leaking in Dekker & Barok 2017

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

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’.

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

‘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.
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?

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,



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
phenomena.1 Perhaps the biggest change is the ongoing
See for example
shift from mapping people, events, and places towards
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
focus on media art and culture towards the much wider
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
Many. Accessed
archives (in Mons)4 last year.
28 May 2016.


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?




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?


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
across the Monoskop wiki and Log.5 There is a growing
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
dictionaries of the humanities into a single page with
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.


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
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


Indeed, looking at the archive in many alternative ways has





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.


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?

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.
raphy. This will make more apparent that the ‘source’
is a form of anthology, a corpus of texts
representing a discourse. Another issue is to activate
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




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?

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



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.

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?

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.




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?

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
of the University of Malmo (2016).8
For more information see,
The leitmotif of all these events was the digital library
and their atmosphere can be described as the spirit of
hacker culture that eventually left the walls of a
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



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.




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

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
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
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.

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?

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



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
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
more or less a ‘log’ of my research path and the presence
of ‘western’ theory is to a certain extent a by-product of
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




org/Art. Accessed
28 May 2016.

to also include other artists and movements around the

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?

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



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.


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

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.

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.

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





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.





leaking in Elbakyan 2016

Why Science is Better with Communism The Case of Sci-Hub transcript and translation

# Transcript and translation of Sci-Hub presentation

_The University of North Texas 's [Open Access Symposium
2016](/symposium/2016/) included [a presentation via Skype by Alexandra
Elbakyan](/symposium/2016/why-science-better-communism-case-sci-hub), the
founder of Sci-Hub. [Elbakyan's
slides](http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc850001/) (and those of
other presenters) have been archived in the UNT Digital Library, and [video of
this presentation](https://youtu.be/hr7v5FF5c8M) (and others) is now available
on YouTube and soon in the UNT Digital Library._

_The presentation was entitled "Why Science is Better with Communism? The Case
of Sci-Hub." Below is an edited transcript of the presentation produced by
Regina Anikina and Kevin Hawkins, with a translation by Kevin Hawkins and Anna

**Martin Halbert** : We have a recent addition to our lineup of speakers that
we'll start off the day with: Alexandra Elbakyan. As many of you know,
Alexandra is a Kazakhstani graduate student, computer programmer, and the
creator of the controversial Sci-Hub site. The New York Times has compared her
to Edward Snowden for leaking information and because she avoids American law,
but Ars Technica has compared her to Aaron Swartz--so a controversial figure.
We thought it was very important to include her in the dialog about open
access because we want, in this symposium series, to include all the different
perspectives on copyright, intellectual property, open access, and access to
scholarly information. So I'm delighted that we're actually able to have her
here via Skype to present.


**Alexandra Elbakyan** : First of all, thank you for inviting me to share my
views. My name is Alexandra. As you might have guessed, I represent the site
Sci-Hub. It was founded in 2011 and immediately became popular among the local
community, almost immediately began providing access to about 40 articles an
hour and now providing more than 200,000.

It has to be said that over the course of the site's development it was
strongly supported by donations, and when for various reasons we had to
suspend the service, there were many displeased users who clamored for the
project to return so that the work in their laboratory could continue.

This is the case not just in poor countries; I can say that in rich countries
the public also doesn't have access to scholarly articles. And not all
universities have subscriptions to those resources that are required for

A few of our users insisted that we start charging users, for example, by
allowing one or two articles to be downloaded for free but charging for more,
so that the service would be supported by those who really need it. But I
didn't end up doing that because the goal of the resource is knowledge for

Certain open-access advocates criticize the site, saying that what we really
need is for articles to be in open access from the start, by changing the
business models of publishers. I can respond by saying that the goal of the
project is first and foremost the dissemination of scholarly knowledge in
society, and we have to work in the conditions we find ourselves in. Of
course, if scholarly publishers had a different business model, then perhaps
this project wouldn't be necessary. We can also imagine that if humans had
wings, we wouldn't need airplanes. But in any case we need to fly, so we make

Scholarly publishers quickly dubbed the work of Sci-Hub as piracy. Admittedly
Sci-Hub violates the laws of copyright, but copyright is related to the rights
of intellectual property. That is, scholarly articles are the property of
publishers, and reading them for free turns out to be something like theft
according to the current law.

The concept of intellectual property itself is not new, although it can seem
otherwise. The history of copyright goes back to around the 18th century,
although the first mentions of something similar can be found in the Talmud.
It's just that recently copyright has been found at the center of passionate
debate since some are trying to forbid the free distribution of information in
the internet.

However, the central focus of the debate is on censorship and privacy. The
defense of intellectual property in the internet requires censorship of
websites, and that is consequently a violation of freedom of speech. This also
raises a question of interference in private life - that is, when the
government in some way monitors users who violate copyright. In principle this
is also an intrusion in communication.

However, the very essence of copyright - that is, the concept of intellectual
property - is almost never questioned. That is, whether knowledge can be
someone's property is rarely discussed.

However, our ancestors were even more daring. They did not just question
intellectual property but property in general. That is, there are works in
which we can find the appearance of the idea of communism. There's Thomas
More's _Utopia_ from the 16th century, but actually such works arose much
earlier, even in Ancient Greece where these questions were already been
discussed in 391 BCE.

If we look at the slogans of communism, we see that one of the core concepts
is the struggle against inequality, the revolt of the suppressed classes,
whose members don't have any power against those who have concentrated basic
resources and power in their hands, with the goal of redistributing these

We can see that even today there is a certain informational inequality, when,
for example, only students and employees of the most wealthy universities have
full access to scholarly information, while access can be completely lacking
for institutions at the next lower tier and for the general public.

An idea arises: if there isn't private property, then there's no basis for
unequal distribution of wealth. In our case as well: if there's no private
intellectual property and all scholarly publications are nationalized, then
all people will have equal access to knowledge.

However, a question arises: if there is no private property, then what can
stimulate a person to work? One of the ideas is that under communism, rather
than greed or aspiration for wealth being a stimulus for work, a person would
aspire to self-development and learning for the betterment of the world.

Even if such values can't be applied to society as a whole, they at least work
in the world of scholarship. Therefore in the Soviet Union there was a true
cult of science - statues were even erected to the glory of science - and
perhaps thanks to this our country was one of the first to go into space.

However, it's one thing to have a revolution, when there's a mass
redistribution of property in society, but an act of theft is another thing.
This, of course, is not yet a revolution, but it's a small protest against the
property rights and the unequal distribution of wealth. Theft as protest has
always been welcomed and approved of in all eras of society. For example, we
all know about Robin Hood, but there have actually been quite a few noble
bandits in history. I've listed just a few of them.

I think that if the state works well, then accordingly it has a working tax
system and a certain system of redistribution of wealth, and then,
accordingly, there's no cause for revolution, for example. But if for some
reasons the state works poorly, then people begin to solve the problem for
themselves. In this way, Sci-Hub is an appropriate response to the inequality
that has arisen due to lack of access to information.

Pictured is Aldar Köse, a Kazakh folk hero who used his cunning to deceive
wealthy beys and take possession of their property. It's interesting to note
that beys are always depicted as greedy and stupid. And if you look at what's
written in the blogosphere today about scholarly publishers, you can find
these same characteristics.

There's also the interesting figure of the ancient Greek god Hermes, the
patron of thieves. That is, theft was a sufficiently respected activity that
it had its own god.

There's a researcher named Norman Brown who wrote an academic work called
_Hermes the Thief: The Evolution of a Myth_. It turns out that this myth is
related to a certain revolution in ancient Greek society, when the lower
classes, which lacked property, began to rise up.

For example, the poet Theognis of Megara wrote that "those who were nothing
became everything" and vice versa. This is essentially one of the most well-
known communist slogans.

For the ancient Greeks this was related, again as Brown says, to the
appearance of trade. Trade was identified with theft. There was no clear
distinction between the exchange of legal and illegal goods - that is, trade
was just as much considered theft as what we call piracy today.

Why did it turn out this way? Because Hermes was originally a god of
boundaries and transitions. Therefore, we can think that property is related
to keeping something within boundaries. At the same time, the things that
Hermes protected - theft, trade and communication - are related to boundary-

If we think about scholarly journals, then any journal is first of all a means
of communication, and therefore it's apparent that keeping journals in closed
access contradicts the essence of what they were intended for.

This is, of course, not even the most interesting thing.

Hermes actually evolved - that is, while he was once an intellectual deity, he
later came to be interpreted as the same as Thoth, the Egyptian god of
knowledge, and further came to oversee such things as astrology, alchemy, and
magic - that is, the things from which, you might say, contemporary sciences
arose. So we can say that contemporary science arose from theft.

Of course, someone can object, saying that contemporary science is very
different from esoterica, such as astrology and alchemy, but if we look at the
history of science, we see that contemporary science differs from the ancient
arts in the former being more open.

That is, when the movement towards greater openness appeared, contemporary
science also appeared. Once again this is not an argument in support of
scholarly publishers.

Indeed, in the cultural consciousness science and the process of learning have
always been closely associated with theft, beginning with the legend of Adam
and Eve and the forbidden tree, which is called simply "the tree of
knowledge." And it's interesting that Elsevier's logo depicts some kind of
tree, which, accordingly, raises associations with this tree in the Garden of
Eden - the tree of knowledge - from which it was forbidden to eat the fruit.

Likewise we can recall the well-known legend of Prometheus, a part of our
cultural consciousness, who stole some knowledge and brought it to humans.
Once again we see the connection between science and theft.

Nowadays, many scholars have described science as the knowledge of secrets.
However, if we look closely, we have to ask: what is a secret? A secret is
something private, in essence private property. Accordingly, the disclosure of
the secret signifies that it ceases to be property. Once again we see the
contradiction between scholarship and property rights.

We can recall Robert Merton, who studied research institutes and revealed four
basic ethical norms that in his opinion are important for their successful
functioning. One of them is communism - that is, knowledge is shared.

Accordingly, if we look at certain traditional communities, then we find that
those communities that function within a caste system (dividing people by
occupation) usually turn out to have certain castes of people with
intellectual occupations, and if you look at the ethical norms of such castes,
you find that they are also communistic. You can find this, for example, in
Plato. Or even if you look at India, you find the accumulation of wealth is
usually the occupation of another caste.

To sum up, we have the following take-aways. Science, as a part of culture, is
in conflict with private property. Accordingly, scholarly communication is a
dual conflict. What open access is doing is returning science to its essential

**Audience question** : I'm a former university press director. I'd just like
to point out also that "property is theft" is the watchword of French
anarchism, a famous phrase from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, so perhaps anarchism
and science are also inseparable. But my main question really has to do with a
challenge that a librarian named Rick Anderson posted on the Scholarly Kitchen
blog two days ago, and that has to do with the fact that evidently Sci-Hub
relies a lot on the access codes that faculty have given to Sci-Hub in one way
or another so that Sci-Hub can gain access to the electronic materials that it
then uses to post on its own site. What Anderson does is points out that if
that information falls into the wrong hands, there are all sorts of terrible
things that can be done because those access codes provide access to personal
information, to student data, to all sorts of other things that could be badly
misused, so my question to you is what assurances can you give us that that
kind of information will not fall into the wrong hands.

**Elbakyan** : Well, first of all I doubt that it's possible to gain access to
all the information that is listed in the post on the Scholarly Kitchen. As a
rule, these logins and passwords can only be used for access to the proxy
server through which you can download articles, whereas for access to other
things, such as email, the login and password won't work. [ _Audience reacts
with skepticism._ ]

**Audience question** : Earlier this week a number of us participated in a
panel presentation on scholarly publishing and social justice, and one of the
primary points that came out of that was that the people who create the
published product - not necessarily the scientist but the people who actually
do the work that results in the published product - deserve to be paid for
their labor, and there is definitely labor involved. So if you're replacing
the market for these publications and eliminating these people's opportunities
to make money, where is the appropriate distribution of wealth.

**Elbakyan** : First of all, we shouldn't confuse the compensation that a
person receives for their labor with the excessive profits that publishers
wring out by limiting access to information. For example, Sci-Hub also does a
fair amount of work and has high expenses, but these expenses are for some
reason covered by donations - that is, there's no need to close access to
information - that is, it's a red herring to say that if articles are
distributed for free, people won't have anything to eat. One does not follow
from the other. In my opinion, though, an optimal system for funding would
consist of grants, donations, and membership fees.

**Audience question** : You've spoken so far exclusively about Sci-Hub. I
wonder if you could comment just briefly on LibGen and whether you see the two
models as identical or whether there are any material differences between
LibGen and Sci-Hub.

**Elbakyan** : Well, LibGen is primarily a repository. It doesn't download
new articles but is more aimed at preserving that which has already been

leaking in Liang 2012

Shadow Libraries

Journal #37 - September 2012

# Shadow Libraries

Over the last few monsoons I lived with the dread that the rain would
eventually find its ways through my leaky terrace roof and destroy my books.
Last August my fears came true when I woke up in the middle of the night to
see my room flooded and water leaking from the roof and through the walls.
Much of the night was spent rescuing the books and shifting them to a dry
room. While timing and speed were essential to the task at hand they were also
the key hazards navigating a slippery floor with books perched till one’s
neck. At the end of the rescue mission, I sat alone, exhausted amongst a
mountain of books assessing the damage that had been done, but also having
found books I had forgotten or had not seen in years; books which I had
thought had been permanently borrowed by others or misplaced found their way
back as I set many aside in a kind of ritual of renewed commitment.

[ ](//images.e-flux-systems.com/2012_09_book-library-small-WEB.jpg,2000)

Sorting the badly damaged from the mildly wet, I could not help but think
about the fragile histories of books from the library of Alexandria to the
great Florence flood of 1966. It may have seemed presumptuous to move from the
precarity of one’s small library and collection to these larger events, but is
there any other way in which one experiences earth-shattering events if not
via a microcosmic filtering through one’s own experiences? I sent a distressed
email to a friend Sandeep a committed bibliophile and book collector with a
fantastic personal library, who had also been responsible for many of my new
acquisitions. He wrote back on August 17, and I quote an extract of the email:

> Dear Lawrence


> I hope your books are fine. I feel for you very deeply, since my nightmares
about the future all contain as a key image my books rotting away under a
steady drip of grey water. Where was this leak, in the old house or in the
new? I spent some time looking at the books themselves: many of them I greeted
like old friends. I see you have Lewis Hyde’s _Trickster Makes the World_ and
Edward Rice’s _Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton_ in the pile: both top-class
books. (Burton is a bit of an obsession with me. The man did and saw
everything there was to do and see, and thought about it all, and wrote it all
down in a massive pile of notes and manuscripts. He squirrelled a fraction of
his scholarship into the tremendous footnotes to the Thousand and One Nights,
but most of it he could not publish without scandalising the Victorians, and
then he died, and his widow made a bonfire in the backyard, and burnt
everything because she disapproved of these products of a lifetime’s labors,
and of a lifetime such as few have ever had, and no one can ever have again. I
almost hope there is a special hell for Isabel Burton to burn in.)

Moving from one’s personal pile to the burning of the work of one of the
greatest autodidacts of the nineteenth century and back it was strangely
comforting to be reminded that libraries—the greatest of time machines
invented—were testimonies to both the grandeur and the fragility of
civilizations. Whenever I enter huge libraries it is with a tingling sense of
excitement normally reserved for horror movies, but at the same time this same
sense of awe is often accompanied by an almost debilitating sense of what it
means to encounter finitude as it is dwarfed by centuries of words and
scholarship. Yet strangely when I think of libraries it is rarely the New York
public library that comes to mind even as I wish that we could have similar
institutions in India. I think instead of much smaller collections—sometimes
of institutions but often just those of friends and acquaintances. I enjoy
browsing through people’s bookshelves, not just to discern their reading
preferences or to discover for myself unknown treasures, but also to take
delight in the local logic of their library, their spatial preferences and to
understand the order of things not as a global knowledge project but as a
personal, often quirky rationale.

[ ](//images.e-flux-systems.com/2012_09_library-of-congress.jpg,2000 "Machine
room for book transportation at the Library of Congress, early 20th century.")

