from thinking in terms of essences and stability toward
thinking about more complex and unstable structures. Indeed, the “assemblage”
seems to have become a prescriptive as much as a diagnostic tool (Galloway
2013b; Weizman 2006). 60. Deleuze 1997; Foucault 2009; Hardt and Negri 2007.
61. DeLanda 2006; Paul Rabinow, “Collaborations, Concepts, Assemblages,” in
Rabinow and Foucault 2011, 113–126, at 123. 62. Latour 2005, __ 28. 63. Ibid.,
35. 64. Tim Stevens, _Cyber Security and the Politics of Time_ (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2015), 33. 65. Abrahamsen and Williams 2011. 66.
Walker 2003. 67. Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 116. 68. Parisi 2004, 37. 69.
Hacking 1995, 210. 70. Scott 2009. In James C. Scott’s formulation,
infrapolitics is a form of micropolitics, that is, the term refers to
political acts that evade the formal political apparatus. This understanding
was later taken up by Robin D. G. Kelley and Alberto Moreires, and more
recently by Stevphen Shukaitis and Angela Mitropolous. See Kelley 1994;
Shukaitis 2009; Mitropoulos 2012; Alterbo Moreiras, _Infrapolitics: the
Project and Its Politics. Allegory and Denarrativization. A Note on
Posthegemony_. eScholarship, University of California, 2015. 71. James C.
Scott also concedes as much when he briefly links his notion of infrapolitics
to infrastructure, as the “cultural and structural underpinning of the more
visible political action on which our attention has generally been focused”;
Scott 2009, 184. 72. Mitropoulos 2012, 115. 73. Bowker and Star 1999, 319. 74.
Centre National de Ressource Textuelle et Lexicales,
. 75. For an English
etymological examination, see also Batt 1984, 1–6. 76. This is on account of
their malleability and the uncanny way they are used to fit every
circumstance. For more on the potentials and problems of plastic words, see
Pörksen 1995. 77. Edwards 2003, 186–187. 78. Mitropoulos 2012, 117. 79.
Edwards et al. 2012. 80. Peters 2015, at 31. 81. Beck 1996, 1–32, at 18;
Easterling 2014. 82. Adler-Nissen and Gammeltoft-Hansen 2008. 83. Holzer and
Mads 2003. 84. Star 1999, 377. 85. Ibid. 86. Bowker and Star 1999, 326. 87.
Peters 2015, 35. 88. Hardt and Negri 2009, 205. 89. Chun 2017. 90. As argued
by John Naughton at the _Negotiating Cultural Rights_ conference, National
Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 13–14, 2015,
.
91. The “tipping point” is a metaphor for sudden change first introduced by
Morton Grodzins in 1960, later used by sociologists such as Thomas Schelling
(for explaining demographic changes in mixed-race neighborhoods), before
becoming more generally familiar in urbanist studies (used by Saskia Sassen,
for instance, in her analysis of global cities), and finally popularized by
mass psychologists and trend analysts such as Malcolm Gladwell, in his
bestseller of that name; see Gladwell 2000. 92. “Those of us who take
liberalism and Enlightenment values seriously often quote Sir Francis Bacon’s
aphorism that ‘knowledge is power.’ But, as the historian Stephen Gaukroger
argues, this is not a claim about knowledge: it is a claim about power.
‘Knowledge plays a hitherto unrecognized role in power,’ Gaukroger writes.
‘The model is not Plato but Machiavelli.’1 Knowledge, in other words, is an
instrument of the powerful. Access to knowledge gives access to that
instrument of power, but merely having knowledge or using it does not
automatically confer power. The powerful always have the ways and means to use
knowledge toward their own ends. … How can we connect the most people with the
best knowledge? Google, of course, offers answers to those questions. It’s up
to us to decide whether Google’s answers are good enough.” See Vaidhyanathan
2011, 149–150. 93. Easley and Kleinberg 2010, 528. 94. Duguid 2007; Geoffrey
Nunberg, “Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars,” _Chronicle of Higher
Education,_ August 31, 2009; _The Idea of Order: Transforming Research
Collections for 21st Century Scholarship_ (Washington, DC: Council on Library
and Information Resources, 2010), 106–115. 95. Robert Darnton, “Google’s Loss:
The Public’s Gain,” _New York Review of Books_ , April 28, 2011,
. 96.
Jones and Janes 2010. 97. David S. Grewal, _Network Power: The Social Dynamics
of Globalization_ (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008). 98. Higgins and
Larner, _Calculating the Social: Standards and the Reconfiguration of
Governing_ (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). 99. Ponte, Gibbon, and
Vestergaard 2011; Gibbon and Henriksen 2012. 100. Russell 2014. See also Wendy
Chun on the correlation between habit and standardization: Chun 2017. 101.
Busch 2011. 102. Peters 2015, 224. 103. DeNardis 2011. 104. Hall and Jameson
1990. 105. Kolko 1988. 106. Agre 2000. 107. For more on the importance of
standard flexibility in digital networks, see Paulheim 2015. 108. Linked data
captures the intellectual information users add to information resources when
they describe, annotate, organize, select, and use these resources, as well as
social information about their patterns of usage. On one hand, linked data
allows users and institutions to create taxonomic categories for works on a
par with cultural memory experts—and often in conflict with such experts—for
instance by linking classical nudes with porn; and on the other hand, it
allows users and institutions to harness social information about patterns of
use. Linked data has ideological and economic underpinnings as much as
technical ones. 109.  _The National Digital Platform: for Libraries, Archives
and Museums_ , 2015, report-national-digital-platform>. 110. Petter Nielsen and Ole Hanseth, “Fluid
Standards. A Case Study of a Norwegian Standard for Mobile Content Services,”
under review,
.
111. Sassen 2008, 3. 112. Grewal 2008. 113. Ibid., 9.

# II
Mapping Mass Digitization

# 2
The Trials, Tribulations, and Transformations of Google Books

## Introduction

In a 2004 article in the cultural theory journal _Critical Inquiry_ , book
historian Roger Chartier argued that the electronic world had created a triple
rupture in the world of text: by providing new techniques for inscribing and
disseminating the written word, by inspiring new relationships with texts, and
by imposing new forms of organization onto them. Indeed, Chartier foresaw that
“the originality and the importance of the digital revolution must therefore
not be underestimated insofar as it forces the contemporary reader to
abandon—consciously or not—the various legacies that formed it.”1 Chartier’s
premonition was inspired by the ripples that digitization was already
spreading across the sea of texts. People were increasingly writing and
distributing electronically, interacting with texts in new ways, and operating
and implementing new textual economies.2 These textual transformations __ gave
rise to a range of emotional reactions in readers and publishers, from
catastrophizing attititudes and pessimism about “the end of the book” to the
triumphalist mythologizing of liquid virtual books that were shedding their
analog ties like butterflies shedding their cocoons.

The most widely publicized mass digitization project to date, Google Books,
precipitated the entire emotional spectrum that could arise from these textual
transversals: from fears that control over culture was slipping from authors
and publishers into the hands of large tech companies, to hopeful ideas about
the democratizing potential of bringing knowledge that was once locked up in
dusty tomes at places like Harvard and Stanford, and to a utopian
mythologizing of the transcendent potential of mass digitization. Moreover,
Google Books also affected legal and professional transformations of the
infrastructural set-up of the book, creating new precedents and a new
professional ethos. The cultural, legal, and political significance of Google
Books, whether positive or negative, not only emphasizes its fundamental role
in shaping current knowledge landscapes, it also allows us to see Google Books
as a prism that reflects more general political tendencies toward
globalization, privatization, and digitization, such as modulations in
institutional infrastructures, legal landscapes, and aesthetic and political
conventions. But how did the unlikely marriage between a tech company and
cultural memory institutions even come about? Who drove it forward, and around
and within which infrastructures? And what kind of cultural memory politics
did it produce? The following sections of this chapter will address some of
these problematics.

## The New Librarians

It was in the midst of a turbulent restructuring of the world of text, in
October 2004 at the Frankfurt International Book Fair, that Larry Page and
Sergey Brin of Google announced the launch of Google Print, a cooperation
between Google and leading Anglophone publishers. Google Print, which later
became Google Partner Program, would significantly alter the landscape and
experience of cultural memory, as well as its regulatory infrastructures. A
decade later, the traditional practices of reading, and the guardianship of
text and cultural works, had acquired entirely new meanings. In October 2004,
however, the publishing world was still unaware of Google’s pending influence
on the institutional world of cultural memory. Indeed, at that time, Amazon’s
mounting dominance in the field of books, which began a decade earlier in
1995, appeared to pose much more significant implications. The majority of
publishers therefore greeted Google’s plans in Frankfurt as a welcome
alternative to Jeff Bezos’s growing online behemoth.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin withheld a few details from their announcement at
Frankfurt, however; Google’s digitization plans would involve not only
cooperation with publishers, but also with libraries. As such, what would
later become Google Books would in fact consist of two separate, yet
interrelated, programs: Google Print (which would later become Google Partner
Program) and Google Library Project. In all secrecy, Google had for many
months prior to the Frankfurt Book Fair worked with select libraries in the US
and the UK to digitize their holdings. And in December 2004 the true scope of
Google’s mass digitization plans were revealed: what Page and Brin were
building was the foundation of a groundbreaking cultural memory archive,
inspired by the myth of Alexandria.3 The invocation of Alexandria situated the
nascent Google Books project in a cultural schema that historicized the
project as a utopian, even moral and idealist, project that could finally,
thanks to technology, exceed existing human constraints—legal, political, and
physical.4

Google’s utopian discourse was not foreign to mass digitization enthusiasts.
Indeed, it was the _langue du jour_ underpinning most large-scale digitization
projects, a discourse nurtured and influenced by the seemingly borderless
infrastructure of the web itself (which was often referred to in
universalizing terms). 5 Yet, while the universalizing discourse of mass
digitization was familiar, it had until then seemed like aspirational talk at
best, and strategic policy talk in the face of limited public funding, complex
copyright landscapes, and lumbering infrastructures, at worst. Google,
however, faced the task with a fresh attitude of determination and a will to
disrupt, as well as a very different form of leverage in terms of
infrastructural set-up. Google was already the world’s preferred search
engine, having mastered the tactical skill of navigating its users through
increasingly complex information landscapes on the web, and harvesting their
metadata in the process to continuously improve Google’s feedback systems.
Essentially ever-larger amounts of information (understood here as “users”)
were passing through Google’s crawling engines, and as the masses of
information in Google’s server parks grew, so did their computational power.
Google Books, then, as opposed to most existing digitization projects, which
were conceived mainly in terms of “access,” was embedded in the larger system
of Google that understood the power and value of “feedback,” collecting
information and entering it into feedback loops between users, machines, and
engineers. Google also understood that information power didn’t necessarily
lie in owning all the information they gave access to, but rather in
controlling the informational processes themselves.

Yet, despite Google’s advances in information seeking behaviors, the idea of
Google Books appeared as an odd marriage. Why was a private company in Silicon
Valley, working in the futuristic and accelerating world of software and fluid
information streams, intent on partnering up with the slow-paced world of
cultural memory institutions, traditionally more concerned with the past?
Despite the apparent clash of temporal and cultural regimes, however, Google
was in fact returning home to its point of inception. Google was born of a
research project titled the Stanford Integrated Digital Library Project, which
was part of the NSF’s Digital Libraries Initiative (1994–1999). Larry Page and
Sergey Brin were students then, working on the Stanford component of this
project, intending to develop the base technologies required to overcome the
most critical barriers to effective digital libraries, of which there were
many.6 Page’s and Brin’s specific project, titled Google, was presented as a
technical solution to the increasing amount of information on the World Wide
Web.7 At Stanford, Larry Page also tried to facilitate a serious discussion of
mass digitization at Stanford, and of whether or not it was feasible. But his
ideas received little support, and he was forced to leave the idea on the
drawing board in favor of developing search technologies.8

In September 1998, Sergey Brin and Larry Page left the library project to
found Google as a company and became immersed in search engine technologies.
However, a few years later, Page resuscitated the idea of mass digitization as
a part of their larger self-professed goal to change the world of information
by increasing access, scaling the amount of information available, and
improving computational power. They convinced Eric Schmidt, the new CEO of
Google, that the mass digitization of cultural works made sense not only from
a information perspective, but also from a business perspective, since the
vast amounts of information Google could extract from books would improve
Google’s ability to deliver information that was hitherto lacking, and this
new content would eventually also result in an increase in traffic and clicks
on ads.9

## The Scaling Techniques of Mass Digitization

A series of experiments followed on how to best approach the daunting task.
The emergence and decay of these experiments highlight the ways in which mass
digitization assemblages consist not only of thoughts, ideals, and materials,
but also a series of cultural techniques that entwine temporality,
materiality, and even corporeality. This perspective on mass digitization
emphasizes the mixed nature of mass digitization assemblages: what at first
glance appears as a relatively straightforward story about new technical
inventions, at a closer look emerges as complex entanglements of human and
nonhuman actors, with implications not only for how we approach it as a legal-
technical entity but also an infrapolitical phenomenon. As the following
section shows, attending to the complex cultural techniques of mass
digitization (its “how”) enables us to see that its “minor” techniques are not
excluded from or irrelevant to, but rather are endemic to, larger questions of
the infrapolitics of digital capitalism. Thus, Google’s simple technique of
scaling scanning to make the digitization processes go faster becomes
entangled in the creation of new habits and techniques of acceleration and
rationalization that tie in with the politics of digital culture and digital
devices. The industrial scaling of mass digitization becomes a crucial part of
the industrial apparatus of big data, which provide new modes of inscription
for both individuals and digital industries that in turn can be capitalized on
via data-mining, just as it raises questions of digital labor and copyright.

Yet, what kinds of scaling techniques—and what kinds of investments—Google
would have to leverage to achieve its initial goals were still unclear to
Google in those early years. Larry Page and co-worker Marissa Mayer therefore
began to experiment with the best ways to proceed. First, they created a
makeshift scanning device, whereby Marissa Mayer would turn the page and Larry
Page would click the shutter of the camera, guided by the pace of a
metronome.10 These initial mass digitization experiments signaled the
industrial nature of the mass digitization process, providing a metronomic
rhythm governed by the implacable regularity of the machine, in addition to
the temporal horizon of eternity in cultural memory institutions (or at least
of material decay).11 After some experimentation with scale and time, Google
bought a consignment of books from a second-hand book store in Arizona. They
scanned them and subsequently experimented with how to best index these works
not only by using information from the book, but also by pulling data about
the books from various other sources on the web. These extractions allowed
them to calculate a work’s relevance and importance, for instance by looking
at the number of times it had been referred to.12

In 2004 Google was also granted patent rights to a scanner that would be able
to scan the pages of works without destroying them, and which would make them
searchable thanks to sophisticated 3D scanning and complex algorithms.13
Google’s new scanner used infrared camera technology that detected the three-
dimensional shape and angle of book pages when the book was placed in the
scanner. The information from the book was then transmitted to Optical
Character Recognition (OCR), which adjusted image focus and allowed the OCR
software to read images of curved surfaces more accurately.

![11404_002_fig_001.jpg](images/11404_002_fig_001.jpg)

Figure 2.1 François-Marie Lefevere and Marin Saric. “Detection of grooves in
scanned images.” U.S. Patent 7508978B1. Assigned to Google LLC.

These new scanning technologies allowed Google to unsettle the fixed content
of cultural works on an industrial scale and enter them into new distribution
systems. The untethering and circulation of text already existed, of course,
but now text would mutate on an industrial scale, bringing into coexistence a
multiplicity of archiving modes and textual accumulation. Indeed, Google’s
systematic scaling-up of already existing technologies on an industrial and
accelerated scale posed a new paradigm in mass digitization, to a much larger
extent than, for instance, inventions of new technologies.14 Thus, while
Google’s new book scanners did expand the possibilities of capturing
information, Google couldn’t solve the problem of automating the process of
turning the pages of the books. For that they had to hire human scanners who
were asked to manually turn pages. The work of these human scanners was
largely invisible to the public, who could only see the books magically
appearing online as the digital archive accumulated. The scanners nevertheless
left ghostly traces, in the form of scanning errors such as pink fingers and
missing and crumbled pages—visual traces that underlined the historically
crucial role of human labor in industrializing and automating processes.15
Indeed, the question of how to solve human errors in the book scanning process
led to a series of inventive systems, such as the patent granted to Google in
2009 (filed in 2003), which describes a system that would minimize scanning
errors with the help of music.16 Later, Google open sourced plans for a book
scanner named “Linear Book Scanner” that would turn the pages automatically
with the help of a vacuum cleaner and a cleverly designed sheet metal
structure, after passing them over two image sensors taken from a desktop
scanner.17

Eventually, after much experimentation, Google consolidated its mass
digitization efforts in collaboration with select libraries.18 While some
institutions immediately and enthusiastically welcomed Google’s aspirations as
aligning with their own mission to improve access to information, others were
more hesitant, an institutional vacillation that hinted ominously at
controversy to come. Some libraries, such as the University of Michigan,
greeted the initiative with enthusiasm, whereas others, such as the Library of
Congress, saw a red flag pop up: copyright, one of the most fundamental
elements in the rights of texts and authors.19 The Library of Congress
questioned whether it was legal to scan and index books without a rights
holder’s permission. Google, in response, argued that it was within the fair
use provisions of the law, but the argument was speculative in so far as there
was no precedent for what Google was going to do. While some universities
agreed with Google’s views on copyright and shared its desire to disrupt
existing copyright practices, others allowed Google to make digital copies of
their holdings (a precondition for creating an index of it). Hence, some
libraries gave full access, others allowed only the scanning of books in the
public domain (published before 1923), and still others denied access
altogether. While the reticence of libraries was scattered, it was also a
precursor of a much more zealous resistance to Google Books, an opposition
that was mounted by powerful voices in the cultural world, namely publishers
and authors, and other commercial infrastructures of cultural memory.

![11404_002_fig_002.jpg](images/11404_002_fig_002.jpg)

Figure 2.2 Joseph K. O’Sullivan, Alexander Proudfooot, and Christopher R.
Uhlik. “Pacing and error monitoring of manual page turning operator.” U.S.
Patent 7619784B1. Assigned to Google LLC, Google Technology Holdings LLC.

While Google’s announcement of its cooperation with publishers at the
Frankfurt Book Fair was received without drama—even welcomed by many—the
announcement of its cooperation with libraries a few months later caused a
commercial uproar. The most publicized point of contestation was the fact that
Google was now not only displaying books in cooperation with publishers, but
also building a library of its own, without remunerating publishers and
authors. Why would readers buy books if they could read them free online?
Moreover, the Authors Guild worried that Google’s digital library would
increase the risk of piracy. At a deeper level, the case also emphasized
authors’ and publishers’ desire to retain control over their copyrighted works
in the face of the threat that the Library Project (unlike the Partner
Program) was posing: Google was digitizing without the copyright holder’s
permission. Thus, to them, the Library Project fundamentally threatened their
copyrights and, on a more fundamental level, existing copyright systems. Both
factors, they argued, would make book buying a superfluous activity.20 The
harsher criticisms framed Google Books as a book thief rather than as a global
philanthropist.21 Google, on its behalf, launched a defense of their actions
based on the notion of “fair use,” which as the following section shows,
eventually became the fundamental legal question.

## Infrastructural Transformations

Google Books became the symbol of the painful confusion and territorial
battles that marred the publishing world as it underwent a transformation from
analog to digital. The mounting and diverse opposition to Google Books was
thus not an isolated affair, but rather a persistent symptom—increasingly loud
stress signals emitting from the infrastructural joints of the analog realm of
books as it buckled under the strain of digital logic. As media theorist John
Durham Peters (drawing on media theorist Harold Innis) notes, the history of
media is also an “occupational history” that tells the tales of craftspeople
mastering medium-specific skills tactically battling for monopolies of
knowledge and guarding their access.22 And in the occupational history of
Google Books, the craftspeople of the printed book were being challenged by a
new breed of artificers who were excelling not so much in how to print, which
book sellers to negotiate with, or how to sell books to people, but rather in
the medium-specific tactical skills of the digital, such as building software
and devising search technologies, skills they were leveraging to their own
gain to create new “monopolies of knowledge” in the process.

As previously mentioned, the concerns expressed by publishers and authors in
regards to remuneration was accompanied by a more abstract sense of a loss of
control over their works and how this loss of control would affect the
copyrights. These concerns did not arise out of thin air, but were part of a
more general discourse on digital information as something that _cannot_ be
secured and controlled in the same way as analog commodities can. Indeed, it
seemed that authors and publishers were part of a world entirely different
from Google Books: while publishers and authors were still living in and
defending a “regime of scarcity,” 23 Google Books, by contrast, was busy
building a “realm of plenitude and infinite replenishment.” As such, the clash
between the traditional infrastructures of the analog book and the new
infrastructures of Google Books was symptomatic of the underlying radical
reorganization of information from a state of trade and exchange to a state of
constant transmission and contagion.24

Foregrounding the fair use defense25, Google argued that the public benefits
of scanning outweighed the negative consequences for authors.26 Influential
legal scholars such as Lawrence Lessig, among others, supported this argument,
suggesting that inclusion in a search engine in a way that does not erode the
value of the book was of such societal importance that it should be deemed
legal.27 The copyright owners, however, insisted that the burden should be on
Google to request permission to scan each work.28

Google and copyright owners reached a proposed settlement on October 28, 2008.
The proposal would allow Google not only to continue its scanning activities
and to show free snippets online, but would also give Google exclusive rights
to sell digital copies of out-of-print books. In return, Google would provide
all libraries in the United States with one free subscription to the digital
database, but Google could also sell additional subscriptions. Moreover,
Google was to pay $125 million, part of which would go to the construction of
a Book Rights Registry that identified rights holders and handled payments to
lawyers.29 Yet before the settlement was even formally treated, a mounting
opposition to it was launched in public.

The proposed settlement was received with harsh words, for instance by
Internet archivist Brewster Kahle and legal scholar Lawrence Lessig, who
opposed the settlement with words ranging from “insanity” to “cultural
asphyxiation” and “information monopoly.”30 Privacy proponents also spoke out
against Google Books, bringing attention to the implications of Google being
able to follow and track reading habits, among other things.31 The
organization Privacy Authors, including writers such as Jonathan Lethem, Bruce
Schneier, and Michael Chabon, and publishers, argued that although Google
Books was an “extremely exciting” project, it failed in its current form to
protect the privacy of readers, thus creating a “real risk of disclosure” of
sensitive information to “prying governmental entities and private litigants,”
potentially giving rise to a “chilling effect,” hurting not only readers but
also authors and publishers, not least those writing about sensitive or
controversial topics.32 The Association of Libraries also raised a set of
concerns, such as the cost of library subscriptions and privacy.33 And most
predictably, companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, who also had a stake in
mass digitization, opposed the settlement; Microsoft even funded some nuanced
research efforts into its implications.34 Finally, and most damningly, the
Department of Justice decided to get involved with an antitrust argument.

By this point, opposition to the Google Books project, as it was outlined in
the proposed settlement, wasn’t only motivated by commercial concerns; it was
now also motivated by a public that framed Google’s mass digitization project
as a parasitical threat to the public sphere itself. The framing of Google as
a potential menace was a jarring image that stood in stark contrast to Larry
Page’s and Sergey Brin’s philanthropic attitudes and to Google’s famous “Don’t
be evil” slogan. The public reaction thus signaled a change in Google’s
reputation as the company metamorphosed in the public eye from a small
underdog company to a multinational corporation with a near-monopoly in the
search industry. Google’s initially inspiring approach to information as a
realm of plenitude now appeared in the public view more similar to the actions
of megalomaniac land-grabbers.

Google, however, while maintaining its universalizing mission regarding
information, also countered the accusations of monopoly building, arguing that
potential competitors could just step up, since nothing in the agreements
entered into by the libraries and Google “precludes any other company or
organization from pursuing their own similar effort.”35 Nevertheless Judge
Denny Chin denied the settlement in March 2011 with the following statement:
“The question presented is whether the ASA is fair, adequate, and reasonable.
I conclude that it is not.”36 Google left the proposed settlement behind, and
appealed the decision of their initial case with new amicus briefs focusing on
their argument that book scanning was fair use. They argued that they were not
demanding exclusivity on the information they scanned, that they didn’t
prohibit other actors from digitizing the works they were digitizing, and that
their main goal was to enrich the public sphere with more information, not to
build an information monopoly. In July 2013 Judge Denny Chin issued a new
opinion confirming that Google Books was indeed fair use.37 Chin’s opinion was
later consolidated in a major victory for Google in 2015 when Judge Pierre
Leval in the Second Circuit Court legalized Google Books with the words
“Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a
search functionality, and display of snippets from those works are non-
infringing fair uses.“38 Leval’s decision marked a new direction, not only for
Google Books, but also for mass digitization in general, as it signaled a
shift in cultural expectations about what it means to experience and
disseminate cultural artifacts.

Once again, the story of Google Books took a new turn. What was first
presented as a gift to cultural memory institutions and the public, and later
as theft from and threat to these same entities, on closer inspection revealed
itself as a much more complex circulatory system of expectations, promises,
risks, and blame. Google Books thus instigated a dynamic and forceful
connection between Google and cultural memory institutions, where the roles of
giver and receiver, and the first giver and second giver/returner, were
difficult to decode. Indeed, the binding nature of the relationship between
Google Books and cultural memory institutions proved to be much more complex
than the simple physical exchange of books and digital files. As the next
section outlines, this complex system of cultural production was held together
by contractual arrangement—central joints, as it were, connecting data and
works, public and private, local and global, in increasingly complex ways. For
Google Books, these contractual relations appear as the connective tissues
that make these assemblages possible, and which are therefore fundamental to
their affective dimensions.

## The Infrapolitics of Contract

In common parlance a contract is a legal tool that formalizes a “mutual
agreement between two or more parties that something shall be done or forborne
by one or both,” often enforceable by law.39 Contractual systems emerged with
the medieval merchant regime, and later evolved with classical liberalism into
an ideological revolt against paternalist systems as nothing less than
freedom, a legal construct that could destroy the sentimental bonds of
personal dependence.40 As the classic liberal social scientist William Graham
Sumner argued, “[c]ontract … is rational … realistic, cold, and matter-of-
fact.” The rational nature of contracts also affected their temporality, since
a contract endures only “so long as the reason for it endures,” and their
spatiality, relegating any form of sentiment from the public sphere to “the
sphere of private and personal relations.”41

Sentiments prevailed, however, as the contracts tying together Google and
cultural memory institutions emerged. Indeed, public and professional
evaluations of the agreements often took an affective, even sexualized, form.
The economist Paul Courant situated libraries “in bed with Google”42; library
consultant and media experts Jeff Ubois and Peter B. Kaufman recounted _how_
they got in bed with Google—“[w]e were approached singly, charmed in
confidence, the stranger was beguiling, and we embraced” 43; communication
scholar Evelyn Bottando announced that “libraries not only got in bed with
Google. They got married”44; and librarian Jessamyn West finally pondered on
the relationship ruins, “[s]till not sure, after all that, how we got this all
so wrong. Didn’t we both want the same thing? Maybe it really wasn’t us, it
was them. Most days it’s hard to remember what we saw in Google. Why did we
think we’d make good partners?”45

The evaluative discourse around Google Books dispels the idea of contracts as
dispassionate transactions for services and labor, showing rather that
contracts are infrapolitical apparatuses that give rise to emotions and
affect; and that, moreover, they are systems of doctrines, relations, and
social artifacts that organize around specific ideologies, temporalities,
materialities, and techniques.46 First and foremost, contracts give rise to
new kinds of infrastructures in the field of cultural memory: they mediate,
connect, and converge cultural memory institutions globally, giving rise to
new institutional networks, in some cases increasing globalization and
mobility for both users and objects, and in other cases restricting the same.
The Google Books contracts display both technical and symbolic aspects: as
technical artifacts they establish intricate frameworks of procedures,
commitments, rights, and incentives for governing the transactions of cultural
memory artifacts and their digitized copies. As symbolic artifacts they evoke
normative principles, expressing different measures of good will toward
libraries, but also—as all contracts do—introduce the possibility of distrust,
conflict and betrayal.47

Despite their centrality to mass digitization assemblages, and although some
of them have been made available to the public,48 the content of these
particular contracts still suffer from the epistemic gap incurred in practical
and symbolic form by Google’s Agreements and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA),
a kind of agreement most libraries are required to sign when entering the
agreement. Like all contracts, the individual contracts signed by the
partnership libraries vary in nature and have different implications. While
many of Google’s agreements may be publically available, they have often only
been made public through requests and transparency mechanisms such as the
Freedom of Information Act. As the Open Rights Alliance notes in their
publication of the agreement entered between the British Library and Google,
“We asked the British Library for a copy of the agreement with Google, which
was not uploaded to their transparency website with other similar contracts,
as it didn’t involve monetary exchange. This may be a loophole transparency
activists want to look at. After some toing and froing with the Freedom of
Information Act we got a copy.”49

While the culture of contractual secrecy is native to the business world, with
its safeguarding of business processes, and is easily navigated by business
partners, it is often opposed to the ethos of state-subsidized cultural
institutions who “draw their financial and moral support from a public that
expects transparency in their activities, ranging from their materials
acquisitions to their business deals.”50 For these reasons, library
organizations have recommended that nondisclosure agreements should be avoided
if possible, and minimized if they are necessary.51 Google, in response, noted
on its website that: “[t]hough not all of the library contracts have been made
public, we can say that all of them are non-exclusive, meaning that all of our
library partners are free to continue their own scanning projects or work with
others while they work with Google to digitize their books.”52

Regardless of their contractual content and later publication, the contracts
are a vital instrument in Google’s broader management of visibility. As Mikkel
Flyverbom, Clare Birchall, and others have argued, this practice of visibility
management—which they define as “the many ways in which organizations seek to
curate and control their presence, relations, and comprehension vis-à-vis
their surroundings” through practices of transparency, secrecy, opacity,
surveillance, and disclosure—is in the digital age a complex issue closely
tied to the question of governance and power. While each publication act may
serve to create an uncomplicated picture of transparency, it nevertheless
happens in a paradoxical global regulatory environment that on the one hand
encourages “sunshine” laws that demand that governments, corporations, and
civil-sector organizations provide access to information, yet on the other
hand also harbors regulatory agencies that seek mechanisms and rules by which
to keep information hidden. Thus, as Flyverbom et al. conclude, the “everyday
practices of organizing invariably implicate visibility management,” whose
valences are “attached to transparency and opacity” that are not simple and
straightforward, but rather remain “dependent upon the actor, the context, and
the purpose of organizations and individuals.”53

Steven Levy recounts how Google began its scanning operations in “near-total
stealth,” a “cloak-and-dagger” approach that stood in contrast to Google’s
public promotion of transparency as a new mode of existence. As Levy argues,
“[t]he secrecy was yet another expression of the paradox of a company that
sometimes embraced transparency and other times seemed to model itself on the
NSA.”54 Yet, while secrecy practices may have suited some of Google’s
operations, they sit much more uneasily with their book scanning programs: “If
Google had a more efficient way to scan books, sharing the improved techniques
could benefit the company in the long run—inevitably, much of the output would
find its way onto the web, bolstering Google’s indexes. But in this case,
paranoia and a focus on short-term gain kept the machines under wraps.”55 The
nondisclosure agreements show that while boundaries may be blurred between
Google Books and libraries, we may still identify different regulatory models
and modes of existence within their networks, including the explicit _library
ethos_ (in the Weberian sense of the term) of public access, not only to the
front end but also to some areas of the back end, and the business world’s
secrecy practices. 56

Entering into a mass digitization public-private partnership (PPP) with a
corporation such as Google is thus not only a logical and pragmatic next step
for cultural memory institutions, it is also a political step. As already
noted, Google Books, through its embedding in Google, injects cultural memory
objects into new economic and cultural infrastructures. These infrastructures
are governed less by the hierarchical world of curators, historians, and
politicians, and more by feedback networks of tech companies, users, and
algorithms. Moreover, they forge ever closer connections to data-driven market
logics, where computational rather than representational power counts. Mass
digitization PPPs such as Google Books are thus also symptoms of a much more
pervasive infrapolitical situation, in which cultural memory institutions are
increasingly forced to alter their identities from public caretakers of
cultural heritage to economic actors in the EU internal market, controlled by
the framework of competition law, time-limited contracts, and rules on state
aid.57 Moreover, mastering the rules of these new infrastructures is not
necessarily an easy feat for public institutions.58 Thus, while Google claims
to hold a core commitment regarding free digital access to information, and
while its financial apparatus could be construed as making Google an eligible
partner in accordance with the EU’s policy objectives toward furthering
public-private partnerships in Europe,59 it is nevertheless, as legal scholar
Maurizio Borghi notes, relevant to take into account Google’s previous
monopoly-building history.60

## The Politics of Google Books

A final aspect of Google Books relates to the universal aspiration of Google
Books’s collection, its infrapolitics, and what it empirically produces in
territorial terms. As this chapter’s previous sections have outlined, it was
an aspiration of Google Books to transcend the cultural and political
limitations of physical cultural memory collections by gathering the written
material of cultural memory institutions into one massive digitized
collection. Yet, while the collection spans millions of works in hundreds of
languages from hundreds of countries,61 it is also clear that even large-scale
mass digitization processes still entail procedures of selection on multiple
levels from libraries to works. These decisions produce a political reality
that in some respects reproduces and accentuates the existing politics of
cultural memory institutions in terms of territorial and class-based
representations, and in other respects give rise to new forms of cultural
memory politics that part ways with the political regimes of traditional
curatorial apparatuses.

One obvious area in which to examine the politics produced by the Google Books
assemblage is in the selection of libraries that Google chooses to partner
with.62 While the full list of Google Books partners is not disclosed on
Google’s own webpage, it is clear from the available list that, up to now,
Google Books has mainly partnered with “great libraries,” such as elite
university libraries and national libraries. The rationale for choosing these
libraries has no doubt been to partner up with cultural memory institutions
that preside over as much material as possible, and which are therefore able
to provide more pieces of the puzzle than, say, a small-town public library
that only presides over a fraction of their collections. Yet, while these
libraries provide Google Books with an impressive and extensive collection of
rare and valuable artifacts that give the impression of a near-universal
collection, they nevertheless also contain epistemological and historical
gaps. Historian and digital humanist Andrew Prescott notes, for example, the
limited collections of literature written by workers and other lower-class
people in the early eighteenth century in elite libraries. This institutional
lack creates a pre-filtered collection in Google Books, favoring “[t]hose
writers of working class origins who had a success story to report, who had
become distinguished statesmen, successful businessmen, religious leaders and
so on,” that is, the people who were “able to find commercial publishers who
were interested in their story.”63 Google’s decision to partner with elite
libraries thus inadvertently reproduces the class-based biases of analog
cultural memory institutions.

In addition to the reproduction of analog class-based bias in its digital
collection, the Google Books corpus also displays a genre bias, veering
heavily toward scientific publications. As mathematicians Eitan Pechenik et
al. show, the contents of the Google Books corpus in the period of the 1900s
is “increasingly dominated by scientific publications rather than popular
works,” and “even the first data set specifically labeled as fiction appears
to be saturated with medical literature.”64 The fact that Google Books is
constellated in such a manner thus challenges a “vast majority of existing
claims drawn from the Google Books corpus,” just as it points to the need “to
fully characterize the dynamics of the corpus before using these data sets to
draw broad conclusions about cultural and linguistic evolution.”65

Last but not least, Google Books’s collection still bespeaks its beginnings:
it still primarily covers Anglophone ground. There is hardly any literature
that reviews the geographic scope in Google Books, but existing work does
suggest that Google is still heavily oriented toward US-based libraries.66
This orientation does not necessarily give rise to an Anglophone linguistic
hegemony, as some have feared, since many of the Anglophone libraries hold
considerable collections of foreign language books. But it does invariably
limit its collections to the works in foreign languages that the elite
libraries deemed worthy of preserving. The gaps and biases of Google Books
reveal it to be less of a universal and monolithic collection, and more of an
impressive, but also specific and contingent, assemblage of works, texts, and
relations that is determined by the relations Google Books has entered into in
terms of class, discipline, and geographical scope.

Google Books is not only the result of selection processes on the level of
partnering institutions, but also on the level of organizational
infrastructure. While the infrastructures of Google Books in fact depart from
those of its parent company in many regards to avoid copyright infringement
charges, there is little doubt, however, that people working actively on
Google’s digitization activities (included here are both users and Google
employees) are also globally distributed in networked constellations. The
central organization for cultural digitization, the Google Cultural Institute,
is located in Paris, France. Yet the people affiliated with this hub are
working across several countries. Moreover, people working on various aspects
of Google Books, from marketing to language technology, to software
developments and manual scanning processes, are dispersed across the globe.
And it is perhaps in this way that we tend to think of Google in general—as a
networked global company—and for good reasons. Google has been operating
internationally almost for as long as it has been around. It has offices in
countries all over the globe, and works in numerous languages. Today it is one
of the most important global information institutions, and as more and more
people turn to Google for its services, Google also increasingly reflects
them—indeed they enter into a complex cognitive feedback mechanism system.
Google depends on the growing diversity of its “inhabitants” and on its
financial and cultural leverage on a global scale, and to this effect it is
continuously fine-tuning its glocalization strategies, blending the universal
and the particular. This glocal strategy does not necessarily create a
universal company, however; it would be more correct to say that Google’s
glocality brings the globe to Google, redefining it as an “American”
company.67 Hence, while there is little doubt that Google, and in effect
Google Books, increasingly tailors to specific consumers,68 and that this
tailoring allows for a more complex global representation generated by
feedback systems, Google’s core nevertheless remains lodged on American soil.
This is underlined by the fact that Google Books still effectively belongs to
US jurisdiction.69 Google Books is thus on the one hand a globalized company
in terms of both content and institutional framework; yet it also remains an
_American_ multinational corporation, constrained by US regulation and social
standards, and ultimately reinforcing the capacities of the American state.
While Google Books operates as a networked glocal project with universal
aspirations, then, it also remains fenced in by its legal and cultural
apparatuses.

In sum, just as a country’s regulatory and political apparatus affects the
politics of its cultural memory institutions in the analog world, so is the
politics of Google Books co-determined by the operations of Google. Thus,
curatorial choices are made not only on the basis of content, but also of the
location of server parks, existing company units, lobbying efforts, public
policy concerns, and so on. And the institutional identity of Google Books is
profoundly late-sovereign in this regard: on one hand it thrives on and
operates with horizontal network formations; on the other, it still takes into
account and has to operate with, and around, sovereign epistemologies and
political apparatuses. These vertical and horizontal lines ultimately rewire
the politics of cultural memory, shifting the stakes from sovereign
territorial possessions to more functional, complex, and effective means of
control.

