fair use in Adema 2009


Adema
Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the underground movement of (pirated) theory text sharing
2009


# Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the ‘underground movement’ of
(pirated) theory text sharing

_“But as I say, let’s play a game of science fiction and imagine for a moment:
what would it be like if it were possible to have an academic equivalent to
the peer-to-peer file sharing practices associated with Napster, eMule, and
BitTorrent, something dealing with written texts rather than music? What would
the consequences be for the way in which scholarly research is conceived,
communicated, acquired, exchanged, practiced, and understood?”_

Gary Hall – [Digitize this
book!](http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/H/hall_digitize.html) (2008)

![ubuweb](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/ubuweb.jpg?w=547)Ubu
web was founded in 1996 by poet [Kenneth
Goldsmith](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Goldsmith "Kenneth Goldsmith")
and has developed from ‘a repository for visual, concrete and (later) sound
poetry, to a site that ‘embraced all forms of the avant-garde and beyond. Its
parameters continue to expand in all directions.’ As
[Wikipedia](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UbuWeb) states, Ubu is non-commercial
and operates on a gift economy. All the same - by forming an amazing resource
and repository for the avant-garde movement, and by offering and hosting these
works on its platform, Ubu is violating copyright laws. As they state however:
‘ _should something return to print, we will remove it from our site
immediately. Also, should an artist find their material posted on UbuWeb
without permission and wants it removed, please let us know. However, most of
the time, we find artists are thrilled to find their work cared for and
displayed in a sympathetic context. As always, we welcome more work from
existing artists on site_.’

Where in the more affluent and popular media realms of block buster movies and
pop music the [Piratebay](http://thepiratebay.org/) and other download sites
(or p2p networks) like [Mininova](http://www.mininova.org/) are being sued and
charged with copyright infringement, the major powers to be seem to turn a
blind eye when it comes to Ubu and many other resource sites online that offer
digital versions of hard-to-get-by materials ranging from books to
documentaries.

This is and has not always been the case: in 2002 [Sebastian
Lütgert](http://www.wizards-of-
os.org/archiv/wos_3/sprecher/l_p/sebastian_luetgert.html) from Berlin/New York
was sued by the "Hamburger Stiftung zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Kultur"
for putting online two downloadable texts from Theodor W. Adorno on his
website [textz.com](http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/artist/textz-
com/biography/), an underground archive for Literature. According to
[this](http://de.indymedia.org/2004/03/76975.shtml) Indymedia interview with
Lütgert, textz.com was referred to as ‘the Napster for books’ offering about
700 titles, focusing on, as Lütgert states _‘Theorie, Romane, Science-Fiction,
Situationisten, Kino, Franzosen, Douglas Adams, Kritische Theorie, Netzkritik
usw’._

The interview becomes even more interesting when Lütgert remarks that one can
still easily download both Adorno texts without much ado if one wants to. This
leads to the bigger question of the real reasons underlying the charge against
textz.com; why was textz.com sued? As Lütgert says in the interview: “ _Das
kann man sowieso_ [when referring to the still available Adorno texts] _._
_Aber es gibt schon lange einen klaren Unterschied zwischen offener
Verfügbarkeit und dem Untergrund. Man kann die freie Verbreitung von Inhalten
nicht unterbinden, aber man scheint verhindern zu wollen dass dies allzu offen
und selbstverständlich geschieht. Das ist es was sie stört.”
_

_![I don't have any
secrets](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/i-dont-have-any-
secrets.jpg?w=547)_

But how can something be truly underground in an online environment whilst
still trying to spread or disseminate texts as widely as possible? This seems
to be the paradox of many - not quite legal and/or copyright protected -
resource sharing and collecting communities and platforms nowadays. However,
multiple scenario’s are available to evade this dilemma: by being frankly open
about the ‘status’ of the content on offer, as Ubu does, or by using little
‘tricks’ like an easy website registration, classifying oneself as a reading
group, or by relieving oneself from responsibility by stating that one is only
aggregating sources from elsewhere (linking) and not hosting the content on
its own website or blog. One can also state the offered texts or multimedia
files form a special issue or collection of resources, emphasizing their
educational and not-for-profit value.

Most of the ‘underground’ text and content sharing communities seem to follow
the concept of (the inevitability of) ‘[information wants to be
free](https://openreflections.wordpress.com/tag/information-wants-to-be-
free/)’, especially on the Internet. As Lütgert States: “ _Und vor allem sind
die über Walter Benjamin nicht im Bilde, der das gleiche Problem der
Reproduzierbarkeit von Werken aller Art schon zu Beginn des letzten
Jahrhunderts vor sich hatte und erkannt hat: die Massen haben das Recht, sich
das alles wieder anzueignen. Sie haben das Recht zu kopieren, und das Recht,
kopiert zu werden. Jedenfalls ist das eine ganz schön ungemütliche Situation,
dass dessen Nachlass jetzt von solch einem Bürokraten verwaltet wird._ _A:
Glaubst Du es ist überhaupt legitim intellektuellen Inhalt zu "besitzen"? Oder
__Eigentümer davon zu sein?_ _S: Es ist *unmöglich*. "Geistiges" Irgendwas
verbreitet sich immer weiter. Reemtsmas Vorfahren wären nie von den Bäumen
runtergekommen oder aus dem Morast rausgekrochen, wenn sich "geistiges"
Irgendwas nicht verbreitet hätte.”_

![646px-
Book_scanner_svg.jpg](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09
/646px-book_scanner_svg-jpg1.png?w=547)

What seems to be increasingly obvious, as the interview also states, is that
one can find virtually all Ebooks and texts one needs via p2p networks and
other file sharing community’s (the true
[Darknet](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darknet_\(file_sharing\)) in a way) –
more and more people are offering (and asking for!) selections of texts and
books (including the ones by Adorno) on openly available websites and blogs,
or they are scanning them and offering them for (educational) use on their
domains. Although the Internet is mostly known for the pirating and
dissemination of pirated movies and music, copyright protected textual content
has (of course) always been spread too. But with the rise of ‘born digital’
text content, and with the help of massive digitization efforts like Google
Books (and accompanying Google Books [download
tools](http://www.codeplex.com/GoogleBookDownloader)) accompanied by the
appearance of better (and cheaper) scanning equipment, the movement of
‘openly’ spreading (pirated) texts (whether or not focusing on education and
fair use’) seems to be growing fast.

The direct harm (to both the producers and their publishers) of the free
online availability of (in copyright) texts is also maybe less clear than for
instance with music and films. Many feel texts and books will still be
preferred to be read in print, making the online and free availability of text
nothing more than a marketing tool for the sales of the printed version. Once
discovered, those truly interested will find and buy the print book. Also more
than with music and film, it is felt essential to share information, as a
cultural good and right, to prevent censorship and to improve society.

![Piracy by Mikel Casal](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09
/piracy-by-mikel-casal.jpg?w=432&h=312)

This is one of the reasons the [Open
Access](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access_\(publishing\)) movement for
scientific research has been initiated. But where the amount of people and
institutions supportive of this movement is gradually growing (especially
where it concerns articles and journals in the Sciences), the spread
concerning Open Access (or even digital availability) of monographs in the
Humanities and Social Sciences (of which the majority of the resources on
offer in the underground text sharing communities consists) has only just
started.

This has lead to a situation in which some have decided that change is not
coming fast enough. Instead of waiting for this utopian Open Access future to
come gradually about, they are actively spreading, copying, scanning and
pirating scholarly texts/monographs online. Although many times accompanied by
lengthy disclaimers about why they are violating copyright (to make the
content more widely accessible for one), many state they will take down the
content if asked. Following the
[copyleft](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyleft) movement, what has in a way
thus arisen is a more ‘progressive’ or radical branch of the Open Access
movement. The people who spread these texts deem it inevitable they will be
online eventually, they are just speeding up the process. As Lütgert states: ‘
_The desire of an increasingly larger section of the population to 100-percent
of information is irreversible. The only way there can be slowed down in the
worst case, but not be stopped._

![scribd-logo](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/scribd-
logo.jpg?w=547)

Still we have not yet answered the question of why publishers (and their
pirated authors) are not more upset about these kinds of websites and
platforms. It is not a simple question of them not being aware that these kind
of textual disseminations are occurring. As mentioned before, the harm to
producers (scholars) and their publishers (in Humanities and Social Sciences
mainly Not-For-Profit University Presses) is less clear. First of all, their
main customers are libraries (compare this to the software business model:
free for the consumer, companies pay), who are still buying the legal content
and mostly follow the policy of buying either print or both print and ebook,
so there are no lost sales there for the publishers. Next to that it is not
certain that the piracy is harming sales. Unlike in literary publishing, the
authors (academics) are already paid and do not loose money (very little maybe
in royalties) from the online availability. Perhaps some publishers also see
the Open Access movement as something inevitably growing and they thus don’t
see the urge to step up or organize a collaborative effort against scholarly
text piracy (where most of the presses also lack the scale to initiate this).
Whereas there has been some more upsurge and worries about _[textbook
piracy](http://bookseller-association.blogspot.com/2008/07/textbook-
piracy.html)_ (since this is of course the area where individual consumers –
students – do directly buy the material) and websites like
[Scribd](http://www.scribd.com/), this mostly has to do with the fact that
these kind of platforms also host non-scholarly content and actively promote
the uploading of texts (where many of the text ‘sharing’ platforms merely
offer downloading facilities). In the case of Scribd the size of the platform
(or the amount of content available on the platform) also has caused concerns
and much [media coverage](http://labnol.blogspot.com/2007/04/scribd-youtube-
for-pirated-ebooks-but.html).

All of this gives a lot of potential power to text sharing communities, and I
guess they know this. Only authors might be directly upset (especially famous
ones gathering a lot of royalties on their work) or in the case of Lütgert,
their beneficiaries, who still do see a lot of money coming directly from
individual customers.

Still, it is not only the lack of fear of possible retaliations that is
feeding the upsurge of text sharing communities. There is a strong ideological
commitment to the inherent good of these developments, and a moral and
political strive towards institutional and societal change when it comes to
knowledge production and dissemination.

![Information Libre](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09
/information-libre.jpg?w=547)As Adrian Johns states in his
[article](http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/345/348)
_Piracy as a business force_ , ‘today’s pirate philosophy is a moral
philosophy through and through’. As Jonas Andersson
[states](http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/346/359), the
idea of piracy has mostly lost its negative connotations in these communities
and is seen as a positive development, where these movements ‘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.’ Although Andersson states this kind of activism is mostly
_occasional_ , it can be seen expressed clearly in the texts accompanying the
text sharing sites and blogs. However, copyright is perhaps so much _an issue_
on most of these sites (where it is on some of them), as it is something that
seems to be simply ignored for the larger good of aggregating and sharing
resources on the web. As is stated clearly for instance in an
[interview](http://blog.sfmoma.org/2009/08/four-dialogues-2-on-aaaarg/) with
Sean Dockray, who maintains AAAARG:

_" The project wasn’t about criticizing institutions, copyright, authority,
and so on. It was simply about sharing knowledge. This wasn’t as general as it
sounds; I mean literally the sharing of knowledge between various individuals
and groups that I was in correspondence with at the time but who weren’t
necessarily in correspondence with each other."_

Back to Lütgert. The files from textz.com have been saved and are still
[accessible](http://web.archive.org/web/20031208043421/textz.gnutenberg.net/index.php3?enhanced_version=http://textz.com/index.php3)
via [The Internet Archive Wayback
Machine](http://web.archive.org/collections/web.html). In the case of
textz.com, these files contain ’typed out text’, so no scanned contents or
PDF’s. Textz.com (or better said its shadow or mirror) offers an amazing
collection of texts, including artists statements/manifestos and screenplays
from for instance David Lynch.

The text sharing community has evolved and now knows many players. Two other
large members in this kind of ‘pirate theory base network’ (although – and I
have to make that clear! – they offer many (and even mostly) legal and out of
copyright texts), still active today, are
[Monoskop/Burundi](http://burundi.sk/monoskop/log/) and
[AAAARG.ORG](http://a.aaaarg.org/). These kinds of platforms all seem to
disseminate (often even on a titular level) similar content, focusing mostly
on Continental Philosophy and Critical Theory, Cultural Studies and Literary
Theory, The Frankfurter Schule, Sociology/Social Theory, Psychology,
Anthropology and Ethnography, Media Art and Studies, Music Theory, and
critical and avant-garde writers like Kafka, Beckett, Burroughs, Joyce,
Baudrillard, etc.etc.

[Monoskop](http://www.burundi.sk/monoskop/index.php/Main_Page) is, as they
state, a collaborative wiki research on the social history of media art or a
‘living archive of writings on art, culture and media technology’. At the
sitemap of their log, or under the categories section, you can browse their
resources on genre: book, journal, e-zine, report, pamphlet etc. As I found
[here](http://www.slovakia.culturalprofiles.net/?id=7958), Burundi originated
in 2003 as a (Slovakian) media lab working between the arts, science and
technologies, which spread out to a European city based cultural network; They
even functioned as a press, publishing the Anthology of New Media Literature
(in Slovak) in 2006, and they hosted media events and curated festivals. It
dissolved in June 2005 although the
[Monoskop](http://www.slovakia.culturalprofiles.net/?id=7964) research wiki on
media art, has continued to run since the dissolving of Burundi.

![AAAARG](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/aaaarg.jpg?w=547)As
is stated on their website, AAAARG is a conversation platform, or
alternatively, a school, reading group or journal, maintained by Los Angeles
artist[ Sean Dockray](http://www.design.ucla.edu/people/faculty.php?ID=64
"Sean Dockray"). In the true spirit of Critical Theory, its aim is to ‘develop
critical discourse outside of an institutional framework’. Or even more
beautiful said, it operates in the spaces in between: ‘ _But rather than
thinking of it like a new building, imagine scaffolding that attaches onto
existing buildings and creates new architectures between them_.’ To be able to
access the texts and resources that are being ‘discussed’ at AAAARG, you need
to register, after which you will be able to browse the
[library](http://a.aaaarg.org/library). From this library, you can download
resources, but you can also upload content. You can subscribe to their
[feed](http://aaaarg.org/feed) (RSS/XML) and [like
Monoskop](http://twitter.com/monoskop), AAAARG.org also maintains a [Twitter
account](http://twitter.com/aaaarg) on which updates are posted. The most
interesting part though is the ‘extra’ functions the platform offers: after
you have made an account, you can make your own collections, aggregations or
issues out of the texts in the library or the texts you add. This offers an
alternative (thematically ordered) way into the texts archived on the site.
You also have the possibility to make comments or start a discussion on the
texts. See for instance their elaborate [discussion
lists](http://a.aaaarg.org/discussions). The AAAARG community thus serves both
as a sharing and feedback community and in this way operates in a true p2p
fashion, in a way like p2p seemed originally intended. The difference being
that AAAARG is not based on a distributed network of computers, but is based
on one platform, to which registered users are able to upload a file (which is
not the case on Monoskop for instance – only downloading here).

Via[
mercurunionhall](http://mercerunionhall.blogspot.com/2009/06/aaaargorg.html),
I found the image underneath which depicts AAAARG.ORG's article index
organized as a visual map, showing the connections between the different
texts. This map was created and posted by AAAARG user john, according to
mercurunionhall.

![Connections-v1 by
John](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/connections-v1-by-
john.jpg?w=547)

Where AAAArg.org focuses again on the text itself - typed out versions of
books - Monoskop works with more modern versions of textual distribution:
scanned versions or full ebooks/pdf’s with all the possibilities they offer,
taking a lot of content from Google books or (Open Access) publishers’
websites. Monoskop also links back to the publishers’ websites or Google
Books, for information about the books or texts (which again proves that the
publishers should know about their activities). To download the text however,
Monoskop links to [Sharebee](http://www.sharebee.com/), keeping the actual
text and the real downloading activity away from its platform.

Another part of the text sharing content consists of platforms offering
documentaries and lectures (so multi-media content) online. One example of the
last is the [Discourse Notebook Archive](http://www.discoursenotebook.com/),
which describes itself as an effort which has as its main goal ‘to make
available lectures in contemporary continental philosophy’ and is maintained
by Todd Kesselman, a PhD Student at The New School for Social Research. Here
you can find lectures from Badiou, Kristeva and Zizek (both audio and video)
and lectures aggregated from the European Graduate School. Kesselman also
links to resources on the web dealing with contemporary continental
philosophy.

![Eule - Society of
Control](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/eule-society-of-
control.gif?w=547)Society of Control is a website maintained by [Stephan
Dillemuth](http://www.kopenhagen.dk/fileadmin/oldsite/interviews/solmennesker.htm),
an artist living and working in Munich, Germany, offering amongst others an
overview of his work and scientific research. According to
[this](http://www2.khib.no/~hovedfag/akademiet_05/tekster/interview.html)
interview conducted by Kristian Ø Dahl and Marit Flåtter his work is a
response to the increased influence of the neo-liberal world order on
education, creating a culture industry that is more than often driven by
commercial interests. He asks the question ‘How can dissidence grow in the
blind spots of the ‘society of control’ and articulate itself?’ His website,
the [Society of Control](http://www.societyofcontrol.com/disclaimer1.htm) is,
as he states, ‘an independent organization whose profits are entirely devoted
to research into truth and meaning.’

Society of Control has a [library
section](http://www.societyofcontrol.com/library/) which contains works from
some of the biggest thinkers of the twentieth century: Baudrillard, Adorno,
Debord, Bourdieu, Deleuze, Habermas, Sloterdijk und so weiter, and so much
more, a lot in German, and all ‘typed out’ texts. The library section offers a
direct search function, a category function and a a-z browse function.
Dillemuth states that he offers this material under fair use, focusing on not
for profit, freedom of information and the maintenance of freedom of speech
and information and making information accessible to all:

_“The Societyofcontrol website site contains information gathered from many
different sources. We see the internet as public domain necessary for the free
flow and exchange of information. However, some of these materials contained
in this site maybe claimed to be copyrighted by various unknown persons. They
will be removed at the copyright holder 's request within a reasonable period
of time upon receipt of such a request at the email address below. It is not
the intent of the Societyofcontrol to have violated or infringed upon any
copyrights.”_

![Vilem Flusser, Andreas Strohl, Erik Eisel Writings
\(2002\)](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/vilem-flusser-
andreas-strohl-erik-eisel-writings-2002.jpg?w=547)Important in this respect is
that he put the responsibility of reading/using/downloading the texts on his
site with the viewers, and not with himself: _“Anyone reading or looking at
copyright material from this site does so at his/her own peril, we disclaim
any participation or liability in such actions.”_

Fark Yaraları = [Scars of Différance](http://farkyaralari.blogspot.com/) and
[Multitude of blogs](http://multitudeofblogs.blogspot.com/) are maintained by
the same author, Renc-u-ana, a philosophy and sociology student from Istanbul.
The first is his personal blog (with also many links to downloadable texts),
focusing on ‘creating an e-library for a Heideggerian philosophy and
Bourdieuan sociology’ on which he writes ‘market-created inequalities must be
overthrown in order to close knowledge gap.’ The second site has a clear
aggregating function with the aim ‘to give united feedback for e-book
publishing sites so that tracing and finding may become easier.’ And a call
for similar blogs or websites offering free ebook content. The blog is
accompanied by a nice picture of a woman warning to keep quiet, very
paradoxically appropriate to the context. Here again, a statement from the
host on possible copyright infringement _: ‘None of the PDFs are my own
productions. I 've collected them from web (e-mule, avax, libreremo, socialist
bros, cross-x, gigapedia..) What I did was thematizing._’ The same goes for
[pdflibrary](http://pdflibrary.wordpress.com/) (which seems to be from the
same author), offering texts from Derrida, Benjamin, Deleuze and the likes:
_‘_ _None of the PDFs you find here are productions of this blog. They are
collected from different places in the web (e-mule, avax, libreremo, all
socialist bros, cross-x, …). The only work done here is thematizing and
tagging.’_

[![GRUP_Z~1](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/grup_z11.jpg?w=547)](http://multitudeofblogs.blogspot.com/)Our
student from Istanbul lists many text sharing sites on Multitude of blogs,
including [Inishark](http://danetch.blogspot.com/) (amongst others Badiou,
Zizek and Derrida), [Revelation](http://revelation-online.blogspot.com/2009/02
/keeping-ten-commandments.html) (a lot of history and bible study), [Museum of
accidents](http://museumofaccidents.blogspot.com/) (many resources relating to
again, critical theory, political theory and continental philhosophy) and
[Makeworlds](http://makeworlds.net/) (initiated from the [make world
festival](http://www.makeworlds.org/1/index.html) 2001).
[Mariborchan](http://mariborchan.wordpress.com/) is mainly a Zizek resource
site (also Badiou and Lacan) and offers next to ebooks also video and audio
(lectures and documentaries) and text files, all via links to file sharing
platforms.

What is clear is that the text sharing network described above (I am sure
there are many more related to other fields and subjects) is also formed and
maintained by the fact that the blogs and resource sites link to each other in
their blog rolls, which is what in the end makes up the network of text
sharing, only enhanced by RSS feeds and Twitter accounts, holding together
direct communication streams with the rest of the community. That there has
not been one major platform or aggregation site linking them together and
uploading all the texts is logical if we take into account the text sharing
history described before and this can thus be seen as a clear tactic: it is
fear, fear for what happened to textz.com and fear for the issue of scale and
fear of no longer operating at the borders, on the outside or at the fringes.
Because a larger scale means they might really get noticed. The idea of
secrecy and exclusivity which makes for the idea of the underground is very
practically combined with the idea that in this way the texts are available in
a multitude of places and can thus not be withdrawn or disappear so easily.

This is the paradox of the underground: staying small means not being noticed
(widely), but will mean being able to exist for probably an extended period of
time. Becoming (too) big will mean reaching more people and spreading the
texts further into society, however it will also probably mean being noticed
as a treat, as a ‘network of text-piracy’. The true strategy is to retain this
balance of openly dispersed subversivity.

Update 25 November 2005: Another interesting resource site came to my
attention recently: [Bedeutung](http://http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php),
a philosophical and artistic initiative consisting of three projects:
[Bedeutung
Magazine](http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=3),
[Bedeutung
Collective](http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=67&Itemid=4)
and [Bedeutung Blog](http://bedeutung.wordpress.com/), hosts a
[library](http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=85&Itemid=45)
section which links to freely downloadable online e-books, articles, audio
recordings and videos.

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### _Related_

### 17 comments on " Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the
‘underground movement’ of (pirated) theory text sharing"

1. Pingback: [Humanism at the fringe « Snarkmarket](http://snarkmarket.com/2009/3428)

2. Pingback: [Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the 'underground movement' of (pirated) theory text sharing « Mariborchan](http://mariborchan.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/scanners-collectors-and-aggregators-on-the-underground-movement-of-pirated-theory-text-sharing/)

3. Mariborchan

September 20, 2009

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/b8eea582f7e9ac0a622e3dacecad5835?s=55&d=&r=G)

I took the liberty to pirate this article.

4. [jannekeadema1979](http://www.openreflections.wordpress.com)

September 20, 2009

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/e4898febe4230b412db7f7909bcb9fc9?s=55&d=&r=G)

Thanks, it's all about the sharing! Hope you liked it.

5. Pingback: [links for 2009-09-20 « Blarney Fellow](http://blarneyfellow.wordpress.com/2009/09/21/links-for-2009-09-20/)

6. [scars of différance](http://farkyaralari.blogspot.com)

September 30, 2009

![](https://1.gravatar.com/avatar/7b10f9b53e5fe3d284857da59fe8919c?s=55&d=&r=G)

hi there, I'm the owner of the Scars of Différance blog, I'm grateful for your
reading which nurtures self-reflexivity.

text-sharers phylum is a Tardean phenomena, it works through imitation and
differences differentiate styles and archives. my question was inherited from
aby warburg who is perhaps the first kantian librarian (not books, but the
nomenclatura of books must be thought!), I shape up a library where books
speak to each other, each time fragmentary.

you are right about the "fear", that's why I don't reupload books that are
deleted from mediafire. blog is one of the ways, for ex there are e-mail
groups where chain-sharings happen and there are forums where people ask each
other from different parts of the world, to scan a book that can't be found in
their library/country. I understand publishers' qualms (I also work in a
turkish publishing house and make translations). but they miss a point, it was
the very movement which made book a medium that de-posits "book" (in the
Blanchotian sense): these blogs do indeed a very important service, they save
books from the databanks. I'm not going to make a easy rider argument and
decry technology.what I mean is this: these books are the very bricks which
make up resistance -they are not compost-, it is a sharing "partage" and these
fragmentary impartations (the act in which 'we' emancipate books from the
proper names they bear: author, editor, publisher, queen,…) make words blare.
our work: to disenfranchise.

to get larger, to expand: these are too ambitious terms, one must learn to
stay small, remain finite. a blog can not supplant the non-place of the
friendships we make up around books.

the epigraph at the top of my blog reads: "what/who exorbitates mutates into
its opposite" from a Turkish poet Cahit Zarifoğlu. and this logic is what
generates the slithering of the word. we must save books from its own ends.

thanks again, best.

p.s. I'm not the owner of pdf library.

7. Bedeutung

November 24, 2009

![](https://0.gravatar.com/avatar/665e8f5cb5d701f1c7e310b9b6fef277?s=55&d=&r=G)

Here, an article that might interest:

sharing-free-piracy>

8. [jannekeadema1979](http://www.openreflections.wordpress.com)

November 24, 2009

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/e4898febe4230b412db7f7909bcb9fc9?s=55&d=&r=G)

Thanks for the link, good article, agree with the contents, especially like
the part 'Could, for instance, the considerable resources that might be
allocated to protecting, policing and, ultimately, sanctioning online file-
sharing not be used for rendering it less financially damaging for the
creative sector?'
I like this kind of pragmatic reasoning, and I know more people do.
By the way, checked Bedeutung, great journal, and love your
[library](http://www.bedeutung.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=86&Itemid=46)
section! Will add it to the main article.

9. Pingback: [Borderland › Critical Readings](http://borderland.northernattitude.org/2010/01/07/critical-readings/)

10. Pingback: [Mariborchan » Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the 'underground movement' of (pirated) theory text sharing](http://mariborchan.com/scanners-collectors-and-aggregators-on-the-underground-movement-of-pirated-theory-text-sharing/)

11. Pingback: [Urgh! AAAARG dead? « transversalinflections](http://transversalinflections.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/urgh-aaaarg-dead/)

12. [nick knouf](http://turbulence.org/Works/JJPS)

June 18, 2010

![](https://0.gravatar.com/avatar/9908205c0ec5ecb5f27266e7cb7bff13?s=55&d=&r=G)

This is Nick, the author of the JJPS project; thanks for the tweet! I actually
came across this blog post while doing background research for the project and
looking for discussions about AAAARG; found out about a lot of projects that I
didn't already know about. One thing that I haven't been able to articulate
very well is that I think there's an interesting relationship between, say,
Kenneth Goldsmith's own poetry and his founding of Ubu Web; a collation and
reconfiguration of the detritus of culture (forgotten works of the avant-
gardes locked up behind pay walls of their own, or daily minutiae destined to
be forgotten), which is something that I was trying to do, in a more
circumscribed space, in JJPS Radio. But the question of distribution of
digital works is something I find fascinating, as there are all sorts of
avenues that we could be investigating but we are not. The issue, as it often
is, is one of technical ability, and that's why one of the future directions
of JJPS is to make some of the techniques I used easier to use. Those who want
to can always look into the code, which is of course freely available, but
that cannot and should not be a prerequisite.

13. [jannekeadema1979](http://www.openreflections.wordpress.com)

June 18, 2010

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/e4898febe4230b412db7f7909bcb9fc9?s=55&d=&r=G)

Hi Nick, thanks for your comment. I love the JJPS and it would be great if the
technology you mention would be easily re-usable. What I find fascinating is
how you use another medium (radio) to translate/re-mediate and in a way also
unlock textual material. I see you also have an Open Access and a Cut-up hour.
I am very much interested in using different media to communicate scholarly
research and even more in remixing and re-mediating textual scholarship. I
think your project(s) is a very valuable exploration of these themes while at
the same time being a (performative) critique of the current system. I am in
awe.

14. Pingback: [Text-sharing "in the paradise of too many books" – SLOTHROP](http://slothrop.com/2012/11/16/text-sharing-in-the-paradise-of-too-many-books/)

15. [Jason Kennedy](http://www.facebook.com/903035234)

May 6, 2015

![](https://i2.wp.com/graph.facebook.com/v2.2/903035234/picture?q=type%3Dlarge%26_md5%3Da95c382cfe878c70aaad88831f511711&resize=55%2C55)

Some obvious fails suggest major knowledge gaps regarding sourcing texts
online (outside of legal channels).

And featuring Scribd doesn't help.

Q: What's the largest pirate book site on the net, with an inventory almost as
large as Amazon?

And it's not L_____ G_____

16. [Janneke Adema](http://www.openreflections.wordpress.com)

May 6, 2015

![](https://2.gravatar.com/avatar/e4898febe4230b412db7f7909bcb9fc9?s=55&d=&r=G)

Do enlighten us Jason… And might I remind you that this post was written in
2009?

17. Mike Andrews

May 7, 2015

![](https://0.gravatar.com/avatar/c255ce6922fbb867a2ee635beb85bd71?s=55&d=&r=G)

Interesting topic, but also odd in some respects. Not translating the German
quotes is very unthoughtful and maybe even arrogant. If you are interested in
open access accessibility needs to be your top priority. I can read German,
but many of my friends (and most of the world) can't. It take a little effort
to just fix this, but you can do it.



fair use in Bodo 2015


Bodo
Libraries in the Post-Scarcity Era
2015


Libraries in the Post-Scarcity Era
Balazs Bodo

Abstract
In the digital era where, thanks to the ubiquity of electronic copies, the book is no longer a scarce
resource, libraries find themselves in an extremely competitive environment. Several different actors are
now in a position to provide low cost access to knowledge. One of these competitors are shadow libraries
- piratical text collections which have now amassed electronic copies of millions of copyrighted works
and provide access to them usually free of charge to anyone around the globe. While such shadow
libraries are far from being universal, they are able to offer certain services better, to more people and
under more favorable terms than most public or research libraries. This contribution offers insights into
the development and the inner workings of one of the biggest scientific shadow libraries on the internet in
order to understand what kind of library people create for themselves if they have the means and if they
don’t have to abide by the legal, bureaucratic and economic constraints that libraries usually face. I argue
that one of the many possible futures of the library is hidden in the shadows, and those who think of the
future of libraries can learn a lot from book pirates of the 21 st century about how users and readers expect
texts in electronic form to be stored, organized and circulated.
“The library is society’s last non-commercial meeting place which the majority of the population uses.”
(Committee on the Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society, 2010)
“With books ready to be shared, meticulously cataloged, everyone is a librarian. When everyone is
librarian, library is everywhere.” – Marcell Mars, www.memoryoftheworld.org
I have spent the last few months in various libraries visiting - a library. I spent countless hours in the
modest or grandiose buildings of the Harvard Libraries, the Boston and Cambridge Public Library
systems, various branches of the Openbare Bibliotheek in Amsterdam, the libraries of the University of
Amsterdam, with a computer in front of me, on which another library was running, a library which is
perfectly virtual, which has no monumental buildings, no multi-million euro budget, no miles of stacks,
no hundreds of staff, but which has, despite lacking all what apparently makes a library, millions of
literary works and millions of scientific books, all digitized, all available at the click of the mouse for
everyone on the earth without any charge, library or university membership. As I was sitting in these

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physical spaces where the past seemed to define the present, I was wondering where I should look to find
the library of the future: down to my screen or up around me.
The library on my screen was Aleph, one of the biggest of the countless piratical text collections on the
internet. It has more than a million scientific works and another million literary works to offer, all free to
download, without any charge or fee, for anyone on the net. I’ve spent months among its virtual stacks,
combing through the catalogue, talking to the librarians who maintain the collection, and watching the
library patrons as they used the collection. I kept going back to Aleph both as a user and as a researcher.
As a user, Aleph offered me books that the local libraries around me didn’t, in formats that were more
convenient than print. As a researcher, I was interested in the origins of Aleph, its modus operandi, its
future, and I was curious where the journey to which it has taken the book-readers, authors, publishers
and libraries would end.
In this short essay I will introduce some of the findings of a two year research project conducted on
Aleph. In the project I looked at several things. I reconstructed the pirate library’s genesis in order to
understand the forces that called it to life and shaped its development. I looked at its catalogue to
understand what it has to offer and how that piratical supply of books is related to the legal supply of
books through libraries and online distributors. I also acquired data on its usage, so was able to
reconstruct some aspects of piratical demand. After a short introduction, in the first part of this essay I
will outline some of the main findings, and in the second part will situate the findings in the wider context
of the future of libraries.