Machine room for book transportation at the Library of Congress, early 20th

Like romantic love, bibliophilia is perhaps shaped by one’s first love. The
first library that I knew intimately was a little six by eight foot shop
hidden in a by-lane off one of the busiest roads in Bangalore, Commercial
street. From its name to what it contained, Mecca stores could well have been
transported out of an Arabian nights tale. One side of the store was lined
with plastic ware and kitchen utensils of every shape and size while the other
wall was piled with books, comics, and magazines. From my eight-year-old
perspective it seemed large enough to contain all the knowledge of the world.
I earned a weekly stipend packing noodles for an hour every day after school
in the home shop that my parents ran, which I used to either borrow or buy
second hand books from the store. I was usually done with them by Sunday and
would have them reread by Wednesday. The real anguish came in waiting from
Wednesday to Friday for the next set. After finally acquiring a small
collection of books and comics myself I decided—spurred on by a fatal
combination of entrepreneurial enthusiasm and a pedantic desire to educate
others—to start a small library myself. Packing my books into a small aluminum
case and armed with a makeshift ledger, I went from house to house convincing
children in the neighborhood to forgo twenty-five paisa in exchange for a book
or comic with an additional caveat that they were not to share them with any
of their friends. While the enterprise got off to a reasonable start it soon
met its end when I realized that despite my instructions, my friends were
generously sharing the comics after they were done with them, which thereby
ended my biblioempire ambitions.

Over the past few years the explosion of ebook readers and consequent rise in
the availability of pirated books have opened new worlds to my booklust.
[Library.nu](library.nu), which began as gigapedia, suddenly made the idea of
the universal library seem like reality. By the time it shut down in February
2012 the library had close to a million books and over half a million active
users. Bibliophiles across the world were distraught when the site was shut
down and if it were ever possible to experience what the burning of the
library of Alexandria must have felt it was that collective ache of seeing the
closure of [library.nu.](library.nu)

What brings together something as monumental as the New York public library, a
collective enterprise like [library.nu](library.nu) and Mecca stores if not
the word library? As spaces they may have little in common but as virtual
spaces they speak as equals even if the scale of their imagination may differ.
All of them partake of their share in the world of logotopias. In an
exhibition designed to celebrate the place of the library in art, architecture
and imagination the curator Sascha Hastings coined the term logotopia to
designate “word places”—a happy coincidence of architecture and language.

There is however a risk of flattening the differences between these spaces by
classifying them all under a single utopian ideal of the library. Imagination
after all has a geography and physiology and requires our alertness to these
distinctions. Lets think instead of an entire pantheon (both of spaces as well
as practices) that we can designate as shadow libraries (or shadow logotopias
if you like) which exist in the shadows cast by the long history of monumental
libraries. While they are often dwarfed by the idea of the library, like the
shadows cast by our bodies, sometimes these shadows surge ahead of the body.

[ ](//images.e-flux-systems.com/2012_09_london-blitz-WEB.jpg,2000 "The London
Library after the Blitz, c. 1940.")

The London Library after the Blitz, c. 1940.

At the heart of all libraries lies a myth—that of the burning of the library
of Alexandria. No one knows what the library of Alexandria looked like or
possesses an accurate list of its contents. What we have long known though is
a sense of loss. But a loss of what? Of all the forms of knowledge in the
world in a particular time. Because that was precisely what the library of
Alexandria sought to collect under its roofs. It is believed that in order to
succeed in assembling a universal library, King Ptolemy I wrote “to all the
sovereigns and governors on earth” begging them to send to him every kind of
book by every kind of author, “poets and prose-writers, rhetoricians and
sophists, doctors and soothsayers, historians, and all others too.” The king’s
scholars had calculated that five hundred thousand scrolls would be required
if they were to collect in Alexandria “all the books of all the peoples of the

What was special about the Library of Alexandria was the fact that until then
the libraries of the ancient world were either private collections of an
individual or government storehouses where legal and literary documents were
kept for official reference. By imagining a space where the public could have
access to all the knowledge of the world, the library also expressed a new
idea of the human itself. While the library of Alexandria is rightfully
celebrated, what is often forgotten in the mourning of its demise is another
library—one that existed in the shadows of the grand library but whose
whereabouts ensured that it survived Caesar’s papyrus destroying flames.

According to the Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus, writing in the first
century BC, Alexandria boasted a second library, the so-called daughter
library, intended for the use of scholars not affiliated with the Museion. It
was situated in the south-western neighborhood of Alexandria, close to the
temple of Serapis, and was stocked with duplicate copies of the Museion
library’s holdings. This shadow library survived the fire that destroyed the
primary library of Alexandria but has since been eclipsed by the latter’s

Alberto Manguel says that if the library of Alexandria stood tall as an
expression of universal ambitions, there is another structure that haunts our
imagination: the tower of Babel. If the library attempted to conquer time, the
tower sought to vanquish space. He says “The Tower of Babel in space and the
Library of Alexandria in time are the twin symbols of these ambitions. In
their shadow, my small library is a reminder of both impossible yearnings—the
desire to contain all the tongues of Babel and the longing to possess all the
volumes of Alexandria.”2 Writing about the two failed projects Manguel adds
that when seen within the limiting frame of the real, the one exists only as
nebulous reality and the other as an unsuccessful if ambitious real estate
enterprise. But seen as myths, and in the imagination at night, the solidity
of both buildings for him is unimpeachable.3

The utopian ideal of the universal library was more than a question of built
up form or space or even the possibility of storing all of the knowledge of
the world; its real aspiration was in the illusion of order that it could
impose on a chaotic world where the lines drawn by a fine hairbrush
distinguished the world of animals from men, fairies from ghosts, science from
magic, and Europe from Japan. In some cases even after the physical structure
that housed the books had crumbled and the books had been reduced to dust the
ideal remained in the form of the order imagined for the library. One such
residual evidence comes to us by way of the _Pandectae_ —a comprehensive
bibliography created by Conrad Gesner in 1545 when he feared that the Ottoman
conquerors would destroy all the books in Europe. He created a bibliography
from which the library could be built again—an all embracing index which
contained a systematic organization of twenty principal groups with a matrix
like structure that contained 30,000 concepts.4

It is not surprising that Alberto Manguel would attempt write a literary,
historical and personal history of the library. As a seventeen-year-old man in
Buenos Aries, Manguel read for the blind seer Jorge Luis Borges who once
imagined in his appropriately named story—The Tower of Babel—paradise as a
kind of library. Modifying his mentor’s statement in what can be understood as
a gesture to the inevitable demands of the real and yet acknowledging the
possible pleasures of living in shadows, Manguel asserts that sometimes
paradise must adapt itself to suit circumstantial requirements. Similarly
Jacques Rancière writing about the libraries of the working class in the
eighteenth century tells us about Gauny a joiner and a boy in love with
vagrancy and botany who decides to build a library for himself. For the sons
of the poor proletarians living in Saint Marcel district, libraries were built
only a page at a time. He learnt to read by tracing the pages on which his
mother bought her lentils and would be disappointed whenever he came to the
end of a page and the next page was not available, even though he urged his
mother to buy her lentils from the same grocer. 5

[ ](//images.e-flux-systems.com/2012_09_DGF-D-Tropics-detail-hi-res-
WEB.jpg,2000 "Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Chronotopes & Dioramas , 2009.
Diorama installation at The Hispanic Society of America, New York.")

Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, _Chronotopes & Dioramas_, 2009. Diorama
installation at The Hispanic Society of America, New York.

Is the utopian ideal of the universal library as exemplified by the library of
Alexandria or modernist pedagogic institutions of the twentieth century
adequate to the task of describing the space of the shadow library, or do we
need a different account of these other spaces? In an era of the ebook reader
where the line between a book and a library is blurred, the very idea of a
library is up for grabs. It has taken me well over two decades to build a
collection of a few thousand books while around two hundred thousand books
exist as bits and bytes on my computer. Admittedly hard drives crash and data
is lost, but is that the same threat as those of rain or fire? Which then is
my library and which its shadow? Or in the spirit of logotopias would it be
more appropriate to ask the spatial question: where is the library?

If the possibility of having 200,000 books on one’s computer feels staggering
here is an even more startling statistic. The Library of Congress which is the
largest library in the world with holdings of approximately thirty million
books, which would—if they were piled on the floor—cover 364 kilometers could
potentially fit into an SD card. It is estimated that by 2030 an ordinary SD
card will have the capacity of storing up to 64 TB and assuming each book were
digitized at an average size of 1MB it would technically be possible to fit
two Libraries of Congress in one’s pocket.

It sounds like science fiction, but isn’t it the case that much of the science
fiction of a decade ago finds itself comfortably within the weaves of everyday
life. How do we make sense of the future of the library? While it may be
tempting to throw our hands up in boggled perplexity about what it means to be
able to have thirty million books lets face it: the point of libraries have
never been that you will finish what’s there. Anyone with even a modest book
collection will testify to the impossibility of ever finishing their library
and if anything at all the library stands precisely at the cusp of our
finitude and our infinity. Perhaps that is what Borges—the consummate mixer of
time and space—meant when he described paradise as a library, not as a spatial
idea but a temporal one: that it was only within the confines of infinity that
one imagine finishing reading one’s library. It would therefore be more
interesting to think of the shadow library as a way of thinking about what it
means to dwell in knowledge. While all our aspirations for a habitat should
have a utopian element to them, lets face it, utopias have always been
difficult spaces to live in.

In contrast to the idea of utopia is heterotopia—a term with its origins in
medicine (referring to an organ of the body that had been dislodged from its
usual space) and popularized by Michel Foucault both in terms of language as
well as a spatial metaphor. If utopia exists as a nowhere or imaginary space
with no connection to any existing social spaces, then heterotopias in
contrast are realities that exist and are even foundational, but in which all
other spaces are potentially inverted and contested. A mirror for instance is
simultaneously a utopia (placeless place) even as it exists in reality. But
from the standpoint of the mirror you discover your absence as well. Foucault
remarks, “The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this
place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once
absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and
absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this
virtual point which is over there.”6

In _The Order of Things_ Foucault sought to investigate the conceptual space
which makes the order of knowledge possible; in his famed reading of Borges’s
Chinese encyclopedia he argues that the impossibility involved in the
encyclopedia consists less in the fantastical status of the animals and their
coexistence with real animals such as (d) sucking pigs and (e) sirens, but in
where they coexist and what “transgresses the boundaries of all imagination,
of all possible thought, is simply that alphabetical series (a, b, c, d) which
links each of those categories to all the others.” 7 Heterotopias destabilize
the ground from which we build order and in doing so reframe the very
epistemic basis of how we know.

Foucault later developed a greater spatial understanding of heterotopias in
which he uses specific examples such as the cemetery (at once the space of the
familiar since everyone has someone in the cemetery and at the heart of the
city but also over a period of time the other city, where each family
possesses its dark resting place).8 Indeed, the paradox of heterotopias is
that they are both separate from yet connected to all other spaces. This
connectedness is precisely what builds contestation into heterotopias.
Imaginary spaces such as utopias exist completely outside of order.
Heteretopias by virtue of their connectedness become sites in which epistemes
collide and overlap. They bring together heterogeneous collections of unusual
things without allowing them a unity or order established through resemblance.
Instead, their ordering is derived from a process of similitude that produces,
in an almost magical, uncertain space, monstrous combinations that unsettle
the flow of discourse.

If the utopian ideal of the library was to bring together everything that we
know of the world then the length of its bookshelves was coterminous with the
breadth of the world. But like its predecessors in Alexandria and Babel the
project is destined to be incomplete haunted by what it necessarily leaves out
and misses. The library as heterotopia reveals itself only through the
interstices and lays bare the fiction of any possibility of a coherent ground
on which a knowledge project can be built. Finally there is the question of
where we stand once the grounds that we stand on itself has been dislodged.
The answer from my first foray into the tiny six by eight foot Mecca store to
the innumerable hours spent on [ library.nu]( library.nu) remains the same:
the heterotopic pleasure of our finite selves in infinity.


This essay is a part of a work I am doing for an exhibition curated by Raqs
Media Collective, Sarai Reader 09. The show began on August 19, 2012, with a
deceptively empty space containing only the proposal, with ideas for the
artworks to come over a period of nine months. See

**Lawrence Liang** is a researcher and writer based at the Alternative Law
Forum, Bangalore. His work lies at the intersection of law and cultural
politics, and has in recent years been looking at question of media piracy. He
is currently finish a book on law and justice in Hindi cinema.

© 2012 e-flux and the author

[ ![](//images.e-flux-systems.com/Banner-Eflux-760x1350px-Learoyd-ing-
ok.gif,300) ](/ads/redirect/271922)

Journal # 37





[Download PDF](http://worker01.e-flux.com/pdf/article_8957468.pdf)


Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle

## [Editorial](/journal/37/61227/editorial/)


It is hard to avoid the feeling these days that the future is behind us. It’s
not so much that time has stopped, but rather that the sense of promise and
purpose that once drove historical progress has become impossible to sustain.
On the one hand, the faith in modernist, nationalist, or universalist utopias
continues to retreat, while on the other, a more immediate crisis of faith has
accompanied the widespread sense of diminishing economic prospects felt in so
many places. Not to mention...

## [Shadow Libraries](/journal/37/61228/shadow-libraries/)


Over the last few monsoons I lived with the dread that the rain would
eventually find its ways through my leaky terrace roof and destroy my books.
Last August my fears came true when I woke up in the middle of the night to
see my room flooded and water leaking from the roof and through the walls.
Much of the night was spent rescuing the books and shifting them to a dry
room. While timing and speed were essential to the task at hand they were also
the key hazards navigating a slippery floor...


## [Captives of the Cloud: Part I](/journal/37/61232/captives-of-the-cloud-


We are the voluntary prisoners of the cloud; we are being watched over by
governments we did not elect. Wael Ghonim, Google's Egyptian executive, said:
“If you want to liberate a society just give them the internet.” 1 But how
does one liberate a society that already has the internet? In a society
permanently connected through pervasive broadband networks, the shared
internet is, bit by bit and piece by piece, overshadowed by the “cloud.” The
Coming of the Cloud The cloud,...

Amelia Groom

## [There’s Nothing to See Here: Erasing the


There was once a typist from Texas named Bette Nesmith Graham, who wasn’t very
good at her job. In 1951 she started erasing her typing mistakes with a white
tempera paint solution she mixed in her kitchen blender. She called her
invention Mistake Out and began distributing small green bottles of it to her
coworkers. In 1956 she founded the delectably named Mistake Out Company.
Shortly after, she was apparently fired from her typist job because she made a
“mistake” that she failed to cover...

Nato Thompson

## [The Last Pictures: Interview with Trevor Paglen](/journal/37/61238/the-


In 1963 NASA launched the first communications satellite, Syncom 2, into a
geosynchronous orbit over the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, humans have slowly
and methodically added to this space-based communications infrastructure.
Currently, more than 800 spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit form a man-made
ring of satellites around Earth at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers. Most of
these spacecraft powered down long ago, yet continue to float aimlessly around
the planet. Geostationary satellites...

Claire Tancons

## [Carnival to Commons: Pussy Riot, Punk Protest, and the Exercise of
Democratic Culture](/journal/37/61239/carnival-to-commons-pussy-riot-punk-


Once again, the press has dismissed a popular movement as carnival—this time
not Occupy Wall Street, but the anti-Putin protests. On March 1, 2012, in a
Financial Times article titled “Carnival spirit is not enough to change
Russia,” Konstantin von Eggert wrote, “One cannot sustain [the movement] on
carnival spirit alone.” 1 A little over a week later, Reuters sought to close
the debate with an article by Alissa de Carbonnel, in which she announced,
“The carnival is over for Russia’s...

Anton Vidokle and Brian Kuan Wood

## [Breaking the Contract](/journal/37/61241/breaking-the-contract/)


1\. The Contract The Duchampian revolution leads not to the liberation of the
artist from work, but to his or her proletarization via alienated construction
and transportation work. In fact, contemporary art institutions no longer need
an artist as a traditional producer. Rather, today the artist is more often
hired for a certain period of time as a worker to realize this or that
institutional project. — Boris Groys 1 When his readymades entered the space
of art, Duchamp...