## Notes

1. Chartier 2004. 2. As philosopher Jacques Derrida noted anecdotally on his
colleagues’ way of reading, “some of my American colleagues come along to
seminars or to lecture theaters with their little laptops. They don’t print
out; they read out directly, in public, from the screen. I saw it being done
as well at the Pompidou Center [in Paris] a few days ago. A friend was giving
a talk there on American photography. He had this little Macintosh laptop
there where he could see it, like a prompter: he pressed a button to scroll
down his text. This assumed a high degree of confidence in this strange
whisperer. I’m not yet at that point, but it does happen.” (Derrida 2005, 27).
3. As Ken Auletta recounts, Eric Schmidt remembers when Page surprised him in
the early 2000s by showing off a book scanner he had built which was inspired
by the great library of Alexandria, claiming that “We’re going to scan all the
books in the world,” and explaining that for search to be truly comprehensive
“it must include every book ever published.” Page literally wanted Google to
be a “super librarian” (Auletta 2009, __ 96). 4. Constraints of a physical
character (how to digitize and organize all this knowledge in physical form);
legal character (how to do it in a way that suspends existing regulation); and
political character (how to transgress territorial systems). 5. Take, for
instance, project Bibliotheca Universalis, comprising American, Japanese,
German, and British libraries among others, whose professed aim was “to
exploit existing digitization programs in order to … make the major works of
the world’s scientific and cultural heritage accessible to a vast public via
multimedia technologies, thus fostering … exchange of knowledge and dialogue
over national and international borders.” It was a joint project of the French
Ministry of Culture, the National Library of France, the Japanese National
Diet Library, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Canada,
Discoteca di Stato, Deutsche Bibliothek, and the British Library:
. The project took its name
from the groundbreaking Medieval publication _Bibliotecha Universalis_
(1545–1549), a four-volume alphabetical bibliography that listed all the known
books printed in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. Obviously, the dream of the total
archive is not limited to the realm of cultural memory institutions, but has a
much longer and more generalized lineage; for a contemporary exploration of
these dreams see, for instance, issue six of _Limn Magazine_ , March 2016,
. 6. As the project noted in its research summary,
“One of these barriers is the heterogeneity of information and services.
Another impediment is the lack of powerful filtering mechanisms that let users
find truly valuable information. The continuous access to information is
restricted by the unavailability of library interfaces and tools that
effectively operate on portable devices. A fourth barrier is the lack of a
solid economic infrastructure that encourages providers to make information
available, and give users privacy guarantees”; Summary of the Stanford Digital
Library Technologies Project,
. 7. Brin and Page
1998. 8. Levy 2011, 347. 9. Levy 2011, 349. 10. Levy 2011, 349. 11. Young
1988. 12. They had a hard time, however, creating a new PageRank-like
algorithm for books; see Levy 2011, 349. 13. Google Inc., “Detection of
Grooves in Scanned Images,” March 24, 2009,
[https://www.google.ch/patents/US7508978?dq=Detection+Of+Grooves+In+Scanned+Images&hl=da&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjWqJbV3arMAhXRJSwKHVhBD0sQ6AEIHDAA](https://www.google.ch/patents/US7508978?dq=Detection+Of+Grooves+In+Scanned+Images&hl=da&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjWqJbV3arMAhXRJSwKHVhBD0sQ6AEIHDAA).
14. See, for example, Jeffrey Toobin. “Google’s Moon Shot,” _New Yorker_ ,
February 4, 2007, shot>. 15. Scanners whose ghostly traces are still found in digitized books
today are evidenced by a curious little blog collecting the artful mistakes of
scanners, _The Art of Google Books_ , .
For a more thorough and general introduction to the historical relationship
between humans and machines in labor processes, see Kang 2011. 16. The
abstract from the patent reads as follows: “Systems and methods for pacing and
error monitoring of a manual page turning operator of a system for capturing
images of a bound document are disclosed. The system includes a speaker for
playing music having a tempo and a controller for controlling the tempo based
on an imaging rate and/or an error rate. The operator is influenced by the
music tempo to capture images at a given rate. Alternative or in addition to
audio, error detection may be implemented using OCR to determine page numbers
to track page sequence and/or a sensor to detect errors such as object
intrusion in the image frame and insufficient light. The operator may be
alerted of an error with audio signals and signaled to turn back a certain
number of pages to be recaptured. When music is played, the tempo can be
adjusted in response to the error rate to reduce operator errors and increase
overall throughput of the image capturing system. The tempo may be limited to
a maximum tempo based on the maximum image capture rate.” See Google Inc.,
“Pacing and Error Monitoring of Manual Page Turning Operator,” November 17,
2009, . 17. Google, “linear-book-
scanner,” _Google Code Archive_ , August 22, 2012,
. 18. The libraries of
Harvard, the University of Michigan, Oxford, Stanford, and the New York Public
Library. 19. Levy 2011, 351. 20.  _The Authors Guild et al. vs. Google, Inc._
, Class Action Complaint 05 CV 8136, United States District Court, Southern
District of New York, September 20, 2005,
/settlement-resources.attachment/authors-
guild-v-google/Authors%20Guild%20v%20Google%2009202005.pdf>. 21. As the
Authors Guild notes, “The problem is that before Google created Book Search,
it digitized and made many digital copies of millions of copyrighted books,
which the company never paid for. It never even bought a single book. That, in
itself, was an act of theft. If you did it with a single book, you’d be
infringing.” Authors Guild v. Google: Questions and Answers,
. 22.
Peters 2015, 21. 23. Hayles 2005. 24. Purdon 2016, 4. 25. Fair use constitutes
an exception to the exclusive right of the copyright holder under the United
States Copyright Act; if the use of a copyright work is a “fair use,” no
permission is required. For a court to determine if a use of a copyright work
is fair use, four factors must be considered: (1) the purpose and character of
the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for
nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3)
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the
copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential
market for or value of the copyrighted work. 26. “Do you really want … the
whole world not to have access to human knowledge as contained in books,
because you really want opt out rather than opt in?” as quoted in Levy 2011,
360. 27. “It is an astonishing opportunity to revive our cultural past, and
make it accessible. Sure, Google will profit from it. Good for them. But if
the law requires Google (or anyone else) to ask permission before they make
knowledge available like this, then Google Print can’t exist” (Farhad Manjoo,
“Indexing the Planet: Throwing Google at the Book,” _Spiegel Online
International_ , November 9, 2005, /indexing-the-planet-throwing-google-at-the-book-a-383978.html>.) Technology
lawyer Jonathan Band also expressed his support: Jonathan Band, “The Google
Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis,” _Journal of Internet Banking and
Commerce_ , December 2005, google-print-library-project-a-copyright-analysis.php?aid=38606>. 28.
According to Patricia Schroeder, the Association of American Publishers (AAP)
President, Google’s opt-out procedure “shifts the responsibility for
preventing infringement to the copyright owner rather than the user, turning
every principle of copyright law on its ear.” BBC News, “Google Pauses Online
Books Plan,” _BBC News_ , August 12, 2005,
. 29. Professor of law,
Pamela Samuelson, has conducted numerous progressive and detailed academic and
popular analyses of the legal implications of the copyright discussions; see,
for instance, Pamela Samuelson, “Why Is the Antitrust Division Investigating
the Google Book Search Settlement?,” _Huffington Post_ , September 19, 2009,
divi_b_258997.html>; Samuelson 2010; Samuelson 2011; Samuelson 2014. 30. Levy
2011, 362; Lessig 2010; Brewster Kahle, “How Google Threatens Books,”
_Washington Post_ , May 19, 2009, dyn/content/article/2009/05/18/AR2009051802637.html>. 31. EFF, “Google Book
Search Settlement and Reader Privacy,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, n.d.,
. 32.  _The Authors Guild et
al. vs. Google Inc_., 05 Civ. 8136-DC, United States Southern District of New
York, March 22, 2011,
[http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115](http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115).
33. Brief of Amicus Curiae, American Library Association et al. in relation to
_The Authors Guild et al. vs. Google Inc_., 05 Civ. 8136-DC, filed on August 1
2012,
.
34. Steven Levy, “Who’s Messing with the Google Books Settlement? Hint:
They’re in Redmond, Washington,” _Wired_ , March 3, 2009,
. 35. Sergey Brin, “A Library
to Last Forever,” _New York Times_ , October 8, 2009,
. 36.  _The Authors
Guild et al. vs. Google Inc_., 05 Civ. 8136-DC, United States Southern
District of New York, March 22, 2011,
[http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115](http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115).
37. “Google does, of course, benefit commercially in the sense that users are
drawn to the Google websites by the ability to search Google Books. While this
is a consideration to be acknowledged in weighing all the factors, even
assuming Google’s principal motivation is profit, the fact is that Google
Books serves several important educational purposes. Accordingly, I conclude
that the first factor strongly favors a finding of fair use.” _The Authors
Guild et al. vs. Google Inc_., 05 Civ. 8136-DC, United States Southern
District of New York, November 14, 2013,
[http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=355](http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=355).
38.  _Authors Guild v. Google, Inc_., 13–4829-cv, December 16, 2015,
81c0-23db25f3b301/1/doc/13-4829_opn.pdf>. In the aftermath of Pierre Leval’s
decision the Authors Guild has yet again filed yet another petition for the
Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court decision, and has publically
reiterated the framing of Google as a parasite rather than a benefactor. A
brief supporting the Guild’s petition and signed by a diverse group of authors
such as Malcolm Gladwell, Margaret Atwood, J. M. Coetzee, Ursula Le Guin, and
Yann Martel noted that the legal framework used to assess Google knew nothing
about “the digital reproduction of copyrighted works and their communication
on the Internet or the phenomenon of ‘mass digitization’ of vast collections
of copyrighted works”; nor, they argued, was the fair-use doctrine ever
intended “to permit a wealthy for-profit entity to digitize millions of works
and to cut off authors’ licensing of their reproduction, distribution, and
public display rights.” Amicus Curiae filed on behalf of Author’s Guild
Petition, No. 15–849, February 1, 2016, content/uploads/2016/02/15-849-tsac-TAA-et-al.pdf>. 39. Oxford English
Dictionary,
[http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/40328?rskey=bCMOh6&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid8462140](http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/40328?rskey=bCMOh6&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid8462140).
40. The contract as we know it today developed within the paradigm of Lex
Mercatoria; see Teubner 1997. The contract is therefore a device of global
reach that has developed “mainly outside the political structures of nation-
states and international organisations for exchanges primarily in a market
economy” (Snyder 2002, 8). In the contract theory of John Locke, the
signification of contracts developed from a mere trade tool to a distinction
between the free man and the slave. Here, the societal benefits of contracts
were presented as a matter of time, where the bounded delineation of work was
characterized as contractual freedom; see Locke 2003 and Stanley 1998. 41.
Sumner 1952, 23. 42. Paul Courant, “On Being in Bed with Google,” _Au Courant_
, November 4, 2007, google>. 43. Kaufman and Ubois 2007. 44. Bottando 2012. 45. Jessamyn West,
“Google’s Slow Fade With Librarians: Maybe They’re Just Not That Into Us,”
_Medium_ , February 2, 2015, with-librarians-fddda838a0b7>. 46. Suchman 2003. The lack of research into
contracts and emotions is noted by Hillary M. Berk in her fascinating research
on contracts in the field of surrogacy: “Despite a rich literature in law and
society embracing contracts as exchange relations, empirical work has yet to
address their emotional dimensions” (Berk 2015). 47. Suchman 2003, 100. 48.
See a selection on the Public Index:
, and The Internet Archive:
. You may also find
contracts here: the University of Michigan ( /michigan-digitization-project>), the University of Cali­fornia
(), the Committee on
Institutional Cooperation ( google-agreement>), and the British Library
( google-books-and-the-british-library>), to name but a few. 49. Javier Ruiz,
“Is the Deal between Google and the British Library Good for the Public?,”
Open Rights Group, August 24, 2011, /access-to-the-agreement-between-google-books-and-the-british-library>. 50.
Kaufman and Ubois 2007. 51. Association of Research Libraries, “ARL Encourages
Members to Refrain from Signing Nondisclosure or Confidentiality Clauses,”
_ARL News_ , June 5, 2009, encourages-members-to-refrain-from-signing-nondisclosure-or-confidentiality-
clauses#.Vriv-McZdE4>. 52. Google, “About the Library Project,” _Google Books
Help,_ n.d.,
[https://support.google.com/books/partner/faq/3396243?hl=en&rd=1](https://support.google.com/books/partner/faq/3396243?hl=en&rd=1).
53. Flyverbom, Leonardi, Stohl, and Stohl 2016. 54. Levy 2011, 354. 55. Levy
2011, 352. 56. To be sure, however, the practice of secrecy is no stranger to
libraries. Consider only the closed stack that the public is never given
access to; the bureaucratic routines that are kept from the public eye; and
the historic relation between libraries and secrecy so beautifully explored by
Umberto Eco in numerous of his works. Yet, the motivations for nondisclosure
agreements on the one hand and public sector secrets on the other differ
significantly, the former lodged in a commercial logic and the latter in an
idea, however abstract, about “the public good.” 57. Belder 2015. For insight
into the societal impact of contractual regimes on civil rights regimes, see
Somers 2008. For insight into relations between neoliberalism and contracts,
see Mitropoulos 2012. 58. As engineer and historian Henry Petroski notes, for
a PPP contract to be successful a contract must be written “properly” but “the
public partners are not often very well versed in these kinds of contracts and
they don’t know how to protect themselves.” See Buckholtz 2016. 59. As argued
by Lucky Belder in “Cultural Heritage Institutions as Entrepreneurs,” 2015.
60. Borghi 2013, 92–115. 61. Stephan Heyman, “Google Books: A Complex and
Controversial Experiment,” _New York Times_ , October 28, 2015,
and-controversial-experiment.html>. 62. Google, “Library Partners,” _Google
Books_ , . 63. Andrew
Prescott, “How the Web Can Make Books Vanish,” _Digital Riffs_ , August 2013,
.
64. Pechenick, Danforth, Dodds, and Barrat 2015. 65. What Pechenik et al.
refer to here is of course the claims of Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel
among others, who promote “culturomics,” that is, the use of huge amounts of
digital information—in this case the corpus of Google Books—to track changes
in language, culture, and history. See Aiden and Michel 2013; and Michel et
al. 2011. 66. Neubert 2008; and Weiss and James 2012, 1–3. 67. I am indebted
to Gayatri Spivak here, who makes this argument about New York in the context
of globalization; see Spivak 2000. 68. In this respect Google mirrors the
glocalization strategies of media companies in general; see Thussu 2007, 19.
69. Although the decisions of foreign legislation of course also affect the
workings of Google, as is clear from the growing body of European regulatory
casework on Google such as the right to be forgotten, competition law, tax,
etc.

# 3
Sovereign Soul Searching: The Politics of Europeana

## Introduction

In 2008, the European Commission launched the European mass digitization
project, Europeana, to great fanfare. Although the EC’s official
communications framed the project as a logical outcome of years of work on
converging European digital library infrastructures, the project was received
in the press as a European counterresponse to Google Books.1 The popular media
framings of Europeana were focused in particular on two narratives: that
Europeana was a public response to Google’s privatization of cultural memory,
and that Europeana was a territorial response to American colonization of
European information and culture. This chapter suggests that while both of
these sentiments were present in Europeana’s early years, the politics of what
Europeana was—and is—paints a more complicated picture. A closer glance at
Europeana’s social, economic, and legal infrastructures thus shows that the
European mass digitization project is neither an attempt to replicate Google’s
glocal model, nor is it a continuation of traditional European cultural
policies. Rather, Europeana produces a new form of cultural memory politics
that converge national and supranational imaginaries with global information
infrastructures.

If global information infrastructures and national politics today seemingly go
hand in hand in Europeana, it wasn’t always so. In fact, in the 1990s,
networked technologies and national imaginaries appeared to be mutually
exclusive modes of existence. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 nourished a
new antisovereign sentiment, which gave way to recurring claims in the 1990s
that the age of sovereignty had passed into an age of post-sovereignty. These
claims were fueled by a globalized set of economic, political, and
technological forces, not least of which the seemingly ungovernable nature of
the Internet—which appeared to unbuckle the nation-state’s control and voice
in the process of globalization and gave rise to a sense of plausible anarchy,
which in turn made John Perry Barlow’s (in)famous ‘‘Declaration of the
Independence of Cyberspace’’ appear not as pure utopian fabulation, but rather
as a prescient diagnosis.2 Yet, while it seemed in the early 2000s that the
Internet and the cultural and economic forces of globalization had made the
notion and practice of the nation-state redundant on both practical and
cultural levels, the specter of the nation nevertheless seemed to linger.
Indeed, the nation-state continued to remain a fixed point in political and
cultural discourses. In fact, it not only lingered as a specter, but borders
were also beginning to reappear as regulatory forces. The borderless world
was, as Tim Wu and Jack Goldsmith noted in 2006, an illusion;3 geography had
revenged itself, not least in the digital environment.4

Today, no one doubts the cultural-political import of the national imaginary.
The national imaginary has fueled antirefugee movements, the surge of
nationalist parties, the EU’s intensified crisis, and the election of Donald
Trump, to name just a few critical political events in the 2010s. Yet, while
the nationalist imaginary is becoming ever stronger, paradoxically its
communicative infrastructures are simultaneously becoming ever more
globalized. Thus, globally networked digital infrastructures are quickly
supplementing, and in many cases even substituting, those national
communicative infrastructures that were instrumental in establishing a
national imagined community in the first place—infrastructures such as novels
and newspapers.5 The convergence of territorially bounded imaginaries and
global networks creates new cultural-political constellations of cultural
memory where the centripetal forces of nationalism operate alongside,
sometimes with and sometimes against, the centrifugal forces of digital
infrastructures. Europeana is a preeminent example of these complex
infrastructural and imaginary dynamics.

## A European Response

When Google announced their digitization program at the Frankfurt Book Fair in
2004, it instantly created ripples in the European cultural-political
landscape, in France in particular. Upon hearing the news about Google’s
plans, Jacques Chirac, president of France at the time, promptly urged the
then-culture minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, and Jean-Noël Jeanneney,
head of France’s Bibliothèque nationale, to commence a similar digitization
project and to persuade other European countries to join them.6 The seeds for
Europeana were sown by France, “the deepest, most sedimented reservoir of
anti-American arguments,”7 as an explicitly political reaction to Google
Books.

Europeana was thus from its inception laced with the ambiguous political
relationship between two historically competing universalist-exceptionalist
nations: the United States and France.8 A relationship that France sometimes
pictures as a question of Americanization, and at other times extends to an
image of a more diffuse Anglo-Saxon constellation. Highlighting the effects
Google Books would have on French culture, Jeanneney argued that Google’s mass
digitization efforts would pose several possible dangers to French cultural
memory such as bias in the collecting and organizing practices of Google Books
and an Anglicization of the cultural memory regulatory system. Explaining why
Google Books should be seen not only as an American, but also as an Anglo-
Saxon project, Jeanneney noted that while Google Books “was obviously an
American project,” it was nevertheless also one “that reached out to the
British.” The alliance between the Bodleian Library at Oxford and Google Books
was thus not only a professional partnership in Jeanneney’s eyes, but also a
symbolic bond where “the familiar Anglo-Saxon solidarity” manifested once
again vis-à-vis France, only this time in the digital sphere. Jeanneney even
paraphrased Churchill’s comment to Charles de Gaulle, noting that Oxford’s
alliance with Google Books yet again evidenced how British institutions,
“without consulting anyone on the other side of the English Channel,” favored
US-UK alliances over UK-Continental alliances “in search of European
patriotism for the adventure under way.”9

How can we understand Jeanneney’s framing of Google Books as an Anglo-Saxon
project and the function of this framing in his plea for a nation-based
digitization program? As historian Emile Chabal suggests, the concept of the
Anglo-Saxon mentality is a preeminently French construct that has a clear and
rich rhetorical function to strengthen the French self-understanding vis-à-vis
a stereotypical “other.”10 While fuzzy in its conceptual infrastructure, the
French rhetoric of the Anglo-Saxon is nevertheless “instinctively understood
by the vast majority of the French population” to denote “not simply a
socioeconomic vision loosely inspired by market liberalism and
multiculturalism” but also (and sometimes primarily) “an image of
individualism, enterprise, and atomization.”11 All these dimensions were at
play in Jeanneney’s anti-Google Books rhetoric. Indeed, Jeanneney suggested,
Google’s mass digitization project was not only Anglo-Saxon in its collecting
practices and organizational principles, but also in its regulatory framework:
“We know how Anglo-Saxon law competes with Latin law in international
jurisdictions and in those of new nations. I don’t want to see Anglo-Saxon law
unduly favored by Google as a result of the hierarchy that will be
spontaneously established on its lists.”12

What did Jeanneney suggest as infrastructural protection against the network
power of the Anglo-Saxon mass digitization project? According to Jeanneney,
the answer lay in territorial digitization programs: rather than simply
accepting the colonizing forces of the Anglo-Saxon matrix, Jeanneney argued, a
national digitization effort was needed. Such a national digitization project
would be a “ _contre-attaque_ ” against Google Books that should protect three
dimensions of French cultural sovereignty: its language, the role of the state
in cultural policy, and the cultural/intellectual order of knowledge in the
cultural collections.13 Thus Jeanneney suggested that any Anglo-Saxon mass
digitization project should be competed against and complemented by mass
digitization projects from other nations and cultures to ensure that cultural
works are embedded in meaningful cultural contexts and languages. While the
nation was the central base of mass digitization programs, Jeanenney noted,
such digitization programs necessarily needed to be embedded in a European, or
Continental, infrastructure. Thus, while Jeanneney’s rallying cry to protect
the French cultural memory was voiced from France, he gave it a European
signature, frequently addressing and including the rest of Europe as a natural
ally in his _contre-attaque_ against Google Books. 14 Jeanenney’s extension of
French concerns to a European level was characteristic for France, which had
historically displayed a leadership role in formulating and shaping the EU.15
The EU, Jeanneney argued, could provide a resilient supranational
infrastructure that would enable French diversity to exist within the EU while
also providing a protective shield against unhampered Anglo-Saxon
globalization.

Other French officials took on a less combative tone, insisting that the
French digitization project should be seen not merely as a reaction to Google
but rather in the context of existing French and European efforts to make
information available online. “I really stress that it’s not anti-American,”
stated one official at the Ministry of Culture and Communication. Rather than
framing the French national initiatives as a reaction to Google Books, the
official instead noted that the prime objective was to “make more material
relevant to European patrimony available,” noting also that the national
digitization efforts were neither unique nor exclusionary—not even to
Google.16 The disjunction between Jeanneney’s discursive claims to mass
digitization sovereignty and the anonymous bureaucrat’s pragmatic and
networked approach to mass digitization indicates the late-sovereign landscape
of mass digitization as it unfolded between identity politics and pragmatic
politics, between discursive claims to sovereignty and economic global
cooperation. And as the next section shows, the intertwinement of these
discursive, ideological, and economic infrastructures produced a memory
politics in Europeana that was neither sovereign nor post-sovereign, but
rather late-sovereign.

## The Infrastructural Reality of Late-Sovereignty

Politically speaking, Europeana was always more than just an empty
countergesture or emulating response to Google. Rather, as soon as the EU
adopted Europeana as a prestige project, Europeana became embedded in the
political project of Europeanization and began to produce a political logic of
its own. Latching on to (rather than countering) a sovereign logic, Europeana
strategically deployed the European imaginary as a symbolic demarcation of its
territory. But the means by which Europeana was constructed and distributed
its territorial imaginaries nevertheless took place by means of globalized
networked infrastructures. The circumscribed cultural imaginary of Europeana
was thus made interoperable with the networked logic of globalization. This
combination of a European imaginary and neoliberal infrastructure in Europeana
produced an uneasy balance between national and supranational infrastructural
imaginaries on the one hand and globalized infrastructures on the other.

If France saw Europeana primarily through the prism of sovereign competition,
the European Commission emphasized a different dispositive: economic
competition. In his 2005 response to Jaques Chirac, José Manuel Barroso
acknowledged that the digitization of European cultural heritage was an
important task not only for nation-states but also for the EU as a whole.
Instead of the defiant tone of Jeanneney and De Vabres, Barraso and the EU
institutions opted for a more neutral, pragmatic, and diplomatic mass
digitization discourse. Instead of focusing on Europeana as a lever to prop up
the cultural sovereignty of France, and by extension Europe, in the face of
Americanization, Barosso framed Europeana as an important economic element in
the construction of a knowledge economy.17

Europeana was thus still a competitive project, but it was now reframed as one
that would be much more easily aligned with, and integrated into, a global
market economy.18 One might see the difference in the French and the EU
responses as a question of infrastructural form and affordance. If French mass
digitization discourses were concerned with circumscribing the French cultural
heritage within the territory of the nation, the EC was in practice more
attuned to the networked aspects of the global economy and an accompanying
discourse of competition and potentiality. The infrastructural shift from
delineated sphere to globalized network changed the infrapolitics of cultural
memory from traditional nation-based issues such as identity politics
(including the formation of canons) to more globally aligned trade-related
themes such as copyright and public-private governance.

The shift from canon to copyright did not mean, however, that national
concerns dissipated. On the contrary, ministers from the European Union’s
member countries called for an investigation into the way Google Books handled
copyright in 2008.19 In reality, Google Books had very little to do with
Europe at that time, in the sense that Google Books was governed by US
copyright law. Yet the global reach of Google Books made it a European concern
nevertheless. Both German and French representatives emphasized the rift
between copyright legislation in the US and in EU member states. The German
government proposed that the EC examine whether Google Books conformed to
Europe’s copyright laws. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy stated in more
flamboyant terms that he would not permit France to be “stripped of our
heritage to the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big, or
American it is.”20 Both countries moreover submitted _amicus curia_ briefs 21
to judge Denny Chin (who was in charge of the ongoing Google Books settlement
lawsuit in the US22), in which they argued against the inclusion of foreign
authors in the lawsuit.23 They further brought separate suits against Google
Books for their scanning activities and sought to exercise diplomatic pressure
against the advancement of Google Books.24

On an EU level, however, the territorial concerns were sidestepped in favor of
another matrix of concern: the question of public-private governance. Thus,
despite pressure from some member states, the EC decided not to write a
similar “amicus brief” on behalf of the EU.25 Instead, EC Commissioners
McCreevy and Reding emphasized the need for more infrastructures connecting
the public and private sectors in the field of mass digitization.26 Such PPPs
could range from relatively conservative forms of cooperation (e.g., private
sponsoring, or payments from the private sector for links provided by
Europeana) to more far-reaching involvement, such as turning the management of
Europeana over to the private sector.27 In a similar vein, a report authored
by a high-level reflection group (Comité des Sages) set down by the European
Commission opened the door for public-private partnerships and also set a time
frame for commercial exploitation.28 It was even suggested that Google could
play a role in the construction of Europeana. These considerations thus
contrasted the French resistance against Google with previous statements made
by the EC, which were concerned with preserving the public sector in the
administration of Europeana.

Did the European Commission’s networked politics signal a post-sovereign
future for Europeana? This chapter suggests no: despite the EC’s strategies,
it would be wrong to label the infrapolitics of Europeana as post-sovereign.
Rather, Europeana draws up a _late-sovereign_ 29 mass digitization landscape,
where claims to national sovereignty exist alongside networked
infrastructures.30 Why not post-sovereign? Because, as legal scholar Neil
Walker noted in 2003,31 the logic of sovereignty never waned even in the face
of globalized capitalism and legal pluralism. Instead, it fused with these
more globalized infrastructures to produce a form of politics that displayed
considerable continuity with the old sovereign order, yet also had distinctive
features such as globalized trade networks and constitutional pluralisms. In
this new system, seemingly traditional claims to sovereignty are carried out
irrespective of political practices, showing that globally networked
infrastructures and sovereign imaginaries are not necessarily mutually
exclusive; rather, territory and nation continue to remain powerful emotive
forces. Since Neil Walker’s theoretical corrective to theories on post-
sovereignty, the notion of late sovereignty seems to have only gained in
relevance as nationalist imaginaries increase in strength and power through
increasingly globalized networks.

As the following section shows, Europeana is a product of political processes
that are concerned with both the construction of bounded spheres and canons
_and_ networked infrastructures of connectivity, competition, and potentiality
operating beyond, below, and between national societal structures. Europeana’s
late-sovereign framework produces an infrapolitics in which the discursive
political juxtaposition between Europeana and Google Books exists alongside
increased cooperation between Google Books and Europeana, making it necessary
to qualify the comparative distinctions in mass digitization projects on a
much more detailed level than merely territorial delineations, without,
however, disposing of the notion of sovereignty. The simultaneous
contestations and connections between Europeana and Google Books thus make
visible the complex economic, intellectual, and technological infrastructures
at play in mass digitization.

What form did these infrastructures take? In a sense, the complex
infrastructural set-up of Europeana as it played out in the EU’s framework
ended up extending along two different axes: a vertical axis of national and
supranational sovereignty, where the tectonic territorial plates of nation-
states and continents move relative to each other by converging, diverging,
and transforming; and a horizontal axis of deterritorializing flows that
stream within, between, and throughout sovereign territories consisting both
of capital interests (in the form of transnational lobby organizations working
to protect, promote, and advance the interests of multinational companies or
nongovernmental organizations) and the affective relations of users.

## Harmonizing Europe: From Canon to Copyright

Even if the EU is less concerned with upholding the regulatory boundaries of
the nation-state in mass digitization, bordering effects are still found in
mass digitized collections—this time in the form of copyright regulation. As
in the case of Google Books, mass digitization also raised questions in Europe
about the future role of copyright in the digital sphere. On the one hand,
cultural industries were concerned about the implications of mass digitization
for their production and copyrights32; on the other hand, educational
institutions and digital industries were interested in “unlocking” the
cognitive and cultural potentials that resided within the copyrighted
collections in cultural heritage institutions. Indeed, copyright was such a
crucial concern that the EC repeatedly stated the necessity to reform and
harmonize European copyright regulation across borders.

Why is copyright a concern for Europeana? Alongside economic challenges, the
current copyright legislation is _the_ greatest obstacle against mass
digitization. Copyright effectively prohibits mass digitization of any kind of
material that is still within copyright, creating large gaps in digitized
collections that are often referred to as “the twentieth-century black hole.”
These black holes appear as a result of the way European “copyright interacts
with the digitization of cultural heritage collections” and manifest
themselves as “marked lack of online availability of twentieth-century
collections.” 33 The lack of a common copyright mechanism not only hinders
online availability, but also challenges European cross-border digitization
projects as well as the possibilities for data-mining collections à la Google
because of the difficulties connected to ascertaining the relevant
public domain and hence definitively flagging the public domain status of an
object.34

While Europeana’s twentieth-century black hole poses a problem, Europe would
not, as one worker in the EC’s Directorate-General (DG) Copyright unit noted,
follow Google’s opt-out mass digitization strategy because “the European
solution is not the Google solution. We do a diligent search for the rights
holder before digitizing the material. We follow the law.”35 By positioning
herself as on the right side of the law, the DG employee implicitly also
placed Google on the wrong side of the law. Yet, as another DG employee
explained with frustration, the right side of the law was looking increasingly
untenable in an age of mass digitization. Indeed, as she noted, the demands
for diligent search was making her work near impossible, not least due to the
different legal regimes in the US and the EU:

> Today if one wants to digitize a work, one has to go and ask the rights
holder individually. The problem is often that you can’t find the rights
holder. And sometimes it takes so much time. So there is a rights holder, you
know that he would agree, but it takes so much time to go and find out. And
not all countries have collective management … you have to go company by
company. In Europe we have producing companies that disappear after the film
has been made, because they are created only to make that film. So who are you
going to ask? While in the States the situation is different. You have the
majors, they have the rights, you know who to ask because they are very
stable. But in Europe we have this situation, which makes it very difficult,
the cultural access to cultural heritage. Of course we dream of changing
this.36

The dream is far from realized, however. Since the EU has no direct
legislative competence in the area of copyright, Europeana is the center of a
natural tension between three diverging, but sometimes overlapping instances:
the exclusivity of national intellectual property laws, the economic interests
toward a common market, and the cultural interests in the free movement of
information and knowledge production—a tension that is further amplified by
the coexistence of different legal traditions across member states.37 Seeking
to resolve this tension, the European Parliament and certain units in the
European Commission have strategically used Europeana as a rhetorical lever to
increase harmonization of copyright legislation and thus make it easier for
institutions to make their collections available online.38 “Harmonization” has
thus become a key concept in the rights regime of mass digitization,
essentially signaling interoperability rather than standardization of national
copyright regimes. Yet stakeholders differ in their opinions concerning who
should hold what rights over what content, over what period of time, at what
price, and how things should be made available. So within the process of
harmonization is a process that is less than harmonious, namely bringing
stakeholders to the table and committing. As the EC interviewee confirms,
harmonization requires not only technical but also political cooperation.

The question of harmonization illustrates the infrapolitical dimensions of
Europeana’s copyright systems, showing that they are not just technical
standards or “direct mirrors of reality” but also “co-produced responses to
technoscientific and political uncertainty.”39 The European attempts to
harmonize copyright standards across national borders therefore pit not only
one technical standard against the other, but also “alternative political
cultures and their systems of public reasoning against one another”40
(Jasanoff, 133). Harmonization thus compresses, rather than eliminates,
national varieties within Europe.41 Hence, Barroso’s vision of Europeana as a
collective _European_ cultural memory is faced with the fragmented patterns of
national copyright regimes, producing if not overtly political borders in the
collections, then certainly infrapolitical manifestations of the cultural
barriers that still exist between European countries.

## The Infrapolitics of Interoperability

Copyright is not the only infrastructural regime that upholds borders in
Europeana’s collections; technical standards also pose great challenges for
the dream of an European connective cultural memory.42 The notion of
_interoperability_ 43 has therefore become a key concern for mass
digitization, as interoperability is what allows digitized cultural memory
institutions to exchange and share documents, queries, and services.44

The rise of interoperability as a key concept in mass digitization is a side-
effect of the increasing complexity of economic, political, and technological
networks. In the twentieth century, most European cultural memory institutions
existed primarily as small “sovereign” institutions, closed spheres governed
by internal logics and with little impetus to open up their internal machinery
to other institutions and cooperate. The early 2000s signaled a shift in the
institutional infrastructural layout of cultural memory institutions, however.
One early significant articulation of this shift was a 324-page European
Commission report entitled _Technological Landscapes for Tomorrow’s Cultural
Economy: Unlocking the Value of Cultural Heritage_ (or the DigiCULT study), a
“roadmap” that outlined the political, organizational, and technological
challenges faced by European museums, libraries, and archives in the period
2002–2006. A central passage noted that the “conditions for success of the
cultural and memory institutions in the Information Society is (sic) the
‘network logic,’ a logic that is of course directly related to the necessity
of being interoperable.” 45 The network logic and resulting demand for
interoperability was not merely a question of digital connections, the report
suggested, but a more pervasive logic of contemporary society. The report thus
conceived interoperability as a question that ran deeper that technological
logic.46 The more complex cultural memory infrastructures become, the more
interoperability is needed if one wants the infrastructures to connect and
communicate with each other.47 As information scholar Christine Borgman notes,
interoperability has therefore long been “the holy grail of digital
libraries”—a statement echoed by Commissioner Reding on Europeana in 2005 when
she stated that “I am not suggesting that the Commission creates a single
library. I envisage a network of many digital libraries—in different
institutions, across Europe.”48 Reding’s statement shows that even at the
height of the French exceptionalist discourse on European mass digitization,
other political forces worked instead to reformat the sovereign sphere into a
network. The unravelling of the bounded spheres of cultural memory
institutions into networked infrastructures is therefore both an effect of,
and the further mobilization of, increased interoperability.

Interoperability is not only a concern for mass digitization projects,
however; rather, the calls for interoperability takes place on a much more
fundamental level. A European Council Conclusion on Europeana identifies
interoperability as a key challenge for the future construction of Europeana,
but also embeds this concern within the overarching European interoperability
strategy, _European Interoperability Framework for pan-European eGovernment
services_. 49 Today, then, interoperability appears to be turning into a
social theory. The extension of the concept of interoperability into the
social sphere naturally follows the socialization of another technical term:
infrastructure. In the past decades, Susan Leigh Star, Geoffrey Bowker, and
others have successfully managed to frame infrastructure “not only in terms of
human versus technological components but in terms of a set of interrelated
social, organizational, and technical components or systems (whether the data
will be shared, systems interoperable, standards proprietary, or maintenance
and redesign factored in).”50 It follows, then, as Christine Borgman notes,
that even if interoperability in technical terms is a “feature of products and
services that allows the connection of people, data, and diverse systems,”51
policy practice, standards and business models, and vested interest are often
greater determinants of interoperability than is technology.52 In similar
terms, information science scholar Jerome Mcdonough notes that “we need to
cease viewing [interoperability] purely as a technical problem, and
acknowledge that it is the result of the interplay of technical and social
factors.”53 Pushing the concept of interoperability even further, legal
scholars Urs Gasser and John Palfrey have even argued for viewing the world
through a theory of interoperability, naming their project “interop theory,”54
while Internet governance scholar Laura Denardis proposes a political theory
of interoperability.55

More than denoting a technical fact, then, interoperability emerges today as
an infrastructural logic, one that promotes openness, modularity, and
connectivity. Within the field of mass digitization, the notion of
interoperability is in particular promoted by the infrastructural workers of
cultural memory (e.g., archivists, librarians, software developers, digital
humanists, etc.) who dream of opening up the silos they work on to enrich them
with new meanings.56 As noted in chapter 1, European cultural memory
institutions had begun to address unconnected institutions as closed “silos.”
Mass digitization offered a way of thinking of these institutions anew—not as
frigid closed containers, but rather as vital connective infrastructures.
Interoperability thus gives rise to a new infrastructural form of cultural
memory: the traditional delineated sovereign spheres of expertise of analog
cultural memory institutions are pried open and reformatted as networked
ecosystems that consist not only of the traditional national public providers,
but also of additional components that have hitherto been alien in the
cultural memory industry, such as private individual users and commercial
industries.57

The logic of interoperability is also born of a specific kind of
infrapolitics: the politics of modular openness. Interoperability is motivated
by the “open” data movements that seek to break down proprietary and
disciplinary boundaries and create new cultural memory infrastructures and
ways of working with their collections. Such visions are often fueled by
Lawrence Lessig’s conviction that “the most important thing that the Internet
has given us is a platform upon which experience is interoperable.”58 And they
have given rise to the plethora of cultural concepts we find on the Internet
in the age of digital capitalism, such as “prosumers”, “produsers”, and so on.
These concepts are becoming more and more pervasive in the digital environment
where “any format of sound can be mixed with any format of video, and then
supplemented with any format of text or images.”59 According to Lessig, the
challenge to this “open” vision are those “who don’t play in this
interoperability game,” and the contestation between the “open” and the
“closed” takes place in the “the network,” which produces “a world where
anyone can clip and combine just about anything to make something new.”60

Despite its centrality in the mass digitization rhetoric, the concept of
interoperability and the politics it produces is rarely discussed in critical
terms. Yet, as Gasser and Palfrey readily conceded in 2007, interoperability
is not necessarily in itself an “unalloyed good.” Indeed, in “certain
instances,” Palfrey and Gasser noted, interoperability brings with it possible
drawbacks such as increased homogeneity, lack of security, lack of
reliability.61 Today, ten years on, Urs Gasser’s and John Palfrey’s admissions
of the drawbacks of interoperability appear too modest, and it becomes clear
that while their theoretical apparatus was able to identify the centrality of
interoperability in a digital world, their social theory missed its larger
political implications.

When scanning the literature and recommendations on interoperability, certain
words emerge again and again: innovation, choice, diversity, efficiency,
seamlessness, flexibility, and access. As Tara McPherson notes in her related
analysis of the politics of modularity, it is not much of a stretch to “layer
these traits over the core tenets of post-Fordism” and note their effect on
society: “time-space compression, transformability, customization, a
public/private blur, etc.”62 The result, she suggests, is a remaking of the
Fordist standardization processes into a “neoliberal rule of modularity.”
Extending McPherson’s critique into the temporal terrain, Franco Bifo Berardi
emphasizes the semantic politics of speed that is also inherent in
connectivity and interoperability: “Connection implies smooth surfaces with no
margins of ambiguity … connections are optimized in terms of speed and have
the potential to accelerate with technological developments.63 The
connectivity enabled by interoperability thus implies modularity with
components necessarily “open to interfacing and interoperability.”
Interoperability, then, is not only a question of openness, but also a way of
harnessing network effects by means of speed and resilience.

While interoperability may be an inherent infrastructural tenet of neoliberal
systems, increased interoperability does not automatically make mass
digitization projects neoliberal. Yet, interoperability does allow for
increased connectivity between individual cultural memory objects and a
neoliberal economy. And while the neoliberal economy may emulate critical
discourses on freedom and creativity, its main concern is profit. The same
systems that allow users to create and navigate collections more freely are
made interoperable with neoliberal systems of control.64

## The “Work” in Networking

What are the effects of interoperability for the user? The culture of
connectivity and interoperability has not only allowed Europeana’s collections
to become more visible to a wider public, it has also enabled these publics to
become intentionally or unintentionally involved in the act of describing and
ordering these same collections, for instance by inviting users to influence
existing collections as well as to generate their own collections. The
increased interaction with works also transform them from stable to mobile
objects.65 Mass digitization has thus transformed curatorial practice,
expanding it beyond the closed spheres of cultural memory institutions into
much broader ecosystems and extending the focus of curatorial attention from
fixed objects to dynamic network systems. As a result, “curatorial work has
become more widely distributed between multiple agents including technological
networks and software.”66 From having played a central role in the curatorial
practice, the curator is now only part of this entire system and increasingly
not central to it. Sharing the curator’s place are users, algorithms, software
engineers, and a multitude of other factors.

At the same time, the information deluge generated by digitization has
enhanced the necessity of curation, both within and outside institutions. Once
considered as professional caretaking for collections, the curatorial concept
has now been modulated to encompass a whole host of activities and agents,
just as curatorial practices are now ever more engaged in epistemic meaning
making, selecting and organizing materials in an interpretive framework
through the aggregation of global connection.67 And as the already monumental
and ever accelerating digital collections exceed human curatorial capacity,
the computing power of machines and cognitive capabilities of ordinary
citizens is increasingly needed to penetrate and make meaning of the data
accumulations.

What role is Europeana’s user given in this new environment? With the
increased modulation of public-private boundaries, which allow different
modules to take on different tasks and on different levels, the strict
separation between institution and environment is blurring in Europeana. So is
the separation between user, curator, consumer, and producer. New characters
have thus arisen in the wake of these transformations, hereunder the two
concepts of the “amateur” and the “citizen scientist.”

In contrast to much of the microlabor that takes place in the digital sphere,
Europeana’s participatory structures often consist in cognitive tasks that are
directly related to the field of cultural memory. This aligns with the
aspirations of the Citizen Science Alliance, which requires that all their
crowdsourcing projects answer “a real scientific research question” and “must
never waste the ‘clicks,’ or time, of volunteers.”68 Citizen science is an
emergent form of research practice in which citizens participate in research
projects on different levels and in different constellations with established
research communities. The participatory structures of citizen science range
from highly complex processes to more simple tasks, such as identifying
colors, themes, patterns that challenge machinic analyses, and so on. There
are different ways of classifying these participatory structures, but the most
prevalent participatory structures in Europeana include:

1. 1\. Contribution, where visitors are solicited to provide limited and specified objects, actions, or ideas to an institutionally controlled process, for example, Europeana’s _1914–1918_ exhibition, which allowed (and still allows) users to contribute photos, letters, and other memorabilia from that period.
2. 2\. Correction and transcription, where users correct faulty OCR scans of books, newspapers, etc.
3. 3\. Contextualization, that is, the practice of placing or studying objects in a meaningful context.
4. 4\. Augmenting collections, that is, enriching collections with additional dimensions. One example is the recently launched Europeana Sound Connections, which encourages and enables visitors to “actively enrich geo-pinned sounds from two data providers with supplementary media from various sources. This includes using freely reusable content from Europeana, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, or even individuals’ own collections.”69
5. 5\. And finally, Europeana also offers participation through classification, that is, a social tagging system in which users contribute with classifications.

All these participatory structures fall within the general rubric of
crowdsourcing, and they are often framed in social terms and held up as an
altruistic alternative to the capitalist exploitation of other crowdsourcing
projects, because, as new media theorist Mia Ridge argues, “unlike commercial
crowdsourcing, participation in cultural memory crowdsourcing is driven by
pleasure, not profit. Rather than monetary recompense, GLAM (Galleries,
Museums, Archives, and Libraries) projects provide an opportunity for
altruistic acts, activated by intrinsic motivations, applied to inherently
engaging tasks, encouraged by a personal interest in the subject or task.”70
In addition—and based on this notion of altruism—these forms of crowdsourcing
are also subversive successors of, or correctives to, consumerism.

The idea of pitting the activities of citizen science against more simple
consumer logics has been at the heart of Europeana since its inception,
particularly influenced by the French philosopher Bernard Stiegler, who has
been instrumental not only in thinking about, but also building, Europeana’s
software infrastructures around the character of the “amateur.” Stiegler’s
thesis was that the amateur could subvert the industrial ethos of production
because he/she is not driven by a desire to consume as much as a desire to
love, and thus is able to imbue the archive with a logic different from pure
production71 without withdrawing from participation (the word “amateur” comes
from the French word _aimer_ ).72 Yet it appears to me that the convergence of
cultural memory ecosystems leaves little room for the philosophical idea of
mobilizing amateurism as a form of resistance against capitalist logics.73 The
blurring of production boundaries in the new cultural memory ecosystems raises
urgent questions to cultural memory institutions of how they can protect the
ethos of the amateur in citizen archives,74 while also aligning them with
institutional strategies of harvesting the “cognitive surplus” of users75 in
environments where play is increasingly taking on aspects of labor and vice
versa. As cultural theorist Angela Mitropoulos has noted, “networking is also
net-working.”76 Thus, while many of the participatory structures we find in
Europeana are participatory projects proper and not just what we might call
participation-lite—or minimal participation77—models, the new interoperable
infrastructures of cultural memory ecosystems make it increasingly difficult
to uphold clear-cut distinctions between civic practice and exploitation in
crowdsourcing projects.

## Collecting Europe

If Europeana is a late-sovereign mass digitization project that maintains
discursive ties to the national imaginary at the same time that it undercuts
this imaginary by means of networked infrastructures through increased
interoperability, the final question is: what does this late-sovereign
assemblage produce in cultural terms? As outlined above, it was an aspiration
of Europeana to produce and distribute European cultural memory by means of
mass digitization. Today, its collection gathers more than 50 million cultural
works in differing formats—from sound bites to photographs, textiles, films,
files, and books. As the previous sections show, however, the processes of
gathering the cultural artifacts have generated a lot of friction, producing a
political reality that in some respects reproduces and accentuates the
existing politics of cultural memory institutions in terms of representation
and ownership, and in other respects gives rise to new forms of cultural
memory politics that part ways with the political regimes of traditional
curatorial apparatuses.

The story of how Europeana’s initial collection was published and later
revised offers a good opportunity to examine its late-sovereign political
dynamics. Europeana launched in 2008, giving access to some 4.5 million
digital objects from more than 1,000 institutions. Shortly after its launch,
however, the site crashed for several hours. The reason given by EU officials
was that Europeana was a victim of its own success: “On the first day of its
launch, Europe’s digital library Europeana was overwhelmed by the interest
shown by millions of users in this new project … thousands of users searching
in the very same second for famous cultural works like the _Mona Lisa_ or
books from Kafka, Cervantes, or James Joyce. … The site was down because of
massive interest, which shows the enormous potential of Europeana for bringing
cultural treasures from Europe’s cultural institutions to the wide public.” 78
The truth, however, lay elsewhere. As a Europeana employee explained, the site
didn’t buckle under the enormous interest shown in it, but rather because
“people were hitting the same things everywhere.” The problem wasn’t so much
the way they were hitting on material, but _what_ they were hitting; the
Europeana employee explained that people’s search terms took the Commission by
surprise, “even hitting things the Commission didn’t want to show. Because
people always search for wrong things. People tend to look at pornographic and
forbidden material such as _Mein Kampf_ , etc.”79 Europeana’s reaction was to
shut down and redesign Europeana’s search interface. Europeana’s crash was not
caused by user popularity, but rather was caused by a decision made by the
Commission and Europeana staff to rework the technical features of Europeana
so that the most popular searches would not be public and to remove
potentially politically contentious material such as _Mein Kampf_ and nude
works by Peter Paul Rubens and Abraham Bloemaert, among others. Another
Europeana employee explained that the launch of Europeana had been forced
through before its time because of a meeting among the cultural ministers in
Europe, making it possible to display only a prototype. This beta version was
coded to reveal the most popular searches, producing a “carousel” of the same
content because, as the previous quote explains, people would search for the
same things, in particular “porn” and “ _Mein Kampf_ ,” allegedly leading the
US press to call Europeana a collection of fascist and porn material.

On a small scale, Europeana’s early glitch highlighted the challenge of how to
police the incoming digital flows from national cultural heritage institutions
for in-copyright works. With hundreds of different institutions feeding
hundreds of thousands of texts, images, and sounds into the portal, scanning
the content for illegal material was an impossible task for Europeana
employees. Many in-copyright works began flooding the portal. One in-copyright
work that appeared in the portal stood out in particular: Hitler’s _Mein
Kampf_. A common conception has been that _Mein Kampf_ was banned after WWII.
The truth was more complicated and involved a complex copyright case. When
Hitler died, his belongings were given to the state of Bavaria, including his
intellectual property rights to _Mein Kampf_. Since Hitler’s copyright was
transferred as part of the Allies’ de-Nazification program, the Bavarian state
allowed no one to republish the book. 80 Therefore, reissues of _Mein Kampf_
only reemerged in 2015, when the copyright was released. The premature digital
distribution of _Mein Kampf_ in Euro­peana was thus, according to copyright
legislation, illegal. While the _Mein Kampf_ case was extraordinary, it
flagged a more fundamental problem of how to police and analyze all the
incoming data from individual cultural heritage institutions.

On a more fundamental level, however, _Mein Kampf_ indicated not only a legal,
but also a political, issue for Europeana: how to deal with the expressions
that Europeana’s feedback mechanisms facilitated. Mass digitization promoted a
new kind of cultural memory logic, namely of feedback. Feedback mechanisms are
central to data-driven companies like Google because they offer us traces of
the inner worlds of people that would otherwise never appear in empirical
terms, but that can be catered to in commercial terms. 81 Yet, while the
traces might interest the corporation (or sociologist) on the hunt for
people’s hidden thoughts, a prestige project such as Europeana found it
untenable. What Europeana wanted was to present Europe’s cultural memory; what
they ended up showing was Europeans’ intense fascination with fascism and
porn. And this was problematic because Europeana was a political project of
representation, not a commercial project of capture.82

Since its glitchy launch, Europeana has refined its interface techniques, is
becoming more attuned to network analytics, and has grown exponentially both
in terms of institutional and in material scope. There are, at the time of
this writing, more than 50 million items in Europeana, and while its numbers
are smaller than Google Books, its scope is much larger, including images,
texts, sounds, videos, and 3-D objects. The platform features carefully
curated exhibitions highlighting European themes, from generalized exhibitions
about World War I and European artworks to much more specialized exhibitions
on, for instance, European cake culture.