Book pirates and shadow librarians
Book piracy has a fascinating history, tightly woven into the history of the printing press (Judge, 1934),
into the history of censorship (Wittmann, 2004), into the history of copyright (Bently, Davis, & Ginsburg,
2010; Bodó, 2011a) and into the history of European civilization (Johns, 2010). Book piracy, in the 21st or
in the mid-17th century is an activity that has deep cultural significance, because ultimately it is a story
about how knowledge is circulated beyond and often against the structures of political and economic
power (Bodó, 2011b), and thus it is a story about the changes this unofficial circulation of knowledge
brings.
There are many different types of book pirates. Some just aim for easy money, others pursue highly
ideological goals, but they are invariably powerful harbingers of change. The emergence of black markets
whether they be of culture, of drugs or of arms is always a symptom, a warning sign of a friction between

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

supply and demand. Increased activity in the grey and black zones of legality marks the emergence of a
demand which legal suppliers are unwilling or unable to serve (Bodó, 2011a). That friction, more often
than not, leads to change. Earlier waves of book piracy foretold fundamental economic, political, societal
or technological shifts (Bodó, 2011b): changes in how the book publishing trade was organized (Judge,
1934; Pollard, 1916, 1920); the emergence of the new, bourgeois reading class (Patterson, 1968; Solly,
1885); the decline of pre-publication censorship (Rose, 1993); the advent of the Reformation and of the
Enlightenment (Darnton, 1982, 2003), or the rapid modernization of more than one nation (Khan &
Sokoloff, 2001; Khan, 2004; Yu, 2000).
The latest wave of piracy has coincided with the digital revolution which, in itself, profoundly upset the
economics of cultural production and distribution (Landes & Posner, 2003). However technology is not
the primary cause of the emergence of cultural black markets like Aleph. The proliferation of computers
and the internet has just revealed a more fundamental issue which all has to do with the uneven
distribution of the access to knowledge around the globe.
Sometimes book pirates do more than just forecast and react to changes that are independent of them.
Under certain conditions, they themselves can be powerful agents of change (Bodó, 2011b). Their agency
rests on their ability to challenge the status quo and resist cooptation or subjugation. In that effect, digital
pirates seem to be quite resilient (Giblin, 2011; Patry, 2009). They have the technological upper hand and
so far they have been able to outsmart any copyright enforcement effort (Bodó, forthcoming). As long as
it is not completely possible to eradicate file sharing technologies, and as long as there is a substantial
difference between what is legally available and what is in demand, cultural black markets will be here to
compete with and outcompete the established and recognized cultural intermediaries. Under this constant
existential threat, business models and institutions are forced to adapt, evolve or die.
After the music and audiovisual industries, now the book industry has to address the issue of piracy.
Piratical book distribution services are now in direct competition with the bookstore on the corner, the
used book stall on the sidewalk, they compete with the Amazons of the world and, like it or not, they
compete with libraries. There is, however, a significant difference between the book and the music
industries. The reluctance of music rights holders to listen to the demands of their customers caused little
damage beyond the markets of recorded music. Music rights holders controlled their own fates and those
who wanted to experiment with alternative forms of distribution had the chance to do so. But while the
rapid proliferation of book black markets may signal that the book industry suffers from similar problems
as the music industry suffered a decade ago, the actions of book publishers, the policies they pursue have
impact beyond the market of books and directly affect the domain of libraries.

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Bodó B. (2015): Libraries in the post-scarcity era.
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The fate of libraries is tied to the fate of book markets in more than one way. One connection is structural:
libraries emerged to remedy the scarcity in books. This is true both for the pre-print era as well as in the
Gutenberg galaxy. In the era of widespread literacy and highly developed book markets, libraries offer
access to books under terms publishers and booksellers cannot or would not. Libraries, to a large extent,
are defined to complement the structure of the book trade. The other connection is legal. The core
activities of the library (namely lending, copying) are governed by the same copyright laws that govern
authors and publishers. Libraries are one of the users in the copyright system, and their existence depends
on the limitations of and exceptions to the exclusive rights of the rights holders. The space that has been
carved out of copyright to enable the existence of libraries has been intensely contested in the era of
postmodern copyright (Samuelson, 2002) and digital technologies. This heavy legal and structural
interdependence with the market means that libraries have only a limited control over their own fate in the
digital domain.
Book pirates compete with some of the core services of libraries. And as is usually the case with
innovation that has no economic or legal constraints, pirate libraries offer, at least for the moment,
significantly better services than most of the libraries. Pirate libraries offer far more electronic books,
with much less restrictions and constraints, to far more people, far cheaper than anyone else in the library
domain. Libraries are thus directly affected by pirate libraries, and because of their structural
interdependence with book markets, they also have to adjust to how the commercial intermediaries react
to book piracy. Under such conditions libraries cannot simply count on their survival through their legacy.
Book piracy must be taken seriously, not just as a threat, but also as an opportunity to learn how shadow
libraries operate and interact with their users. Pirate libraries are the products of readers (and sometimes
authors), academics and laypeople, all sharing a deep passion for the book, operating in a zone where
there is little to no obstacle to the development of the “ideal” library. As such, pirate libraries can teach
important lessons on what is expected of a library, how book consumption habits evolve, and how
knowledge flows around the globe.

Pirate libraries in the digital age
The collection of texts in digital formats was one of the first activities that computers enabled: the text file
is the native medium of the computer, it is small, thus it is easy to store and copy. It is also very easy to
create, and as so many projects have since proved, there are more than enough volunteers who are willing
to type whole books into the machine. No wonder that electronic libraries and digital text repositories
were among the first “mainstream” application of computers. Combing through large stacks of matrix-

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printer printouts of sci-fi classics downloaded from gopher servers is a shared experience of anyone who
had access to computers and the internet before it was known as the World Wide Web.
Computers thus added fresh momentum to the efforts of realizing the age-old dream of the universal
library (Battles, 2004). Digital technologies offered a breakthrough in many of the issues that previously
posed serious obstacles to text collection: storage, search, preservation, access have all become cheaper
and easier than ever before. On the other hand, a number of key issues remained unresolved: digitization
was a slow and cumbersome process, while the screen proved to be too inconvenient, and the printer too
costly an interface between the text file and the reader. In any case, ultimately it wasn’t these issues that
put a break to the proliferation of digital libraries. Rather, it was the realization, that there are legal limits
to the digitization, storage, distribution of copyrighted works on the digital networks. That realization
soon rendered many text collections in the emerging digital library scene inaccessible.
Legal considerations did not destroy this chaotic, emergent digital librarianship and the collections the adhoc, accidental and professional librarians put together. The text collections were far too valuable to
simply delete them from the servers. Instead, what happened to most of these collections was that they
retreated from the public view, back into the access-controlled shadows of darknets. Yesterday’s gophers
and anonymous ftp servers turned into closed, membership only ftp servers, local shared libraries residing
on the intranets of various academic, business institutions and private archives stored on local hard drives.
The early digital libraries turned into book piracy sites and into the kernels of today’s shadow libraries.
Libraries and other major actors, who decided to start large scale digitization programs soon needed to
find out that if they wanted to avoid costly lawsuits, then they had to limit their activities to work in the
public domain. While the public domain is riddled with mind-bogglingly complex and unresolved legal
issues, but at least it is still significantly less complicated to deal with than copyrighted and orphan works.
Legally more innovative, (or as some would say, adventurous) companies, such as Google and Microsoft,
who thought they had sufficient resources to sort out the legal issues soon had to abandon their programs
or put them on hold until the legal issues were sorted out.
There were, however, a large group of disenfranchised readers, library patrons, authors and users who
decided to ignore the legal problems and set out to build the best library that could possibly be built using
the digital technologies. Despite the increased awareness of rights holders to the issue of digital book
piracy, more and more communities around text collections started defy the legal constraints and to
operate and use more or less public piratical shadow libraries.

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Aleph1
Aleph2 is a meta-library, and currently one of the biggest online piratical text collections on the internet.
The project started on a Russian bulletin board devoted to piracy in around 2008 as an effort to integrate
various free-floating text collections that circulated online, on optical media, on various public and private
ftp servers and on hard-drives. Its aim was to consolidate these separate text collections, many of which
were created in various Russian academic institutions, into a single, unified catalog, standardize the
technical aspects, add and correct missing or incorrect metadata, and offer the resulting catalogue,
computer code and the collection of files as an open infrastructure.

From Russia with love
It is by no means a mistake that Aleph was born in Russia. In post-Soviet Russia the unique constellation
of several different factors created the necessary conditions for the digital librarianship movement that
ultimately led to the development of Aleph. A rich literary legacy, the Soviet heritage, the pace with
which various copying technologies penetrated the market, the shortcomings of the legal environment and
the informal norms that stood in for the non-existent digital copyrights all contributed to the emergence of
the biggest piratical library in the history of mankind.
Russia cherishes a rich literary tradition, which suffered and endured extreme economic hardships and
political censorship during the Soviet period (Ermolaev, 1997; Friedberg, Watanabe, & Nakamoto, 1984;
Stelmakh, 2001). The political transformation in the early 1990’s liberated authors, publishers, librarians
and readers from much of the political oppression, but it did not solve the economic issues that stood in
the way of a healthy literary market. Disposable income was low, state subsidies were limited, the dire
economic situation created uncertainty in the book market. The previous decades, however, have taught
authors and readers how to overcome political and economic obstacles to access to books. During the
Soviet times authors, editors and readers operated clandestine samizdat distribution networks, while
informal book black markets, operating in semi-private spheres, made uncensored but hard to come by
books accessible (Stelmakh, 2001). This survivalist attitude and the skills that came with it became handy
in the post-Soviet turmoil, and were directly transferable to the then emerging digital technologies.

1

I have conducted extensive research on the origins of Aleph, on its catalogue and its users. The detailed findings, at
the time of writing this contribution are being prepared for publication. The following section is brief summary of
those findings and is based upon two forthcoming book chapters on Aleph in a report, edited by Joe Karaganis, on
the role of shadow libraries in the higher education systems of multiple countries.
2
Aleph is a pseudonym chosen to protect the identity of the shadow library in question.

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Russia is not the only country with a significant informal media economy of books, but in most other
places it was the photocopy machine that emerged to serve such book grey/black markets. In pre-1990
Russia and in other Eastern European countries the access to this technology was limited, and when
photocopiers finally became available, computers were close behind them in terms of accessibility. The
result of the parallel introduction of the photocopier and the computer was that the photocopy technology
did not have time to lock in the informal market of texts. In many countries where the photocopy machine
preceded the computer by decades, copy shops still capture the bulk of the informal production and
distribution of textbooks and other learning material. In the Soviet-bloc PCs instantly offered a less costly
and more adaptive technology to copy and distribute texts.
Russian academic and research institutions were the first to have access to computers. They also had to
somehow deal with the frustrating lack of access to up-to-date and affordable western works to be used in
education and research (Abramitzky & Sin, 2014). This may explain why the first batch of shadow
libraries started in a number of academic/research institutions such as the Department of Mechanics and
Mathematics (MexMat) at Moscow State University. The first digital librarians in Russia were
mathematicians, computer scientists and physicists, working in those institutions.
As PCs and internet access slowly penetrated Russian society, an extremely lively digital librarianship
movement emerged, mostly fuelled 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. One of the
central figures in these tumultuous years, when typed-in books appeared online by the thousands, was
Maxim Moshkov, a computer scientist, alumnus of the MexMat, and an avid collector of literary works.
His digital library, lib.ru was at first mostly a private collection of literary texts, but soon evolved into the
number one text repository which everyone used to depose the latest digital copy on a newly digitized
book (Мошков, 1999). Eventually the library grew so big that it had to be broken up. Today it only hosts
the Russian literary classics. User generated texts, fan fiction and amateur production was spin off into the
aptly named samizdat.lib.ru collection, low brow popular fiction, astrology and cheap romance found its
way into separate collections, and so did the collection of academic/scientific books, which started an
independent life under the name of Kolkhoz. Kolkhoz, which borrowed its name from the commons
based agricultural cooperative of the early Soviet era, was both a collection of scientific texts, and a
community of amateur librarians, who curated, managed and expanded the collection.
Moshkov and his library introduced several important norms into the bottom-up, decentralized, often
anarchic digital library movement that swept through the Russian internet in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s.
First, lib.ru provided the technological blueprint for any future digital library. But more importantly,

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Moshkov’s way of handling the texts, his way of responding to the claims, requests, questions, complaints
of authors and publishers paved the way to the development of copynorms (Schultz, 2007) that continue
to define the Russian digital library scene until today. Moshkov was instrumental in the creation of an
enabling environment for the digital librarianship while respecting the claims of authors, during times
when the formal copyright framework and the enforcement environment was both unable and unwilling to
protect works of authorship (Elst, 2005; Sezneva, 2012).

Guerilla Open Access
Around the time of the late 2000’s when Aleph started to merge the Kolkhoz collection with other, freefloating texts collections, two other notable events took place. It was in 2008 when Aaron Swartz penned
his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto (Swartz, 2008), in which he called for the liberation and sharing of
scientific knowledge. Swartz forcefully argued that scientific knowledge, the production of which is
mostly funded by the public and by the voluntary labor of academics, cannot be locked up behind
corporate paywalls set up by publishers. He framed the unauthorized copying and transfer of scientific
works from closed access text repositories to public archives as a moral act, and by doing so, he created
an ideological framework which was more radical and promised to be more effective than either the
creative commons (Lessig, 2004) or the open access (Suber, 2013) movements that tried to address the
access to knowledge issues in a more copyright friendly manner. During interviews, the administrators of
Aleph used the very same arguments to justify the raison d'être of their piratical library. While it seems
that Aleph is the practical realization of Swartz’s ideas, it is hard to tell which served as an inspiration for
the other.
It was also in around the same time when another piratical library, gigapedia/library.nu started its
operation, focusing mostly on making freely available English language scientific works (Liang, 2012).
Until its legal troubles and subsequent shutdown in 2012, gigapedia/library.nu was the biggest English
language piratical scientific library on the internet amassing several hundred thousand books, including
high-quality proofs ready to print and low resolution scans possibly prepared by a student or a lecturer.
During 2012 the mostly Russian-language and natural sciences focused Alephs absorbed the English
language, social sciences rich gigapedia/library.nu, and with the subsequent shutdown of
gigapedia/library.nu Aleph became the center of the scientific shadow library ecosystem and community.

Aleph by numbers

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By adding pre-existing text collections to its catalogue Aleph was able to grow at an astonishing rate.
Aleph added, on average 17.500 books to its collection each month since 2009, and as a result, by April
2014 is has more than 1.15 million documents. Nearly two thirds of the collection is in English, one fifth
of the documents is in Russian, while German works amount to the third largest group with 8.5% of the
collection. The rest of the major European languages, like French or Spanish have less than 15000 works
each in the collection.
More than 50 thousand publishers have works in the library, but most of the collection is published by
mainstream western academic publishers. Springer published more than 12% of the works in the
collection, followed by the Cambridge University Press, Wiley, Routledge and Oxford University Press,
each having more than 9000 works in the collection.
Most of the collection is relatively recent, more than 70% of the collection being published in 1990 or
after. Despite the recentness of the collection, the electronic availability of the titles in the collection is
limited. While around 80% of the books that had an ISBN number registered in the catalogue3 was
available in print either as a new copy or a second hand one, only about one third of the titles were
available in e-book formats. The mean price of the titles still in print was 62 USD according to the data
gathered from Amazon.com.
The number of works accessed through of Aleph is as impressive as its catalogue. In the three months
between March and June, 2012, on average 24.000 documents were downloaded every day from one of
its half-a-dozen mirrors.4 This means that the number of documents downloaded daily from Aleph is
probably in the 50 to 100.000 range. The library users come from more than 150 different countries. The
biggest users in terms of volume were the Russian Federation, Indonesia, USA, India, Iran, Egypt, China,
Germany and the UK. Meanwhile, many of the highest per-capita users are Central and Eastern European
countries.

What Aleph is and what it is not
Aleph is an example of the library in the post scarcity age. It is founded on the idea that books should no
longer be a scarce resource. Aleph set out to remove both sources of scarcity: the natural source of
3

Market availability data is only available for that 40% of books in the Aleph catalogue that had an ISBN number
on file. The titles without a valid ISBN number tend to be older, Russian language titles, in general with low
expected print and e-book availability.
4
Download data is based on the logs provided by one of the shadow library services which offers the books in
Aleph’s catalogue as well as other works also free and without any restraints or limitations.

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

scarcity in physical copies is overcome through distributed digitization; the artificial source of scarcity
created by copyright protection is overcome through infringement. The liberation from both constraints is
necessary to create a truly scarcity free environment and to release the potential of the library in the postscarcity age.
Aleph is also an ongoing demonstration of the fact that under the condition of non-scarcity, the library can
be a decentralized, distributed, commons-based institution created and maintained through peer
production (Benkler, 2006). The message of Aleph is clear: users left to their own devices, can produce a
library by themselves for themselves. In fact, users are the library. And when everyone has the means to
digitize, collect, catalogue and share his/her own library, then the library suddenly is everywhere. Small
individual and institutional collections are aggregated into Aleph, which, in turn is constantly fragmented
into smaller, local, individual collections as users download works from the collection. The library is
breathing (Battles, 2004) books in and out, but for the first time, this circulation of books is not a zero
sum game, but a cumulative one: with every cycle the collection grows.
On the other hand Aleph may have lots of books on offer, but it is clear that it is neither universal in its
scope, nor does it fulfill all the critical functions of a library. Most importantly Aleph is disembedded
from the local contexts and communities that usually define the focus of the library. While it relies on the
availability of local digital collections for its growth, it has no means to play an active role in its own
development. The guardians of Aleph can prevent books from entering the collection, but they cannot
pay, ask or force anyone to provide a title if it is missing. Aleph is reliant on the weak copy-protection
technologies of official e-text repositories and the goodwill of individual document submitters when it
comes to the expansion of the collection. This means that the Aleph collection is both fragmented and
biased, and it lacks the necessary safeguards to ensure that it stays either current or relevant.
Aleph, with all its strengths and weaknesses carries an important lesson for the discussions on the future
of libraries. In the next section I’ll try situate these lessons in the wider context of the library in the post
scarcity age.

The future of the library
There is hardly a week without a blog post, a conference, a workshop or an academic paper discussing the
future of libraries. While existing libraries are buzzing with activity, librarians are well aware that they
need to re-define themselves and their institutions, as the book collections around which libraries were
organized slowly go the way the catalogue has gone: into the digital realm. It would be impossible to give

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

a faithful summary of all the discussions on the future of libraries is such a short contribution. There are,
however, a few threads, to which the story of Aleph may contribute.

Competition
It is very rare to find the two words: libraries and competition in the same sentence. No wonder: libraries
enjoyed a near perfect monopoly in their field of activity. Though there may have been many different
local initiatives that provided free access to books, as a specialized institution to do so, the library was
unmatched and unchallenged. This monopoly position has been lost in a remarkably short period of time
due to the internet and the rapid innovations in the legal e-book distribution markets. Textbooks can be
rented, e-books can be lent, a number of new startups and major sellers offer flat rate access to huge
collections. Expertise that helps navigate the domains of knowledge is abundant, there are multiple
authoritative sources of information and meta-information online. The search box of the library catalog is
only one, and not even the most usable of all the different search boxes one can type a query in5.
Meanwhile there are plenty of physical spaces which offer good coffee, an AC plug, comfortable chairs
and low levels of noise to meet, read and study from local cafes via hacker- and maker spaces, to coworking offices. Many library competitors have access to resources (human, financial, technological and
legal) way beyond the possibilities of even the richest libraries. In addition, publishers control the
copyrights in digital copies which, absent of well fortified statutory limitations and exceptions, prevent
libraries keeping up with the changes in user habits and with the competing commercial services.
Libraries definitely feel the pressure. “Libraries’ offers of materials […] compete with many other offers
that aim to attract the attention of the public. […] It is no longer enough just to make a good collection
available to the public.” (Committee on the Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society, 2010) As a
response, libraries have developed different strategies to cope with this challenge. The common thread in
the various strategy documents is that they try to redefine the library as a node in the vast network of
institutions that provide knowledge, enable learning, facilitate cooperation and initiate dialogues. Some of
the strategic plans redefine the library space as an “independent medium to be developed” (Committee on
the Public Libraries in the Knowledge Society, 2010), and advise libraries to transform themselves into
culture and community centers which establish partnerships with citizens, communities and with other
public and private institutions. Some librarians propose even more radical ways of keeping the library

5

ArXiv, SSRN, RePEc, PubMed Central, Google Scholar, Google Books, Amazon, Mendeley, Citavi,
ResearchGate, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, Khan Academy, specialized twitter and other
social media accounts are just a few of the available discovery services.

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

relevant by, for example, advocating more opening hours without staff and hosting more user-governed
activities.
In the research library sphere, the Commission on the Future of the Library, a task force set up by the
University of California Berkeley defined the values the university research library will add in the digital
age as “1) Human expertise; 2) Enabling infrastructure; and 3) Preservation and dissemination of
knowledge for future generations.” (Commission on the Future of the Library, 2013). This approach is
from among the more conservative ones, still relying on the hope that libraries can offer something
unique that no one else is able to provide. Others, working at the Association of Research Libraries are
more like their public library counterparts, defining the future role of the research libraries as a “convener
of ‘conversations’ for knowledge construction, an inspiring host; a boundless symposium; an incubator;
a 3rd space both physically and virtually; a scaffold for independence of mind; and a sanctuary for
freedom of expression, a global entrepreneurial engine” (Pendleton-Jullian, Lougee, Wilkin, & Hilton,
2014), in other words, as another important, but in no way unique node in the wider network of
institutions that creates and distributes knowledge.
Despite the differences in priorities, all these recommendations carry the same basic message. The unique
position of libraries in the center of a book-based knowledge economy, on the top of the paper-bound
knowledge hierarchy is about to be lost. As libraries are losing their monopoly of giving low cost, low
restrictions access to books which are scarce by nature, and they are losing their privileged and powerful
position as the guardians of and guides to the knowledge stored in the stacks. If they want to survive, they
need to find their role and position in a network of institutions, where everyone else is engaged in
activities that overlap with the historic functions of the library. Just like the books themselves, the power
that came from the privileged access to books is in part dispersed among the countless nodes in the
knowledge and learning networks, and in part is being captured by those who control the digital rights to
digitize and distribute books in the digital era.
One of the main reasons why libraries are trying to redefine themselves as providers of ancillary services
is because the lack of digital lending rights prevents them from competing on their own traditional home
turf - in giving free access to knowledge. The traditional legal limitations and exceptions to copyright that
enabled libraries to fulfill their role in the analogue world do not apply in the digital realm. In the
European Union, the Infosoc Directive (“Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of
copyright and related rights in the information society,” 2001) allows for libraries to create digital copies
for preservation, indexing and similar purposes and allows for the display of digital copies on their
premises for research and personal study (Triaille et al., 2013). While in theory these rights provide for

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

the core library services in the digital domain, their practical usefulness is rather limited, as off-premises
e-lending of copyrighted works is in most cases6 only possible through individual license agreements with
publishers.
Under such circumstances libraries complain that they cannot fulfill their public interest mission in the
digital era. What libraries are allowed to do under their own under current limitations and exceptions, is
seen as inadequate for what is expected of them. But to do more requires the appropriate e-lending
licenses from rights holders. In many cases, however, libraries simply cannot license digitally for e-lending. In those cases when licensing is possible, they see transaction costs as prohibitively high; they
feel that their bargaining positions vis-à-vis rightholders is unbalanced; they do not see that the license
terms are adapted to libraries’ policies, and they fear that the licenses provide publishers excessive and
undue influence over libraries (Report on the responses to the Public Consultation on the Review of the
EU Copyright Rules, 2013).
What is more, libraries face substantial legal uncertainties even where there are more-or-less well defined
digital library exceptions. In the EU, questions such as whether the analogue lending rights of libraries
extend to e-books, whether an exhaustion of the distribution right is necessary to enjoy the lending
exception, and whether licensing an e-book would exhaust the distribution right are under consideration
by the Court of Justice of the European Union in a Dutch case (Rosati, 2014b). And while in another case
(Case C-117/13 Technische Universität Darmstadt v Eugen Ulmer KG) the CJEU reaffirmed the rights of
European libraries to digitize books in their collection if that is necessary to give access to them in digital
formats on their premises, it also created new uncertainties by stating that libraries may not digitize their
entire collections (Rosati, 2014a).
US libraries face a similar situation, both in terms of the narrowly defined exceptions in which libraries
can operate, and the huge uncertainty regarding the limits of fair use in the digital library context. US
rights holders challenged both Google’s (Authors Guild v Google) and the libraries (Authors Guild v
HathiTrust) rights to digitize copyrighted works. While there seems to be a consensus of courts that the
mass digitization conducted by these institutions was fair use (Diaz, 2013; Rosati, 2014c; Samuelson,
2014), the accessibility of the scanned works is still heavily limited, subject to licenses from publishers,
the existence of print copies at the library and the institutional membership held by prospective readers.
While in the highly competitive US e-book market many commercial intermediaries offer e-lending
6

The notable exception being orphan works which are presumed to be still copyrighted, but without an identifiable
rights owner. In the EU, the Directive 2012/28/EU on certain permitted uses of orphan works in theory eases access
to such works, but in practice its practical impact is limited by the many constraints among its provisions. Lacking
any orphan works legislation and the Google Book Settlement still in limbo, the US is even farther from making
orphan works generally accessible to the public.

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licenses to e-book catalogues of various sizes, these arrangements also carry the danger of a commercial
lock-in of the access to digital works, and render libraries dependent upon the services of commercial
providers who may or may not be the best defenders of public interest (OECD, 2012).
Shadow libraries like Aleph are called into existence by the vacuum that was left behind by the collapse
of libraries in the digital sphere and by the inability of the commercial arrangements to provide adequate
substitute services. Shadow libraries are pooling distributed resources and expertise over the internet, and
use the lack of legal or technological barriers to innovation in the informal sphere to fill in the void left
behind by libraries.

What can Aleph teach us about the future of libraries?
The story of Aleph offers two, closely interrelated considerations for the debate on the future of libraries:
a legal and an organizational one. Aleph operates beyond the limits of legality, as almost all of its
activities are copyright infringing, including the unauthorized digitization of books, the unauthorized
mass downloads from e-text repositories, the unauthorized acts of uploading books to the archive, the
unauthorized distribution of books, and, in most countries, the unauthorized act of users’ downloading
books from the archive. In the debates around copyright infringement, illegality is usually interpreted as a
necessary condition to access works for free. While this is undoubtedly true, the fact that Aleph provides
no-cost access to books seems to be less important than the fact that it provides an access to them in the
first place.
Aleph is a clear indicator of the volume of the demand for current books in digital formats in developed
and in developing countries. The legal digital availability, or rather, unavailability of its catalogue also
demonstrates the limits of the current commercial and library based arrangements that aim to provide low
cost access to books over the internet. As mentioned earlier, Aleph’s catalogue is mostly of recent books,
meaning that 80% of the titles with a valid ISBN number are still in print and available as a new or used
print copy through commercial retailers. What is also clear, that around 66% of these books are yet to be
made available in electronic format. While publishers in theory have a strong incentive to make their most
recent titles available as e-books, they lag behind in doing so.
This might explain why one third of all the e-book downloads in Aleph are from highly developed
Western countries, and two third of these downloads are of books without a kindle version. Having access
to print copies either through libraries or through commercial retailers is simply not enough anymore.
Developing countries are a slightly different case. There, compared to developed countries, twice as many

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in: Porsdam (ed): Copyrighting Creativity: Creative values, Cultural Heritage Institutions and Systems of Intellectual Property, Ashgate

of the downloads (17% compared to 8% in developed countries) are of titles that aren’t available in print
at all. Not having access to books in print seems to be a more pressing problem for developing countries
than not having access to electronic copies. Aleph thus fulfills at least two distinct types of demand: in
developed countries it provides access to missing electronic versions, in developing countries it provides
access to missing print copies.
The ability to fulfill an otherwise unfulfilled demand is not the only function of illegality. Copyright
infringement in the case of Aleph has a much more important role: it enables the peer production of the
library. Aleph is an open source library. This means that every resource it uses and every resource it
creates is freely accessible to anyone for use without any further restrictions. This includes the server
code, the database, the catalogue and the collection. The open source nature of Aleph rests on the
ideological claim that the scientific knowledge produced by humanity, mostly through public funds
should be open for anyone to access without any restrictions. Everything else in and around Aleph stems
from this claim, as they replicate the open access logic in all the other aspects of Aleph’s operation. Aleph
uses the peer produced Open Library to fetch book metadata, it uses the bittorrent and ed2k P2P networks
to store and make books accessible, it uses Linux and MySQL to run its code, and it allows its users to
upload books and edit book metadata. As a consequence of its open source nature, anyone can contribute
to the project, and everyone can enjoy its benefits.
It is hard to quantify the impact of this piratical open access library on education, science and research in
various local contexts where Aleph is the prime source of otherwise inaccessible books. But it is
relatively easy to measure the consequences of openness at the level of the Aleph, the library. The
collection of Aleph was created mostly by those individuals and communities who decided to digitize
books by themselves for their own use. While any single individual is only capable of digitizing a few
books at the maximum, the small contributions quickly add up. To digitize the 1.15 million documents in
the Aleph collection would require an investment of several hundred million Euros, and a substantial
subsequent investment in storage, collection management and access provision (Poole, 2010). Compared
to these figures the costs associated with running Aleph is infinitesimal, as it survives on the volunteer
labor of a few individuals, and annual donations in the total value of a few thousand dollars. The hundreds
of thousands who use Aleph on a more or less regular basis have an immense amount of resources, and by
disregarding the copyright laws Aleph is able to tap into those resources and use them for the
development of the library. The value of these resources and of the peer produced library is the difference
between the actual costs associated with Aleph, and the investment that would be required to create
something remotely similar.

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The decentralized, collaborative mass digitization and making available of current, thus most relevant
scientific works is only possible at the moment through massive copyright infringement. It is debatable
whether the copyrighted corpus of scientific works should be completely open, and whether the blatant
disregard of copyrights through which Aleph achieved this openness is the right path towards a more
openly accessible body of scientific knowledge. It is also yet to be measured what effects shadow libraries
may have on the commercial intermediaries and on the health of scientific publishing and science in
general. But Aleph, in any case, is a case study in the potential benefits of open sourcing the library.

Conclusion
If we can take Aleph as an expression of what users around the globe want from a library, then the answer
is that there is a strong need for a universally accessible collection of current, relevant (scientific) books
in restrictions-free electronic formats. Can we expect any single library to provide anything even remotely
similar to that in the foreseeable future? Does such a service have a place in the future of libraries? It is as
hard to imagine the future library with such a service as without.
While the legal and financial obstacles to the creation of a scientific library with as universal reach as
Aleph may be difficult the overcome, other aspects of it may be more easily replicable. The way Aleph
operates demonstrates the amount of material and immaterial resources users are willing to contribute to
build a library that responds to their needs and expectations. If libraries plan to only ‘host’ user-governed
activities, it means that the library is still imagined to be a separate entity from its users. Aleph teaches us
that this separation can be overcome and users can constitute a library. But for that they need
opportunities to participate in the production of the library: they need the right to digitize books and copy
digital books to and from the library, they need the opportunity to participate in the cataloging and
collection building process, they need the opportunity to curate and program the collection. In other
words users need the chance to be librarians in the library if they wish to do so, and so libraries need to be
able to provide access not just to the collection but to their core functions as well. The walls that separate
librarians from library patrons, private and public collections, insiders and outsiders can all prevent the
peer production of the library, and through that, prevent the future that is the closest to what library users
think of as ideal.