Shadow Libraries

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Notes - Shadow Libraries


Esther Shipman and Sascha Hastings eds., _Logotopia: The Library in
Architecture Art and the Imagination,_ (Cambridge Galleries: Abc Art Books
Canada, 2008).

Go to Text


Alberto Manguel, “My Library” in Hastings and Shipman eds. _Logotopia, The
Library in Art and Architecture and the Imagination, (Cambridge Galleries: ABC
Art Books Canada, 2008)._

Go to Text


Alberto Manguel, _The Library at Night_ , (Yale University Press 2009).

Go to Text


Ray Hastings and Esther Shipman, eds. _Logotopia: The Library in Architecture
Art and the Imagination_. Cambridge Galleries / ABC Art Books Canada, 2008.

Go to Text


Jacques Rancière, _The Nights of Labour: The Workers’ Dream in Nineteenth
Century France,_ (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991).

Go to Text


Michel Foucault, “Different Spaces,” in _Aesthetics, Method, Epistemology_ ,
ed. James D. Faubion (New York: The New Press, 1998), 179; For Foucault on
language and heterotopias see _The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the
Human Sciences,_ (New York: Pantheon, 1970).

Go to Text


Ibid, xv.

Go to Text


In Foucault, “Different Spaces,” which was presented as a lecture to the
_Architecture Studies Circle_ in 1967, a few years after the writing of _The
Order of Things_.

Go to Text

Esther Shipman and Sascha Hastings eds., _Logotopia: The Library in
Architecture Art and the Imagination,_ (Cambridge Galleries: Abc Art Books
Canada, 2008).

Alberto Manguel, “My Library” in Hastings and Shipman eds. _Logotopia, The
Library in Art and Architecture and the Imagination, (Cambridge Galleries: ABC
Art Books Canada, 2008)._

Alberto Manguel, _The Library at Night_ , (Yale University Press 2009).

Ray Hastings and Esther Shipman, eds. _Logotopia: The Library in Architecture
Art and the Imagination_. Cambridge Galleries / ABC Art Books Canada, 2008.

Jacques Rancière, _The Nights of Labour: The Workers’ Dream in Nineteenth
Century France,_ (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991).

Michel Foucault, “Different Spaces,” in _Aesthetics, Method, Epistemology_ ,
ed. James D. Faubion (New York: The New Press, 1998), 179; For Foucault on
language and heterotopias see _The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the
Human Sciences,_ (New York: Pantheon, 1970).

Ibid, xv.

In Foucault, “Different Spaces,” which was presented as a lecture to the
_Architecture Studies Circle_ in 1967, a few years after the writing of _The
Order of Things_.

leaking in Sollfrank 2018

The Surplus of Copying

## 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

_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

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,
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
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
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,
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
(accessed on Sept. 30, 2018).
24 Balazs, “The Genesis of Library Genesis”.
25 Aaron Swartz, “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto,” _Internet Archive_ , July

(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

leaking in Stalder 2018

The Digital Condition

lang: en
title: The Digital Condition

::: {.figure}

![Cover page](images/cover.jpg)

Table of Contents

1. [Preface to the English Edition](#fpref)
2. [Acknowledgments](#ack)
3. [Introduction: After the End of the Gutenberg Galaxy](#cintro)
1. [Notes](#f6-ntgp-9999)
4. [I: Evolution](#c1)
1. [The Expansion of the Social Basis of Culture](#c1-sec-0002)
2. [The Culturalization of the World](#c1-sec-0006)
3. [The Technologization of Culture](#c1-sec-0009)
4. [From the Margins to the Center of Society](#c1-sec-0013)
5. [Notes](#c1-ntgp-9999)
5. [II: Forms](#c2)
1. [Referentiality](#c2-sec-0002)
2. [Communality](#c2-sec-0009)
3. [Algorithmicity](#c2-sec-0018)
4. [Notes](#c2-ntgp-9999)
6. [III: Politics](#c3)
1. [Post-democracy](#c3-sec-0002)
2. [Commons](#c3-sec-0011)
3. [Against a Lack of Alternatives](#c3-sec-0017)
4. [Notes](#c3-ntgp-9999)

[Preface to the English Edition]{.chapterTitle} {#fpref}

::: {.section}
This book posits that we in the societies of the (transatlantic) West
find ourselves in a new condition. I call it "the digital condition"
because it gained its dominance as computer networks became established
as the key infrastructure for virtually all aspects of life. However,
the emergence of this condition pre-dates computer networks. In fact, it
has deep historical roots, some of which go back to the late nineteenth
century, but it really came into being after the late 1960s. As many of
the cultural and political institutions shaped by the previous condition
-- which McLuhan called the Gutenberg Galaxy -- fell into crisis, new
forms of personal and collective orientation and organization emerged
which have been shaped by the affordances of this new condition. Both
the historical processes which unfolded over a very long time and the
structural transformation which took place in a myriad of contexts have
been beyond any deliberate influence. Although obviously caused by
social actors, the magnitude of such changes was simply too great, too
distributed, and too complex to be attributed to, or molded by, any
particular (set of) actor(s).

Yet -- and this is the core of what motivated me to write this book --
this does not mean that we have somehow moved beyond the political,
beyond the realm in which identifiable actors and their projects do
indeed shape our collective []{#Page_vii type="pagebreak"
title="vii"}existence, or that there are no alternatives to future
development already expressed within contemporary dynamics. On the
contrary, we can see very clearly that as the center -- the established
institutions shaped by the affordances of the previous condition -- is
crumbling, more economic and political projects are rushing in to fill
that void with new institutions that advance their competing agendas.
These new institutions are well adapted to the digital condition, with
its chaotic production of vast amounts of information and innovative
ways of dealing with that.

From this, two competing trajectories have emerged which are
simultaneously transforming the space of the political. First, I used
the term "post-democracy" because it expands possibilities, and even
requirements, of (personal) participation, while ever larger aspects of
(collective) decision-making are moved to arenas that are structurally
disconnected from those of participation. In effect, these arenas are
forming an authoritarian reality in which a small elite is vastly
empowered at the expense of everyone else. The purest incarnation of
this tendency can be seen in the commercial social mass media, such as
Facebook, Google, and the others, as they were newly formed in this
condition and have not (yet) had to deal with the complications of
transforming their own legacy.

For the other trajectory, I applied the term "commons" because it
expands both the possibilities of personal participation and agency, and
those of collective decision-making. This tendency points to a
redefinition of democracy beyond the hollowed-out forms of political
representation characterizing the legacy institutions of liberal
democracy. The purest incarnation of this tendency can be found in the
institutions that produce the digital commons, such as Wikipedia and the
various Free Software communities whose work has been and still is
absolutely crucial for the infrastructural dimensions of the digital
networks. They are the most advanced because, again, they have not had
to deal with institutional legacies. But both tendencies are no longer
confined to digital networks and are spreading across all aspects of
social life, creating a reality that is, on the structural level,
surprisingly coherent and, on the social and political level, full of
contradictions and thus opportunities.[]{#Page_viii type="pagebreak"

I traced some aspects of these developments right up to early 2016, when
the German version of this book went into production. Since then a lot
has happened, but I resisted the temptation to update the book for the
English translation because ideas are always an expression of their
historical moment and, as such, updating either turns into a completely
new version or a retrospective adjustment of the historical record.

What has become increasingly obvious during 2016 and into 2017 is that
central institutions of liberal democracy are crumbling more quickly and
dramatically than was expected. The race to replace them has kicked into
high gear. The main events driving forward an authoritarian renewal of
politics took place on a national level, in particular the vote by the
UK to leave the EU (Brexit) and the election of Donald Trump to the
office of president of the United States of America. The main events
driving the renewal of democracy took place on a metropolitan level,
namely the emergence of a network of "rebel cities," led by Barcelona
and Madrid. There, community-based social movements established their
candidates in the highest offices. These cities are now putting in place
practical examples that other cities could emulate and adapt. For the
concerns of this book, the most important concept put forward is that of
"technological sovereignty": to bring the technological infrastructure,
and its developmental potential, back under the control of those who are
using it and are affected by it; that is, the citizens of the

Over the last 18 months, the imbalances between the two trajectories
have become even more extreme because authoritarian tendencies and
surveillance capitalism have been strengthened more quickly than the
commons-oriented practices could establish themselves. But it does not
change the fact that there are fundamental alternatives embedded in the
digital condition. Despite structural transformations that affect how we
do things, there is no inevitability about what we want to do
individually and, even more importantly, collectively.

::: {.poem}
::: {.lineGroup}
Zurich/Vienna, July 2017[]{#Page_ix type="pagebreak" title="ix"}

[Acknowledgments]{.chapterTitle} {#ack}

::: {.section}
While it may be conventional to cite one person as the author of a book,
writing is a process with many collective elements. This book in
particular draws upon many sources, most of which I am no longer able to
acknowledge with any certainty. Far too often, important references came
to me in parenthetical remarks, in fleeting encounters, during trips, at
the fringes of conferences, or through discussions of things that,
though entirely new to me, were so obvious to others as not to warrant
any explication. Often, too, my thinking was influenced by long
conversations, and it is impossible for me now to identify the precise
moments of inspiration. As far as the themes of this book are concerned,
four settings were especially important. The international discourse
network "nettime," which has a mailing list of 4,500 members and which I
have been moderating since the late 1990s, represents an inexhaustible
source of internet criticism and, as a collaborative filter, has enabled
me to follow a wide range of developments from a particular point of
view. I am also indebted to the Zurich University of the Arts, where I
have taught for more than 10 years and where the students have been
willing to explain to me, again and again, what is already self-evident
to them. Throughout my time there, I have been able to observe a
dramatic shift. For today\'s students, the "new" is no longer new but
simply obvious, whereas they []{#Page_x type="pagebreak" title="x"}have
experienced many things previously regarded as normal -- such as
checking out a book from a library (instead of downloading it) -- as
needlessly complicated. In Vienna, the hub of my life, the World
Information Institute has for many years provided a platform for
conferences, publications, and interventions that have repeatedly raised
the stakes of the discussion and have brought together the most
interesting range of positions without regard to any disciplinary
boundaries. Housed in Vienna, too, is the Technopolitics Project, a
non-institutionalized circle of researchers and artists whose
discussions of techno-economic paradigms have informed this book in
fundamental ways and which has offered multiple opportunities for me to
workshop inchoate ideas.

Not everything, however, takes place in diffuse conversations and
networks. I was also able to rely on the generous support of several
individuals who, at one stage or another, read through, commented upon,
and made crucial improvements to the manuscript: Leonhard Dobusch,
Günther Hack, Katja Meier, Florian Cramer, Cornelia Sollfrank, Beat
Brogle, Volker Grassmuck, Ursula Stalder, Klaus Schönberger, Konrad
Becker, Armin Medosch, Axel Stockburger, and Gerald Nestler. Special
thanks are owed to Rebina Erben-Hartig, who edited the original German
manuscript and greatly improved its readability. I am likewise grateful
to Heinrich Greiselberger and Christian Heilbronn of the Suhrkamp
Verlag, whose faith in the book never wavered despite several delays.
Regarding the English version at hand, it has been a privilege to work
with a translator as skillful as Valentine Pakis. Over the past few
years, writing this book might have been the most import­ant project in
my life had it not been for Andrea Mayr. In this regard, I have been
especially fortunate.[]{#Page_xi type="pagebreak"
title="xi"}[]{#Page_xii type="pagebreak" title="xii"}

Introduction [After the End of the Gutenberg Galaxy]{.chapterTitle} []{.chapterSubTitle} {#cintro}

::: {.section}
The show had already been going on for more than three hours, but nobody
was bothered by this. Quite the contrary. The tension in the venue was
approaching its peak, and the ratings were through the roof. Throughout
all of Europe, 195 million people were watching the spectacle on
television, and the social mass media were gaining steam. On Twitter,
more than 47,000 messages were being sent every minute with the hashtag
\#Eurovision.[^1^](#f6-note-0001){#f6-note-0001a} The outcome was
decided shortly after midnight: Conchita Wurst, the bearded diva, was
announced the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. Cheers erupted
as the public celebrated the victor -- but also itself. At long last,
there was more to the event than just another round of tacky television
programming ("This is Ljubljana calling!"). Rather, a statement was made
-- a statement in favor of tolerance and against homophobia, for
diversity and for the right to define oneself however one pleases. And
Europe sent this message in the midst of a crisis and despite ongoing
hostilities, not to mention all of the toxic rumblings that could be
heard about decadence, cultural decay, and Gayropa. Visibly moved, the
Austrian singer let out an exclamation -- "We are unity, and we are
unstoppable!" -- as she returned to the stage with wobbly knees to
accept the trophy.

With her aesthetically convincing performance, Conchita succeeded in
unleashing a strong desire for personal []{#Page_1 type="pagebreak"
title="1"}self-discovery, for community, and for overcoming stale
conventions. And she did this through a character that mainstream
society would have considered paradoxical and deviant not long ago but
has since come to understand: attractive beyond the dichotomy of man and
woman, explicitly artificial and yet entirely authentic. This peculiar
conflation of artificiality and naturalness is equally present in
Berndnaut Smilde\'s photographic work of a real indoor cloud (*Nimbus*,
2010) on the cover of this book. Conchita\'s performance was also on a
formal level seemingly paradoxical: extremely focused and completely
open. Unlike most of the other acts, she took the stage alone, and
though she hardly moved at all, she nevertheless incited the audience to
participate in numerous ways and genuinely to act out the motto of the
contest ("Join us!"). Throughout the early rounds of the competition,
the beard, which was at first so provocative, transformed into a
free-floating symbol that the public began to appropriate in various
ways. Men and women painted Conchita-like beards on their faces,
newspapers printed beards to be cut out, and fans crocheted beards. Not
only did someone Photoshop a beard on to a painting of Empress Sissi of
Austria, but King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands even tweeted a
deceptively realistic portrait of his wife, Queen Máxima, wearing a
beard. From one of the biggest stages of all, the evening of Wurst\'s
victory conveyed an impression of how much the culture of Europe had
changed in recent years, both in terms of its content and its forms.
That which had long been restricted to subcultural niches -- the
fluidity of gender iden­tities, appropriation as a cultural technique,
or the conflation of reception and production, for instance -- was now
part of the mainstream. Even while sitting in front of the television,
this mainstream was no longer just a private audience but rather a
multitude of singular producers whose networked activity -- on location
or on social mass media -- lent particular significance to the occasion
as a moment of collective self-perception.

It is more than half a century since Marshall McLuhan announced the end
of the Modern era, a cultural epoch that he called the Gutenberg Galaxy
in honor of the print medium by which it was so influenced. What was
once just an abstract speculation of media theory, however, now
describes []{#Page_2 type="pagebreak" title="2"}the concrete reality of
our everyday life. What\'s more, we have moved well past McLuhan\'s
diagnosis: the erosion of old cultural forms, institutions, and
certainties is not just something we affirm, but new ones have already
formed whose contours are easy to identify not only in niche sectors but
in the mainstream. Shortly before Conchita\'s triumph, Facebook thus
expanded the gender-identity options for its billion-plus users from 2
to 60. In addition to "male" and "female," users of the English version
of the site can now choose from among the following categories:

::: {.extract}
Agender, Androgyne, Androgynes, Androgynous, Asexual, Bigender, Cis, Cis
Female, Cis Male, Cis Man, Cis Woman, Cisgender, Cisgender Female,
Cisgender Male, Cisgender Man, Cisgender Woman, Female to Male (FTM),
Female to Male Trans Man, Female to Male Transgender Man, Female to Male
Transsexual Man, Gender Fluid, Gender Neutral, Gender Nonconforming,
Gender Questioning, Gender Variant, Genderqueer, Hermaphrodite,
Intersex, Intersex Man, Intersex Person, Intersex Woman, Male to Female
(MTF), Male to Female Trans Woman, Male to Female Transgender Woman,
Male to Female Transsexual Woman, Neither, Neutrois, Non-Binary, Other,
Pangender, Polygender, T\*Man, Trans, Trans Female, Trans Male, Trans
Man, Trans Person, Trans\*Female, Trans\*Male, Trans\*Man,
Trans\*Person, Trans\*Woman, Transexual, Transexual Female, Transexual
Male, Transexual Man, Transexual Person, Transexual Woman, Transgender
Female, Transgender Person, Transmasculine, T\*Woman, Two\*Person,
Two-Spirit, Two-Spirit Person.