But how is Europe represented in statistical terms? Since Europeana’s
inception, there have been huge variances in how much each nation-state
contributes to Europeana.83 So while Europeana is in principle representing
Europe’s collective cultural memory, in reality it represents a highly
fragmented image of Europe with a lot of European countries not even appearing
in the databases. Moreover, even these numbers are potentially misleading, as
one information scholar formerly working with Europeana notes: to pump up
their statistical representation, many institutions strategically invented
counting systems that would make their representation seem bigger than it
really is, for example, by declaring each scanned page in a medieval
manuscript as an object instead of as the entire work.84 The strategic acts of
volume increase are interesting mass digitization phenomena for many reasons:
first, they reveal the ultimately volume-based approach of mass digitization.
According to the scholar, this volume-based approach finds a political support
in the EC system, for whom “the object will always be quantitative” since
volume is “the only thing the commission can measure in terms of funding and
result.”85 In a way then, the statistics tell more than one story: in
political terms, they recount not only the classic tale of a fragmented Europe
but also how Europe is increasingly perceived, represented, and managed by
calculative technologies. In technical terms, they reveal the gray areas of
how to delineate and calculate data: what makes a data object? And in cultural
policy terms, they reflect the highly divergent prioritization of mass
digitization in European countries.

The final question is, then: how is this fragmented European collection
distributed? This is the point where Europeana’s territorial matrix reveals
its ultimately networked infrastructure. Europeana may be entered through
Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and vice versa. Therefore a click on
the aforementioned cake exhibition, for example, takes one straight to Google
Arts and Culture. The transportation from the Europeana platform to Google
happens smoothly, without any friction or notice, and if one didn’t look at
the change in URL, one would hardly notice the change at all since the
interface appears almost similar. Yet, what are the implications of this
networked nature? An obvious consequence is that Europeana is structurally
dependent on the social media and search engine companies. According to one
Europeana report, Google is the biggest source of traffic to the Europeana
portal, accounting for more than 50 percent of visits. Any changes in Google’s
algorithm and ranking index therefore significantly impact traffic patterns on
the Europeana portal, which in turn affects the number of Europeana pages
indexed by Google, which then directly impacts on the number of overall visits
to the Europeana portal.86 The same holds true for Facebook, Pinterest,
Google+, etc.

Held together, the feedback mechanisms, the statistical variance, and the
networked infrastructures of Europeana show just how difficult it is to
collect Europe in the digital sphere. This is not to say that territorial
sentiments don’t have power, however—far from it. Within the digital sphere we
are already seeing territorial statements circulated in Europe on both
national and supranational scales, with potentially far-reaching implications
on both. Yet, there is little to suggest that the territorial sentiments will
reproduce sovereign spheres in practice. To the extent that reterritorializing
sentiments are circulated in globalizing networks, this chapter has sought to
counter both ideas about post sovereignty and pure nationalization, viewing
mass digitization instead through the lens of late-sovereignty. As this
chapter shows, the notion of late-sovereignty allows us to conceptualize mass
digitization programs, such as Europeana, as globalized phenomena couched
within the language of (supra)national sovereignty. In the age where rampant
nationalist movements sweep through globalized communication networks, this
approach feels all the more urgent and applicable not only to mass
digitization programs, but also to reterritorializing communication phenomena
more broadly. Only if we take the ways in which the nationalist imaginary
works in the infrastructural reality of late capitalism, can we begin to
account for the infrapolitics of the highly mediated new territorial
imaginaries.

## Notes

1. Lefler 2007; Henry W., “Europe’s Digital Library versus Google,” Café
Babel, September 22, 2008, /europes-digital-library-versus-google.html>; Chrisafis 2008. 2. While
digitization did not stand apart from the political and economic developments
in the rapidly globalizing world, digital theorists and activists soon gave
rise to the Internet as an inherent metaphor for this integrative development,
a sign of the inevitability of an ultimately borderless world, where as
Negroponte notes, time zones would “probably play a bigger role in our digital
future than trade zones” (Negroponte 1995, 228). 3. Goldsmith and Wu 2006. 4.
Rogers 2012. 5. Anderson 1991. 6. “Jacques Chirac donne l’impulsion à la
création d’une bibliothèque numérique,” _Le Monde_ , March 16, 2005,
donne-l-impulsion-a-la-creation-d-une-bibliotheque-
numerique_401857_3246.html>. 7. Meunier 2007. 8. As Sophie Meunier reminds us,
the _Ursprung_ of the competing universalisms can be located in the two
contemporary revolutions that lent legitimacy to the universalist claims of
both the United States and France. In the wake of the revolutions, a perceived
competition arose between these two universalisms, resulting in French
intellectuals crafting anti-American arguments, not least when French
imperialism “was on the wane and American imperialism on the rise.” See
Meunier 2007, 141. Indeed, Muenier suggests, anti-Americanism is “as much a
statement about France as it is about America—a resentful longing for a power
that France no longer has” (ibid.). 9. Jeanneney 2007, 3. 10. Emile Chabal
thus notes how the term is “employed by prominent politicians, serious
academics, political commentators, and in everyday conversation” to “cover a
wide range of stereotypes, pre-conceptions, and judgments about the Anglo-
American world” (Chabal 2013, 24). 11. Chabal 2013, 24–25. 12. Jeanneney 2007.
13. While Jeanneney framed this French cultural-political endeavor as a
European “contre-attaque” against Google Books, he also emphasized that his
polemic was not at all to be read as a form of aggression. In particular he
pointed to the difficulties of translating the word _défie_ , which featured
in the title of the piece: “Someone rightly pointed out that the English word
‘defy,’ with which American reporters immediately rendered _défie,_ connotes a
kind of violence or aggressiveness that isn’t implied by the French word. The
right word in English is ‘challenge,’ which has a different implication, more
sporting, more positive, more rewarding for both sides” (Jeanneney 2007, 85).
14. See pages 12, 22, and 24 for a few examples in Jeanneney 2007. 15. On the
issue of the common currency, see, for instance, Martin and Ross 2004. The
idea of France as an appropriate spokesperson for Europe was familiar already
in the eighteenth century when Voltaire declared French “la Langue de
l’Europe”; see Bivort 2013. 16. The official thus first noted that, “Everybody
is working on digitization projects … cooperation between Google and the
European project could therefore well occur.” and later added that ”The worst
scenario we could achieve would be that we had two big digital libraries that
don’t communicate. … The idea is not to do the same thing, so maybe we could
cooperate, I don’t know. Frankly, I’m not sure they would be interested in
digitizing our patrimony. The idea is to bring something that is
complementary, to bring diversity. But this doesn’t mean that Google is an
enemy of diversity.” See Labi 2005. 17. Letter from Manuel Barroso to Jaques
Chirac, July 7, 2005,
[http://www.peps.cfwb.be/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&file=fileadmin/sites/numpat/upload/numpat_super_editor/numpat_editor/documents/Europe/Bibliotheques_numeriques/2005.07.07reponse_de_la_Commission_europeenne.pdf&hash=fe7d7c5faf2d7befd0894fd998abffdf101eecf1](http://www.peps.cfwb.be/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&file=fileadmin/sites/numpat/upload/numpat_super_editor/numpat_editor/documents/Europe/Bibliotheques_numeriques/2005.07.07reponse_de_la_Commission_europeenne.pdf&hash=fe7d7c5faf2d7befd0894fd998abffdf101eecf1).
18. As one EC communication noted, a digitization project on the scale of
Europeana could sharpen Europe’s competitive edge in digitization processes
compared to those in the US as well India and China; see European Commission,
“i2010: Digital Libraries,” _COM(2005) 465 final_ , September 30, 2005, [eur-
lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52005DC0465&from=EN](http
://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52005DC0465&from=EN).
19. “Google Books raises concerns in some member states,” as an anonymous
Czech diplomatic source put it; see Paul Meller, “EU to Investigate Google
Books’ Copyright Policies,” _PCWorld_ , May 28, 2009,
.
20. Pfanner 2011; Doward 2009; Samuel 2009. 21. Amicus brief is a legal term
that in Latin means “friend of the court.” Frequently, a person or group who
is not a party to a lawsuit, but has a strong interest in the matter, will
petition the court for permission to submit a brief in the action with the
intent of influencing the court’s decision. 22. See chapter 4 in this volume.
23. de la Durantaye 2011. 24. Kevin J. O’Brien and Eric Pfanner, “Europe
Divided on Google Book Deal,” _New York Times_ , August 23, 2009,
; see
also Courant 2009; Darnton 2009. 25. de la Durantaye 2011. 26. Viviane Reding
and Charlie McCreevy, “It Is Time for Europe to Turn over a New E-Leaf on
Digital Books and Copyright,” MEMO/09/376, September 7, 2009, [europa.eu/rapid
/press-release_MEMO-09-376_en.htm?locale=en](http://europa.eu/rapid/press-
release_MEMO-09-376_en.htm?locale=en). 27. European Commission,
“Europeana—Next Steps,” COM(2009) 440 final, August 28, 2009, [eur-
lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2009:0440:FIN:en:PDF](http
://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2009:0440:FIN:en:PDF).
28. “It is logical that the private partner seeks a period of preferential use
or commercial exploitation of the digitized assets in order to avoid free-
rider behaviour of competitors. This period should allow the private partner
to recoup its investment, but at the same time be limited in time in order to
avoid creating a one-market player situation. For these reasons, the Comité
set the maximum time of preferential use of material digitised in public-
private partnerships at maximum 7 years” (Niggemann 2011). 29. Walker 2003.
30. Within this complex environment it is not even possible to draw boundaries
between the networked politics of the EU and the sovereign politics of member
states. Instead, member states engage in double-talk. As political scientist
Sophie Meunier reminds us, even member states such as France engage in double-
talk on globalization, with France on the one hand becoming the “worldwide
champion of anti-globalization,” and on the other hand “a country whose
economy and society have quietly adapted to this much-criticized
globalization” (Meunier 2003). On political two-level games, see also Putnam
1988. 31. Walker 2003. 32. “Google Books Project to Remove European Titles,”
_Telegraph_ , September 7, 2009,
remove-European-titles.html>. 33. “Europeana Factsheet,” Europeana, September
28, 2015,
/copy-of-europeana-policy-illustrating-the-20th-century-black-hole-in-the-
europeana-dataset.pdf> . 34. C. Handke, L. Guibault, and J. J. Vallbé, “Is
Europe Falling Behind in Data Mining? Copyright’s Impact on Data Mining in
Academic Research,” 2015, id-12015-15-handke-elpub2015-paper-23>. 35. Interview with employee, DG
Copyright, DC Commission, 2010. 36. Interview with employee, DG Information
and Society, DC Commission, 2010. 37. Montagnani and Borghi 2008. 38. Julia
Fallon and Paul Keller, “European Parliament Demands Copyright Rules that
Allow Cultural Heritage Institutions to Share Collections Online,” Europeana
Pro, rules-better-fit-for-a-digital-age>. 39. Jasanoff 2013, 133 40. Ibid. 41. Tate
2001. 42. It would be tempting to suggest the discussion on harmonization
above would apply to interoperability as well. But while the concepts of
harmonization and interoperability—along with the neighboring term
standardization—are used intermittently and appear similar at first glance,
they nevertheless have precise cultural-legal meanings and implicate different
infrastructural set-ups. As noted above, the notion of harmonization is
increasingly used in the legal context of harmonizing regulatory
apparatuses—in the case of mass digitization especially copyright laws. But
the word has a richer semantic meaning, suggesting a search for commonalities,
literally by means of fitting together or arranging units into a whole. As
such the notion of harmony suggests something that is both pleasing and
presupposes a cohesive unit(y), for example, a door hinged to a frame, an arm
hinged to a body. While used in similar terms, the notion of interoperability
expresses a very different infrastructural modality. If harmonization suggests
unity, interoperability rather alludes to modularity. For more on the concepts
of standardization and harmonization in regulatory contexts, see Tay and
Parker 1990. 43. The notion of interoperability is often used to express a
system’s ability to transfer, render and connect to useful information across
systems, and calls for interoperability have increased as systems have become
increasingly complex. 44. There are “myriad technical and engineering issues
associated with connecting together networks, databases, and other computer-
based systems”; digitized cultural memory institutions have the option of
providing “a greater array of services” than traditional libraries and
archives from sophisticated search engines to document reformatting as rights
negotiations; digitized cultural memory materials are often more varied than
the material held in traditional libraries; and finally and most importantly,
mass digitization institutions are increasingly becoming platforms that
connect “a large number of loosely connected components” because no “single
corporation, professional organization, or government” would be able to
provide all that is necessary for a project such as Europeana; not least on an
international scale. EU-NSF Digital Library Working Group on Interoperability
between Digital Libraries Position Paper, 1998,
. 45.  _The
Digicult Report: Technological Landscapes for Tomorrow’s Cultural Economy:
Unlocking the Value of Cultural Heritage: Executive Summary_ (Luxembourg:
Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2002), 80. 46.
“… interoperability in organisational terms is not foremost dependent on
technologies,” ibid. 47. As such they align with what Internet governance
scholar Laura Denardis calls the Internet’s “underlying principle” (see
DeNardis 2014). 48. The results of the EC Working Group on Digital Library
Interoperability are reported in the briefing paper by Stephan Gradman
entitled “Interoperability: A Key Concept for Large Scale, Persistent Digital
Libraries” (Gradmann 2009). 49. “Semantic operability ensures that programmes
can exchange information, combine it with other information resources and
subsequently process it in a meaningful manner: _European Interoperability
Framework for pan-European eGovernment services_ , 2004,
. In the case of
Europeana, this could consist of the development of tools and technologies to
improve the automatic ingestion and interpretation of the metadata provided by
cultural institutions, for example, by mapping the names of artists so that an
artist known under several names is recognised as the same person.” (Council
Conclusions on the Role of Europeana for the Digital Access, Visibility and
Use of European Cultural Heritage,” European Council Conclusion, June 1, 2016,
.) 50.
Bowker, Baker, Millerand, and Ribes 2010. 51. Tsilas 2011, 103. 52. Borgman
2015, 46. 53. McDonough 2009. 54. Palfrey and Gasser 2012. 55. DeNardis 2011.
56. The .txtual Condition: Digital Humanities, Born-Digital Archives, and the
Future Literary; Palfrey and Gasser 2012; Matthew Kirschenbaum, “Distant
Mirrors and the Lamp,” talk at the 2013 MLA Presidential Forum Avenues of
Access session on “Digital Humanities and the Future of Scholarly
Communication.” 57. Ping-Huang 2016. 58. Lessig 2005 59. Ibid. 60. Ibid. 61.
Palfrey and Gasser 2012. 62. McPherson 2012, 29. 63. Berardi, Genosko, and
Thoburn 2011, 29–31. 64. For more on the nexus of freedom and control, see
Chun 2006. 65. The mere act of digitization of course inflicts mobility on an
object as digital objects are kept in a constant state of migration. 66. Krysa
2006. 67. See only the wealth of literature currently generated on the
“curatorial turn,” for example, O’Neill and Wilson 2010; and O’Neill and
Andreasen 2011. 68. Romeo and Blaser 2011. 69. Europeana Sound Connections,
collections-on-a-social-networking-platform.html>. 70. Ridge 2013. 71. Carolyn
Dinshaw has argued for the amateur’s ability in similar terms, focusing on her
potential to queer the archive (see Dinshaw 2012). 72. Stiegler 2003; Stiegler
n.d. The idea of the amateur as a subversive character precedes digitization,
of course. Think only of Roland Barthes’s idea of the amateur as a truly
subversive character that could lead to a break with existing ideologies in
disciplinary societies; see, for instance, Barthes’s celebration of the
amateur as a truly anti-bourgeois character (Barthes 1977 and Barthes 1981).
73. Not least in light of recent writings on the experience as even love
itself as a form of labor (see Weigel 2016). The constellation of love as a
form of labor has a long history (see Lewis 1987). 74. Raddick et al. 2009;
Proctor 2013. 75. “Many companies and institutions, that are successful
online, are good at supporting and harnessing people’s cognitive surplus. …
Users get the opportunity to contribute something useful and valuable while
having fun” (Sanderhoff, 33 and 36). 76. Mitropoulos 2012, 165. 77. Carpentier
2011. 78. EC Commission, “Europeana Website Overwhelmed on Its First Day by
Interest of Millions of Users,” MEMO/08/733, November 21, 2008,
. See also Stephen
Castle, “Europeana Goes Online and Is Then Overwhelmed,” _New York Times_ ,
November 21, 2008,
[nytimes.com/2008/11/22/technology/Internet/22digital.html](http://nytimes.com/2008/11/22/technology/Internet/22digital.html).
79. Information scholar affiliated with Europeana, interviewed by Nanna Bonde
Thylstrup, Brussels, Belgium, 2011. 80. See, for instance, Martina Powell,
“Bayern will mit ‘Mein Kampf’ nichts mehr zu tun haben,” _Die Zeit_ , December
13, 2013, soll-erscheinen>. Bavaria’s restrictive publishing policy of _Mein Kampf_
should most likely be interpreted as a case of preventive precaution on behalf
of the Bavarian State’s diplomatic reputation. Yet by transferring Hitler’s
author’s rights to the Bavarian Ministry, they allocated _Mein Kampf_ to an
existence in a gray area between private and public law. Since then, the book
has been the center of attention in a rift between, on the one hand, the
Ministry of Finance who has rigorously defended its position as the formal
rights holder, and, on the other hand, historians and intellectuals who,
supported the Bavarian science minister Wolfgang Heubisch, have argued that an
academic annotated version of _Mein Kampf_ should be made publicly accessible
in the name of Enlightenment. 81. Latour 2007. 82. Europeana’s more
traditional curatorial approach to mass digitization was criticized not only
by the media, but also others involved in mass digitization projects, who
claimed that Europeana had fundamentally misunderstood the point of mass
digitization. One engineer working on mass digitization projects is the
influential cultural software developer organization, IRI, argued that
Europeana’s production pattern was comparable to “launching satellites”
without thinking of the messages that are returned by the satellites. Google,
he argued, was differently attuned to the importance of feedback, because
“feedback is their business.” 83. In the most recent published report, Germany
contributes with about 15 percent and France with around 16 percent of the
total amount of available works. At the same time, Belgium and Slovenia only
count around 1 percent and Denmark along with Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal,
and a slew of other countries doesn’t even achieve representation in the pie
chart; see “Europeana Content Report,” August 6, 2015,
/europeana-dsi-ms7-content-report-august.pdf>. 84. Europeana information
scholar interview, 2011. 85. Ibid. 86. Wiebe de Jager, “MS15: Annual traffic
report and analysis,” Europeana, May 31 2014,
.

# 4
The Licit and Illicit Nature of Mass Digitization

## Introduction: Lurking in the Shadows

A friend has just recommended an academic book to you, and now you are dying
to read it. But you know that it is both expensive and hard to get your hands
on. You head down to your library to request the book, but you soon realize
that the wait list is enormous and that you will not be able to get your hands
on the book for a couple of weeks. Desperate, you turn to your friend for
help. She asks, “Why don’t you just go to a pirate library?” and provides you
with a link. A new world opens up. Twenty minutes later you have downloaded 30
books that you felt were indispensable to your bookshelf. You didn’t pay a
thing. You know what you did was illegal. Yet you also felt strangely
justified in your actions, not least spurred on by the enthusiastic words on
the shadow library’s front page, which sets forth a comforting moral compass.
You begin thinking to yourself: “Why are pirate libraries deemed more illegal
than Google’s controversial scanning project?” and “What are the moral
implications of my actions vis-à-vis the colonial framework that currently
dictates Europeana’s copyright policies?”

The existence of what this book terms shadow libraries raises difficult
questions, not only to your own moral compass but also to the field of mass
digitization. Political and popular discourses often reduce the complexity of
these questions to “right” and “wrong” and Hollywood narratives of pirates and
avengers. Yet, this chapter wishes to explore the deeper infrapolitical
implications of shadow libraries, setting out the argument that shadow
libraries offer us a productive framework for examining the highly complex
legal landscape of mass digitization. Rather than writing a chapter that
either supports or counters shadow libraries, the chapter seeks to chart the
complexity of the phenomenon and tease out its relevance for mass digitization
by framing it within what we might call an infrapolitics of parasitism.

In _The Parasite_ , a strange and fabulating book that brings together
information theory and cybernetics, physics, philosophy, economy, biology,
politics, and folk tales, French philosopher Michel Serres constructs an
argument about the conceptual figure of the parasite to explore the parasitic
nature of social relations. In a dizzying array of images and thought-
constructs, Serres argues against the idea of a balanced exchange of energy,
suggesting instead that our world is characterized by one parasite stealing
energy by feeding on another organism. For this purpose he reminds us of the
three meanings of parasite in the French language. In French, the term
parasite has three distinct, but related meanings. The first relates to one
organism feeding off another and giving nothing in return. Second, it refers
to the social concept of the freeloader, who lives off society without giving
anything in return. Both of these meanings are fairly familiar to most, and
lay the groundwork for our annoyance with both bugs and spongers. The third
meaning, however, is less known in most languages except French: here the
parasite is static noise or interference in a channel, interrupting the
seemingly balanced flow of things, mediating and thus transforming relations.
Indeed, for Serres, the parasite is itself a disruptive relation (rather than
entity). The parasite can also change positions of sender, receiver, and
noise, making it exceedingly difficult to discern parasite from nonparasite;
indeed, to such an extent that Serres himself exclaims “I no longer really
know how to say it: the parasite parasites the parasites.”1 Serres thus uses
his parasitic model to make a claim about the nature of cybernetic
technologies and the flow of information, arguing that “cybernetics gets more
and more complicated, makes a chain, then a network. Yet it is founded on the
theft of information, quite a simple thing.”2 The logic of the parasite,
Serres argues, is the logic of the interrupter, the “excluded third” or
“uninvited guest” who intercepts and confuses relations in a process of theft
that has a value both of destruction and a value of construction. The parasite
is thus a generative force, inventing, affecting, and transforming relations.
Hence, parasitism refers not only to an act of interference but also to an
interruption that “invents something new.”3

Michel Serres’s then-radical philosophy of the parasite is today echoed by a
broader recognition of the parasite as not only a dangerous entity, but also a
necessary mediator. Indeed, as Jeanette Samyn notes, we are today witnessing a
“pro-parasitic” movement in science in which “scientists have begun to
consider parasites and other pathogens not simply as problems but as integral
components of ecosystems.”4 In this new view, “… the parasite takes from its
host without ever taking its place; it creates new room, feeding off excess,
sometimes killing, but often strengthening its milieu.” In the following
sections, the lens of the parasite will help us explore the murky waters of
shadow libraries, not (only) as entities, but also as relational phenomena.
The point is to show how shadow libraries belong to the same infrapolitical
ecosystem as Google Books and Europeana, sometimes threatening them, but often
also strengthening them. Moreover, it seeks to show how visitors’ interactions
with shadow libraries are also marked by parasitical relations with Google,
which often mediates literature searches, thus entangling Google and shadow
libraries in a parasitical relationship where one feeds off the other and vice
versa.

Despite these entangled relations, the mass digitization strategies of shadow
libraries, Europeana, and Google Books differ significantly. Basically, we
might say that Google Books and Europeana each represent different strategies
for making material available on an industrial scale while maintaining claims
to legality. The sprawling and rapidly growing group of mass digitization
projects interchangeably termed shadow libraries represents a third set of
strategies. Shadow libraries5 share affinities with Europeana and Google Books
in the sense that they offer many of the same services: instant access to a
wealth of cultural works spanning journal articles, monographs, and textbooks
among others. Yet, while Google Books and Europeana promote visibility to
increase traffic, embed themselves in formal systems of communication, and
operate within the legal frameworks of public funding and private contracting,
shadow libraries in contrast operate in the shadows of formal visibility and
regulatory systems. Hence, while formal mass digitization projects such as
Google Books and Europeana publicly proclaim their desire to digitize the
world’s cultural memory, another layer of people, scattered across the globe
and belonging to very diverse environments, harbor the same aspirations, but
in much more subtle terms. Most of these people express an interest in the
written word, a moral conviction of free access, and a political view on
existing copyright regulations as unjust and/or untimely. Some also express
their fascination with the new wonders of technology and their new
infrastructural possibilities. Others merely wish to practice forms of access
that their finances, political regime, or geography otherwise prohibit them
from doing. And all of them are important nodes in a new shadowy
infrastructural system that provides free access worldwide to books and
articles on a scale that collectively far surpasses both Google and Europeana.

Because of their illicit nature, most analyses of shadowy libraries have
centered on their legal transgressions. Yet, their cultural trajectories
contain nuances that far exceed legal binaries. Approaching shadow libraries
through the lens of infrapolitics is helpful for bringing forth these much
more complex cultural mass digitization systems. This chapter explores three
examples of shadow libraries, focusing in particular on their stories of
origin, their cultural economies, and their sociotechnical infrastructures.
Not all shadow libraries fit perfectly into the category of mass digitization.
Some of them are smaller in size, more selective, and less industrial.
Nevertheless, I include them because their open access strategies allow for
unlimited downloads. Thus, shadow libraries, while perhaps selective in size
themselves, offer the opportunity to reproduce works at a massive and
distributed scale. As such, they are the perfect example of a mass
digitization assemblage.

The first case centers on lib.ru, an early Russia-based file-sharing platform
for exchanging books that today has grown into a massive and distributed file-
sharing project. It is primarily run by individuals, but it has also received
public funding, which shows that what at first glance appears as a simple case
of piracy simultaneously serves as a much more complex infrapolitical
structure. The second case, Monoskop, distinguishes itself by its boutique
approach to digitization. Monoskop too is characterized by its territorial
trajectory, rooted in Bratislava’s digital scene as an attempt to establish an
intellectual platform for the study of avant-garde (digital) cultures that
could connect its Bratislava-based creators to a global scene. Finally, the
chapter looks at UbuWeb, a shadow library dedicated to avant-garde cultural
works ranging from text and audio to images and film. Founded in 1996 as a US-
based noncommercial file-sharing site by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in response to
the marginal distribution of crucial avant-garde material, UbuWeb today offers
a wealth of avant-garde sound art, video, and textual works.

As the case studies show, shadow libraries have become significant mass
digitization infrastructures that offer the user free access to academic
articles and books, often by means of illegal file-sharing. They are informal
and unstable networks that rely on active user participation across a wide
spectrum, from deeply embedded people who have established file-sharing sites
to the everyday user occasionally sending the odd book or article to a friend
or colleague. As Lars Eckstein notes, most shadow libraries are characterized
not only by their informal character, but also by the speed with which they
operate, providing “a velocity of media content” which challenges legal
attacks and other forms of countermeasures.6 Moreover, shadow libraries also
often operate in a much more widely distributed fashion than both Europeana
and Google, distributing and mirroring content across multiple servers, and
distributing labor and responsibility in a system that is on the one hand more
robust, more redundant, and more resistant to any single point of failure or
control, and on the other hand more ephemeral, without a central point of
back-up. Indeed, some forms of shadow libraries exist entirely without a
center, instead operating infrastructurally along communication channels in
social media; for example, the use of the Twitter hashtag #ICanHazPDF to help
pirate scientific papers.

Today, shadow libraries exist as timely reminders of the infrapolitical nature
of mass digitization. They appear as hypertrophied versions of the access
provided by Google Books and Europeana. More fundamentally, they also exist as
political symptoms of the ideologies of the digital, characterized by ideals
of velocity and connectivity. As such, we might say that although shadow
libraries often position themselves as subversives, in many ways they also
belong to the same storyline as other mass digitization projects such as
Google Books and Europeana. Significantly, then, shadow libraries are
infrapolitical in two senses: first, they have become central infrastructural
elements in what James C. Scott calls the “infrapolitics of subordinate
groups,” providing everyday resistance by creating entrance points to
hitherto-excluded knowledge zones.7 Second, they represent and produce the
infrapolitics of the digital _tout court_ with their ideals of real-time,
globalized, and unhindered access.

## Lib.ru

Lib.ru is one of the earliest known digital shadow libraries. It was
established by the Russian computer science professor Maxim Moshkov, who
complemented his academic practice of programming with a personal hobby of
file-sharing on the so-called RuNet, the Russian-language segment of the
Internet.8 Moshkov’s collection had begun as an e-book swapping practice in
1990, but in 1994 he uploaded the material to his institute’s web server where
he then divided the site into several section such as “my hobbies,” “my work,”
and “my library.”9 If lib.ru began as a private project, however, the role of
Moshkov’s library soon changed as it quickly became Russia’s preferred shadow
library, with users playing an active role in its expansion by constantly
adding new digitized books. Users would continually scan and submit new texts,
while Moshkov, in his own words, worked as a “receptionist” receiving and
handling the material.10

Shadow libraries such as Moshkov’s were most likely born not only out of a
love of books, but also out of frustration with Russia’s lack of access to up-
to-date and affordable Western works.11 As they continued to grow and gain in
popularity, shadow libraries thus became not only points of access, but also
signs of infrastructural failure in the formal library system.12 After lib.ru
outgrew its initial server storage at Moshkov’s institute, Moshkov divided it
into smaller segments that were then distributed, leaving only the Russian
literary classics on the original site.13 Neighboring sites hosted other
genres, ranging from user-generated texts and fan fiction on a shadow site
called [samizdat.lib.ru](http://samizdat.lib.ru) to academic books in a shadow
library titled Kolkhoz, named after the commons-based agricultural cooperative
of the early Soviet era and curated and managed by “amateur librarians.”14 The
steadily accumulating numbers of added works, digital distributors, and online
access points expanded not only the range of the shadow collections, but also
their networked affordances. Lib.ru and its offshoots thus grew into an
influential node in the global mass digitization landscape, attracting both
political and legal attention.

### Lib.ru and the Law

Until 2004, lib.ru deployed a practice of handling copyright complaints by
simply removing works at the first request from the authors.15 But in 2004 the
library received its first significant copyright claim from the big Russian
publisher Kirill i Mefody (KM). KM requested that Moshkov remove access to a
long list of books, claiming exclusive Internet rights on the books, along
with works that were considered public domain. Moshkov refused to honor the
request, and a lawsuit ensued. The Ostankino Court of Moscow initially denied
the lawsuit because the contracts for exclusive Internet rights were
considered invalid. This did not deter KM, however, which then approached the
case from a different perspective, filing applications on behalf of well-known
Russian authors, including the crime author Alexandra Marinina and the science
fiction writer Eduard Gevorkyan. In the end, only Eduard Gevorkyan maintained
his claim, which was of the considerable size of one million rubles.16

During the trial, Moshkov’s library received widespread support from both
technologists and users of lib.ru, expressed, for example, in a manifesto
signed by the International Union of Internet Professionals, which among other
things touched upon the importance of online access not only to cultural works
but also to the Russian language and culture:

> Online libraries are an exceptionally large intellectual fund. They lessen
the effect of so-called “brain drain,” permitting people to stay in the orbit
of Russian language and culture. Without online libraries, the useful effect
of the Internet and computers in Russian education system is sharply lowered.
A huge, openly available mass of Russian literary texts is a foundation
permitting further development of Russian-language culture, worldwide.17

Emphasizing that Moshkov often had an agreement with the authors he put
online, the manifesto also called for a more stable model of online public
libraries, noting that “A wide list of authors who explicitly permitted
placing their works in the lib.ru library speaks volumes about the
practicality of the scheme used by Maxim Moshkov. However, the litigation
underway shows its incompleteness and weak spots.”18 Significantly, Moshkov’s
shadow library also received both moral and financial support from the state,
more specifically in the form of funding of one million rubles granted by the
Federal Agency for the Press and Mass Media. The funding came with the
following statement from the Agency’s chairman, Mikhail Seslavinsky:
“Following the lively discussion on how copyright could be protected in
electronic libraries, we have decided not to wait for a final decision and to
support the central library of RuNet—Maxim Moshkov’s site.”19 Seslavinsky’s
support not only reflected the public’s support of the digital library, but
also his own deep-seated interests as a self-confessed bibliophile, council
chair of the Russian organization National Union of Bibliophiles since 2011,
and author of numerous books on bibliology and bibliophilia. Additionally, the
support also reflected the issues at stake for the Russian legislative
framework on copyright. The framework had just passed a second reading of a
revised law “On Copyright and Related Rights” in the Russian parliament on
April 21, 2004, extending copyright from 50 years after an author’s death to
70 years, in accordance with international law and as a condition of Russia’s
entry into the World Trade Organization.20

The public funding, Moshkov stated, was spent on modernizing the technical
equipment for the shadow library, including upgrading servers and performing
OCR scanning on select texts.21 Yet, despite the widespread support, Moshkov
lost the copyright case to KM on May 31, 2005. The defeat was limited,
however. Indeed, one might even read the verdict as a symbolic victory for
Moshkov, as the court fined Moshkov only 30,000 rubles, a fragment of what KM
had originally sued for. The verdict did have significant consequences for how
Moshkov manages lib.ru, however. After the trial, Moshkov began extending his
classical literature section and stopped uploading books sent by readers into
his collection, unless they were from authors who submitted them because they
wished to publish in digital form.

What can we glean from the story of lib.ru about the infrapolitics of mass
digitization? First, the story of lib.ru illustrates the complex and
contingent historical trajectory of shadow libraries. Second, as the next
section shows, it offers us the possibility of approaching shadow libraries
from an infrastructural perspective, and exploring the infrapolitical
dimensions of shadow libraries in the area of tension between resistance and
standardization.

### The Infrapolitics of Lib.ru: Infrastructures of Culture and Dissent

While global in reach, lib.ru is first and foremost a profoundly
territorialized project. It was born out of a set of political, economic, and
aesthetic conditions specific to Russia and carries the characteristics of its
cultural trajectory. First, the private governance of lib.ru, initially
embodied by Moshkov, echoes the general development of the Internet in Russia
from 1991 to 1998, which was constructed mainly by private economic and
cultural initiatives at a time when the state was in a period of heavy
transition. Lib.ru’s minimalist programming style also made it a cultural
symbol of the early RuNet, acting as a marker of cultural identity for Russian
Internet users at home and abroad.22

The infrapolitics of lib.ru also carry the traits of the media politics of
Russia, which has historically been split into two: a political and visible
level of access to cultural works (through propaganda), and an infrapolitical
invisible level of contestation and resistance, enabling Russian media
consumers to act independently from official institutionalized media channels.
Indeed, some scholars tie the practice of shadow libraries to the Soviet
Union’s analog shadow activities, which are often termed _samizdat_ , that is,
illegal cultural distribution, including illegally listening to Western radio,
illegally trafficking Western music, and illegally watching Western films.23
Despite often circulating Western pop culture, the late-Soviet era samizdat
practices were often framed as noncapitalist practices of dissent without
profit motives.24 The dissent, however, was not necessarily explicitly
expressed. Lacking the defining fervor of a clear political ideology, and
offering no initiatives to overthrow the Soviet regime, samizdat was rather a
mode of dissent that evaded centralized ideological control. Indeed, as
Aleksei Yurchak notes, samizdat practices could even be read as a mode of
“suspending the political,” thus “avoiding the political concerns that had a
binary logic determined by the sovereign state” to demonstrate “to themselves
and to others that there were subjects, collectivities, forms of life, and
physical and symbolic spaces in the Soviet context that, without being overtly
oppositional or even political, exceeded that state’s abilities to define,
control, and understand them.”25 Yurchak thus reminds us that even though
samizdat was practiced as a form of nonpolitical practice, it nevertheless
inherently had significant political implications.

The infrapolitics of samizdat not only referred to a specific social practice
but were also, as Ann Komaromi reminds us, a particular discourse network
rooted in the technology of the typewriter: “Because so many people had their
own typewriters, the production of samizdat was more individual and typically
less linked to ideology and organized political structures. … The circulation
of Samizdat was more rhizomatic and spontaneous than the underground
press—samizdat was like mushroom ‘spores.’”26 The technopolitical
infrastructure of samizdat changed, however, with the fall of the Berlin Wall
in 1989, the further decentralization of the Russian media landscape, and the
emergence of digitization. Now, new nodes emerged in the Russian information
landscape, and there was no centralized authority to regulate them. Moreover,
the transmission of the Western capitalist system gave rise to new types of
shadow activity that produced items instead of just sharing items, adding a
new consumerist dimension to shadow libraries. Indeed, as Kuznetsov notes, the
late-Soviet samizdat created a dynamic textual space that aligned with more
general tendencies in mass digitization where users were “both readers and
librarians, in contrast to a traditional library with its order, selection,
and strict catalogisation.”27

If many of the new shadow libraries that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s were
inspired by the infrapolitics of samizdat, then, they also became embedded in
an infrastructural apparatus that was deeply nested within a market economy.
Indeed, new digital libraries emerged under such names as Aldebaran,
Fictionbook, Litportal, Bookz.ru, and Fanzin, which developed new platforms
for the distribution of electronic books under the label “Liters,” offering
texts to be read free of charge on a computer screen or downloaded at a
cost.28 In both cases, the authors receive a fee, either from the price of the
book or from the site’s advertising income. Accompanying these new commercial
initiatives, a concomitant movement rallied together in the form of Librusek,
a platform hosted on a server in Ecuador that offered its users the
possibility of uploading works on a distributed basis.29 In contrast to
Moshkov’s centralized control, then, the library’s operator Ilya Larin adhered
to the international piracy movement, calling his site a pirate library and
gracing Librusek’s website with a small animated pirate, complete with sabre
and parrot.

The integration and proliferation of samizdat practices into a complex
capitalist framework produced new global readings of the infrapolitics of
shadow libraries. Rather than reading shadow libraries as examples of late-
socialist infrapolitics, scholars also framed them as capitalist symptoms of
“market failure,” that is, the failure of the market to meet consumer
demands.30 One prominent example of such a reading was the influential Social
Science Research Council report edited by Joe Karaganis in 2006, titled “Media
Piracy in Emerging Economies,” which noted that cultural piracy appears most
notably as “a failure to provide affordable access to media in legal markets”
and concluded that within the context of developing countries “the pirate
market cannot be said to compete with legal sales or generate losses for
industry. At the low end of the socioeconomic ladder where such distribution
gaps are common, piracy often simply is the market.”31

In the Western world, Karaganis’s reading was a progressive response to the
otherwise traditional approach to media piracy as a legal failure, which
argued that tougher laws and increased enforcement are needed to stem
infringing activity. Yet, this book argues that Karaganis’s report, and the
approach it represents, also frames the infrapolitics of shadow libraries
within a consumerist framework that excises the noncommercial infrapolitics of
samizdat from the picture. The increasing integration of Russian media
infrapolitics into Western apparatuses, and the reframing of shadow libraries
from samizdat practices of political dissent to market failure, situates the
infrapolitics of shadow libraries within a consumerist dispositive and the
individual participants as consumers. As some critical voices suggest, this
has an impact on the political potential of shadow libraries because they—in
contrast to samizdat—actually correspond “perfectly to the industrial
production proper to the legal cultural market production.”32 Yet, as the
final section in this chapter shows, one also risks missing the rich nuances
of infrapolitics by conflating consumerist infrastructures with consumerist
practice.33

The political stakes of shadow libraries such as lib.ru illustrate the
difficulties in labeling shadow libraries in political terms, since they are
driven neither by pure globalized dissent nor by pure globalized and
commodified infrastructures. Rather, they straddle these binaries as
infrapolitical entities, the political dynamics of which align both with
standardization and dissent. Revisiting once more the theoretical debate, the
case of lib.ru shows that shadow libraries may certainly be global phenomena,
yet one should be careful with disregarding the specific cultural-political
trajectories that shape each individual shadow library. Lib.ru demonstrates
how the infrapolitics of shadow libraries emerge as infrastructural
expressions of the convergence between historical sovereign trajectories,
global information infrastructures, and public-private governance structures.
Shadow libraries are not just globalized projects that exist in parallel to
sovereign state structures and global economic flows. Instead, they are
entangled in territorial public-private governance practices that produce
their own late-sovereign infrapolitics, which, paradoxically, are embedded in
larger mass digitization problematics, both on their own territory and on the
global scene.

## Monoskop

In contrast to the broad and distributed infrastructure of lib.ru, other
shadow libraries have emerged as specialized platforms that cater to a
specific community and encourage a specific practice. Monoskop is one such
shadow library. Like lib.ru, Monoskop started as a one-man project and in many
respects still reflects its creator, Dušan Barok, who is an artist, writer,
and cultural activist involved in critical practices in the fields of
software, art, and theory. Prior to Monoskop, his activities were mainly
focused on the Bratislava cultural media scene, and Monoskop was among other
things set up as an infrastructural project, one that would not only offer
content but also function as a form of connectivity that could expand the
networked powers of the practices of which Barok was a part.34 In particular,
Barok was interested in researching the history of media art so that he could
frame the avant-garde media practices in which he engaged in Bratislava within
a wider historical context and thus lend them legitimacy.

### The Shadow Library as a Legal Stratagem

Monoskop was partly motivated by Barok’s own experiences of being barred from
works he deemed of significance to the field in which he was interested. As he
notes, the main impetus to start a blog “came from a friend who had access to
PDFs of books I wanted to read but could not afford go buy as they were not
available in public libraries.”35 Barok thus began to work on Monoskop with a
group of friends in Bratislava, initially hiding it from search engine bots to
create a form of invisibility that obfuscated its existence without, however,
preventing people from finding the Log and uploading new works. Information
about the Log was distributed through mailing lists on Internet culture, among
many other posts on e-book torrent trackers, DC++ networks, extensive
repositories such as LibGen and Aaaaarg, cloud directories, document-sharing
platforms such as Issuu and Scribd, and digital libraries such as the Internet
Archive and Project Gutenberg.36 The shadow library of Monoskop thus slowly
began to emerge, partly through Barok’s own efforts at navigating email lists
and downloading material, and partly through people approaching Monoskop
directly, sending it links to online or scanned material and even offering it
entire e-book libraries. Rather than posting these “donated” libraries in
their entirety, however, Barok and his colleagues edited the received
collection and materials so that they would fit Monoskop’s scope, and they
also kept scanning material themselves.

Today Monoskop hosts thematically curated collections of downloadable books on
art, culture, media studies, and other topics, partly in order to stimulate
“collaborative studies of the arts, media, and humanities.”37 Indeed, Monoskop
operates with a _boutique_ approach, offering relatively small collections of
personally selected publications to a steady following of loyal patrons who
regularly return to the site to explore new works. Its focal points are
summarized by its contents list, which is divided into three main categories:
“Avant-garde, modernism and after,” “Media culture,” and “Media, theory and
the humanities.” Within these three broad focal points, hundreds of links
direct the user to avant-garde magazines, art exhibitions and events, art and
design schools, artistic and cultural themes, and cultural theorists.
Importantly, shadow libraries such as Monoskop do not just host works
unbeknownst to the authors—authors also leak their own works. Thus, some
authors publishing with brand name, for-profit, all-rights-reserving, print-
on-paper-only publishing houses will also circulate a copy of their work on a
free text-sharing network such as Monoskop. 38

How might we understand Monoskop’s legal situation and maneuverings in
infrapolitical terms? Shadow libraries such as Monoskop draw their
infrapolitical strength not only from the content they offer but also from
their mode of engagement with the gray zones of new information
infrastructures. Indeed, the infrapolitics of shadow libraries such as
Monoskop can perhaps best be characterized as a stratagematic form of
infrapolitics. Monoskop neither inhabits the passive perspective of the
digital spectator nor deploys a form of tactics that aims to be failure free.
Rather, it exists as a body of informal practices and knowledges, as cunning
and dexterous networks that actively embed themselves in today’s
sociotechnical infrastructures. It operates with high sociotechnical
sensibilities, living off of the social relations that bring it into being and
stabilize it. Most significantly, Monoskop skillfully exploits the cracks in
the infrastructures it inhabits, interchangeably operating, evading, and
accompanying them. As Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey point out in their
meditation on stratagems in digital media, they do “not cohere into a system”
but rather operate as “extensive, open-ended listing[s]” that “display a
certain undecidability because inevitably a stratagem does not describe or
prescribe an action that is certain in its outcome.”39 Significantly, then,
failures and errors not only represent negative occurrences in stratagematic
approaches but also appeal to willful dissidents as potentially beneficial
tools. Dušan Barok’s response to a question about the legal challenges against
Monoskop evidences this stratagematic approach, as he replies that shadow
libraries such as Monoskop operate in the “gray zone,” which to him is also
the zone of fair use.40 Barok thus highlights the ways in which Monoskop
engages with established media infrastructures, not only on the level of
discursive conventions but also through their formal logics, technical
protocols, and social proprieties.