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fair use in Dekker & Barok 2017


Dekker & Barok
Copying as a Way to Start Something New A Conversation with Dusan Barok about Monoskop
2017


COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW
A Conversation with Dusan Barok about Monoskop

Annet Dekker

Dusan Barok is an artist, writer, and cultural activist involved
in critical practice in the fields of software, art, and theory. After founding and organizing the online culture portal
Koridor in Slovakia from 1999–2002, in 2003 he co-founded
the BURUNDI media lab where he organized the Translab
evening series. A year later, the first ideas about building an
online platform for texts and media started to emerge and
Monoskop became a reality. More than a decade later, Barok
is well-known as the main editor of Monoskop. In 2016, he
began a PhD research project at the University of Amsterdam. His project, titled Database for the Documentation of
Contemporary Art, investigates art databases as discursive
platforms that provide context for artworks. In an extended
email exchange, we discuss the possibilities and restraints
of an online ‘archive’.
ANNET DEKKER

You started Monoskop in 2004, already some time ago. What
does the name mean?
DUSAN BAROK

‘Monoskop’ is the Slovak equivalent of the English ‘monoscope’, which means an electric tube used in analogue TV
broadcasting to produce images of test cards, station logotypes, error messages but also for calibrating cameras. Monoscopes were automatized television announcers designed to
speak to both live and machine audiences about the status
of a channel, broadcasting purely phatic messages.
AD
Can you explain why you wanted to do the project and how it
developed to what it is now? In other words, what were your
main aims and have they changed? If so, in which direction
and what caused these changes?
DB

I began Monoskop as one of the strands of the BURUNDI
media lab in Bratislava. Originally, it was designed as a wiki
website for documenting media art and culture in the eastern part of Europe, whose backbone consisted of city entries
composed of links to separate pages about various events,

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LOST AND LIVING (IN) ARCHIVES

initiatives, and individuals. In the early days it was modelled
on Wikipedia (which had been running for two years when
Monoskop started) and contained biographies and descriptions of events from a kind of neutral point of view. Over
the years, the geographic and thematic boundaries have
gradually expanded to embrace the arts and humanities in
their widest sense, focusing primarily on lesser-known
1
phenomena.1 Perhaps the biggest change is the ongoing
See for example
shift from mapping people, events, and places towards
https://monoskop.org/
Features. Accessed
synthesizing discourses.
28 May 2016.
A turning point occurred during my studies at the
Piet Zwart Institute, in the Networked Media programme
from 2010–2012, which combined art, design, software,
and theory with support in the philosophy of open source
and prototyping. While there, I was researching aspects of
the networked condition and how it transforms knowledge,
sociality and economics: I wrote research papers on leaking
as a technique of knowledge production, a critique of the
social graph, and on the libertarian values embedded in the
design of digital currencies. I was ready for more practice.
When Aymeric Mansoux, one of the tutors, encouraged me
to develop my then side-project Monoskop into a graduation
work, the timing was good.
The website got its own domain, a redesign, and most
crucially, the Monoskop wiki was restructured from its
2
focus on media art and culture towards the much wider
https://monoskop.org/
embrace
of the arts and humanities. It turned to a media
Symposium. Accessed
28 May 2016.
library of sorts. The graduation work also consisted of
a symposium about personal collecting and media ar3
chiving,2 which saw its loose follow-ups on media aeshttps://monoskop.org/
thetics (in Bergen)3 and on knowledge classification and
The_Extensions_of_
Many. Accessed
archives (in Mons)4 last year.
28 May 2016.

AD

https://monoskop.org/
Ideographies_of_
Knowledge. Accessed
28 May 2016.

Did you have a background in library studies, or have
you taken their ideas/methods of systemization and categorization (meta data)? If not, what are your methods
and how did you develop them?

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COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

4

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

DB

Besides the standard literature in information science (I
have a degree in information technologies), I read some
works of documentation scientists Paul Otlet and Suzanne
Briet, historians such as W. Boyd Rayward and Ronald E.
Day, as well as translated writings of Michel Pêcheux and
other French discourse analysts of the 1960s and 1970s.
This interest was triggered in late 2014 by the confluence
of Femke’s Mondotheque project and an invitation to be an
artist-in-residence in Mons in Belgium at the Mundaneum,
home to Paul Otlet’s recently restored archive.
This led me to identify three tropes of organizing and
navigating written records, which has guided my thinking
about libraries and research ever since: class, reference,
and index. Classification entails tree-like structuring, such
as faceting the meanings of words and expressions, and
developing classification systems for libraries. Referencing
stands for citations, hyperlinking and bibliographies. Indexing ranges from the listing of occurrences of selected terms
to an ‘absolute’ index of all terms, enabling full-text search.
With this in mind, I have done a number of experiments.
There is an index of selected persons and terms from
5
across the Monoskop wiki and Log.5 There is a growing
https://monoskop.org/
list of wiki entries with bibliographies and institutional
Index. Accessed
28 May 2016.
infrastructures of fields and theories in the humanities.6
There is a lexicon aggregating entries from some ten
6
dictionaries of the humanities into a single page with
https://monoskop.org/
hyperlinks to each full entry (unpublished). There is an
Humanities. Accessed
28 May 2016.
alternative interface to the Monoskop Log, in which entries are navigated solely through a tag cloud acting as
a multidimensional filter (unpublished). There is a reader
containing some fifty books whose mutual references are
turned into hyperlinks, and whose main interface consists
of terms specific to each text, generated through tf-idf algorithm (unpublished). And so on.

DB

The publishing market frames the publication as a singular
body of work, autonomous from other titles on offer, and
subjects it to the rules of the market—with a price tag and
copyright notice attached. But for scholars and artists, these
are rarely an issue. Most academic work is subsidized from
public sources in the first place, and many would prefer to
give their work away for free since openness attracts more
citations. Why they opt to submit to the market is for quality
editing and an increase of their own symbolic value in direct
proportion to the ranking of their publishing house. This
is not dissimilar from the music industry. And indeed, for
many the goal is to compose chants that would gain popularity across academia and get their place in the popular
imagination.
On the other hand, besides providing access, digital
libraries are also fit to provide context by treating publications as a corpus of texts that can be accessed through an
unlimited number of interfaces designed with an understanding of the functionality of databases and an openness
to the imagination of the community of users. This can
be done by creating layers of classification, interlinking
bodies of texts through references, creating alternative
indexes of persons, things and terms, making full-text
search possible, making visual search possible—across
the whole of corpus as well as its parts, and so on. Isn’t
this what makes a difference? To be sure, websites such
as Aaaaarg and Monoskop have explored only the tip of

AD

Indeed, looking at the archive in many alternative ways has

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COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

the iceberg of possibilities. There is much more to tinker
and hack around.

within a given text and within a discourse in which it is
embedded. What is specific to digital text, however, is that
we can search it in milliseconds. Full-text search is enabled
by the index—search engines operate thanks to bots that
assign each expression a unique address and store it in a
database. In this respect, the index usually found at the
end of a printed book is something that has been automated
with the arrival of machine search.
In other words, even though knowledge in the age of the
internet is still being shaped by the departmentalization of
academia and its related procedures and rituals of discourse
production, and its modes of expression are centred around
the verbal rhetoric, the flattening effects of the index really
transformed the ways in which we come to ‘know’ things.
To ‘write’ a ‘book’ in this context is to produce a searchable
database instead.

AD

It is interesting that whilst the accessibility and search potential has radically changed, the content, a book or any other
text, is still a particular kind of thing with its own characteristics and forms. Whereas the process of writing texts seems
hard to change, would you be interested in creating more
alliances between texts to bring out new bibliographies? In
this sense, starting to produce new texts, by including other
texts and documents, like emails, visuals, audio, CD-ROMs,
or even un-published texts or manuscripts?
DB

Currently Monoskop is compiling more and more ‘source’
bibliographies, containing digital versions of actual texts
they refer to. This has been very much in focus in the past
two or three years and Monoskop is now home to hundreds
of bibliographies of twentieth-century artists, writers, groups,
and movements as well as of various theories and human7
ities disciplines.7 As the next step I would like to move
See for example
on to enabling full-text search within each such biblioghttps://monoskop.
org/Foucault,
raphy. This will make more apparent that the ‘source’
https://monoskop.
bibliography
is a form of anthology, a corpus of texts
org/Lissitzky,
https://monoskop.
representing a discourse. Another issue is to activate
org/Humanities.
cross-references
within texts—to turn page numbers in
All accessed
28 May 2016.
bibliographic citations inside texts into hyperlinks leading
to other texts.
This is to experiment further with the specificity of digital text. Which is different both to oral speech and printed
books. These can be described as three distinct yet mutually
encapsulated domains. Orality emphasizes the sequence
and narrative of an argument, in which words themselves
are imagined as constituting meaning. Specific to writing,
on the other hand, is referring to the written record; texts
are brought together by way of references, which in turn
create context, also called discourse. Statements are ‘fixed’
to paper and meaning is constituted by their contexts—both

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LOST AND LIVING (IN) ARCHIVES

AD

So, perhaps we finally have come to ‘the death of the author’,
at least in so far as that automated mechanisms are becoming active agents in the (re)creation process. To return to
Monoskop in its current form, what choices do you make
regarding the content of the repositories, are there things
you don’t want to collect, or wish you could but have not
been able to?
DB

In a sense, I turned to a wiki and started Monoskop as
a way to keep track of my reading and browsing. It is a
by-product of a succession of my interests, obsessions, and
digressions. That it is publicly accessible is a consequence
of the fact that paper notebooks, text files kept offline and
private wikis proved to be inadequate at the moment when I
needed to quickly find notes from reading some text earlier.
It is not perfect, but it solved the issue of immediate access
and retrieval. Plus there is a bonus of having the body of
my past ten or twelve years of reading mutually interlinked
and searchable. An interesting outcome is that these ‘notes’
are public—one is motivated to formulate and frame them

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COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

as to be readable and useful for others as well. A similar
difference is between writing an entry in a personal diary
and writing a blog post. That is also why the autonomy
of technical infrastructure is so important here. Posting
research notes on Facebook may increase one’s visibility
among peers, but the ‘terms of service’ say explicitly that
anything can be deleted by administrators at any time,
without any reason. I ‘collect’ things that I wish to be able
to return to, to remember, or to recollect easily.
AD

Can you describe the process, how do you get the books,
already digitized, or do you do a lot yourself? In other words,
could you describe the (technical) process and organizational aspects of the project?
DB

In the beginning, I spent a lot of time exploring other digital
libraries which served as sources for most of the entries on
Log (Gigapedia, Libgen, Aaaaarg, Bibliotik, Scribd, Issuu,
Karagarga, Google filetype:pdf). Later I started corresponding with a number of people from around the world (NYC,
Rotterdam, Buenos Aires, Boulder, Berlin, Ploiesti, etc.) who
contribute scans and links to scans on an irregular basis.
Out-of-print and open-access titles often come directly from
authors and publishers. Many artists’ books and magazines
were scraped or downloaded through URL manipulation
from online collections of museums, archives and libraries.
Needless to say, my offline archive is much bigger than
what is on Monoskop. I tend to put online the files I prefer
not to lose. The web is the best backup solution I have
found so far.
The Monoskop wiki is open for everyone to edit; any user
can upload their own works or scans and many do. Many of
those who spent more time working on the website ended up
being my friends. And many of my friends ended up having
an account as well :). For everyone else, there is no record
kept about what one downloaded, what one read and for
how long... we don’t care, we don’t track.

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AD

In what way has the larger (free) publishing context changed
your project, there are currently several free texts sharing
initiatives around (some already before you started like Textz.
com or Aaaaarg), how do you collaborate, or distinguish
from each other?
DB

It should not be an overstatement to say that while in the
previous decade Monoskop was shaped primarily by the
‘media culture’ milieu which it intended to document, the
branching out of its repository of highlighted publications
Monoskop Log in 2009, and the broadening of its focus to
also include the whole of the twentieth and twenty-first
century situates it more firmly in the context of online
archives, and especially digital libraries.
I only got to know others in this milieu later. I approached
Sean Dockray in 2010, Marcell Mars approached me the
following year, and then in 2013 he introduced me to Kenneth Goldsmith. We are in steady contact, especially through
public events hosted by various cultural centres and galleries.
The first large one was held at Ljubljana’s hackerspace Kiberpipa in 2012. Later came the conferences and workshops
organized by Kuda at a youth centre in Novi Sad (2013), by
the Institute of Network Cultures at WORM, Rotterdam (2014),
WKV and Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart (2014),
Mama & Nova Gallery in Zagreb (2015), ECC at Mundaneum,
Mons (2015), and most recently by the Media Department
8
of the University of Malmo (2016).8
For more information see,
The leitmotif of all these events was the digital library
https://monoskop.org/
Digital_libraries#
and their atmosphere can be described as the spirit of
Workshops_and_
early
hacker culture that eventually left the walls of a
conferences.
Accessed 28 May 2016.
computer lab. Only rarely there have been professional
librarians, archivists, and publishers among the speakers, even though the voices represented were quite diverse.
To name just the more frequent participants... Marcell
and Tom Medak (Memory of the World) advocate universal
access to knowledge informed by the positions of the Yugoslav

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COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

Marxist school Praxis; Sean’s work is critical of the militarization and commercialization of the university (in the
context of which Aaaaarg will always come as secondary, as
an extension of The Public School in Los Angeles); Kenneth
aims to revive the literary avant-garde while standing on the
shoulders of his heroes documented on UbuWeb; Sebastian
Lütgert and Jan Berger are the most serious software developers among us, while their projects such as Textz.com and
Pad.ma should be read against critical theory and Situationist cinema; Femke Snelting has initiated the collaborative
research-publication Mondotheque about the legacy of the
early twentieth century Brussels-born information scientist
Paul Otlet, triggered by the attempt of Google to rebrand him
as the father of the internet.
I have been trying to identify implications of the digital-networked textuality for knowledge production, including humanities research, while speaking from the position
of a cultural worker who spent his formative years in the
former Eastern Bloc, experiencing freedom as that of unprecedented access to information via the internet following
the fall of Berlin Wall. In this respect, Monoskop is a way
to bring into ‘archival consciousness’ what the East had
missed out during the Cold War. And also more generally,
what the non-West had missed out in the polarized world,
and vice versa, what was invisible in the formal Western
cultural canons.
There have been several attempts to develop new projects,
and the collaborative efforts have materialized in shared
infrastructure and introductions of new features in respective platforms, such as PDF reader and full-text search on
Aaaaarg. Marcell and Tom along with their collaborators have
been steadily developing the Memory of the World library and
Sebastian resuscitated Textz.com. Besides that, there are
overlaps in titles hosted in each library, and Monoskop bibliographies extensively link to scans on Libgen and Aaaaarg,
while artists’ profiles on the website link to audio and video
recordings on UbuWeb.

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LOST AND LIVING (IN) ARCHIVES

AD

It is interesting to hear that there weren’t any archivist or
professional librarians involved (yet), what is your position
towards these professional and institutional entities and
persons?
DB

As the recent example of Sci-Hub showed, in the age of
digital networks, for many researchers libraries are primarily free proxies to corporate repositories of academic
9
journals.9 Their other emerging role is that of a digital
For more information see,
repository of works in the public domain (the role piowww.sciencemag.org/
news/2016/04/whosneered in the United States by Project Gutenberg and
downloading-piratedInternet Archive). There have been too many attempts
papers-everyone.
Accessed 28 May 2016.
to transpose librarians’ techniques from the paperbound
world into the digital domain. Yet, as I said before, there
is much more to explore. Perhaps the most exciting inventive approaches can be found in the field of classics, for
example in the Perseus Digital Library & Catalog and the
Homer Multitext Project. Perseus combines digital editions
of ancient literary works with multiple lexical tools in a way
that even a non-professional can check and verify a disputable translation of a quote. Something that is hard to
imagine being possible in print.
AD

I think it is interesting to see how Monoskop and other
repositories like it have gained different constituencies
globally, for one you can see the kind of shift in the texts
being put up. From the start you tried to bring in a strong
‘eastern European voice’, nevertheless at the moment the
content of the repository reflects a very western perspective on critical theory, what are your future goals. And do
you think it would be possible to include other voices? For
example, have you ever considered the possibility of users
uploading and editing texts themselves?
DB

The site certainly started with the primary focus on east-central European media art and culture, which I considered

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COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

myself to be part of in the early 2000s. I was naive enough
to attempt to make a book on the theme between 2008–2010.
During that period I came to notice the ambivalence of the
notion of medium in an art-historical and technological
sense (thanks to Florian Cramer). My understanding of
media art was that it is an art specific to its medium, very
much in Greenbergian terms, extended to the more recent
‘developments’, which were supposed to range from neo-geometrical painting through video art to net art.
At the same time, I implicitly understood art in the sense
of ‘expanded arts’, as employed by the Fluxus in the early
1960s—objects as well as events that go beyond the (academic) separation between the arts to include music, film,
poetry, dance, design, publishing, etc., which in turn made
me also consider such phenomena as experimental film,
electro-acoustic music and concrete poetry.
Add to it the geopolitically unstable notion of East-Central
Europe and the striking lack of research in this area and
all you end up with is a headache. It took me a while to
realize that there’s no point even attempting to write a coherent narrative of the history of media-specific expanded
arts of East-Central Europe of the past hundred years. I
ended up with a wiki page outlining the supposed mile10
stones along with a bibliography.10
https://monoskop.
For this strand, the wiki served as the main notebook,
org/CEE. Accessed
28 May 2016. And
leaving behind hundreds of wiki entries. The Log was
https://monoskop.
more or less a ‘log’ of my research path and the presence
org/Central_and_
Eastern_Europe_
of ‘western’ theory is to a certain extent a by-product of
Bibliography.
my search for a methodology and theoretical references.
Accessed 28 May 2016.
As an indirect outcome, a new wiki section was
launched recently. Instead of writing a history of mediaspecific ‘expanded arts’ in one corner of the world, it takes
a somewhat different approach. Not a sequential text, not
even an anthology, it is an online single-page annotated
index, a ‘meta-encyclopaedia’ of art movements and styles,
intended to offer an expansion of the art-historical canonical
prioritization of the western painterly-sculptural tradition

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11

https://monoskop.
org/Art. Accessed
28 May 2016.

to also include other artists and movements around the
world.11
AD

Can you say something about the longevity of the project?
You briefly mentioned before that the web was your best
backup solution. Yet, it is of course known that websites
and databases require a lot of maintenance, so what will
happen to the type of files that you offer? More and more
voices are saying that, for example, the PDF format is all
but stable. How do you deal with such challenges?
DB

Surely, in the realm of bits, nothing is designed to last
forever. Uncritical adoption of Flash had turned out to be
perhaps the worst tragedy so far. But while there certainly
were more sane alternatives if one was OK with renouncing its emblematic visual effects and aesthetics that went
with it, with PDF it is harder. There are EPUBs, but scholarly publications are simply unthinkable without page
numbers that are not supported in this format. Another
challenge the EPUB faces is from artists' books and other
design- and layout-conscious publications—its simplified
HTML format does not match the range of possibilities for
typography and layout one is used to from designing for
paper. Another open-source solution, PNG tarballs, is not
a viable alternative for sharing books.
The main schism between PDF and HTML is that one represents the domain of print (easily portable, and with fixed
page size), while the other the domain of web (embedded
within it by hyperlinks pointing both directions, and with
flexible page size). EPUB is developed with the intention of
synthetizing both of them into a single format, but instead
it reduces them into a third container, which is doomed to
reinvent the whole thing once again.
It is unlikely that there will appear an ultimate convertor
between PDF and HTML, simply because of the specificities
of print and the web and the fact that they overlap only in
some respects. Monoskop tends to provide HTML formats

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COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

next to PDFs where time allows. And if the PDF were to
suddenly be doomed, there would be a big conversion party.
On the side of audio and video, most media files on
Monoskop are in open formats—OGG and WEBM. There
are many other challenges: keeping up-to-date with PHP
and MySQL development, with the MediaWiki software
and its numerous extensions, and the mysterious ICANN
organization that controls the web domain.

as an imperative to us to embrace redundancy, to promote
spreading their contents across as many nodes and sites
as anyone wishes. We may look at copying not as merely
mirroring or making backups, but opening up for possibilities to start new libraries, new platforms, new databases.
That is how these came about as well. Let there be Zzzzzrgs,
Ůbuwebs and Multiskops.

AD

What were your biggest challenges beside technical ones?
For example, have you ever been in trouble regarding copyright issues, or if not, how would you deal with such a
situation?
DB

Monoskop operates on the assumption of making transformative use of the collected material. The fact of bringing
it into certain new contexts, in which it can be accessed,
viewed and interpreted, adds something that bookstores
don’t provide. Time will show whether this can be understood as fair use. It is an opt-out model and it proves to
be working well so far. Takedowns are rare, and if they are
legitimate, we comply.
AD

Perhaps related to this question, what is your experience
with users engagement? I remember Sean (from Aaaaarg,
in conversation with Matthew Fuller, Mute 2011) saying
that some people mirror or download the whole site, not
so much in an attempt to ‘have everything’ but as a way
to make sure that the content remains accessible. It is a
conscious decision because one knows that one day everything might be taken down. This is of course particularly
pertinent, especially since while we’re doing this interview
Sean and Marcell are being sued by a Canadian publisher.
DB

That is absolutely true and any of these websites can disappear any time. Archives like Aaaaarg, Monoskop or UbuWeb
are created by makers rather than guardians and it comes

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COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

Bibliography
Fuller, Matthew. ‘In the Paradise of Too Many Books: An Interview with
Sean Dockray’. Mute, 4 May 2011. www.metamute.org/editorial/

articles/paradise-too-many-books-interview-seandockray. Accessed 31 May 2016.
Online digital libraries
Aaaaarg, http://aaaaarg.fail.
Bibliotik, https://bibliotik.me.
Issuu, https://issuu.com.
Karagarga, https://karagarga.in.
Library Genesis / LibGen, http://gen.lib.rus.ec.
Memory of the World, https://library.memoryoftheworld.org.
Monoskop, https://monoskop.org.
Pad.ma, https://pad.ma.
Scribd, https://scribd.com.
Textz.com, https://textz.com.
UbuWeb, www.ubu.com.

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fair use in USDC 2015


USDC
Opinion: Elsevier against SciHub and LibGen
2015


UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
----------------------------------------

15 Civ. 4282(RWS)
OPINION

ELSEVIER INC., ELSEVIER B.V., and ELSEVIER LTD.,

Plaintiffs,

- against -

WWW.SCI-HUB.ORG, THE LIBRARY GENESIS PROJECT, d/b/a LIBGEN.ORG, ALEXANDRA ELBAKYAN, and JOHN DOES 1-99,

Defendants.

----------------------------------------

APPEARANCES

Attorneys for the Plaintiffs

DEVORE & DEMARCO LLP
99 Park Avenue, Suite 1100
New York, NY 1001 6
By:
Joseph DeMarco, Esq.
David Hirschberg, Esq.
Urvashi Sen, Esq.

Pro Se

Alexandra Elbakyan
Almaty, Kazakhstan

1

Sweet, D.J.,

Plaintiffs Elsevier Inc., Elsevier B.V., and Elsevier, Ltd. (collectively, "Elsevier" or the "Plaintiffs") have moved for a preliminary injunction preventing defendants Sci-Hub, Library Genesis Project (the " Project"), Alexandra Elbakyan ("Elbakyan"), Bookfi.org, Elibgen.org, Erestroresollege.org, and Libgen.info (collectively, the "Defendants") from distributing works to which Elsevier owns the copyright. Based upon the facts and conclusions below, the motion is granted and the Defendants are prohibited from distributing the Plaintiffs' copyrighted works.

Prior Proceedings

Elsevier, a major publisher of scientific journal articles and book chapters, brought this action on June 2, 2015, alleging that the Defendants, a series of websites affiliated with the Project (the "Website Defendants") and their owner and operator, Alexandra Elbakyan, infringed Elsevier's copyrighted works and violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. (See generally Complaint, Dkt. No. 1.) Elsevier filed the instant motion for a preliminary injunction on June 11, 2015, via an Order to Show Cause. (Dkt. Nos. 5-13.) On June 18, 2015, the Court granted

2

Plaintiffs' Order to Show Cause and authorized service on the

Defendants via email.
week,

(Dkt.

No.

1 5.)

During the following

the Plaintiffs served the Website Defendants via email and

Elbakyan via email and postal mail.
On July 7,
Part One Judge,
and Elbakyan,

2015,

See Dkt.

Nos.

the Honorable Ronnie Abrams,

24-31. )
acting as

held a telephone conference with the Plaintiffs

during which Elbakyan acknowledged receiving the

papers concerning this case and declared that she did not intend
to obtain a lawyer.
conference,

(See Transcript,

Dkt.

No.

38. )

After the

Judge Abrams issued an Order directing Elbakyan to

notify the Court whether she wished assistance in obtaining pro
bono counsel,
se,

and advising her that while she could proceed pro

the Website Defendants,

not being natural persons,
(Dkt. No.

obtain counsel or risk default.

telephonic conference was held on July 14 ,

must

3 6. )

A second

2015,

during which

Elbakyan stated that she needed additional time to find a
lawyer.

( See Transcript,

the request,

Dkt.

No.

4 2. )

Judge Abrams granted

but warned Elbakyan th�t "you have to move quickly

both in attempting to retain an attorney and you' ll have to
stick to the schedule that is set once it' s set. "
After the telephone conference,

(Id.

at 6. )

Judge Abrams issued another

Order setting the preliminary injunction hearing for September
1 6 and directing Elbakyan to inform the Court by July 21 if she
wished assistance in obtaining pro bono counsel.
3

(Dkt. No.

4 0. )

The motion for a preliminary injunction was heard on
September 1 6,
hearing,

201 5.

None of the Defendants appeared at the

although Elbakyan sent a two-page letter to the court

the day before.

(Dkt. No.

50.)

Applicable Standard

Preliminary injunctions are "extraordinary and drastic
remed[ies]

that should not be granted unless the movant,

clear showing,
Armstrong,

carries the burden of persuasion. "

5 20 U. S.

district court may,

9 68,

972 (1997).

by a

Mazurek v.

In a copyright case,

at its discretion,

a

grant a preliminary

injunction when the plaintiffs demonstrate 1) a likelihood of
success on the merits,
injunction,
favor,

2) irreparable harm in the absence of an

3) a balance of the hardships tipping in their

and 4 ) that issuance of an injunction would not do a

disservice to the public interest.
F. 3d 27 5,

278 ( 2d Cir.

W PIX,

Inc.

v. ivi,

Inc.,

691

2012).

The Motion is Granted

With the exception of Elbakyan,

none of the Defendants

filed any opposition to the instant motion,

participated in any

hearing or telephone conference, or in any other way appeared in
4

the case.

Although Elbakyan acknowledges that she is the "main

operator of sci-hub. erg website"
only represent herself pro

se;

(Dkt.

No.

50 at 1. ), she may

since the Website Defendants are

not natural persons, they may only be represented by an attorney
See Max Cash Media, Inc.

admitted to practice in federal court.
v.

Prism Corp. , No.

(S.D. N. Y.

12 Civ.

147, 2012 WL 2861 162, at *1

July 9, 2012);

Auth. , 722 F. 2d 20, 22

(2d Cir.

1983)

(stating reasons for the

rule and noting that it is "venerable and widespread").

Because

the Website Defendants did not retain an attorney to defend this
action, they are in default.
However, the Website Defendants' default does not
the Plaintiffs to an injunction, nor does

automatically entit

the fact that Elbakyan's submission raises no mer
challenge to the Plaintiffs' claims.
Music, No.
2015).

13 Civ.

s-based

See Thurman v.

5194, 2015 WL 2 168134, at *4

Bun Bun
May 7,

(S. D. N. Y.

Instead, notwithstanding the default, the Plaintiffs

must present evidence sufficient to establish that they are
entitled to injunctive relief.
Curveal Fashion, No.
(S. D. N. Y.
Cir.

09 Civ.

Jan 20, 2010);

See id. ;

Inc.

v.

8458, 2010 WL 308303, at *2

CFTC v.

Vartuli, 228 F. 3d 94, 98

2000).

A. Likelihood of S

Gucci Am.,

ss on the
5

rits

(2d

, -

Elsevier has established that the Defendants have
reproduced and distributed its copyrighted works,
of the exclusive rights established by 17
Complaint,

Dkt. No. 1,

at 11-13.)

(1)

"two elements must be

ownership of a valid copyright,

and

(2)

copying of

constituent elements of the work that are original."
Records,

LLC v. Doe 3,

Feist Publ'ns,

See

U.S.C. § 106.

In order to prevail on a

claim for infringement of copyright,
proven:

in violation

604 F.3d 110,

117

Arista

(2d Cir. 2010)

Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co.,

499 U.S.

(quoting

340,

361

(1991) ) .
Elsevier has made a substantial evidentiary showing,
documenting the manner in which the Defendants access its
ScienceDirect database of scientific literature and post
copyrighted material on their own websites free of charge.
According to Elsevier,

the Defendants gain access to

ScienceDirect by using credentials fraudulently obtained from
educational institutions,

including educational institutions

located in the Southern District of New York,
legitimate access to ScienceDirect.
Woltermann

(the "Woltermann Dec.") ,

which are granted

(See Declaration of Anthony
Dkt. No. 8,

at 13-14.)

As

an attachment to one of the supporting declarations to this
motion,

Elsevier includes a sequence of screenshots showing how

a user could go to �ww.sc�-hub.org,
6

one of the Website

Defendants,

search for information on a scientific article,

a set of search results, click on a link,
copyrighted article on ScienceDirect,

get

and be redirected to a

via a proxy.

See

Elsevier also points to a

Walterman Dec. at 41-44 and Ex. U.)

Twitter post (in Russian) indicating that whenever an article is
downloaded via this method,
own servers.
1 2,

Ex.

B.)

the Defendants save a copy on their

(See Declaration of David M. Hirschberg,
As specific examples,

with their copyright registrations.
Dkt.

No. 9,

Exs. B-D.)

No.

Elsevier includes copies of

two of its articles accessed via the Defendants'

Doda,

Dkt.

websites,

along

(Declaration of Paul F.

This showing demonstrates a

likelihood of success on Elsevier' s copyright infringement
claims.
Elsevier also shows a likelihood of success on its claim
under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA").
prohibits,

inter alia,

The CFAA

obtaining information from "any protected

computer" without authorization,

18 U.S. C. § 1030(a)(2)(C),

and

obtaining anything of value by accessing any protected computer
with intent to defraud.

Id.

§ (a) (4).

The definition of

"protected computer" includes one "which is used in or affecting
interstate or foreign commerce or communication,

including a

computer located outside the United States that

is used in a

manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or
communication of the United States."
7

I .

§ (e) (2) (B);

Nexans

Wires S. A.
2006).

v.

Sa

Inc.

166 F.

App'x 559, 562 n. 5

(2d Cir.

Elsevier's ScienceDirect database is located on multiple

servers throughout the world and is accessed by educational
institutions and their students, and qualifies as a computer
used in interstate commerce, and therefore as a protected
computer under the CFAA.

See Woltermann Dec.

at 2-3. )

As

found above, Elsevier has shown that the Defendants' access to
ScienceDirect was unauthorized and accomplished via fraudulent
university credentials.

While the C fAA requires a civil

plaintiff to have suffered over $5,000 in damage or loss, see
Register. com, Inc.

v.

Verio, Inc. , 356 F. 3d 393, 439

(2d Cir.