This enormous proliferation of cultural possibilities is an expression
of what I will refer to below as the digital condition. Far from being
universally welcomed, its growing presence has also instigated waves of
nostalgia, diffuse resentments, and intellectual panic. Conservative and
reactionary movements, which oppose such developments and desire to
preserve or even re-create previous conditions, have been on the rise.
Likewise in 2014, for instance, a cultural dispute broke out in normally
subdued Baden-Würtemberg over which forms of sexual partnership should
be mentioned positively in the sexual education curriculum. Its impetus
was a working paper released at the end of 2013 by the state\'s
[]{#Page_3 type="pagebreak" title="3"}Ministry of Culture. Among other
things, it proposed that adolescents "should confront their own sexual
identity and orientation \[...\] from a position of acceptance with
respect to sexual diversity."[^2^](#f6-note-0002){#f6-note-0002a} In a
short period of time, a campaign organized mainly through social mass
media collected more than 200,000 signatures in opposition to the
proposal and submitted them to the petitions committee at the state
parliament. At that point, the government responded by putting the
initiative on ice. However, according to the analysis presented in this
book, leaving it on ice creates a precarious situation.

The rise and spread of the digital condition is the result of a
wide-ranging and irreversible cultural transformation, the beginnings of
which can in part be traced back to the nineteenth century. Since the
1960s, however, this shift has accelerated enormously and has
encompassed increasingly broader spheres of social life. More and more
people have been participating in cultural processes; larger and larger
dimensions of existence have become battlegrounds for cultural disputes;
and social activity has been intertwined with increasingly complex
technologies, without which it would hardly be possible to conceive of
these processes, let alone achieve them. The number of competing
cultural projects, works, reference points, and reference systems has
been growing rapidly. This, in turn, has caused an escalating crisis for
the established forms and institutions of culture, which are poorly
equipped to deal with such an inundation of new claims to meaning. Since
roughly the year 2000, many previously independent developments have
been consolidating, gaining strength and modifying themselves to form a
new cultural constellation that encompasses broad segments of society --
a new galaxy, as McLuhan might have
said.[^3^](#f6-note-0003){#f6-note-0003a} These days it is relatively
easy to recognize the specific forms that characterize it as a whole and
how these forms have contributed to new, contradictory and
conflict-laden political dynamics.

My argument, which is restricted to cultural developments in the
(transatlantic) West, is divided into three chapters. In the first, I
will outline the *historical* developments that have given rise to this
quantitative and qualitative change and have led to the crisis faced by
the institutions of the late phase of the Gutenberg Galaxy, which
defined the last third []{#Page_4 type="pagebreak" title="4"}of the
twentieth century.[^4^](#f6-note-0004){#f6-note-0004a} The expansion of
the social basis of cultural processes will be traced back to changes in
the labor market, to the self-empowerment of marginalized groups, and to
the dissolution of centralized cultural geography. The broadening of
cultural fields will be discussed in terms of the rise of design as a
general creative discipline, and the growing significance of complex
technologies -- as fundamental components of everyday life -- will be
tracked from the beginnings of independent media up to the development
of the internet as a mass medium. These processes, which at first
unfolded on their own and may have been reversible on an individual
basis, are integrated today and represent a socially domin­ant component
of the coherent digital condition. From the perspective of cultural
studies and media theory, the second chapter will delineate the already
recognizable features of this new culture. Concerned above all with the
analysis of forms, its focus is thus on the question of "how" cultural
practices operate. It is only because specific forms of culture,
exchange, and expression are prevalent across diverse var­ieties of
content, social spheres, and locations that it is even possible to speak
of the digital condition in the singular. Three examples of such forms
stand out in particular. *Referentiality* -- that is, the use of
existing cultural materials for one\'s own production -- is an essential
feature of many methods for inscribing oneself into cultural processes.
In the context of unmanageable masses of shifting and semantically open
reference points, the act of selecting things and combining them has
become fundamental to the production of meaning and the constitution of
the self. The second feature that characterizes these processes is
*communality*. It is only through a collectively shared frame of
reference that meanings can be stabilized, possible courses of action
can be determined, and resources can be made available. This has given
rise to communal formations that generate self-referential worlds, which
in turn modulate various dimensions of existence -- from aesthetic
preferences to the methods of biological reproduction and the rhythms of
space and time. In these worlds, the dynamics of network power have
reconfigured notions of voluntary and involuntary behavior, autonomy,
and coercion. The third feature of the new cultural landscape is its
*algorithmicity*. It is characterized, in other []{#Page_5
type="pagebreak" title="5"}words, by automated decision-making processes
that reduce and give shape to the glut of information, by extracting
information from the volume of data produced by machines. This extracted
information is then accessible to human perception and can serve as the
basis of singular and communal activity. Faced with the enormous amount
of data generated by people and machines, we would be blind were it not
for algorithms.

The third chapter will focus on *political dimensions*. These are the
factors that enable the formal dimensions described in the preceding
chapter to manifest themselves in the form of social, political, and
economic projects. Whereas the first chapter is concerned with long-term
and irreversible histor­ical processes, and the second outlines the
general cultural forms that emerged from these changes with a certain
degree of inevitability, my concentration here will be on open-ended
dynamics that can still be influenced. A contrast will be made between
two political tendencies of the digital condition that are already quite
advanced: *post-democracy* and *commons*. Both take full advantage of
the possibilities that have arisen on account of structural changes and
have advanced them even further, though in entirely different
directions. "Post-democracy" refers to strategies that counteract the
enormously expanded capacity for social communication by disconnecting
the possibility to participate in things from the ability to make
decisions about them. Everyone is allowed to voice his or her opinion,
but decisions are ultimately made by a select few. Even though growing
numbers of people can and must take responsibility for their own
activity, they are unable to influence the social conditions -- the
social texture -- under which this activity has to take place. Social
mass media such as Facebook and Google will receive particular attention
as the most conspicuous manifestations of this tendency. Here, under new
structural provisions, a new combination of behavior and thought has
been implemented that promotes the normalization of post-democracy and
contributes to its otherwise inexplicable acceptance in many areas of
society. "Commons," on the contrary, denotes approaches for developing
new and comprehensive institutions that not only directly combine
participation and decision-making but also integrate economic, social,
and ethical spheres -- spheres that Modernity has tended to keep
apart.[]{#Page_6 type="pagebreak" title="6"}

Post-democracy and commons can be understood as two lines of development
that point beyond the current crisis of liberal democracy and represent
new political projects. One can be characterized as an essentially
authoritarian system, the other as a radical expansion and renewal of
democracy, from the notion of representation to that of participation.

Even though I have brought together a number of broad perspectives, I
have refrained from discussing certain topics that a book entitled *The
Digital Condition* might be expected to address, notably the matter of
copyright, for one example. This is easy to explain. As regards the new
forms at the heart of this book, none of these developments requires or
justifies copyright law in its present form. In any case, my thoughts on
the matter were published not long ago in another book, so there is no
need to repeat them here.[^5^](#f6-note-0005){#f6-note-0005a} The theme
of privacy will also receive little attention. This is not because I
share the view, held by proponents of "post-privacy," that it would be
better for all personal information to be made available to everyone. On
the contrary, this position strikes me as superficial and naïve. That
said, the political function of privacy -- to safeguard a degree of
personal autonomy from powerful institutions -- is based on fundamental
concepts that, in light of the developments to be described below,
urgently need to be updated. This is a task, however, that would take me
far beyond the scope of the present

Before moving on to the first chapter, I should first briefly explain my
somewhat unorthodox understanding of the central concepts in the title
of the book -- "condition" and "digital." In what follows, the term
"condition" will be used to designate a cultural condition whereby the
processes of social meaning -- that is, the normative dimension of
existence -- are explicitly or implicitly negotiated and realized by
means of singular and collective activity. Meaning, however, does not
manifest itself in signs and symbols alone; rather, the practices that
engender it and are inspired by it are consolidated into artifacts,
institutions, and lifeworlds. In other words, far from being a symbolic
accessory or mere overlay, culture in fact directs our actions and gives
shape to society. By means of materialization and repetition, meaning --
both as claim and as reality -- is made visible, productive, and
negotiable. People are free to accept it, reject it, or ignore
[]{#Page_7 type="pagebreak" title="7"}it altogether. Social meaning --
that is, meaning shared by multiple people -- can only come about
through processes of exchange within larger or smaller formations.
Production and reception (to the extent that it makes any sense to
distinguish between the two) do not proceed linearly here, but rather
loop back and reciprocally influence one another. In such processes, the
participants themselves determine, in a more or less binding manner, how
they stand in relation to themselves, to each other, and to the world,
and they determine the frame of reference in which their activity is
oriented. Accordingly, culture is not something static or something that
is possessed by a person or a group, but rather a field of dispute that
is subject to the activities of multiple ongoing changes, each happening
at its own pace. It is characterized by processes of dissolution and
constitution that may be collaborative, oppositional, or simply
operating side by side. The field of culture is pervaded by competing
claims to power and mechanisms for exerting it. This leads to conflicts
about which frames of reference should be adopted for different fields
and within different social groups. In such conflicts,
self-determination and external determination interact until a point is
reached at which both sides are mutually constituted. This, in turn,
changes the conditions that give rise to shared meaning and personal

In what follows, this broadly post-structuralist perspective will inform
my discussion of the causes and formational conditions of cultural
orders and their practices. Culture will be conceived throughout as
something heterogeneous and hybrid. It draws from many sources; it is
motivated by the widest possible variety of desires, intentions, and
compulsions; and it mobilizes whatever resources might be necessary for
the constitution of meaning. This emphasis on the materiality of culture
is also reflected in the concept of the digital. Media are relational
technologies, which means that they facilitate certain types of
connection between humans and
objects.[^7^](#f6-note-0007){#f6-note-0007a} "Digital" thus denotes the
set of relations that, on the infrastructural basis of digital networks,
is realized today in the production, use, and transform­ation of
material and immaterial goods, and in the constitution and coordination
of personal and collective activity. In this regard, the focus is less
on the dominance of a certain class []{#Page_8 type="pagebreak"
title="8"}of technological artifacts -- the computer, for instance --
and even less on distinguishing between "digital" and "analog,"
"material" and "immaterial." Even in the digital condition, the analog
has not gone away. Rather, it has been re-evaluated and even partially
upgraded. The immaterial, moreover, is never entirely without
materiality. On the contrary, the fleeting impulses of digital
communication depend on global and unmistakably material infrastructures
that extend from mines beneath the surface of the earth, from which rare
earth metals are extracted, all the way into outer space, where
satellites are circling around above us. Such things may be ignored
because they are outside the experience of everyday life, but that does
not mean that they have disappeared or that they are of any less
significance. "Digital" thus refers to historically new possibilities
for constituting and connecting various human and non-human actors,
which is not limited to digital media but rather appears everywhere as a
relational paradigm that alters the realm of possibility for numerous
materials and actors. My understanding of the digital thus approximates
the concept of the "post-digital," which has been gaining currency over
the past few years within critical media cultures. Here, too, the
distinction between "new" and "old" media and all of the ideological
baggage associated with it -- for instance, that the new represents the
future while the old represents the past -- have been rejected. The
aesthetic projects that continue to define the image of the "digital" --
immateriality, perfection, and virtuality -- have likewise been
discarded.[^8^](#f6-note-0008){#f6-note-0008a} Above all, the
"post-digital" is a critical response to this techno-utopian aesthetic
and its attendant economic and political perspectives. According to the
cultural theorist Florian Cramer, the concept accommodates the fact that
"new ethical and cultural conventions which became mainstream with
internet communities and open-source culture are being retroactively
applied to the making of non-digital and post-digital media
products."[^9^](#f6-note-0009){#f6-note-0009a} He thus cites the trend
that process-based practices oriented toward open interaction, which
first developed within digital media, have since begun to appear in more
and more contexts and in an increasing number of
materials.[^10[]{#Page_9 type="pagebreak"

For the historical, cultural-theoretical, and political perspectives
developed in this book, however, the concept of the post-digital is
somewhat problematic, for it requires the narrow context of media art
and its fixation on technology in order to become a viable
counter-position. Without this context, certain misunderstandings are
impossible to avoid. The prefix "post-," for instance, is often
interpreted in the sense that something is over or that we have at least
grasped the matters at hand and can thus turn to something new. The
opposite is true. The most enduringly relevant developments are only now
beginning to adopt a specific form, long after digital infrastructures
and the practices made popular by them have become part of our everyday
lives. Or, as the communication theorist and consultant Clay Shirky puts
it, "Communication tools don\'t get socially interesting until they get
technologically boring."[^11^](#f6-note-0011){#f6-note-0011a} For it is
only today, now that our fascination for this technology has waned and
its promises sound hollow, that culture and society are being defined by
the digital condition in a comprehensive sense. Before, this was the
case in just a few limited spheres. It is this hybridization and
solidification of the digital -- the presence of the digital beyond
digital media -- that lends the digital condition its dominance. As to
the concrete realities in which these things will materialize, this is
currently being decided in an open and ongoing process. The aim of this
book is to contribute to our understanding of this process.[]{#Page_10
type="pagebreak" title="10"}

::: {.section .notesSet type="rearnotes"}
[]{#notesSet}Notes {#f6-ntgp-9999}

::: {.section .notesList}
[1](#f6-note-0001a){#f6-note-0001}  Dan Biddle, "Five Million Tweets for
\#Eurovision 2014," *Twitter UK* (May 11, 2014), online.

[2](#f6-note-0002a){#f6-note-0002}  Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und
Sport -- Baden-Württemberg, "Bildungsplanreform 2015/2016 -- Verankerung
von Leitprinzipien," online \[--trans.\].

[3](#f6-note-0003a){#f6-note-0003}  As early as 1995, Wolfgang Coy
suggested that McLuhan\'s metaphor should be supplanted by the concept
of the "Turing Galaxy," but this never caught on. See his introduction
to the German edition of *The Gutenberg Galaxy*: "Von der Gutenbergschen
zur Turingschen Galaxis: Jenseits von Buchdruck und Fernsehen," in
Marshall McLuhan, *Die Gutenberg Galaxis: Das Ende des Buchzeitalters*,
(Cologne: Addison-Wesley, 1995), pp. vii--xviii.[]{#Page_176
type="pagebreak" title="176"}

[4](#f6-note-0004a){#f6-note-0004}  According to the analysis of the
Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells, this crisis began almost
simultaneously in highly developed capitalist and socialist societies,
and it did so for the same reason: the paradigm of "industrialism" had
reached the limits of its productivity. Unlike the capitalist societies,
which were flexible enough to tame the crisis and reorient their
economies, the socialism of the 1970s and 1980s experienced stagnation
until it ultimately, in a belated effort to reform, collapsed. See
Manuel Castells, *End of Millennium*, 2nd edn (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell,
2010), pp. 5--68.

[5](#f6-note-0005a){#f6-note-0005}  Felix Stalder, *Der Autor am Ende
der Gutenberg Galaxis* (Zurich: Buch & Netz, 2014).

[6](#f6-note-0006a){#f6-note-0006}  For my preliminary thoughts on this
topic, see Felix Stalder, "Autonomy and Control in the Era of
Post-Privacy," *Open: Cahier on Art and the Public Domain* 19 (2010):
78--86; and idem, "Privacy Is Not the Antidote to Surveillance,"
*Surveillance & Society* 1 (2002): 120--4. For a discussion of these
approaches, see the working paper by Maja van der Velden, "Personal
Autonomy in a Post-Privacy World: A Feminist Technoscience Perspective"
(2011), online.

[7](#f6-note-0007a){#f6-note-0007}  Accordingly, the "new social" media
are mass media in the sense that they influence broadly disseminated
patterns of social relations and thus shape society as much as the
traditional mass media had done before them.

[8](#f6-note-0008a){#f6-note-0008}  Kim Cascone, "The Aesthetics of
Failure: 'Post-Digital' Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music,"
*Computer Music Journal* 24/2 (2000): 12--18.

[9](#f6-note-0009a){#f6-note-0009}  Florian Cramer, "What Is
'Post-Digital'?" *Post-Digital Research* 3 (2014), online.