Thus, whereas Google lights up gray zones through spectacle and legal power
plays, and Europeana shuns gray zones in favor of the law, Monoskop literally
embraces its shadowy existence in the gray zones of the law. By working in the
shadows, Monoskop and likeminded operations highlight the ways in which the
objects they circulate (including the digital artifacts, their knowledge
management, and their software) can be manipulated and experimented upon to
produce new forms of power dynamics.41 Their ethics lie more in the ways in
which they operate as shadowy infrastructures than in intellectual reflections
upon the infrastructures they counter, without, however, creating an
opposition between thinking and doing. Indeed, as its history shows, Monoskop
grew out of a desire to create a space for critical reflection. The
infrapolitics of Monoskop is thus an infrapolitics of grayness that marks the
breakdown of clearly defined contrasts between legal and illegal, licit and
illicit, desire and control, instead providing a space for activities that are
ethically ambiguous and in which “everyone is sullied.”42

### Monoskop as a Territorializing Assemblage

While Monoskop’s stratagems play on the infrapolitics of the gray zones of
globalized digital networks, the shadow library also emerges as a late-
sovereign infrastructure. As already noted, Monoskop was from the outset
focused on surfacing and connecting art and media objects and theory from
Central and Eastern Europe. Often, this territorial dimension recedes into the
background, with discussions centering more on the site’s specialized catalog
and legal maneuvers. Yet Monoskop was initially launched partly as a response
to criticisms on new media scenes in the Slovak and Czech Republics as
“incomprehensible avant-garde.”43 It began as a simple invite-only instance of
wiki in August 2004, urging participants to collaboratively research the
history of media art. It was from the beginning conceived more as a
collaborative social practice and less as a material collection, and it
targeted noninstitutionalized researchers such as Barok himself.

As the nodes in Monoskop grew, its initial aim to research media art history
also expanded into looking at wider cultural practices. By 2010, it had grown
into a 100-gigabyte collection which was organized as a snowball research
collection, focusing in particular on “the white spots in history of art and
culture in East-Central Europe,” spanning “dozens of CDs, DVDs, publications,
as well as recordings of long interviews [Barok] did”44 with various people he
considered forerunners in the field of media arts. Indeed, Barok at first had
no plans to publish the collection of materials he had gathered over time. But
during his research stay in Rotterdam at the influential Piet Zwart Institute,
he met the digital scholars Aymeric Mansoux and Marcell Mars, who were both
active in avant-garde media practices, and they convinced him to upload the
collection.45 Due to the fragmentary character of his collection, Barok found
that Monoskop corresponded well with the pre-existing wiki, to which he began
connecting and embedding videos, audio clips, image files, and works. An
important motivating factor was the publication of material that was otherwise
unavailable online. In 2009, Barok launched Monoskop Log, together with his
colleague Tomáš Kovács. This site was envisioned as an affiliated online
repository of publications for Monoskop, or, as Barok terms it, “a free access
living archive of writings on art, culture, and media technologies.”46

Seeking to create situated spaces of reflection and to shed light on the
practices of media artists in Eastern and Central Europe, Monoskop thus
launched several projects devoted to excavating media art from a situated
perspective that takes its local history into account. Today, Monoskop remains
a rich source of information about artistic practices in Central and Eastern
Europe, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, relating it not
only to the art histories of the region, but also to its history of
cybernetics and computing.

Another early motivation for Monoskop was to provide a situated nodal point in
the globalized information infrastructures that emphasized the geographical
trajectories that had given rise to it. As Dušan Barok notes in an interview,
“For a Central European it is mind-boggling to realize that when meeting a
person from a neighboring country, what tends to connect us is not only
talking in English, but also referring to things in the far West. Not that the
West should feel foreign, but it is against intuition that an East-East
geographical proximity does not translate into a cultural one.”47 From this
perspective, Monoskop appears not only as an infrapolitical project of global
knowledge, but also one of situated sovereignty. Yet, even this territorial
focus holds a strategic dimension. As Barok notes, Monoskop’s ambition was not
only to gain new knowledge about media art in the region, but also to cash in
on the cultural capital into which this knowledge could potentially be
converted. Thus, its territorial matrix first and foremost translates into
Foucault’s famous dictum that “knowledge is power.” But it is nevertheless
also testament to the importance of including more complex spatial dynamics in
one’s analytical matrix of shadow libraries, if one wishes to understand them
as more than globalized breakers of code and arbiters of what Manuel Castells
once called the “space of flows.”48

## UbuWeb

If Monoskop is one of the most comprehensive shadow libraries to emerge from
critical-artistic practice, UbuWeb is one of the earliest ones and has served
as an inspirational example for Monoskop. UbuWeb is a website that offers an
encyclopedic scope of downloadable audio, video, and plain-text versions of
avant-garde art recordings, films, and books. Most of the books fall in the
category of small-edition artists’ books and are presented on the site with
permission from the artists in question, who are not so concerned with
potential loss of revenue since most of the works are officially out of print
and never made any money even when they were commercially available. At first
glance, UbuWeb’s aesthetics appear almost demonstratively spare. Still
formatted in HTML, it upholds a certain 1990s net aesthetics that has resisted
the revamps offered by the new century’s more dynamic infrastructures. Yet, a
closer look reveals that UbuWeb offers a wealth of content, ranging from high
art collections to much more rudimentary objects. Moreover, and more
fundamentally, its critical archival practice raises broader infrapolitical
questions of cultural hierarchies, infrastructures, and domination.

### Shadow Libraries between Gift Economies and Marginalized Forms of
Distribution

UbuWeb was founded by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in response to the marginal
distribution of crucial avant-garde material. It provides open access both to
out-of-print works that find a second life through digital art reprint and to
the work of contemporary artists. Upon its opening in 2001, Kenneth Goldsmith
termed UbuWeb’s economic infrastructure a “gift economy” and framed it as a
political statement that highlighted certain problems in the distribution of
and access to intellectual materials:

> Essentially a gift economy, poetry is the perfect space to practice utopian
politics. Freed from profit-making constraints or cumbersome fabrication
considerations, information can literally “be free”: on UbuWeb, we give it
away. … Totally independent from institutional support, UbuWeb is free from
academic bureaucracy and its attendant infighting, which often results in
compromised solutions; we have no one to please but ourselves. … UbuWeb posts
much of its content without permission; we rip full-length CDs into sound
files; we scan as many books as we can get our hands on; we post essays as
fast as we can OCR them. And not once have we been issued a cease and desist
order. Instead, we receive glowing emails from artists, publishers, and record
labels finding their work on UbuWeb, thanking us for taking an interest in
what they do; in fact, most times they offer UbuWeb additional materials. We
happily acquiesce and tell them that UbuWeb is an unlimited resource with
unlimited space for them to fill. It is in this way that the site has grown to
encompass hundreds of artists, thousands of files, and several gigabytes of
poetry.49

At the time of its launch, UbuWeb garnered extraordinary attention and divided
communities along lines of access and rights to historical and contemporary
artists’ media. It was in this range of responses to UbuWeb that one could
discern the formations of new infrastructural positions on digital archives,
how they should be made available, and to whom. Yet again, these legal
positions were accompanied by a territorial dynamic, including the impact of
regional differences in cultural policy on UbuWeb. Thus, as artist Jason Simon
notes, there were significant differences between the ways in which European
and North American distributors related to UbuWeb. These differences, Simon
points out, were rooted in “medium-specific questions about infrastructure,”
which differ “from the more interpretive discussion that accompanied video's
wholesale migration into fine art exhibition venues.”50 European pre-recession
public money thus permitted nonprofit distributors to embrace infrastructures
such as UbuWeb, while American distributors were much more hesitant toward
UbuWeb’s free-access model. When recession hit Europe in the late 2000s,
however, the European links to UbuWeb’s infrastructures crumbled while “the
legacy American distributors … have been steadily adapting.”51 The territorial
modulations in UbuWeb’s infrastructural set-up testify not only to how shadow
libraries such as UbuWeb are inherently always linked up to larger political
events in complex ways, but also to latent ephemerality of the entire project.

Goldsmith has more than once asserted that UbuWeb’s insistence on
“independent” infrastructures also means a volatile existence: “… by the time
you read this, UbuWeb may be gone. Cobbled together, operating on no money and
an all-volunteer staff, UbuWeb has become the unlikely definitive source for
all things avant-garde on the internet. Never meant to be a permanent archive,
Ubu could vanish for any number of reasons: our ISP pulls the plug, our
university support dries up, or we simply grow tired of it.” Goldsmith’s
emphasis on the ephemerality of UbuWeb is a shared condition of most shadow
libraries, most of which exist only as ghostly reminders with nonfunctional
download links or simply as 404 pages, once they pull the plug. Rather than
lamenting this volatile existence, however, Goldsmith embraces it as an
infrapolitical stance. As Cornelia Solfrank points out, UbuWeb was—and still
is—as much an “archival critical practice that highlights the legal and social
ramifications of its self-created distribution and archiving system as it is
about the content hosted on the site.”52 UbuWeb is thus not so much about
authenticity as it is about archival defiance, appropriation, and self-
reflection. Such broader and deeper understandings of archival theory and
practice allow us to conceive of it as the kind of infrapolitics that,
according to James C. Scott, “provides much of the cultural and structural
underpinning of the more visible political attention on which our attention
has generally been focused.”53 The infrapolitics of UbuWeb is devoted to
hatching new forms of organization, creating new enclaves of freedom in the
midst of orthodox ways of life, and inventing new structures of production and
dissemination that reveal not only the content of their material but also
their marginalized infrastructural conditions and the constellation of social
forces that lead to their online circulation.54

The infrapolitics of UbuWeb is testament not only to avant-garde cultures, but
also to what Hito Steyerl in her _Defense of Poor Images_ refers to as the
“neoliberal radicalization of the culture as commodity” and the “restructuring
of global media industries.” 55 These materials “circulate partly in the void
left by state organizations” that find it too difficult to maintain digital
distribution infrastructures and the art world’s commercial ecosystems, which
offer the cultural materials hosted on UbuWeb only a liminal existence. Thus,
while UbuWeb on the one hand “reveals the decline and marginalization of
certain cultural materials” whose production were often “considered a task of
the state,”56 on the other hand it shows how intellectual content is
increasingly privatized, not only in corporate terms but also through
individuals, which in UbuWeb’s case is expressed in Kenneth Goldsmith, who
acts as the sole archival gatekeeper.57

## The Infrapolitics of Shadow Libraries

If the complexity of shadow libraries cannot be reduced to the contrastive
codes of “right” and “wrong” and global-local binaries, the question remains
how to theorize the cultural politics of shadow libraries. This final section
outlines three central infrapolitical aspects of shadow libraries: access,
speed, and gift.

Mass digitization poses two important questions to knowledge infrastructures:
a logistical question of access and a strategic question of to whom to
allocate that access. Copyright poses a significant logistical barrier between
users and works as a point of control in the ideal free flow of information.
In mass digitization, increased access to information stimulates projects,
whereas in publishing industries with monopoly possibilities, the drive is
toward restriction and control. The uneasy fit between copyright regulations
and mass digitization projects has, as already shown, given rise to several
conflicts, either as legal battles or as copyright reform initiatives arguing
that current copyright frameworks cast doubt upon the political ideal of total
access. As with Europeana and Google Books, the question of _access_ often
stands at the core of the infrapolitics of shadow libraries. Yet, the
strategic responses to the problem of copyright vary significantly: if
Europeana moves within the established realm of legality to reform copyright
regulations and Google Books produces claims to new cultural-legal categories
such as “nonconsumptive reading,” shadow libraries offer a third
infrastructural maneuver—bypassing copyright infrastructures altogether
through practices of illicit file distribution.

Shadow libraries elicit a range of responses and discourses that place
themselves on a spectrum between condemnation and celebration. The most
straightforward response comes, unsurprisingly, from the publishing industry,
highlighting the fundamentally violent breaches of the legal order that
underpins the media industry. Such responses include legal action, policy
initiatives, and public campaigns against piracy, often staging—in more or
less explicit terms—the “pirate” as a common enemy of mankind, beyond legal
protection and to be fought by whatever means necessary.

The second response comes from the open source movement, represented among
others by the pro-reform copyright movement Creative Commons (CC), whose
flexible copyright framework has been adopted by both Europeana and Google
Books.58 While the open source movement has become a voice on behalf of the
telos of the Internet and its possibilities of offering free and unhindered
access, its response to shadow libraries has revealed the complex
infrapolitics of access as a postcolonial problematic. As Kavita Philip
argues, CC’s founder Lawrence Lessig maintains the image of the “good” Western
creative vis-à-vis the “bad” Asian pirate, citing for instance his statement
in his influential book _Free Culture_ that “All across the world, but
especially in Asia and Eastern Europe, there are businesses that do nothing
but take other people’s copyrighted content, copy it, and sell it. … This is
piracy plain and simple, … This piracy is wrong.” 59 Such statements, Kavita
Philip argues, frames the Asian pirate as external to order, whether it be the
order of Western law or neoliberalism.60

The postcolonial critique of CC’s Western normative discourse has instead
sought to conceptualize piracy, not as deviatory behavior in information
economies, but rather as an integral infrastructure endemic to globalized
information economies.61 This theoretical development offers valuable insights
for understanding the infrapolitics of shadow libraries. First of all, it
allows us to go beyond moral discussions of shadow libraries, and to pay
attention instead to the ways in which their infrastructures are built, how
they operate, and how they connect to other infrastructures. As Lawrence Liang
points out, if infrastructures traditionally belong to the domain of the
state, often in cooperation with private business, pirate infrastructures
operate in the gray zones of this set-up, in much the same way as slums exist
as shadow cities and copies are regarded as shadows of the original.62
Moreover, and relatedly, it reminds us of the inherently unstable form of
shadow libraries as a cultural construct, and the ways in which what gets
termed piracy differs across cultures. As Brian Larkin notes, piracy is best
seen as emerging from specific domains: dynamic localities with particular
legal, aesthetic, and social assemblages.63 In a final twist, research on
users of shadow libraries shows that usage of shadow libraries is distributed
globally. Multiple sources attest to the fact that most Sci-Hub usage occurs
outside the Anglosphere. According to Alexa Internet analytics, the top five
country sources of traffic to Sci-Hub were China, Iran, India, Brazil, and
Japan, which account for 56.4 percent of recent traffic. As of early 2016,
data released by Sci-Hub’s founder Alexandra Elbakyan also shows high usage in
developed countries, with a large proportion of the downloads coming from the
US and countries within the European Union.64 The same tendency is evident in
the #ICanHazPDF Twitter phenomenon, which while framed as “civil disobedience”
to aid users in the Global South65 nevertheless has higher numbers of posts
from the US and Great Britain.66

This brings us to the second cultural-political production, namely the
question of distribution. In their article “Book Piracy as Peer Preservation,”
Denis Tenen and Maxwell Henry Foxman note that rather than condemning book
piracy _tout court_ , established libraries could in fact learn from the
infrastructural set-ups of shadow libraries in relation to participatory
governance, technological innovation, and economic sustainability.67 Shadow
libraries are often premised upon an infrastructure that includes user
participation without, however, operating in an enclosed sphere. Often, shadow
libraries coordinate their actions by use of social media platforms and online
forums, including Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook, and the primary websites used
to host the shared files are AvaxHome, LibGen, and Sci-Hub. Commercial online
cloud storage accounts (such as Dropbox and Google Drive) and email are also
used to share content in informal ways. Users interested in obtaining an
article or book chapter will disseminate their request over one or more of the
platforms mentioned above. Other users of those platforms try to get the
requested content via their library accounts or employer-provided access, and
the actual files being exchanged are often hosted on other websites or emailed
to the requesting users. Through these networks, shadow libraries offer
convenient and speedy access to books and articles. Little empirical evidence
is available, but one study does indicate that a large number of shadow
library downloads are made because obtaining a PDF from a shadow library is
easier than using the legal access methods offered by a university’s
traditional channels of access, including formalized research libraries.68
Other studies indicate, however, that many downloads occur because the users
have (perceived) lack of full-text access to the desired texts.69

Finally, as indicated in the introduction to this chapter, shadow libraries
produce what we might call a cultural politics of parasitism. In the normative
model of shadow libraries, discourse often centers upon piracy as a theft
economy. Other discourses, drawing upon anthropological sources, have pointed
out that peer-to-peer file-sharing sites in reality organize around a gift
economy, that is, “a system of social solidarity based on a structured set of
gift exchange and social relationships among consumers.”70 This chapter,
however, ends with a third proposal: that shadow libraries produce a
parasitical form of infrapolitics. In _The Parasite_ , philosopher Michel
Serres speculates a way of thinking about relations of transfer—in social,
biological, and informational contexts—as fundamentally parasitic, that is, a
subtractive form of “taking without giving.” Serres contrasts the parasitic
model with established models of society based on notions such as exchange and
gift giving.71 Shadow libraries produce an infrapolitics that denies the
distinction between producers and subtractors of value, allowing us instead to
focus on the social roles infrastructural agents perform. Restoring a sense of
the wider context of parasitism to shadow libraries does not provide a clear-
cut solution as to when and where shadow libraries should be condemned and
when and where they should be tolerated. But it does help us ask questions in
a different way. And it certainly prevents the regarding of shadow libraries
as the “other” in the landscape of mass digitization. Shadow libraries
instigate new creative relations, the dynamics of which are infrastructurally
premised upon the medium they use. Just as typewriters were an important
component of samizdat practices in the Soviet Union, digital infrastructures
are central components of shadow libraries, and in many respects shadow
libraries bring to the fore the same cultural-political questions as other
forms of mass digitization: questions of territorial imaginaries,
infrastructures, regulation, speed, and ethics.

## Notes

1. Serres 1982, 55. 2. Serres 1982, 36. 3. Serres 1982, 36. 4. Samyn 2012. 5.
I stick with “shadow library,” a term that I first found in Lawrence Liang’s
(2012) writings on copyright and have since seen meaningfully unfolded in a
variety of contexts. Part of its strength is its sidestepping of the question
of the pirate and that term’s colonial connotations. 6. Eckstein and Schwarz
2014. 7. Scott 2009, 185–201. 8. See also Maxim Moshkov’s own website hosted
on lib.ru, . 9. Carey 2015. 10. Schmidt 2009. 11. Bodó
2016. “Libraries in the post-scarcity era.” As Balazs Bodó notes, the first
Russian mass-digitized shadow archives in Russia were run by professors from
the hard sciences, but the popularization of computers soon gave rise to much
more varied and widespread shadow library terrain, fueled by “enthusiastic
readers, book fans, and often authors, who spared no effort to make their
favorite books available on FIDOnet, a popular BBS system in Russia.” 12.
Stelmakh 2008, 4. 13. Bodó 2016. 14. Bodó 2016. 15. Vul 2003. 16. “In Defense
of Maxim Moshkov's Library,” n.d., The International Union of Internet
Professionals, . 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid. 19.
Schmidt 2009, 7. 20. Ibid. 21. Carey 2015. 22. Mjør 2009, 84. 23. Bodó 2015.
24. Kiriya 2012. 25. Yurchak 2008, 732. 26. Komaromi, 74. 27. Mjør, 85. 28.
Litres.ru, . 29. Library Genesis,
. 30. Kiriya 2012. 31. Karaganis 2011, 65, 426. 32.
Kiriya 2012, 458. 33. For a great analysis of the late-Soviet youth’s
relationship with consumerist products, read Yurchak’s careful study in
_Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation_
(2006). 34. “Dušan Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 35. Ibid. 36.
Ibid. 37. Monoskop,” last modified March 28, 2018, Monoskop.
. . 38. “Dušan
Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 39. Fuller and Goffey 2012, 21. 40.
“Dušan Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 11. 41. In an interview, Dušan
Barok mentions his inspirations, including early examples such as textz.com, a
shadow library created by the Berlin-based artist Sebastian Lütgert. Textz.com
was one of the first websites to facilitate free access to books on culture,
politics, and media theory in the form of text files. Often the format would
itself toy with legal limits. Thus, Lütgert declared in a mischievous manner
that the website would offer a text in various formats during a legal debacle
with Surhkamp Verlag: “Today, we are proud to announce the release of
walser.php (), a 10,000-line php script
that is able to generate the plain ascii version of ‘Death of a Critic.’ The
script can be redistributed and modified (and, of course, linked to) under the
terms of the GNU General Public License, but may not be run without written
permission by Suhrkamp Verlag. Of course, reverse-engineering the writings of
senile German revisionists is not the core business of textz.com, so
walser.php includes makewalser.php, a utility that can produce an unlimited
number of similar (both free as in speech and free as in copy) php scripts for
any digital text”; see “Suhrkamp recalls walser.pdf, textz.com releases
walser.php,” Rolux.org,
.
42. Fuller and Goffey 2012, 11. 43. “MONOSKOP Project Finished,” COL-ME Co-
located Media Expedition, [www.col-me.info/node/841](http://www.col-
me.info/node/841). 44. “Dušan Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 45.
Aymeric Mansoux is a senior lecturer at the Piet Zwart Institute whose
research deals with the defining, constraining, and confining of cultural
freedom in the context of network-based practices. Marcel Mars is an advocate
of free software and a researcher who is also active in a shadow library named
_Public Library,_ (also interchangeably
known as Memory of the World). 46. “Dušan Barok,” Memory of the World,
. 47. “Dušan Barok: Interview,”
_Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 48. Castells 1996. 49. Kenneth Goldsmith,”UbuWeb Wants
to Be Free” (last modified July 18, 2007),
. 50. Jacob King and
Jason Simon, “Before and After UbuWeb: A Conversation about Artists’ Film and
Video Distribution,” _Rhizome_ , February 20, 2014.
artists-film-and-vid>. 51. King and Simon 2014. 52. Sollfrank 2015. 53. Scott
1990, 184. 54. For this, I am indebted to Hito Steyerl’s essay ”In Defense of
the Poor Image,” in her book _The Wretched of the Screen_ , 31–59. 55. Steyerl
2012, 36. 56. Steyerl 2012, 39. 57. Sollfrank 2015. 58. Other significant open
source movements include Free Software Foundation, the Wikimedia Foundation,
and several open access initiatives in science. 59. Lessig 2005, 57. 60.
Philip 2005, 212. 61. See, for instance, Larkin 2008; Castells and Cardoso
2012; Fredriksson and Arvanitakis 2014; Burkart 2014; and Eckstein and Schwarz
2014. 62. Liang 2009. 63. Larkin 2008. 64. John Bohannon, “Who’s Downloading
Pirated Papers? Everyone,” _Science Magazine_ , April 28, 2016,
everyone>. 65. “The Scientists Encouraging Online Piracy with a Secret
Codeword,” _BBC Trending_ , October 21, 2015, trending-34572462>. 66. Liu 2013. 67. Tenen and Foxman 2014. 68. See Kramer
2016. 69. Gardner and Gardner 2017. 70. Giesler 2006, 283. 71. Serres 2013, 8.

# III
Diagnosing Mass Digitization

# 5
Lost in Mass Digitization

## The Desire and Despair of Large-Scale Collections

In 1995, founding editor of _Wired_ magazine Kevin Kelly mused upon how a
digital library would look:

> Two decades ago nonlibrarians discovered Borges’s Library in silicon
circuits of human manufacture. The poetic can imagine the countless rows of
hexagons and hallways stacked up in the Library corresponding to the
incomprehensible micro labyrinth of crystalline wires and gates stamped into a
silicon computer chip. A computer chip, blessed by the proper incantation of
software, creates Borges’s Library on command. … Pages from the books appear
on the screen one after another without delay. To search Borges’s Library of
all possible books, past, present, and future, one needs only to sit down (the
modern solution) and click the mouse.1

At the time of Kelly’s writing, book digitization on a massive scale had not
yet taken place. Building his chimerical dream around Jorge Luis Borges’s own
famous magic piece of speculation regarding the Library of Babel, Kelly not
only dreamed up a fantasy of what a digital library might be in an imaginary
dialogue with Borges; he also argued that Jorge Luis Borges’s vision had
already taken place, by grace of nonlibrarians, or—more
specifically—programmers. Specifically, Kelly mentions Karl Sims, a computer
scientist working on a supercomputer called Connection Machine 5 (you may
remember it from the set of _Jurassic Park_ ), who had created a simulated
version of Borges’s library.2

Twenty years after Kelly’s vision, a whole host of mass digitization projects
have sought more or less explicitly to fulfill Kelly’s vision. Incidentally,
Brewster Kahle, one of the lead engineers of the aforementioned Connection
Machine, has become a key figure in the field. Kahle has long dreamed of
creating a universal digital library, and has worked to fulfill it in
practical terms through the nonprofit Internet Archive project, which he
founded in 1996 with the stated mission of creating “universal access to all
knowledge.” In an op-ed in 2017, Kahle lamented the recent lack of progress in
mass digitization and argued for the need to create a new vision for mass
digitization, stating, “The Internet Archive, working with library partners,
proposes bringing millions of books online, through purchase or digitization,
starting with the books most widely held and used in libraries and
classrooms.”3 Reminding us that three major entities have “already digitized
modern materials at scale: Google, Amazon, and the Internet Archive, probably
in that order of magnitude,”4 Kahle nevertheless notes that “bringing
universal access to books” has not yet been achieved because of a fractured
field that diverges on questions of money, technology, and legal clarity. Yet,
outlining his new vision for how a sustainable mass digitization project could
be achieved, Kahle remains convinced that mass digitization is both a
necessity and a possibility.

While Brewster Kahle, Kevin Kelly, Google, Amazon, Europeana’s member
institutions, and others disagree on how to achieve mass digitization, for
whom, and in what form, they are all united in their quest for digitization on
a massive scale. Many shadow libraries operate with the same quantitative
statements, proudly asserting the quantities of their massive holdings on the
front page.

Given the fractured field of mass digitization, and the lack of economic
models for how to actually make mass digitization sustainable, why does the
common dream of mass digitization persist? As this chapter shows, the desire
for quantity, which drives mass digitization, is—much like the Borges stories
to which Kelly also refers—laced with ambivalence. On the one hand, the
quantitative aspirations are driven forth by the basic assumption that “more
is more”: more data and more cultural memory equal better industrial and
intellectual progress. One the other hand, the sheer scale of ambition also
causes frustration, anxiety, and failed plans.

The sense that sheer size and big numbers hold the promise of progress and
greatness is nothing new, of course. And mass digitization brings together
three fields that have each historically grown out of scalar ambitions:
collecting practices, statistics, and industrialization processes.
Historically, as cultural theorist Couze Venn reminds us, most large
collections bear the imprint of processes of (cultural) colonization, human
desires, and dynamics of domination and superiority. We therefore find in
large collections the “impulses and yearnings that have conditioned the
assembling of most of the collections that today establish a monument to past
efforts to gather together knowledge of the world and its treasury of objects
and deeds.”5 The field of statistics, moreover, so vital to the evolution of
modern governance models, is also premised upon the accumulation of ever-more
information.6 And finally, we all recognize the signs of modern
industrialization processes as they appear in the form of globalization,
standardization, and acceleration. Indeed, as French sociologist Henri
Lefebvre once argued (with a nod to Marx), the history of modern society could
plainly and simply be seen as the history of accumulation: of space, of
capital, of property.7

In mass digitization, we hear the political echoes of these histories. From
Jeanneney’s war cry to defend European patrimonies in the face of Google’s
cultural colonization to Google’s megalomaniac numbers game and Europeana’s
territorial maneuverings, scale is used as a point of reference not only to
describe the space of cultural objects in themselves but also to outline a
realm of cultural command.

A central feature in the history of accumulation and scale is the development
of digital technology and the accompanying new modes of information
organization. But even before then, the invention of new technologies offered
not only new modes of producing and gathering information and new
possibilities of organizing information assemblages, but also new questions
about the implications of these leaps in information production. As historians
Ann Blair and Peter Stallybrass show, “infolust,” that is, the cultural
attitude that values expansive collections for long-term storage, emerged in
the early Renaissance period.8 In that period, new print technology gave rise
to a new culture of accumulating and stockpiling notes and papers, even
without having a specific compositional purpose in mind. Within this scholarly
paradigm, new teleologies were formed that emphasized the latent value of any
piece of information, expressed for instance by Joachim Jungius’s exclamation
that “no field was too remote, no author too obscure that it would not yield
some knowledge or other” and Gabriel Naudé’s observation that there is “no
book, however bad or decried, which will not be sought after by someone over
time.”9 The idea that any piece of information was latently valuable was later
remarked upon by Melvin Dewey, who noted at the beginning of the twentieth
century that a “normal librarian’s instinct is to keep every book and
pamphlet. He knows that possibly some day, somebody wants it.”10

Today, mass digitization repeats similar concerns. It reworks the old dream of
an all-encompassing and universal library and has foregrounded once again
questions about what to save and what to let go. What, one might ask, would
belong in such a library? One important field of interest is the question of
whether, and how, to preserve metadata—today’s marginalia. Is it sufficient to
digitize cultural works, or should all accompanying information about the
provenance of the work also be included? And how can we agree upon what
marginalia actually is across different disciplines? Mass digitization
projects in natural history rarely digitize marginalia such as logs and
written accounts, focusing only on what to that discipline is the main object
at hand, for example, a piece of rock, a fly specimen, a pressed plant. Yet,
in the history of science, logs are an invaluable source of information about
how the collected object ended up in the collection, the meaning it had to the
collector, and the place it takes in the collection.11 In this way, new
questions with old trajectories arise: What is important for understanding a
collection and its life? What should be included and excluded? And how will we
know what will turn out to be important in the future?

In the era of big data, the imperative is often to digitize and “save all.”
Prestige mass digitization projects such as Google Books and Europeana have
thus often contextualized their importance in terms of scale. Indeed, as we
saw in the previous chapters, the question of scale has been a central point
of political contestation used to signal infrastructural power. Thus the hype
around Google Books, as well as the political ire it drew, centered on the
scale of the project just as quantitative goals are used in Europeana to
signal progress and significance. Inherent in these quantitative claims are
not only ideas about political power, but also the widespread belief in
digital circles—and the political regimes that take inspiration from them—that
the more information the user is able to access, the more empowered the user
is to navigate and make meaning on their own. In recent years, the imaginaries
of freedom of navigation have also been adjoined by fantasies of freedom of
infrastructural construction through the image of the platform. Mass
digitization projects should therefore not only offer the user the potential
to navigate collections freely, but also to build new products and services on
top of them.12 Yet, as this chapter argues, the ethos of potentially unlimited
expansion also prompts a new set of infrapolitical questions about agency and
control. While these questions are inherently related to the larger questions
of territory and power explored in the previous chapters, they occur on a
different register, closer to the individual user and within the spatialized
imaginaries of digital information.

As many critics have noted, the logic of expansion and scale, and the
accompanying fantasies of the empowered user, often builds on neoliberal
subjectification processes. While highly seductive, they often fail to take
into account the reality of social complexity. Therefore, as Lisa Nakamura
notes, the discourse of complete freedom of navigation through technological
liberation—expressed aptly in Microsoft’s famous slogan “Where do you want to
go today?”—assumes, wrongly, that everyone is at liberty to move about
unhindered.13 And the fantasy of empowerment through platforming is often also
shot through with neoliberal ideals that not only fail to take into account
the complex infrapolitical realities of social interaction, but also rely on
an entrepreneurial epistemology that evokes “a flat, two-dimensional stage on
which resources are laid out for users to do stuff with” and which we are not
“inclined to look underneath or behind it, or to question its structure.”14

This chapter unfolds these central infrapolitical problematics of the spatial
imaginaries of knowledge in relation to a set of prevalent cultural spatial
tropes that have gained new life in digital theory and that have informed the
construction and development of mass digitization projects: the flaneur, the
labyrinth, and the platform. Cultural reports, policy papers, and digital
design strategies often use these three tropes to elicit images of pleasure
and playfulness in mass digitization projects; yet, as the following sections
show, they also raise significant questions of control and agency, not least
against the backdrop of ever-increasing scales of information production.

## Too Much—Never Enough

The question of scale in mass digitization is often posed as a rational quest
for knowledge accumulation and interoperability. Yet this section argues that
digitized collections are more than just rational projects; they strike deep
affective cords of desire, domination, and anxiety. As Couze Venn reminds us,
collections harbor an intimate connection between cognition and affective
economy. In this connection, the rationalized drive to collect is often
accompanied by a slippage, from a rationalized urge to a pathological drive
ultimately associated with desire, power, domination, anxiety, nostalgia,
excess, and—sometimes even—compulsion and repetition.15 The practice of
collecting objects thus not only signals a rational need but often also
springs from desire, and as psychoanalysis has taught us, a sense of lack is
the reflection of desire. As Slavoj Zizek puts it, “desire’s _raison d’être_
is not to realize its goal, to find full satisfaction, but to reproduce itself
as desire.” 16 Therefore, no matter how much we collect, the collector will
rarely experience their collection as complete and will often be haunted by
the desire to collect more.

In addition to the frightening (yet titillating) aspect of never having our
desires satisfied, large collections also give rise to a set of information
pathologies that, while different in kind, share an understanding of
information as intimidation. The experience is generally induced by two
inherently linked factors. First, the size of the cultural collection has
historically also often implied a powerful collector with the means to gather
expensive materials from all over the world, and a large collection has thus
had the basic function of impressing and, if need be, intimidating people.
Second, large collections give rise to the sheer subjective experience of
being overwhelmed by information and a mental incapacity to take it all in.
Both factors point to questions of potency and importance. And both work to
instill a fear in the visitor. As Voltaire once noted, “a great library has
the quality of frightening those who look upon it.”17

The intimidating nature of large collections has been a favored trope in
cultural representations. The most famous example of a gargantuan, even
insanity-inducing, library is of course Jorge Luis Borges’s tale of the
Library of Babel, the universal totality of which becomes both a monstrosity
in the characters’ lives and a source of hope, depending on their willingness
to make peace and submit themselves to the library’s infinite scale and
Kafkaesque organization.18 But Borges’s nonfiction piece from 1939, _The Total
Library,_ also serves as an elegant tale of an informational nightmare. _The
Total Library_ begins by noting that the dream of the utopia of the total
library “has certain characteristics that are easily confused with virtues”
and ends with a more somber caution: “One of the habits of the mind is the
invention of horrible imaginings. … I have tried to rescue from oblivion a
subaltern horror: the vast, contradictory Library, whose vertical wildernesses
of books run the incessant risk of changing into others that affirm, deny, and
confuse everything like a delirious god.” 19

Few escape the intimidating nature of large collections. But while attention
has often been given to the citizen subjected to the disciplining force of the
sovereign state in the form of its institutions, less attention has been given
to those that have had to structure and make sense of these intimidating
collections. Until recently, cultural collections were usually oriented toward
the figure of the patron or, in more abstract geographical terms, (God-given)
patrimony. Renaissance cabinets of curiosities were meant to astonish and
dazzle; the ostentatious wealth of the Baroque museums of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries displayed demonstrations of Godly power; and bourgeois
museums of the nineteenth century positioned themselves as national
institutions of _Bildung_. But while cultural memory institutions have worked
first and foremost to mirror to an external audience the power and the psyche
of their owners in individual, religious, and/or geographical terms, they have
also consistently had to grapple internally with the problem of how to best
organize and display these collections.

One of the key generators of anxiety in vast libraries has been the question
of infrastructure. Each new information paradigm and each new technology has
induced new anxieties about how best to organize information. The fear of
disorder haunted both institutions and individuals. In his illustrious account
of Ephraim Chamber’s _Cyclopaedia_ (the forerunner of Denis Diderot’s and Jean
le Rond d’Alembert’s famous Enlightenment project, the _Encyclopédie_ ),
Richard Yeo thus recounts how Gottfried Leibniz complained in 1680 about “that
horrible mass of books which keeps on growing” so that eventually “the
disorder will become nearly insurmountable.”20 Five years on, the French
scholar and critic Adrien Baillet warned his readers, “We have reason to fear
that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will
make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the
centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.”21 And centuries later,
in the wake of the typewriter, the annual report of the Secretary of the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, drew attention to the
infrastructural problem of organizing the information that was now made
available through the typewriter, noting that “about twenty thousand volumes …
purporting to be additions to the sum of human knowledge, are published
annually; and unless this mass be properly arranged, and the means furnished
by which its contents may be ascertained, literature and science will be
overwhelmed by their own unwieldy bulk.”22 The experience of feeling
overwhelmed by information and lacking the right tools to handle it is no
joke. Indeed, a number of German librarians actually went documentably insane
between 1803 and 1825 in the wake of the information glut that followed the
secularization of ecclesiastical libraries.23 The desire for grand collections
has thus always also been followed by an accompanying anxiety relating to
questions of infrastructure.

As the history of collecting pathologies shows, reducing mass digitization
projects to rational and technical information projects would deprive them of
their rich psychological dimensions. Instead of discounting these pathologies,
we should acknowledge them, and examine not only their nature, but also their
implications for the organization of mass digitization projects. As the
following section shows, the pathologies not only exist as psychological
forces, but also as infrastructural imaginaries that directly impact theories
on how best to organize information in mass digitization. If the scale of mass
digitization projects is potentially limitless, how should they be organized?
And how will we feel when moving about in their gargantuan archives?

## The Ambivalent flaneur

In an article on cultures of archiving, sociologist Mike Featherstone asked
whether “the expansion of culture available at our fingertips” could be
“subjected to a meaningful ordering,” or whether the very “desire to remedy
fragmentation” should be “seen as clinging to a form of humanism with its
emphasis upon cultivation of the persona and unity which are now regarded as
merely nostalgic.”24 Featherstone raised the question in response to the
popularization of the Internet at the turn of the millennium. Yet, as the
previous section has shown, his question is probably as old as the collecting
practices themselves. Such questions have become no less significant with mass
digitization. How are organizational practices conceived of as meaningful
today? As we shall see, this question not only relates to technical
characteristics but is also informed by a strong spatial imaginary that often
takes the shape of labyrinthine infrastructures and often orients itself
toward the figure of the user. Indeed, the role of the organizer of knowledge,
and therefore the accompanying responsibility of making sense of collections,
has been conferred from knowledge professionals to individuals.

Today, as seen in all the examples of mass digitization we have explored in
the previous chapters, cultural memory institutions face a different paradigm
than that of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century disciplining cultural
memory institution. In an age that encourages individualism, democratic
ideals, and cultural participation, the orientations of the cultural memory
institutions have shifted in discourse, practice, or both, toward an emphasis
on the importance of the subjective experience and active participation of the
individual visitor. As part of this shift, and as a result of the increasing
integration of the digital imaginary and production apparatus into the field
of cultural memory, the visitor has thus metamorphosed from a disciplinary
subject to a prosumer, produser, participant, and/or user.

The organizational shift in the cultural memory ecosystem means that
visionaries and builders of mass digitization infrastructures now pay
attention not only to how collections may reflect upon the institution that
holds the collection, but also on how the user experiences the informational
navigation of collections. This is not to say that making an impression, or
even disciplining the user, is not a concern for many mass digitization
projects. Mass digitizations’ constant public claims to literal greatness
through numbers evidence this. Yet, today’s projects also have to contend with
the opinion of the public and must make their projects palatable and
consumable rather than elitist and intimidating. The concern of the builders
of mass digitization infrastructure is therefore not only to create an
internal logic to their collections, but also to maximize the user’s
experience of being offered a wealth of information, while mitigating the
danger of giving the visitor a sense of losing oneself, or even drowning, in
information. An important question for builders of mass digitization projects
has therefore been how to build visual and semantic infrastructures that offer
the user a sense of meaningful direction as well as a desire to keep browsing.

While digital collections are in principle no longer tethered to their
physical origins in spatial terms, we still encounter ideas about them in
spatialized terms, often using notions such as trails, paths, and alleyways to
visualize the spaces of digital collections.25 This form of spatialized logic
did not emerge with the mass digitization of cultural heritage collections,
however, but also resides at the heart of some of the most influential early
digital theories on the digital realm.26 These theorized and conceptualized
the web as a new form of architectural infrastructure, not only in material
terms (such as cables and servers) but also as a new experiential space.27 And
in this spatialized logic, the figure of the flaneur became a central
character. Thus, we saw in the 1990s the rise of a digital interpretation of
the flaneur, originally an emblematic figure of modern urban culture at the
turn of the twentieth century, in the form of the virtual flaneur or the
cyberflaneur. In 1994, German net artists Heiko Idensen and Matthias Krohn
paid homage to the urban figure, noting in a text that “the screen winks at
the flaneur” and locating the central tenets of computer culture with the
“intoxication of the flânerie. Screens as streets and homes … of the crowd?”28
Later, artist Steven Goldate provided a simple equation between online and
offline spaces, noting among other things that “What the city and the street
was to the flaneur, the Internet and the Superhighway have become to the
Cyberflaneur.”29

Scholars, too, explored the potentials and limits of thinking about the user
of the Internet in flaneurian terms. Thus, Mike Featherstone drew parallels
between the nineteenth-century flaneur and the virtual flaneur, exploring the
similarities and differences between navigational strategies, affects, and
agencies in the early urban metropolis and the emergent digital realm of the
1990s.30

Although the discourse on the digital flaneur was most prevalent in the 1990s,
it still lingers on in contemporary writings about digitized cultural heritage
collections and their design. A much-cited article by computer scientists
Marian Dörk, Sheelagh Carpendale, and Carey Williamson, for instance, notes
the striking similarity between the “growing cities of the 19th century and
today’s information spaces” and the relationship between “the individual and
the whole.”31 Dörk, Carpendale, and Williamson use the figure of the flaneur
to emphasize the importance of supporting not only utilitarian information
needs through grand systems but also leisurely information surfing behaviors
on an individual level. Dörk, Carpendale, and Willliamson’s reflections relate
to the experience of moving about in a mass of information and ways of making
sense of this information. What does it mean to make sense of mass
digitization? How can we say or know that the past two hours we spent
rummaging about in the archives of Google Books, digging deeper in Europeana,
or following hyperlinks in Monoskop made sense, and by whose standards? And
what are the cultural implications of using the flaneur as a cultural
reference point for these ideals? We find few answers to these questions in
Dörk, Carpendale, and Williamson’s article, or in related articles that invoke
the flaneur as a figure of inspiration for new search strategies. Thus, the
figure of the flaneur is predominantly used to express the pleasurable and
productive aspect of archival navigation. But in its emphasis on pleasure and
leisure, the figure neglects the much more ambivalent atmosphere that
enshrouds the flaneur as he navigates the modern metropolis. Nor does it
problematize the privileged viewpoint of the flaneur.

The character of the flaneur, both in its original instantiations in French
literature and in Walter Benjamin’s early twentieth-century writings, was
certainly driven by pleasure; yet, on a more fundamental level, his existence
was also, as Elizabeth Wilson points out in her feminist reading of the
flaneur, “a sorrowful engagement with the melancholy of cities,” which arose
“partly from the enormous, unfulfilled promise of the urban spectacle, the
consumption, the lure of pleasure and joy which somehow seem destined to be
disappointed.”32 Far from an optimistic and unproblematic engagement with
information, then, the figure of the flaneur also evokes deeper anxieties
arising from commodification processes and the accompanying melancholic
realization that no matter how much one strolls and scrolls, nothing one
encounters can ever fully satisfy one’s desires. Benjamin even strikingly
spatializes (and sexualizes) this mental state in an infrastructural
imaginary: the labyrinth. The labyrinth is thus, Benjamin suggests, “the home
of the hesitant. The path of someone shy of arrival at a goal easily takes the
form of a labyrinth. This is the way of the (sexual) drive in those episodes
which precede its satisfaction.”33

Benjamin’s hesitant flaneur caught in an unending maze of desire stands in
contrast to the uncomplicated flaneur invoked in celebratory theories on the
digital flaneur. Yet, recent literature on the design of digital realms
suggests that the hesitant man caught in a drive for more information is a
much more accurate image of the digital flaneur than the man-in-the-know.34
Perhaps, then, the allegorical figure of the flaneur in digital design should
be used less to address pleasurable wandering and more to invoke “the most
characteristic response of all to the wholly new forms of life that seemed to
be developing: ambivalence.”35 Caught up in the commodified labyrinth of the
modern digitized archive, the digital flaneur of mass digitization might just
as easily get stuck in a repetitive, monotonous routine of scrolling and
downloading new things, forever suspended in a state of unfulfilled desire,
than move about in meaningful and pleasurable ways.36

Moreover, and just as importantly, the figure of the flaneur is also entangled
in a cultural matrix of assumptions about gender, capabilities, and colonial
implications. In short: the flaneur is a white, able-bodied male. As feminist
theory attests to, the concept of the flaneur is male by definition. Some
feminists such as Griselda Pollock and Janet Wolff have denied the possibility
of a female variant altogether, because of women’s status as (often absent)
objects rather than subjects in the nineteenth-century urban environment.37
Others, such as Elizabeth Wilson, Deborah Epstein Nord, and Mica Nava have
complicated the issue by alluding the opportunities and limitations of
thinking about a female variant of the flaneur, for instance a flâneuse.38
These discussions have also reverberated in the digital sphere in new
variations.39 Whatever position one assumes, it is clear that the concept of
the flaneur, even in its female variant, is a complicated figure that has
problematic allusions to a universal privileged figure.