2004), Elsevier has made the necessary showing since it
documented between 2,000 and 8,500 of its articles being added
to the LibGen database each day

(Woltermann Dec.

at 8, Exs.

G &

H) and because its articles carry purchase prices of between
$19. 95 and $41. 95 each.
Leon, No.

12 Civ.

Id.

at 2;

see Millennium TGA, Inc.

1360, 2013 WL 5719079, at *10

(E. D. N.Y.

v.

Oct.

18, 2013). 1
Elsevier's evidence is also buttressed by Elbakyan's
submission, in which she frankly admits to copyright
infringement.

1

(See Dkt.

No.

50.)

She discusses her time as a

While Elsevier's articles are likely sufficient on their own to qualify as

"[]thing[s]

of value" under the CFAA,

Elbakyan acknowledges in her submission

that the Defendants derive revenue from their website.
50,

at

1

{"That is true that website collects donations,

pressure anyone to send them.").)

8

Letter,

Dkt. No.

however we do not

student at a university in Kazakhstan, where she did not have
access to research papers and found the prices charged to be

just insane.
(Id.

at 1.)

She obtained the papers she needed

"by pirating them," and found may similar students and
researchers, predominantly in developing count

s, who were in

similar situations and helped each other illicitly obtain
research materials that they could not access legitimately or
afford on the open market.

Id.)

As Elbakyan describes it, "I

could obtain any paper by pirating it, so I solved many requests
and people always were very grateful for my help.

After that, I

created sci-hub.org website that simply makes this process
automatic and the website immediately became popular."

(Id.)

Given Elsevier's strong evidentiary showing and Elbakyan's
admissions, the first prong of the preliminary injunction test
is firmly established.

B. Irreparable Harm

Irreparable harm is present "where, but for the grant of
equitable relief, there is a substantial chance that upon final
resolution of the action the parties cannot be returned to the
positions they previously occupied."

Brenntag Int'l Chems.,

Inc. v. Bank of India, 175 F.3d 245, 249

(2d Cir. 1999).

Here,

there is irreparable harm because it is entirely likely that the
9

•'

damage to Elsevier could not be effectively quantified.
Register.com,

356 F.3d at 404

{"irreparable harm may be found

where damages are difficult to establish and measure.").
would be difficult,

if not impossible,

It

to determine how much

money the Plaintiffs have lost due to the availability of
thousands of their articles on the Defendant websites;

some

percentage of those articles would no doubt have been paid for
legitimately if they were not downloadable for free,

but there

appears to be no way of determining how many that would be.
There is also the matter of harm caused by "viral infringement, "
where Elsevier's content could be transmitted and retransmitted
by third parties who acquired it from the Defendants even after
the Defendants' websites were shut down.
Inc.,
275

765 F. Supp. 2d 594,

(2d Cir. 2012).

620

(S.D.N.Y.

See WPIX,
2011),

'to prove the loss of sales due to

infringement is .

notoriously difficult.'"

Colting,

81

607 F.3d 6 8,

(2d Cir. 2010)

Corp. v. Petri-Kine Camera Co.,
(Friendly,

aff'd 691 F.3d

"(C]ourts have tended to issue injunctions

in this context because

1971)

Inc. v. ivi,

Salinger v.

(quoting Omega Importing

451 F.2d 1190,

1195

(2d Cir.

J.)).

Additionally,

the harm done to the Plaintiffs is likely

irreparable because the scale of any money damages would
dramatically exceed Defendants' ability to pay.
F.3d at 249-50

Brenntag,

175

(explaining that even where money damages can be
10

quantified, there is irreparable harm when a defendant will be
unable to cover the damages).
Defendants'

It is highly likely that the

activities will be found to be willful - Elbakyan

herself refers to the websites'

activities as "pirating" (Dkt.

No. 50 at 1) - in which case they would be liable for between
$750 and $150,000 in statutory damages for each pirated work.
See 17 U.S.C.

§ 504(c);

HarperCollins Publishers LLC v. Open

Road Integrated Media, LLP, 58 F.
2014).

Supp. 3d 380, 38 7 (S.D.N.Y.

Since the Plaintiffs credibly allege that the Defendants

infringe an average of over 3,000 new articles each day
(Woltermann Deel. at 7), even if the Court were to award damages
at the lower end of the statutory range the Defendants'
liability could be extensive.

Since the Defendants are an

individual and a set of websites supported by voluntary
donations, the potential damages are likely to be far beyond the
Defendants'

ability to pay.

C. Balance of Hardships

The balance of hardships clearly tips in favor of the
Plaintiffs.

Elsevier has shown that it is likely to succeed on

the merits, and that it continues to suffer irreparable harm due
to the Defendants'
free.

making its copyrighted material available for

As for the Defendants, "it is axiomatic that an infringer
11

of copyright cannot complain about the loss of ability to offer
its infringing product."
omitted).

W PIX,

691 F.3d at 287 (quotation

The Defendants cannot be legally harmed by the fact

that they cannot continue to steal the Plaintiff' s content,

even

See id.

if they tried to do so for public-spirited reasons.

D. Public Interest

To the extent that Elbakyan mounts a legal challenge to the
motion for a preliminary injunction,
interest prong of the test.

it is on the public

In her letter to the Court,

notes that there are "lots of researchers .

she

. especially in

developing countries" who do not have access to key scientific
papers owned by Elsevier and similar organizations,

and who

cannot afford to pay the high fees that Elsevier charges.
No.

50,

at 1.)

Elbakyan states in her letter that Elsevier
operates by racket:
any papers.

(Dkt.

if you do not send money,

On my website,

as they want for free,

you will not read

any person can read as many papers

and sending donations is their free will.

Why Elsevier cannot work like this,

(Id.)

I wonder?
Elbakyan

also notes that researchers do not actually receive money in
exchange for granting Elsevier a copyright.

Id.)

Rather,

she

alleges they give Elsevier ownership of their works "because
Elsevier is an owner of so-called
12

'high-impact'

journals.

If a

researcher wants to be recognized,

make a career - he or she

needs to have publications in such journals.n

{ Id. at 1-2.)

Elbakyan notes that prominent researchers have made attempts to
boycott Elsevier and states that "[t]he general opinion in
research community is that research papers should be distributed
for free (open access),

not sold.

And practices of such

companies like Elsevier are unacceptable,
distribution of knowledge."

because they limit

ld. at 2.)

Elsevier contends that the public interest favors the
issuance of an injunction because doing so will "protect the
delicate ecosystem which supports scientific research
worldwide."

(Pl.'s Br.,

Dkt. No. 6,

at 21.)

It states that the

money it generates by selling access. to scientific research is
used to support new discoveries,
maintain a "de
discovery."

to create new journals,

and to

nitive and accurate record of scientif

( Id.)

It also argues that allowing its articles to

be widely distributed

sks the spread of bad science - while

Elsevier corrects and retracts articles whose conclusions are
later found to be flawed,

it has no way of doing so when the

content is taken out of its control.

Id. at 22.)

Lastly,

Elsevier argues that injunctive relief against the Defendants is
important to deter "cyber-crime," while

ling to issue an

injunction will incentivize pirates to continue to publish
copyrighted works.
13

It cannot be denied that there is a compelling public
interest in fostering scientific achievement, and that ensuring
broad access to scientific research is an important component of
that effort.

As the Second Circuit has noted, "[c]opyright law

inherently balances [] two competing public interests .

.

. the

rights of users and the public interest in broad accessibility
of creative works, and the rights of copyright owners and the
public interest in rewarding and incentivizing creative efforts
(the

'owner-user balance' )."

WPIX, 691 F.3d at 287 .

Elbakyan' s

solution to the problems she identifies, simply making
copyrighted content available for free via a foreign website,
disserves the public interest.

As the Plaintiffs have

established, there is a "delicate ecosystem which supports
scientific research worldwide,"

( Pl.' s Br., Dkt. No. 6 at 21),

and copyright law pays a critical function within that system.
"Inadequate protections for copyright owners can threaten the
very store of knowledge to be accessed; encouraging the
production of creative work thus ultimately serves the public' s
interest in promoting the accessibility of such works. "
691 F.3d at 287 .

W PIX,

The existence of Elsevier shows that

publication of scient ific research

generates substantial

economic value.
The public' s interest in the broad diffusion of scientific
knowledge is sustained by two critical exceptions in copyright
14

law.

First,

the "idea/expression dichotomy" ensures that while

a scientific article may be subject to copyright,

the ideas and

See 17 U. S.C. § 102(b)

insights within that article are not.

("In no case does copyright protection for an original work of
authorship extend to any idea,

procedure,

method of operation,

concept,

to this distinction,

every idea,

principle,

process,

system,

or discovery").

theory,

"Due

and fact in a

copyrighted work becomes instantly available for public
exploitation at the moment of publication."
537 U.S. 186,

219

(2003).

So while Elsevier may be able to keep

its actual articles behind a paywall,
them are fair game for anyone.
doctrine,

comment,

the discoveries within

Secondly,

codified at 17 U.S.C. § 107,

expressions,

as well as ideas,

news reporting,

Eldred v. Ashcroft,

the "fair use"

allows the public to use

nfor purposes such as criticism,

teaching .

.

.

scholarship,

or

research" without being liable for copyright infringement.

(emphasis added)

Under this doctrine,

themselves may be taken and used,
purposes,

Elsevier' s articles

bu.t only for legitimate

and not for wholesale infringement.

U.S. at 219.2

See Eldred,

537

The public interest in the broad dissemination and

use of scientific research is protected by the idea/expression
dichotomy and the fair use doctrine.

2

See Golan v. Holder,

The public interest in wide d1sseminat1on of scientific works

by the fact that copyrights are given only limited

464

15

U.S.

duration.

417, 431-32

132

is also served

See Sony Corp.

(1984).

S.

Ct. 873,

890 (2012);

Eldred,

537 U.S. at 219.

Given the

importance of scientific research and the critical role that
copyright plays in promoting it,

the public interest weighs in

favor of an injunction.

Conclusion

For the reasons set forth above,

It is hereby ordered that:

preliminary injunction is granted.

1. The Defendants,
agents,

their officers,

servants,

employees,

the motion for a

directors,

principals,

successors and assigns,

and

all persons and entities in active concert or participation
with them,

are hereby temporarily restrained from unlawful

access to,

use,

reproduction,

and/or distribution of

Elsevier's copyrighted works and from assisting,

aiding,

or

abetting any other person or business entity in engaging in
unlawful access to,

use,

reproduction,

and/or distribution

of Elsevier' s copyrighted works.
2. Upon the Plaintiffs'

request,

have registered Defendants'

those organizations which

domain names on behalf of

Defendants shall disclose immediately to the Plaintiffs all
information in their possession concerning the identity of
the operator or registrant of such domain names and of any
16

bank accounts or financial accounts owned or used by such
operator or registrant.
3. Defendants shall not transfer ownership of the Defendants'
websites during the pendency of this Action,

or until

further Order of the Court.
4. The TLD Registries for the Defendants'
administrators,

websites,

or their

shall place the domain names on

registryHold/serverHold as well as serverUpdate,
serverDelete,

and serverTransfer prohibited statuses,

until

further Order of the Court.
5. The Defendants shall preserve copies of all computer files
relating to the use of the websites and shall take all
necessary steps to retrieve computer files relating to the
use of the websites that may have been deleted before entry
of this Order.
6. That security in the amount of $ 5, 000 be posted by the
Plaintiffs within one week of the entry of this Order.
Fed.

R.

Civ.

P. 6 5(c).

17

See

It is so ordered.

New York,

fY
October ? ;--1

2015
R BERT W. SWEET

U.S.D.J.

18



fair use in Mars & Medak 2019


Mars & Medak
System of a Takedown
2019


System of a Takedown: Control and De-­commodification in the Circuits of Academic Publishing
Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak

Since 2012 the Public Library/Memory of the World1 project has
been developing and publicly supporting scenarios for massive
disobedience against the current regulation of production and
circulation of knowledge and culture in the digital realm. While
the significance of that year may not be immediately apparent to
everyone, across the peripheries of an unevenly developed world
of higher education and research it produced a resonating void.
The takedown of the book-­sharing site Library.nu in early 2012
gave rise to an anxiety that the equalizing effect that its piracy
had created—­the fact that access to the most recent and relevant
scholarship was no longer a privilege of rich academic institutions
in a few countries of the world (or, for that matter, the exclusive
preserve of academia to begin with)—­would simply disappear into
thin air. While alternatives within these peripheries quickly filled
the gap, it was only through an unlikely set of circumstances that
they were able to do so, let alone continue to exist in light of the
legal persecution they now also face.

48

The starting point for the Public Library/Memory of the World
project was a simple consideration: the public library is the institutional form that societies have devised in order to make knowledge
and culture accessible to all their members regardless of social or
economic status. There’s a political consensus that this principle of
access is fundamental to the purpose of a modern society. Yet, as
digital networks have radically expanded the access to literature
and scientific research, public libraries were largely denied the
ability to extend to digital “objects” the kind of de-­commodified
access they provide in the world of print. For instance, libraries
frequently don’t have the right to purchase e-­books for lending and
preservation. If they do, they are limited by how many times—­
twenty-­six in the case of one publisher—­and under what conditions
they can lend them before not only the license but the “object”
itself is revoked. In the case of academic journals, it is even worse:
as they move to predominantly digital models of distribution,
libraries can provide access to and “preserve” them only for as
long as they pay extortionate prices for ongoing subscriptions. By
building tools for organizing and sharing electronic libraries, creating digitization workflows, and making books available online, the
Public Library/Memory of the World project is aimed at helping to
fill the space that remains denied to real-­world public libraries. It is
obviously not alone in this effort. There are many other platforms,
some more public, some more secretive, working to help people
share books. And the practice of sharing is massive.
—­https://www.memoryoftheworld.org

Capitalism and Schizophrenia
New media remediate old media. Media pay homage to their
(mediatic) predecessors, which themselves pay homage to their
own (mediatic) predecessors. Computer graphics remediate film,
which remediates photography, which remediates painting, and so
on (McLuhan 1965, 8; Bolter and Grusin 1999). Attempts to understand new media technologies always settle on a set of metaphors

(of the old and familiar), in order to approximate what is similar,
and yet at the same time name the new. Every such metaphor has
its semiotic distance, decay, or inverse-­square law that draws the
limit how far the metaphor can go in its explanation of the phenomenon to which it is applied. The intellectual work in the Age of
Mechanical Reproduction thus received an unfortunate metaphor:
intellectual property. A metaphor modeled on the scarce and
exclusive character of property over land. As the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction became more and more the Age of Discrete and
Digital Reproduction, another metaphor emerged, one that reveals
the quandary left after decades of decay resulting from the increasing distanciation of intellectual property from the intellectual work
it seeks to regulate, and that metaphor is: schizophrenia.
Technologies compete with each other—­the discrete and the
digital thus competes with the mechanical—­and the aftermath of
these clashes can be dramatic. People lose their jobs, companies
go bankrupt, disciplines lose their departments, and computer
users lose their old files. More often than not, clashes between
competing technologies create antagonisms between different
social groups. Their voices are (sometimes) heard, and society tries
to balance their interests.
If the institutional remedies cannot resolve the social antagonism,
the law is called on to mediate. Yet in the present, the legal system
only reproduces the schizoid impasse where the metaphor of property over land is applied to works of intellect that have in practical
terms become universally accessible in the digital world. Court
cases do not result in a restoration of balance but rather in the
confirmation of entrenched interests. It is, however, not necessary
that courts act in such a one-­sided manner. As Cornelia Vismann
(2011) reminds us in her analysis of the ancient roots of legal mediation, the juridical process has two facets: first, a theatrical aspect
that has common roots with the Greek dramatic theatre and its
social function as a translator of a matter of conflict into a case for
weighted juridical debate; second, an agonistic aspect not unlike a
sporting competition where a winner has to be decided, one that

49

50

leads to judgment and sanction. In the matter of copyright versus
access, however, the fact that courts cannot look past the metaphor of intellectual property, which reduces any understanding of
our contemporary technosocial condition to an analogy with the
scarcity-­based language of property over land, has meant that they
have failed to adjudicate a matter of conflict between the equalizing effects of universal access to knowledge and the guarantees of
rightful remuneration for intellectual labor into a meaningful social
resolution. Rather they have primarily reasserted the agonistic
aspect by supporting exclusively the commercial interests of large
copyright industries that structure and deepen that conflict at the
societal level.
This is not surprising. As many other elements of contemporary
law, the legal norms of copyright were articulated and codified
through the centuries-­long development of the capitalist state
and world-system. The legal system is, as Nicos Poulantzas (2008,
25–­26) suggests, genetically structured by capitalist development.
And yet at the same time it is semi-­autonomous; the development
of its norms and institutional aspects is largely endogenous and
partly responsive to the specific needs of other social subsystems.
Still, if the law and the courts are the codified and lived rationality
of a social formation, then the choice of intellectual property as a
metaphor in capitalist society comes as no surprise, as its principal
objective is to institute a formal political-­economic framework for
the commodification of intellectual labor that produces knowledge
and culture. There can be no balance, only subsumption and
accumulation. Capitalism and schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia abounds wherever the discrete and the digital
breaking barriers to access meets capitalism. One can only wonder
how the conflicting interests of different divisions get disputed
and negotiated in successful corporate giants like Sony Group
where Sony Pictures Entertainment,2 Sony Music Entertainment3
and Sony Computer Entertainment coexist under the same roof
with the Sony Electronics division, which invented the Walkman
back in 1979 and went on to manufacture devices and gadgets like

home (and professional) audio and video players/recorders (VHS,
Betamax, TV, HiFi, cassette, CD/DVD, mp3, mobile phones, etc.),
storage devices, personal computers, and game consoles. In the
famous 1984 Betamax case (“Sony Corp. of America v. Universal
City Studios, Inc.,” Wikipedia 2015), Universal Studios and the Walt
Disney Company sued Sony for aiding copyright infringement with
their Betamax video recorders. Sony won. The court decision in
favor of fair use rather than copyright infringement laid the legal
ground for home recording technology as the foundation of future
analog, and subsequently digital, content sharing.
Five years later, Sony bought its first major Hollywood studio:
Columbia Pictures. In 2004 Sony Music Entertainment merged with
Bertelsmann Music Group to create Sony BMG. However, things
changed as Sony became the content producer and we entered the
age of the discrete and the digital. Another five years later, in 2009,
Sony BMG sued Joel Tenenbaum for downloading and then sharing
thirty-­one songs. The jury awarded US$675,000 to the music
companies (US$22,000 per song). This is known as “the second
file-­sharing case.” “The first file-­sharing case” was 2007’s Capitol Records, Inc. v. Thomas-­Rasset, which concerned the downloading of
twenty-­four songs. In the second file-­sharing case, the jury awarded
music companies US$1,920,000 in statutory damages (US$80,000
per song). The defendant, Jammie Thomas, was a Native American
mother of four from Brainerd, Minnesota, who worked at the time
as a natural resources coordinator for the Mille Lacs Band of the
Native American Ojibwe people. The conflict between access and
copyright took a clear social relief.
Encouraged by the court decisions in the years that followed, the
movie and music industries have started to publicly claim staggering numbers in annual losses: US$58 billion and 370,000 lost jobs
in the United States alone. The purported losses in sales were,
however, at least seven times bigger than the actual losses and,
if the jobs figures had been true, after only one year there would
have been no one left working in the content industry (Reid 2012).
Capitalism and schizophrenia.

51

52

If there is a reason to make an exception from the landed logic of
property being imposed onto the world of the intellect, a reason
to which few would object, it would be for access for educational
purposes. Universities in particular give an institutional form to
the premise that equal access to knowledge is a prerequisite for
building a society where all people are equal.
In this noble endeavor to make universal access to knowledge
central to social development, some universities stand out more
than the others. Consider, for example, the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology (MIT). The Free Culture and Open Access movements
have never hidden their origins, inspiration, and model in the
success of the Free Software Movement, which was founded in
1984 by Richard Stallman while he was working at the MIT Artificial
Intelligence lab. It was at the MIT Museum that the “Hall of Hacks”
was set up to proudly display the roots of hacking culture. Hacking
culture at MIT takes many shapes and forms. MIT hackers famously
put a fire truck (2006) and a campus police car (1994) onto the
roof of the Great Dome of the campus’s Building 10; they landed
(and then exploded) a weather balloon onto the pitch of Harvard
Stadium during a Harvard–­Yale football game; turned the quote
that “getting an education from MIT is like taking a drink from a Fire
Hose” into a literal fire hydrant serving as a drinking fountain in
front of the largest lecture hall on campus; and many, many other
“hacks” (Peterson 2011).
The World Wide Web Consortium was founded at MIT in 1993.
Presently its mission states as its goal “to enable human communication, commerce, and opportunities to share knowledge,”
on the principles of “Web for All” and the corresponding, more
technologically focused “Web on Everything.” Similarly, MIT began
its OpenCourseWare project in 2002 in order “to publish all of
[MIT’s] course materials online and make them widely available to
everyone” (n.d.). The One Laptop Per Child project was created in
2005 in order to help children “learn, share, create, and collaborate” (2010). Recently the MIT Media Lab (2017) has even started its
own Disobedience Award, which “will go to a living person or group

engaged in what we believe is extraordinary disobedience for
the benefit of society . . . seeking both expected and unexpected
nominees.” When it comes to the governance of access to MIT’s
own resources, it is well known that anyone who is registered and
connected to the “open campus” wireless network, either by being
physically present or via VPN, can search JSTOR, Google Scholar,
and other databases in order to access otherwise paywalled journals from major publishers such as Reed Elsevier, Wiley-­Blackwell,
Springer, Taylor and Francis, or Sage.
The MIT Press has also published numerous books that we love
and without which we would have never developed the Public
Library/Memory of the World project to the stage where it is now.
For instance, only after reading Markus Krajewski’s Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548–­1929 (2011) and learning how
conceptually close librarians came to the universal Turing machine
with the invention of the index card catalog did we center the
Public Library/Memory of the World around the idea of the catalog.
Eric von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation (2005) taught us how end
users could become empowered to innovate and accordingly we
have built our public library as a distributed network of amateur
librarians acting as peers sharing their catalogs and books. Sven
Spieker’s The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy (2008) showed us the
exciting hybrid meta-­space between psychoanalysis, media theory,
and conceptual art one could encounter by visiting the world of
catalogs and archives. Understanding capitalism and schizophrenia would have been hard without Semiotext(e)’s translations of
Deleuze and Guattari, and remaining on the utopian path would
have been impossible if not for our reading of Cybernetic Revolutionaries (Medina 2011), Imagine No Possessions (Kiaer 2005), or Art
Power (Groys 2008).

Our Road into Schizophrenia, Commodity
Paradox, Political Strategy
Our vision for the Public Library/Memory of the World resonated
with many people. After the project initially gained a large number

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of users, and was presented in numerous prominent artistic
venues such as Museum Reina Sofía, Transmediale, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Calvert22, 98weeks, and many more, it was no
small honor when Eric Kluitenberg and David Garcia invited us to
write about the project for an anthology on tactical media that was
to be published by the MIT Press. Tactical media is exactly where
we would situate ourselves on the map. Building on Michel de
Certeau’s concept of tactics as agency of the weak operating in the
terrain of strategic power, the tactical media (Tactical Media Files
2017) emerged in the political and technological conjuncture of the
1990s. Falling into the “art-­into-­life” lineage of historic avant-­gardes,
Situationism, DIY culture, techno-­hippiedom, and media piracy, it
constituted a heterogeneous field of practices and a manifestly
international movement that combined experimental media and
political activism into interventions that contested the post–­Cold
War world of global capitalism and preemptive warfare on a hybrid
terrain of media, institutions, and mass movements. Practices of
tactical media ranged from ephemeral media pranks, hoaxes, and
hacktivism to reappropriations of media apparatuses, institutional
settings, and political venues. We see our work as following in
that lineage of recuperation of the means of communication from
their capture by personal and impersonal structures of political or
economic power.
Yet the contract for our contribution that the MIT Press sent us in
early 2015 was an instant reminder of the current state of affairs
in academic publishing: in return for our contribution and transfer
of our copyrights, we would receive no compensation: no right to
wage and no right to further distribute our work.
Only weeks later our work would land us fully into schizophrenia:
the Public Library/Memory of the World received two takedown
notices from the MIT Press for books that could be found in its
back then relatively small yet easily discoverable online collection
located at https://library.memoryoftheworld.org, including a notice
for one of the books that had served as an inspiration to us: Art
Power. First, no wage and, now, no access. A true paradox of the

present-­day system of knowledge production: products of our
labor are commodities, yet the labor-­power producing them is
denied the same status. While the project’s vision resonates with
many, including the MIT Press, it has to be shut down. Capitalism
and schizophrenia.4
Or, maybe, not. Maybe we don’t have to go down that impasse.
Starting from the two structural circumstances imposed on us by
the MIT Press—­the denial of wage and the denial of access—­we
can begin to analyze why copyright infringement is not merely, as
the industry and the courts would have it, a matter of illegality. But
rather a matter of legitimate action.
Over the past three decades a deep transformation, induced by
the factors of technological change and economic restructuring,
has been unfolding at different scales, changing the way works
of culture and knowledge are produced and distributed across
an unevenly developed world. As new technologies are adopted,
generalized, and adapted to the realities of the accumulation
process—­a process we could see unfolding with the commodification of the internet over the past fifteen years—­the core and
the periphery adopt different strategies of opposition to the
inequalities and exclusions these technologies start to reproduce.
The core, with its emancipatory and countercultural narratives,
pursues strategies that develop legal, economic, or technological
alternatives. However, these strategies frequently fail to secure
broader transformative effects as the competitive forces of the
market appropriate, marginalize, or make obsolete the alternatives
they advocate. Such seems to have been the destiny of much of the
free software, open access, and free culture alternatives that have
developed over this period.
In contrast, the periphery, in order to advance, relies on strategies
of “stealing” that bypass socioeconomic barriers by refusing to
submit to the harmonized regulation that sets the frame for global
economic exchange. The piracy of intellectual property or industrial
secrets thus creates a shadow system of exchange resisting the

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asymmetries of development in the world economy. However, its
illegality serves as a pretext for the governments and companies of
the core to devise and impose further controls over the technosocial systems that facilitate these exchanges.
Both strategies develop specific politics—­a politics of reform, on
the one hand, and a politics of obfuscation and resistance, on the
other—­yet both are defensive politics that affirm the limitations
of what remains inside and what remains outside of the politically
legitimate.
The copyright industry giants of the past and the IT industry giants
of the present are thus currently sorting it out to whose greater
benefit will this new round of commodification work out. For those
who find themselves outside of the the camps of these two factions
of capital, there’s a window of opportunity, however, to reconceive
the mode of production of literature and science that has been
with us since the beginning of the print trade and the dawn of capitalism. It’s a matter of change, at the tail end of which ultimately
lies a dilemma: whether we’re going to live in a more equal or a
more unjust, a more commonised or a more commodified world.

Authorship, Law, and Legitimacy
Before we can talk of such structural transformation, the normative
question we expect to be asked is whether something that is considered a matter of law and juridical decision can be made a matter
of politics and political process. Let’s see.
Copyright has a fundamentally economic function—­to unambiguously establish individualized property in the products of creative
labor. A clear indication of this economic function is the substantive requirement of originality that the work is expected to have
in order to be copyrightable. Legal interpretations set a very low
standard on what counts as original, as their function is no more
than to demarcate one creative contribution from another. Once
a legal title is unambiguously assigned, there is a person holding

property with whose consent the contracting, commodification,
and marketing of the work can proceed.5 In that respect copyright
is not that different from the requirement of formal freedom that
is granted to a laborer to contract out their own labor-­power as a
commodity to capital, giving capital authorization to extract maximum productivity and appropriate the products of the laborer’s
labor.6 Copyright might be just a more efficient mechanism of
exploitation as it unfolds through selling of produced commodities
and not labor power. Art market obscures and mediates the
capital-­labor relation
When we talk today of illegal copying, we primarily mean an
infringement of the legal rights of authors and publishers. There’s an
immediate assumption that the infringing practice of illegal copying
and distribution falls under the domain of juridical sanction, that it is
a matter of law. Yet if we look to the history of copyright, the illegality
of copying was a political matter long before it became a legal one.
Publisher’s rights, author’s rights, and mechanisms of reputation—­
the three elements that are fundamental to the present-­day
copyright system—­all have their historic roots in the context of
absolutism and early capitalism in seventeenth-­and eighteenth-­
century Europe. Before publishers and authors were given a
temporary monopoly over the exploitation of their publications
instituted in the form of copyright, they were operating in a system
where they were forced to obtain a privilege to print books from
royal censors. The first printing privileges granted to publishers, in
early seventeenth-­century Great Britain,7 came with the responsibility of publishers to control what was being published and
disseminated in a growing body of printed matter that started to
reach the public in the aftermath of the invention of print and the
rise of the reading culture. The illegality in these early days of print
referred either to printing books without the permission of the
censor or printing books that were already published by another
printer in the territory where the censor held authority. The transition from the privilege tied to the publisher to the privilege tied to
the natural person of the author would unfold only later.

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In the United Kingdom this transition occurred as the guild of
printers, Stationers’ Company, failed to secure the extension of its
printing monopoly and thus, in order to continue with its business,
decided to advocate the introduction of copyright for the authors
instead. This resulted in the passing of the Copyright Act of 1709,
also known as the Statute of Anne (Rose 2010). The censoring
authority and enterprising publishers now proceeded in lockstep to
isolate the author as the central figure in the regulation of literary
and scientific production. Not only did the author receive exclusive
rights to the work, the author was also made—­as Foucault has
famously analyzed (Foucault 1980, 124)—­the identifiable subject of
scrutiny, censorship, and political sanction by the absolutist state.
Although the Romantic author slowly took the center stage in
copyright regulations, economic compensation for the work would
long remain no more than honorary. Until well into the eighteenth
century, literary writing and creativity in general were regarded as
resulting from divine inspiration and not the individual genius of
the author. Writing was a work of honor and distinction, not something requiring an honest day’s pay.8 Money earned in the growing
printing industry mostly stayed in the pockets of publishers, while
the author received literally an honorarium, a flat sum that served
as a “token of esteem” (Woodmansee 1996, 42). It is only once
authors began to voice demands for securing their material and
political independence from patronage and authority that they also
started to make claims for rightful remuneration.
Thus, before it was made a matter of law, copyright was a matter of
politics and economy.

Copyright, Labor, and Economic Domination
The full-­blown affirmation of the Romantic author-­function marks
the historic moment where a compromise is established between
the right of publishers to the economic exploitation of works and
the right of authors to rightful compensation for those works. Economically, this redistribution from publishers to authors was made

possible by the expanding market for printed books in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while politically this was catalyzed
by the growing desire for the autonomy of scientific and literary
production from the system of feudal patronage and censorship
in gradually liberalizing and modernizing capitalist societies. The
newfound autonomy of production was substantially coupled to
production specifically for the market. However, this irenic balance
could not last for very long. Once the production of culture and
science was subsumed under the exigencies of the generalized
market, it had to follow the laws of commodification and competition from which no form of commodity production can escape.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, copyright expanded to
a number of other forms of creativity, transcending its primarily
literary and scientific ambit and becoming part of the broader
set of intellectual property rights that are fundamental to the
functioning and positioning of capitalist enterprise. The corporatization of the production of culture and knowledge thus brought
about a decisive break from the Romantic model that singularized
authorship in the person of the author. The production of cultural
commodities nowadays involves a number of creative inputs from
both credited (but mostly unwaged) and uncredited (but mostly
waged) contributors. The “moral rights of the author,” a substantive
link between the work and the person of the author, are markedly
out of step with these realities, yet they still perform an important
function in the moral economy of reputation, which then serves as
the legitimation of copyright enforcement and monopoly. Moral
rights allow easy attribution; incentivize authors to subsidize
publishers by self-­financing their own work in the hope of topping
the sales charts, rankings, or indexes; and help markets develop
along winner-­takes-­all principles.
The level of concentration in industries primarily concerned with
various forms of intellectual property rights is staggering. The film
industry is a US$88 billion industry dominated by six major studios
(PwC 2015c). The recorded music industry is an almost US$20
billion industry dominated by only three major labels (PwC 2015b).