[10](#f6-note-0010a){#f6-note-0010}  In the field of visual arts,
similar considerations have been made regarding "post-internet art." See
Artie Vierkant, "The Image Object Post-Internet,"
[jstchillin.org](http://jstchillin.org) (December 2010), online; and Ian
Wallace, "What Is Post-Internet Art? Understanding the Revolutionary New
Art Movement," *Artspace* (March 18, 2014), online.

[11](#f6-note-0011a){#f6-note-0011}  Clay Shirky, *Here Comes Everybody:
The Power of Organizing without Organizations* (New York: Penguin,
2008), p. 105.

[I]{.chapterNumber} [Evolution]{.chapterTitle} {#c1}
::: {.section}
Many authors have interpreted the new cultural realities that
characterize our daily lives as a direct consequence of technological
developments: the internet is to blame! This assumption is not only
empirically untenable; it also leads to a problematic assessment of the
current situation. Apparatuses are represented as "central actors," and
this suggests that new technologies have suddenly revolutionized a
situation that had previously been stable. Depending on one\'s point of
view, this is then regarded as "a blessing or a
curse."[^1^](#c1-note-0001){#c1-note-0001a} A closer examination,
however, reveals an entirely different picture. Established cultural
practices and social institutions had already been witnessing the
erosion of their self-evident justification and legitimacy, long before
they were faced with new technologies and the corresponding demands
these make on individuals. Moreover, the allegedly new types of
coordination and cooperation are also not so new after all. Many of them
have existed for a long time. At first most of them were totally
separate from the technologies for which, later on, they would become
relevant. It is only in retrospect that these developments can be
identified as beginnings, and it can be seen that much of what we regard
today as novel or revolutionary was in fact introduced at the margins of
society, in cultural niches that were unnoticed by the dominant actors
and institutions. The new technologies thus evolved against a
[]{#Page_11 type="pagebreak" title="11"}background of processes of
societal transformation that were already under way. They could only
have been developed once a vision of their potential had been
formulated, and they could only have been disseminated where demand for
them already existed. This demand was created by social, political, and
economic crises, which were themselves initiated by changes that were
already under way. The new technologies seemed to provide many differing
and promising answers to the urgent questions that these crises had
prompted. It was thus a combination of positive vision and pressure that
motivated a great variety of actors to change, at times with
considerable effort, the established processes, mature institutions, and
their own behavior. They intended to appropriate, for their own
projects, the various and partly contradictory possibilities that they
saw in these new technologies. Only then did a new technological
infrastructure arise.

This, in turn, created the preconditions for previously independent
developments to come together, strengthening one another and enabling
them to spread beyond the contexts in which they had originated. Thus,
they moved from the margins to the center of culture. And by
intensifying the crisis of previously established cultural forms and
institutions, they became dominant and established new forms and
institutions of their own.

::: {.section}
The Expansion of the Social Basis of Culture {#c1-sec-0002}

Watching television discussions from the 1950s and 1960s today, one is
struck not only by the billows of cigarette smoke in the studio but also
by the homogeneous spectrum of participants. Usually, it was a group of
white and heteronormatively behaving men speaking with one
another,[^2^](#c1-note-0002){#c1-note-0002a} as these were the people
who held the important institutional positions in the centers of the
West. As a rule, those involved were highly specialized representatives
from the cultural, economic, scientific, and political spheres. Above
all, they were legitimized to appear in public to articulate their
opinions, which were to be regarded by others as relevant and worthy of
discussion. They presided over the important debates of their time. With
few exceptions, other actors and their deviant opinions -- there
[]{#Page_12 type="pagebreak" title="12"}has never been a time without
them -- were either not taken seriously at all or were categorized as
indecent, incompetent, perverse, irrelevant, backward, exotic, or
idiosyncratic.[^3^](#c1-note-0003){#c1-note-0003a} Even at that time,
the social basis of culture was beginning to expand, though the actors
at the center of the discourse had failed to notice this. Communicative
and cultural pro­cesses were gaining significance in more and more
places, and excluded social groups were self-consciously developing
their own language in order to intervene in the discourse. The rise of
the knowledge economy, the increasingly loud critique of
heteronormativity, and a fundamental cultural critique posed by
post-colonialism enabled a greater number of people to participate in
public discussions. In what follows, I will subject each of these three
phenomena to closer examin­ation. In order to do justice to their
complexity, I will treat them on different levels: I will depict the
rise of the knowledge economy as a structural change in labor; I will
reconstruct the critique of heteronormativity by outlining the origins
and transformations of the gay movement in West Germany; and I will
discuss post-colonialism as a theory that introduced new concepts of
cultural multiplicity and hybridization -- concepts that are now
influencing the digital condition far beyond the limits of the
post-colonial discourse, and often without any reference to this
discourse at all.

::: {.section}
### The growth of the knowledge economy {#c1-sec-0003}

At the beginning of the 1950s, the Austrian-American economist Fritz
Machlup was immersed in his study of the polit­ical economy of
monopoly.[^4^](#c1-note-0004){#c1-note-0004a} Among other things, he was
concerned with patents and copyright law. In line with the neo-classical
Austrian School, he considered both to be problematic (because
state-created) monopolies.[^5^](#c1-note-0005){#c1-note-0005a} The
longer he studied the monopoly of the patent system in particular, the
more far-reaching its consequences seemed to him. He maintained that the
patent system was intertwined with something that might be called the
"economy of invention" -- ultimately, patentable insights had to be
produced in the first place -- and that this was in turn part of a much
larger economy of knowledge. The latter encompassed government agencies
as well as institutions of education, research, and development
[]{#Page_13 type="pagebreak" title="13"}(that is, schools, universities,
and certain corporate laboratories), which had been increasing steadily
in number since Roosevelt\'s New Deal. Yet it also included the
expanding media sector and those industries that were responsible for
providing technical infrastructure. Machlup subsumed all of these
institutions and sectors under the concept of the "knowledge economy," a
term of his own invention. Their common feature was that essential
aspects of their activities consisted in communicating things to other
people ("telling anyone anything," as he put it). Thus, the employees
were not only recipients of information or instructions; rather, in one
way or another, they themselves communicated, be it merely as a
secretary who typed up, edited, and forwarded a piece of shorthand
dictation. In his book *The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in
the United States*, published in 1962, Machlup gathered empirical
material to demonstrate that the American economy had entered a new
phase that was distinguished by the production, exchange, and
application of abstract, codified
knowledge.[^6^](#c1-note-0006){#c1-note-0006a} This opinion was no
longer entirely novel at the time, but it had never before been
presented in such an empirically detailed and comprehensive
manner.[^7^](#c1-note-0007){#c1-note-0007a} The extent of the knowledge
economy surprised Machlup himself: in his book, he concluded that as
much as 43 percent of all labor activity was already engaged in this
sector. This high number came about because, until then, no one had put
forward the idea of understanding such a variety of activities as a
single unit.

Machlup\'s categorization was indeed quite innovative, for the dynamics
that propelled the sectors that he associated with one another not only
were very different but also had originated as an integral component in
the development of the industrial production of goods. They were more of
an extension of such production than a break with it. The production and
circulation of goods had been expanding and accelerating as early as the
nineteenth century, though at highly divergent rates from one region or
sector to another. New markets were created in order to distribute goods
that were being produced in greater numbers; new infrastructure for
transportation and communication was established in order to serve these
large markets, which were mostly in the form of national territories
(including their colonies). This []{#Page_14 type="pagebreak"
title="14"}enabled even larger factories to be built in order to
exploit, to an even greater extent, the cost advantages of mass
production. In order to control these complex processes, new professions
arose with different types of competencies and working conditions. The
office became a workplace for an increasing number of people -- men and
women alike -- who, in one form or another, had something to do with
information processing and communication. Yet all of this required not
only new management techniques. Production and products also became more
complex, so that entire corporate sectors had to be restructured.
Whereas the first decisive inventions of the industrial era were still
made by more or less educated tinkerers, during the last third of the
nineteenth century, invention itself came to be institutionalized. In
Germany, Siemens (founded in 1847 as the Telegraphen-Bauanstalt von
Siemens & Halske) exemplifies this transformation. Within 50 years, a
company that began in a proverbial workshop in a Berlin backyard became
a multinational high-tech corporation. It was in such corporate
laboratories, which were established around the year 1900, that the
"industrialization of invention" or the "scientification of industrial
production" took place.[^8^](#c1-note-0008){#c1-note-0008a} In other
words, even the processes employed in factories and the goods that they
produced became knowledge-intensive. Their invention, planning, and
production required a steadily growing expansion of activities, which
today we would refer to as research and development. The informatization
of the economy -- the acceleration of mass production, the comprehensive
application of scientific methods to the organization of labor, and the
central role of research and development in industry -- was hastened
enormously by a world war that was waged on an industrial scale to an
extent that had never been seen before.

Another important factor for the increasing significance of the
knowledge economy was the development of the consumer society. Over the
course of the last third of the nineteenth century, despite dramatic
regional and social disparities, an increasing number of people profited
from the economic growth that the Industrial Revolution had instigated.
Wages increased and basic needs were largely met, so that a new social
stratum arose, the middle class, which was able to spend part of its
income on other things. But on what? First, []{#Page_15 type="pagebreak"
title="15"}new needs had to be created. The more production capacities
increased, the more they had to be rethought in terms of consumption.
Thus, in yet another way, the economy became more knowledge-intensive.
It was now necessary to become familiar with, understand, and stimulate
the interests and preferences of consumers, in order to entice them to
purchase products that they did not urgently need. This knowledge did
little to enhance the material or logistical complexity of goods or
their production; rather, it was reflected in the increasingly extensive
communication about and through these goods. The beginnings of this
development were captured by Émile Zola in his 1883 novel *The Ladies\'
Paradise*, which was set in the new world of a semi-fictitious
department store bearing that name. In its opening scene, the young
protagonist Denise Baudu and her brother Jean, both of whom have just
moved to Paris from a provincial town, encounter for the first time the
artfully arranged women\'s clothing -- exhibited with all sorts of
tricks involving lighting, mirrors, and mannequins -- in the window
displays of the store. The sensuality of the staged goods is so
overwhelming that both of them are not only struck dumb, but Jean even
It was the economy of affects that brought blood to Jean\'s cheeks. At
that time, strategies for attracting the attention of customers did not
yet have a scientific and systematic basis. Just as the first inventions
in the age of industrialization were made by amateurs, so too was the
economy of affects developed intuitively and gradually rather than as a
planned or conscious paradigm shift. That it was possible to induce and
direct affects by means of targeted communication was the pioneering
discovery of the Austrian-American Edward Bernays. During the 1920s, he
combined the ideas of his uncle Sigmund Freud about unconscious
motivations with the sociological research methods of opinion surveys to
form a new discipline: market
research.[^9^](#c1-note-0009){#c1-note-0009a} It became the scientific
basis of a new field of activity, which he at first called "propa­ganda"
but then later referred to as "public
relations."[^10^](#c1-note-0010){#c1-note-0010a} Public communication,
be it for economic or political ends, was now placed on a systematic
foundation that came to distance itself more and more from the pure
"conveyance of information." Communication became a strategic field for
corporate and political disputes, and the mass media []{#Page_16
type="pagebreak" title="16"}became their locus of negotiation. Between
1880 and 1917, for instance, commercial advertising costs in the United
States increased by more than 800 percent, and the leading advertising
firms, using the same techniques with which they attracted consumers to
products, were successful in selling to the American public the idea of
their nation entering World War I. Thus, a media industry in the modern
sense was born, and it expanded along with the rapidly growing market
for advertising.[^11^](#c1-note-0011){#c1-note-0011a}

In his studies of labor markets conducted at the beginning of the 1960s,
Machlup brought these previously separ­ate developments together and
thus explained the existence of an already advanced knowledge economy in
the United States. His arguments fell on extremely fertile soil, for an
intellectual transformation had taken place in other areas of science as
well. A few years earlier, for instance, cybernetics had given the
concepts "information" and "communication" their first scientifically
precise (if somewhat idiosyncratic) definitions and had assigned to them
a position of central importance in all scientific disciplines, not to
mention life in general.[^12^](#c1-note-0012){#c1-note-0012a} Machlup\'s
investigation seemed to confirm this in the case of the economy, given
that the knowledge economy was primarily concerned with information and
communication. Since then, numerous analyses, formulas, and slogans have
repeated, modified, refined, and criticized the idea that the
knowledge-based activities of the economy have become increasingly
important. In the 1970s this discussion was associated above all with
the notion of the "post-industrial
society,"[^13^](#c1-note-0013){#c1-note-0013a} in the 1980s the guiding
idea was the "information society,"[^14^](#c1-note-0014){#c1-note-0014a}
and in the 1990s the debate revolved around the "network
society"[^15^](#c1-note-0015){#c1-note-0015a} -- to name just the most
popular concepts. What these approaches have in common is that they each
diagnose a comprehensive societal transformation that, as regards the
creation of economic value or jobs, has shifted the balance from
productive to communicative activ­ities. Accordingly, they presuppose
that we know how to distinguish the former from the latter. This is not
unproblematic, however, because in practice the two are usually tightly
intertwined. Moreover, whoever maintains that communicative activities
have taken the place of industrial production in our society has adopted
a very narrow point of []{#Page_17 type="pagebreak" title="17"}view.
Factory jobs have not simply disappeared; they have just been partially
relocated outside of Western economies. The assertion that communicative
activities are somehow of "greater value" hardly chimes with the reality
of today\'s new "service jobs," many of which pay no more than the
minimum wage.[^16^](#c1-note-0016){#c1-note-0016a} Critiques of this
sort, however, have done little to reduce the effectiveness of this
analysis -- especially its political effectiveness -- for it does more
than simply describe a condition. It also contains a set of political
instructions that imply or directly demand that precisely those sectors
should be promoted that it considers economically promising, and that
society should be reorganized accordingly. Since the 1970s, there has
thus been a feedback loop between scientific analysis and political
agendas. More often than not, it is hardly possible to distinguish
between the two. Especially in Britain and the United States, the
economic transformation of the 1980s was imposed insistently and with
political calculation (the weakening of labor unions).

There are, however, important differences between the developments of
the so-called "post-industrial society" of the 1970s and those of the
so-called "network society" of the 1990s, even if both terms are
supposed to stress the increased significance of information, knowledge,
and communication. With regard to the digital condition, the most
important of these differences are the greater flexibility of economic
activity in general and employment relations in particular, as well as
the dismantling of social security systems. Neither phenomenon played
much of a role in analyses of the early 1970s. The development since
then can be traced back to two currents that could not seem more
different from one another. At first, flexibility was demanded in the
name of a critique of the value system imposed by bureaucratic-bourgeois
society (including the traditional organization of the workforce). It
originated in the new social movements that had formed in the late
1960s. Later on, toward the end of the 1970s, it then became one of the
central points of the neoliberal critique of the welfare state. With
completely different motives, both sides sang the praises of autonomy
and spontaneity while rejecting the disciplinary nature of hierarchical
organization. They demanded individuality and diversity rather than
conformity to prescribed roles. Experimentation, openness to []{#Page_18
type="pagebreak" title="18"}new ideas, flexibility, and change were now
established as fundamental values with positive connotations. Both
movements operated with the attractive idea of personal freedom. The new
social movements understood this in a social sense as the freedom of
personal development and coexistence, whereas neoliberals understood it
in an economic sense as the freedom of the market. In the 1980s, the
neoliberal ideas prevailed in large part because some of the values,
strategies, and methods propagated by the new social movements were
removed from their political context and appropriated in order to
breathe new life -- a "new spirit" -- into capitalism and thus to rescue
industrial society from its crisis.[^17^](#c1-note-0017){#c1-note-0017a}
An army of management consultants, restructuring experts, and new
companies began to promote flat hierarchies, self-responsibility, and
innovation; with these aims in mind, they set about reorganizing large
corporations into small and flexible units. Labor and leisure were no
longer supposed to be separated, for all aspects of a given person could
be integrated into his or her work. In order to achieve economic success
in this new capitalism, it became necessary for every individual to
identify himself or herself with his or her profession. Large
corporations were restructured in such a way that entire departments
found themselves transformed into independent "profit centers." This
happened in the name of creating more leeway for decision-making and of
optimizing the entrepreneurial spirit on all levels, the goals being to
increase value creation and to provide management with more fine-grained
powers of intervention. These measures, in turn, created the need for
computers and the need for them to be networked. Large corporations
reacted in this way to the emergence of highly specialized small
companies which, by networking and cooperating with other firms,
succeeded in quickly and flexibly exploiting niches in the expanding
global markets. In the management literature of the 1980s, the
catchphrases for this were "company networks" and "flexible
specialization."[^18^](#c1-note-0018){#c1-note-0018a} By the middle of
the 1990s, the sociologist Manuel Castells was able to conclude that the
actual productive entity was no longer the individual company but rather
the network consisting of companies and corporate divisions of various
sizes. In Castells\'s estimation, the decisive advantage of the network
is its ability to customize its elements and their configuration
[]{#Page_19 type="pagebreak" title="19"}to suit the rapidly changing
requirements of the "project" at
hand.[^19^](#c1-note-0019){#c1-note-0019a} Aside from a few exceptions,
companies in their trad­itional forms came to function above all as
strategic control centers and as economic and legal units.