In similar terms, the flaneur also has problematic colonial and racial
connotations. As James Smalls points out in his essay “'Race As Spectacle in
Late-Nineteenth-Century French Art and Popular Culture,” the racial dimension
of the flaneur is “conspicuously absent” from most critical engagements with
the concept.40 Yet, as Smalls notes, the question of race is crucial, since
“the black man … is not privileged to lose himself in the Parisian crowd, for
he is constantly reminded of his epidermalized existence, reflected back at
him not only by what he sees, but by what we see as the assumed ‘normal’
white, universal spectator.”41 This othering is, moreover, not limited to the
historical scene of nineteenth-century Paris, but still remains relevant
today. Thus, as Garnette Cadogan notes in his essay “Walking While Black,”
non-white people are offered none of the freedoms of blending into the crowd
that Baudelaire’s and Benjamin’s flaneurs enjoyed. “Walking while black
restricts the experience of walking, renders inaccessible the classic Romantic
experience of walking alone. It forces me to be in constant relationship with
others, unable to join the New York flaneurs I had read about and hoped to
join.”42

Lastly, the classic figure of the flaneur also assumes a body with no
disabilities. As Marian Ryan notes in an essay in the _New York Times_ , “The
art of flânerie entails blending into the crowd. The disabled flaneur can’t
achieve that kind of invisibility.”43 What might we take from these critical
interventions into the uncomplicated discourse of the flaneur? Importantly,
they counterbalance the dominant seductive image of the empowered user, and
remind us of the colonial male gaze inherent in any invocation of the metaphor
of the flaneur, which for the majority of users is a subject position that is
simply not available (nor perhaps desirable).

The limitations of the figure of the flaneur raise questions not only about
the metaphor itself, but also about the topography of knowledge production it
invokes. As already noted, Walter Benjamin placed the flaneur within a larger
labyrinthine topology of knowledge production, where the flaneur could read
the spectacle in front of him without being read himself. Walter Benjamin
himself put the flaneur to rest with an analysis of an Edgar Allen Poe story,
where he analyzed the demise of the flaneur in an increasingly capitalist
topography, noting in melancholy terms that, “The bazaar is the last hangout
of the flaneur. If in the beginning the street had become an interieur for
him, now this interieur turned into a street, and he roamed through the
labyrinth of merchandise as he had once roamed through the labyrinth of the
city. It is a magnificent touch in Poe’s story that it includes along with the
earliest description of the flaneur the figuration of his end.”44 In 2012,
Evgeny Morozov in similar terms declared the death of the cyberflaneur.
Linking the commodification of urban spaces in nineteenth-century Paris to the
commodification of the Internet, Morozov noted that “it’s no longer a place
for strolling—it’s a place for getting things done” and that “Everything that
makes cyberflânerie possible—solitude and individuality, anonymity and
opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking—is under
assault.”45 These two death sentences, separated by a century, link the
environment of the flaneur to significant questions about the commodification
of space and its infrapolitical implications.

Exploring the implications of this topography, the following section suggests,
will help us understand the infrapolitics of the spatial imaginaries of mass
digitization, not only in relation to questions of globalization and late
sovereignty, but also to cultural imaginaries of knowledge infrastructures.
Indeed, these two dimensions are far from mutually exclusive, but rather
belong to the same overarching tale of the politics of mass digitization.
Thus, while the material spatial infrastructures of mass digitization projects
may help us appreciate certain important political dynamics of Europeana,
Google Books, and shadow libraries (such as their territorializing features or
copyright contestations in relation to knowledge production), only an
inclusion of the infrastructural imaginaries of knowledge production will help
us understand the complex politics of mass digitization as it metamorphoses
from analog buildings, shelves, and cabinets to the circulatory networks of
digital platforms.

## Labyrinthine Imaginaries: Infrastructural Perspectives of Power and
Knowledge Production

If the flaneur is a central early figure in the cultural imaginary of the
observer of cultural texts, the labyrinth has long served as a cultural
imaginary of the library, and, in larger terms, the spatialized
infrastructural conditions of knowledge and power. Thus, literature is rife
with works that draw on libraries and labyrinths to convey stories about
knowledge production and the power struggles hereof. Think only of the elderly
monk-librarian in Umberto Eco’s classic, _The Name of the Rose,_ who notes
that: “the library is a great labyrinth, sign of the labyrinth of the world.
You enter and you do not know whether you will come out” 46; or consider the
haunting images of being lost in Jose Luis Borges’s tales about labyrinthine
libraries.47 This section therefore turns to the infrastructural space of the
labyrinth, to show that this spatial imaginary, much like the flaneur, is
loaded with cultural ambivalence, and to explore the ways in which the
labyrinthine infrastructural imaginary emphasizes and crystallizes the
infrapolitical tension in mass digitization projects between power and
perspective, agency and environment, playful innovation and digital labor.

The labyrinth is a prevalent literary trope, found in authors from Ovid,
Virgil, and Dante to Dickens and Nietzsche, and it has been used particularly
in relation to issues of knowledge and agency, and in haunting and nightmarish
terms in modern literature.48 As the previous section indicates, the labyrinth
also provides a significant image for understanding our relationship to mass
digitization projects as sites of both knowledge production and experience.
Indeed, one shadow library is even named _Aleph_ , which refers to the ancient
Hebrew letter and likely also nods at Jose Luis Borges’s labyrinthine short
story, _Aleph,_ on infinite labyrinthine architectures. Yet, what kind of
infrastructure is a labyrinth, and how does it relate to the potentials and
perils of mass digitization?

In her rich historical study of labyrinths, Penelope Doob argues that the
labyrinth possesses a dual potentiality: on the one hand, if experienced from
within, the labyrinth is a sign of confusion; on the other, when viewed from
above, it is a sign of complex order.49 As Harold Bloom notes, “all of us have
had the experience of admiring a structure when outside it, but becoming
unhappy within it.”50 Envisioning the labyrinth from within links to a
claustrophobic sense of ignorance, while also implying the possibility of
progress if you just turn the next corner. What better way to describe one’s
experience in the labyrinthine infrastructures of mass digitization projects
such as Google Books with its infrastructural conditions and contexts of
experience and agency? On the one hand, Google Books appears to provide the
view from above, lending itself as a logistical aid in its information-rich
environment. On the other hand, Google Books also produces an alienating
effect of impenetrability on two levels. First, although Google presents
itself as a compass, its seemingly infinite and constantly rearranging
universe nevertheless creates a sense of vertigo, only reinforced by the
almost existential question “Do you feel lucky?” Second, Google Books also
feels impenetrable on a deeper level, with its black-boxed governing and
ordering principles, hidden behind complex layers of code, corporate cultures,
and nondisclosure agreements.51 But even less-commercial mass digitization
projects such as, for instance, Europeana and Monoskop can produce a sense of
claustrophobia and alienation in the user. Think only of the frustration
encountered when reaching dead ends in the form of broken links or in lack of
access set down by European copyright regulations. Or even the alienation and
dissatisfaction that can well up when there are seemingly no other limits to
knowledge, such as in Monoskop, than one’s own cognitive shortcomings.

The figure of the labyrinth also serves as a reminder that informational
strolling is not only a leisurely experience, but also a laborious process.
Penelope Doob thus points out the common medieval spelling of labyrinth as
_laborintus_ , which foregrounds the concept of labor and “difficult process,”
whether frustrating, useful, or both.52 In an age in which “labor itself is
now play, just as play becomes more and more laborious,”53 Doob’s etymological
excursion serves to highlight the fact that in many mass digitization projects
it is indeed the user’s leisurely information scrolling that in the end
generates profit, cultural value, and budgetary justification for mass
digitization platforms. Jose van Dijck’s analysis of the valuation of traffic
in a digital environment is a timely reminder of how traffic is valued in a
cultural memory environment that increasingly orients itself toward social
media, “Even though communicative traffic on social media platforms seems
determined by social values such as popularity, attention, and connectivity,
they are impalpably translated into monetary values and redressed in business
models made possible by digital technology.”54 This is visible, for instance,
in Europeana’s usage statistic reports, which links the notions of _traffic_
and _performance_ together in an ontological equation (in this equation poor
performance inevitably means a mark of death). 55 In a blogpost marking the
launch of the _Europeana Statistics Dashboard_ , we are told that information
about mass digitization traffic is “vital information for a modern cultural
institution for both reporting and planning purposes and for public
accountability.”56 Thus, although visitors may feel solitary in their digital
wanderings, their digital footsteps are in fact obsessively traced and tracked
by mass digitization platforms and often also by numerous third parties.

Today, then, the user is indeed at work as she makes her way in the
labyrinthine infrastructures of mass digitization by scrolling, clicking,
downloading, connecting, and clearing and creating new paths. And while
“search” has become a keyword in digital knowledge environments, digital
infrastructures in mass digitization projects in fact distract as much as they
orient. This new economy of cultural memory begs the question: if mass
digitization projects, as labyrinthine infrastructures, invariably disorient
the wanderer as much as they aid her, how might we understand their
infrapolitics? After all, as the previous chapters have shown, mass
digitization projects often present a wide array of motivations for why
digitization should happen on a massive scale, with knowledge production and
cultural enlightenment usually featuring as the strongest arguments. But as
the spatialized heuristics of the flaneur and the labyrinth show, knowledge
production and navigation is anything but a simple concept. Rather, the
political dimensions of mass digitization discussed in previous chapters—such
as standardization, late sovereignty, and network power—are tied up with the
spatial imaginaries of what knowledge production and cultural memory are and
how they should and could be organized and navigated.

The question of the spatial imaginaries of knowledge production and
imagination has a long philosophic history. As historian David Bates notes,
knowledge in the Enlightenment era was often imagined as a labyrinthine
journey. A classic illustration of how this journey was imagined is provided
by Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Louis Castilhon, whose frustration is
palpable in this exclamation: “How cruel and painful is the situation of a
Traveller who has imprudently wandered into a forest where he knows neither
the winding paths, nor the detours, nor the exits!”57 These Enlightenment
journeys were premised upon an infrastructural framework that linked error and
knowledge, but also upon an experience of knowledge quests riddled by loss of
oversight and lack of a compass. As the previous sections show, the labyrinth
as a form of knowledge production in relation to truth and error persists as
an infrastructural trope in the digital. Yet, it has also metamorphosed
significantly since Castilhon. The labyrinthine infrastructural imaginaries we
find in digital environments thus differ significantly from more classical
images, not least under the influence of the rhizomatic metaphors of
labyrinths developed by Deleuze and Guattari and Eco. If the labyrinth of the
Renaissance had an endpoint and a truth, these new labyrinthine
infrastructures, as Kristin Veel points out, had a much more complex
relationship to the spatial organization of the truth. Eco and Deleuze and
Guattari thus conceived of their labyrinths as networks “in which all points
can be connected with one another” with “no center” but “an almost unlimited
multiplicity of alternative paths,” which makes it “impossible to rise above
the structure and observe it from the outside, because it transcends the
graphic two-dimensionality of the two earlier forms of labyrinths.”58 Deleuze
expressed the senselessness of these contemporary labyrinths as a “theater
where nothing is fixed, a labyrinth without a thread (Ariadne has hung
herself).”59

In mass digitization, this new infrastructural imaginary feeds a looming
concern over how best to curate and infrastructurate cultural collections. It
is this concern that we see at play in the aforementioned institutional
concerns over how to best create meaningful paths in the cultural collections.
The main question that resounds is: where should the paths lead if there is no
longer one truth, that is, if the labyrinth has no center? Some mass
digitization projects seem to revel in this new reality. As we have seen,
shadow libraries such as Monoskop and UbuWeb use the affordances of the
digital to create new cultural connections outside of the formal hierarchies
of cultural memory institutions. Yet, while embraced by some, predictably the
new distribution of authority generates anxiety in the cultural memory circles
that had hitherto been able to hold claim to knowledge organization expertise.
This is the dizzying perspective that haunts the cultural memory professionals
faced with Europeana’s data governance model. Thus, as one Europeana
professional explained to me in 2010, “Europeana aims at an open-linked-data
model with a number of implications. One implication is that there will be no
control of data usage, which makes it possible, for instance, to link classics
with porn. Libraries do not agree to this loss of control which was at the
base of their self-understanding.”60 The Europeana professional then proceeded
to recount the profound anxiety experienced and expressed by knowledge
professionals as they increasingly came face-to-face with a curatorial reality
that is radically changing what counts as knowledge and context, where a
search for Courbet could, in theory, not only lead the user to other French
masters of painting but also to a copy of a porn magazine (provided it is out
of copyright). The anxiety experienced by knowledge professionals in the new
cultural memory ecosystem can of course be explained by a rationalized fear of
job insecurity and territorial concerns. Yet, the fear of knowledge
infrastructures without a center may also run deeper. As Penelope Doob reminds
us, the center of the labyrinth historically played a central moral and
epistemological role in the labyrinthine topos, as the site that held the
epiphanous key to unravel whatever evils or secrets the labyrinth contained.
With no center, there is no key, no epiphany.61 From this perspective, then,
it is not only a job that is lost. It is also the meaning of knowledge
itself.62

What, then, can we take from these labyrinthine wanderings as we pursue a
greater understanding of the infrapolitics of mass digitization? Certainly, as
this section shows, the politics of mass digitization is entangled in
spatialized imaginaries that have a long and complex cultural and affective
trajectory interlinked with ontological and epistemological questions about
the very nature of knowledge. Cladding the walls of these trajectories are, of
course, the ever-present political questions of authority and territory, but
also deeper cultural and affective questions about the nature and meaning of
knowledge as it bandies about in our cultural imaginaries, between discoveries
and dead-ends, between freedom and control.

As the next section will show, one concept has in particular come to
encapsulate these concerns: the notion of serendipity. While the notion of
serendipity has a long history, it has gained new relevance with mass
digitization, where it is used to express the realm of possibilities opened up
by the new digital infrastructures of knowledge production. As such, it has
come to play a role, not only as a playful cultural imaginary, but also as an
architectural ideal in software developments for mass digitization. In the
following section, we will look at a few examples of these architectures, as
well as the knowledge politics they are entangled in.

## The Architecture of Serendipitous Platforms

Serendipity has for long been a cherished word in archival studies, used to
describe a magical moment of “Eureka!” A fickle and fabulating concept, it
belongs to the world of discovery, capturing the moment when a meandering
soul, a flaneur, accidentally stumbles upon a valuable find. As such, the
moment of serendipity is almost always a happy circumstance of chance, and
never an unfortunate moment of risk. Serendipity also embodies the word in its
own origins. This section outlines the origins of this word and situate its
reemergence in theories on libraries and on digital realms of knowledge
production.

The English aristocrat Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity in a letter
to Horace Mann in 1754, in which he explained his fascination with a Persian
fairy tale about three princes from the _Isle of Serendip_ _63_ who possess
superpowers of observation. In his letter, Walpole linked the contents of the
fantastical story to his view of how new discoveries are made: “As their
highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by “accidental
sagacity,” of things which they were not in quest of.” 64 And he proposed a
new word—“serendipity”—to describe this sublime talent for discovery.

Walpole’s conceptual invention did not immediately catch fire in common
parlance.65 But a few centuries after its invention, it suddenly took hold.
Who awakened the notion from its dormant state, and why? Sociologists Robert
K. Merton and Elinor Barber provided one influential answer in their own
enjoyable exploration of the word. As they note, serendipity had a particular
playful tone to it, expressing a sense that knowledge comes about not only
through sheer willpower and discipline, but also via pleasurable chance. This
almost hedonistic dimension made it incompatible with the serious ethos of the
nineteenth century. As Merton and Barber note, “The serious early Victorians
were not likely to pick up serendipity, except perhaps to point to it as a
piece of frivolous whimsy. … Although the Victorians, and especially Victorian
scientists, were familiar with the part played by accident in the process of
discovery, they were likely neither to highlight that factor nor to clothe the
phenomenon of accidental discovery in so lighthearted a word as
serendipity.”66 But in the 1940s and 1950s something happened—the word began
to catch on. Merton and Barber link this turn of linguistic events not only to
pure chance, but also a change in scientific networks and paradigms. Traveling
from the world of letters, as they recount, the word began making its way into
scientific circles, where attention was increasingly turned to “splashy
discoveries in lab and field.”67 But as Lorraine Daston notes, “discoveries,
especially those made by serendipity, depend partly on luck, and scientists
schooled in probability theory are loathe to ascribe personal merit to the
merely lucky,” and scientists therefore increasingly began to “domesticate
serendipity.”68 Daston remarks that while scientists schooled in probability
were reluctant to ascribe their discoveries to pure chance, the “historians
and literary scholars who struck serendipitous gold in the archives did not
seem so eager to make a science out of their good fortune.”69 One tale of how
literary and historical scholars struck serendipitous gold in the archive is
provided by Mike Featherstone:

> Once in the archive, finding the right material which can be made to speak
may itself be subject to a high degree of contingency—the process not of
deliberate rational searching, but serendipity. In this context it is
interesting to note the methods of innovatory historians such as Norbert Elias
and Michel Foucault, who used the British and French national libraries in
highly unorthodox ways by reading seemingly haphazardly “on the diagonal,”
across the whole range of arts and sciences, centuries and civilizations, so
that the unusual juxtapositions they arrived at summoned up new lines of
thought and possibilities to radically re-think and reclassify received
wisdom. Here we think of the flaneur who wanders the archival textual city in
a half-dreamlike state in order to be open to the half-formed possibilities of
the material and sensitive to unusual juxtapositions and novel perceptions.70

English scholar Nancy Schultz in similar terms notes that the archive “in the
humanities” represents a “prime site for serendipitous discovery.”71 In most
of these cases, serendipity is taken to mean some form of archival insight,
and often even a critical intellectual process. Deb Verhoeven, Associate Dean
of Engagement and Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney, reminds
us in relation to feminist archival work that “stories of accidental
discovery” can even take on dimensions of feminist solace, consoling “the
researcher, and us, with the idea that no system, whatever its claims to
discipline, comprehensiveness, and structure, is exempt from randomness, flux,
overflow, and therefore potential collapse.”72

But with mass digitization processes, their fusion of probability theories and
archives, and their ideals of combined fun and fact-finding, the questions
raised in the hard sciences about serendipity, its connotations of freedom and
chance, engineering and control, now also haunt the archives of historians and
literary scholars. Serendipity has now often come to be used as a motivating
factor for digitization in the first place, based on arguments that mass
digitized archives allow not only for dedicated and target-oriented research,
but also for new modes of search, of reading haphazardly “on the diagonal”
across genres and disciplines, as well as across institutional and national
borders that hitherto kept works and insights apart. As one spokesperson from
a prominent mass digitization company states, “digital collections have been
designed both to assist researchers in accessing original primary source
materials and to enable them to make serendipitous discoveries and unexpected
connections between sources.”73 And indeed, this sentiment reverberates in all
mass digitization projects from Europeana and Google Books to smaller shadow
libraries such as UbuWeb and Monoskop. Some scholars even argue that
serendipity takes on new forms due to digitization.74

It seems only natural, then, that mass digitization projects, and their
actors, have actively adopted the discourse of serendipity, both as a selling
point and a strategic claim. Talking about Google’s digitization program, Dr.
Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian and Director of Oxford University Library
Services, notes: “Library users have always loved browsing books for the
serendipitous discoveries they provide. Digital books offer a similar thrill,
but on multiple levels—deep entry into the texts or the ability to browse the
virtual shelf of books assembled from the world's great libraries.”75 But it
has also raised questions for those people who are in charge, not only of
holding serendipity forth as an ideal, but also building the architecture to
facilitate it. Dan Cohen, speaking on behalf of the DPLA, thus noted the
centrality of the concept, but also the challenges that mass digitization
raised in practical terms: “At DPLA, we’ve been thinking a lot about what’s
involved with serendipitous discovery. Since we started from scratch and
didn’t need to create a standard online library catalog experience, we were
free to experiment and provide novel ways into our collection of over five
million items. How to arrange a collection of that scale so that different
users can bump into items of unexpected interest to them?” While adopting the
language of serendipity is easy, its infrastructural construction is much
harder to envision. This challenge clearly troubles the strategic team
developing Europeana’s infrastructure, as it notes in a programmatic tone that
stands hilariously at odds with the curiosity it must cater to:

> Reviewing the personas developed for the D6.2 Requirements for Europeana.eu8
deliverable—and in particular those of the “culture vultures”—one finds two
somewhat-opposed requirements. On the one hand, they need to be able to find
what they are looking for, and navigate through clear and well-structured
data. On the other hand, they also come to Europeana looking for
“inspiration”—that is to say, for something new and unexpected that points
them towards possibilities they had previously been unaware of; what, in the
formal literature of user experience and search design, is sometimes referred
to as “serendipity search.” Europeana’s users need the platform to be
structured and predictable—but not entirely so.76

To achieve serendipity, mass digitization projects have often sought to take
advantage of the labyrinthine infrastructures of digitization, relying not
only on their own virtual bookshelves, but also on the algorithmic highways
and back alleys of social media. Twitter, in particular, before it adopted
personalization methods, became a preferred infrastructure for mass
digitization projects, who took advantage of Twitter’s lack of personalized
search to create whimsical bots that injected randomness into the user’s feed.
One example was the Digital Public Library of America’s DPLA Bot, which grabs
a random noun and uses its API to share the first result it finds. The DPLA
Bot aims to “infuse what we all love about libraries—serendipitous
discovery—into the DPLA” and thus seeks to provide a “kind of ‘Surprise me!’
search function for DPLA.”77 It did not take the programmer Peter Meyr much
time to develop a similar bot for Europeana. In an interview with
EuropeanaPro, Peter Meyr directly related the EuropeanaBot to the
serendipitous affordances of Twitter and its rewards for mass digitization
projects, noting that:

> The presentation of digital resources is difficult for libraries. It is no
longer possible to just explore, browse the stacks and make serendipitous
findings. With Europeana, you don't even have a physical library to go to. So
I was interested in bringing a little bit of serendipity back by using a
Twitter bot. … If I just wanted to present (semi)random Europeana findings, I
wouldn’t have needed Twitter—an RSS-Feed or a web page would be enough.
However, I wanted to infuse EuropeanaBot with a little bit of “Twitter
culture” and give it a personality.78

The British Library also developed a Twitter bot titled the Mechanical
Curator, which posts random resources with no customization except a special
focus on images in the library’s seventeenth- to nineteenth-century
collections.79 But there were also many projects that existed outside social
media platforms and operated across mass digitization projects. One example
was the “serendipity engine,” Serendip-o-matic, which first examined the
user’s research interests and then, based on this data, identified “related
content in locations such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA),
Europeana, and Flickr Commons.”80 While this initiative was not endorsed by
any of these mass digitization projects, they nevertheless featured it on
their blogs, integrating it into the mass digitization ecosystem.

Yet, while mass digitization for some represents the opportunity to amplify
the chance of chance, other scholars increasingly wonder whether the
engineering processes of mass digitization would take serendipity out of the
archive. Indeed, to them, the digital is antithetical to chance. One such
viewpoint is uttered by historian Tristram Hunt in an op-ed charging against
Google’s British digitization program under the title, “Online is fine, but
history is best hands on.” In it, Hunt argues that the digital, rather than
providing a new means of chance finding, would impede historical discovery and
that only the analog archival environment could foster real historical
discoveries, since it is “… only with MS in hand that the real meaning of the
text becomes apparent: its rhythms and cadences, the relationship of image to
word, the passion of the argument or cold logic of the case. Then there is the
serendipity, the scholar’s eternal hope that something will catch his eye,”81
In similar terms, Graeme Davison describes the lacking of serendipitous
errings in digital archives, as he likens digital search engines with driving
“a high-powered car down a freeway, compared with walking or cycling. It gets
us there more quickly but we skirt the towns and miss a lot of interesting
scenery on the way.”82 William McKeen also links the loss of serendipity to
the acceleration of method in the digital:

> Think about the library. Do people browse anymore? We have become such a
directed people. We can target what we want, thanks to the Internet. Put a
couple of key words into a search engine and you find—with an irritating hit
or miss here and there—exactly what you’re looking for. It’s efficient, but
dull. You miss the time-consuming but enriching act of looking through
shelves, of pulling down a book because the title interests you, or the
binding. Inside, the book might be a loser, a waste of the effort and calories
it took to remove it from its place and then return. Or it might be a dark
chest of wonders, a life-changing first step into another world, something to
lead your life down a path you didn't know was there.83

Common to all these statements is the sentiment that the engineering of
serendipity removes the very chance of serendipity. As Nicholas Carr notes,
“Once you create an engine—a machine—to produce serendipity, you destroy the
essence of serendipity. It becomes something expected rather than
unexpected.”84 It appears, then, that computational methods have introduced
historians and literary scholars to the same “beaverish efforts”85 to
domesticate serendipity as the hard sciences had to face at the beginning of
the twentieth century.

To my knowledge, few systematic studies exist about whether mass digitization
projects such as Europeana and Google Books hamper or foster creative and
original research in empirical terms. How one would go about such a study is
also an open question. The dichotomy between digital and analog does seem a
bit contrived, however. As Dan Cohen notes in a blogpost for DPLA, “bookstores
and libraries have their own forms of ‘serendipity engineering,’ from
storefront staff picks to behind-the-scenes cataloguing and shelving methods
that make for happy accidents.”86 Yet there is no doubt that the discourse of
serendipity has been infused with new life that sometimes veers toward a
“spectacle of serendipity.”87

Over the past decade, the digital infrastructures that organize our cultural
memory have become increasingly integrated in a digital economy that valuates
“experience” as a cultural currency that can be exchanged to profit, and our
affective meanderings as a form of industrial production. This digital economy
affects the architecture and infrastructure of digital archives. The archival
discourse on digital serendipity is thus now embroiled in a more deep-seated
infrapolitics of workspace architecture, influenced by Silicon Valley’s
obsession with networks, process, and connectivity.88 Think only of the
increasing importance of Google and Facebook to mass digitization projects:
most of these projects have a Facebook page on which they showcase their
material, just as they take pains to make themselves “algorithmically
recognizable”89 to Google and other search engines in the hope of reaching an
audience beyond the echo chamber of archives and to distribute their archival
material on leisurely tidbit platforms such as Pinterest and Twitter.90 If
serendipity is increasingly thought of as a platform problem, the final
question we might pose is what kind of infrapolitics this platform economy
generates and how it affects mass digitization projects.

## The Infrapolitics of Platform Power

As the previous sections show, mass digitization projects rely upon spatial
metaphors to convey ideas about, and ideals of, cultural memory
infrastructures, their knowledge production, and their serendipitous
potential. Thus, for mass digitization projects, the ideal scenario is that
the labyrinthine errings of the user result in serendipitous finds that in
turn bring about new forms of cultural value. From the point of the user,
however, being caught up in the labyrinth might just as easily give rise to an
experience of being confronted with a sense of lack of oversight and
alienation in the alleyways of commodified infrastructures. These two
scenarios co-exist because of what Penelope Doob (as noted in the section on
labyrinthine imaginaries) refers to as the dual potentiality of the labyrinth,
which when experienced from within can be become a sign of confusion, and when
viewed from above becomes a sign of complex order.91

In this final section, I will turn to a new spatial metaphor, which appears to
have resolved this dual potentiality of the spatial perspective of mass
digitization projects: the platform. The platform has recently emerged as a
new buzzword in the digital economy, connoting simultaneously a perspective, a
business strategy, and a political ideology. Ideally the platform provides a
different perspective than the labyrinth, offering the user the possibility of
simultaneously constructing the labyrinth and viewing it from above. This
final section therefore explores how we might understand the infrapolitics of
the platform, and its role in the digital economy.

In its recent business strategy, Europeana claimed that it was moving from
operating as a “portal” to operating as a “platform.”92 The announcement was
part of a broader infrastructural transition in the field of cultural memory,
undergirded by a process of opening up and connecting the cultural memory
sector to wider knowledge ecosystems.93 Indeed, Europeana’s move is part of a
much larger discursive and material reality of a more fundamental process of
“platformization” of the web.94 The notion of the platform has thus recently
become an important heuristic for understanding the cultural development of
the web and its economy, fusing the computational understanding of the
platform as an environment in which a code is executed95 and the political and
social understanding of a platform as a site of politics.96

While the infrapolitics of the platformization of the web has become a central
discussion in software and communication studies, little interest has been
paid to the implications of platforms for the politics of cultural memory.
Yet, Europeana’s business strategy illustrates the significant infrapolitical
role that platforms are given in mass digitization literature. Citing digital
historian Tim Sherratt’s claim that “portals are for visiting, platforms for
building on,”97 Europeana’s strategy argues that if cultural memory sites free
themselves and their content from the “prison of portals” in favor of more
openness and flexibility, this will in turn empower users to created their own
“pathways” through the digital cultural memory, instead of being forced to
follow predetermined “narrative journeys.”98 The business plan’s reliance on
Sherratt’s theory of platforms shows that although the platform has a
technical meaning in computation, Europeana’s discourse goes beyond mere
computational logic. It instead signifies an infrapolitics that carries with
it an assumption about the political dynamics of software, standing in for the
freedom to act in the labyrinthine infrastructures of digital collections.

Yet, what is a platform, and how might we understand its infrapolitics? As
Tarleton Gillespie points out, the oldest definition of platform is
architectural, as a level or near-level surface, often elevated.99 As such,
there is something inherently simple about platforms. As architect Sverre Fehn
notes, “the simplest form of architecture is to cultivate the surface of the
earth, to make a platform.”100 Fehn’s statement conceals a more fundamental
insight about platforms, however: in the establishment of a low horizontal
platform, one also establishes a social infrastructure. Platforms are thus not
only material constructions, they also harbor infrapolitical affordances. The
etymology of the notion of “platform” evidences this infrapolitical dimension.
Originally a spatial concept, the notion of platform appeared in
architectural, figurative, and military formations in the sixteenth century,
soon developing into specialized discourses of party programs and military and
building construction,101 religious congregation,102 and architectural vantage
points.103 Both the architectural and social understandings of the term
connote a process in which sites of common ground are created in
contradistinction to other sites. In geology, for instance, platforms emerge
from abrasive processes that elevate and distinguish one area in relation to
others. In religious and political discourse, platforms emerge as
organizational sites of belonging, often in contradistinction to other forms
of organization. Platforms, then, connote both common ground and demarcated
borders that emerge out of abrasive processes. In the nineteenth century, a
third meaning adjoined the notion of platforms, namely trade-related
cooperation. This introduced a dynamic to the word that is less informed by
abrasive processes and more by the capture processes of what we might call
“connective capitalism.” Yet, despite connectivity taking center stage, even
these platforms were described as territorializing constructs that favor some
organizations and corporations over others.104

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as Gilles Deleuze and Felix
Guattari successfully urged scholars and architects to replace roots with
rhizomes, the notion of platform began taking on yet another meaning. Deleuze
and Guattari began fervently arguing for the nonexistence of rooted
platforms.105 Their vision soon gave rise to a nonfoundational understanding
of the world as a “limitless multiplicity of positions from which it is
possible only to erect provisional constructions.”106 Deleuze and Guattari’s
ontology became widely influential in theorizing the web _in toto_ ; as Rem
Koolhaas once noted, the “language of architecture—platform, blueprint,
structure—became almost the preferred language for indicating a lot of
phenomenon that we’re facing from Silicon Valley.”107 From the singular
platforms of military and party politics, emerged, then, the thousand
platforms of the digital, where “nearly every surge of research and investment
pursued by the digital industry—e-commerce, web services, online advertising,
mobile devices and digital media sales—has seen the term migrate to it.”108

What infrapolitical logic can we glean from Silicon Valley’s adoption of the
vernacular notion of the platform? Firstly, it is an infrapolitics of
temporality. As Tarleton Gillespie points out, the semantic aspects of
platforms “point to a common set of connotations: a ‘raised level surface’
designed to facilitate some activity that will subsequently take place. It is
anticipatory, but not causal.”109 The inscription of platforms into the
material infrastructures of the Internet thus assume a value-producing
futurity. If serendipity is what is craved, then platforms are the site in
which this is thought to take place.

Despite its inclusion in the entrepreneurial discourse of Silicon Valley, the
notion of the platform is also used to signal an infrapolitics of
collaboration, even subversion. Olga Gurionova, for instance, explores the
subversive dynamics of critical artistic platforms,110 and Trebor Sholtz
promotes the term “platform cooperativism” to advance worker-based
cooperatives that would “design their own apps-based platforms, fostering
truly peer-to-peer ways of providing services and things, and speak truth to
the new platform capitalists.”111 Shadow libraries such as Monoskop appear as
perfect examples of such subversive platforms and evidence of Srnicek’s
reminder that not _all_ social interactions are co-opted into systems of
profit generation. 112 Yet, as the territorial, legal, and social
infrastructures of mass digitization become increasingly labyrinthine, it
takes a lot of critical consciousness to properly interpret and understand its
infrapolitics. Engage with the shadow library Library Genesis on Facebook, for
instance, and you submit to platform capitalism.

A significant trait of platform-based corporations such as Google and Facebook
is that they more often than not present themselves as apolitical, neutral,
and empowering tools of connectivity, passive until picked up by the user.
Yet, as Lisa Nakamura notes, “reading’s economies, cultures of sharing, and
circuits of travel have never been passive.”113 One of digital platforms’ most
important infrapolitical traits is their dependence on network effects and a
winner-takes-all logic, where the platform owner is not only conferred
enormous power vis-à-vis other less successful platforms but also vis-à-vis
the platform user.114 Within this game, the platform owner determines the
rules of the product and the service on offer. Entering into the discourse of
platforms implies, then, not only constructing a software platform, but also
entering into a parasitical game of relational network effects, where
different platforms challenge and use each other to gain more views and
activity. This gives successful platforms a great advantage in the digital
economy. They not only gain access to data, but they also control the rules of
how the data is to be managed and governed. Therefore, when a user is surfing
Google Books, Google—and not the library—collects the user’s search queries,
including results that appeared in searches and pages the user visited from
the search. The browser, moreover, tracks the user’s activity, including pages
the user has visited and when, user data, and possibly user login details with
auto-fill features, user IP address, Internet service provider, device
hardware details, operating system and browser version, cookies, and cached
data from websites. The labyrinthine infrastructure of the mass digitization
ecosystem also means that if you access one platform through another, your
data will be collected in different ways. Thus, if you visit Europeana through
Facebook, it will be Facebook that collects your data, including name and
profile; biographical information such as birthday, hometown, work history,
and interests; username and unique identifier; subscriptions, location,
device, activity date, time and time-zone, activities; and likes, check-ins,
and events.115 As more platforms emerge from which one can access mass
digitized archives, such as social media sites like Facebook, Google+,
Pinterest, and Twitter, as well as mobile devices such as Android, gaining an
overview of who collects one’s data and how becomes more nebulous.

Europeana’s reminder illustrates the assemblatic infrastructural set-up of
mass digitization projects and how they operate with multiple entry points,
each of which may attach its own infrapolitical dynamics. It also illustrates
the labyrinthine infrastructures of privacy settings, over which a mapping is
increasingly difficult to attain because of constant changes and
reconfigurations. It furthermore illustrates the changing legal order from the
relatively stable sovereign order of human rights obligations to the
modulating landscape of privacy policies.

How then might we characterize the infrapolitics of the spatial imaginaries of
mass digitization? As this chapter has sought to convey, writings about mass
digitization projects are shot through with spatialized metaphors, from the
flaneur to the labyrinth and the platform, either in literal terms or in the
imaginaries they draw on. While this section has analyzed these imaginaries in
a somewhat chronological fashion, with the interactivity of the platform
increasingly replacing the more passive gaze of the spectator, they coexist in
that larger complex of spatial digital thinking. While often used to elicit
uncomplicated visions of empowerment, desire, curiosity, and productivity,
these infrapolitical imaginaries in fact show the complexity of mass
digitization projects in their reinscription of users and cultural memory
institutions in new constellations of power and politics.

## Notes

1. Kelly 1994, p. 263. 2. Connection Machines were developed by the
supercomputer manufacturer Thinking Machines, a concept that also appeared in
Jorge Luis Borges’s _The Total Library_. 3. Brewster Kahle, “Transforming Our
Libraries from Analog to Digital: A 2020 Vision,” _Educause Review_ , March
13, 2017, from-analog-to-digital-a-2020-vision>. 4. Ibid. 5. Couze Venn, “The
Collection,” _Theory, Culture & Society_ 23, no. 2–3 (2006), 36. 6. Hacking
2010. 7. Lefebvre 2009. 8. Blair and Stallybrass 2010, 139–163. 9. Ibid., 143.
10. Dewey 1926, 311. 11. See, for instance, Lorraine Daston’s wonderful
account of the different types of historical consciousness we find in archives
across the sciences: Daston 2012. 12. David Weinberger, “Library as Platform,”
_Library Journal_ , September 4, 2012, /future-of-libraries/by-david-weinberger/#_>. 13. Nakamura 2002, 89. 14.
Shannon Mattern,”Library as Infrastructure,” _Places Journal_ , June 2014,
. 15. Couze
Venn, “The Collection,” _Theory, Culture & Society_ 23, no. 2–3 (2006), 35–40.
16. Žižek 2009, 39. 17. Voltaire, “Une grande bibliothèque a cela de bon,
qu’elle effraye celui qui la regarde,” in _Dictionaire Philosophique_ , 1786,
265. 18. In his autobiography, Borges asserted that it “was meant as a
nightmare version or magnification” of the municipal library he worked in up
until 1946. Borges describes his time at this library as “nine years of solid
unhappiness,” both because of his co-workers and the “menial” and senseless
cataloging work he performed in the small library. Interestingly, then, Borges
translated his own experience of being informationally underwhelmed into a
tale of informational exhaustion and despair. See “An Autobiographical Essay”
in _The Aleph and Other Stories_ , 1978, 243. 19. Borges 2001, 216. 20. Yeo
2003, 32. 21. Cited in Blair 2003, 11. 22. Bawden and Robinson 2009, 186. 23.
Garrett 1999. 24. Featherstone 2000, 166. 25. Thus, for instance, one
Europeana-related project with the apt acronym PATHS, argues for the need to
“make use of current knowledge of personalization to develop a system for
navigating cultural heritage collections that is based around the metaphor of
paths and trails through them” (Hall et al. 2012). See also Walker 2006. 26.
Inspiring texts for (early) spatial thinking of the Internet, see: Hayles
1993; Nakamura 2002; Chun 2006. 27. Much has been written about whether or not
it makes sense to frame digital realms and infrastructures in spatial terms,
and Wendy Chun has written an excellent account of the stakes of these
arguments, adding her own insightful comments to them; see chapter 1, “Why
Cyberspace?” in Chun 2013. 28. Cited in Hartmann 2004, 123–124. 29. Goldate
1996. 30. Featherstone 1998. 31. Dörk, Carpendale, and Williamson 2011, 1216.
32. Wilson 1992, 108. 33. Benjamin. 1985a, 40. 34. See, for instance, Natasha
Dow Schüll’s fascinating study of the addictive design of computational
culture: Schüll 2014. For an industry perspective, see Nir Eyal, _Hooked: How
to Build Habit-Forming Products_ (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
2014). 35. Wilson 1992, 93. 36. Indeed, it would be interesting to explore the
link between Susan Buck Morss’s reinterpretation of Benjamin’s anesthetic
shock of phantasmagoria and today’s digital dopamine production, as described
by Natasha Dow Schüll in _Addicted by Design_ (2014); see Buck-Morss 2006. See
also Bjelić 2016. 37. Wolff 1985; Pollock 1998. 38. Wilson 1992; Nord 1995;
Nava and O’Shea 1996, 38–76. 39. Hartmann 1999. 40. Smalls 2003, 356. 41.
Ibid., 357. 42. Cadogan 2016. 43. Marian Ryan, “The Disabled flaneur,” _New
York Times_ , December 12, 2017, /the-disabled-flaneur.html>. 44. Benjamin. 1985b, 54. 45. Evgeny Morozov, “The
Death of the Cyberflaneur,” _New York Times_ , February 4, 2012. 46. Eco 2014,
169. 47. See also Koevoets 2013. 48. In colloquial English, “labyrinth” is
generally synonymous with “maze,” but some people observe a distinction, using
maze to refer to a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path
and direction, and using labyrinth for a single, non-branching (unicursal)
path, which leads to a center. This book, however, uses the concept of the
labyrinth to describe all labyrinthine infrastructures. 49. Doob 1994. 50.
Bloom 2009, xvii. 51. Might this be the labyrinthine logic detected by
Foucault, which unfolds only “within a hidden landscape,” revealing “nothing
that can be seen” and partaking in the “order of the enigma”; see Foucault
2004, 98. 52. Doob 1994, 97. Doob also finds this perspective in the
fourteenth century in Chaucer’s _House of Fame_ , in which the labyrinth
“becomes an emblem of the limitations of knowledge in this world, where all we
can finally do is meditate on _labor intus_ ” (ibid., 313). Lady Mary Wroth’s
work _Pamphilia to Amphilanthus_ provides the same imagery, telling the story
of the female heroine, Pamphilia, who fails to escape a maze but nevertheless
engages her experience within it as a source of knowledge. 53. Galloway 2013a,
29. 54. van Dijck 2012. 55. “Usage Stats for Europeana Collections,”
_EuropeanaPro,_ usage-statistics>. 56. Joris Pekel, “The Europeana Statistics Dashboard is
here,” _EuropeanaPro_ , April 6, 2016, /introducing-the-europeana-statistics-dashboard>. 57. Bates 2002, 32. 58. Veel
2003, 154. 59. Deleuze 2013, 56. 60. Interview with professor of library and
information science working with Europeana, Berlin, Germany, 2011. 61. Borges
mused upon the possible horrendous implications of such a lack, recounting two
labyrinthine scenarios he once imagined: “In the first, a man is supposed to
be making his way through the dusty and stony corridors, and he hears a
distant bellowing in the night. And then he makes out footprints in the sand
and he knows that they belong to the Minotaur, that the minotaur is after him,
and, in a sense, he, too, is after the minotaur. The Minotaur, of course,
wants to devour him, and since his only aim in life is to go on wandering and
wandering, he also longs for the moment. In the second sonnet, I had a still
more gruesome idea—the idea that there was no minotaur—that the man would go
on endlessly wandering. That may have been suggested by a phrase in one of
Chesterton’s Father Brown books. Chesterton said, ‘What a man is really afraid
of is a maze without a center.’ I suppose he was thinking of a godless
universe, but I was thinking of the labyrinth without a minotaur. I mean, if
anything is terrible, it is terrible because it is meaningless.” Borges and
Dembo 1970, 319. 62. Borges actually found a certain pleasure in the lack of
order, however, noting that “I not only feel the terror … but also, well, the
pleasure you get, let’s say, from a chess puzzle or from a good detective
novel.” Ibid. 63. Serendib, also spelled Serendip (Arabic Sarandīb), was the
Persian/Arabic word for the island of Sri Lanka, recorded in use as early as
AD 361. 64. Letter to Horace Mann, 28 January 1754, in _Walpole’s
Correspondence_ , vol. 20, 407–411. 65. As Robert Merton and Elinor Barber
note, it first made it into the OED in 1912 (Merton and Barber 2004, 72). 66.
Merton and Barber 2004, 40. 67. Lorraine Daston, “Are You Having Fun Today?,”
_London Review of Books_ , September 23, 2004. 68. Ibid. 69. Ibid. 70.
Featherstone 2000, 594. 71. Nancy Lusignan Schulz, “Serendipity in the
Archive,” _Chronicle of Higher Education_ , May 15, 2011,
. 72.
Verhoeven 2016, 18. 73. Caley 2017, 248. 74. Bishop 2016 75. “Oxford-Google
Digitization Project Reaches Milestone,” Bodleian Library and Radcliffe
Camera, March 26, 2009.
. 76. Timothy
Hill, David Haskiya, Antoine Isaac, Hugo Manguinhas, and Valentine Charles
(eds.), _Europeana Search Strategy_ , May 23, 2016,
.
77. “DPLAbot,” _Digital Public Library of America_ , .
78. “Q&A with EuropeanaBot developer,” _EuropeanaPro_ , August 20, 2013,
. 79. There
are of course many other examples, some of which offer greater interactivity,
such as the TroveNewsBot, which feeds off of the National Library of
Australia’s 370 million resources, allowing the user to send the bot any text
to get the bot digging through the Trove API for a matching result. 80.
Serendip-o-matic, n.d. . 81. Tristram Hunt,
“Online Is Fine, but History Is Best Hands On,” _Guardian_ July 3, 2011,
library-google-history>. 82. Davison 2009. 83. William McKeen, “Serendipity,”
_New York Times,_ (n.d.),
. 84. Carr 2006.
We find this argument once again in Aleks Krotoski, who highlights the man-
machine dichotomy, noting that the “controlled binary mechanics” of the search
engine actually make serendipitous findings “more challenging to find” because
“branching pathways of possibility are too difficult to code and don’t scale”
(Aleks Krokoski, “Digital serendipity: be careful what you don't wish for,”
_Guardian_ , August 11, 2011,
profiling-aleks-krotoski>.) 85. Lorraine Daston, “Are You Having Fun Today?,”
_London Review of Books_ , September 23, 2004. 86. Dan Cohen, “Planning for
Serendipity,” _DPLA_ News and Blog, February 7, 2014,
. 87. Shannon
Mattern, “Sharing Is Tables,” _e-flux_ , October 17, 2017,
furniture-for-digital-labor/>. 88. Greg Lindsay, “Engineering Serendipity,”
_New York Times_ , April 5, 2013,
serendipity.html>. 89. Gillespie 2017. 90. See, for instance, Milena Popova,
“Facebook Awards History App that Will Use Europeana’s Collections,”
_EuropeanaPro_ , March 7, 2014, awards-history-app-that-will-use-europeanas-collections>. 91. Doob 1994. 92.
“Europeana Strategy Impact 2015–2020,”
.
93. Ping-Huang 2016, 53. 94. Helmond 2015. 95. Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort.
2009. “Platform studies: freduently asked questions.” _Proceeding of the
Digital Arts and Culture Conference_.
. 96. Srnicek 2017; Helmond 2015;
Gillespie 2010. 97. “While a portal can present its aggregated content in a
way that invites exploration, the experience is always constrained—pre-
determined by a set of design decisions about what is necessary, relevant and
useful. Platforms put those design decisions back into the hands of users.
Instead of a single interface, there are innumerable ways of interacting with
the data.” See Tim Sherratt, “From Portals to Platforms; Building New
Frameworks for User Engagement,” National Library of Australia, November 5,
2013, platform>. 98. “Europeana Strategy Impact 2015–2020,”
.
99. Gillespie 2010, 349. 100. Fjeld and Fehn 2009, 108. 101. Gießmann 2015,
126. 102. See, for example, C. S. Lewis’s writings on Calvinism in _English
Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama_. Or how about
Presbyterian minster Lyman Beecher, who once noted in a sermon: “in organizing
any body, in philosophy, religion, or politics, you must _have_ a platform;
you must stand somewhere; on some solid ground.” Such a platform could gather
people, so that they could “settle on principles just as … bees settle in
swarms on the branches, fragrant with blossoms and flowers.” See Beecher 2012,
21. 103. “Platform, in architecture, is a row of beams which support the
timber-work of a roof, and lie on top of the wall, where the entablature ought
to be raised. This term is also used for a kind of terrace … from whence a
fair prospect may be taken of the adjacent country.” See Nicholson 1819. 104.
As evangelist Calvin Colton noted in his work on the US’s public economy, “We
find American capital and labor occupying a very different position from that
of the same things in Europe, and that the same treatment applied to both,
would not be beneficial to both. A system which is good for Great Britain may
be ruinous to the United States. … Great Britain is the only nation that is
prepared for Free Trade … on a platform of universal Free Trade, the advanced
position of Great Britain … in her skill, machinery, capital and means of
commerce, would make all the tributary to her; and on the same platform, this
distance between her and other nations … instead of diminishing, would be
forever increasing, till … she would become the focus of the wealth, grandeur,
and power of the world.” 105. Deleuze and Guattari 1987. 106. Solá-Morales
1999, 86. 107. Budds 2016. 108. Gillespie 2010, 351. 109. Gillespie 2010, 350.
Indeed, it might be worth resurrecting the otherwise-extinct notion of
“plotform” to reinscribe agency and planning into the word. See Tawa 2012.
110. As Olga Gurionova points out, platforms have historically played a
significant role in creative processes as a “set of shared resources that
might be material, organizational, or intentional that inscribe certain
practices and approaches in order to develop collaboration, production, and
the capacity to generate change.” Indeed, platforms form integral
infrastructures in the critical art world for alternative systems of
organization and circulation that could be mobilized to “disrupt
institutional, representational, and social powers.” See Olga Goriunova, _Art
Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet_ (New York: Routledge,
2012), 8. 111. Trebor Scholz, “Platform Cooperativism vs. the Sharing
Economy,” _Medium_ , December 5, 2016, cooperativism-vs-the-sharing-economy-2ea737f1b5ad>. 112. Srnicek 2017, 28–29.
113. Nakamura 2013, 243. 114. John Zysman and Martin Kennedy, “The Next Phase
in the Digital Revolution: Platforms, Automation, Growth, and Employment,”
_ETLA Reports_ 61, October 17, 2016, /ETLA-Raportit-Reports-61.pdf>. 115. Europeana’s privacy page explicitly notes
this, reminding the user that, “this site may contain links to other websites
that are beyond our control. This privacy policy applies solely to the
information you provide while visiting this site. Other websites which you
link to may have privacy policies that are different from this Privacy
Policy.” See “Privacy and Terms,” _Europeana Collections_ ,
.