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The publishing industry is a US$120 billion industry where the
leading ten companies earn in revenues more than the next forty
largest publishing groups (PwC 2015a; Wischenbart 2014).

The Oligopoly and Academic Publishing
Academic publishing in particular draws the state of play into stark
relief. It’s a US$10 billion industry dominated by five publishers and
financed up to 75 percent from library subscriptions. It’s notorious
for achieving extreme year-­on-­year profit margins—­in the case of
Reed Elsevier regularly over 30 percent, with Taylor and Francis,
Springer, Wiley-­Blackwell and Sage barely lagging behind (Larivière,
Haustein, and Mongeon 2015). Given that the work of contributing
authors is not paid but rather financed by their institutions (provided, that is, that they are employed at an institution) and that
these publications nowadays come mostly in the form of electronic
articles licensed under subscription for temporary use to libraries
and no longer sold as printed copies, the public interest could be
served at a much lower cost by leaving commercial closed-­access
publishers out of the equation entirely.
But that cannot be done, of course. The chief reason for this is that
the system of academic reputation and ranking based on publish-­
or-­perish principles is historically entangled with the business of
academic publishers. Anyone who doesn’t want to put their academic career at risk is advised to steer away from being perceived
as reneging on that not-­so-­tacit deal. While this is patently clear
to many in academia, opting for the alternative of open access
means not playing by the rules, and not playing by the rules can
have real-­life consequences, particularly for younger academics.
Early career scholars have to publish in prestigious journals if they
want to advance in the highly competitive and exclusive system of
academia (Kendzior 2012).
Copyright in academic publishing has thus become simply a mechanism of the direct transfer of economic power from producers to
publishers, giving publishers an instrument for maintaining their

stranglehold on the output of academia. But publishers also have
control over metrics and citation indexes, pandering to the authors
with better tools for maximizing their impact and self-­promotion.
Reputation and copyright are extortive instruments that publishers
can wield against authors and the public to prevent an alternative
from emerging.9
The state of the academic publishing business signals how the
“copyright industries” in general might continue to control the
field as their distribution model now transitions to streaming or
licensed-­access models. In the age of cloud computing, autonomous infrastructures run by communities of enthusiasts are
becoming increasingly a thing of the past. “Copyright industries,”
supported by the complicit legal system, now can pressure proxies
for these infrastructures, such as providers of server colocation,
virtual hosting, and domain-­name network services, to enforce
injunctions for them without ever getting involved in direct, costly
infringement litigation. Efficient shutdowns of precarious shadow
systems allow for a corporate market consolidation wherein the
majority of streaming infrastructures end up under the control of a
few corporations.

Illegal Yet Justified, Collective Civil
Disobedience, Politicizing the Legal
However, when companies do resort to litigation or get involved in
criminal proceedings, they can rest assured that the prosecution
and judicial system will uphold their interests over the right of
public to access culture and knowledge, even when the irrationality
of the copyright system lies in plain sight, as it does in the case of
academic publishing. Let’s look at two examples:
On January 6, 2011, Aaron Swartz, a prominent programmer
and hacktivist, was arrested by the MIT campus police and U.S.
Secret Service on charges of having downloaded a large number
of academic articles from the JSTOR repository. While JSTOR, with
whom Swartz reached a settlement and to whom he returned the

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files, and, later, MIT, would eventually drop the charges, the federal
prosecution decided nonetheless to indict Swartz on thirteen
criminal counts, potentially leading to fifty years in prison and a
US$1 million fine. Under growing pressure by the prosecution
Swartz committed suicide on January 11, 2013.
Given his draconian treatment at the hands of the prosecution
and the absence of institutions of science and culture that would
stand up and justify his act on political grounds, much of Swartz’s
defense focused on trying to exculpate his acts, to make them less
infringing or less illegal than the charges brought against him had
claimed, a rational course of action in irrational circumstances.
However, this was unfortunately becoming an uphill battle as the
prosecution’s attention was accidentally drawn to a statement
written by Swartz in 2008 wherein he laid bare the dysfunctionality
of the academic publishing system. In his Guerrilla Open Access
Manifesto, he wrote: “The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly
being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. . . . Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their
colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at
Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite
universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global
South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.” After a no-­nonsense
diagnosis followed an even more clear call to action: “We need
to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing
networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access” (Swartz 2008).
Where a system has failed to change unjust laws, Swartz felt, the
responsibility was on those who had access to make injustice a
thing of the past.
Whether Swartz’s intent actually was to release the JSTOR repository remains subject to speculation. The prosecution has never
proven that it was. In the context of the legal process, his call to
action was simply taken as a matter of law and not for what it
was—­a matter of politics. Yet, while his political action was pre-

empted, others have continued pursuing his vision by committing
small acts of illegality on a massive scale. In June 2015 Elsevier won
an injunction against Library Genesis, the largest illegal repository
of electronic books, journals, and articles on the Web, and its
subsidiary platform for accessing academic journals, Sci-­hub. A
voluntary and noncommercial project of anonymous scientists
mostly from Eastern Europe, Sci-­hub provides as of end of 2015
access to more than 41 million academic articles either stored
in its database or retrieved through bypassing the paywalls of
academic publishers. The only person explicitly named in Elsevier’s
lawsuit was Sci-­hub’s founder Alexandra Elbakyan, who minced no
words: “When I was working on my research project, I found out
that all research papers I needed for work were paywalled. I was
a student in Kazakhstan at the time and our university was not
subscribed to anything” (Ernesto 2015). Being a computer scientist,
she found the tools and services on the internet that allowed her to
bypass the paywalls. At first, she would make articles available on
internet forums where people would file requests for the articles
they needed, but eventually she automated the process, making
access available to everyone on the open web. “Thanks to Elsevier’s
lawsuit, I got past the point of no return. At this time I either have
to prove we have the full right to do this or risk being executed like
other ‘pirates’ . . . If Elsevier manages to shut down our projects or
force them into the darknet, that will demonstrate an important
idea: that the public does not have the right to knowledge. . . .
Everyone should have access to knowledge regardless of their
income or affiliation. And that’s absolutely legal. Also the idea
that knowledge can be a private property of some commercial
company sounds absolutely weird to me” (Ernesto 2015).
If the issue of infringement is to become political, a critical mass
of infringing activity has to be achieved, access technologically
organized, and civil disobedience collectively manifested. Only in
this way do the illegal acts stand a chance of being transformed
into the legitimate acts.

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Where Law Was, there Politics Shall Be
And thus we have made a full round back to where we started. The
parallel development of liberalism, copyright, and capitalism has
resulted in a system demanding that the contemporary subject
act in accordance with two opposing tendencies: “more capitalist
than capitalist and more proletarian than proletariat” (Deleuze
and Guattari 1983, 34). Schizophrenia is, as Deleuze and Guattari
argue, a condition that simultaneously embodies two disjunctive
positions. Desire and blockage, flow and territory. Capitalism is
the constant decoding of social blockages and territorializations
aimed at liberating the production of desires and flows further
and further, only to oppose them at its extreme limit. It decodes
the old socius by means of private property and commodity
production, privatization and abstraction, the flow of wealth and
flows of workers (140). It allows contemporary subjects—­including
corporate entities such as the MIT Press or Sony—­to embrace their
contradictions and push them to their limits. But capturing them in
the orbit of the self-­expanding production of value, it stops them
at going beyond its own limit. It is this orbit that the law sanctions
in the present, recoding schizoid subjects into the inevitability of
capitalism. The result is the persistence of a capitalist reality antithetical to common interest—­commercial closed-­access academic
publishing—­and the persistence of a hyperproletariat—­an intellectual labor force that is too subsumed to organize and resist the
reality that thrives parasitically on its social function. It’s a schizoid
impasse sustained by a failed metaphor.
The revolutionary events of the Paris Commune of 1871, its mere
“existence” as Marx has called it,10 a brief moment of “communal
luxury” set in practice as Kristin Ross (2015) describes it, demanded
that, in spite of any circumstances and reservations, one takes a
side. And such is our present moment of truth.
Digital networks have expanded the potential for access and
created an opening for us to transform the production of knowledge and culture in the contemporary world. And yet they have
likewise facilitated the capacity of intellectual property industries

to optimize, to cut out the cost of printing and physical distribution.
Digitization is increasingly helping them to control access, expand
copyright, impose technological protection measures, consolidate
the means of distribution, and capture the academic valorization
process.
As the potential opening for universalizing access to culture and
knowledge created by digital networks is now closing, attempts at
private legal reform such as Creative Commons licenses have had
only a very limited effect. Attempts at institutional reform such as
Open Access publishing are struggling to go beyond a niche. Piracy
has mounted a truly disruptive opposition, but given the legal
repression it has met with, it can become an agent of change only if
it is embraced as a kind of mass civil disobedience. Where law was,
there politics shall be.
Many will object to our demand to replace the law with politicization. Transitioning from politics to law was a social achievement
as the despotism of political will was suppressed by legal norms
guaranteeing rights and liberties for authors; this much is true. But
in the face of the draconian, failed juridical rationality sustaining
the schizoid impasse imposed by economic despotism, these developments hold little justification. Thus we return once more to the
words of Aaron Swartz to whom we remain indebted for political
inspiration and resolve: “There is no justice in following unjust laws.
It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil
disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public
culture. . . . With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send
a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge—­we’ll
make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?” (Swartz 2008).

Notes
1

We initially named our project Public Library because we have developed it
as a technosocial project from a minimal definition that defines public library
as constituted by three elements: free access to books for every member of
a society, a library catalog, and a librarian (Mars, Zarroug and Medak, 2015).
However, this definition covers all public libraries and shadow libraries
complementing the work of public libraries in providing digital access. We have
thus decided to rename our project as Memory of the World, after our project’s

65

initial domain name. This is a phrase coined by Henri La Fontaine, whose men-

66

tion we found in Markus Krajewski’s Paper Machines (2011). It turned out that
UNESCO runs a project under the same name with the objective to preserve
valuable archives for the whole of humanity. We have appropriated that objective. Given that this change has happened since we drafted the initial version
of this text in 2015, we’ll call our project in this text with a double name Public
Library/Memory of the World.
2

Sony Pictures Entertainment became the owner of two (MGM, Columbia Pictures) out of eight Golden Age major movie studios (“Major Film Studio,” Wikipedia 2015).

3

In 2012 Sony Music Entertainment is one of the Big Three majors (“Record
Label,” Wikipedia 2015).

4

Since this anecdote was recounted by Marcell in his opening keynote in the
Terms of Media II conference at Brown University, we have received another
batch of takedown notices from the MIT Press. It seemed as no small irony,
because at the time the Terms of Media conference reader was rumored to be
distributed by the MIT Press.

5

“In law, authorship is a point of origination of a property right which, thereafter, like other property rights, will circulate in the market, ending up in the
control of the person who can exploit it most profitably. Since copyright serves
paradoxically to vest authors with property only to enable them to divest that
property, the author is a notion which needs only to be sustainable for an
instant” (Bently 1994).

6

For more on the formal freedom of the laborer to sell his labor-­power, see
chapter 6 of Marx’s Capital (1867).

7

For a more detailed account of the history of printing privilege in Great Britain,
but also the emergence of peer review out of the self-­censoring performed by
the Royal Academy and Académie de sciences in return for the printing privilege, see Biagioli 2002.

8

The transition of authorship from honorific to professional is traced in Woodmansee 1996.

9

Not all publishers are necessarily predatory. For instance, scholar-­led open-­
access publishers, such as those working under the banner of Radical Open
Access (http://radicaloa.disruptivemedia.org) have been experimenting with
alternatives to the dominant publishing models, workflows, and metrics, radicalizing the work of conventional open access, which has by now increasingly
become recuperated by big for-­profit publishers, who see in open access an
opportunity to assume the control over the economy of data in academia.
Some established academic publishers, too, have been open to experiments
that go beyond mere open access and are trying to redesign how academic
writing is produced, made accessible, and valorized. This essay has the good
fortune of appearing as a joint publication of two such publishers: Meson Press
and University of Minnesota Press.

10

“The great social measure of the Commune was its own working existence”
(Marx 1871).

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Peterson, T. F., ed. 2011. Nightwork: A History of Hacks and Pranks at MIT. Cambridge,
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fair use in Mars & Medak 2017


Mars & Medak
Knowledge Commons and Activist Pedagogies
2017


KNOWLEDGE COMMONS AND ACTIVIST PEDAGOGIES: FROM IDEALIST POSITIONS TO COLLECTIVE ACTIONS
Conversation with Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak (co-authored with Ana Kuzmanic)

Marcell Mars is an activist, independent scholar, and artist. His work has been
instrumental in development of civil society in Croatia and beyond. Marcell is one
of the founders of the Multimedia Institute – mi2 (1999) (Multimedia Institute,
2016a) and Net.culture club MaMa in Zagreb (2000) (Net.culture club MaMa,
2016a). He is a member of Creative Commons Team Croatia (Creative Commons,
2016). He initiated GNU GPL publishing label EGOBOO.bits (2000) (Monoskop,
2016a), meetings of technical enthusiasts Skill sharing (Net.culture club MaMa,
2016b) and various events and gatherings in the fields of hackerism, digital
cultures, and new media art. Marcell regularly talks and runs workshops about
hacking, free software philosophy, digital cultures, social software, semantic web
etc. In 2011–2012 Marcell conducted research on Ruling Class Studies at Jan Van
Eyck in Maastricht, and in 2013 he held fellowship at Akademie Schloss Solitude
in Stuttgart. Currently, he is PhD researcher at the Digital Cultures Research Lab at
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg.
Tomislav Medak is a cultural worker and theorist interested in political
philosophy, media theory and aesthetics. He is an advocate of free software and
free culture, and the Project Lead of the Creative Commons Croatia (Creative
Commons, 2016). He works as coordinator of theory and publishing activities at
the Multimedia Institute/MaMa (Zagreb, Croatia) (Net.culture club MaMa, 2016a).
Tomislav is an active contributor to the Croatian Right to the City movement
(Pravo na grad, 2016). He interpreted to numerous books into Croatian language,
including Multitude (Hardt & Negri, 2009) and A Hacker Manifesto (Wark,
2006c). He is an author and performer with the internationally acclaimed Zagrebbased performance collective BADco (BADco, 2016). Tomislav writes and talks
about politics of technological development, and politics and aesthetics.
Tomislav and Marcell have been working together for almost two decades.
Their recent collaborations include a number of activities around the Public Library
project, including HAIP festival (Ljubljana, 2012), exhibitions in
Württembergischer Kunstverein (Stuttgart, 2014) and Galerija Nova (Zagreb,
2015), as well as coordinated digitization projects Written-off (2015), Digital
Archive of Praxis and the Korčula Summer School (2016), and Catalogue of
Liberated Books (2013) (in Monoskop, 2016b).
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Ana Kuzmanic is an artist based in Zagreb and Associate Professor at the
Faculty of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Geodesy at the University in Split
(Croatia), lecturing in drawing, design and architectural presentation. She is a
member of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists. Since 2007 she held more
than a dozen individual exhibitions and took part in numerous collective
exhibitions in Croatia, the UK, Italy, Egypt, the Netherlands, the USA, Lithuania
and Slovenia. In 2011 she co-founded the international artist collective Eastern
Surf, which has “organised, produced and participated in a number of projects
including exhibitions, performance, video, sculpture, publications and web based
work” (Eastern Surf, 2017). Ana's artwork critically deconstructs dominant social
readings of reality. It tests traditional roles of artists and viewers, giving the
observer an active part in creation of artwork, thus creating spaces of dialogue and
alternative learning experiences as platforms for emancipation and social
transformation. Grounded within a postdisciplinary conceptual framework, her
artistic practice is produced via research and expression in diverse media located at
the boundaries between reality and virtuality.
ABOUT THE CONVERSATION

I have known Marcell Mars since student days, yet our professional paths have
crossed only sporadically. In 2013 I asked Marcell’s input about potential
interlocutors for this book, and he connected me to McKenzie Wark. In late 2015,
when we started working on our own conversation, Marcell involved Tomislav
Medak. Marcell’s and Tomislav’s recent works are closely related to arts, so I
requested Ana Kuzmanic’s input in these matters. Since the beginning of the
conversation, Marcell, Tomislav, Ana, and I occasionally discussed its generalities
in person. Yet, the presented conversation took place in a shared online document
between November 2015 and December 2016.
NET.CULTURE AT THE DAWN OF THE CIVIL SOCIETY

Petar Jandrić & Ana Kuzmanic (PJ & AK): In 1999, you established the
Multimedia Institute – mi2 (Multimedia Institute, 2016a); in 2000, you established
the Net.culture club MaMa (both in Zagreb, Croatia). The Net.culture club MaMa
has the following goals:
To promote innovative cultural practices and broadly understood social
activism. As a cultural center, it promotes wide range of new artistic and
cultural practices related in the first place to the development of
communication technologies, as well as new tendencies in arts and theory:
from new media art, film and music to philosophy and social theory,
publishing and cultural policy issues.
As a community center, MaMa is a Zagreb’s alternative ‘living room’ and
a venue free of charge for various initiatives and associations, whether they
are promoting minority identities (ecological, LBGTQ, ethnic, feminist and

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others) or critically questioning established social norms. (Net.culture club
MaMa, 2016a)
Please describe the main challenges and opportunities from the dawn of Croatian
civil society. Why did you decide to establish the Multimedia Institute – mi2 and
the Net.culture club MaMa? How did you go about it?
Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak (MM & TM): The formative context for
our work had been marked by the process of dissolution of Yugoslavia, ensuing
civil wars, and the rise of authoritarian nationalisms in the early 1990s. Amidst the
general turmoil and internecine bloodshed, three factors would come to define
what we consider today as civil society in the Croatian context. First, the newly
created Croatian state – in its pursuit of ethnic, religious and social homogeneity –
was premised on the radical exclusion of minorities. Second, the newly created
state dismantled the broad institutional basis of social and cultural diversity that
existed under socialism. Third, the newly created state pursued its own nationalist
project within the framework of capitalist democracy. In consequence, politically
undesirable minorities and dissenting oppositional groups were pushed to the
fringes of society, and yet, in keeping with the democratic system, had to be
allowed to legally operate outside of the state, its loyal institutions and its
nationalist consensus – as civil society. Under the circumstances of inter-ethnic
conflict, which put many people in direct or indirect danger, anti-war and human
rights activist groups such as the Anti-War Campaign provided an umbrella under
which political, student and cultural activists of all hues and colours could find a
common context. It is also within this context that the high modernism of cultural
production from the Yugoslav period, driven out from public institutions, had
found its recourse and its continuity.
Our loose collective, which would later come together around the Multimedia
Institute and MaMa, had been decisively shaped by two circumstances. The first
was participation of the Anti-War Campaign, its BBS network ZaMir (Monoskop,
2016c) and in particular its journal Arkzin, in the early European network culture.
Second, the Open Society Institute, which had financed much of the alternative and
oppositional activities during the 1990s, had started to wind down its operations
towards end of the millennium. As the Open Society Institute started to spin off its
diverse activities into separate organizations, giving rise to the Croatian Law
Center, the Center for Contemporary Art and the Center for Drama Art, activities
related to Internet development ended up with the Multimedia Institute. The first
factor shaped us as activists and early adopters of critical digital culture, and the
second factor provided us with an organizational platform to start working
together. In 1998 Marcell was the first person invited to work with the Multimedia
Institute. He invited Vedran Gulin and Teodor Celakoski, who in turn invited other
people, and the group organically grew to its present form.
Prior to our coming together around the Multimedia Institute, we have been
working on various projects such as setting up the cyber-culture platform Labinary
in the space run by the artist initiative Labin Art Express in the former miner town
of Labin located in the north-western region of Istria. As we started working
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together, however, we began to broaden these activities and explore various
opportunities for political and cultural activism offered by digital networks. One of
the early projects was ‘Radioactive’ – an initiative bringing together a broad group
of activists, which was supposed to result in a hybrid Internet/FM radio. The radio
never arrived into being, yet the project fostered many follow-up activities around
new media and activism in the spirit of ‘don’t hate the media, become the media.’
In these early days, our activities had been strongly oriented towards technological
literacy and education; also, we had a strong interest in political theory and
philosophy. Yet, the most important activity at that time was opening the
Net.culture club MaMa in Zagreb in 2000 (Net.culture club MaMa, 2016a).
PJ & AK: What inspired you to found the Net.culture club MaMa?
MM & TM: We were not keen on continuing the line of work that the
Multimedia Institute was doing under the Open Society Institute, which included,
amongst other activities, setting up the first non-state owned Internet service
provider ZamirNet. The growing availability of Internet access and computer
hardware had made the task of helping political, cultural and media activists get
online less urgent. Instead, we thought that it would be much more important to
open a space where those activists could work together. At the brink of the
millennium, institutional exclusion and access to physical resources (including
space) needed for organizing, working together and presenting that work was a
pressing problem. MaMa was one of the only three independent cultural spaces in
Zagreb – capital city of Croatia, with almost one million inhabitants! The Open
Society Institute provided us with a grant to adapt a former downtown leather-shop
in the state of disrepair and equip it with latest technology ranging from servers to
DJ decks. These resources were made available to all members of the general
public free of charge. Immediately, many artists, media people, technologists, and
political activists started initiating own programs in MaMa. Our activities ranged
from establishing art servers aimed at supporting artistic and cultural projects on
the Internet (Monoskop, 2016d) to technology-related educational activities,
cultural programs, and publishing. By 2000, nationalism had slowly been losing its
stranglehold on our society, and issues pertaining to capitalist globalisation had
arrived into prominence. At MaMa, the period was marked by alter-globalization,
Indymedia, web development, East European net.art and critical media theory.
The confluence of these interests and activities resulted in many important
developments. For instance, soon after the opening of MaMa in 2000, a group of
young music producers and enthusiasts kicked off a daily music program with live
acts, DJ sessions and meetings to share tips and tricks about producing electronic
music. In parallel, we had been increasingly drawn to free software and its
underlying ethos and logic. Yugoslav legacy of social ownership over means of
production and worker self-management made us think how collectivized forms of
cultural production, without exclusions of private property, could be expanded
beyond the world of free software. We thus talked some of our musician friends
into opening the free culture label EGOBOO.bits and publishing their music,
together with films, videos and literary texts of other artists, under the GNU
General Public License. The EGOBOO.bits project had soon become uniquely
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successful: producers such as Zvuk broda, Blashko, Plazmatick, Aesqe, No Name
No Fame, and Ghetto Booties were storming the charts, the label gradually grew to
fifty producers and formations, and we had the artists give regular workshops in
DJ-ing, sound editing, VJ-ing, video editing and collaborative writing at schools
and our summer camp Otokultivator. It inspired us to start working on alternatives
to the copyright regime and on issues of access to knowledge and culture.
PJ & AK: The civil society is the collective conscious, which provides leverage
against national and corporate agendas and serves as a powerful social corrective.
Thus, at the outbreak of the US invasion to Iraq, Net.culture club MaMa rejected a
$100 000 USAID grant because the invasion was:
a) a precedent based on the rationale of pre-emptive war, b) being waged in
disregard of legitimate processes of the international community, and c)
guided by corporate interests to control natural resources (Multimedia
Institute, 2003 in Razsa, 2015: 82).
Yet, only a few weeks later, MaMa accepted a $100 000 grant from the German
state – and this provoked a wide public debate (Razsa, 2015; Kršić, 2003; Stubbs,
2012).
Now that the heat of the moment has gone down, what is your view to this
debate? More generally, how do you decide whose money to accept and whose
money to reject? How do you decide where to publish, where to exhibit, whom to
work with? What is the relationship between idealism and pragmatism in your
work?
MM & TM: Our decision seems justified yet insignificant in the face of the
aftermath of that historical moment. The unilateral decision of US and its allies to
invade Iraq in March 2003 encapsulated both the defeat of global protest
movements that had contested the neoliberal globalisation since the early 1990s
and the epochal carnage that the War on Terror, in its never-ending iterations, is
still reaping today. Nowadays, the weaponized and privatized security regime
follows the networks of supply chains that cut across the logic of borders and have
become vital both for the global circuits of production and distribution (see Cowen,
2014). For the US, our global policeman, the introduction of unmanned weaponry
and all sorts of asymmetric war technologies has reduced the human cost of war
down to zero. By deploying drones and killer robots, it did away with the
fundamental reality check of own human casualties and made endless war
politically plausible. The low cost of war has resulted in the growing side-lining of
international institutions responsible for peaceful resolution of international
conflicts such as the UN.
Our 2003 decision carried hard consequences for the organization. In a capitalist
society, one can ensure wages either by relying on the market, or on the state, or on
private funding. The USAID grant was our first larger grant after the initial spinoff money from the Open Society Institute, and it meant that we could employ
some people from our community over the period of next two years. Yet at the
same time, the USAID had become directly involved in Iraq, aiding the US forces
and various private contractors such as Halliburton in the dispossession and
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plunder of the Iraqi economy. Therefore, it was unconscionable to continue
receiving money from them. In light of its moral and existential weight, the
decision to return the money thus had to be made by the general assembly of our
association.
People who were left without wages were part and parcel of the community that
we had built between 2000 and 2003, primarily through Otokultivator Summer
Camps and Summer Source Camp (Tactical Tech Collective, 2016). The other
grant we would receive later that year, from the Federal Cultural Foundation of the
German government, was split amongst a number of cultural organizations and
paid for activities that eventually paved the way for Right to the City (Pravo na
grad, 2016). However, we still could not pay the people who decided to return
USAID money, so they had to find other jobs. Money never comes without
conditionalities, and passing judgements while disregarding specific economic,
historic and organizational context can easily lead to apolitical moralizing.
We do have certain principles that we would not want to compromise – we do
not work with corporations, we are egalitarian in terms of income, our activities are
free for the public. In political activities, however, idealist positions make sense
only for as long as they are effective. Therefore, our idealism is through and
through pragmatic. It is in the similar manner that we invoke the ideal of the
library. We are well aware that reality is more complex than our ideals. However,
the collective sense of purpose inspired by an ideal can carry over into useful
collective action. This is the core of our interest …
PJ & AK: There has been a lot of water under the bridge since the 2000s. From
a ruined post-war country, Croatia has become an integral part of the European
Union – with all associated advantages and problems. What are the main today’s
challenges in maintaining the Multimedia Institute and its various projects? What
are your future plans?
MM & TM: From the early days, Multimedia Institute/MaMa took a twofold
approach. It has always supported people working in and around the organization
in their heterogeneous interests including but not limited to digital technology and
information freedoms, political theory and philosophy, contemporary digital art,
music and cinema. Simultaneously, it has been strongly focused to social and
institutional transformation.
The moment zero of Croatian independence in 1991, which was marked by war,
ethnic cleansing and forceful imposition of contrived mono-national identity, saw
the progressive and modernist culture embracing the political alternative of antiwar movement. It is within these conditions, which entailed exclusion from access
to public resources, that the Croatian civil society had developed throughout the
1990s. To address this denial of access to financial and spatial resources to civil
society, since 2000 we have been organizing collective actions with a number of
cultural actors across the country to create alternative routes for access to resources
– mutual support networks, shared venues, public funding, alternative forms of
funding. All the while, that organizational work has been implicitly situated in an
understanding of commons that draws on two sources – the social contract of the
free software community, and the legacy of social ownership under socialism.
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Later on, this line of work has been developed towards intersectional struggles
around spatial justice and against privatisation of public services that coalesced
around the Right to the City movement (2007 till present) (Pravo na grad, 2016)
and the 2015 Campaign against the monetization of the national highway network.
In early 2016, with the arrival of the short-lived Croatian government formed by
a coalition of inane technocracy and rabid right wing radicals, many institutional
achievements of the last fifteen years seemed likely to be dismantled in a matter of
months. At the time of writing this text, the collapse of broader social and
institutional context is (again) an imminent threat. In a way, our current situation
echoes the atmosphere of Yugoslav civil wars in 1990s. Yet, the Croatian turn to
the right is structurally parallel to recent turn to the right that takes place in most
parts of Europe and the world at large. In the aftermath of the global neoliberal
race to the bottom and the War on Terror, the disenfranchised working class vents
its fears over immigration and insists on the return of nationalist values in various
forms suggested by irresponsible political establishments. If they are not spared the
humiliating sense of being outclassed and disenfranchised by the neoliberal race to
the bottom, why should they be sympathetic to those arriving from the
impoverished (semi)-periphery or to victims of turmoil unleashed by the endless
War on Terror? If globalisation is reducing their life prospects to nothing, why
should they not see the solution to their own plight in the return of the regime of
statist nationalism?
At the Multimedia Institute/MaMa we intend to continue our work against this
collapse of context through intersectionalist organizing and activism. We will
continue to do cultural programs, publish books, and organise the Human Rights
Film Festival. In order to articulate, formulate and document years of practical
experience, we aim to strengthen our focus on research and writing about cultural
policy, technological development, and political activism. Memory of the
World/Public Library project will continue to develop alternative infrastructures
for access, and develop new and existing networks of solidarity and public
advocacy for knowledge commons.
LOCAL HISTORIES AND GLOBAL REALITIES