This economic structural transformation was already well under way when
the internet emerged as a mass medium around the turn of the millennium.
As a consequence, change became more radical and penetrated into an
increasing number of areas of value creation. The political agenda
oriented itself toward the vision of "creative industries," a concept
developed in 1997 by the newly elected British government under Tony
Blair. A Creative Industries Task Force was established right away, and
its first step was to identify "those activities which have their
origins in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have the
potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and
exploit­ation of intellectual
property."[^20^](#c1-note-0020){#c1-note-0020a} Like Fritz Machlup at
the beginning of the 1960s, the task force brought together existing
areas of activity into a new category. Such activities included
advertising, computer games, architecture, music, arts and antique
markets, publishing, design, software and computer services, fashion,
television and radio, and film and video. The latter were elevated to
matters of political importance on account of their potential to create
wealth and jobs. Not least because of this clever presentation of
categories -- no distinction was made between the BBC, an almighty
public-service provider, and fledgling companies in precarious
circumstances -- it was possible to proclaim not only that the creative
industries were contributing a relevant portion of the nation\'s
economic output, but also that this sector was growing at an especially
fast rate. It was reported that, in London, the creative industries were
already responsible for one out of every five new jobs. When compared
with traditional terms of employment as regards income, benefits, and
prospects for advancement, however, many of these positions entailed a
considerable downgrade for the employees in question (who were now
treated as independent contractors). This fact was either ignored or
explicitly interpreted as a sign of the sector\'s particular
dynamism.[^21^](#c1-note-0021){#c1-note-0021a} Around the turn of the
new millennium, the idea that individual creativity plays a central role
in the economy was given further traction by []{#Page_20
type="pagebreak" title="20"}the sociologist and consultant Richard
Florida, who argued that creativity was essential to the future of
cities and even announced the rise of the "creative class." As to the
preconditions that have to be met in order to tap into this source of
wealth, he devised a simple formula that would be easy for municipal
bureaucrats to understand: "technology, tolerance and talent." Talent,
as defined by Florida, is based on individual creativity and education
and manifests itself in the ability to generate new jobs. He was thus
able to declare talent a central element of economic
growth.[^22^](#c1-note-0022){#c1-note-0022a} In order to "unleash" these
resources, what we need in addition to technology is, above all,
tolerance; that is, "an open culture -- one that does not discriminate,
does not force people into boxes, allows us to be ourselves, and
validates various forms of family and of human

The idea that a public welfare state should ensure the social security
of individuals was considered obsolete. Collective institutions, which
could have provided a degree of stability for people\'s lifestyles, were
dismissed or regarded as bureaucratic obstacles. The more or less
directly evoked role model for all of this was the individual artist,
who was understood as an individual entrepreneur, a sort of genius
suitable for the masses. For Florida, a central problem was that,
according to his own calculations, only about a third of the people
living in North American and European cities were working in the
"creative sector," while the innate creativity of everyone else was
going to waste. Even today, the term "creative industry," along with the
assumption that the internet will provide increased opportunities,
serves to legitimize the effort to restructure all areas of the economy
according to the needs of the knowledge economy and to privilege the
network over the institution. In times of social cutbacks and empty
public purses, especially in municipalities, this message was warmly
received. One mayor, who as the first openly gay top politician in
Germany exemplified tolerance for diverse lifestyles, even adopted the
slogan "poor but sexy" for his city. Everyone was supposed to exploit
his or her own creativity to discover new niches and opportunities for
monet­ization -- a magic formula that was supposed to bring about a new
urban revival. Today there is hardly a city in Europe that does not
issue a report about its creative economy, []{#Page_21 type="pagebreak"
title="21"}and nearly all of these reports cite, directly or indirectly,
Richard Florida.

As already seen in the context of the knowledge economy, so too in the
case of creative industries do measurable social change, wishful
thinking, and political agendas blend together in such a way that it is
impossible to identify a single cause for the developments taking place.
The consequences, however, are significant. Over the last two
generations, the demands of the labor market have fundamentally changed.
Higher education and the ability to acquire new knowledge independently
are now, to an increasing extent, required and expected as
qualifications and personal attributes. The desired or enforced ability
to be flexible at work, the widespread cooperation across institutions,
the uprooted nature of labor, and the erosion of collective models for
social security have displaced many activities, which once took place
within clearly defined institutional or personal limits, into a new
interstitial space that is neither private nor public in the classical
sense. This is the space of networks, communities, and informal
cooperation -- the space of sharing and exchange that has since been
enabled by the emergence of ubiquitous digital communication. It allows
an increasing number of people, whether willingly or otherwise, to
envision themselves as active producers of information, knowledge,
capability, and meaning. And because it is associated in various ways
with the space of market-based exchange and with the bourgeois political
sphere, it has lasting effects on both. This interstitial space becomes
all the more important as fewer people are willing or able to rely on
traditional institutions for their economic security. For, within it,
personal and digital-based networks can and must be developed as
alternatives, regardless of whether they prove sustainable for the long
term. As a result, more and more actors, each with their own claims to
meaning, have been rushing away from the private personal sphere into
this new interstitial space. By now, this has become such a normal
practice that whoever is *not* active in this ever-expanding
interstitial space, which is rapidly becoming the main social sphere --
whoever, that is, lacks a publicly visible profile on social mass media
like Facebook, or does not number among those producing information and
meaning and is thus so inconspicuous online as []{#Page_22
type="pagebreak" title="22"}to yield no search results -- now stands out
in a negative light (or, in far fewer cases, acquires a certain prestige
on account of this very absence).

::: {.section}
### The erosion of heteronormativity {#c1-sec-0004}

In this (sometimes more, sometimes less) public space for the continuous
production of social meaning (and its exploit­ation), there is no
question that the professional middle class is
over-represented.[^24^](#c1-note-0024){#c1-note-0024a} It would be
short-sighted, however, to reduce those seeking autonomy and the
recognition of individuality and social diversity to the role of poster
children for the new spirit of
capitalism.[^25^](#c1-note-0025){#c1-note-0025a} The new social
movements, for instance, initiated a social shift that has allowed an
increasing number of people to demand, if nothing else, the right to
participate in social life in a self-determined manner; that is,
according to their own standards and values.

Especially effective was the critique of patriarchal and heteronormative
power relations, modes of conduct, and
identities.[^26^](#c1-note-0026){#c1-note-0026a} In the context of the
political upheavals at the end of the 1960s, the new women\'s and gay
movements developed into influential actors. Their greatest achievement
was to establish alternative cultural forms, lifestyles, and strategies
of action in or around the mainstream of society. How this was done can
be demonstrated by tracing, for example, the development of the gay
movement in West Germany.

In the fall of 1969, the liberalization of Paragraph 175 of the German
Criminal Code came into effect. From then on, sexual activity between
adult men was no longer punishable by law (women were not mentioned in
this context). For the first time, a man could now express himself as a
homosexual outside of semi-private space without immediately being
exposed to the risk of criminal prosecution. This was a necessary
precondition for the ability to defend one\'s own rights. As early as
1971, the struggle for the recognition of gay life experiences reached
the broader public when Rosa von Praunheim\'s film *It Is Not the
Homosexual Who Is Perverse, but the Society in Which He Lives* was
screened at the Berlin International Film Festival and then, shortly
thereafter, broadcast on public television in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The film, which is firmly situated in the agitprop tradition,
[]{#Page_23 type="pagebreak" title="23"}follows a young provincial man
through the various milieus of Berlin\'s gay subcultures: from a
monogamous relationship to nightclubs and public bathrooms until, at the
end, he is enlightened by a political group of men who explain that it
is not possible to lead a free life in a niche, as his own emancipation
can only be achieved by a transformation of society as a whole. The film
closes with a not-so-subtle call to action: "Out of the closets, into
the streets!" Von Praunheim understood this emancipation to be a process
that encompassed all areas of life and had to be carried out in public;
it could only achieve success, moreover, in solidarity with other
freedom movements such as the Black Panthers in the United States and
the new women\'s movement. The goal, according to this film, is to
articulate one\'s own identity as a specific and differentiated identity
with its own experiences, values, and reference systems, and to anchor
this identity within a society that not only tolerates it but also
recognizes it as having equal validity.

At first, however, the film triggered vehement controversies, even
within the gay scene. The objection was that it attacked the gay
subculture, which was not yet prepared to defend itself publicly against
discrimination. Despite or (more likely) because of these controversies,
more than 50 groups of gay activists soon formed in Germany. Such
groups, largely composed of left-wing alternative students, included,
for instance, the Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin (HAW) and the Rote
Zelle Schwul (RotZSchwul) in Frankfurt am
Main.[^27^](#c1-note-0027){#c1-note-0027a} One focus of their activities
was to have Paragraph 175 struck entirely from the legal code (which was
not achieved until 1994). This cause was framed within a general
struggle to overcome patriarchy and capitalism. At the earliest gay
demonstrations in Germany, which took place in Münster in April 1972,
protesters rallied behind the following slogan: "Brothers and sisters,
gay or not, it is our duty to fight capitalism." This was understood as
a necessary subordination to the greater struggle against what was known
in the terminology of left-wing radical groups as the "main
contradiction" of capitalism (that between capital and labor), and it
led to strident differences within the gay movement. The dispute
escalated during the next year. After the so-called *Tuntenstreit*, or
"Battle of the Queens," which was []{#Page_24 type="pagebreak"
title="24"}initiated by activists from Italy and France who had appeared
in drag at the closing ceremony of the HAW\'s Spring Meeting in West
Berlin, the gay movement was divided, or at least moving in a new
direction. At the heart of the matter were the following questions: "Is
there an inherent (many speak of an autonomous) position that gays hold
with respect to the issue of homosexuality? Or can a position on
homosexuality only be derived in association with the traditional
workers\' movement?"[^28^](#c1-note-0028){#c1-note-0028a} In other
words, was discrimination against homosexuality part of the social
divide caused by capitalism (that is, one of its "ancillary
contradictions") and thus only to be overcome by overcoming capitalism
itself, or was it something unrelated to the "essence" of capitalism, an
independent conflict requiring different strategies and methods? This
conflict could never be fully resolved, but the second position, which
was more interested in overcoming legal, social, and cultural
discrimination than in struggling against economic exploitation, and
which focused specifically on the social liberation of gays, proved to
be far more dynamic in the long term. This was not least because both
the old and new left were themselves not free of homophobia and because
the entire radical student movement of the 1970s fell into crisis.

Over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, "aesthetic self-empowerment" was
realized through the efforts of artistic and (increasingly) commercial
producers of images, texts, and
sounds.[^29^](#c1-note-0029){#c1-note-0029a} Activists, artists, and
intellectuals developed a language with which they could speak
assertively in public about topics that had previously been taboo.
Inspired by the expression "gay pride," which originated in the United
States, they began to use the term *schwul* ("gay"), which until then
had possessed negative connotations, with growing confidence. They
founded numerous gay and lesbian cultural initiatives, theaters,
publishing houses, magazines, bookstores, meeting places, and other
associations in order to counter the misleading or (in their eyes)
outright false representations of the mass media with their own
multifarious media productions. In doing so, they typically followed a
dual strategy: on the one hand, they wanted to create a space for the
members of the movement in which it would be possible to formulate and
live different identities; on the other hand, they were fighting to be
accepted by society at large. While []{#Page_25 type="pagebreak"
title="25"}a broader and broader spectrum of gay positions, experiences,
and aesthetics was becoming visible to the public, the connection to
left-wing radical contexts became weaker. Founded as early as 1974, and
likewise in West Berlin, the General Homosexual Working Group
(Allgemeine Homosexuelle Arbeitsgemeinschaft) sought to integrate gay
politics into mainstream society by defining the latter -- on the basis
of bourgeois, individual rights -- as a "politics of
anti-discrimination." These efforts achieved a milestone in 1980 when,
in the run-up to the parliamentary election, a podium discussion was
held with representatives of all major political parties on the topic of
the law governing sexual offences. The discussion took place in the
Beethovenhalle in Bonn, which was the largest venue for political events
in the former capital. Several participants considered the event to be a
"disaster,"[^30^](#c1-note-0030){#c1-note-0030a} for it revived a number
of internal conflicts (not least that between revolutionary and
integrative positions). Yet the fact remains that representatives were
present from every political party, and this alone was indicative of an
unprecedented amount of public awareness for those demanding equal

The struggle against discrimination and for social recognition reached
an entirely new level of urgency with the outbreak of HIV/AIDS. In 1983,
the magazine *Der Spiegel* devoted its first cover story to the disease,
thus bringing it to the awareness of the broader public. In the same
year, the non-profit organization Deutsche Aids-Hilfe was founded to
prevent further cases of discrimination, for *Der Spiegel* was not the
only publication at the time to refer to AIDS as a "homosexual
epidemic."[^31^](#c1-note-0031){#c1-note-0031a} The struggle against
HIV/AIDS required a comprehensive mobilization. Funding had to be raised
in order to deal with the social repercussions of the epidemic, to teach
people about safe sexual practices for everyone and to direct research
toward discovering causes and developing potential cures. The immediate
threat that AIDS represented, especially while so little was known about
the illness and its treatment remained a distant hope, created an
impetus for mobilization that led to alliances between the gay movement,
the healthcare system, and public authorities. Thus, the AIDS Inquiry
Committee, sponsored by the conservative Christian Democratic Union,
concluded in 1988 that, in the fight against the illness, "the
homosexual subculture is []{#Page_26 type="pagebreak"
title="26"}especially important. This informal structure should
therefore neither be impeded nor repressed but rather, on the contrary,
recognized and supported."[^32^](#c1-note-0032){#c1-note-0032a} The AIDS
crisis proved to be a catalyst for advancing the integration of gays
into society and for expanding what could be regarded as acceptable
lifestyles, opinions, and cultural practices. As a consequence,
homosexuals began to appear more frequently in the media, though their
presence would never match that of hetero­sexuals. As of 1985, the
television show *Lindenstraße* featured an openly gay protagonist, and
the first kiss between men was aired in 1987. The episode still provoked
a storm of protest -- Bayerische Rundfunk refused to broadcast it a
second time -- but this was already a rearguard action and the
integration of gays (and lesbians) into the social mainstream continued.
In 1993, the first gay and lesbian city festival took place in Berlin,
and the first Rainbow Parade was held in Vienna in 1996. In 2002, the
Cologne Pride Day involved 1.2 million participants and attendees, thus
surpassing for the first time the attendance at the traditional Rose
Monday parade. By the end of the 1990s, the sociologist Rüdiger Lautmann
was already prepared to maintain: "To be homosexual has become
increasingly normalized, even if homophobia lives on in the depths of
the collective disposition."[^33^](#c1-note-0033){#c1-note-0033a} This
normalization was also reflected in a study published by the Ministry of
Justice in the year 2000, which stressed "the similarity between
homosexual and heterosexual relationships" and, on this basis, made an
argument against discrimination.[^34^](#c1-note-0034){#c1-note-0034a}
Around the year 2000, however, the classical gay movement had already
passed its peak. A profound transformation had begun to take place in
the middle of the 1990s. It lost its character as a new social movement
(in the style of the 1970s) and began to splinter inwardly and
outwardly. One could say that it transformed from a mass movement into a
multitude of variously networked communities. The clearest sign of this
transformation is the abbreviation "LGBT" (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender), which, since the mid-1990s, has represented the internal
heterogeneity of the movement as it has shifted toward becoming a
network.[^35^](#c1-note-0035){#c1-note-0035a} At this point, the more
radical actors were already speaking against the normalization of
homosexuality. Queer theory, for example, was calling into question the
"essentialist" definition of gender []{#Page_27 type="pagebreak"
title="27"}-- that is, any definition reducing it to an immutable
essence -- with respect to both its physical dimension (sex) and its
social and cultural dimension (gender
proper).[^36^](#c1-note-0036){#c1-note-0036a} It thus opened up a space
for the articulation of experiences, self-descriptions, and lifestyles
that, on every level, are located beyond the classical attributions of
men and women. A new generation of intellectuals, activists, and artists
took the stage and developed -- yet again through acts of aesthetic
self-empowerment -- a language that enabled them to import, with
confidence, different self-definitions into the public sphere. An
example of this is the adoption of inclusive plural forms in German
(*Aktivist\_innen* "activists," *Künstler\_innen* "artists"), which draw
attention to the gaps and possibilities between male and female
identities that are also expressed in the language itself. Just as with
the terms "gay" or *schwul* some 30 years before, in this case, too, an
important element was the confident and public adoption and semantic
conversion of a formerly insulting word ("queer") by the very people and
communities against whom it used to be
directed.[^37^](#c1-note-0037){#c1-note-0037a} Likewise observable in
these developments was the simultaneity of social (amateur) and
artistic/scientific (professional) cultural production. The goal,
however, was less to produce a clear antithesis than it was to oppose
rigid attributions by underscoring mutability, hybridity, and
uniqueness. Both the scope of what could be expressed in public and the
circle of potential speakers expanded yet again. And, at least to some
extent, the drag queen Conchita Wurst popularized complex gender
constructions that went beyond the simple woman/man dualism. All of that
said, the assertion by Rüdiger Lautmann quoted above -- "homophobia
lives on in the depths of the collective dis­position" -- continued to
hold true.