# 6
Concluding Remarks

I opened this book claiming that the notion of mass digitization has shifted
from a professional concept to a cultural political phenomenon. If the former
denotes a technical way of duplicating analog material in digital form, mass
digitization as a cultural practice is a much more complex apparatus. On the
one hand, it offers the simple promise of heightened public and private access
to—and better preservation of—the past; one the other, it raises significant
political questions about ethics, politics, power, and care in the digital
sphere. I locate the emergence of these questions within the infrastructures
of mass digitization and the ways in which they not only offer new ways of
reading, viewing, and structuring cultural material, but also new models of
value and its extraction, and new infrastructures of control. The political
dynamic of this restructuring, I suggest, may meaningfully be referred to as a
form of infrapolitics, insofar as the political work of mass digitization
often happens at the level of infrastructure, in the form of standardization,
dissent, or both. While mass digitization entwines the cultural politics of
analog artifacts and institutions with the infrapolitical logics of the new
digital economies and technologies, there is no clear-cut distinction between
between the analog and digital realms in this process. Rather, paraphrasing N.
Katherine Hayles, I suggest that mass digitization, like a Janus-figure,
“looks to past and future, simultaneously reinforcing and undermining both.”1

A persistent challenge in the study of mass digitization is the mutability of
the analytical object. The unstable nature of cultural memory archives is not
a new phenomenon. As Derrida points out, they have always been haunted by an
unintended instability, which he calls “archive fever.” Yet, mass digitization
appears to intensify this instability even further, both in its material and
cultural instantiations. Analog preservation practices that seek to stabilize
objects are in the digital realm replaced with dynamic processes of content
migration and software updates. Cultural memory objects become embedded in
what Wendy Chun has referred to as the enduring ephemerality of the digital as
well as the bleeding edge of obsolescence.2

Indeed, from the moment when the seed for this book was first planted to the
time of its publication, the landscape of mass digitization, and the political
battles waged on its maps, has changed considerably. Google Books—which a
decade ago attracted the attention, admiration, and animosity of all—recently
metamorphosed from a giant flood to a quiet trickle. After a spectacle of
press releases on quantitative milestones, epic legal battles, and public
criticisms, Google apparently lost interest in Google Books. Google’s gradual
abandonment of the project resembled more an act of prolonged public ghosting
than a clear-cut break-up, leaving the public to read in between the lines
about where the company was headed: scanning activities dwindled; the Google
Books blog closed along with its Twitter feed; press releases dried up; staff
was laid off; and while scanning activities are still ongoing, they are
limited to works in the public domain, changing the scale considerably.3 One
commentator diagnosed the change of strategy as the demise of “the greatest
humanistic project of our time.”4 Others acknowledged in less dramatic terms
that while Google’s scanning activities may have stopped, its legacy lives on
and is still put to active use.5

In the present context, the important point to make is that a quiet life does
not necessarily equal death. Indeed, this is the lesson we learn from
attending to the subtle workings of infrastructure: the politics of
infrastructure is the politics of what goes on behind the curtains, not only
what is launched to the front page. Thus, as one engineer notes when
confronted with the fate of Google Books, “We’re not focused on shiny features
and things that are very visible to users. … It’s more like behind-the-scenes
work and perfecting the technology—acquiring content, processing it properly
so that we can view the entire book online, and adjusting the search
algorithm.”6 This is a timely reminder that any analysis of the infrapolitics
of mass digitization has to tend not only to the visible and loud politics of
construction, but also the quiet and ongoing politics of infrastructure
maintenance. It makes no sense to write an obituary for Google Books if the
infrastructure is still at work. Moreover, the assemblatic nature of mass
digitization also demands that we do not stop at the immediate borders of a
project when making analytical claims about their infrapolitics. Thus, while
Google Books may have stopped in its tracks, other trains of mass digitization
have pulled up instead, carrying the project of mass digitization forward
toward new, divergent, and experimental sites. Google’s different engagements
with cultural digitization shows that an analysis of the politics of Google’s
memory work needs to operate with an assemblatic method, rather than a
delineating approach.7 Europeana and DPLA also are mutable analytical objects,
both in economic and cultural form. Therefore, Europeana leads a precarious
life from one EU budget framework to the next, and its cultural identity and
software instantiations have transformed from a digital library, to a portal,
to a platform over the course of only a few decades. Last, but not least,
shadow libraries are mediating and multiplying cultural memory objects from
servers and mirror links that sometimes die just as quickly as they emerged.
The question of institutionalization matters greatly in this respect,
outlining what we might call a spectrum of contingency. If a mass digitization
project lives in the margins of institutions, such as in the case of many
shadow libraries, its infrastructure is often fraught with uncertainties. Less
precarious, but nonetheless tumultuous, are the corporate institutions with
their increasingly short market-driven lifespans. And, at the other end of the
spectrum, we find mass digitization projects embedded in bureaucratic
apparatuses whose lumbering budget processes provide publically funded mass
digitization projects with more stable infrastructures.

The temporal dimension of mass digitization projects also raises important
questions about the horizon of cultural memory in material terms. Should mass
digitization, one might ask, also mean whither analog cultural memory? This
question seems relevant not least in cases where institutions consider
digitization as a form of preservation that allows them to discard analog
artifacts once digitized. In digital form, we further have to contend with a
new temporal horizon of cultural memory itself, based not on only on
remembrance but on anticipation in the manner of “If you liked this, you might
also like. ….” Thus, while cultural memory objects link to objects of the
past, mass digitized cultural memory also gives rise to new methods of
prediction and preemption, for instance in the form of personalization. In
this anticipatory regime, cultural memory becomes subject to perpetual
calculatory activities, processing affects, and activities in terms of
likelihoods and probabilistic outcomes.

Thus, cultural memory has today become embedded in new glocalized
infrastructures. On the one hand, these infrastructures present novel
opportunities. Cultural optimists have suggested that mass digitization has
the potential to give rise to new cosmopolitan public spheres tethered from
the straitjackets of national territorializing forces. On the other hand,
critics argue that there is little evidence that cosmopolitan dynamics are in
fact at work. Instead, new colonial and neoliberal platforms arise from a
complex infrastructural apparatus of private and public institutions and
become shaped by political, financial, and social struggles over
representation, control, and ownership of knowledge.

In summary, it is obvious that the scale of mass digitization, public and
private, licit and illicit, has transformed how we engage with texts, cultural
works, and cultural memory. People today have instant access to a wealth of
works that would previously have required large amounts of money, as well as
effort, to engage with. Most of us enjoy the new cultural freedoms we have
been given to roam the archives, collecting and exploring oddities along the
way, and making new connections between works that would previously have been
held separate by taxonomy, geography, and time in the labyrinthine material
and social infrastructures of cultural memory.

A special attraction of mass digitization no doubt lies in its unfathomable
scale and linked nature, and the fantasy and “spectacle of collecting.”8 The
new cultural environment allows the user to accelerate the pace of information
by accessing key works instantly as well as idly rambling in the exotic back
alleys of digitized culture. Mass digitized archives can be explored to
functional, hedonistic, and critical ends (sometimes all at the same time),
and can be used to exhume forgotten works, forgotten authors, and forgotten
topics. Within this paradigm, the user takes center stage—at least
discursively. Suddenly, a link made between a porn magazine and a Courbet
painting could well be a valued cultural connection instead of a frowned-upon
transgression in the halls of high culture. Users do not just download books;
they also upload new folksonomies, “ego-documents,” and new cultural
constellations, which are all welcomed in the name of “citizen science.”
Digitization also infuses texts with new life due to its new connective
properties that allow readers and writers to intimately and
exhibitionistically interact around cultural works, and it provides new ways
of engaging with texts as digital reading migrates toward service-based rather
than hardware-based models of consumption. Digitization allows users to
digitally collect works themselves and indulge in alluring archival riches in
new ways.

But mass digitization also gives rise to a range of new ethical, political,
aesthetic, and methodological questions concerning the spatio-temporality,
ownership, territoriality, re-use, and dissemination of cultural memory
artifacts. Some of those dimensions have been discussed in detail in the
present work and include questions about digital labor, platformization,
management of visibility, ownership, copyright, and other new forms of control
and de- and recentralization and privatization processes. Others have only
been alluded to but continue to gain in relevance as processes of mass
digitization excavate and make public sensitive and contested archival
material. Thus, as the cultural memories and artifacts of indigenous
populations, colonized territories and other marginalized groups are brought
online, as well as artifacts that attest to the violent regimes of colonialism
and patriarchy, an attendant need has emerged for an ethics of care that goes
beyond simplistic calls for right to access, to instead attend to the
sensitivity of the digitized material and the ways in which we encounter these
materials.

Combined, these issues show that mass digitization is far from a
straightforward technical affair. Rather, the productive dimensions of mass
digitization emerge from the rubble of disruptive and turbulent political
processes that violently dislocate established frontiers and power dynamics
and give rise to new ones that are yet to be interpreted. Within these
turbulent processes, the familiar narratives of empowered users collecting and
connecting works and ideas in new and transgressive ways all too often leave
out the simultaneous and integrated story of how the labyrinthine
infrastructures of mass digitization also writes itself on the back of the
users, collecting them and their thoughts in the process, and subjecting them
to new economic logics and political regimes. As Lisa Nakamura reminds us, “by
availing ourselves of its networked virtual bookshelves to collect and display
our readerliness in a postprint age, we have become objects to be collected.”9
Thus, as we gather vintage images on Pinterest, collect books in Google Books,
and retweet sounds files from Europeana, we do best not only to question the
cultural logic and ethics of these actions but also to remember that as we
collect and connect, we are also ourselves collected and connected.

If the power of mass digitization happens at the level of infrastructure,
political resistance will have to take the form of infrastructural
intervention. We play a role in the formulation of the ethics of such
interventions, and as such we have to be willing to abandon the predominant
tropes of scale, access, and acceleration in favor of an infrapolitics of
care—a politics that offers opportunities for mindful, slow, and focused
encounters.

## Notes

1. Hayles 1999, 17. 2. Chun. 2008; Chun 2017. 3. Murrell 2017. 4. James
Somers, “Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria,” _The Atlantic_ ,
April 20, 2017. 5. Jennifer Howard, “What Happened to Google’s Effort to Scan
Millions of University Library Books?,” _EdSurge_ , August 10, 2017,
scan-millions-of-university-library-books>. 6. Scott Rosenberg, “How Google
Books Got Lost,” _Wired_ , November 4, 2017, /how-google-book-search-got-lost>. 7. What to make, for instance, of the new
trend of employing Google’s neural networks to find one’s museum doppelgänger
from the company’s image database? Or the fact that Google Cultural Institute
is consistently turning out new cultural memory hacks such as its cardboard VR
glasses, its indoor mapping of museum spaces, and its gigapixel Art Camera
which reproduces artworks in uncanny detail. Or the expansion of their remit
from cultural memory institutions to also encompass natural history museums?
See, for example, Adrien Chen, “The Google Arts & Culture App and the Rise of
the ‘Coded Gaze,’” _New Yorker_ , January 26, 2018,
the-rise-of-the-coded-gaze-doppelganger>. 8. Nakamura 2013, 240. 9. Ibid.,
241.

#
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Names: Thylstrup, Nanna Bonde, author.

Title: The politics of mass digitization / Nanna Bonde Thylstrup.

Description: Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press, [2018] | Includes bibliographical
references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2018010472 | ISBN 9780262039017 (hardcover : alk. paper)

eISBN 9780262350044

Subjects: LCSH: Library materials--Digitization. | Archival materials--
Digitization. | Copyright and digital preservation.

Classification: LCC Z701.3.D54 T49 2018 | DDC 025.8/4--dc23 LC record
available at


cataloguing in Weinmayr 2019


Weinmayr
Confronting Authorship Constructing Practices How Copyright is Destroying Collective Practice
2019


# 11\. Confronting Authorship, Constructing Practices (How Copyright is
Destroying Collective Practice)

Eva Weinmayr

© 2019 Eva Weinmayr, CC BY 4.0
[https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0159.11](https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0159.11)

This chapter is written from the perspective of an artist who develops models
of practice founded on the fundamental assumption that knowledge is socially
constructed. Knowledge, according to this understanding, builds on imitation
and dialogue and is therefore based on a collective endeavour. Although
collective forms of knowledge production are common in the sciences, such
modes of working constitute a distinct shift for artistic practice, which has
been conceived as individual and isolated or subjective. Moreover, the shift
from the individual to the social in artistic production — what has been
called art’s ‘social turn’[1](ch11.xhtml#footnote-525)  — also shifts the
emphasis from the artwork to the social processes of production and therefore
proposes to relinquish ‘the notion of the “work” as a noun (a static object)’
and re-conceptualises ‘the “work” as a verb (a communicative
activity)’.[2](ch11.xhtml#footnote-524) This shift from ‘noun’ to ‘verb’
promotes collective practices over authored objects and includes work such as
developing infrastructures, organising events, facilitating, hosting,
curating, editing and publishing. Such generative practices also question the
nature of authorship in art.

Authorship is no doubt a method to develop one’s voice, to communicate and to
interact with others, but it is also a legal, economic and institutional
construct, and it is this function of authorship as a framing and measuring
device that I will discuss in this chapter. Oscillating between the arts and
academia, I shall examine the concept of authorship from a legal, economic and
institutional perspective by studying a set of artistic practices that have
made copyright, intellectual property and authorship into their artistic
material.

Copyright’s legal definition combines authorship, originality and property.
‘Copyright is not a transcendent moral idea’, as Mark Rose has shown, ‘but a
specifically modern formation [of property rights] produced by printing
technology, marketplace economics and the classical liberal culture of
possessive individualism’.[3](ch11.xhtml#footnote-523) Therefore the author in
copyright law is unequivocally postulated in terms of liberal and neoliberal
values. Feminist legal scholar Carys Craig argues that copyright law and the
concept of authorship it supports fail to adequately recognise the essential
social nature of human creativity. It chooses relationships qua private
property instead of recognising the author as necessarily social situated and
therefore creating (works) within a network of social
relations.[4](ch11.xhtml#footnote-522) This chapter tries to reimagine
authorial activity in contemporary art that is not caught in ‘simplifying
dichotomies that pervade copyright theory (author/user, creator/copier,
labourer/free-rider)’,[5](ch11.xhtml#footnote-521) and to examine both the
blockages that restrict our acknowledgement of the social production of art
and the social forces that exist within emancipatory collective
practices.[6](ch11.xhtml#footnote-520)

Copyright is granted for an ‘original work [that] is fixed in any tangible
medium of expression’. It is based on the relationship between an
‘originator’, being imagined as the origin of the
work,[7](ch11.xhtml#footnote-519) and distinct products, which are fixed in a
medium, ‘from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise
communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or
device.’[8](ch11.xhtml#footnote-518)

Practices, on the contrary, are not protected under
copyright.[9](ch11.xhtml#footnote-517) Because practice can’t be fixed into a
tangible form of expression, intellectual property rights are not created and
cannot be exploited economically. This inability to profit from practice by
making use of intellectual property results in a clear privileging of the
‘outputs’ of authored works over practice. This value system therefore
produces ‘divisive hierarchical splits between those who ‘do’ [practices], and
those who write about, make work about
[outputs]’.[10](ch11.xhtml#footnote-516)

Media scholar Kathleen Fitzpatrick observes in her forthcoming book Generous
Thinking:

[H]owever much we might reject individualism as part and parcel of the
humanist, positivist ways of the past, our working lives — on campus and off —
are overdetermined by it. […] c. And the drive to compete […] bleeds out into
all areas of the ways we work, even when we’re working together.’ The
competitive individualism that the academy cultivates makes all of us
painfully aware that even our most collaborative efforts will be assessed
individually, with the result that even those fields whose advancement depends
most on team-based efforts are required to develop careful guidelines for
establishing credit and priority.[11](ch11.xhtml#footnote-515)

Artist and activist Susan Kelly expands on this experience with her
observation that this regime of individual merit even inhibits us from
partaking in collective practices. She describes the dilemma for the academic
activist, when the demand for ‘outputs’ (designs, objects, texts,
exhibitions), which can be measured, quantified and exploited by institutions
(galleries, museums, publishers, research universities), becomes the
prerequisite of professional survival.

Take the young academic, for example, who spends evenings and weekends in the
library fast tracking a book on social movements about which she cares deeply
and wants to broaden her understanding. She is also desperate for it to be
published quickly to earn her the university research points that will see her
teaching contract renewed for the following year. It is likely that the same
academic is losing touch with the very movements she writes about, and is no
longer participating in their work because she is exhausted and the book takes
time to write no matter how fast she works. On publication of the book, her
work is validated professionally; she gets the university contract and is
invited to sit on panels in public institutions about contemporary social
movements. In this hypothetical case, it is clear that the academic’s work has
become detached from the movements she now writes and talks about, and she no
doubt sees this. But there is good compensation for this uneasiness in the
form of professional validation, invitations that flatter, and most
importantly, an ease of the cycle of hourly paid or precarious nine-month
contracts.[12](ch11.xhtml#footnote-514)

Kelly’s and Fitzpatrick’s examples describe the paradoxes that the demand for
authorship creates for collective practices. But how can we actually escape
regimes of authorship that are conceptualised and economised as ‘cultural
capital’?

Academic authorship, after all, is the basis for employment, promotion, and
tenure. Also, arguably, artists who stop being ‘authors’ of their own work
would no longer be considered ‘artists’, because authorship is one of art’s
main framing devices. In the following I will discuss three artistic practices
that address this question — with, as we will see, very different
outcomes.[13](ch11.xhtml#footnote-513)

## Authorship Replaces Authorship?

In 2011, American artist Richard Prince spread a blanket on a sidewalk outside
Central Park in New York City and sold copies of his latest artwork, a
facsimile of the first edition of J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in The
Rye.[14](ch11.xhtml#footnote-512) He did not make any changes to the text of
the novel and put substantial effort into producing an exact replica in terms
of paper quality, colours, typeset and binding, reproducing the original
publication as much as possible except for several significant details. He
replaced the author’s name with his own. ‘This is an artwork by Richard
Prince. Any similarity to a book is coincidental and not intended by the
artist’, his colophon reads, concluding with ‘© Richard Prince’. Prince also
changed the publisher’s name, Little Brown, to a made-up publishing house with
the name AP (American Place) and removed Salinger’s photograph from the back
of the dust cover.[15](ch11.xhtml#footnote-511)

The artist’s main objective appeared to be not to pirate and circulate an
unauthorised reprint of Salinger’s novel, because he did not present the book
under Salinger’s name but his own. Prince also chose a very limited
circulation figure.[16](ch11.xhtml#footnote-510) It is also far from
conventional plagiarism, because hardly any twentieth century literature is
more read and widely known than Salinger’s Catcher. So the question is, why
would Prince want to recirculate one of the most-read American novels of all
time, a book available in bookshops around the world, with a total circulation
of 65 million copies, translated into 30
languages?[17](ch11.xhtml#footnote-509)

Prince stated that he loved Salinger’s novel so much that ‘I just wanted to
make sure, if you were going to buy my Catcher in the Rye, you were going to
have to pay twice as much as the one Barnes and Noble was selling from J. D.
Salinger. I know that sounds really kind of shallow and maybe that’s not the
best way to contribute to something, but in the book-collecting world you pay
a premium for really collectible books,’ he explained in an interview with
singer Kim Gordon.[18](ch11.xhtml#footnote-508)

As intended, the work quickly turned into a
collectible[19](ch11.xhtml#footnote-507) and attracted lots of applause from
members of the contemporary art world including, among others, conceptual
writer Kenneth Goldsmith, who described the work as a ‘terribly ballsy move’.
Prince was openly ‘pirating what is arguably the most valuable property in
American literature, practically begging the estate of Salinger to sue
him.’[20](ch11.xhtml#footnote-506)

## Who has the Power to Appropriate?

We need to examine Goldsmith’s appraisal more closely. What is this ‘ballsy
move’? And how does it relate to the asserted criticality of appropriation
artists in the late 1970s, a group of which Prince was part?

Prince rose to prominence in New York in the late 1970s, associated with the
Pictures generation of artists[21](ch11.xhtml#footnote-505) whose
appropriation of images from mass culture and advertising — Prince’s
photographs of Marlboro Man adverts, for example — examined the politics of
representation.[22](ch11.xhtml#footnote-504) Theorists and critics, often
associated with the academic October journal,[23](ch11.xhtml#footnote-503)
interpreted the Pictures artists’ ‘unabashed usurpations of images as radical
interrogations of the categories of originality and authenticity within the
social construction of authorship. […] The author had become irrelevant
because the original gesture had become unimportant; the copy adequately stood
in its place and performed its legitimising
function.’[24](ch11.xhtml#footnote-502)

Artist Sherrie Levine, one of the leading figures in American appropriation
art, expresses the core theoretical commitment of this group of artists in her
1982 manifesto: ‘The world is filled to suffocating. Man has placed his token
on every stone. Every word, every image, is leased and mortgaged. […] A
picture is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of
culture. We can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never
original.’[25](ch11.xhtml#footnote-501) This ostensive refusal of originality
poses, no doubt, a critique of the author who creates ‘ex nihilo’. But does it
really present a critique of authorship per se? I shall propose three
arguments from different viewpoints — aesthetic, economic and legal — to
explore the assumptions of this assertion.

From the aesthetic perspective, Prince and Levine are making formal choices in
the process of appropriating already existing work. They re-photograph,
produce photographic prints, make colour choices; they enlarge or scale down,
trim the edges and take decisions about framing. Nate Harrison makes this
point when he argues that ‘Levine and Prince take individual control of the
mass-authored image, and in so doing, reaffirm the ground upon which the
romantic author stands.’[26](ch11.xhtml#footnote-500) It is exactly this
control of, and authority over, the signed and exhibited image that leads
Prince and Levine to be validated as ‘author[s] par
excellence’.[27](ch11.xhtml#footnote-499) Prince, for example, has been lauded
as an artist who ‘makes it new, by making it
again’.[28](ch11.xhtml#footnote-498) This ‘making it again’, a process that
Hal Foster names ‘recoding’,[29](ch11.xhtml#footnote-497) creates new meaning
and must therefore be interpreted as an ‘original’ authorial act.
Subsequently, this work has been validated by museums, galleries, collectors
and critics. From an economic perspective one can therefore argue that
Prince’s numerous solo exhibitions in prestigious museums, his sales figures,
and affiliation to commercial galleries are evidence that he has been ascribed
artistic authorship as well as authorial agency by the institutions of the art
world.[30](ch11.xhtml#footnote-496)

Coming back to Prince’s appropriation of Catcher in the Rye, his conceptual
gesture employs necessarily the very rhetoric and conceptual underpinnings of
legislation and jurisdiction that he seemingly
critiques.[31](ch11.xhtml#footnote-495) He declares ‘this is an artwork by
Richard Prince, © Richard Prince’ and asserts, via claiming copyright, the
concept of originality and creativity for his work. By this paradoxical
gesture, he seemingly replaces ‘authorship’ with authorship and ‘ownership’
with ownership. And by doing so, I argue, he reinforces its very concept.

The legal framework remains conceptual, theoretical and untested in this case.
But on another occasion, Prince’s authorship was tested in court — and
eventually legally confirmed to belong to him. This is crucial to my inquiry.
What are we to make of the fact that Prince, who challenges the copyright
doctrine in his gestures of appropriation, has been ascribed legitimate
authorship by courts who rule on copyright law? It seems paradoxical, because
as Elizabeth Wang rightly claims, ‘if appropriation is legitimized, the
political dimension of this act is excised’.[32](ch11.xhtml#footnote-494) And
Cornelia Sollfrank argues ‘the value of appropriation art lies in its
illicitness. […] Any form of [judicial] legitimisation would not support the
[appropriation] artists’ claims, but rather undermine
them.’[33](ch11.xhtml#footnote-493)

## Authorship Defined by Market Value and Celebrity Status?

To illustrate this point I will briefly digress to discuss a controversial
court case about Prince’s authorial legitimacy. In 2009, New-York-based
photographer, Patrick Cariou began litigation against Prince, his gallerist
Larry Gagosian and his catalogue publisher Rizzoli. Prince had appropriated
Cariou’s photographs in his series Canal Zone which went on show at Gagosian
Gallery.[34](ch11.xhtml#footnote-492) A first ruling by a district judge
stated that Prince’s appropriation was copyright infringement and requested
him to destroy the unsold paintings on show. The ruling also forbade those
that had been sold from being displayed publicly in the
future.[35](ch11.xhtml#footnote-491)

However Prince’s eventual appeal turned the verdict around. A second circuit
court decided that twenty-five of his thirty paintings fell under the fair use
rule. The legal concept of fair use allows for copyright exceptions in order
to balance the interests of exclusive right holders with the interests of
users and the public ‘for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting,
teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or
research’.[36](ch11.xhtml#footnote-490) One requirement to justify fair use is
that the new work should be transformative, understood as presenting a new
expression, meaning or message. The appeal’s court considered Prince’s
appropriation as sufficiently transformative because a ‘reasonable
observer’[37](ch11.xhtml#footnote-489)would perceive aesthetic differences
with the original.[38](ch11.xhtml#footnote-488)

Many artists applauded the appeal court’s verdict, as it seemed to set a
precedent for a more liberal approach towards appropriation art. Yet attorney
Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento and art historian Lauren van Haaften-Schick voiced
concerns about the verdict’s interpretation of ‘transformative’ and the
ruling’s underlying assumptions.

The questions of ‘aesthetic differences’ perceived by a ‘reasonable observer’,
Sarmiento rightly says, are significant. After all, Prince did not provide a
statement of intent in his deposition[39](ch11.xhtml#footnote-487) therefore
the judges had to adopt the role of a (quasi) art critic ‘employing [their]
own artistic judgment[s]’ in a field in which they had not been
trained.[40](ch11.xhtml#footnote-486)

Secondly, trying to evaluate the markets Cariou and Prince cater for, the
court introduced a controversial distinction between celebrity and non-
celebrity artists. The court opinion reasons: ‘Certain of the Canal Zone
artworks have sold for two million or more dollars. The invitation list for a
dinner that Gagosian hosted in conjunction with the opening of the Canal Zone
show included a number of the wealthy and famous such as the musicians Jay-Z
and Beyoncé Knowles, artists Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, [….] and actors
Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie, and Brad Pitt’.[41](ch11.xhtml#footnote-485)
Cariou, on the contrary, so the verdict argues, ‘has not aggressively marketed
his work’, and has earned just over $8,000 in royalties from Yes Rasta since
its publication.[42](ch11.xhtml#footnote-484) Furthermore, he made only ‘a
handful of private sales [of his photographic prints] to personal
acquaintances’.[43](ch11.xhtml#footnote-483) Prince, by contrast, sold eight
of his Canal Zone paintings for a total of $10,480,000 and exchanged seven
others for works by canonical artists such as painter Larry Rivers and
sculptor Richard Serra.[44](ch11.xhtml#footnote-482)

The court documents here tend to portray Cariou as a sort of hobby artist or
‘lower class amateur’ in Sarmiento’s words,[45](ch11.xhtml#footnote-481)
whereas Prince is described as a ‘well-known appropriation
artist’[46](ch11.xhtml#footnote-480) with considerable success in the art
market.[47](ch11.xhtml#footnote-479) Such arguing is dangerous, because it
brings social class, celebrity status and art market success into play as
legal categories to be considered in future copyright cases and dismisses
‘Cariou’s claim as a legitimate author and
artist’.[48](ch11.xhtml#footnote-478) The parties eventually reached an out-
of-court settlement regarding the remaining five paintings, and their
infringement claim was returned to the district court meaning that no ruling
had been issued. This pragmatic settlement can be interpreted as a missed
opportunity for further clarification in the interpretation of fair use. No
details about the settlement have been disclosed.[49](ch11.xhtml#footnote-477)

Richard Prince presented himself in his court deposition as an artist, who
‘do[es]n’t really have a message,’ and was not ‘trying to create anything with
a new meaning or a new message.’[50](ch11.xhtml#footnote-476) Nevertheless the
appeal court’s ruling transforms the ‘elusive artist not only into a subject,
but also into an [artist] author’[51](ch11.xhtml#footnote-475) — a status he
set out to challenge in the first place. Therefore Richard Prince’s ongoing
games[52](ch11.xhtml#footnote-474) might be entertaining or make us laugh, but
they stop short of effectively challenging the conceptualisation of
authorship, originality and property because they are assigned the very
properties that are denied to the authors whose works are copied. That is to
say, Prince’s performative toying with the law does not endanger his art’s
operability in the art world. On the contrary, it constructs and affirms his
reputation as a radical and saleable artist-author.

## De-Authoring

A very different approach to copyright law is demonstrated by American artist
Cady Noland, who employs the law to effectively endanger her art’s operability
in the art market. Noland is famously concerned with the circulation and
display of her work with respect to context, installation and photographic
representation. Relatedly, she has also become very critical of short-term
speculation on the art market. Noland has apparently not produced any new work
for over a decade, due to the time she now spends pursuing litigation around
her existing oeuvre.[53](ch11.xhtml#footnote-473) In 2011, she strikingly
demonstrated that an artist need not give up control when her work enters the
commercial art market and turns into a commodity for short-term profit. She
made probably one of the most important stands in modern art history when she
‘de-authored’ her work Cowboys Milking (1990), after it was put up for auction
at Sotheby’s with the consequence that the work could not be sold as a Cady
Noland work anymore.

Swiss-born dealer Marc Jancou, based in New York and Geneva, had consigned the
work to Sotheby’s a few months after having purchased it for $106,500 from a
private collector.[54](ch11.xhtml#footnote-472) Jancou was obviously attracted
by the fact that one of Noland’s works had achieved the highest price for a
piece by a living female artist: $6.6m.

At Noland’s request, on the eve of the auction, Sotheby’s abruptly withdrew
the piece, a silkscreen print on an aluminium panel. The artist argued that it
was damaged: ‘The current condition […] materially differs from that at the
time of its creation. […] [H]er honor and reputation [would] be prejudiced as
a result of offering [it] for sale with her name associated with
it.’[55](ch11.xhtml#footnote-471) From a legal point of view, this amounts to
a withdrawal of Noland’s authorship. The US Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990,
VARA, grants artists ‘authorship’ rights over works even after they have been
sold, including the right to prevent intentional modification and to forbid
the use of their name in association with distorted or mutilated
work.[56](ch11.xhtml#footnote-470) Such rights are based on the premise that
the integrity of a work needs to be guaranteed and a work of art has cultural
significance that extends beyond mere property
value.[57](ch11.xhtml#footnote-469)

Noland’s withdrawal of authorship left Jancou with ‘a Cady Noland’ in his
living room, but not on the market. In an email to Sotheby’s, he complained:
‘This is not serious! Why does an auction house ask the advise [sic] of an
artist that has no gallery representation and has a biased and radical
approach to the art market?’[58](ch11.xhtml#footnote-468) Given that Noland is
a long-standing and outspoken sceptic with respect to speculative dealing in
art, he somewhat naively wonders why she would be able to exercise this degree
of power over an artwork that had been entered into a system of commercial
exchange. His complaint had no effect. The piece remained withdrawn from the
auction and Jancou filed a lawsuit in February 2012 seeking $26 million in
damages from Sotheby’s.[59](ch11.xhtml#footnote-467)

From an economic perspective, both artists, Noland and Prince, illustrated
powerfully how authorship is instituted in the form of the artist’s signature,
to construct (Prince’s Catcher in the Rye) or destroy (Noland’s Cowboy
Milking) monetary value. Richard Prince’s stated intention is to double the
book’s price, and by attaching his name to Salinger’s book in a Duchampian
gesture, he turns it into a work of art authored and copyrighted by Prince.
Noland, on the contrary lowers the value of her artwork by removing her
signature and by asserting the artist-author’s (Noland) rights over the
dealer-owner’s (Jancou).[60](ch11.xhtml#footnote-466)

However, from a legal perspective I would argue that both Noland and Prince —
in their opposite approaches of removing and adding their signatures — affirm
authorship as it is conceptualised by the law.[61](ch11.xhtml#footnote-465)
After all ‘copyright law is a system to which the notion of the author appears
to be central — in defining the right owner, in defining the work, in defining
infringement.’[62](ch11.xhtml#footnote-464)

## Intellectual Property Obsession Running Amok?

Intellectual property — granted via copyright — has become one of the driving
forces of the creative economy, being exploited by corporations and
institutions of the so-called ‘creative industries’. In the governmental
imagination, creative workers are described as ‘model entrepreneurs for the
new economy’.[63](ch11.xhtml#footnote-463) Shortly after the election of New
Labour in the UK in 1997, the newly formed Department of Culture, Media and
Sport established the Creative Industries Mapping Document (CIMD 1998) and
defined the ‘Creative Industries’ primarily in relation to creativity and
intellectual property.[64](ch11.xhtml#footnote-462) According to the
Department for Culture Media and Sport the creative industries have ‘their
origin in individual creativity, skill and talent, which have a potential for
wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of
intellectual property.’[65](ch11.xhtml#footnote-461) This exploitation of
intellectual property as intangible capital has been taken on board by
institutions and public management policymakers, which not only turn creative
practices into private property, but trigger working policies that produce
precarious self-entrepreneurship and sacrifice in pursuit of
gratification.[66](ch11.xhtml#footnote-460)

We find this kind of thinking reflected for instance on the website built by
the University of the Arts London to give advice on intellectual property —
which was until recently headlined ‘Own It’.[67](ch11.xhtml#footnote-459)
Here, institutional policies privilege the privatisation and propertisation of
creative student work over the concept of sharing and fair use.

There is evidence that this line of thought creates a self-inflicted
impediment for cultural workers inside and outside art colleges. The College
Art Association, a US-based organization of about fourteen thousand artists,
arts professionals, students and scholars released a report in 2015 on the
state of fair use in the visual arts.[68](ch11.xhtml#footnote-458) The survey
reveals that ‘visual arts communities of practice share a great deal of
confusion about and misunderstanding of the nature of copyright law and the
availability of fair use. […] Formal education on copyright, not least at art
colleges, appears to increase tendencies to overestimate risk and underuse
fair use.’ As a result, the report states, the work of art students ‘is
constrained and censored, most powerfully by themselves, because of that
confusion and the resulting fear and anxiety.’[69](ch11.xhtml#footnote-457)

This climate even results in outright self-censorship. The interviewees of
this study ‘repeatedly expressed a pre-emptive decision not to pursue an
idea’[70](ch11.xhtml#footnote-456) because gaining permission from right
holders is often difficult, time consuming or expensive. The authors of this
report called this mindset a ‘permissions culture’, giving some examples. ‘I
think of copyright as a cudgel, and I have been repeatedly forestalled and
censored because I have not been able to obtain copyright permission’, stated
one academic, whose research did not get approval from an artist’s estate. He
added: ‘For those of us who work against the grain of [the] market-driven arts
economy, their one recourse for controlling us is copyright.’ Another said:
‘In many cases I have encountered artists’ estates and sometimes artists who
refuse rights to publish (even when clearly fair use) unless they like the
interpretation in the text. This is censorship and very deleterious to
scholarship and a free public discourse on
images.’[71](ch11.xhtml#footnote-455) One scholar declared that copyright
questions overshadowed his entire work process: ‘In my own writing, I’m
worrying all the time.’[72](ch11.xhtml#footnote-454) In such a climate of
anxiety ‘editors choose not to publish books that they believe might have
prohibitive permission costs; museums delay or abandon digital-access
projects’, as Ben Mauk comments in the New Yorker
Magazine.[73](ch11.xhtml#footnote-453)

The language of law does harm because it has the rhetorical power to foreclose
debate. Legal and political science scholar Jennifer Nedelsky traces the
problem to the fact ‘that many right claims, such as “it’s my property”, have
a conclusory quality. They are meant to end, not to open up debate’, therefore
‘treating as settled, what should be debated’.[74](ch11.xhtml#footnote-452)

In a similar vein, political scientist Deborah Halbert describes how her
critique of intellectual property took her on a journey to study the details
of the law. The more she got into it, so she says, the more her own thinking
had been ‘co-opted’ by the law. ‘The more I read the case law and law
journals, the more I came to speak from a position inside the status quo. My
ability to critique the law became increasingly bounded by the law itself and
the language used by those within the legal profession to discuss issues of
intellectual property. I began to speak in terms of incentives and public
goods. I began to start any discussion of intellectual property by what was
and was not allowed under the law. It became clear that the very act of
studying the subject had transformed my standpoint from an outsider to an
insider.’[75](ch11.xhtml#footnote-451)

## The Piracy Project — Multiple Authorship or ‘Unsolicited Collaborations’?

A similar question of language applies to the term
‘pirate’.[76](ch11.xhtml#footnote-450) Media and communication scholar Ramon
Lobato asks whether the language of piracy used by the critical intellectual
property discourse ‘should be embraced, rejected, recuperated or
rearticulated’? He contends that reducing ‘piracy’ to a mere legal category —
of conforming, or not, with the law — tends to neglect the generative forces
of piracy, which ‘create its own economies, exemplify wider changes in social
structure, and bring into being tense and unusual relationships between
consumers, cultural producers and governments.’[77](ch11.xhtml#footnote-449)

When the word pirate first appeared in ancient Greek texts, it was closely
related to the noun ‘peira’ which means trial or attempt. ‘The ‘pirate’ would
then be the one who ‘tests’, ‘puts to proof’, ‘contends with’, and ‘makes an
attempt’.[78](ch11.xhtml#footnote-448) Further etymological research shows
that from the same root stems pira: experience, practice [πείρα], pirama:
experiment [πείραμα], piragma: teasing [πείραγμα] and pirazo: tease, give
trouble [πειράζω].[79](ch11.xhtml#footnote-447)

This ‘contending with’, ’making an attempt’ and ‘teasing’ is at the core of
the Piracy Project’s practice, whose aim is twofold: firstly, to gather and
study a vast array of piratical practices (to test and negotiate the
complexities and paradoxes created by intellectual property for artistic
practice); and secondly to build a practice that is itself collaborative and
generative on many different levels.[80](ch11.xhtml#footnote-446)

The Piracy Project explores the philosophical, legal and social implications
of cultural piracy and creative modes of dissemination. Through an open call,
workshops, reading rooms and performative debates as well as through our
research into international pirate book markets[81](ch11.xhtml#footnote-445)
we gathered a collection of roughly 150 copied, emulated, appropriated and
modified books from across the world. Their approaches to copying vary widely,
from playful strategies of reproduction, modification and reinterpretation of
existing works; to acts of civil disobedience circumventing enclosures such as
censorship or market monopolies; to acts of piracy generated by commercial
interests. This vast and contradictory spectrum of cases, from politically
motivated bravery as well as artistic statements to cases of hard-edged
commercial exploitation, serves as the starting point to explore the
complexities and contradictions of authorship in debates, workshops, lectures
and texts, like this one.