PJ & AK: Your interests and activities are predominantly centred around
information and communication technologies. Yet, a big part of your social
engagement takes place in Eastern Europe, which is not exactly on the forefront of
technological innovation. Can you describe the dynamics of working from the
periphery around issues developed in global centres of power (such as the Silicon
Valley)?
MM & TM: Computers in their present form had been developed primarily in
the Post-World War II United States. Their development started from the military
need to develop mathematics and physics behind the nuclear weapons and counterair defense, but soon it was combined with efforts to address accounting, logistics
and administration problems in diverse fields such as commercial air traffic,
governmental services, banks and finances. Finally, this interplay of the military
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and the economy was joined by enthusiasts, hobbyists, and amateurs, giving the
development of (mainframe, micro and personal) computer its final historical
blueprint. This story is written in canonical computing history books such as The
Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of
Technical Expertise. There, Nathan Ensmenger (2010: 14) writes: “the term
computer boys came to refer more generally not simply to actual computer
specialists but rather to the whole host of smart, ambitious, and technologically
inclined experts that emerged in the immediate postwar period.”
Very few canonical computing history books cover other histories. But when
that happens, we learn a lot. Be that Slava Gerovitch’s From Newspeak to
Cyberspeak (2002), which recounts the history of Soviet cybernetics, or Eden
Medina’s Cybernetic Revolutionaries (2011), which revisits the history of socialist
cybernetic project in Chile during Allende’s government, or the recent book by
Benjamin Peters How Not to Network a Nation (2016), which describes the history
of Soviet development of Internet infrastructure. Many (other) histories are yet to
be heard and written down. And when these histories get written down, diverse
things come into view: geopolitics, class, gender, race, and many more.
With their witty play and experiments with the medium, the early days of the
Internet were highly exciting. Big corporate websites were not much different from
amateur websites and even spoofs. A (different-than-usual) proximity of positions
of power enabled by the Internet allowed many (media-art) interventions, (rebirth
of) manifestos, establishment of (pseudo)-institutions … In these early times of
Internet’s history and geography, (the Internet subculture of) Eastern Europe
played a very important part. Inspired by Alexei Shulgin, Lev Manovich wrote ‘On
Totalitarian Interactivity’ (1996) where he famously addressed important
differences between understanding of the Internet in the West and the East. For the
West, claims Manovich, interactivity was a perfect vehicle for the ideas of
democracy and equality. For the East, however, interactivity was merely another
form of (media) manipulation. Twenty years later, it seems that Eastern Europe
was well prepared for what the Internet would become today.
PJ & AK: The dominant (historical) narrative of information and
communication technologies is predominantly based in the United States.
However, Silicon Valley is not the only game in town … What are the main
differences between approaches to digital technologies in the US and in Europe?
MM & TM: In the ninties, the lively European scene, which equally included
the East Europe, was the centre of critical reflection on the Internet and its
spontaneous ‘Californian ideology’ (Barbrook & Cameron, 1996). Critical culture
in Europe and its Eastern ‘countries in transition’ had a very specific institutional
landscape. In Western Europe, art, media, culture and ‘post-academic’ research in
humanities was by and large publicly funded. In Eastern Europe, development of
the civil society had been funded by various international foundations such as the
Open Society Institute aka the Soros Foundation. Critical new media and critical
art scene played an important role in that landscape. A wide range of initiatives,
medialabs, mailing lists, festivals and projects like Next5minutes (Amsterdam/
Rotterdam), Nettime & Syndicate (mailing lists), Backspace & Irational.org
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(London), Ljudmila (Ljubljana), Rixc (Riga), C3 (Budapest) and others constituted
a loose network of researchers, theorists, artists, activists and other cultural
workers.
This network was far from exclusively European. It was very well connected to
projects and initiatives from the United States such as Critical Art Ensemble,
Rhizome, and Thing.net, to projects in India such as Sarai, and to struggles of
Zapatistas in Chiapas. A significant feature of this loose network was its mutually
beneficial relationship with relevant European art festivals and institutions such as
Documenta (Kassel), Transmediale/HKW (Berlin) or Ars Electronica (Linz). As a
rule of thumb, critical new media and art could only be considered in a conceptual
setup of hybrid institutions, conferences, forums, festivals, (curated) exhibitions
and performances – and all of that at once! The Multimedia Institute was an active
part of that history, so it is hardly a surprise that the Public Library project took a
similar path of development and contextualization.
However, European hacker communities were rarely hanging out with critical
digital culture crowds. This is not the place to extensively present the historic
trajectory of different hacker communities, but risking a gross simplification here
is a very short genealogy. The earliest European hacker association was the
German Chaos Computer Club (CCC) founded in 1981. Already in the early
1980s, CCC started to publicly reveal (security) weaknesses of corporate and
governmental computer systems. However, their focus on digital rights, privacy,
cyberpunk/cypherpunk, encryption, and security issues prevailed over other forms
of political activism. The CCC were very successful in raising issues, shaping
public discussions, and influencing a wide range of public actors from digital rights
advocacy to political parties (such as Greens and Pirate Party). However, unlike the
Italian and Spanish hackers, CCC did not merge paths with other social and/or
political movements. Italian and Spanish hackers, for instance, were much more
integral to autonomist/anarchist, political and social movements, and they have
kept this tradition until the present day.
PJ & AK: Can you expand this analysis to Eastern Europe, and ex-Yugoslavia
in particular? What were the distinct features of (the development of) hacker
culture in these areas?
MM & TM: Continuing to risk a gross simplification in the genealogy, Eastern
European hacker communities formed rather late – probably because of the
turbulent economic and political changes that Eastern Europe went through after
1989.
In MaMa, we used to run the programme g33koskop (2006–2012) with a goal to
“explore the scope of (term) geek” (Multimedia Institute, 2016b). An important
part of the program was to collect stories from enthusiasts, hobbyists, or ‘geeks’
who used to be involved in do-it-yourself communities during early days of
(personal) computing in Yugoslavia. From these makers of first 8-bit computers,
editors of do-it-yourself magazines and other early day enthusiasts, we could learn
that technical and youth culture was strongly institutionally supported (e.g. with
nation-wide clubs called People’s Technics). However, the socialist regime did not
adequately recognize the importance and the horizon of social changes coming
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from (mere) education and (widely distributed) use of personal computers. Instead,
it insisted on an impossible mission of own industrial computer production in order
to preserve autonomy on the global information technology market. What a
horrible mistake … To be fair, many other countries during this period felt able to
achieve own, autonomous production of computers – so the mistake has reflected
the spirit of the times and the conditions of uneven economic and scientific
development.
Looking back on the early days of computing in former Yugoslavia, many geeks
now see themselves as social visionaries and the avant-garde. During the 1990s
across the Eastern Europe, unfortunately, they failed to articulate a significant
political agenda other than fighting the monopoly of telecom companies. In their
daily lives, most of these people enjoyed opportunities and privileges of working in
a rapidly growing information technology market. Across the former Yugoslavia,
enthusiasts had started local Linux User Groups: HULK in Croatia, LUGOS in
Slovenia, LUGY in Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Macedonia. In the spirit
of their own times, many of these groups focused on attempts to convince the
business that free and open source software (at the time GNU/Linux, Apache,
Exim …) was a viable IT solution.
PJ & AK: Please describe further developments in the struggle between
proponents of proprietary software and the Free Software Movement.
MM & TM: That was the time before Internet giants such as Google, Amazon,
eBay or Facebook built their empires on top of Free/Libre/Open Source Software.
GNU General Public Licence, with its famous slogan “free as in free speech, not
free as in free beer” (Stallman, 2002), was strong enough to challenge the property
regime of the world of software production. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley
experimented with various approaches against the challenge of free software such
as ‘tivoizations’ (systems that incorporate copyleft-based software but impose
hardware restrictions to software modification), ‘walled gardens’ (systems where
carriers or service providers control applications, content and media, while
preventing them from interacting with the wider Internet ecosystem), ‘software-asa-service’ (systems where software is hosted centrally and licensed through
subscription). In order to support these strategies of enclosure and turn them into
profit, Silicon Valley developed investment strategies of venture capital or
leveraged buyouts by private equity to close the proprietary void left after the
success of commons-based peer production projects, where a large number of
people develop software collaboratively over the Internet without the exclusion by
property (Benkler, 2006).
There was a period when it seemed that cultural workers, artists and hackers
would follow the successful model of the Free Software Movement and build a
universal commons-based platform for peer produced, shared and distributed
culture, art, science and knowledge – that was the time of the Creative Commons
movement. But that vision never materialized. It did not help, either, that start-ups
with no business models whatsoever (e.g. De.lic.io.us (bookmarks), Flickr
(photos), Youtube (videos), Google Reader (RSS aggregator), Blogspot, and
others) were happy to give their services for free, let contributors use Creative
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Commons licences (mostly on the side of licenses limiting commercial use and
adaptations), let news curators share and aggregate relevant content, and let Time
magazine claim that “You” (meaning “All of us”) are The Person of the Year
(Time Magazine, 2006).
PJ & AK: Please describe the interplay between the Free Software Movement
and the radically capitalist Silicon Valley start-up culture, and place it into the
larger context of political economy of software development. What are its
consequences for the hacker movement?
MM & TM: Before the 2008 economic crash, in the course of only few years,
most of those start-ups and services had been sold out to few business people who
were able to monetize their platforms, users and usees (mostly via advertisement)
or crowd them out (mostly via exponential growth of Facebook and its ‘magic’
network effect). In the end, almost all affected start-ups and services got shut down
(especially those bought by Yahoo). Nevertheless, the ‘golden’ corporate start-up
period brought about a huge enthusiasm and the belief that entrepreneurial spirit,
fostered either by an individual genius or by collective (a.k.a. crowd) endeavour,
could save the world. During that period, unsurprisingly, the idea of hacker
labs/spaces exploded.
Fabulous (self)replicating rapid prototypes, 3D printers, do-it-yourself, the
Internet of Things started to resonate with (young) makers all around the world.
Unfortunately, GNU GPL (v.3 at the time) ceased to be a priority. The
infrastructure of free software had become taken for granted, and enthusiastic
dancing on the shoulders of giants became the most popular exercise. Rebranding
existing Unix services (finger > twitter, irc > slack, talk > im), and/or designing the
‘last mile’ of user experience (often as trivial as adding round corners to the
buttons), would often be a good enough reason to enclose the project, do the
slideshow pitch, create a new start-up backed up by an angel investor, and hope to
win in the game of network effect(s).
Typically, software stack running these projects would be (almost) completely
GNU GPL (server + client), but parts made on OSX (endorsed for being ‘true’
Unix under the hood) would stay enclosed. In this way, projects would shift from
the world of commons to the world of business. In order to pay respect to the open
source community, and to keep own reputation of ‘the good citizen,’ many
software components would get its source code published on GitHub – which is a
prime example of that game of enclosure in its own right. Such developments
transformed the hacker movement from a genuine political challenge to the
property regime into a science fiction fantasy that sharing knowledge while
keeping hackers’ meritocracy regime intact could fix all world’s problems – if only
we, the hackers, are left alone to play, optimize, innovate and make that amazing
technology!
THE SOCIAL LIFE OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES

PJ & AK: This brings about the old debate between technological determinism
and social determinism, which never seems to go out of fashion. What is your take,
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as active hackers and social activists, on this debate? What is the role of
(information) technologies in social development?
MM & TM: Any discussion of information technologies and social
development requires the following parenthesis: notions used for discussing
technological development are shaped by the context of parallel US hegemony
over capitalist world-system and its commanding role in the development of
information technologies. Today’s critiques of the Internet are far from celebration
of its liberatory, democratizing potential. Instead, they often reflect frustration over
its instrumental role in the expansion of social control. Yet, the binary of freedom
and control (Chun, 2008), characteristic for ideological frameworks pertaining to
liberal capitalist democracies, is increasingly at pains to explain what has become
evident with the creeping commercialization and concentration of market power in
digital networks. Information technologies are no different from other generalpurpose technologies on which they depend – such as mass manufacture, logistics,
or energy systems.
Information technologies shape capitalism – in return, capitalism shapes
information technologies. Technological innovation is driven by interests of
investors to profit from new commodity markets, and by their capacity to optimize
and increase productivity of other sectors of economy. The public has some
influence over development of information technologies. In fact, publicly funded
research and development has created and helped commercialize most of the
fundamental building blocks of our present digital infrastructures ranging from
microprocessors, touch-screens all the way to packet switching networks
(Mazzucato, 2013). However, public influence on commercially matured
information technologies has become limited, driven by imperatives of
accumulation and regulatory hegemony of the US.
When considering the structural interplay between technological development
and larger social systems, we cannot accept the position of technological
determinism – particularly not in the form of Promethean figures of enterpreneurs,
innovators and engineers who can solve the problems of the world. Technologies
are shaped socially, yet the position of outright social determinism is inacceptable
either. The reproduction of social relations depends on contingencies of
technological innovation, just as the transformation of social relations depends on
contingencies of actions by individuals, groups and institutions. Given the
asymmetries that exist between the capitalist core and the capitalist periphery, from
which we hail, strategies for using technologies as agents of social change differ
significantly.
PJ & AK: Based on your activist experience, what is the relationship between
information technologies and democracy?
MM & TM: This relation is typically discussed within the framework of
communicative action (Habermas, 1984 [1981], 1987 [1981]) which describes how
the power to speak to the public has become radically democratized, how digital
communication has coalesced into a global public sphere, and how digital
communication has catalysed the power of collective mobilization. Information
technologies have done all that – but the framework of communicative action
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describes only a part of the picture. Firstly, as Jodi Dean warns us in her critique of
communicative capitalism (Dean, 2005; see also Dean, 2009), the self-referential
intensity of communication frequently ends up as a substitute for the hard (and
rarely rewarding) work of political organization. Secondly, and more importantly,
Internet technologies have created the ‘winner takes all’ markets and benefited
more highly skilled workforce, thus helping to create extreme forms of economic
inequality (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2011). Thus, in any list of world’s richest
people, one can find an inordinate number of entrepreneurs from information
technology sector. This feeds deeply into neoliberal transformation of capitalist
societies, with growing (working and unemployed) populations left out of social
welfare which need to be actively appeased or policed. This is the structural
problem behind liberal democracies, electoral successes of the radical right, and
global “Trumpism” (Blyth, 2015). Intrinsic to contemporary capitalism,
information technologies reinforce its contradictions and pave its unfortunate trail
of destruction.
PJ & AK: Access to digital technologies and digital materials is dialectically
intertwined with human learning. For instance, Stallman’s definition of free
software directly addresses this issue in two freedoms: “Freedom 1: The freedom
to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish,” and
“Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements
(and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community
benefits” (Stallman, 2002: 43). Please situate the relationship between access and
learning in the contemporary context.
MM & TM: The relationships between digital technologies and education are
marked by the same contradictions and processes of enclosure that have befallen
the free software. Therefore, Eastern European scepticism towards free software is
equally applicable to education. The flip side of interactivity is audience
manipulation; the flip side of access and availability is (economic) domination.
Eroded by raising tuitions, expanding student debt, and poverty-level wages for
adjunct faculty, higher education is getting more and more exclusive. However,
occasional spread of enthusiasm through ideas such as MOOCs does not bring
about more emancipation and equality. While they preach loudly about unlimited
access for students at the periphery, neoliberal universities (backed up by venture
capital) are actually hoping to increase their recruitment business (models).
MOOCs predominantly serve members of privileged classes who already have
access to prestige universities, and who are “self-motivated, self-directed, and
independent individuals who would push to succeed anywhere” (Konnikova,
2014). It is a bit worrying that such rise of inequality results from attempts to
provide materials freely to everyone with Internet access!
The question of access to digital books for public libraries is different. Libraries
cannot afford digital books from world’s largest publishers (Digitalbookworld,
2012), and the small amount of already acquired e-books must destroyed after only
twenty six lendings (Greenfield, 2012). Thus, the issue of access is effectively left
to competition between Amazon, Google, Apple and other companies. The state of
affairs in scientific publishing is not any better. As we wrote in the collective open
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letter ‘In solidarity with Library Genesis and Sci-Hub’ (Custodians.online, 2015),
five for-profit publishers (Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis
and Sage) own more than half of all existing databases of academic material, which
are licensed at prices so scandalously high that even Harvard, the richest university
of the Global North, has complained that it cannot afford them any longer. Robert
Darnton, the past director of Harvard Library, says: “We faculty do the research,
write the papers, referee papers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all
of it for free … and then we buy back the results of our labor at outrageous prices.”
For all the work supported by public money benefiting scholarly publishers,
particularly the peer review that grounds their legitimacy, prices of journal articles
prohibit access to science to many academics – and all non-academics – across the
world, and render it a token of privilege (Custodians.online, 2015).
PJ & AK: Please describe the existing strategies for struggle against these
developments. What are their main strengths and weaknesses?
MM & TM: Contemporary problems in the field of production, access,
maintenance and distribution of knowledge regulated by globally harmonized
intellectual property regime have brought about tremendous economic, social,
political and institutional crisis and deadlock(s). Therefore, we need to revisit and
rethink our politics, strategies and tactics. We could perhaps find inspiration in the
world of free software production, where it seems that common effort, courage and
charming obstinacy are able to build alternative tools and infrastructures. Yet, this
model might be insufficient for the whole scope of crisis facing knowledge
production and dissemination. The aforementioned corporate appropriations of free
software such as ‘tivoizations,’ ‘walled gardens,’ ‘software-as-a-service’ etc. bring
about the problem of longevity of commons-based peer-production.
Furthermore, the sense of entitlement for building alternatives to dominant
modes of oppression can only arrive at the close proximity to capitalist centres of
power. The periphery (of capitalism), in contrast, relies on strategies of ‘stealing’
and bypassing socio-economic barriers by refusing to submit to the harmonized
regulation that sets the frame for global economic exchange. If we honestly look
back and try to compare the achievements of digital piracy vs. the achievements of
reformist Creative Commons, it is obvious that the struggle for access to
knowledge is still alive mostly because of piracy.
PJ & AK: This brings us to the struggle against (knowledge as) private
property. What are the main problems in this struggle? How do you go about them?
MM & TM: Many projects addressing the crisis of access to knowledge are
originated in Eastern Europe. Examples include Library Genesis, Science Hub,
Monoskop and Memory of the World. Balázs Bodó’s research (2016) on the ethos
of Library Genesis and Science Hub resonates with our beliefs, shared through all
abovementioned projects, that the concept of private property should not be taken
for granted. Private property can and should be permanently questioned,
challenged and negotiated. This is especially the case in the face of artificial
scarcity (such as lack of access to knowledge caused by intellectual property in
context of digital networks) or selfish speculations over scarce basic human

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resources (such as problems related to housing, water or waterfront development)
(Mars, Medak, & Sekulić, 2016).
The struggle to challenge the property regime used to be at the forefront of the
Free Software Movement. In the spectacular chain of recent events, where the
revelations of sweeping control and surveillance of electronic communications
brought about new heroes (Manning, Assange, Snowden), the hacker is again
reduced to the heroic cypherpunk outlaw. This firmly lies within the old Cold War
paradigm of us (the good guys) vs. them (the bad guys). However, only rare and
talented people are able to master cryptography, follow exact security protocols,
practice counter-control, and create a leak of information. Unsurprisingly, these
people are usually white, male, well-educated, native speakers of English.
Therefore, the narrative of us vs. them is not necessarily the most empowering, and
we feel that it requires a complementary strategy that challenges the property
regime as a whole. As our letter at Custodians.online says:
We find ourselves at a decisive moment. This is the time to recognize that the
very existence of our massive knowledge commons is an act of collective
civil disobedience. It is the time to emerge from hiding and put our names
behind this act of resistance. You may feel isolated, but there are many of us.
The anger, desperation and fear of losing our library infrastructures, voiced
across the Internet, tell us that. This is the time for us custodians, being dogs,
humans or cyborgs, with our names, nicknames and pseudonyms, to raise our
voices. Share your writing – digitize a book – upload your files. Don’t let our
knowledge be crushed. Care for the libraries – care for the metadata – care
for the backup. (Custodians.online, 2015)
FROM CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE TO PUBLIC LIBRARY

PJ & AK: Started in 2012, The Public Library project (Memory of the World,
2016a) is an important part of struggle against commodification of knowledge.
What is the project about; how did it arrive into being?
MM & TM: The Public Library project develops and affirms scenarios for
massive disobedience against current regulation of production and circulation of
knowledge and culture in the digital realm. Started in 2012, it created a lot of
resonance across the peripheries of an unevenly developed world of study and
learning. Earlier that year, takedown of the book-sharing site Library.nu produced
the anxiety that the equalizing effects brought about by piracy would be rolled
back. With the takedown, the fact that access to most recent and most relevant
knowledge was (finally) no longer a privilege of the rich academic institutions in a
few countries of the Global West, and/or the exclusive preserve of the academia to
boot – has simply disappeared into thin air. Certainly, various alternatives from
deep semi-periphery have quickly filled the gap. However, it is almost a miracle
that they still continue to exist in spite of prosecution they are facing on everyday
basis.

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Our starting point for the Public Library project is simple: public library is the
institutional form devised by societies in order to make knowledge and culture
accessible to all its members regardless their social or economic status. There is a
political consensus across the board that this principle of access is fundamental to
the purpose of a modern society. Only educated and informed citizens are able to
claim their rights and fully participate in the polity for common good. Yet, as
digital networks have radically expanded availability of literature and science,
provision of de-commodified access to digital objects has been by and large denied
to public libraries. For instance, libraries frequently do not have the right to
purchase e-books for lending and preservations. If they do, they are limited in
regards to how many times and under what conditions they can lend digital objects
before the license and the object itself is revoked (Greenfield, 2012). The case of
academic journals is even worse. As journals become increasingly digital, libraries
can provide access and ‘preserve’ them only for as long as they pay extortionate
subscriptions. The Public Library project fills in the space that remains denied to
real-world public libraries by building tools for organizing and sharing electronic
libraries, creating digitization workflows and making books available online.
Obviously, we are not alone in this effort. There are many other platforms, public
and hidden, that help people to share books. And the practice of sharing is massive.
PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) is a part of
a wider global movement based, amongst other influences, on the seminal work of
Aaron Swartz. This movement consists of various projects including but not
limited to Library Genesis, Aaaaarg.org, UbuWeb, and others. Please situate The
Public Library project in the wider context of this movement. What are its distinct
features? What are its main contributions to the movement at large?
MM & TM: The Public Library project is informed by two historic moments in
the development of institution of public library The first defining moment
happened during the French Revolution – the seizure of library collections from
aristocracy and clergy, and their transfer to the Bibliothèque Nationale and
municipal libraries of the post-revolutionary Republic. The second defining
moment happened in England through working class struggles to make knowledge
accessible to the working class. After the revolution of 1848, that struggle resulted
in tax-supported public libraries. This was an important part of the larger attempt
by the Chartist movement to provide workers with “really useful knowledge”
aimed at raising class consciousness through explaining functioning of capitalist
domination and exploring ways of building workers’ own autonomous culture
(Johnson, 1988). These defining revolutionary moments have instituted two
principles underpinning the functioning of public libraries: a) general access to
knowledge is fundamental to full participation in the society, and b)
commodification of knowledge in the form of book trade needs to be limited by
public de-commodified non-monetary forms of access through public institutions.
In spite of enormous expansion of potentials for providing access to knowledge
to all regardless of their social status or geographic location brought about by the
digital technologies, public libraries have been radically limited in pursuing their
mission. This results in side-lining of public libraries in enormous expansion of
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commodification of knowledge in the digital realm, and brings huge profits to
academic publishers. In response to these limitations, a number of projects have
sprung up in order to maintain public interest by illegal means.
PJ & AK: Can you provide a short genealogy of these projects?
MM & TM: Founded in 1996, Ubu was one of the first online repositories.
Then, in 2001, Textz.com started distributing texts in critical theory. After
Textz.com got shot down in early 2004, it took another year for Aaaaarg to emerge
and Monoskop followed soon thereafter. In the latter part of the 2000s, Gigapedia
started a different trajectory of providing access to comprehensive repositories.
Gigapedia was a game changer, because it provided access to thousands and
thousands of scholarly titles and made access to that large corpus no longer limited
to those working or studying in the rich institutions of the Global North. In 2012
publishing industry shut down Gigapedia (at the time, it was known as Library.nu).
Fortunately, the resulting vacuum did not last for long, as Library.nu repository got
merged into the holdings of Library Genesis. Building on the legacy of Soviet
scholars who devised the ways of shadow production and distribution of
knowledge in the form of samizdat and early digital distribution of texts in the
post-Soviet period (Balázs, 2014), Library Genesis has built a robust infrastructure
with the mission to provide access to the largest online library in existence while
keeping a low profile. At this moment Library Genesis provides access to books,
and its sister project Science Hub provides access to academic journals. Both
projects are under threat of closure by the largest academic publisher Reed
Elsevier. Together with the Public Library project, they articulate a position of civil
disobedience.
PJ & AK: Please elaborate the position of civil disobedience. How does it
work; when is it justified?
MM & TM: Legitimating discourses usually claim that shadow libraries fall
into the category of non-commercial fair use. These arguments are definitely valid,
yet they do not build a particularly strong ground for defending knowledge
commons. Once they arrive under attack, therefore, shadow libraries are typically
shut down. In our call for collective disobedience, therefore, we want to make a
larger claim. Access to knowledge as a universal condition could not exist if we –
academics and non-academics across the unevenly developed world – did not
create own ways of commoning knowledge that we partake in producing and
learning. By introducing the figure of the custodian, we are turning the notion of
property upside down. Paraphrasing the Little Prince, to own something is to be
useful to that which you own (Saint-Exupéry, 1945). Custodians are the political
subjectivity of that disobedient work of care.
Practices of sharing, downloading, and uploading, are massive. So, if we want to
prevent our knowledge commons from being taken away over and over again, we
need to publicly and collectively stand behind our disobedient behaviour. We
should not fall into the trap of the debate about legality or illegality of our
practices. Instead, we should acknowledge that our practices, which have been
deemed illegal, are politically legitimate in the face of uneven opportunities
between the Global North and the Global South, in the face of commercialization
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of education and student debt in the Global North … This is the meaning of civil
disobedience – to take responsibility for breaking unjust laws.
PJ & AK: We understand your lack of interest for debating legality –
nevertheless, legal services are very interested in your work … For instance,
Marcell has recently been involved in a law suit related to Aaaaarg. Please describe
the relationship between morality and legality in your (public) engagement. When,
and under which circumstances, can one’s moral actions justify breaking the law?
MM & TM: Marcell has been recently drawn into a lawsuit that was filed
against Aaaaarg for copyright infringement. Marcell, the founder of Aaaaarg Sean
Dockray, and a number of institutions ranging from universities to continentalscale intergovernmental organizations, are being sued by a small publisher from
Quebec whose translation of André Bazin’s What is Cinema? (1967) was twice
scanned and uploaded to Aaaaarg by an unknown user. The book was removed
each time the plaintiff issued a takedown notice, resulting in minimal damages, but
these people are nonetheless being sued for 500.000 Canadian dollars. Should
Aaaaarg not be able to defend its existence on the principle of fair use, a valuable
common resource will yet again be lost and its founder will pay a high price. In this
lawsuit, ironically, there is little economic interest. But many smaller publishers
find themselves squeezed between the privatization of education which leaves
students and adjuncts with little money for books and the rapid concentration of
academic publishing. For instance, Taylor and Francis has acquired a smaller
humanities publisher Ashgate and shut it down in a matter of months (Save
Ashgate Publishing petition, 2015).
The system of academic publishing is patently broken. It syphons off public
funding of science and education into huge private profits, while denying living
wages and access to knowledge to its producers. This business model is legal, but
deeply illegitimate. Many scientists and even governments agree with this
conclusion – yet, situation cannot be easily changed because of entrenched power
passed down from the old models of publishing and their imbrication with
allocation of academic prestige. Therefore, the continuous existence of this model
commands civil disobedience.
PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) operates
in various public domains including art galleries. Why did you decide to develop
The Public Library project in the context of arts? How do you conceive the
relationship between arts and activism?
MM & TM: We tend to easily conflate the political with the aesthetic.
Moreover, when an artwork expressedly claims political character, this seems to
grant it recognition and appraisal. Yet, socially reflective character of an artwork
and its consciously critical position toward the social reality might not be outright
political. Political action remains a separate form of agency, which is different than
that of socially reflexive, situated and critical art. It operates along a different logic
of engagement. It requires collective mobilization and social transformation.
Having said that, socially reflexive, situated and critical art cannot remain detached
from the present conjuncture and cannot exist outside the political space. Within
the world of arts, alternatives to existing social sensibilities and realities can be
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articulated and tested without paying a lot of attention to consistency and
plausibility. Whereas activism generally leaves less room for unrestricted
articulation, because it needs to produce real and plausible effects.
With the generous support of the curatorial collective What, How and for Whom
(WHW) (2016), the Public Library project was surprisingly welcomed by the art
world, and this provided us with a stage to build the project, sharpen its arguments
and ascertain legitimacy of its political demands. The project was exhibited, with
WHW and other curators, in some of the foremost art venues such as Reina Sofía
in Madrid, Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart, 98 Weeks in Beirut,
Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova in Ljubljana, and Calvert 22 in London.
It is great to have a stage where we can articulate social issues and pursue avenues
of action that other social institutions might find risky to support. Yet, while the
space of art provides a safe haven from the adversarial world of political reality, we
think that the addressed issues need to be politicized and that other institutions,
primarily institutions of education, need to stand behind the demand for universal
access. For instance, teaching and research at the University in Zagreb critically
depends on the capacity of its faculty and students to access books and journals
from sources that are deemed illegal – in our opinion, therefore, the University
needs to take a public stand for these forms of access. In the world of
commercialized education and infringement liability, expecting the University to
publicly support us seems highly improbable. However, it is not impossible! This
was recently demonstrated by the Zürich Academy of Arts, which now hosts a
mirror of Ubu – a crucial resource for its students and faculty alike
(Custodians.online, 2016).
PJ & AK: In the current climate of economic austerity, the question of
resources has become increasingly important. For instance, Web 2.0. has narrowed
available spaces for traditional investigative journalism, and platforms such as
Airbnb and Uber have narrowed spaces for traditional labor. Following the same
line of argument, placing activism into art galleries clearly narrows available
spaces for artists. How do you go about this problem? What, if anything, should be
done with the activist takeover of traditional forms of art? Why?
MM & TM: Art can no longer stand outside of the political space, and it can no
longer be safely stowed away into a niche of supposed autonomy within bourgeois
public sphere detached from commodity production and the state. However, art
academies in Croatia and many other places throughout the world still churn out
artists on the premise that art is apolitical. In this view artists can specialize in a
medium and create in isolation of their studios – if their artwork is recognized as
masterful, it will be bought on the marketplace. This is patently a lie! Art in Croatia
depends on bonds of solidarity and public support.
Frequently it is the art that seeks political forms of engagement rather than vice
versa. A lot of headspace for developing a different social imaginary can be gained
from that venturing aspect of contemporary art. Having said that, art does not need
to be political in order to be relevant and strong.