If the gay movement is representative of the social liber­ation of the
1970s and 1980s, then it is possible to regard its transformation into
the LGBT movement during the 1990s -- with its multiplicity and fluidity
of identity models and its stress on mutability and hybridity -- as a
sign of the reinvention of this project within the context of an
increasingly dominant digital condition. With this transformation,
however, the diversification and fluidification of cultural practices
and social roles have not yet come to an end. Ways of life that were
initially subcultural and facing existential pressure []{#Page_28
type="pagebreak" title="28"}are gradually entering the mainstream. They
are expanding the range of readily available models of identity for
anyone who might be interested, be it with respect to family forms
(e.g., patchwork families, adoption by same-sex couples), diets (e.g.,
vegetarianism and veganism), healthcare (e.g., anti-vaccination), or
other principles of life and belief. All of them are seeking public
recognition for a new frame of reference for social meaning that has
originated from their own activity. This is necessarily a process
characterized by conflicts and various degrees of resistance, including
right-wing populism that seeks to defend "traditional values," but many
of these movements will ultimately succeed in providing more people with
the opportunity to speak in public, thus broadening the palette of
themes that are considered to be important and legitimate.

::: {.section}
### Beyond center and periphery {#c1-sec-0005}

In order to reach a better understanding of the complexity involved in
the expanding social basis of cultural production, it is necessary to
shift yet again to a different level. For, just as it would be myopic to
examine the multiplication of cultural producers only in terms of
professional knowledge workers from the middle class, it would likewise
be insufficient to situate this multiplication exclusively in the
centers of the West. The entire system of categories that justified the
differentiation between the cultural "center" and the cultural
"periphery" has begun to falter. This complex and multilayered process
has been formulated and analyzed by the theory of "post-colonialism."
Long before digital media made the challenge of cultural multiplicity a
quotidian issue in the West, proponents of this theory had developed
languages and terminologies for negotiating different positions without
needing to impose a hierarchical order.

Since the 1970s, the theoretical current of post-colonialism has been
examining the cultural and epistemic dimensions of colonialism that,
even after its end as a territorial system, have remained responsible
for the continuation of dependent relations and power differentials. For
my purposes -- which are to develop a European perspective on the
factors ensuring that more and more people are able to participate in
cultural []{#Page_29 type="pagebreak" title="29"}production -- two
points are especially relevant because their effects reverberate in
Europe itself. First is the deconstruction of the categories "West" (in
the sense of the center) and "East" (in the sense of the periphery). And
second is the focus on hybridity as a specific way for non-Western
actors to deal with the dominant cultures of former colonial powers,
which have continued to determine significant portions of globalized
culture. The terms "West" and "East," "center" and "periphery," do not
simply describe existing conditions; rather, they are categories that
contribute, in an important way, to the creation of the very conditions
that they presume to describe. This may sound somewhat circular, but it
is precisely from this circularity that such cultural classifications
derive their strength. The world that they illuminate is immersed in
their own light. The category "East" -- or, to use the term of the
literary theorist Edward Said,
"orientalism"[^38^](#c1-note-0038){#c1-note-0038a} -- is a system of
representation that pervades Western thinking. Within this system,
Europe or the West (as the center) and the East (as the periphery)
represent asymmetrical and antithetical concepts. This construction
achieves a dual effect. As a self-description, on the one hand, it
contributes to the formation of our own identity, for Europeans
attrib­ute to themselves and to their continent such features as
"rationality," "order," and "progress," while on the other hand
identifying the alternative with "superstition," "chaos," or
"stagnation." The East, moreover, is used as an exotic projection screen
for our own suppressed desires. According to Said, a representational
system of this sort can only take effect if it becomes "hegemonic"; that
is, if it is perceived as self-evident and no longer as an act of
attribution but rather as one of description, even and precisely by
those against whom the system discriminates. Said\'s accomplishment is
to have worked out how far-reaching this system was and, in many areas,
it remains so today. It extended (and extends) from scientific
disciplines, whose researchers discussed (until the 1980s) the theory of
"oriental despotism,"[^39^](#c1-note-0039){#c1-note-0039a} to literature
and art -- the motif of the harem was especially popular, particularly
in paintings of the late nineteenth
century[^40^](#c1-note-0040){#c1-note-0040a} -- all the way to everyday
culture, where, as of 1913 in the United States, the cigarette brand
Camel (introduced to compete with the then-leading brand, Fatima) was
meant to evoke the []{#Page_30 type="pagebreak" title="30"}mystique and
sensuality of the Orient.[^41^](#c1-note-0041){#c1-note-0041a} This
system of representation, however, was more than a means of describing
oneself and others; it also served to legitimize the allocation of all
knowledge and agency on to one side, that of the West. Such an order was
not restricted to culture; it also created and legitimized a sense of
domination for colonial projects.[^42^](#c1-note-0042){#c1-note-0042a}
This cultural legitimation, as Said points out, also persists after the
end of formal colonial domination and continues to marginalize the
postcolonial subjects. As before, they are unable to speak for
themselves and therefore remain in the dependent periphery, which is
defined by their subordinate position in relation to the center. Said
directed the focus of critique to this arrangement of center and
periphery, which he saw as being (re)produced and legitimized on the
cultural level. From this arose the demand that everyone should have the
right to speak, to place him- or herself in the center. To achieve this,
it was necessary first of all to develop a language -- indeed, a
cultural landscape -- that can manage without a hegemonic center and is
thus oriented toward multiplicity instead of

A somewhat different approach has been taken by the literary theorist
Homi K. Bhabha. He proceeds from the idea that the colonized never fully
passively adopt the culture of the colonialists -- the "English book,"
as he calls it. Their previous culture is never simply wiped out and
replaced by another. What always and necessarily occurs is rather a
process of hybridization. This concept, according to Bhabha,

::: {.extract}
suggests that all of culture is constructed around negotiations and
conflicts. Every cultural practice involves an attempt -- sometimes
good, sometimes bad -- to establish authority. Even classical works of
art, such as a painting by Brueghel or a composition by Beethoven, are
concerned with the establishment of cultural authority. Now, this poses
the following question: How does one function as a negotiator when
one\'s own sense of agency is limited, for instance, on account of being
excluded or oppressed? I think that, even in the role of the underdog,
there are opportunities to upend the imposed cultural authorities -- to
accept some aspects while rejecting others. It is in this way that
symbols of authority are hybridized and made into something of one\'s
own. For me, hybridization is not simply a mixture but rather a
[]{#Page_31 type="pagebreak" title="31"}strategic and selective
appropriation of meanings; it is a way to create space for negotiators
whose freedom and equality are

Hybridization is thus a cultural strategy for evading marginality that
is imposed from the outside: subjects, who from the dominant perspective
are incapable of doing so, appropriate certain aspects of culture for
themselves and transform them into something else. What is decisive is
that this hybrid, created by means of active and unauthorized
appropriation, opposes the dominant version and the resulting speech is
thus legitimized from another -- that is, from one\'s own -- position.
In this way, a cultural engagement is set under way and the superiority
of one meaning or another is called into question. Who has the right to
determine how and why a relationship with others should be entered,
which resources should be appropriated from them, and how these
resources should be used? At the heart of the matter lie the abilities
of speech and interpretation; these can be seized in order to create
space for a "cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an
assumed or imposed hierarchy."[^45^](#c1-note-0045){#c1-note-0045a}

At issue is thus a strategy for breaking down hegemonic cultural
conditions, which distribute agency in a highly uneven manner, and for
turning one\'s own cultural production -- which has been dismissed by
cultural authorities as flawed, misconceived, or outright ignorant --
into something negotiable and independently valuable. Bhabha is thus
interested in fissures, differences, diversity, multiplicity, and
processes of negotiation that generate something like shared meaning --
culture, as he defines it -- instead of conceiving of it as something
that precedes these processes and is threatened by them. Accordingly, he
proceeds not from the idea of unity, which is threatened whenever
"others" are empowered to speak and needs to be preserved, but rather
from the irreducible multiplicity that, through laborious processes, can
be brought into temporary and limited consensus. Bhabha\'s vision of
culture is one without immutable authorities, interpretations, and
truths. In theory, everything can be brought to the table. This is not a
situation in which anything goes, yet the central meaning of
negotiation, the contextuality of consensus, and the mutability of every
frame of reference []{#Page_32 type="pagebreak" title="32"}-- none of
which can be shared equally by everyone -- are always potentially

Post-colonialism draws attention to the "disruptive power of the
excluded-included third," which becomes especially virulent when it
"emerges in the middle of semantic
structures."[^46^](#c1-note-0046){#c1-note-0046a} The recognition of
this power reveals the increasing cultural independence of those
formerly colonized, and it also transforms the cultural self-perception
of the West, for, even in Western nations that were not significant
colonial powers, there are multifaceted tensions between dominant
cultures and those who are on the defensive against discrimination and
attributions by others. Instead of relying on the old recipe of
integration through assimilation (that is, the dissolution of the
"other"), the right to self-determined difference is being called for
more emphatically. In such a manner, collective identities, such as
national identities, are freed from their questionable appeals to
cultural homogeneity and essentiality, and reconceived in terms of the
experience of immanent difference. Instead of one binding and
unnegotiable frame of reference for everyone, which hierarchizes
individual pos­itions and makes them appear unified, a new order without
such limitations needs to be established. Ultimately, the aim is to
provide nothing less than an "alternative reading of
modernity,"[^47^](#c1-note-0047){#c1-note-0047a} which influences both
the construction of the past and the modalities of the future. For
European culture in particular, such a project is an immense challenge.

Of course, these demands do not derive their everyday relevance
primarily from theory but rather from the experiences of
(de)colonization, migration, and globalization. Multifaceted as it is,
however, the theory does provide forms and languages for articulating
these phenomena, legitimizing new positions in public debates, and
attacking persistent mechanisms of cultural marginalization. It helps to
empower broader societal groups to become actively involved in cultural
processes, namely people, such as migrants and their children, whose
identity and experience are essentially shaped by non-Western cultures.
The latter have been giving voice to their experiences more frequently
and with greater confidence in all areas of public life, be it in
politics, literature, music, or
art.[^48^](#c1-note-0048){#c1-note-0048a} In Germany, for instance, the
films by Fatih Akin (*Head-On* from 2004 and *Soul Kitchen* from 2009,
to []{#Page_33 type="pagebreak" title="33"}name just two), in which the
experience of immigration is represented as part of the German
experience, have reached a wide public audience. In 2002, the group
Kanak Attak organized a series of conferences with the telling motto *no
integración*, and these did much to introduce postcolonial positions to
the debates taking place in German-speaking
countries.[^49^](#c1-note-0049){#c1-note-0049a} For a long time,
politicians with "migration backgrounds" were considered to be competent
in only one area, namely integration policy. This has since changed,
though not entirely. In 2008, for instance, Cem Özdemir was elected
co-chair of the Green Party and thus shares responsibility for all of
its political positions. Developments of this sort have been enabled
(and strengthened) by a shift in society\'s self-perception. In 2014,
Cemile Giousouf, the integration commissioner for the conservative
CDU/CSU alliance in the German Parliament, was able to make the
following statement without inciting any controversy: "Over the past few
years, Germany has become a modern land of
immigration."[^50^](#c1-note-0050){#c1-note-0050a} A remarkable
proclamation. Not ten years earlier, her party colleague Norbert Lammert
had expressed, in his function as parliamentary president, interest in
reviving the debate about the term "leading culture." The increasingly
well-educated migrants of the first, second, or third gener­ation no
longer accept the choice of being either marginalized as an exotic
representative of the "other" or entirely assimilated. Rather, they are
insisting on being able to introduce their specific experience as a
constitutive contribution to the formation of the present -- in
association and in conflict with other contributions, but at the same
level and with the same legitimacy. It is no surprise that various forms
of discrimin­ation and violence against "foreigners" not only continue
in everyday life but have also been increasing in reaction to this new
situation. Ultimately, established claims to power are being called into

To summarize, at least three secular historical tendencies or movements,
some of which can be traced back to the late nineteenth century but each
of which gained considerable momentum during the last third of the
twentieth (the spread of the knowledge economy, the erosion of
heteronormativity, and the focus of post-colonialism on cultural
hybridity), have greatly expanded the sphere of those who actively
negotiate []{#Page_34 type="pagebreak" title="34"}social meaning. In
large part, the patterns and cultural foundations of these processes
developed long before the internet. Through the use of the internet, and
through the experiences of dealing with it, they have encroached upon
far greater portions of all societies.

::: {.section}
The Culturalization of the World {#c1-sec-0006}

The number of participants in cultural processes, however, is not the
only thing that has increased. Parallel to that development, the field
of the cultural has expanded as well -- that is, those areas of life
that are not simply characterized by unalterable necessities, but rather
contain or generate competing options and thus require conscious

The term "culturalization of the economy" refers to the central position
of knowledge-based, meaning-based, and affect-oriented processes in the
creation of value. With the emergence of consumption as the driving
force behind the production of goods and the concomitant necessity of
having not only to satisfy existing demands but also to create new ones,
the cultural and affective dimensions of the economy began to gain
significance. I have already discussed the beginnings of product
staging, advertising, and public relations. In addition to all of the
continuities that remain with us from that time, it is also possible to
point out a number of major changes that consumer society has undergone
since the late 1960s. These changes can be delineated by examining the
greater role played by design, which has been called the "core
discipline of the creative

As a field of its own, design originated alongside industrialization,
when, in collaborative processes, the activities of planning and
designing were separated from those of carrying out
production.[^52^](#c1-note-0052){#c1-note-0052a} It was not until the
modern era that designers consciously endeavored to seek new forms for
the logic inherent to mass production. With the aim of economic
efficiency, they intended their designs to optimize the clearly defined
functions of anonymous and endlessly reproducible objects. At the end of
the nineteenth century, the architect Louis Sullivan, whose buildings
still distinguish the skyline of Chicago, condensed this new attitude
into the famous axiom []{#Page_35 type="pagebreak" title="35"}"form
follows function." Mies van der Rohe, working as an architect in Chicago
in the middle of the twentieth century, supplemented this with a pithy
and famous formulation of his own: "less is more." The rationality of
design, in the sense of isolating and improving specific functions, and
the economical use of resources were of chief importance to modern
(industrial) designers. Even the ten design principles of Dieter Rams,
who led the design division of the consumer products company Braun from
1965 to 1991 -- one of the main sources of inspiration for Jonathan Ive,
Apple\'s chief design officer -- aimed to make products "usable,"
"understandable," "honest," and "long-lasting." "Good design," according
to his guiding principle, "is as little design as
possible."[^53^](#c1-note-0053){#c1-note-0053a} This orientation toward
the technical and functional promised to solve problems for everyone in
a long-term and binding manner, for the inherent material and design
qual­ities of an object were supposed to make it independent from
changing times and from the tastes of consumers.