In an attempt to rearticulate the language of piracy we call the books in the
collection ‘unsolicited collaborations’.[82](ch11.xhtml#footnote-444)
Unsolicited indicates that the makers of the books in the Piracy Project did
not ask for permission — Richard Prince’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is one
example.[83](ch11.xhtml#footnote-443) Collaboration refers to a relational
activity and re-imagines authorship not as proprietary and stable, but as a
dialogical and generative process. Here, as feminist legal scholar Carys Craig
claims, ‘authorship is not originative but participative; it is not internal
but interactive; it is not independent but interdependent. In short, a
dialogic account of authorship is equipped to appreciate the derivative,
collaborative, and communicative nature of authorial activity in a way that
the Romantic [individual genius] account never
can.’[84](ch11.xhtml#footnote-442)

Such a participatory and interdependent conceptualisation of authorship is
illustrated and tested in the Piracy Project’s research into reprinting,
modifying, emulating and commenting on published books. As such it revisits —
through material practice — Michel Foucault’s critical concept of the ‘author
function’ as the triggering of a discourse, rather than a proprietary
right.[85](ch11.xhtml#footnote-441)

This becomes clearer when we consider that digital print technologies, for
example through print on demand and desktop publishing, allow for a constant
re-printing and re-editing of existing files. The advent and widespread
accessibility of the photocopy machine in the late 1960s allowed the reader to
photocopy books and collate selected chapters, pages or images in new and
customised compilations. These new reproduction technologies undermine to an
extent the concept of the printed book as a stable and authoritative
work,[86](ch11.xhtml#footnote-440) which had prevailed since the mass
production of books on industrial printing presses came into being. Eva
Hemmungs Wirtén describes how the widespread availability of the
photocopier[87](ch11.xhtml#footnote-439) has been perceived as a threat to the
authority of the text and cites Marshall McLuhan’s address at the Vision 65
congress in 1965:

Xerography is bringing a reign of terror into the world of publishing because
it means that every reader can become both author and publisher. […]
Authorship and readership alike can become production-oriented under
xerography. Anyone can take a book apart, insert parts of other books and
other materials of his own interest, and make his own book in a relatively
fast time. Any teacher can take any ten textbooks on any subject and custom-
make a different one by simply xeroxing a chapter from this one and from that
one.[88](ch11.xhtml#footnote-438)

One example of a reprinted and modified book in the Piracy Project is No se
diga a nadie (‘Don’t tell anyone’).[89](ch11.xhtml#footnote-437) It is an
autobiographical novel by Peruvian journalist and TV presenter Jaime Bayli.
The pirate copy, found by Andrea Francke on Lima’s pirate book markets, is
almost identical in size, weight, and format and the cover image is only
slightly cropped. However, this pirate copy has two extra chapters. Somebody
has infiltrated the named author’s work and sneaked in two fictionalised
chapters about the author’s life. These extra chapters are well written, good
enough to blend in and not noticeable at first glance by the
reader.[90](ch11.xhtml#footnote-436)

The pirates cannot gain any cultural capital here, as the pirating author
remains an anonymous ghost. Equally there is no financial profit to be made,
as long as the pirate version is not pointed out to readers as an extended
version. Such act is also not framed as a conceptual gesture, as it is the
case with Prince’s Catcher in the Rye. It rather operates under the radar of
everyone, and moreover and importantly, any revelation of this intervention or
any claim of authorship would be counterproductive.

This example helps us to think through concepts of the authoritative text and
the stability of the book. Other cases in the Piracy Project find similar ways
to queer the category of authorship and the dominant modes of production and
dissemination.[91](ch11.xhtml#footnote-435) Our practice consists of
collecting; setting up temporary reading rooms to house the collection; and
organising workshops and debates in order to find out about the reasons and
intentions for these acts of piracy, to learn from their strategies and to
track their implications for dominant modes of production and
dissemination.[92](ch11.xhtml#footnote-434)

This discursive practice distinguishes the Piracy Project from radical online
libraries, such as aaaaarg.fail or
[memoryoftheworld.org](http://memoryoftheworld.org).[93](ch11.xhtml#footnote-433)
While we share similar concerns, such as distribution monopolies, enclosure
and the streamlining of knowledge, these peer-to-peer (p2p) platforms mainly
operate as distribution platforms, developing strategies to share intact
copies of authoritative texts. Marcell Mars, for example, argues against
institutional and corporate distribution monopolies when he states ‘when
everyone is a librarian, [the] library is everywhere’. Mars invites users of
the online archive [memoryoftheworld.org](http://memoryoftheworld.org) to
upload their scanned books to share with others. Similarly, Sean Dockray, who
initiated aaaaarg.fail, a user generated online archive of books and texts,
said in an interview: ‘the project wasn’t about criticising 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 that I was in correspondence with at
the time but who weren’t necessarily in correspondence with each
other.’[94](ch11.xhtml#footnote-432)

## Practising Critique — Queering Institutional Categories

In contrast to online p2p sharing platforms, the Piracy Project took off in a
physical space, in the library of Byam Shaw School of Art in London. Its
creation was a response to restrictive university policies when, in 2010, the
management announced the closure of the art college library due to a merger
with the University of the Arts London. A joint effort by students and staff,
supported by the acting principal, turned Byam Shaw’s art college library into
a self-organised library that remained public, as well as intellectually and
socially generative.[95](ch11.xhtml#footnote-431)

As a result of the college taking collective ownership over the library and
its books, the space opened up. It had been a resource that was controlled and
validated by institutional policies that shaped crucial decisions about what
went on the shelves, but it became an assemblage of knowledge in which
potentially obscure, self-published materials that were not institutionally
validated were able to enter.

For example, artist and writer Neil Chapman’s handmade facsimile of Gilles
Deleuze’s Proust and Signs[96](ch11.xhtml#footnote-430) explored the
materiality of print and related questions about the institutional policies of
authorisation. Chapman produced a handmade facsimile of his personal paperback
copy of Deleuze’s work, including binding mistakes in which a few pages were
bound upside down, by scanning and printing the book on his home inkjet
printer. The book is close to the original format, cover and weight. However,
it has a crafty feel to it: the ink soaks into the paper creating a blurry
text image very different from a mass-produced offset printed text. It has
been assembled in DIY style and speaks the language of amateurism and
makeshift. The transformation is subtle, and it is this subtlety that makes
the book subversive in an institutional library context. How do students deal
with their expectations that they will access authoritative and validated
knowledge on library shelves and instead encounter a book that was printed and
assembled by hand?[97](ch11.xhtml#footnote-429) Such publications circumvent
the chain of institutional validation: from the author, to the publisher, the
book trade, and lastly the librarian purchasing and cataloguing the book
according to the standard bibliographic
practices.[98](ch11.xhtml#footnote-428) A similar challenge to the stability
of the printed book and the related hierarchy of knowledge occurred when
students at Byam Shaw sought a copy of Jacques Ranciere’s Ignorant
Schoolmaster and found three copied and modified versions. In accordance with,
or as a response to, Ranciere’s pedagogical proposal, one copy featured
deleted passages that left blank spaces for the reader to fill and to
construct their own meaning in lieu of Ranciere’s
text.[99](ch11.xhtml#footnote-427)

This queering of the authority of the book as well as the normative,
institutional frameworks felt like a liberating practice. It involved an open
call for pirated books, a set of workshops and a series of
lectures,[100](ch11.xhtml#footnote-426) which built a structure that allowed
the Piracy Project to share concerns about the wider developments at the
university and the government’s funding cuts in education, while the project
could at the same time playfully subvert the dire and frustrating situation of
a library that is earmarked for closure.

The fact that the library’s acquisition budget was cut made the pirating
action even more meaningful. Many books were produced on the photocopy machine
in the college. Other copies were sent to the project by artists, writers,
curators and critics who responded to the international call. The initial
agreement was to accept any submission, no matter how controversial, illegal
or unethical it might be. This invited a variety of approaches and
contradicting voices, which were not muted by the self-censorship of their
originators, nor by the context in which they circulated. By resisting
generalised judgments, the project tried to practice critique in Judith
Butler’s sense. For Butler ‘judgments operate […] as ways to subsume a
particular under an already constituted category, whereas critique asks after
the occlusive constitution of the field of categories themselves. […] Critique
is able to call foundations into question, denaturalise social and political
hierarchy, and even establish perspectives by which a certain distance on the
naturalised world can be had.’[101](ch11.xhtml#footnote-425)

To create such a space for the critique of the naturalisation of authorship as
intellectual property was one of the aims of the Piracy Project: firstly by
understanding that there is always a choice through discovering and exploring
other cultures and nations dealing with (or deliberately suspending) Western
copyright, and secondly through the project’s collective practice itself.

## Collective Authorship, Institutional Framing

The collaborative mode and collectivity within the Piracy Project
differentiates its artistic strategy in principle from Prince’s or Noland’s
approaches, who both operate as individuals claiming individual authorship for
their work.

But how did the Piracy Project deal with the big authorship question? There
was an interesting shift here: when the project still operated within the art
college library, there was not much need for the articulation of authorship
because it was embedded in a community who contributed in many different ways.
Once the library was eventually shut after two years and the project was
hosted by art institutions, a demand for the definition and framing of
authorship arose.[102](ch11.xhtml#footnote-424) Here the relationship between
the individual and the collective requires constant and careful
negotiation.[103](ch11.xhtml#footnote-423) Members of collectives naturally
develop different priorities and the differences in time, labour and thought
invested by individuals makes one contributor want to claim ‘more authorship’
than another. These conflicts require trust, transparency and a decision to
value the less glamorous, more invisible and supportive work needed to
maintain the project as much as the authoring of a text or speaking on a
panel.[104](ch11.xhtml#footnote-422) We also do not necessarily speak with one
voice. Andrea grew up in Peru and Brazil, and I in Germany, so we have
different starting points and experiences: ‘we’ was therefore sometimes a
problematic category.

## Our Relationships Felt Temporarily Transformed

Walter Benjamin, in his text ‘The Author as Producer’, rightly called on
intellectuals to take into account the means of production as much as the
radical content of their writings.[105](ch11.xhtml#footnote-421) In
theoretical writing, modes of production are too often ignored, which means in
practice that theorists uncritically comply with the conventional
micropolitics of publishing and dissemination. In other words, radical men and
women write radical thoughts in books that are not radical at all in the way
they are produced, published and disseminated. Cultural philosopher Gary Hall
recounts with surprise a discussion headlined ‘Radical Publishing: What Are We
Struggling For?’ that was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in
London in 2011. The invited panel speakers — Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, David
Graeber, Peter Hallward, and Mark Fisher among others — were mostly concerned
with, as Hall remembers,

political transformations elsewhere: in the past, the future, Egypt, [….] but
there was very little discussion of anything that would actually affect the
work, business, role, and practices of the speakers themselves: radical ideas
of publishing with transformed modes of production, say. As a result, the
event in the end risked appearing mainly to be about a few publishers,
including Verso, Pluto, and Zero Books, that may indeed publish radical
political content but in fact operate according to quite traditional business
models […] promoting their authors and products and providing more goods for
the ticket-paying audience to buy. If the content of their publications is
politically transformative, their publishing models certainly are not, with
phenomena such as the student protests and ideas of communism all being turned
into commodities to be marketed and sold.[106](ch11.xhtml#footnote-420)

That truly radical practices are possible is demonstrated by Susan Kelly, when
she reflects on her involvement in collective practices of creative dissent
during the austerity protests in the UK in 2010 — roughly at the same time and
in the same climate that the panel at the ICA took
place.[107](ch11.xhtml#footnote-419) Kelly describes occasions when artists
and activists who were involved in political organising, direct action,
campaigning, and claiming and organising alternative social and cultural
spaces, came together. She sees these occasions as powerful moments that
provided a glimpse into what the beginnings of a transversal and overarching
movement might look like.[108](ch11.xhtml#footnote-418) It was an attempt to

devise the new modes of action, and new kinds of objects from our emerging
analyses of the situation while keeping the format open, avoiding the
replication of given positions, hierarchies and roles of teachers, students,
artists, onlookers and so on. […] We met people we had never met before, never
worked with or known, and for many of us, our relationships felt temporarily
transformed, our vulnerabilities exposed and prior positions and defenses left
irrelevant, or at least suspended.[109](ch11.xhtml#footnote-417)

Exactly because these moments of protest produced actions and props that
escaped authorship, it was even more alienating for the participants when a
collectively fabricated prop for a demonstration, a large papier-mâché
carrot[110](ch11.xhtml#footnote-416) that became a notorious image in the
press at the time, was retrospectively ascribed in an Artforum interview to be
the ‘authored’ work of an individual artist.[111](ch11.xhtml#footnote-415)

Kelly, correctly, is highly critical of such designation, which re-erects the
blockages and boundaries connected to regimes of authorship that collective
action aimed to dismantle in the first place. It is vital not to ignore the
‘complex set of open and contingent relationships, actions and manifestations
that composed this specific collective political work.’ We would have to ask,
to which of the activities in the making of the papier-mâché carrot would we
attribute authorship? Is it the paper sourcing, the gluing, the painting, the
carrying or the communicative work of organising the gatherings? What if the
roles and practices are fluid and cannot be delimited like this?

## How Not to Assign Authorship?

What about this text you are reading now? It is based on a five-year
collaboration to which numerous people contributed. Pirated books were given
to the Piracy Project as well as arguments, ideas, questions, knowledge and
practices in the form of conversations and workshops.

In that regard, this text is informed by a myriad of encounters in panel
discussions and debates, as well as in the classrooms supported by
institutions, activist spaces and art spaces.[112](ch11.xhtml#footnote-414)
All these people donated their valuable ideas to its writing. Various drafts
have been read and commented on by friends, PhD supervisors and an anonymous
peer reviewer, and it has been edited by the publishers in the process of
becoming part of the anthology you now hold in your hands or read on a screen.
In that light, do I simply and uncritically affirm the mechanisms I am
criticising by delivering a single-authored text to be printed and validated
within the prevailing audit culture?

What if I did not add my name to this text? If it went unsigned, so to speak?
If anonymity replaced the designation of authorship? The text has not been
written collectively or collaboratively, despite the conventional processes of
seeking comments from friendly and critical readers. This is my text, but what
would happen if I did not assert my right to be its named author?

How would the non-visibility of the author matter to the reader? We are used
to making judgements that are at least partially based on the gender, status,
authority and reputation of a writer. There are also questions of liability
and accountability with respect to the content of the
text.[113](ch11.xhtml#footnote-413) Given the long struggle of women writers
and writers of colour to gain the right to be acknowledged as author, the act
of not signing my text might be controversial or even counter productive. It
would also go against the grain of scholarship that aims to decolonise the
canon or fight against the prevailing gender inequality in scholarly
publishing.[114](ch11.xhtml#footnote-412) And more, we have to ask who is
actually in a position to afford not to assign individual names to works given
that authorship — as discussed above — is used as a marker for professional
survival and advancement.

In this specific context however, and as practice based research, it would be
worth testing out practically what such a text orphan would trigger within
dominant infrastructures of publishing and validation. How would
bibliographers catalogue such a text? How could it be referenced and cited?
And how would it live online with respect to search engines, if there is no
searchable name attached to it? Most of our current research repositories
don’t allow the upload of author-less texts, instead returning error messages:
‘The author field must be completed’. Or they require a personalised log-in,
which automatically tags the registered username to the uploaded text.

What if I used a pseudonym, a common practice throughout literary
history?[115](ch11.xhtml#footnote-411) Multiple identity pseudonyms, such as
‘Karen Eliot’ or ‘Monty Cantsin’ used by the Neoist movement in the 1980s and
1990s could be interesting as they provide a joint name under which anybody
could sign her or his work without revealing the author’s
identity.[116](ch11.xhtml#footnote-410) This strategy of using a multi-
identity avatar is currently practiced by a decentralised, international
collective of hacktivists operating under the name ‘Anonymous’. The
‘elimination of the persona [of the author], and by extension everything
associated with it, such as leadership, representation, and status, is’,
according to Gabriella Coleman, ‘the primary ideal of
Anonymous.’[117](ch11.xhtml#footnote-409)

What if we adopted such models for academia? If we unionised and put in place
a procedure to collectively publish our work anonymously, for example under a
multi-identity avatar instead of individual names — how would such a text,
non-attributable as it is, change the policies of evaluation and assessment
within the knowledge economy? Would the lack of an identifiable name allow the
text to resist being measured as (or reduced to) a quantifiable auditable
‘output’ and therefore allow the issue of individualistic authorship to be
politicised? Or would it rather, as an individual and solitary act, be
subjected — again — to the regimes of individualisation? It seems that only if
not assigning individual authorship became a widespread and unionised practice
could procedures be put in place that acknowledged non-authored, collective,
non-competitive practices.[118](ch11.xhtml#footnote-408)

However, as tempting and urgent as such a move might appear in order to allow
individualistic authorship to be politicised, such a step also produces a
challenging double bind. According to Sara Ahmed it actually does matter who
is speaking. ’The ’who ’ does make a difference, not in the form of an
ontology of the individual, but as a marker of a specific location from which
the subject writes’.[119](ch11.xhtml#footnote-407)

From a feminist and postcolonial perspective, the detachment of writing from
the empirical body is problematic. Ahmed points out: ‘The universalism of the
masculine perspective relies precisely on being disembodied, on lacking the
contingency of a body. A feminist perspective would surely emphasise the
implication of writing in embodiment, in order to re-historicise this supposed
universalism, to locate it, and to expose the violence of its contingency and
particularity (by declaring some-body wrote this text, by asking which body
wrote this text).’[120](ch11.xhtml#footnote-406) Gayatri Spivak for example
insists on marking the positionality of a speaking subject in order to account
for the often unacknowledged eurocentrism of western
philosophy.[121](ch11.xhtml#footnote-405)

If we acknowledged this double bind, we might eventually be able to invent
modes of being and working together that recognise the difference of the ’who’
that writes, and at the same time might be able to move on from the question
‘how can we get rid of the author’ to inventing processes of subjectivation
that we want to support and instigate.

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photographs/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0)

Klinger, Cornelia (2009) ‘Autonomy-Authenticity-Alterity: On the Aesthetic
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pp. 26–28.

Krauss, Annette (2017) ‘Sites for Unlearning: On the Material, Artistic and
Political Dimensions of Processes of Unlearning’, PhD thesis, Academy of Fine
Arts Vienna.

Krupnick, Mark (28 January 2010) ‘JD Salinger Obituary’, The Guardian,


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Levine, Sherrie (2009) ‘Statement//1982’, in David Evans (ed.), Appropriation,
Documents of Contemporary Art (London: Whitechapel Gallery), p. 81.

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Lovink, Geert and Ross, Andrew (eds.) (2007) ‘Organic Intellectual Work’, in
My Creativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries (Amsterdam: Institute
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Marc Jancou Fine Art Ltd. v Sotheby’s, Inc. (13 November 2012) New York State
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Mauk, Ben (2014) ‘Who Owns This Image?’, The New Yorker 12 February,


McLuhan, Marshall (1966) ‘Address at Vision 65’, American Scholar 35, 196–205.

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Muñoz Sarmiento, Sergio and Lauren van Haaften-Schick (2013–2014) ‘Cariou v.
Prince: Toward a Theory of Aesthetic-Judicial Judgements’, in Texas A&M Law
Review, vol. 1.

Munro, Cait (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/>

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Constitutional Studies / Revue d’études constitutionnelles 1.1, 1–26,


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Catalogue/PCat_record.php?cat_index=99](http://andpublishing.org/PublicCatalogue/PCat_record.php?cat_index=99)

Piracy Project Catalogue / Camille Bondon, Jacques Rancière: le mâitre
ignorant,


Piracy Project Catalogue / Neil Chapman, Deleuze, Proust and Signs,


Piracy Project (19 April 2012) ‘The Impermanent Book’, Rhizome,


Policante, Amedeo (2015) The Pirate Myth, Genealogies of an Imperial Concept
(Oxford and New York: Routledge).

Precarious Workers Brigade (24 April 2011) ‘Fragments Toward an Understanding
of a Week that Changed Everything…’, e-flux,
-week-that-changed-everything/>

Prince, Richard (13 April 2015) Birdtalk,


Rancière, Jacques (2010) Education, Truth and Emancipation (London:
Continuum).

— (2008) The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation
(Stanford: University Press California)

Raunig, Gerald (2002) ‘Transversal Multitudes’, Transversal 9,


Rose, Mark (1993) Authors and Owners, The Invention of Copyright (Cambridge MA
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Schor, Naomi (1989) ‘Dreaming Dissymmetry: Barthes, Foucault and Sexual
Difference’, in Elizabeth Weed (ed.), Coming to Terms: Feminism, Theory,
Politics (London: Routledge), pp. 47–58.

Sollfrank, Cornelia (2012) ‘Copyright Cowboys Performing the Law’, Journal of
New Media Caucus 8.2, fall-2012-v-08-n-02-december-2nd-2012/copyright-cowboys-performing-the-law/>

Spivak, Gayatry Chakravorty (1988) ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, in Cary Nelson
and Lawrence Grossberg (eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press), pp. 271–313.

Strathern, Marilyn (2005) Kinship, Law, and the Unexpected: Relatives Are
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Thoburn, Nicholas (2016) Anti-Book, On the Art and Politics of Radical
Publishing (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press).

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estimates-january-2015/creative-industries-economic-estimates-january-2015
-key-findings>

— (1998) The Creative Industries Mapping Document,
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US Copyright Act (1976, amended 2016),

Wang, Elizabeth H. (1990) ‘(Re)Productive Rights: Copyright and the Postmodern
Artist’, Columbia-VLA Journal of Law & the Arts 14.2, 261–81,
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Waugh, Seth (2007) ‘Sponsor Statement‘, in The Solomon R. Guggenheim
Foundation (ed.), Richard Prince (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz).

Wellmon, Chad and Andrew Piper (21 July 2017) ‘Publication, Power, Patronage:
On Inequality and Academic Publishing’, Critical Inquiry,


Wright, Stephen (2013) Towards a Lexicon of Usership (Eindhoven: Van
Abbemuseum).

Zwick, Tracy (29 August 2013) ‘Art in America’, [https://www.artinamerica
magazine.com/news-features/news/sothebys-wins-in-dispute-with-jancou-gallery-
over-cady-noland-artwork/](https://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-
features/news/sothebys-wins-in-dispute-with-jancou-gallery-over-cady-noland-
artwork/)

* * *

[1](ch11.xhtml#footnote-525-backlink) /social-turn>

[2](ch11.xhtml#footnote-524-backlink) Carys J. Craig, ‘Symposium:
Reconstructing the Author-Self: Some Feminist Lessons for Copyright Law’,
American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law 15\. 2 (2007),
207–68 (p. 224).

[3](ch11.xhtml#footnote-523-backlink) Mark Rose, Authors and Owners, The
Invention of Copyright (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press,
1993), p. 142.

[4](ch11.xhtml#footnote-522-backlink) Craig, ‘Symposium: Reconstructing the
Author-Self’, p. 261.

[5](ch11.xhtml#footnote-521-backlink) Ibid., p. 267.

[6](ch11.xhtml#footnote-520-backlink) See also cultural theorist Gary Hall’s
discussion of Pirate Philosophy, as a potential way forward to overcome such
simplyfying dichotomies. ‘How can we [theorists] operate differently with
regard to our own work, business, roles, and practices to the point where we
actually begin to confront, think through, and take on (rather than take for
granted, forget, repress, ignore, or otherwise marginalize) some of the
implications of the challenge that is offered by theory to fundamental
humanities concepts such as the human, the subject, the author, the book,
copyright, and intellectual property, for the ways in which we create,
perform, and circulate knowledge and research?’ Gary Hall, Pirate Philosophy,
for a Digital Posthumanities (Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 2016),
p. 16.

[7](ch11.xhtml#footnote-519-backlink) Here ‘the producer is being imagined as
the origin of the product’. (Strathern, p. 156). Therefore ‘in law,
originality is simply the description of a causal relationship between a
person and a thing: to say that a work is original in law is to say nothing
more than that it originates from [can be attributed to] its creator’ (Barron,
p. 56). And conversely, in law ‘there can be no ‘copyright work’ […] without
some author who can be said to originate it’ (ibid., p. 55). Anne Barron, ‘No
Other Law? Author–ity, Property and Aboriginal Art’, in Lionel Bently and
Spyros Maniatis (eds.), Intellectual Property and Ethics (London: Sweet and
Maxwell, 1998), pp. 37–88, and Marilyn Strathern, Kinship, Law, and the
Unexpected: Relatives Are Always a Surprise (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2005).

See also Mario Biagioli’s and Marilyn Strathern’s discussion of the author-
work relationship as kinship in Mario Biagioli, ‘Plagiarism, Kinship and
Slavery’, Theory Culture Society 31.2–3 (2014), 65–91,


[8](ch11.xhtml#footnote-518-backlink) US Copyright Law, Article 17, §102 (a),
amendment 2016,[
](https://www.copyright.gov/title17/)

[9](ch11.xhtml#footnote-517-backlink) ‘In no case does copyright protection
for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process,
system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of
the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such
work.’ US Copyright Law, Article 17, §102 (b), amendment 2016,


[10](ch11.xhtml#footnote-516-backlink) Susan Kelly, ‘“But that was my idea!”
Problems of Authorship and Validation in Contemporary Practices of Creative
Dissent’, Parallax 19.2 (2013), 53–69,
https://doi.org/[10.1080/13534645.2013.778496](https://doi.org/10.1080/13534645.2013.778496).
All references to this text refer to the version published on
[academia.edu](http://academia.edu), which is slightly different:
,
p. 6.

[11](ch11.xhtml#footnote-515-backlink) Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s working method
with her book Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University
(Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2019) presents an interesting
alternative to standard procedures in scholarly publishing. She published the
draft of her book online, inviting readers to comment. This could potentially
become a model for multiple authorship as well as an alternative to the
standard peer review procedures. I am quoting from the published draft
version: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, ‘Critique and Competition’ in Generous
Thinking: The University and the Public Good (Humanities Commons, 2018),
paragraph 1,

[12](ch11.xhtml#footnote-514-backlink) Kelly, ‘“But that was my idea!”’, p. 6.

[13](ch11.xhtml#footnote-513-backlink) I refer in this chapter to US copyright
law, if not indicated otherwise.

[14](ch11.xhtml#footnote-512-backlink) He also released the book with Printed
Matter at the New York Art Book Fair in 2011.

[15](ch11.xhtml#footnote-511-backlink) It took Prince and his collaborator
John McWhinney over a year to find a printer with the guts to print this
facsimile. The one he eventually found was based in Iceland.

[16](ch11.xhtml#footnote-510-backlink) Prince states in his blog entry ‘Second
Thoughts on Being Original’, that he made 300 copies. ‘My plan was to show up
once a week, same day, same time, same place, until all three hundred copies
were gone.’ Birdtalk, 13 April 2015,
Booksellers’ web pages, such as Printed Matter, N.Y. and
[richardprincebooks.com](http://richardprincebooks.com), list an edition of
500. See:

[17](ch11.xhtml#footnote-509-backlink) Mark Krupnick, ‘JD Salinger Obituary’,
The Guardian, 28 January 2010, /jd-salinger-obituary>

[18](ch11.xhtml#footnote-508-backlink) Kim Gordon, ‘Band Paintings: Kim Gordon
Interviews Richard Prince’, Interview Magazine, 18 June 2012,
[http://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/kim-gordon-richard-
prince#](http://www.interviewmagazine.com/art/kim-gordon-richard-prince)

[19](ch11.xhtml#footnote-507-backlink) The inside flap of his replica stated a
price of $62. On this afternoon on the sidewalk outside Central Park, he sold
his copies for $40. When I was browsing the shelves at the New York art
bookshop Printed Matter in 2012 I saw copies for $200 and in 2018 it is priced
at $1200 and $3500 for a signed copy on Abebooks,
[https://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=&an=richard%20prince
&tn=catcher%20rye&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ats-_-used](https://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/SearchResults?isbn=&an=richard%252520prince&tn=catcher%252520rye&n=100121503&cm_sp=mbc-_-ats-_-used)

[20](ch11.xhtml#footnote-506-backlink) Kenneth Goldsmith, ‘Richard Prince’s
Latest Act of Appropriation: The Catcher in the Rye’, Harriet: A Poetry Blog,
19 April 2012, princes-latest-act-of-appropriation-the-catcher-in-the-rye/>

[21](ch11.xhtml#footnote-505-backlink) In 1977 Douglas Crimp curated the
exhibition ‘Pictures’ at Artists’ Space in New York with artists Troy
Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo and Philip Smith.
Artist Cornelia Sollfrank interprets ‘the non-specific title of the show’ as a
first indication of the aesthetic strategies presented in the exhibition. The
presentation of reproduced visual materials marked, according to Sollfrank, ‘a
major challenge to the then predominant modernist discourse.’ Cornelia
Sollfrank, ‘Copyright Cowboys Performing the Law’, Journal of New Media Caucus
8.2 (2012), fall-2012-v-08-n-02-december-2nd-2012/copyright-cowboys-performing-the-law/>

[22](ch11.xhtml#footnote-504-backlink) As Benjamin Buchloh writes ‘these
processes of quotation, excerption, framing and staging that constitute the
strategies of the work […] necessitate [the] uncovering strata of
representation. Needless to say we are not in search of sources of origin, but
of structures of signification: underneath each picture there is always
another picture.’ Benjamin Buchloh, ‘Pictures’, in David Evans (ed.),
Appropriation, Documents of Contemporary Art (London: Whitechapel Gallery,
2009), p. 78\. Originally published in October 8 (1979), 75–88.

[23](ch11.xhtml#footnote-503-backlink) October’s editors — including among
others Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster, Craig Owens, and Benjamin Buchloh —
provided a theoretical context for this emerging art by introducing French
structuralist and poststructuralist theory, i.e. the writings of Roland
Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida to the English speaking world.

[24](ch11.xhtml#footnote-502-backlink) Nate Harrison, ‘The Pictures
Generation, the Copyright Act of 1976, and the Reassertion of Authorship in
Postmodernity’, art&education.net, 29 June 2012,
pictures-generation-the-copyright-act-of-1976-and-the-reassertion-of-
authorship-in-postmodernity/>

[25](ch11.xhtml#footnote-501-backlink) Sherrie Levine, ‘Statement//1982’, in
David Evans (ed.), Appropriation, Documents of Contemporary Art (London:
Whitechapel Gallery, 2009), p. 81.

[26](ch11.xhtml#footnote-500-backlink) Nate Harrison, ‘The Pictures
Generation, the Copyright Act of 1976, and the Reassertion of Authorship in
Postmodernity’, art&education.net, 29 June 2012,
pictures-generation-the-copyright-act-of-1976-and-the-reassertion-of-
authorship-in-postmodernity/>

[27](ch11.xhtml#footnote-499-backlink) Ibid.

[28](ch11.xhtml#footnote-498-backlink) Quoting this line from Prince book, Why
I Go to the Movies Alone (New York: Barbara Gladstone Gallery, 1994), the
sponsor statement in the catalogue for Prince’s solo show Spiritual America at
The Guggenheim Museum in New York continues: ‘although his [work is] primarily
appropriated […] from popular culture, [it] convey[s] a deeply personal
vision. His selection of mediums and subject matter […] suggest a uniquely
individual logic […] with wit and an idiosyncratic eye, Richard Prince has
that rare ability to analyze and translate contemporary experience in new and
unexpected ways.’ Seth Waugh, ‘Sponsor Statement‘, in The Solomon R.
Guggenheim Foundation (ed.), Richard Prince (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2007).

[29](ch11.xhtml#footnote-497-backlink) See Hal Foster, ‘(Post)modern
Polemics’, in Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics (Port Townsend, WA:
Bay Press, 1985).

[30](ch11.xhtml#footnote-496-backlink) See note 47.

[31](ch11.xhtml#footnote-495-backlink) One might argue that this performative
act of claiming intellectual property is an attempt to challenge J. D.
Salinger’s notorious protectiveness about his writing. Salinger sued the
Swedish writer Fredrik Colting successfully for copyright infringement. Under
the pseudonym John David California, Colting had written a sequel to The
Catcher in the Rye. The sequel, 60 Years Later Coming Through The Rye, depicts
the protagonist Holden Caulfield’s adventures as an old man. In 2009, the US
District Court Judge in Manhattan, Deborah A. Batts, issued a preliminary
injunction indefinitely barring the publication, advertising or distribution
of the book in the US. See Sewell Chan, ‘Judge Rules for J. D. Salinger in
“Catcher” Copyright Suit’, The New York Times, 1 July 2009,


‘In a settlement agreement reached between Salinger and Colting in 2011,
Colting has agreed not to publish or otherwise distribute the book, e-book, or
any other editions of 60 Years Later in the U.S. or Canada until The Catcher
in the Rye enters the public domain. Notably, however, Colting is free to sell
the book in other international territories without fear of interference, and
a source has told Publishers Weekly that book rights have already been sold in
as many as a half-dozen territories, with the settlement documents included as
proof that the Salinger Estate will not sue. In addition, the settlement
agreement bars Colting from using the title “Coming through the Rye”; forbids
him from dedicating the book to Salinger; and would prohibit Colting or any
publisher of the book from referring to The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger, the
book being “banned” by Salinger, or from using the litigation to promote the
book.’ Andrew Albanese, ‘J. D. Salinger Estate, Swedish Author Settle
Copyright Suit’, Publishers Weekly, 11 January 2011,
news/article/45738-j-d-salinger-estate-swedish-author-settle-copyright-
suit.html>

[32](ch11.xhtml#footnote-494-backlink) Elizabeth H. Wang, ‘(Re)Productive
Rights: Copyright and the Postmodern Artist’, Columbia-VLA Journal of Law &
the Arts 14.2 (1990), 261–81 (p. 281),
[https://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/cjla14&div=10&g_sent=1&casa_token=&collection=journals](https://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/cjla14&div=10&g_sent=1&casa_token=&collection=journals)

[33](ch11.xhtml#footnote-493-backlink) Sollfrank, ‘Copyright Cowboys’.

[34](ch11.xhtml#footnote-492-backlink) Thirty paintings created by Prince
contained forty-one of Cariou’s photographs. The images had been taken from
Cariou’s book Yes Rasta (Brooklyn: powerHouse Books, 2000) and used by Prince
in his painting series Canal Zone, which was shown at Gagosian Gallery, New
York, in 2008.

[35](ch11.xhtml#footnote-491-backlink) It might be no coincidence (or then
again, it might) that the district court judge in this case, Deborah Batts, is
the same judge who ruled in the 2009 case in which Salinger successfully
brought suit for copyright infringement against Swedish author Fredrik Colting
for 60 Years Later Coming Through the Rye, a sequel to Salinger’s book. See
note 31.

[36](ch11.xhtml#footnote-490-backlink) ’In determining whether the use made of
a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall
include — (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use
is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the
nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the
portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the
effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted
work.’ US Copyright Act of 1976, amended 2016,


[37](ch11.xhtml#footnote-489-backlink) ‘What is critical is how the work in
question appears to the reasonable observer, not simply what an artist might
say about a particular piece or body of work.’ Cariou v Prince, et al., court
document, No. 11–1197-cv, page 14,
[http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/f6e88b8b-48af-401c-
96a0-54d5007c2f33/1/doc/11-1197_complete_opn.pdf#xml=http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery
/f6e88b8b-48af-401c-
96a0-54d5007c2f33/1/hilite/](http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery
/f6e88b8b-48af-401c-
96a0-54d5007c2f33/1/doc/11-1197_complete_opn.pdf%23xml=http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery
/f6e88b8b-48af-401c-96a0-54d5007c2f33/1/hilite/)

[38](ch11.xhtml#footnote-488-backlink) The court opinion states: ‘These
twenty-five of Prince’s artworks manifest an entirely different aesthetic from
Cariou’s photographs. Where Cariou’s serene and deliberately composed
portraits and landscape photographs depict the natural beauty of Rastafarians
and their surrounding environs, Prince’s crude and jarring works, on the other
hand, are hectic and provocative. Cariou’s black-and-white photographs were
printed in a 9 1/2” x 12” book. Prince has created collages on canvas that
incorporate color, feature distorted human and other forms and settings, and
measure between ten and nearly a hundred times the size of the photographs.
Prince’s composition, presentation, scale, color palette, and media are
fundamentally different and new compared to the photographs, as is the
expressive nature of Prince’s work.’ Ibid., pp. 12–13.

[39](ch11.xhtml#footnote-487-backlink) Prince’s deposition testimony stated
that he ‘do[es]n’t really have a message,’ that he was not ‘trying to create
anything with a new meaning or a new message,’ and that he ‘do[es]n’t have any
[…] interest in [Cariou’s] original intent.’ Court Opinion, p. 13\. For full
deposition see Greg Allen (ed.), The Deposition of Richard Prince in the Case
of Cariou v. Prince et al. (Zurich: Bookhorse, 2012).

[40](ch11.xhtml#footnote-486-backlink) The court opinion includes a dissent by
Circuit Judge Clifford Wallace sitting by designation from the US Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, ‘I, for one, do not believe that I am in a
position to make these fact- and opinion-intensive decisions on the twenty-
five works that passed the majority’s judicial observation. […] nor am I
trained to make art opinions ab initio.’ Ibid., p. 5\.

‘Furthermore, Judge Wallace questions the majority’s insistence on analyzing
only the visual similarities and differences between Cariou’s and Prince’s art
works, “Unlike the majority, I would allow the district court to consider
Prince’s statements reviewing fair use … I see no reason to discount Prince’s
statements as the majority does.” In fact, Judge Wallace remarks that he views
Prince’s statements as “relevant to the transformativeness analysis.” Judge
Wallace does not believe that a simple visual side-by-side analysis is enough
because this would call for judges to “employ [their] own artistic
Judgment[s].”’ Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento and Lauren van Haaften-Schick, citing
court documents. ‘Cariou v. Prince: Toward a Theory of Aesthetic-Judicial
Judgements’, Texas A&M Law Review, vol. 1, 2013–2014, p. 948.

[41](ch11.xhtml#footnote-485-backlink) Court opinion, p. 18.

[42](ch11.xhtml#footnote-484-backlink) Ibid., p. 17.

[43](ch11.xhtml#footnote-483-backlink) Ibid., pp. 4–5.

[44](ch11.xhtml#footnote-482-backlink) Ibid., p. 18.

[45](ch11.xhtml#footnote-481-backlink) Muñoz Sarmiento and van Haaften-Schick,
‘Aesthetic-Judicial Judgements’, p. 945.

[46](ch11.xhtml#footnote-480-backlink) Court opinion, p. 15.

[47](ch11.xhtml#footnote-479-backlink) The court opinion states: ‘He is a
leading exponent of this genre and his work has been displayed in museums
around the world, including New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and
Whitney Museum, San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, Rotterdam’s Museum
Boijmans van Beuningen, and Basel’s Museum für Gegenwartskunst.’ Ibid., p. 5.

[48](ch11.xhtml#footnote-478-backlink) Muñoz Sarmiento and van Haaften-Schick,
‘Aesthetic-Judicial Judgements’, p. 945.

[49](ch11.xhtml#footnote-477-backlink) The New York Times reports Prince had
not to destroy the five paintings at issue. Randy Kennedy, ‘Richard Prince
Settles Copyright Suit With Patrick Cariou Over Photographs’, New York Times,
18 March 2014, [https://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/richard-prince-
settles-copyright-suit-with-patrick-cariou-over-
photographs/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0](https://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/18
/richard-prince-settles-copyright-suit-with-patrick-cariou-over-
photographs/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0)

[50](ch11.xhtml#footnote-476-backlink) Court opinion, p. 13.

[51](ch11.xhtml#footnote-475-backlink) Sollfrank, ‘Copyright Cowboys’.

[52](ch11.xhtml#footnote-474-backlink) In 2016 photographer Donald Graham
filed a lawsuit against Prince with regard to Prince’s use of Graham’s
Instagram pictures. Again, the image shows a photographic representation of
Rastafarians. And similar to the Cariou case Prince appropriates Graham’s and
Cariou’s cultural appropriation of Rastafarian culture.

[53](ch11.xhtml#footnote-473-backlink) Cait Munro quotes Cady Noland from
Sarah Thornton’s book 33 Artists in 3 Acts. Noland gave Thornton her first
interview for twenty-four years: ‘Noland, an extremely talented artist, has
become so obsessed with her old work that she’s been unable to create anything
new in years. She admits to Thornton that ‘I’d like to get into a studio and
start making work,’ but that tracking the old work has become a ‘full-time
thing’. Cait Munro, ‘Is Cady Noland More Difficult To Work With Than Richard
Prince?’, artNet news, 10 November 2014, /is-cady-noland-as-psychotic-as-richard-prince-162310>;

[54](ch11.xhtml#footnote-472-backlink) Martha Buskirk, ‘Marc Jancou, Cady
Noland, and the Case of the Authorless Artwork’, Hyperallergic, 9 December
2013, an-authorless-artwork/>

[55](ch11.xhtml#footnote-471-backlink) Marc Jancou Fine Art Ltd. v Sotheby’s,
Inc., New York State Unified Court System, 2012 NY Slip Op 33163(U), 13
November 2012, op-33163-u.pdf?ts=1396133024>

[56](ch11.xhtml#footnote-470-backlink) ‘The author of a work of visual art —
(1) shall have the right — (A) to claim authorship of that work, and (B) to
prevent the use of his or her name as the author of any work of visual art
which he or she did not create; (2) shall have the right to prevent the use of
his or her name as the author of the work of visual art in the event of a
distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work which would be
prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation; and (3) subject to the
limitations set forth in section 113(d), shall have the right — (A) to prevent
any intentional distortion, mutilation, or other modification of that work
which would be prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation, and any
intentional distortion, mutilation, or modification of that work is a
violation of that right, and (B) to prevent any destruction of a work of
recognized stature, and any intentional or grossly negligent destruction of
that work is a violation of that right’, from US Code, Title 17, § 106A, Legal
Information Institute, Cornell Law School,


[57](ch11.xhtml#footnote-469-backlink) Buskirk, ‘Marc Jancou, Cady Noland’.

[58](ch11.xhtml#footnote-468-backlink) Ibid.

[59](ch11.xhtml#footnote-467-backlink) Jancou’s claim was dismissed by the New
York Supreme Court in the same year. The Court’s decision was based on the
language of Jancou’s consignment agreement with Sotheby’s, which gave
Sotheby’s the right to withdraw Cowboys Milking ‘at any time before the sale’
if, in Sotheby’s judgment, ‘there is doubt as to its authenticity or
attribution.’ Tracy Zwick, ‘Art in America’, 29 August 2013,
dispute-with-jancou-gallery-over-cady-noland-artwork/>

[60](ch11.xhtml#footnote-466-backlink) It might be important here to recall
that both Richard Prince and Cady Noland are able to afford the expensive
costs incurred by a court case due to their success in the art market.

[61](ch11.xhtml#footnote-465-backlink) The legal grounds for Noland’s move,
the federal Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, is based on French moral rights
or author rights (droit d’auteur), which are inspired by the humanistic and
individualistic values of the French Revolution and form part of European
copyright law. They conceive the work as an intellectual and creative
expression that is directly connected to its creator. Legal scholar Lionel
Bently observes ‘the prominence of romantic conceptions of authorship’ in the
recognition of moral rights, which are based on concepts of the originality
and authenticity of the modern subject (Lionel Bently, ‘Copyright and the
Death of the Author in Literature and Law’, Modern Law Review, 57 (1994),
973–86 (p. 977)). ‘Authenticity is the pure expression, the expressivity, of
the artist, whose soul is mirrored in the work of art.’ (Cornelia Klinger,
‘Autonomy-Authenticity-Alterity: On the Aesthetic Ideology of Modernity’ in
Modernologies: Contemporary Artists Researching Modernity and Modernism,
exhibition catalogue (Barcelona: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2009),
pp. 26–28 (p. 29)) Moral rights are the personal rights of authors, which
cannot be surrendered fully to somebody else because they conceptualize
authorship as authentic extension of the subject. They are ‘rights of authors
and artists to be named in relation to the work and to control alterations of
the work.’ (Bently, ‘Copyright and the Death of the Author’, p. 977) In
contrast to copyright, moral rights are granted in perpetuity, and fall to the
estate of an artist after his or her death.

Anglo-American copyright, employed in Prince’s case, on the contrary builds
the concept of intellectual property mainly on economic and distribution
rights, against unauthorised copying, adaptation, distribution and display.
Copyright lasts for a certain amount of time, after which the work enters the
public domain. In most countries the copyright term expires seventy years
after the death of the author. Non-perpetual copyright attempts to strike a
balance between the needs of the author to benefit economically from his or
her work and the interests of the public who benefit from the use of new work.

[62](ch11.xhtml#footnote-464-backlink) Bently, ‘Copyright and the Death of the
Author’, p. 974.

[63](ch11.xhtml#footnote-463-backlink) Geert Lovink and Andrew Ross, ‘Organic
Intellectual Work’, in Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter (eds.), My Creativity
Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries (Amsterdam: Institute of Network
Cultures, 2007), pp. 225–38 (p. 230),


[64](ch11.xhtml#footnote-462-backlink) UK Government Department for Digital,
Culture, Media and Sports, The Creative Industries Mapping Document, 1998,
documents-1998>

[65](ch11.xhtml#footnote-461-backlink) UK Government, Department for Media,
Culture & Sport, Creative Industries Economic Estimates January 2015,
estimates-january-2015/creative-industries-economic-estimates-january-2015
-key-findings>

[66](ch11.xhtml#footnote-460-backlink) See critical discussion of the creative
industries paradigm and the effects of related systems of governance on the
precarisation of the individual: Lovink and Rossiter, My Creativity, and
Isabell Lorey, State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious (London:
Verso, 2015).