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THE DOUBLE LIFE OF HACKER CULTURE

PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) is essentially
pedagogical. When everyone is a librarian, and all books are free, living in the
world transforms into living with the world – so The Public Library project is also
essentially anti-capitalist. This brings us to the intersections between critical
pedagogy of Paulo Freire, Peter McLaren, Henry Giroux, and others – and the
hacker culture of Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Steven Lévy, and others. In
spite of various similarities, however, critical pedagogy and hacker culture disagree
on some important points.
With its deep roots in Marxism, critical theory always insists on class analysis.
Yet, imbued in the Californian ideology (Barbrook and Cameron, 1996), the hacker
culture is predominantly individualist. How do you go about the tension between
individualism and collectivism in The Public Library project? How do you balance
these forces in your overall work?
MM & TM: Hacker culture has always lived a double life. Personal computers
and the Internet have set up a perfect projection screen for a mind-set which
understands autonomy as a pursuit for personal self-realisation. Such mind-set sees
technology as a frontier of limitless and unconditional freedom, and easily melds
with entrepreneurial culture of the Silicon Valley. Therefore, it is hardly a surprise
that individualism has become the hegemonic narrative of hacker culture.
However, not all hacker culture is individualist and libertarian. Since the 1990s, the
hacker culture is heavily divided between radical individualism and radical
mutualism. Fred Turner (2006), Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron (1996) have
famously shown that radical individualism was built on freewheeling counterculture of the American hippie movement, while radical mutualism was built on
collective leftist traditions of anarchism and Marxism. This is evident in the Free
Software Movement, which has placed ethics and politics before economy and
technology. In her superb ethnographic work, Biella Coleman (2013) has shown
that projects such as GNU/Linux distribution Debian have espoused radically
collective subjectivities. In that regard, these projects stand closer to mutualist,
anarchist and communist traditions where collective autonomy is the foundation of
individual freedom.
Our work stands in that lineage. Therefore, we invoke two collective figures –
amateur librarian and custodian. These figures highlight the labor of communizing
knowledge and maintaining infrastructures of access, refuse to leave the commons
to the authority of professions, and create openings where technologies and
infrastructures can be re-claimed for radically collective and redistributive
endeavours. In that context, we are critical of recent attempts to narrow hacker
culture down to issues of surveillance, privacy and cryptography. While these
issues are clearly important, they (again) reframe the hacker community through
the individualist dichotomy of freedom and privacy, and, more broadly, through
the hegemonic discourse of the post-historical age of liberal capitalism. In this
way, the essential building blocks of the hacker culture – relations of production,
relations of property, and issues of redistribution – are being drowned out, and
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collective and massive endeavour of commonizing is being eclipsed by the
capacity of the few crypto-savvy tricksters to avoid government control.
Obviously, we strongly disagree with the individualist, privative and 1337 (elite)
thrust of these developments.
PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) arrives
very close to visions of deschooling offered by authors such as Ivan Illich (1971),
Everett Reimer (1971), Paul Goodman (1973), and John Holt (1967). Recent
research indicates that digital technologies offer some fresh opportunities for the
project of deschooling (Hart, 2001; Jandrić, 2014, 2015b), and projects such as
Monoskop (Monoskop, 2016) and The Public Library project (Memory of the
World, 2016a) provide important stepping-stones for emancipation of the
oppressed. Yet, such forms of knowledge and education are hardly – if at all –
recognised by the mainstream. How do you go about this problem? Should these
projects try and align with the mainstream, or act as subversions of the mainstream,
or both? Why?
MM & TM: We are currently developing a more fine-tuned approach to
educational aspects of amateur librarianship. The forms of custodianship over
knowledge commons that underpin the practices behind Monoskop, Public Library,
Aaaaarg, Ubu, Library Genesis, and Science Hub are part and parcel of our
contemporary world – whether you are a non-academic with no access to scholarly
libraries, or student/faculty outside of the few well-endowed academic institutions
in the Global North. As much as commercialization and privatization of education
are becoming mainstream across the world, so are the strategies of reproducing
one’s knowledge and academic research that depend on the de-commodified access
of shadow libraries.
Academic research papers are narrower in scope than textbooks, and Monoskop
is thematically more specific than Library Genesis. However, all these practices
exhibit ways in which our epistemologies and pedagogies are built around
institutional structures that reproduce inequality and differentiated access based on
race, gender, class and geography. By building own knowledge infrastructures, we
build different bodies of knowledge and different forms of relating to our realities –
in words of Walter Mignolo, we create new forms of epistemic disobedience
(2009). Through Public Library, we have digitized and made available several
collections that represent epistemologically different corpuses of knowledge. A
good example of that is the digital collection of books selected by Black Panther
Herman Wallace as his dream library for political education (Memory of the
World, 2016b).
PJ & AK: Your work breaks traditional distinctions between professionals and
amateurs – when everyone becomes a librarian, the concepts of ‘professional
librarian’ and ‘amateur librarian’ become obsolete. Arguably, this tension is an
inherent feature of the digital world – similar trends can be found in various
occupations such as journalism and arts. What are the main consequences of the
new (power) dynamics between professionals and amateurs?
MM & TM: There are many tensions between amateurs and professionals.
There is the general tension, which you refer to as “the inherent feature of the
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digital world,” but there are also more historically specific tensions. We, amateur
librarians, are mostly interested in seizing various opportunities to politicize and
renegotiate the positions of control and empowerment in the tensions that are
already there. We found that storytelling is a particularly useful, efficient and
engaging way of politicization. The naïve and oft overused claim – particularly
during the Californian nineties – of the revolutionary potential of emerging digital
networks turned out to be a good candidate for replacement by a story dating back
two centuries earlier – the story of emergence of public libraries in the early days
of the French bourgeois revolution in the 19th century.
The seizure of book collections from the Church and the aristocracy in the
course of revolutions casts an interesting light on the tensions between the
professionals and the amateurs. Namely, the seizure of book collections didn’t lead
to an Enlightenment in the understanding of the world – a change in the paradigm
how we humans learn, write and teach each other about the world. Steam engine,
steam-powered rotary press, railroads, electricity and other revolutionary
technological innovations were not seen as results of scientific inquiry. Instead,
they were by and large understood as developments in disciplines such as
mechanics, engineering and practical crafts, which did not challenge religion as the
foundational knowledge about the world.
Consequently, public prayers continued to act as “hoped for solutions to cattle
plagues in 1865, a cholera epidemic in 1866, and a case of typhoid suffered by the
young Prince (Edward) of Wales in 1871” (Gieryn, 1983). Scientists of the time
had to demarcate science from both the religion and the mechanics to provide a
rationale for its supriority as opposed to the domains of spiritual and technical
discovery. Depending on whom they talked to, asserts Thomas F. Gieryn, scientists
would choose to discribe the science as either theoretical or empirical, pure or
applied, often in contradictory ways, but with a clear goal to legitimate to
authorities both the scientific endavor and its claim to resources. Boundary-work of
demarcation had the following characteristics:
(a) when the goal is expansion of authority or expertise into domains claimed
by other professions or occupations, boundary-work heightens the contrast
between rivals in ways flattering to the ideologists’ side;
(b) when the goal is monopolization of professional authority and resources,
boundary-work excludes rivals from within by defining them as outsiders
with labels such as ‘pseudo,’ ‘deviant,’ or ‘amateur’;
(c) when the goal is protection of autonomy over professional activities,
boundary-work exempts members from responsibility for consequences of
their work by putting the blame on scapegoats from outside. (Gieryn, 1983:
791–192)
Once institutionally established, modern science and its academic system have
become the exclusive instances where emerging disciplines had now to seek
recognition and acceptance. The new disciplines (and their respective professions),
in order to become acknowledged by the scientific community as legitimate, had to
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repeat the same boundary-work as the science in general once had to go through
before.
The moral of this story is that the best way for a new scientific discipline to
claim its territory was to articulate the specificity and importance of its insights in a
domain no other discipline claimed. It could achieve that by theorizing,
formalizing, and writing own vocabulary, methods and curricula, and finally by
asking the society to see its own benefit in acknowledging the discipline, its
practitioners and its practices as a separate profession – giving it the green light to
create its own departments and eventually join the productive forces of the world.
This is how democratization of knowledge led to the professionalization of science.
Another frequent reference in our storytelling is the history of
professionalization of computing and its consequences for the fields and disciplines
where the work of computer programmers plays an important role (Ensmenger,
2010: 14; Krajewski, 2011). Markus Krajewski in his great book Paper Machines
(2011), looking back on the history of index card catalog (an analysis that is
formative for our understanding of the significance of library catalog as an
epistemic tool), introduced a thought-provoking idea of the logical equivalence of
the developed index card catalog and the Turing machine, thus making the library a
vanguard of the computing. Granting that equivalence, we however think that the
professionalization of computing much better explains the challenges of today’s
librarianship and tensions between the amateur and professional librarians.
The world recognized the importance and potential of computer technology
much before computer science won its own autonomy in the academia. Computer
science first had to struggle and go through its own historical phase of boundarywork. In 1965 the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) had decided to
pool together various attempts to define the terms and foundations of computer
science analysis. Still, the field wasn’t given its definition before Donald Knuth
and his colleagues established the algorithm as as the principle unit of analysis in
computer science in the first volume of Knuth’s canonical The Art of Computer
Programming (2011) [1968]. Only once the algorithm was posited as the main unit
of study of computer science, which also served as the basis for ACM’s
‘Curriculum ‘68’ (Atchison et al., 1968), the path was properly paved for the future
departments of computer science in the university.
PJ & AK: What are the main consequences of these stories for computer
science education?
MM & TM: Not everyone was happy with the algorithm’s central position in
computer science. Furthermore, since the early days, computer industry has been
complaining that the university does not provide students with practical
knowledge. Back in 1968, for instance, IBM researcher Hal Sackman said:
new departments of computer science in the universities are too busy
teaching simon-pure courses in their struggle for academic recognition to pay
serious time and attention to the applied work necessary to educate
programmers and systems analysts for the real world. (in Ensmenger, 2010:
133)
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Computer world remains a weird hybrid where knowledge is produced in both
academic and non-academic settings, through academic curricula – but also
through fairs, informal gatherings, homebrew computer clubs, hacker communities
and the like. Without the enthusiasm and the experiments with ways how
knowledge can be transferred and circulated between peers, we would have
probably never arrived to the Personal Computer Revolution in the beginning of
1980s. Without the amount of personal computers already in use, we would have
probably never experienced the Internet revolution in the beginning of 1990s. It is
through such historical development that computer science became the academic
centre of the larger computer universe which spread its tentacles into almost all
other known disciplines and professions.
PJ & AK: These stories describe the process of professionalization. How do
you go about its mirror image – the process of amateurisation?
MM & TM: Systematization, vocabulary, manuals, tutorials, curricula – all the
processes necessary for achieving academic autonomy and importance in the world
– prime a discipline for automatization of its various skills and workflows into
software tools. That happened to photography (Photoshop, 1990; Instagram, 2010),
architecture (AutoCAD, 1982), journalism (Blogger, 1999; WordPress, 2003),
graphic design (Adobe Illustrator, 1986; Pagemaker, 1987; Photoshop, 1988;
Freehand, 1988), music production (Steinberg Cubase, 1989), and various other
disciplines (Memory of the World, 2016b).
Usually, after such software tool gets developed and introduced into the
discipline, begins the period during which a number of amateurs start to ‘join’ that
profession. An army of enthusiasts with a specific skill, many self-trained and with
understanding of a wide range of software tools, join. This phenomenon often
marks a crisis as amateurs coming from different professional backgrounds start to
compete with certified and educated professionals in that field. Still, the future
development of the same software tools remains under control by software
engineers, who become experts in established workflows, and who promise further
optimizations in the field. This crisis of old professions becomes even more
pronounced if the old business models – and their corporate monopolies – are
challenged by the transition to digital network economy and possibly face the
algorithmic replacement of their workforce and assets.
For professions under these challenging conditions, today it is often too late for
boundary-work described in our earlier answer. Instead of maintaining authority
and expertise by labelling upcoming enthusiasts as ‘pseudo,’ ‘deviant,’ or
‘amateur,’ therefore, contemporary disciplines need to revisit own roots, values,
vision and benefits for society and then (re-)articulate the corpus of knowledge that
the discipline should maintain for the future.
PJ & AK: How does this relate to the dichotomy between amateur and
professional librarians?
MM & TM: We regard the e-book management software Calibre (2016),
written by Kovid Goyal, as a software tool which has benefited from the
knowledge produced, passed on and accumulated by librarians for centuries.
Calibre has made the task of creating and maintaining the catalog easy.
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Our vision is to make sharing, aggregating and accessing catalogs easy and
playful. We like the idea that every rendered catalog is stored on a local hard disk,
that an amateur librarian can choose when to share, and that when she decides to
share, the catalog gets aggregated into a library together with the collections of
other fellow amateur librarians (at https://library.memoryoftheworld.org). For the
purpose of sharing we wrote the Calibre plugin named let’s share books and set up
the related server infrastructure – both of which are easily replicable and
deployable into distributed clones.
Together with Voja Antonić, the legendary inventor of the first eight-bit
computer in Yugoslavia, we also designed and developed a series of book scanners
and used them to digitize hundreds of books focused to Yugoslav humanities such
as the Digital Archive of Praxis and the Korčula Summer School (2016), Catalogue
of Liberated Books (2013), books thrown away from Croatian public libraries
during ideological cleansing of the 1990s Written-off (2015), and the collection of
books selected by the Black Panther Herman Wallace as his dream library for
political education (Memory of the World, 2016b).
In our view, amateur librarians are complementary to professional librarians,
and there is so much to learn and share between each other. Amateur librarians care
about books which are not (yet) digitally curated with curiosity, passion and love;
they dare to disobey in pursuit for the emancipatory vision of the world which is
now under threat. If we, amateur librarians, ever succeed in our pursuits – that
should secure the existing jobs of professional librarians and open up many new
and exciting positions. When knowledge is easily accessed, (re)produced and
shared, there will be so much to follow up upon.
TOWARDS AN ACTIVIST PUBLIC PEDAGOGY

PJ & AK: You organize talks and workshops, publish books, and maintain a major
regional hub for people interested in digital cultures. In Croatia, your names are
almost synonymous with social studies of the digital – worldwide, you are
recognized as regional leaders in the field. Such engagement has a prominent
pedagogical component – arguably, the majority of your work can be interpreted as
public pedagogy. What are the main theoretical underpinnings of your public
pedagogy? How does it work in practice?
MM & TM: Our organization is a cluster of heterogeneous communities and
fields of interest. Therefore, our approaches to public pedagogy hugely vary. In
principle, we subscribe to the idea that all intelligences are equal and that all
epistemology is socially structured. In practice, this means that our activities are
syncretic and inclusive. They run in parallel without falling under the same
umbrella, and they bring together people of varying levels of skill – who bring in
various types of knowledge, and who arrive from various social backgrounds.
Working with hackers, we favour hands-on approach. For a number of years
Marcell has organized weekly Skill Sharing program (Net.culture club MaMa,
2016b) that has started from very basic skills. The bar was incrementally raised to
today’s level of the highly specialized meritocratic community of 1337 hackers. As
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the required skill level got too demanding, some original members left the group –
yet, the community continues to accommodate geeks and freaks. At the other end,
we maintain a theoretically inflected program of talks, lectures and publications.
Here we invite a mix of upcoming theorists and thinkers and some of the most
prominent intellectuals of today such as Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou, Saskia
Sassen and Robert McChesney. This program creates a larger intellectual context,
and also provides space for our collaborators in various activities.
Our political activism, however, takes an altogether different approach. More
often than not, our campaigns are based on inclusive planning and direct decision
making processes with broad activist groups and the public. However, such
inclusiveness is usually made possible by a campaigning process that allows
articulation of certain ideas in public and popular mobilization. For instance, before
the Right to the City campaign against privatisation of the pedestrian zone in
Zagreb’s Varšavska Street coalesced together (Pravo na grad, 2016), we tactically
used media for more than a year to clarify underlying issues of urban development
and mobilize broad public support. At its peak, this campaign involved no less than
200 activists involved in the direct decision-making process and thousands of
citizens in the streets. Its prerequisite was hard day-to-day work by a small group
of people organized by the important member of our collective Teodor Celakoski.
PJ & AK: Your public pedagogy provides great opportunity for personal
development – for instance, talks organized by the Multimedia Institute have been
instrumental in shaping our educational trajectories. Yet, you often tackle complex
problems and theories, which are often described using complex concepts and
language. Consequently, your public pedagogy is inevitably restricted to those who
already possess considerable educational background. How do you balance the
popular and the elitist aspects of your public pedagogy? Do you intend to try and
reach wider audiences? If so, how would you go about that?
MM & TM: Our cultural work equally consists of more demanding and more
popular activities, which mostly work together in synergy. Our popular Human
Rights Film Festival (2016) reaches thousands of people; yet, its highly selective
programme echoes our (more) theoretical concerns. Our political campaigns are
intended at scalability, too. Demanding and popular activities do not contradict
each other. However, they do require very different approaches and depend on
different contexts and situations. In our experience, a wide public response to a
social cause cannot be simply produced by shaping messages or promoting causes
in ways that are considered popular. The response of the public primarily depends
on a broadly shared understanding, no matter its complexity, that a certain course
of action has an actual capacity to transform a specific situation. Recognizing that
moment, and acting tactfully upon it, is fundamental to building a broad political
process.
This can be illustrated by the aforementioned Custodians.online letter (2015)
that we recently co-authored with a number of our fellow library activists against
the injunction that allows Elsevier to shut down two most important repositories
providing access to scholarly writing: Science Hub and Library Genesis. The letter
is clearly a product of our specific collective work and dynamic. Yet, it clearly
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articulates various aspects of discontent around this impasse in access to
knowledge, so it resonates with a huge number of people around the world and
gives them a clear indication that there are many who disobey the global
distribution of knowledge imposed by the likes of Elsevier.
PJ & AK: Your work is probably best described by John Holloway’s phrase
“in, against, and beyond the state” (Holloway, 2002, 2016). What are the main
challenges of working under such conditions? How do you go about them?
MM & TM: We could situate the Public Library project within the structure of
tactical agency, where one famously moves into the territory of institutional power
of others. While contesting the regulatory power of intellectual property over
access to knowledge, we thus resort to appropriation of universalist missions of
different social institutions – public libraries, UNESCO, museums. Operating in an
economic system premised on unequal distribution of means, they cannot but fail
to deliver on their universalist promise. Thus, while public libraries have a mission
to provide access to knowledge to all members of the society, they are severely
limited in what they can do to accomplish that mission in the digital realm. By
claiming the mission of universal access to knowledge for shadow libraries,
collectively built shared infrastructures redress the current state of affairs outside of
the territory of institutions. Insofar, these acts of commoning can indeed be
regarded as positioned beyond the state (Holloway, 2002, 2016).
Yet, while shadow libraries can complement public libraries, they cannot
replace public libraries. And this shifts the perspective from ‘beyond’ to ‘in and
against’: we all inhabit social institutions which reflect uneven development in and
between societies. Therefore, we cannot simply operate within binaries: powerful
vs. powerless, institutional vs. tactical. Our space of agency is much more complex
and blurry. Institutions and their employees resist imposed limitations, and
understand that their spaces of agency reach beyond institutional limitations.
Accordingly, the Public Library project enjoys strong and unequivocal complicity
of art institutions, schools and libraries for its causes and activities. While
collectively building practices that abolish the present state of affairs and reclaim
the dream of universal access to knowledge, we rearticulate the vision of a
radically equal society equipped with institutions that can do justice to that
“infinite demand” (Critchley, 2013). We are collectively pursuing this collective
dream – in words of our friend and our continuing inspiration Aaron Swartz: “With
enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the
privatization of knowledge – we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?”
(Swartz, 2008).



fair use in Sollfrank 2018


Sollfrank
The Surplus of Copying
2018


## essay #11

The Surplus of Copying
How Shadow Libraries and Pirate Archives Contribute to the
Creation of Cultural Memory and the Commons
By Cornelia Sollfrank

Digital artworks tend to have a problematic relationship with the white
cube—in particular, when they are intended and optimized for online
distribution. While curators and exhibition-makers usually try to avoid
showing such works altogether, or at least aim at enhancing their sculptural
qualities to make them more presentable, the exhibition _Top Tens_ featured an
abundance of web quality digital artworks, thus placing emphasis on the very
media condition of such digital artifacts. The exhibition took place at the
Onassis Cultural Center in Athens in March 2018 and was part of the larger
festival _Shadow Libraries: UbuWeb in Athens_ ,1 an event to introduce the
online archive UbuWeb2 to the Greek audience and discuss related cultural,
ethical, technical, and legal issues. This text takes the event—and the
exhibition in particular—as a starting point for a closer look at UbuWeb and
the role an artistic approach can play in building cultural memory within the
neoliberal knowledge economy.

_UbuWeb—The Cultural Memory of the Avant-Garde_

Since Kenneth Goldsmith started Ubu in 1997 the site has become a major point
of reference for anyone interested in exploring twentieth-century avant-garde
art. The online archive provides free and unrestricted access to a remarkable
collection of thousands of artworks—among them almost 700 films and videos,
over 1000 sound art pieces, dozens of filmed dance productions, an
overwhelming amount of visual poetry and conceptual writing, critical
documents, but also musical scores, patents, electronic music resources, plus
an edition of vital new literature, the /ubu editions. Ubu contextualizes the
archived objects within curated sections and also provides framing academic
essays. Although it is a project run by Goldsmith without a budget, it has
built a reputation for making all the things available one would not find
elsewhere. The focus on “avant-garde” may seem a bit pretentious at first, but
when you look closer at the project, its operator and the philosophy behind
it, it becomes obvious how much sense this designation makes. Understanding
the history of the twentieth-century avant-garde as “a history of subversive
takes on creativity, originality, and authorship,”3 such spirit is not only
reflected in terms of the archive’s contents but also in terms of the project
as a whole. Theoretical statements by Goldsmith in which he questions concepts
such as authorship, originality, and creativity support this thesis4—and with
that a conflictual relationship with the notion of intellectual property is
preprogrammed. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the increasing
popularity of the project goes hand-in-hand with a growing discussion about
its ethical justification.

At the heart of Ubu, there is the copy! Every item in the archive is a digital
copy, either of another digital item or, in fact, it is the digitized version
of an analog object.5 That is to say, the creation of a digital collection is
inevitably based on copying the desired archive records and storing them on
dedicated media. However, making a copy is in itself a copyright-relevant act,
if the respective item is an original creation and as such protected under
copyright law.6 Hence, “any reproduction of a copyrighted work infringes the
copyright of the author or the corresponding rights of use of the copyright
holder”.7 Whether the existence of an artwork within the Ubu collection is a
case of copyright infringement varies with each individual case and depends on
the legal status of the respective work, but also on the way the rights
holders decide to act. As with all civil law, there is no judge without a
plaintiff, which means even if there is no express consent by the rights
holders, the work can remain in the archive as long as there is no request for
removal.8 Its status, however, is precarious. We find ourselves in the
notorious gray zone of copyright law where nothing is clear and many things
are possible—until somebody decides to challenge this status. Exploring the
borders of this experimental playground involves risk-taking, but, at the same
time, it is the only way to preserve existing freedoms and make a case for
changing cultural needs, which have not been considered in current legal
settings. And as the 20 years of Ubu’s existence demonstrate, the practice may
be experimental and precarious, but with growing cultural relevance and
reputation it is also gaining in stability.

_Fair Use and Public Interest_

At all public appearances and public presentations Goldsmith and his
supporters emphasize the educational character of the project and its non-
commercial orientation.9 Such a characterization is clearly intended to take
the wind out of the sails of its critics from the start and to shift the
attention away from the notion of piracy and toward questions of public
interest and the common good.

From a cultural point of view, the project unquestionably is of inestimable
value; a legal defense, however, would be a difficult undertaking. Copyright
law, in fact, has a built-in opening, the so-called copyright exceptions or
fair use regulations. They vary according to national law and cultural
traditions and allow for the use of copyrighted works under certain, defined
provisions without permission of the owner. The exceptions basically apply to
the areas of research and private study (both non-commercial), education,
review, and criticism and are described through general guidelines. “These
defences exist in order to restore the balance between the rights of the owner
of copyright and the rights of society at large.”10

A very powerful provision in most legislations is the permission to make
“private copies”, digital and analog ones, in small numbers, but they are
limited to non-commercial and non-public use, and passing on to a third party
is also excluded.11 As Ubu is an online archive that makes all of its records
publicly accessible and, not least, also provides templates for further
copying, it exceeds the notion of a “private copy” by far. Regarding further
fair use provisions, the four factors that are considered in a decision-making
process in US copyright provisions, for instance, refer to: 1) the purpose and
character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or
is for non-profit 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 the value of the copyrighted work (US Copyright Act, 1976, 17 USC.
§107, online, n.pag.). Applying these fair use provisions to Ubu, one might
consider that the main purposes of the archive relate to education and
research, that it is by its very nature non-commercial, and it largely does
not collide with any third party business interests as most of the material is
not commercially available. However, proving this in detail would be quite an
endeavor. And what complicates matters even more is that the archival material
largely consists of original works of art, which are subject to strict
copyright law protection, that all the works have been copied without any
transformative or commenting intention, and last but not least, that the
aspect of the appropriateness of the amount of used material becomes absurd
with reference to an archive whose quality largely depends on
comprehensiveness: the more the merrier. As Simon Stokes points out, legally
binding decisions can only be made on a case-by-case basis, which is why it is
difficult to make a general evaluation of Ubu’s legal situation.12 The ethical
defense tends to induce the cultural value of the archive as a whole and its
invaluable contribution to cultural memory, while the legal situation does not
consider the value of the project as a whole and necessitates breaking it down
into all the individual items within the collection.

This very brief, when not abridged discussion of the possibilities of fair use
already demonstrates how complex it would be to apply them to Ubu. How
pointless it would be to attempt a serious legal discussion for such a
privately run archive becomes even clearer when looking at the problems public
libraries and archives have to face. While in theory such official
institutions may even have a public mission to collect, preserve, and archive
digital material, in practice, copyright law largely prevents the execution of
this task, as Steinhauer explains.13 The legal expert introduces the example
of the German National Library, which was assigned the task since 2006 to make
back-up copies of all websites published within the .de sublevel domain, but
it turned out to be illegal.14 Identifying a deficiently legal situation when
it comes to collecting, archiving, and providing access to digital cultural
goods, Steinhauer even speaks of a “legal obligation to amnesia”.15 And it is
particularly striking that, from a legal perspective, the collecting of
digitalia is more strictly regulated than the collecting of books, for
example, where the property status of the material object comes into play.
Given the imbalance between cultural requirements, copyright law, and the
technical possibilities, it is not surprising that private initiatives are
being founded with the aim to collect and preserve cultural memory. These
initiatives make use of the affordability and availability of digital
technology and its infrastructures, and they take responsibility for the
preservation of cultural goods by simply ignoring copyright induced
restrictions, i.e. opposing the insatiable hunger of the IP regime for
control.

_Shadow Libraries_

Ubu was presented and discussed in Athens at an event titled _Shadow
Libraries: UbuWeb in Athens_ , thereby making clear reference to the ecosystem
of shadow libraries. A library, in general, is an institution that collects,
orders, and makes published information available while taking into account
archival, economic, and synoptic aspects. A shadow library does exactly the
same thing, but its mission is not an official one. Usually, the
infrastructure of shadow libraries is conceived, built, and run by a private
initiative, an individual, or a small group of people, who often prefer to
remain anonymous for obvious reasons. In terms of the media content provided,
most shadow libraries are peer-produced in the sense that they are based on
the contributions of a community of supporters, sometimes referred to as
“amateur librarians”. The two key attributes of any proper library, according
to Amsterdam-based media scholar Bodo Balazs, are the catalog and the
community: “The catalogue does not 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 organisation of the community of librarians who preserve and
nourish the collection.”16 What is specific about shadow libraries, however,
is the fact that they make available anything their contributors consider to
be relevant—regardless of its legal status. That is to say, shadow libraries
also provide unauthorized access to copyrighted publications, and they make
the material available for download without charge and without any other
restrictions. And because there is a whole network of shadow libraries whose
mission is “to remove all barriers in the way of science,”17 experts speak of
an ecosystem fostering free and universal access to knowledge.

The notion of the shadow library enjoyed popularity in the early 2000s when
the wide availability of digital networked media contributed to the emergence
of large-scale repositories of scientific materials, the most famous one
having been Gigapedia, which later transformed into library.nu. This project
was famous for hosting approximately 400,000 (scientific) books and journal
articles but had to be shut down in 2012 as a consequence of a series of
injunctions from powerful publishing houses. The now leading shadow library in
the field, Library Genesis (LibGen), can be considered as its even more
influential successor. As of November 2016 the database contained 25 million
documents (42 terabytes), of which 2.1 million were books, with digital copies
of scientific articles published in 27,134 journals by 1342 publishers.18 The
large majority of the digital material is of scientific and educational nature
(95%), while only 5% serves recreational purposes.19 The repository is based
on various ways of crowd-sourcing, i.e. social and technical forms of
accessing and sharing academic publications. Despite a number of legal cases
and court orders, the site is still available under various and changing
domain names.20

The related project Sci-Hub is an online service that processes requests for
pay-walled articles by providing systematic, automized, but unauthorized
backdoor access to proprietary scholarly journal databases. Users requesting
papers not present in LibGen are advised to download them through Sci-Hub; the
respective PDF files are served to users and automatically added to LibGen (if
not already present). According to _Nature_ magazine, Sci-Hub hosts around 60
million academic papers and was able to serve 75 million downloads in 2016. On
a daily basis 70,000 users access approximately 200,000 articles.

The founder of the meta library Sci-Hub is Kazakh programmer Alexandra
Elbakyan, who has been sued by large publishing houses and was convicted twice
to pay almost 20 million US$ in compensation for the losses her activities
allegedly have caused, which is why she had to go underground in Russia. For
illegally leaking millions of documents the _New York Times_ compared her to
Edward Snowden in 2016: “While she didn’t reveal state secrets, she took a
stand for the public’s right to know by providing free online access to just
about every scientific paper ever published, ranging from acoustics to
zymology.” 21 In the same year the prestigious _Nature_ magazine elected her
as one of the ten most influential people in science. 22 Unlike other
persecuted people, she went on the offensive and started to explain her
actions and motives in court documents and blog posts. Sci-Hub encourages new
ways of distributing knowledge, beyond any commercial interests. It provides a
radically open infrastructure thus creating an inviting atmosphere. “It is a
knowledge infrastructure that can be freely accessed, used and built upon by
anyone.”23

As both projects LibGen and Sci-Hub are based in post-Soviet countries, Balazs
reconstructed the history and spirit of Russian reading culture and brings
them into connection.24 Interestingly, the author also establishes a
connection to the Kolhoz (Russian: колхо́з), an early Soviet collective farm
model that was self-governing, community-owned, and a collaborative
enterprise, which he considers to be a major inspiration for the digital
librarians. He also identifies parallels between this Kolhoz model and the
notion of the “commons”—a concept that will be discussed in more detail with
regards to shadow libraries further below.

According to Balazs, these sorts of libraries and collections are part of the
Guerilla Open Access movement (GOA) and thus practical manifestations of Aaron
Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto”.25 In this manifesto the American
hacker and activist pointed out the flaws of open access politics and aimed at
recruiting supporters for the idea of “radical” open access. Radical in this
context means to completely ignore copyright and simply make as much
information available as possible. “Information is power” is how the manifesto
begins. Basically, it addresses the—what he calls—“privileged”, in the sense
that they do have access to information as academic staff or librarians, and
he calls on their support for building a system of freely available
information by using their privilege, downloading and making information
available. Swartz and Elbakyan both have become the “iconic leaders”26 of a
global movement that fights for scientific knowledge to be(come) freely
accessible and whose protagonists usually prefer to operate unrecognized.
While their particular projects may be of a more or less temporary nature, the
discursive value of the work of the “amateur librarians” and their projects
will have a lasting impact on the development of access politics.

_Cultural and Knowledge Commons_

The above discussion illustrates that the phenomenon of shadow libraries
cannot be reduced to its copyright infringing aspects. It needs to be
contextualized within a larger sociopolitical debate that situates the demand
for free and unrestricted access to knowledge within the struggle against the
all-co-opting logic of capital, which currently aims to economize all aspects
of life.

In his analysis of the Russian shadow libraries Balazs has drawn a parallel to
the commons as an alternative mode of ownership and a collective way of
dealing with resources. The growing interest in the discourses around the
commons demonstrates the urgency and timeliness of this concept. The
structural definition of the commons conceived by political economist Massimo
de Angelis allows for its application in diverse fields: “Commons are social
systems in which resources are pooled by a community of people who also govern
these resources to guarantee the latter’s sustainability (if they are natural
resources) and the reproduction of the community. These people engage in
‘commoning,’ that is a form of social labour that bears a direct relation to
the needs of the people, or the commoners”.27 While the model originates in
historical ways of sharing natural resources, it has gained new momentum in
relation to very different resources, thus constituting a third paradigm of
production—beyond state and private—however, with all commoning activities
today still being embedded in the surrounding economic system.

As a reason for the newly aroused interest in the commons, de Angelis provides
the crisis of global capital, which has maneuvered itself into a systemic
impasse. While constantly expanding through its inherent logic of growth and
accumulation, it is the very same logic that destroys the two systems capital
relies on: non-market-shaped social reproduction and the ecological system.
Within this scenario de Angelis describes capital as being in need of the
commons as a “fix” for the most urgent systemic failures: “It needs a ‘commons
fix,’ especially in order to deal with the devastation of the social fabric as
a result of the current crisis of reproduction. Since neoliberalism is not
about to give up its management of the world, it will most likely have to ask
the commons to help manage the devastation it creates. And this means: if the
commons are not there, capital will have to promote them somehow.”28

This rather surprising entanglement of capital and the commons, however, is
not the only perspective. Commons, at the same time, have the potential to
create “a social basis for alternative ways of articulating social production,
independent from capital and its prerogatives. Indeed, today it is difficult
to conceive emancipation from capital—and achieving new solutions to the
demands of _buen vivir_ , social and ecological justice—without at the same
time organizing on the terrain of commons, the non-commodified systems of
social production. Commons are not just a ‘third way’ beyond state and market
failures; they are a vehicle for emerging communities of struggle to claim
ownership to their own conditions of life and reproduction.”29 It is their
purpose to satisfy people’s basic needs and empower them by providing access
to alternative means of subsistence. In that sense, commons can be understood
as an _experimental zone_ in which participants can learn to negotiate
responsibilities, social relations, and peer-based means of production.

_Art and Commons_

Projects such as UbuWeb, Monoskop,30 aaaaarg,31 Memory of the World,32 and
0xdb33 vary in size, they have different forms of organization and foci, but
they all care for specific cultural goods and make sure these goods remain
widely accessible—be it digital copies of artworks and original documents,
books and other text formats, videos, film, or sound and music. Unlike the
large shadow libraries introduced above, which aim to provide access to
hundreds of thousands, if not millions of mainly academic papers and books,
thus trying to fully cover the world of scholarly and academic works, the
smaller artist-run projects are of different nature. While UbuWeb’s founder,
for instance, also promotes a generally unrestricted access to cultural goods,
his approach with UbuWeb is to build a curated archive with copies of artworks
that he considers to be relevant for his very context.34 The selection is
based on personal assessment and preference and cared for affectionately.
Despite its comprehensiveness, it still can be considered a “personal website”
on which the artist shares things relevant to him. As such, he is in good
company with similar “artist-run shadow libraries”, which all provide a
technical infrastructure with which they share resources, while the resources
are of specific relevance to their providers.