[67](ch11.xhtml#footnote-459-backlink) University of the Arts London,
‘Intellectual Property Know-How for the Creative Sector’. This site was
initially accessed on 30 March 2015. In 2018 it was taken down and integrated
into the UAL Intellectual Property Advice pages. Their downloadable PDFs still
show the ‘Own-it’ logo, /freelance-and-business-advice/intellectual-property-advice>

[68](ch11.xhtml#footnote-458-backlink) Patricia Aufderheide, Peter Jaszi,
Bryan Bello, and Tijana Milosevic, Copyright, Permissions, and Fair Use Among
Visual Artists and the Academic and Museum Visual Arts Communities: An Issues
Report (New York: College Art Association, 2014).

[69](ch11.xhtml#footnote-457-backlink) Ibid., p. 5.

[70](ch11.xhtml#footnote-456-backlink) Sixty-six percent of all those who
reported that they had abandoned or avoided a project because of an actual or
perceived inability to obtain permissions said they would be ‘very likely’ to
use copyrighted works of others more than they have in the past were
permissions not needed. Ibid., p. 50.

[71](ch11.xhtml#footnote-455-backlink) The Copyright, Permissions, and Fair
Use Report gives some intriguing further observations: ‘Permissions roadblocks
result in deformed or even abandoned work. Exhibition catalogues may be issued
without relevant images because rights cannot be cleared. Editors of art
scholarship reported journal articles going to print with blank spots where
reproductions should be, because artists’ representatives disagreed with the
substance of the article; and one book was published with last-minute
revisions and deletions of all images because of a dispute with an estate —
with disastrous results for sales. Journal editors have had to substitute
articles or go without an article altogether because an author could not
arrange permissions in time for publication. In one case, after an author’s
manuscript was completed, an estate changed position, compelling the author
both to rewrite and to draw substitute illustrations. Among other things, the
cost of permissions leads to less work that features historical overviews and
comparisons, and more monographs and case studies. Scholarship itself is
distorted and even censored by the operation of the permissions culture. […]
In some cases, the demands of rights holders have extended to altering or
censoring the scholarly argument about a work. Catalogue copy sometimes is
altered because scholarly arguments and perspectives are unacceptable to
rights holders.’ These actions are in some cases explicitly seen as
censorship. Ibid., p. 52.

[72](ch11.xhtml#footnote-454-backlink) Ibid., p. 51.

[73](ch11.xhtml#footnote-453-backlink) Ben Mauk, ‘Who Owns This Image?’, The
New Yorker, 12 February 2014, owns-this-image>

[74](ch11.xhtml#footnote-452-backlink) Jennifer Nedelsky, ’Reconceiving Rights
as Relationship’, in Review of Constitutional Studies / Revue d’études
constitutionnelles 1.1 (1993), 1–26 (p. 16),


[75](ch11.xhtml#footnote-451-backlink) Deborah J. Halbert, Resisting
Intellectual Property (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 1–2.

[76](ch11.xhtml#footnote-450-backlink) See for example Amedeo Policante
examining the relationship between empire and pirate, claiming that the pirate
can exist only in a relationship with imperial foundations. ‘Upon the naming
of the pirate, in fighting it and finally in celebrating its triumph over it,
Empire erects itself. There is no Empire without a pirate, a terrorizing
common enemy, an enemy of all. At the same time, there is no pirate without
Empire. In fact, pirates as outlaws cannot be understood in any other way but
as legal creatures. In other words, they exist only in a certain extreme,
liminal relationship with the law.’ Amedeo Policante, The Pirate Myth,
Genealogies of an Imperial Concept (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2015), p.
viii.

[77](ch11.xhtml#footnote-449-backlink) Ramon Lobato, ‘The Paradoxes of
Piracy’, in Lars Eckstein and Anja Schwarz (eds.), Postcolonial Piracy: Media
Distribution and Cultural Production in the Global South (London and New York:
Bloomsbury, 2014), pp. 121–34 (pp. 121, 123).

[78](ch11.xhtml#footnote-448-backlink) Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Enemy of All:
Piracy and the Law of Nations (New York: Zone Books, 2009), p. 35, as cited by
Gary Hall, Pirate Philosophy, p. 16.

[79](ch11.xhtml#footnote-447-backlink) ‘Etymology of Pirate’, in English Words
of (Unexpected) Greek Origin, 2 March 2012,


[80](ch11.xhtml#footnote-446-backlink) The Piracy Project is a collaboration
between AND Publishing and Andrea Francke initiated in London in 2010.

[81](ch11.xhtml#footnote-445-backlink) Andrea Francke visited pirate book
markets in Lima, Peru in 2010. The Red Mansion Prize residency enabled us to
research book piracy in Beijing and Shanghai in 2012. A research residency at
SALT Istanbul in 2012 facilitated field research in Turkey.

[82](ch11.xhtml#footnote-444-backlink) See also Stephen Wright’s Towards a
Lexicon of Usership (Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum, 2013) proposing to replace the
term (media) ‘piracy’ with ‘usership’. He explains: ‘On the one hand, the most
notorious and ruthless cultural pirates today are Google and its subsidiaries
like YouTube (through the institutionalized rip-off of user-generated value
broadly known as Page-Rank), Facebook, and of course Warner Bros etc., but
also academic publishers such as the redoubtable Routledge. On the other hand,
all the user-run and user-driven initiatives like aaaaarg, or
[pad.ma](http://pad.ma), or until recently the wonderful Dr Auratheft. But,
personally, I would hesitate to assimilate such scaled-up, de-creative, user-
propelled examples with anything like “cultural piracy”. They are, through
usership, enriching what would otherwise fall prey to cultural piracy.’ Email
to the author, 1 August 2012.

See also: Andrea Francke and Eva Weinmayr (eds.), Borrowing, Poaching,
Plagiarising, Pirating, Stealing, Gleaning, Referencing, Leaking, Copying,
Imitating, Adapting, Faking, Paraphrasing, Quoting, Reproducing, Using,
Counterfeiting, Repeating, Translating, Cloning (London: AND Publishing,
2014).

[83](ch11.xhtml#footnote-443-backlink) Richard Prince’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’
forms part of the Piracy Collection. Not the book copy priced at £1,500, just
an A4 colour printout of the cover, downloaded from the Internet. On the shelf
it sits next to Salinger’s copy, which we bought at Barnes and Noble for £20.

[84](ch11.xhtml#footnote-442-backlink) Craig, ‘Symposium: Reconstructing the
Author-Self’, p. 246.

[85](ch11.xhtml#footnote-441-backlink) Michel Foucault, ‘What Is an Author?’,
in [Donald F.
Bouchard](https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_2?ie=UTF8&text=Donald+F.+Bouchard
&search-alias=books-uk&field-author=Donald+F.+Bouchard&sort=relevancerank)
(ed.), Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp. 113–38.

[86](ch11.xhtml#footnote-440-backlink) See The Piracy Project, ‘The
Impermanent Book’, Rhizome, 19 April 2012,


[87](ch11.xhtml#footnote-439-backlink) It might be no coincidence that Roland
Barthes’ seminal short essay ‘Death of the Author’ was published in the
magazine Aspen at the same time, when photocopy machines were beginning to be
widely used in libraries and offices.

[88](ch11.xhtml#footnote-438-backlink) Eva Hemmungs Wirtén, No Trespassing,
Authorship, Intellectual Property Rights and the Boundaries of Globalization
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), p. 66.

[89](ch11.xhtml#footnote-437-backlink) See No se diga a nadie, The Piracy
Project Catalogue,


[90](ch11.xhtml#footnote-436-backlink) In an essay in Granta Magazine, Daniel
Alarcon explains the popularity of book piracy in Peru due to the lack of
formal distribution. ‘Outside Lima, the pirate book industry is the only one
that matters’ explains Alarcon. Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian
Amazon, with nearly 400,000 residents, had until 2007 no formal bookstore and
in 2010 only two. Trujillo, the country’s third largest city, has one.
According to Alarcon, an officially produced book costs twenty percent of an
average worker’s weekly income, therefore the pirate printing industry fills
this gap — an activity that is not seriously restricted by the state. In fact,
Alarcon claims that the government is involved in the pirate printing industry
as a way to control what is being read. Pirated books are openly sold in book
markets and by street vendors at traffic crossings, therefore they ‘reach
sectors of the market that formal book publishers cannot or don’t care to
access. In a similar vein, the few prestigious private universities’ book
check-out time is exactly twenty-four hours, the very turnaround for the copy
shops in the neighbourhood to make a photocopied version of the checked-out
library books. Daniel Alarcon, ‘Life Amongst the Pirates’, Granta Magazine, 14
January 2010,

[91](ch11.xhtml#footnote-435-backlink) A discussion of the vast variety of
approaches here would exceed the scope of this text. If you are interested,
please visit our searchable Piracy Collection catalogue, which provides short
descriptions of the pirates’ approaches and strategies,


[92](ch11.xhtml#footnote-434-backlink) For the performative debate A Day at
the Courtroom hosted by The Showroom in London, the Piracy Project invited
three copyright lawyers from different cultural and legal backgrounds to
discuss and assess selected cases from the Piracy Project from the perspective
of their differing jurisdictions. The final verdict was given by the audience,
who positioned the ‘case’ on a colour scale ranging from illegal (red) to
legal (blue). The scale replaced the law’s fundamental binary of legal —
illegal, allowing for greater complexity and nuance. The advising scholars and
lawyers were Lionel Bently (Professor of Intellectual Property at the
University of Cambridge), Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento (Art and Law, New York),
Prodromos Tsiavos (Project lead for Creative Commons, England, Wales and
Greece). A Day at the Courtroom, The Showroom London, 15 June 2013. See a
transcript of the debate in Francke and Weinmayr, Borrowing, Poaching,
Plagiarising.

[93](ch11.xhtml#footnote-433-backlink) Aaaaaarg.fail operates on an invitation
only basis; [memoryoftheworld.org](http://memoryoftheworld.org) is openly
accessible.

[94](ch11.xhtml#footnote-432-backlink) Julian Myers, Four Dialogues 2: On
AAAARG, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art — Open Space, 26 August 2009,
. This
constructive approach has been observed by Jonas Andersson generally with p2p
sharing networks, which ’have begun to appear less as a reactive force (i.e.
breaking the rules) and more as a proactive one (setting the rules). […]
Rather than complain about the conservatism of established forms of
distribution they simply create new, alternative ones.’ Jonas Andersson, ‘For
the Good of the Net: The Pirate Bay as a Strategic Sovereign’, Culture Machine
10 (2009), p. 64.

[95](ch11.xhtml#footnote-431-backlink) This process was somewhat fraught,
because at the same time David Cameron launched his perfidious ‘Big Society’
concept, which proposed that members of the community should volunteer at
institutions, such as local public libraries, which otherwise could not
survive because of government cuts.

[96](ch11.xhtml#footnote-430-backlink) See the Piracy Project catalogue: Neil
Chapman, Deleuze, Proust and Signs,


[97](ch11.xhtml#footnote-429-backlink) Of course unconventional publications
can and are being collected, but these are often more arty objects, flimsy or
oversized, undersized etc. and frequently end up in the special collections,
framed and categorised ‘as different’ from the main stack of the collections.

[98](ch11.xhtml#footnote-428-backlink) When The Piracy Project was invited to
create a reading room at the New York Art Book Fair in 2012, a librarian from
the Pratt Institute dropped by every single day, because she was so fixed on
the questions, the pirate books and their complex strategies of queering the
category of authorship posed to standardised bibliographic practices. Based on
this question we organised a cataloguing workshop ‘Putting the Piracy
Collection on the shelf’ at Grand Union in Birmingham, where we developed a
new cataloguing vocabulary for cases in the collection. See union.org.uk/gallery/putting-the-piracy-collection-on-the-shelves/>

See also Karen Di Franco’s reflection on the cataloguing workshop ‘The Library
Medium’ in Francke and Weinmayr, Borrowing, Poaching, Plagiarising.

[99](ch11.xhtml#footnote-427-backlink) See Piracy Project catalogue: Camille
Bondon, Jacques Rancière: le mâitre ignorant,
.
Rancière’s pedagogical proposal suggests that ‘the most important quality of a
schoolmaster is the virtue of ignorance’. (Rancière, 2010, p. 1). In his book
The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation Jacques
Rancière uses the historic case of the French teacher Joseph Jacotot, who was
exiled in Belgium and taught French classes to Flemish students whose language
he did not know and vice versa. Reportedly he gave his students a French text
to read alongside its translation and, without mediation or explanation, let
the students figure out the relationship between the two texts themselves. By
intentionally using his ignorance as teaching method, Rancière claims, Jacotot
removed himself as the centre of the classroom, as the one who knows. This
teaching method arguably destabilises the hierarchical relationship of
knowledge (between student and teacher) and therefore ‘establishes equality as
the centre of the educational process’. Annette Krauss, ‘Sites for Unlearning:
On the Material, Artistic and Political Dimensions of Processes of
Unlearning’, PhD, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, 2017, p. 113\. Jacques
Rancière, Education, Truth and Emancipation (London: Continuum, 2010). Jacques
Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation
(Stanford: University Press California, 1987).

[100](ch11.xhtml#footnote-426-backlink) ‘AND Publishing announces The Piracy
Lectures’, Art Agenda, 4 May 2011, publishing-announces-the-piracy-lectures/>

[101](ch11.xhtml#footnote-425-backlink) Judith Butler, ‘What is Critique? An
Essay on Foucault’s Virtue’, Transversal 5 (2001),


[102](ch11.xhtml#footnote-424-backlink) Institutions that hosted long and
short-term reading rooms or invited us for workshops included: The Showroom
London, Grand Union Birmingham, Salt Istanbul, ZKM Academy for Media Arts
Cologne, Kunstverein Munich. The Bluecoat Liverpool, Truth is Concrete,
Steirischer Herbst Graz, Printed Matter New York, New York Art Book Fair at
MoMA PS1, 281 Vancouver, Rum 46 Aarhus, Miss Read, Kunstwerke Berlin.
Institutions that invited us for talks or panel discussions included:
Whitechapel Art Gallery, Open Design Conference Barcelona, Institutions by
Artists Vancouver, Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig, Freie University Berlin, and
various art academies and universities across Europe.

[103](ch11.xhtml#footnote-423-backlink) At times, we signed ‘the Piracy
Project’ (the title) under our own names (the artist-authors), because it felt
suitable to take the credit for all our personal work, instead of
strengthening the ‘umbrella organisation’ AND. When the editor of Rhizome
asked us to write about the project, we authored the jointly written text as
‘by Piracy Project’. On other occasions we framed it ‘The Piracy Project is a
collaboration of the artists x and y, as part of AND Publishing’s research
program.’ At some point, the Piracy Project outgrew AND Publishing because it
took up all our time, and we began to question whether the Piracy Project was
part of AND, or whether AND was part of the Piracy Project.

[104](ch11.xhtml#footnote-422-backlink) This less glamourous work includes
answering emails, booking flights, organising rooms and hosting, in short the
administrative work required to run and maintain such a project. The feminist
discourse of domestic and reproductive labour is relevant here, but a more
detailed discussion exceeds the scope of this text.

[105](ch11.xhtml#footnote-421-backlink) Walter Benjamin, ‘The Author as
Producer’, New Left Review 1.62 (1970), 83–96. See also Hall, Pirate
Philosophy, pp. 127–232.

[106](ch11.xhtml#footnote-420-backlink) Ibid., p. 129.

[107](ch11.xhtml#footnote-419-backlink) Several gatherings, such as ‘Direct
Weekend’ and ‘Long Weekend’ at various art colleges in London involved
Precarious Workers Brigade, Carrot Workers, tax evasion campaigners, UK Uncut,
alternative media groups, feminist alliances, anti-poverty groups. See
Precarious Workers Brigade, ‘Fragments Toward an Understanding of a Week that
Changed Everything…’, e-flux 24 (April 2011),
-week-that-changed-everything/>

[108](ch11.xhtml#footnote-418-backlink) Susan Kelly describes Felix Guattari’s
use of the term transversality ‘as a conceptual tool to open hitherto closed
logics and hierarchies and to experiment with relations of interdependency in
order to produce new assemblages and alliances […] and different forms of
(collective) subjectivity that break down oppositions between the individual
and the group.’ Susan Kelly, ‘The Transversal and the Invisible: How do You
Really Make a Work of Art that Is not a Work of Art?’, Transversal 1 (2005),
. See also Gerald Raunig’s
description of transversal activist practice: as ‘There is no longer any
artificially produced subject of articulation; it becomes clear that every
name, every linkage, every label has always already been collective and must
be newly constructed over and over again. In particular, to the same extent to
which transversal collectives are only to be understood as polyvocal groups,
transversality is linked with a critique of representation, with a refusal to
speak for others, in the name of others, with abandoning identity, with a loss
of a unified face, with the subversion of the social pressure to produce
faces.’ Gerald Raunig, ‘Transversal Multitudes’, Transversal 9 (2002),


[109](ch11.xhtml#footnote-417-backlink) Kelly, ‘”But that was my idea!”’, p.
3.

[110](ch11.xhtml#footnote-416-backlink) The carrot is used as ‘a symbol of the
promise of paid work and future fulfilment made to those working under
conditions of free labour in the cultural sector.’ Ibid.

[111](ch11.xhtml#footnote-415-backlink) In an interview published in Artforum,
David Graeber says: ‘Another artist I know, for example, made a sculpture of a
giant carrot used during a protest at Millbank; I think it was actually thrown
through the window of Tory headquarters and set on fire. She feels it was her
best work, but her collective, which is mostly women, insisted on collective
authorship, and she feels unable to attach her name to the work.’ ‘Another
World: Michelle Kuo Talks with David Graeber’, Artforum International (Summer
2012), p. 270, david-graeber-31099>

[112](ch11.xhtml#footnote-414-backlink) Artist Rosalie Schweiker, who read a
draft of this text, suggested that I make a list of the name of every person
involved in the project in order to demonstrate this generative and expansive
mode of working.

[113](ch11.xhtml#footnote-413-backlink) Such an action might even infringe
legal requirements or contracts. Open Book Publishers’ contract, for example,
states: ‘The author hereby asserts his/her right to be identified in relation
to the work on the title page and cover and the publisher undertakes to comply
with this requirement. A copyright notice in the Author’s name will be printed
in the front pages of the Work.’ Open Book Publishers, Authors’ Guide, p. 19,


[114](ch11.xhtml#footnote-412-backlink) For a discussion of gender inequality
in recent scholarly publishing see Chad Wellmon and Andrew Piper ‘Publication,
Power, Patronage: On Inequality and Academic Publishing’, Critical Inquiry (21
July 2017),
publication_power_and_patronage_on_inequality_and_academic_publishing/

[115](ch11.xhtml#footnote-411-backlink) See Gérard Genette’s discussion of the
‘pseudonym effect’ as conceptual device. He distinguishes between the reader
not knowing about the use of the pseudonym and the conceptual effect of the
reader having information about the use of a pseudonym. Gérard Genette,
Paratexts, Thresholds of Interpretation (Cambridge University Press, 1997).

[116](ch11.xhtml#footnote-410-backlink) The Neoist movement developed in
Canada, North America and Europe in the late 1970s. It selected one signature
name for multiple identities and authors, who published, performed and
exhibited under this joint name. It is different from a collective name, as
any person could sign her or his work with these joint names without revealing
the author’s identity. See letter exchanges between cultural theorist Florian
Cramer and artist and writer Stewart Home: ‘I would like to describe “Monty
Cantsin” as a multiple identity, “Karen Eliot” as a multiple pen-name and,
judging from the information I have, “Luther Blissett” as a collective
phantom.’ Florian Cramer, 2 October 1995, in Stewart Home and Florian Cramer,
House of Nine Squares: Letters on Neoism, Psychogeography & Epistemological
Trepidation, . See also
Nicholas Thoburn’s research into the political agency of anonymous authorship.
Nicholas Thoburn, Anti-Book, On the Art and Politics of Radical Publishing
(Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2016) pp. 168–223.

[117](ch11.xhtml#footnote-409-backlink) Anonymous started on 4chan, an online
imageboard where users post anonymously. ‘The posts on 4chan have no names or
any identifiable markers attached to them. The only thing you are able to
judge a post by is its content and nothing else.’ Gabriella Coleman, Hacker,
Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous (London and New York:
Verso, 2014), p. 47.

[118](ch11.xhtml#footnote-408-backlink) I thank Susan Kelly for making this
point while reviewing my text.

[119](ch11.xhtml#footnote-407-backlink) It is interesting to come back to
Foucault’s text ‘What is an author’ and complicate his own position as
authorial subject. Referring to Naomi Schor and Gayatri Spivak, Sara Ahmed
suggests, that ‘Foucault effaces the sexual specificity of his own narrative
and perspective as a male philosopher. The refusal to enter the discourse as
an empirical subject, a subject which is both sexed and European, may finally
translate into a universalising mode of discourse, which negates the
specificity of its own inscription (as a text)’. See Naomi Schor, ‘Dreaming
Dissymmetry: Barthes, Foucault and Sexual Difference’, in Elizabeth Weed
(ed.), Coming to Terms: Feminism, Theory, Politics (London: Routledge, 1989),
pp. 47–58; and Gayatry Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, in Cary
Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of
Culture (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988), pp. 271–313.

[120](ch11.xhtml#footnote-406-backlink) Sara Ahmed, Differences That Matter,
Feminist Theory and Postmodernism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press,
2004) p. 125.

[121](ch11.xhtml#footnote-405-backlink) Spivak, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’,
pp. 271–313.



cataloguing in WHW 2016


WHW
There Is Something Political in the City Air
2016


What, How & for Whom / WHW

“There is something political in the city air”*

The curatorial collective What,
How & for Whom / WHW, based
in Zagreb and Berlin, examine
the interconnections between
contemporary art and political and
social strata, including the role of art
institutions in contemporary society.
In the present essay, their discussion
of recent projects they curated
highlights the struggle for access to
knowledge and the free distribution
of information, which in Croatia also
means confronting the pressures
of censorship and revisionism
in the writing of history and the
construction of the future.

Contemporary art’s attempts to come to terms with its evasions in delivering on the promise of its own intrinsic capacity to propose alternatives, and
to do better in the constant game of staying ahead of institutional closures
and marketization, are related to a broader malady in leftist politics. The
crisis of organizational models and modes of political action feels especially acute nowadays, after the latest waves of massive political mobilization
and upheaval embodied in such movements as the Arab Spring and Occupy and the widespread social protests in Southern Europe against austerity
measures – and the failure of these movements to bring about structural
changes. As we witnessed in the dramatic events that unfolded through the
spring and summer of 2015, even in Greece, where Syriza was brought to
power, the people’s will behind newly elected governments proved insufficient to change the course of austerity politics in Europe. Simultaneously,
a series of conditional gains and effective defeats gave rise to the alarming
ascent of radical right-wing populism, against which the left has failed to
provide any real vision or driving force.
Both the practice of political articulation and the political practices of
art have been affected by the hollowing and disabling of democracy related
to the ascendant hegemony of the neoliberal rationale that shapes every
domain of our lives in accordance with a specific image of economics,1
as well as the problematic “embrace of localism and autonomy by much
of the left as the pure strategy”2 and the left’s inability to destabilize the
dominant world-view and reclaim the future.3 Consequently, art practices
increasingly venture into novel modes of operation that seek to “expand
our collective imagination beyond what capitalism allows”.4 They not only
point to the problems but address them head on. By negotiating art’s autonomy and impact on the social, and by conceptualizing the whole edifice
of art as a social symptom, such practices attempt to do more than simply
squeeze novel ideas into exhausted artistic formats and endow them with
political content that produces “marks of distinction”,5 which capital then
exploits for the enhancement of its own reproduction.
The two projects visited in this text both work toward building truly
accessible public spaces. Public Library, launched by Marcell Mars and
Tomislav Medak in 2012, is an ongoing media and social project based on
ideas from the open-source software movement, while Autonomy Cube, by
artist Trevor Paglen and the hacker and computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, centres on anonymized internet usage in the post–Edward
*
1
2
3
4
5

David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution, Verso, London and New York, 2012, p. 117.
See Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, Zone books,
New York, 2015.
Harvey, Rebel Cities, p. 83.
See Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World
Without Work, Verso, London and New York, 2015.
Ibid., p. 495.
See Harvey, Rebel Cities, especially pp. 103–109.

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Snowden world of unprecedented institutionalized surveillance. Both projects operate in tacit alliance with art institutions that more often than not
are suffering from a kind of “mission drift” under pressure to align their
practices and structures with the profit sector, a situation that in recent
decades has gradually become the new norm.6 By working within and with
art institutions, both Public Library and Autonomy Cube induce the institutions to return to their initial mission of creating new common spaces
of socialization and political action. The projects develop counter-publics
and work with infrastructures, in the sense proposed by Keller Easterling:
not just physical networks but shared standards and ideas that constitute
points of contact and access between people and thus rule, govern, and
control the spaces in which we live.7
By building a repository of digitized books, and enabling others to do this
as well, Public Library promotes the idea of the library as a truly public institution that offers universal access to knowledge, which “together with
free public education, a free public healthcare, the scientific method, the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Wikipedia, and free software,
among others – we, the people, are most proud of ”, as the authors of the
project have said.8 Public Library develops devices for the free sharing of
books, but it also functions as a platform for advocating social solidarity
in free access to knowledge. By ignoring and avoiding the restrictive legal
regime for intellectual property, which was brought about by decades of
neoliberalism, as well as the privatization or closure of public institutions,
spatial controls, policing, and surveillance – all of which disable or restrict
possibilities for building new social relations and a new commons – Public
Library can be seen as part of the broader movement to resist neoliberal
austerity politics and the commodification of knowledge and education
and to appropriate public spaces and public goods for common purposes.
While Public Library is fully engaged with the movement to oppose the
copyright regime – which developed as a kind of rent for expropriating the
commons and reintroducing an artificial scarcity of cognitive goods that
could be reproduced virtually for free – the project is not under the spell of
digital fetishism, which until fairly recently celebrated a new digital commons as a non-frictional space of smooth collaboration where a new political and economic autonomy would be forged that would spill over and
undermine the real economy and permeate all spheres of life.9 As Matteo
Pasquinelli argues in his critique of “digitalism” and its celebration of the
6
7
8
9

See Brown, Undoing the Demos.
Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space, Verso, London and
New York, 2014.
Marcell Mars, Manar Zarroug, and Tomislav Medak, “Public Library”, in Public Library,
ed. Marcell Mars, Tomislav Medak, and What, How & for Whom / WHW, exh. publication, What, How & for Whom / WHW and Multimedia Institute, Zagreb, 2015, p. 78.
See Matteo Pasquinelli, Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, and Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2008.

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virtues of the information economy with no concern about the material
basis of production, the information economy is a parasite on the material
economy and therefore “an accurate understanding of the common must
be always interlinked with the real physical forces producing it and the material economy surrounding it.”10
Public Library emancipates books from the restrictive copyright regime
and participates in the exchange of information enabled by digital technology, but it also acknowledges the labour and energy that make this possible. There is labour that goes into the cataloguing of the books, and labour
that goes into scanning them before they can be brought into the digital
realm of free reproduction, just as there are the ingenuity and labour of
the engineers who developed a special scanner that makes it easier to scan
books; also, the scanner needs to be installed, maintained, and fed books
over hours of work. This is where the institutional space of art comes in
handy by supporting the material production central to the Public Library
endeavour. But the scanner itself does not need to be visible. In 2014, at
the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, we curated the
exhibition Really Useful Knowledge, which dealt with conflicts triggered by
struggles over access to knowledge and the effects that knowledge, as the
basis of capital reproduction, has on the totality of workers’ lives. In the
exhibition, the production funds allocated to Public Library were used to
build the book scanner at Calafou, an anarchist cooperative outside Barcelona. The books chosen for scanning were relevant to the exhibition’s
themes – methods of reciprocal learning and teaching, forms of social and
political organization, the history of the Spanish Civil War, etc. – and after
being scanned, they were uploaded to the Public Library website. All that
was visible in the exhibition itself was a kind of index card or business card
with a URL link to the Public Library website and a short statement (fig. 1):
A public library is:
• free access to books for every member of society
• library catalog
• librarian
With books ready to be shared, meticulously cataloged, everyone is a
librarian. When everyone is librarian, the library is everywhere.11
Public Library’s alliance with art institutions serves to strengthen the
cultural capital both for the general demand to free books from copyright
restrictions on cultural goods and for the project itself – such cultural capital could be useful in a potential lawsuit. Simultaneously, the presence and
realization of the Public Library project within an exhibition enlists the host
institution as part of the movement and exerts influence on it by taking
the museum’s public mission seriously and extending it into a grey zone of
10
11

Ibid., p. 29.
Mars, Zarroug, and Medak, “Public Library”, p. 85.

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questionable legality. The defence of the project becomes possible by making the traditional claim of the “autonomy” of art, which is not supposed
to assert any power beyond the museum walls. By taking art’s autonomy
at its word, and by testing the truth of the liberal-democratic claim that
the field of art is a field of unlimited freedom, Public Library engages in a
kind of “overidentification” game, or what Keller Easterling, writing about
the expanded activist repertoire in infrastructure space, calls “exaggerated
compliance”.12 Should the need arise, as in the case of a potential lawsuit
against the project, claims of autonomy and artistic freedom create a protective shroud of untouchability. And in this game of liberating books from
the parochial capitalist imagination that restricts their free circulation, the
institution becomes a complicit partner. The long-acknowledged insight
that institutions embrace and co-opt critique is, in this particular case, a
win-win situation, as Public Library uses the public status of the museum
as a springboard to establish the basic message of free access and the free
circulation of books and knowledge as common sense, while the museum
performs its mission of bringing knowledge to the public and supporting
creativity, in this case the reworking, rebuilding and reuse of technology
for the common good. The fact that the institution is not naive but complicit produces a synergy that enhances potentialities for influencing and
permeating the public sphere. The gesture of not exhibiting the scanner in
the museum has, among other things, a practical purpose, as more books
would be scanned voluntarily by the members of the anarchist commune
in Calafou than would be by the overworked museum staff, and employing
somebody to do this during the exhibition would be too expensive (and the
mantra of cuts, cuts, cuts would render negotiation futile). If there is a flirtatious nod to the strategic game of not exposing too much, it is directed less
toward the watchful eyes of the copyright police than toward the exhibition
regime of contemporary art group shows in which works compete for attention, the biggest scarcity of all. Public Library flatly rejects identification
with the object “our beloved bookscanner” (as the scanner is described on
the project website13), although it is an attractive object that could easily
be featured as a sculpture within the exhibition. But its efficacy and use
come first, as is also true of the enigmatic business card–like leaflet, which
attracts people to visit the Public Library website and use books, not only to
read them but also to add books to the library: doing this in the privacy of
one’s home on one’s own computer is certainly more effective than doing
it on a computer provided and displayed in the exhibition among the other
art objects, films, installations, texts, shops, cafés, corridors, exhibition
halls, elevators, signs, and crowds in a museum like Reina Sofia.
For the exhibition to include a scanner that was unlikely to be used or
a computer monitor that showed the website from which books might be
12
13

Easterling, Extrastatecraft, p. 492.
See https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2012/10/28/our-belovedbookscanner-2/ (accessed July 4, 2016).

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downloaded, but probably not read, would be the embodiment of what
philosopher Robert Pfaller calls “interpassivity”, the appearance of activity or a stand-in for it that in fact replaces any genuine engagement.14 For
Pfaller, interpassivity designates a flight from engagement, a misplaced libidinal investment that under the mask of enjoyment hides aversion to an
activity that one is supposed to enjoy, or more precisely: “Interpassivity is
the creation of a compromise between cultural interests and latent cultural
aversion.”15 Pfaller’s examples of participation in an enjoyable process that
is actually loathed include book collecting and the frantic photocopying of
articles in libraries (his book was originally published in 2002, when photocopying had not yet been completely replaced by downloading, bookmarking, etc.).16 But he also discusses contemporary art exhibitions as sites of
interpassivity, with their overabundance of objects and time-based works
that require time that nobody has, and with the figure of the curator on
whom enjoyment is displaced – the latter, he says, is a good example of
“delegated enjoyment”. By not providing the exhibition with a computer
from which books can be downloaded, the project ensures that books are
seen as vehicles of knowledge acquired by reading and not as immaterial
capital to be frantically exchanged; the undeniable pleasure of downloading and hoarding books is, after all, just one step removed from the playground of interpassivity that the exhibition site (also) is.
But Public Library is hardly making a moralistic statement about the
virtues of reading, nor does it believe that ignorance (such as could be
overcome by reading the library’s books) is the only obstacle that stands
in the way of ultimate emancipation. Rather, the project engages with, and
contributes to, the social practice that David Harvey calls “commoning”:
“an unstable and malleable social relation between a particular self-defined social group and those aspects of its actually existing or yet-to-becreated social and/or physical environment deemed crucial to its life and
livelihood”.17 Public Library works on the basis of commoning and tries to
enlist others to join it, which adds a distinctly political dimension to the
sabotage of intellectual property revenues and capital accumulation.
The political dimension of Public Library and the effort to form and
publicize the movement were expressed more explicitly in the Public Li14
15
16

17

Robert Pfaller, On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners, Verso, London and New York, 2014.
Ibid., p. 76.
Pfaller’s book, which first appeared in German, was published in English only in 2014.
His ideas have gained greater relevance over time, not only as the shortcomings of the
immensely popular social media activism became apparent – where, as many critics
have noted, participation in political organizing and the articulation of political tasks
and agendas are often replaced by a click on an icon – but also because of Pfaller’s
broader argument about the self-deception at play in interpassivity and its role in eliciting enjoyment from austerity measures and other calamities imposed on the welfare
state by the neoliberal regime, which since early 2000 has exceeded even the most sober (and pessimistic) expectations.
Ibid., p. 73.

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293

brary exhibition in 2015 at Gallery Nova in Zagreb, where we have been
directing the programme since 2003. If the Public Library project was not
such an eminently collective practice that pays no heed to the author function, the Gallery Nova show might be considered something like a solo exhibition. As it was realized, the project again used art as an infrastructure
and resource to promote the movement of freeing books from copyright
restrictions while collecting legitimization points from the art world as enhanced cultural capital that could serve as armour against future attacks
by the defenders of the holy scripture of copyright laws. But here the more
important tactic was to show the movement as an army of many and to
strengthen it through self-presentation. The exhibition presented Public
Library as a collection of collections, and the repertory form (used in archive science to describe a collection) was taken as the basic narrative procedure. It mobilized and activated several archives and open digital repositories, such as MayDay Rooms from London, The Ignorant Schoolmaster and
His Committees from Belgrade, Library Genesis and Aaaaaarg.org, Catalogue
of Free Books, (Digitized) Praxis, the digitized work of the Midnight Notes
Collective, and Textz.com, with special emphasis on activating the digital
repositories UbuWeb and Monoskop. Not only did the exhibition attempt to
enlist the gallery audience but, equally important, the project was testing
its own strength in building, articulating, announcing, and proposing, or
speculating on, a broader movement to oppose the copyright of cultural
goods within and adjacent to the art field.
Presenting such a movement in an art institution changes one of the
basic tenets of art, and for an art institution the project’s main allure probably lies in this kind of expansion of the art field. A shared politics is welcome, but nothing makes an art institution so happy as the sense of purpose that a project like Public Library can endow it with. (This, of course,
comes with its own irony, for while art institutions nowadays compete for
projects that show emphatically how obsolete the aesthetic regime of art is,
they continue to base their claims of social influence on knowledge gained
through some form of aesthetic appreciation, however they go about explaining and justifying it.) At the same time, Public Library’s nonchalance
about institutional maladies and anxieties provides a homeopathic medicine whose effect is sometimes so strong that discussion about placebos
becomes, at least temporarily, beside the point. One occasion when Public
Library’s roving of the political terrain became blatantly direct was the exhibition Written-off: On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Operation
Storm, which we organized in the summer of 2015 at Gallery Nova (figs.
2–4).
The exhibition/action Written-off was based on data from Ante Lesaja’s
extensive research on “library purification”, which he published in his book
Knjigocid: Uništavanje knjige u Hrvatskoj 1990-ih (Libricide: The Destruction
of Books in Croatia in the 1990s).18 People were invited to bring in copies of
18

Ante Lesaja, Knjigocid: Uništavanje knjige u Hrvatskoj 1990-ih, Profil and Srbsko narodno

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books that had been removed from Croatian public libraries in the 1990s.
The books were scanned and deposited in a digital archive; they then became available on a website established especially for the project. In Croatia during the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of books were removed from
schools and factories, from public, specialized, and private libraries, from
former Yugoslav People’s Army centres, socio-political organizations, and
elsewhere because of their ideologically inappropriate content, the alphabet they used (Serbian Cyrillic), or the ethnic or political background of the
authors. The books were mostly thrown into rubbish bins, discarded on
the street, destroyed, or recycled. What Lesaja’s research clearly shows is
that the destruction of the books – as well as the destruction of monuments
to the People’s Liberation War (World War II) – was not the result of individuals running amok, as official accounts preach, but a deliberate and systematic action that symbolically summarizes the dominant politics of the
1990s, in which war, rampant nationalism, and phrases about democracy
and sovereignty were used as a rhetorical cloak to cover the nakedness of
the capitalist counter-revolution and criminal processes of dispossession.
Written-off: On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Operation Storm
set up scanners in the gallery, initiated a call for collecting and scanning
books that had been expunged from public institutions in the 1990s, and
outlined the criteria for the collection, which corresponded to the basic
domains in which the destruction of the books, as a form of censorship,
was originally implemented: books written in the Cyrillic alphabet or in
Serbian regardless of the alphabet; books forming a corpus of knowledge
about communism, especially Yugoslav communism, Yugoslav socialism,
and the history of the workers’ struggle; and books presenting the anti-Fascist and revolutionary character of the People’s Liberation Struggle during
World War II.
The exhibition/action was called Written-off because the removal and
destruction of the books were often presented as a legitimate procedure
of library maintenance, thus masking the fact that these books were unwanted, ideologically unacceptable, dangerous, harmful, unnecessary, etc.
Written-off unequivocally placed “book destruction” in the social context
of the period, when the destruction of “unwanted” monuments and books
was happening alongside the destruction of homes and the killing of “unwanted” citizens, outside of and prior to war operations. For this reason,
the exhibition was dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of Operation
Storm, the final military/police operation in what is called, locally, the
Croatian Homeland War.19
The exhibition was intended as a concrete intervention against a political logic that resulted in mass exile and killing, the history of which is
glossed over and critical discussion silenced, and also against the official
19

vijeće, Zagreb, 2012.
Known internationally as the Croatian War of Independence, the war was fought between Croatian forces and the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army from 1991 to
1995.

“There is something political in the city air”

295

celebrations of the anniversary, which glorified militarism and proclaimed
the ethical purity of the victory (resulting in the desired ethnic purity of the
nation).
As both symbolic intervention and real-life action, then, the exhibition
Written-off took place against a background of suppressed issues relating
to Operation Storm – ethno-nationalism as the flip side of neoliberalism,
justice and the present status of the victims and refugees, and the overall character of the war known officially as the Homeland War, in which
discussions about its prominent traits as a civil war are actively silenced
and increasingly prosecuted. In protest against the official celebrations
and military parades, the exhibition marked the anniversary of Operation
Storm with a collective action that evokes books as symbolic of a “knowledge society” in which knowledge becomes the location of conflictual engagement. It pointed toward the struggle over collective symbolic capital
and collective memory, in which culture as a form of the commons has a
direct bearing on the kind of place we live in. The Public Library project,
however, is engaged not so much with cultural memory and remembrance
as a form of recollection or testimony that might lend political legitimation
to artistic gestures; rather, it engages with history as a construction and
speculative proposition about the future, as Peter Osborne argues in his
polemical hypotheses on the notion of contemporary art that distinguishes
between “contemporary” and “present-day” art: “History is not just a relationship between the present and the past – it is equally about the future.
It is this speculative futural moment that definitively separates the concept
of history from memory.”20 For Public Library, the future that participates
in the construction of history does not yet exist, but it is defined as more
than just a project against the present as reflected in the exclusionary, parochially nationalistic, revisionist and increasingly fascist discursive practices of the Croatian political elites. Rather, the future comes into being as
an active and collective construction based on the emancipatory aspects of
historical experiences as future possibilities.
Although defined as an action, the project is not exultantly enthusiastic
about collectivity or the immediacy and affective affinities of its participants, but rather it transcends its local and transient character by taking
up the broader counter-hegemonic struggle for the mutual management
of joint resources. Its endeavour is not limited to the realm of the political
and ideological but is rooted in the repurposing of technological potentials
from the restrictive capitalist game and the reutilization of the existing infrastructure to build a qualitatively different one. While the culture industry adapts itself to the limited success of measures that are geared toward
preventing the free circulation of information by creating new strategies
for pushing information into a form of property and expropriating value

20

Peter Osborne, Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art, Verso, London
and New York, 2013, p. 194.

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fig. 1
Marcell Mars, Art as Infrastructure: Public Library, installation
view, Really Useful Knowledge, curated by WHW, Museo
Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 2014.
Photo by Joaquin Cortes and Roman Lores / MNCARS.

fig. 2
Public Library, exhibition view, Gallery Nova, Zagreb, 2015.
Photo by Ivan Kuharic.

fig. 3
Written-off: On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Operation
Storm, exhibition detail, Gallery Nova, Zagreb, 2015.
Photo by Ivan Kuharic.

fig. 4
Written-off: On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Operation
Storm, exhibition detail, Gallery Nova, Zagreb, 2015.
Photo by Ivan Kuharic.

fig. 5
Trevor Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum, Autonomy Cube,
installation view, Really Useful Knowledge, curated by WHW,
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 2014.
Photo by Joaquín Cortés and Román Lores / MNCARS.

through the control of metadata (information about information),21 Public Library shifts the focus away from aesthetic intention – from unique,
closed, and discrete works – to a database of works and the metabolism
of the database. It creates values through indexing and connectivity, imagined communities and imaginative dialecticization. The web of interpenetration and determination activated by Public Library creates a pedagogical endeavour that also includes a propagandist thrust, if the notion of
propaganda can be recast in its original meaning as “things that must be
disseminated”.
A similar didactic impetus and constructivist praxis is present in the work
Autonomy Cube, which was developed through the combined expertise of
artist and geographer Trevor Paglen and internet security researcher, activist and hacker Jacob Appelbaum. This work, too, we presented in the
Reina Sofia exhibition Really Useful Knowledge, along with Public Library
and other projects that offered a range of strategies and methodologies
through which the artists attempted to think through the disjunction between concrete experience and the abstraction of capital, enlisting pedagogy as a crucial element in organized collective struggles. Autonomy Cube
offers a free, open-access, encrypted internet hotspot that routes internet
traffic over TOR, a volunteer-run global network of servers, relays, and services, which provides anonymous and unsurveilled communication. The
importance of the privacy of the anonymized information that Autonomy
Cube enables and protects is that it prevents so-called traffic analysis – the
tracking, analysis, and theft of metadata for the purpose of anticipating
people’s behaviour and relationships. In the hands of the surveillance
state this data becomes not only a means of steering our tastes, modes of
consumption, and behaviours for the sake of making profit but also, and
more crucially, an effective method and weapon of political control that
can affect political organizing in often still-unforeseeable ways that offer
few reasons for optimism. Visually, Autonomy Cube references minimalist
sculpture (fig. 5) (specifically, Hans Haacke’s seminal piece Condensation
Cube, 1963–1965), but its main creative drive lies in the affirmative salvaging of technologies, infrastructures, and networks that form both the leading organizing principle and the pervasive condition of complex societies,
with the aim of supporting the potentially liberated accumulation of collective knowledge and action. Aesthetic and art-historical references serve
as camouflage or tools for a strategic infiltration that enables expansion of
the movement’s field of influence and the projection of a different (contingent) future. Engagement with historical forms of challenging institutions
becomes the starting point of a poetic praxis that materializes the object of
its striving in the here and now.
Both Public Library and Autonomy Cube build their autonomy on the dedi21

McKenzie Wark, “Metadata Punk”, in Public Library, pp. 113–117 (see n. 9).

“There is something political in the city air”

305

cation and effort of the collective body, without which they would not
exist, rendering this interdependence not as some consensual idyll of cooperation but as conflicting fields that create further information and experiences. By doing so, they question the traditional edifice of art in a way
that supports Peter Osborne’s claim that art is defined not by its aesthetic
or medium-based status, but by its poetics: “Postconceptual art articulates a post-aesthetic poetics.”22 This means going beyond criticality and
bringing into the world something defined not by its opposition to the real,
but by its creation of the fiction of a shared present, which, for Osborne,
is what makes art truly contemporary. And if projects like these become a
kind of political trophy for art institutions, the side the institutions choose
nevertheless affects the common sense of our future.

22

Osborne, Anywhere or Not at All, p. 33.

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