Just like the large pirate libraries, these artistic archiving and library
practices challenge the notion of culture as private property and remind us
that it is not an unquestionable absolute. As Jonathan Lethem contends,
“[culture] rather is a social negotiation, tenuously forged, endlessly
revised, and imperfect in its every incarnation.”35 Shadow libraries, in
general, are symptomatic of the cultural battles and absurdities around access
and copyright within an economic logic that artificially tries to limit the
abundance of digital culture, in which sharing does not mean dividing but
rather multiplying. They have become a cultural force, one that can be
represented in Foucauldian terms, as symptomatic of broader power struggles as
well as systemic failures inherent in the cultural formation. As Marczewska
puts it, “Goldsmith moves away from thinking about models of cultural
production in proprietary terms and toward paradigms of creativity based on a
culture of collecting, organizing, curating, and sharing content.”36 And by
doing so, he produces major contradictions, or rather he allows the already
existing contradictions to come to light. The artistic archives and libraries
are precarious in terms of their legal status, while it is exactly due to
their disregard of copyright that cultural resources could be built that
exceed the relevance of most official archives that are bound to abide the
law. In fact, there are no comparable official resources, which is why the
function of these projects is at least twofold: education and preservation.37

Maybe UbuWeb and the other, smaller or larger, shadow libraries do not qualify
as commons in the strict sense of involving not only a non-market exchange of
goods but also a community of commoners who negotiate the terms of use among
themselves. This would require collective, formalized, and transparent types
of organization. Furthermore, most of the digital items they circulate are
privately owned and therefore cannot simply be transferred to become commons
resources. These projects, in many respects, are in a preliminary stage by
pointing to the _ideal of culture as a commons_. By providing access to
cultural goods and knowledge that would otherwise not be available at all or
inaccessible for large parts of the general public, they might even fulfill
the function of a “commons fix”, to a certain degree, but at the same time
they are the experimental zone needed to unlearn copyright and relearn new
ways of cultural production and dissemination beyond the property regime. In
any case, they can function as perfect entry points for the discussion and
investigation of the transformative force art can have within the current
global neoliberal knowledge society.

_Top Tens—Showcasing the Copy as an Aesthetic and Political Statement_

The exhibition _Top Tens_ provided an experimental setting to explore the
possibilities of translating the abundance of a digital archive into a “real
space”, by presenting one hundred artworks from the Ubu archive. 38 Although
all works were properly attributed in the exhibition, the artists whose works
were shown neither had a say about their participation in the exhibition nor
about the display formats. Tolerating the presence of a work in the archive is
one thing; tolerating its display in such circumstances is something else,
which might even touch upon moral rights and the integrity of the work.
However, the exhibition was not so much about the individual works on display
but the archiving condition they are subject to. So the discussion here has
nothing to do the abiding art theory question of original and copy.
Marginally, it is about the question of high-quality versus low-quality
copies. In reproducible media the value of an artwork cannot be based on its
originality any longer—the core criterion for sales and market value. This is
why many artists use the trick of high-resolution and limited edition, a kind
of distributed originality status for several authorized objects, which all
are not 100 percent original but still a bit more original than an arbitrary
unlimited edition. Leaving this whole discussion aside was a clear indication
that something else was at stake. The conceptual statement made by the
exhibition and its makers foregrounded the nature of the shadow library, which
visitors were able to experience when entering the gallery space. Instead of
viewing the artworks in the usual way—online—they had the opportunity to
physically immerse themselves in the cultural condition of proliferated acts
of copying, something that “affords their reconceptualization as a hybrid
creative-critical tool and an influential aesthetic category.”39

Appropriation and copying as longstanding methods of subversive artistic
production, where the reuse of existing material serves as a tool for
commentary, social critique, and a means of making a political statement, has
expanded here to the art of exhibition-making. The individual works serve to
illustrate a curatorial concept, thus radically shifting the avant-garde
gesture which copying used to be in the twentieth century, to breathe new life
in the “culture of collecting, organizing, curating, and sharing content.”
Organizing this conceptually concise exhibition was a brave and bold statement
by the art institution: The Onassis Cultural Centre, one of Athens’ most
prestigious cultural institutions, dared to adopt a resolutely political
stance for a—at least in juridical terms—questionable project, as Ubu lives
from the persistent denial of copyright. Neglecting the concerns of the
individual authors and artists for a moment was a necessary precondition in
order to make space for rethinking the future of cultural production.

________________
Special thanks to Eric Steinhauer and all the artists and amateur librarians
who are taking care of our cultural memory.

1 Festival program online: Onassis Cultural Centre, “Shadow Libraries: UbuWeb
in Athens,” (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
2 _UbuWeb_ is a massive online archive of avant-garde art created over the
last two decades by New York-based artist and writer Kenneth Goldsmith.
Website of the archive: (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
3 Kaja Marczewska, _This Is Not a Copy. Writing at the Iterative Turn_ (New
York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), 22.
4 For further reading: Kenneth Goldsmith, _Uncreative Writing: Managing
Language in the Digital Age_ (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).
5 Many works in the archive stem from the pre-digital era, and there is no
precise knowledge of the sources where Ubu obtains its material, but it is
known that Goldsmith also digitizes a lot of material himself.
6 In German copyright law, for example, §17 and §19a grant the exclusive right
to reproduce, distribute, and make available online to the author. See also:
(accessed on Sept. 30,
2018).
7 Eric Steinhauer, “Rechtspflicht zur Amnesie: Digitale Inhalte, Archive und
Urheberrecht,” _iRightsInfo_ (2013), /rechtspflicht-zur-amnesie-digitale-inhalte-archive-und-urheberrecht/18101>
(accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
8 In particularly severe cases of copyright infringement also state
prosecutors can become active, which in practice, however, remains the
exception. The circumstances in which criminal law must be applied are
described in §109 of German copyright law.
9 See, for example, “Shadow Libraries” for a video interview with Kenneth
Goldsmith.
10 Paul Torremans, _Intellectual Property Law_ (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2010), 265.
11 See also §53 para. 1–3 of the German Act on Copyright and Related Rights
(UrhG), §42 para. 4 in the Austrian UrhG, and Article 19 of Swiss Copyright
Law.
12 Simon Stokes, _Art & Copyright_ (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2003).
13 Steinhauer, “Rechtspflicht zur Amnesie”.
14 This discrepancy between a state mandate for cultural preservation and
copyright law has only been fixed in 2018 with the introduction of a special
law, §16a DNBG.
15 Steinhauer, “Rechtspflicht zur Amnesie”.
16 Bodo Balazs, “The Genesis of Library Genesis: The Birth of a Global
Scholarly Shadow Library,” Nov. 4, 2014, _SSRN_ ,
, (accessed on
Sept. 30, 2018).
17 Motto of Sci-Hub: “Sci-Hub,” _Wikipedia_ , /Sci-Hub> (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
18 Guillaume Cabanac, “Bibliogifts in LibGen? A study of a text-sharing
platform driven by biblioleaks and crowdsourcing,” _Journal of the Association
for Information Science and Technology_ , 67, 4 (2016): 874–884.
19 Ibid.
20 The current address is (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
21 Kate Murphy, “Should All Research Papers Be Free?” _New York Times Sunday
Review_ , Mar. 12, 2016, /should-all-research-papers-be-free.html> (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
22 Richard Van Noorden, “Nature’s 10,” _Nature_ , Dec. 19, 2016,
(accessed on Sept. 30,
2018).
23 Bodo Balazs, “Pirates in the library – an inquiry into the guerilla open
access movement,” paper for the 8th Annual Workshop of the International
Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property, CREATe,
University of Glasgow, UK, July 6–8, 2016. Online available at: https
://adrien-chopin.weebly.com/uploads/2/1/7/6/21765614/2016_bodo_-_pirates.pdf
(accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
24 Balazs, “The Genesis of Library Genesis”.
25 Aaron Swartz, “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto,” _Internet Archive_ , July
2008,

(accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
26 Balazs, “Pirates in the library”.
27 Massimo De Angelis, “Economy, Capital and the Commons,” in: _Art,
Production and the Subject in the 21st Century_ , eds. Angela Dimitrakaki and
Kirsten Lloyd (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015), 201.
28 Ibid., 211.
29 Ibid.
30 See: (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
31 Accessible with invitation. See:
[https://aaaaarg.fail/](https://aaaaarg.fail) (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
32 See: (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
33 See: (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
34 Kenneth Goldsmith in conversation with Cornelia Sollfrank, _The Poetry of
Archiving_ , 2013, (accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
35 Jonathan Lethem, _The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, etc._ (London:
Vintage, 2012), 101.
36 Marczewska, _This Is Not a Copy_ , 2.
37 The research project _Creating Commons_ , based at Zurich University of the
Arts, is dedicated to the potential of art projects for the creation of
commons: “creating commons,” (accessed on
Sept. 30, 2018).
38 One of Ubu’s features online has been the “top ten”, the idea to invite
guests to pick their ten favorite works from the archive and thus introduce a
mix between chance operation and subjectivity in order to reveal hidden
treasures. The curators of the festival in Athens, Ilan Manouach and Kenneth
Goldsmith, decided to elevate this principle to the curatorial concept of the
exhibition and invited ten guests to select their ten favorite works. The
Athens-based curator Elpida Karaba was commissioned to work on an adequate
concept for the realization, which turned out to be a huge black box divided
into ten small cubicles with monitors and seating areas, supplemented by a
large wall projection illuminating the whole space.
39 Marczewska, _This Is Not a Copy_ , 7.

This text is under a _Creative Commons_ license: CC BY NC SA 3.0 Austria


fair use in Stankievech 2016


Stankievech
Letter to the Superior Court of Quebec Regarding Arg.org
2016


Letter to the Superior Court of Quebec Regarding Arg.org

Charles Stankievech
19 January 2016

To the Superior Court of Quebec:
I am writing in support of the online community and library platform called “Arg.org” (also known under additional aliases and
urls including “aaaaarg.org,” “grr.aaaaarg.org,” and most recently
“grr.aaaaarg.fail”). It is my understanding that a copyright infringement lawsuit has been leveled against two individuals who
support this community logistically. This letter will address what
I believe to be the value of Arg.org to a variety of communities
and individuals; it is written to encompass my perspective on the
issue from three distinct positions: (1) As Director of the Visual
Studies Program, Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design,
University of Toronto, where I am a professor and oversee three
degree streams for both graduate and undergraduate students;
(2) As the co-director of an independent publishing house based
in Berlin, Germany, and Toronto, Canada, which works with international institutions around the world; (3) As a scholar and writer
who has published in a variety of well-regarded international
journals and presses. While I outline my perspective in relation to
these professional positions below, please note that I would also
be willing to testify via video-conference to further articulate
my assessment of Arg.org’s contribution to a diverse international
community of artists, scholars, and independent researchers.
98

Essay continuing from page 49

“Warburgian tradition.”47 If we consider the Warburg Library
in its simultaneous role as a contained space and the reflection
of an idiosyncratic mental energy, General Stumm’s aforementioned feeling of “entering an enormous brain” seems an
especially concise description. Indeed, for Saxl the librarian,
“the books remain a body of living thought as Warburg had
planned,”48 showing “the limits and contents of his scholarly
worlds.”49 Developed as a research tool to solve a particular
intellectual problem—and comparable on a number of levels
to exhibition-led inquiry—Aby Warburg’s organically structured, themed library is a three-dimensional instance of a library that performatively articulates and potentiates itself,
which is not yet to say exhibits, as both spatial occupation and
conceptual arrangement, where the order of things emerges
experimentally, and in changing versions, from the collection
and its unusual cataloging.50

47

48
49
50

Saxl speaks of “many tentative and personal excrescences” (“The History of
Warburg’s Library,” 331). When Warburg fell ill in 1920 with a subsequent fouryear absence, the library was continued by Saxl and Gertrud Bing, the new and
later closest assistant. Despite the many helpers, according to Saxl, Warburg always
remained the boss: “everything had the character of a private book collection, where
the master of the house had to see it in person that the bills were paid in time,
that the bookbinder chose the right material, or that neither he nor the carpenter
delivering a new shelf over-charged” (Ibid., 329).
Ibid., 331.
Ibid., 329.
A noteworthy aside: Gertrud Bing was in charge of keeping a meticulous index of
names and keywords; evoking the library catalog of Borges’s fiction, Warburg even
kept an “index of un-indexed books.” See Diers, “Porträt aus Büchern,” 21.

99

1. Arg.org supports a collective & semiprivate community of
academics & intellectuals.
As the director of a graduate-level research program at the University of Toronto, I have witnessed first-hand the evolution
of academic research. Arg.org has fostered a vibrant community
of thinkers, students, and writers, who can share their research
and create new opportunities for collaboration and learning
because of the knowledge infrastructure provided by the platform.
The accusation of copyright infringement leveled against the
community misses the point of the research platform altogether.
While there are texts made available for download at no expense
through the Arg.org website, it is essential to note that these texts
are not advertised, nor are they accessible to the general public.
Arg.org is a private community whose sharing platform can only
be accessed by invitation. Such modes of sharing have always
existed in academic communities; for example, when a group of
professors would share Xerox copies of articles they want to read
together as part of a collaborative research project. Likewise,
it would be hard to imagine a community of readers at any time
in history without the frequent lending and sharing of books.
From this perspective, Arg.org should be understood within a
twenty-first century digital ethos, where the sharing of intellectual
property and the generation of derivative IP occurs through collaborative platforms. On this point, I want to draw further attention
to two fundamental aspects of Arg.org.
a. One essential feature of the Arg.org platform is that it gives
invited users the ability to create reading lists from available texts—
what are called on the website “collections.” These collections
are made up of curated folders containing text files (usually in
Portable Document Format); such collections allow for new and
novel associations of texts, and the development of working
bibliographies that assist in research. Users can discover previously unfamiliar materials—including entire books and excerpted
chapters, essays, and articles—through these shared collections.
Based on the popularity of previous collections I have personally
assembled on the Arg.org platform, I have been invited to give
100

In the Memory Hall of Reproductions
Several photographs document how the Warburg Library was
also a backdrop for Warburg’s picture panels, the wood boards
lined with black fabric, which, not unlike contemporary mood
boards, held the visual compositions he would assemble and
re-assemble from around 2,000 photographs, postcards, and
printed reproductions cut out of books and newspapers.
Sometimes accompanied by written labels or short descriptions, the panels served as both public displays and researchin-process, and were themselves photographed with the aim
to eventually be disseminated as book pages in publications.
In the end, not every publishing venture was realized, and
most panels themselves were even lost along the way; in fact,
today, the panel photographs are the only visual remainder of
this type of research from the Warburg Institute. Probably the
most acclaimed of the panels are those which Warburg developed in close collaboration with his staff during the last years
of his life and from which he intended to create a sequential
picture atlas of human memory referred to as the Mnemosyne
Atlas. Again defying the classical boundaries of the disciplines, Warburg had appropriated visual material from the
archives of art history, natural philosophy, and science to
vividly evoke and articulate his thesis through the creation of
unprecedented associations. Drawing an interesting analogy,
the following statement from Warburg scholar Kurt Forster
underlines the importance of the panels for the creation of
meaning:
Warburg’s panels belong into the realm of the montage à la Schwitters or Lissitzky. Evidently, such a

101

guest lectures at various international venues; such invitations
demonstrate that this cognitive work is considered original
research and a valuable intellectual exercise worthy of further
discussion.
b. The texts uploaded to the Arg.org platform are typically documents scanned from the personal libraries of users who have
already purchased the material. As a result, many of the documents are combinations of the original published text and annotations or notes from the reader. Commentary is a practice that
has been occurring for centuries; in Medieval times, the technique
of adding commentary directly onto a published page for future
readers to read alongside the original writing was called “Glossing.”
Much of the philosophy, theology, and even scientific theories
were originally produced in the margins of other texts. For example, in her translation and publication of Charles Babbage’s lecture
on the theory of the first computer, Ada Lovelace had more notes
than the original lecture. Even though the text was subsequently
published as Babbage’s work, today modern scholarship acknowledges Lovelace as important voice in the theorization of the
modern computer due to these vital marginal notes.
2. Arg.org supports small presses.
Since 2011, I have been the co-founder and co-director of
K. Verlag, an independent press based in Berlin, Germany, and
Toronto, Canada. The press publishes academic books on art
and culture, as well as specialty books on art exhibitions. While
I am aware of the difficulties faced by small presses in terms of
profitability, especially given fears that the sharing of books online
could further hurt book sales; however, my experience has been
in the opposite direction. At K. Verlag, we actually upload our new
publications directly to Arg.org because we know the platform
reaches an important community of readers and thinkers. Fully
conscious of the uniqueness of printed books and their importance, digital circulation of ebooks and scanned physical books
present a range of different possibilities in reaching our audiences
in a variety of ways. Some members of Arg.org may be too
102

comparison does not need to claim artistic qualities
for Warburg’s panels, nor does it deny them regarding
Schwitters’s or Lissitzky’s collages. It simply lifts the
role of graphic montage from the realm of the formal
into the realm of the construction of meaning.51
Interestingly, even if Forster makes a point not to categorize
Warburg’s practice as art, in twentieth-century art theory and
visual culture scholarship, his idiosyncratic technique has
evidently been mostly associated with art practice. In fact,
insofar as Warburg is acknowledged (together with Marcel
Duchamp and, perhaps, the less well-known André Malraux),
it is as one of the most important predecessors for artists
working with the archive.52 Forster articulates the traditional
assumption that only artists were “allowed” to establish idiosyncratic approaches and think with objects outside of the
box. However, within the relatively new discourse of the
“curatorial,” contra the role of the “curator,” the curatorial
delineates its territory as that which is no longer defined exclusively by what the curator does (i.e. responsibilities of classification and care) but rather as a particular agency in terms of
epistemologically and spatially working with existing materials and collections. Consequently, figures such as Warburg
51
52

Kurt Forster, quoted in Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, “Gerhard Richter’s Atlas: Das anomische Archiv,” in Paradigma Fotografie: Fotokritik am Ende des fotografischen Zeitalters,
ed. Herta Wolf (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2002), 407, with further references.
One such example is the Atlas begun by Gerhard Richter in 1962; another is
Thomas Hirschhorn’s large-format, mixed-media collage series MAPS. Entitled
Foucault-Map (2008), The Map of Friendship Between Art and Philosophy (2007),
and Hannah-Arendt-Map (2003), these works are partly made in collaboration
with the philosopher Marcus Steinweg. They bring a diverse array of archival and
personal documents or small objects into associative proximities and reflect the
complex impact philosophy has had on Hirschhorn’s art and thinking.

103

poor to afford to buy our books (eg. students with increasing debt,
precarious artists, or scholars in countries lacking accessible
infrastructures for high-level academic research). We also realize
that Arg.org is a library-community built over years; the site
connects us to communities and individuals making original work
and we are excited if our books are shared by the writers, readers,
and artists who actively support the platform. Meanwhile, we
have also seen that readers frequently discover books from our
press through a collection of books on Arg.org, download the
book for free to browse it, and nevertheless go on to order a print
copy from our shop. Even when this is not the case, we believe
in the environmental benefit of Arg.org; printing a book uses
valuable resources and then requires additional shipping around
the world—these practices contradict our desire for the broadest
dissemination of knowledge through the most environmentallyconscious of means.
3. Arg.org supports both official institutional academics
& independent researchers.
As a professor at the University of Toronto, I have access to one
of the best library infrastructures in the world. In addition to
core services, this includes a large number of specialty libraries,
archives, and massive online resources for research. Such
an investment by the administration of the university is essential
to support the advanced research conducted in the numerous
graduate programs and by research chairs. However, there are
at least four ways in which the official, sanctioned access to these
library resources can at times fall short.
a. Physical limitations. While the library might have several copies
of a single book to accommodate demand, it is often the case
that these copies are simultaneously checked out and therefore
not available when needed for teaching or writing. Furthermore,
the contemporary academic is required to constantly travel for
conferences, lectures, and other research obligations, but travelling with a library is not possible. Frequently while I am working
abroad, I access Arg.org to find a book which I have previously
104

and Malraux, who thought apropos objects in space (even
when those objects are dematerialized as reproductions),
become productive forerunners across a range of fields: from
art, through cultural studies and art history, to the curatorial.
Essential to Warburg’s library and Mnemosyne Atlas, but
not yet articulated explicitly, is that the practice of constructing two-dimensional, heterogeneous image clusters shifts the
value between an original work of art and its mechanical
reproduction, anticipating Walter Benjamin’s essay written a
decade later.53 While a museum would normally exhibit an
original of Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I (1514) so it could be
contemplated aesthetically (admitting that even as an etching
it is ultimately a form of reproduction), when inserted as a
quotidian reprint into a Warburgian constellation and exhibited within a library, its “auratic singularity”54 is purposefully
challenged. Favored instead is the iconography of the image,
which is highlighted by way of its embeddedness within a
larger (visual-emotional-intellectual) economy of human consciousness.55 As it receives its impetus from the interstices
53

54
55

One of the points Benjamin makes in “The Artwork in the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction” is that reproducibility increases the “exhibition value” of a work of art,
meaning its relationship to being viewed is suddenly valued higher than its
relationship to tradition and ritual (“cult value”); a process which, as Benjamin writes,
nevertheless engenders a new “cult” of remembrance and melancholy (224–26).
Benjamin defines “aura” as the “here and now” of an object, that is, as its spatial,
temporal, and physical presence, and above all, its uniqueness—which in his
opinion is lost through reproduction. Ibid., 222.
It is worth noting that Warburg wrote his professorial dissertation on Albrecht
Dürer. Another central field of his study was astrology, which Warburg examined
from historical and philosophical perspectives. It is thus not surprising to find
out that Dürer’s Melencolia I (1514), addressing the relationship between the
human and the cosmos, was of the highest significance to Warburg as a recurring
theme. The etching is shown, for instance, as image 8 of Plate 58, “Kosmologie bei
Dürer” (Cosmology in Dürer); reproduced in Warnke, ed., Aby Moritz Warburg:
Der Bilderatlas Mnemosyne, Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 1, 106–7. The connections

105

purchased, and which is on my bookshelf at home, but which
is not in my suitcase. Thus, the Arg.org platform acts as a patch
for times when access to physical books is limited—although
these books have been purchased (either by the library or the
reader herself) and the publisher is not being cheated of profit.
b. Lack of institutional affiliation. The course of one’s academic
career is rarely smooth and is increasingly precarious in today’s
shift to a greater base of contract sessional instructors. When
I have been in-between institutions, I lost access to the library
resources upon which my research and scholarship depended.
So, although academic publishing functions in accord with library
acquisitions, there are countless intellectuals—some of whom
are temporary hires or in-between job appointments, others whom
are looking for work, and thus do not have access to libraries.
In this position, I would resort to asking colleagues and friends
to share their access or help me by downloading articles through
their respective institutional portals. Arg.org helps to relieve
this precarity through a shared library which allows scholarship
to continue; Arg.org is thus best described as a community of
readers who share their research and legally-acquired resources
so that when someone is researching a specific topic, the adequate book/essay can be found to fulfill the academic argument.
c. Special circumstances of non-traditional education. Several
years ago, I co-founded the Yukon School of Visual Arts in
Dawson City as a joint venture between an Indigenous government and the State college. Because we were a tiny school,
we did not fit into the typical academic brackets regarding student
population, nor could we access the sliding scale economics
of academic publishers. As a result, even the tiniest package for
a “small” academic institution would be thousands of times larger
than our population and budget. As a result, neither myself
nor my students could access the essential academic resources
required for a post-secondary education. I attempted to solve this
problem by forging partnerships, pulling in favors, and accessing
resources through platforms like Arg.org. It is important to realize
106

among text and image, visual display and publishing, the
expansive space of the library and the dense volume of the
book, Aby Warburg’s wide-ranging work appears to be best
summarized by the title of one of the Mnemosyne plates:
“Book Browsing as a Reading of the Universe.”56

To the Paper Museum
Warburg had already died before Benjamin theorized the
impact of mechanical reproduction on art in 1935. But it is
Malraux who claims to have embarked on a lengthy, multipart project about similitudes in the artistic heritage of the
world in exactly the same year, and for whom, in opposition
to the architectonic space of the museum, photographic
reproduction, montage, and the book are the decisive filters
through which one sees the world. At the outset of his book
Le Musée imaginaire (first published in 1947),57 Malraux argues
that the secular modern museum has been crucial in reframing and transforming objects into art, both by displacing
them from their original sacred or ritual context and purpose,
and by bringing them into proximity and adjacency
with one another, thereby opening new possible readings

56
57

and analogies between Warburg’s image-based research and his theoretical ideas,
and von Trier’s Melancholia, are striking; see Anna-Sophie Springer’s visual essay
“Reading Rooms Reading Machines” on p. 91 of this book.
“Buchblättern als Lesen des Universums,” Plate 23a, reproduced in Warnke, Aby
Moritz Warburg: Der Bilderatlas Mnemosyne, Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 1, 38–9.
The title of the English translation, The Museum Without Walls, by Stuart Gilbert
and Francis Price (London: Secker & Warburg, 1967), must be read in reference
to Erasmus’s envisioning of a “library without walls,” made possible through the
invention of the printing press, as Anthony Grafton mentions in his lecture, “The
Crisis of Reading,” The CUNY Graduate Center, New York, 10 November 2014.

107

that Arg.org was founded to meet these grassroots needs; the
platform supports a vast number of educational efforts, including
co-research projects, self-organized reading groups, and numerous other non-traditional workshops and initiatives.
d. My own writing on Arg.org. While using the platform, I have frequently come across my own essays and publications on the
site; although I often upload copies of my work to Arg.org myself,
these copies had been uploaded by other users. I was delighted
to see that other users found my publications to be of value and
were sharing my work through their curated “collections.” In some
cases, I held outright exclusive copyright on the text and I was
pleased it was being distributed. In other rare cases, I shared the
copyright or was forced to surrender my IP prior to publication;
I was still happy to see this type of document uploaded. I realize
it is not within my authority to grant copyright that is shared,
however, the power structure of contemporary publishing is often
abusive towards the writer. Massive, for-profit corporations have
dominated the publishing of academic texts and, as a result of
their power, have bullied young academics into signing away their
IP in exchange for publication. Even the librarians at Harvard
University—who spend over $3.75 million USD annually on journal subscriptions alone—believe that the economy of academic
publishing and bullying by a few giants has crossed a line, to the
point where they are boycotting certain publishers and encouraging faculty to publish instead in open access journals.
I want to conclude my letter of support by affirming that
Arg.org is at the cutting edge of academic research and knowledge
production. Sean Dockray, one of the developers of Arg.org,
is internationally recognized as a leading thinker regarding the
changing nature of research through digital platforms; he is regularly invited to academic conferences to discuss how the community on the Arg.org platform is experimenting with digital research.
Reading, publishing, researching, and writing are all changing
rapidly as networked digital culture influences professional and
academic life more and more frequently. Yet, our legal frameworks and business models are always slower than the practices

(“metamorphoses”) of individual objects—and, even more
critically, producing the general category of art itself. As
exceptions to this process, Malraux names those creations that
are so embedded in their original architecture that they defy
relocation in the museum (such as church windows, frescoes,
or monuments); this restriction of scale and transportation, in
fact, resulted in a consistent privileging of painting and sculpture within the museological apparatus.58
Long before networked societies, with instant Google
Image searches and prolific photo blogs, Malraux dedicated
himself to the difficulty of accessing works and oeuvres
distributed throughout an international topography of institutions. He located a revolutionary solution in the dematerialization and multiplication of visual art through photography
and print, and, above all, proclaimed that an imaginary museum
based on reproductions would enable the completion of a
meaningful collection of artworks initiated by the traditional
museum.59 Echoing Benjamin’s theory regarding the power of
the reproduction to change how art is perceived, Malraux
writes, “Reproduction is not the origin but a decisive means
for the process of intellectualization to which we subject art.
58

59

I thank the visual culture scholar Antonia von Schöning for pointing me to
Malraux after reading my previous considerations of the book-as-exhibition. Von
Schöning herself is author of the essay “Die universelle Verwandtschaft zwischen
den Bildern: André Malraux’Musée Imaginaire als Familienalbum der Kunst,”
kunsttexte.de, April 2012, edoc.hu-berlin.de/kunsttexte/2012-1/von-schoening
-antonia-5/PDF/von-schoening.pdf.
André Malraux, Psychologie der Kunst: Das imaginäre Museum (Baden-Baden:
Woldemar Klein Verlag, 1949), 9; see also Rosalind Krauss, “The Ministry of
Fate,” in A New History of French Literature, ed. Denis Hollier (Cambridge, MA
and London: Harvard University Press, 1989), 1000–6: “The photographic archive
itself, insofar as it is the locale of a potentially complete assemblage of world
artifacts, is a repository of knowledge in a way that no individual museum could
ever be” (1001).

109

of artists and technologists. Arg.org is a non-profit intellectual
venture and should therefore be considered as an artistic experiment, a pedagogical project, and an online community of coresearchers; it should not be subject to the same legal judgments
designed to thwart greedy profiteers and abusive practices.
There are certainly some documents to be found on Arg.org that
have been obtained by questionable or illegal means—every
Web 2.0 platform is bound to find such examples, from Youtube
to Facebook; however, such examples occur as a result of a small
number of participant users, not because of two dedicated individuals who logistically support the platform. A strength of Arg.org
and a source of its experimental vibrancy is its lack of policing,
which fosters a sense of freedom and anonymity which are both
vital elements for research within a democratic society and
the foundations of any library system. As a result of this freedom,
there are sometimes violations of copyright. However, since
Arg.org is a committed, non-profit community-library, such transgressions occur within a spirit of sharing and fair use that characterize this intellectual community. This sharing is quite different
from the popular platform Academia.edu, which is searchable
by non-users and acquires value by monetizing its articles through
the sale of digital advertising space and a nontransparent investment exit strategy. Arg.org is the antithesis of such a model
and instead fosters a community of learning through its platform.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information,
or to testify as a witness.
Regards,
Charles Stankievech,
Director of Visual Studies Program, University of Toronto
Co-Director of K. Verlag, Berlin & Toronto

… Medieval works, as diverse as the tapestry, the glass window,
the miniature, the fresco, and the sculpture become united as
one family if reproduced together on one page.”60 In his search
for a common visual rhetoric, Malraux went further than
merely arranging creations from one epoch and cultural sphere
by attempting to collect and directly juxtapose artworks and
artifacts from very diverse and distant cultural, historical, and
geographic contexts.
His richly illustrated series of books thus functions as a
utopian archive of new temporalities of art liberated from
history and scale by de-contextualizing and re-situating the
works, or rather their reproduced images, in unorthodox combinations. Le Musée imaginaire was thus an experimental virtual
museum intended to both form a repository of knowledge and
provide a space of association and connection that could not
be sustained by any other existing place or institution. From an
art historical point of view—Malraux was not a trained scholar
and was readily criticized by academics—his theoretical
assumptions of “universal kinship” (von Schöning) and the
“anti-destiny” of art have been rejected. His material selection
process and visual appropriation and manipulation through
framing, lighting, and scale, have also been criticized for their
problematic and often controversial—one could say, colonizing—implications.61 Among the most recent critics is the art
historian Walter Grasskamp, who argues that Malraux moreover might well have plagiarized the image-based work of the
60
61

André Malraux, Das imaginäre Museum, 16.
See the two volumes of Georges Duthuit, Le Musée Inimaginable (Paris: J. Corti,
1956); Ernst Gombrich, “André Malraux and the Crisis of Expressionism,” The
Burlington Magazine 96 (1954): 374–78; Michel Merlot, “L’art selon André Malraux,
du Musée imaginaire à l’Inventaire general,” In Situ 1 (2001), www.insitu.revues
.org/1053; and von Schöning, “Die universelle Verwandtschaft zwischen den Bildern.”

111



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

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fair use 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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* * *

[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.


 

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