::: {.section}
### Beyond the object {#c1-sec-0007}

At the end of the 1960s, a new generation of designers rebelled against
this industrial and instrumental rationality, which was now felt to be
authoritarian, soulless, and reductionist. In the works associated with
"anti-design" or "radical design," the objectives of the discipline were
redefined and a new formal language was developed. In the place of
tech­nical and functional optimization, recombination -- ecological
recycling or the postmodern interplay of forms -- emerged as a design
method and aesthetic strategy. Moreover, the aspiration of design
shifted from the individual object to its entire social and material
environment. The processes of design and production, which had been
closed off from one another and restricted to specialists, were opened
up precisely to encourage the participation of non-designers, be it
through interdisciplinary cooperation with other types of professions or
through the empowerment of laymen. The objectives of design were
radically expanded: rather than ending with the completion of an
individual product, it was now supposed to engage with society. In the
sense of cybernetics, this was regarded as a "system," controlled by
feedback processes, []{#Page_36 type="pagebreak" title="36"}which
connected social, technical, and biological dimensions to one
another.[^54^](#c1-note-0054){#c1-note-0054a} Design, according to this
new approach, was meant to be a "socially significant

Embedded in the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, this new
generation of designers was curious about the social and political
potential of their discipline, and about possibilities for promoting
flexibility and autonomy instead of rigid industrial efficiency. Design
was no longer expected to solve problems once and for all, for such an
idea did not correspond to the self-perception of an open and mutable
society. Rather, it was expected to offer better opportun­ities for
enabling people to react to continuously changing conditions. A radical
proposal was developed by the Italian designer Enzo Mari, who in 1974
published his handbook *Autoprogettazione* (Self-Design). It contained
19 simple designs with which people could make, on their own,
aesthetically and functionally sophisticated furniture out of pre-cut
pieces of wood. In this case, the designs themselves were less important
than the critique of conventional design as elitist and of consumer
society as alienated and wasteful. Mari\'s aim was to reconceive the
relations among designers, the manufacturing industry, and users.
Increasingly, design came to be understood as a holistic and open
process. Victor Papanek, the founder of ecological design, took things a
step further. For him, design was "basic to all human activity. The
planning and patterning of any act towards a desired, foreseeable end
constitutes the design process. Any attempt to separate design, to make
it a thing-by-itself, works counter to the inherent value of design as
the primary underlying matrix of

Potentially all aspects of life could therefore fall under the purview
of design. This came about from the desire to oppose industrialism,
which was blind to its catastrophic social and ecological consequences,
with a new and comprehensive manner of seeing and acting that was
unrestricted by economics.

Toward the end of the 1970s, this expanded notion of design owed less
and less to emancipatory social movements, and its socio-political goals
began to fall by the wayside. Three fundamental patterns survived,
however, which go beyond design and remain characteristic of the
culturalization []{#Page_37 type="pagebreak" title="37"}of the economy:
the discovery of the public as emancipated users and active
participants; the use of appropriation, transformation, and
recombination as methods for creating ever-new aesthetic
differentiations; and, finally, the intention of shaping the lifeworld
of the user.[^57^](#c1-note-0057){#c1-note-0057a}

As these patterns became depoliticized and commercialized, the focus of
designing the "lifeworld" shifted more and more toward designing the
"experiential world." By the end of the 1990s, this had become so
normalized that even management consultants could assert that
"\[e\]xperiences represent an existing but previously unarticulated
*genre of economic output*."[^58^](#c1-note-0058){#c1-note-0058a} It was
possible to define the dimensions of the experiential world in various
ways. For instance, it could be clearly delimited and product-oriented,
like the flagship stores introduced by Nike in 1990, which, with their
elaborate displays, were meant to turn shopping into an experience. This
experience, as the company\'s executives hoped, radiated outward and
influenced how the brand was perceived as a whole. The experiential
world could also, however, be conceived in somewhat broader terms, for
instance by design­ing entire institutions around the idea of creating a
more attractive work environment and thereby increasing the commitment
of employees. This approach is widespread today in creative industries
and has become popularized through countless stories about ping-pong
tables, gourmet cafeterias, and massage rooms in certain offices. In
this case, the process of creativity is applied back to itself in order
to systematize and optimize a given workplace\'s basis of operation. The
development is comparable to the "invention of invention" that
characterized industrial research around the end of the nineteenth
century, though now the concept has been re­located to the field of
knowledge production.

Yet the "experiential world" can be expanded even further, for instance
when entire cities attempt to make themselves attractive to
international clientele and compete with others by building spectacular
museums or sporting arenas. Displays in cities, as well as a few other
central locations, are regularly constructed in order to produce a
particular experience. This also entails, however, that certain forms of
use that fail to fit the "urban
script"[^59^](#c1-note-0059){#c1-note-0059a} are pushed to the margins
or driven away.[^60^](#c1-note-0060){#c1-note-0060a} Thus, today, there
is hardly a single area of life to []{#Page_38 type="pagebreak"
title="38"}which the strategies and methods of design do not have
access, and this access occurs at all levels. For some time, design has
not been a purely visible matter, restricted to material objects; it
rather forms and controls all of the senses. Cities, for example, have
come to be understood increasingly as "sound spaces" and have
accordingly been reconfigured with the goal of modulating their various
noises.[^61^](#c1-note-0061){#c1-note-0061a} Yet design is no longer
just a matter of objects, processes, and experiences. By now, in the
context of reproductive medicine, it has even been applied to the
biological foundations of life ("designer babies"). I will revisit this
topic below.

::: {.section}
### Culture everywhere {#c1-sec-0008}

Of course, design is not the only field of culture that has imposed
itself over society as a whole. A similar development has occurred in
the field of advertising, which, since the 1970s, has been integrated
into many more physical and social spaces and by now has a broad range
of methods at its disposal. Advertising is no longer found simply on
billboards or in display windows. In the form of "guerilla marketing" or
"product placement," it has penetrated every space and occupied every
discourse -- by blending with political messages, for instance -- and
can now even be spread, as "viral marketing," by the addressees of the
advertisements themselves. Similar processes can be observed in the
fields of art, fashion, music, theater, and sports. This has taken place
perhaps most radically in the field of "gaming," which has drawn upon
technical progress in the most direct possible manner and, with the
spread of powerful computers and mobile applications, has left behind
the confines of the traditional playing field. In alternate reality
games, the realm of the virtual and fictitious has also been
transcended, as physical spaces have been overlaid with their various

This list could be extended, but the basic trend is clear enough,
especially as the individual fields overlap and mutually influence one
another. They are blending into a single interdependent field for
generating social meaning in the form of economic activity. Moreover,
through digitalization and networking, many new opportunities have
arisen for large-scale involvement by the public in design processes.
Thanks []{#Page_39 type="pagebreak" title="39"}to new communication
technologies and flexible production processes, today\'s users can
personalize and create products to suit their wishes. Here, the spectrum
extends from tiny batches of creative-industrial products all the way to
global processes of "mass customization," in which factory-based mass
production is combined with personalization. One of the first
applications of this was introduced in 1999 when, through its website, a
sporting-goods company allowed customers to design certain elements of a
shoe by altering it within a set of guidelines. This was taken a step
further by the idea of "user-centered innovation," which relies on the
specific knowledge of users to enhance a product, with the additional
hope of discovering unintended applications and transforming these into
new areas of business.[^63^](#c1-note-0063){#c1-note-0063a} It has also
become possible for end users to take over the design process from the
beginning, which has become considerably easier with the advent of
specialized platforms for exchanging knowledge, alongside semi-automated
production tools such as mechanical mills and 3D printers.
Digitalization, which has allowed all content to be processed, and
networking, which has created an endless amount of content ("raw
material"), have turned appropriation and recombination into general
methods of cultural production.[^64^](#c1-note-0064){#c1-note-0064a}
This phenomenon will be examined more closely in the next chapter.

Both the involvement of users in the production process and the methods
of appropriation and recombination are extremely information-intensive
and communication-intensive. Without the corresponding technological
infrastructure, neither could be achieved efficiently or on a large
scale. This was evident in the 1970s, when such approaches never made it
beyond subcultures and conceptual studies. With today\'s search engines,
every single user can trawl through an amount of information that, just
a generation ago, would have been unmanageable even by professional
archivists. A broad array of communication platforms (together with
flexible production capacities and efficient logistics) not only weakens
the contradiction between mass fabrication and personalization; it also
allows users to network directly with one another in order to develop
specialized knowledge together and thus to enable themselves to
intervene directly in design processes, both as []{#Page_40
type="pagebreak" title="40"}willing participants in and as critics of
flexible global production processes.

::: {.section}
The Technologization of Culture {#c1-sec-0009}

That society is dependent on complex information technologies in order
to organize its constitutive processes is, in itself, nothing new.
Rather, this began as early as the late nineteenth century. It is
directly correlated with the expansion and acceleration of the
circulation of goods, which came about through industrialization. As the
historian and sociologist James Beniger has noted, this led to a
"control crisis," for administrative control centers were faced with the
problem of losing sight of what was happening in their own factories,
with their suppliers, and in the important markets of the time.
Management was in a bind: decisions had to be made either on the basis
of insufficient information or too late. The existing administrative and
control mechanisms could no longer deal with the rapidly increasing
complexity and time-sensitive nature of extensively organized production
and distribution. The office became more important, and ever more people
were needed there to fulfill a growing number of functions. Yet this was
not enough for the crisis to subside. The old administrative methods,
which involved manual information processing, simply could no longer
keep up. The crisis reached its first dramatic peak in 1889 in the
United States, with the realization that the census data from the year
1880 had not yet been analyzed when the next census was already
scheduled to take place during the subsequent year. In the same year,
the Secretary of the Interior organized a conference to investigate
faster methods of data processing. Two methods were tested for making
manual labor more efficient, one of which had the potential to achieve
greater efficiency by means of novel data-processing machines. The
latter system emerged as the clear victor; developed by an engineer
named Hermann Hollerith, it mechanically processed and stored data on
punch cards. The idea was based on Hollerith\'s observations of the
coup­ling and decoupling of railroad cars, which he interpreted as
modular units that could be combined in any desired order. The punch
card transferred this approach to information []{#Page_41
type="pagebreak" title="41"}management. Data were no longer stored in
fixed, linear arrangements (tables and lists) but rather in small units
(the punch cards) that, like railroad cars, could be combined in any
given way. The increase in efficiency -- with respect to speed *and*
flexibility -- was enormous, and nearly a hundred of Hollerith\'s
machines were used by the Census
Bureau.[^65^](#c1-note-0065){#c1-note-0065a} This marked a turning point
in the history of information processing, with technical means no longer
being used exclusively to store data, but to process data as well. This
was the only way to avoid the impending crisis, ensuring that
bureaucratic management could maintain centralized control. Hollerith\'s
machines proved to be a resounding success and were implemented in many
more branches of government and corporate administration, where
data-intensive processes had increased so rapidly they could not have
been managed without such machines. This growth was accompanied by that
of Hollerith\'s Tabulating Machine Company, which he founded in 1896 and
which, after a number of mergers, was renamed in 1924 as the
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). Throughout the
following decades, dependence on information-processing machines only
deepened. The growing number of social, commercial, and military
processes could only be managed by means of information technology. This
largely took place, however, outside of public view, namely in the
specialized divisions of large government and private organizations.
These were the only institutions in command of the necessary resources
for operating the complex technical infrastructure -- so-called
mainframe computers -- that was essential to automatic information

::: {.section}
### The independent media {#c1-sec-0010}

As with so much else, this situation began to change in the 1960s. Mass
media and information-processing technologies began to attract
criticism, even though all of the involved subcultures, media activists,
and hackers continued to act independently from one another until the
1990s. The freedom-oriented social movements of the 1960s began to view
the mass media as part of the political system against which they were
struggling. The connections among the economy, politics, and the media
were becoming more apparent, not []{#Page_42 type="pagebreak"
title="42"}least because many mass media companies, especially those in
Germany related to the Springer publishing house, were openly inimical
to these social movements. Critical theor­ies arose that, borrowing
Louis Althusser\'s influential term, regarded the media as part of the
"ideological state apparatus"; that is, as one of the authorities whose
task is to influence people to accept social relations to such a degree
that the "repressive state apparatuses" (the police, the military, etc.)
form a constant background in everyday
life.[^66^](#c1-note-0066){#c1-note-0066a} Similarly influential,
Antonio Gramsci\'s theory of "cultural hegemony" emphasized the
condition in which the governed are manipulated to form a cultural
consensus with the ruling class; they accept the latter\'s
presuppositions (and the politics which are thus justified) even though,
by doing so, they are forced to suffer economic
disadvantages.[^67^](#c1-note-0067){#c1-note-0067a} Guy Debord and the
Situationists attributed to the media a central role in the new form of
rule known as "the spectacle," the glittery surfaces and superficial
manifestations of which served to conceal society\'s true
relations.[^68^](#c1-note-0068){#c1-note-0068a} In doing so, they
aligned themselves with the critique of the "culture industry," which
had been formulated by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno at the
beginning of the 1940s and had become a widely discussed key text by the

Their differences aside, these perspectives were united in that they no
longer understood the "public" as a neutral sphere, in which citizens
could inform themselves freely and form their opinions, but rather as
something that was created with specific intentions and consequences.
From this grew an interest in "counter-publics"; that is, in forums
where other actors could appear and negotiate theories of their own. The
mass media thus became an important instrument for organizing the
bourgeois--capitalist public, but they were also responsible for the
development of alternatives. Media, according to one of the core ideas
of these new approaches, are less a sphere in which an external reality
is depicted; rather, they are themselves a constitutive element of

::: {.section}
### Media as lifeworlds {#c1-sec-0011}

Another branch of new media theories, that of Marshall McLuhan and the
Toronto School of Communication,[^69^](#c1-note-0069){#c1-note-0069a}
[]{#Page_43 type="pagebreak" title="43"}reached a similar conclusion on
different grounds. In 1964, McLuhan aroused a great deal of attention
with his slogan "the medium is the message." He maintained that every
medium of communication, by means of its media-specific characteristics,
directly affected the consciousness, self-perception, and worldview of
every individual.[^70^](#c1-note-0070){#c1-note-0070a} This, he
believed, happens independently of and in addition to whatever specific
message a medium might be conveying. From this perspective, reality does
not exist outside of media, given that media codetermine our personal
relation to and behavior in the world. For McLuhan and the Toronto
School, media were thus not channels for transporting content but rather
the all-encompassing environments -- galaxies -- in which we live.

Such ideas were circulating much earlier and were intensively developed
by artists, many of whom were beginning to experiment with new
electronic media. An important starting point in this regard was the
1963 exhibit *Exposition of Music -- Electronic Television* by the
Korean artist Nam June Paik, who was then collaborating with Karlheinz
Stockhausen in Düsseldorf. Among other things, Paik presented 12
television sets, the screens of which were "distorted" by magnets. Here,
however, "distorted" is a problematic term, for, as Paik explicitly
noted, the electronic images were "a beautiful slap in the face of
classic dualism in philosophy since the time of Plato. \[...\] Essence
AND existence, essentia AND existentia. In the case of the electron,
however, EXISTENTIA IS ESSENTIA."[^71^](#c1-note-0071){#c1-note-0071a}
Paik no longer understood the electronic image on the television screen
as a portrayal or representation of anything. Rather, it engendered in
the moment of its appearance an autonomous reality beyond and
independent of its representational function. A whole generation of
artists began to explore forms of existence in electronic media, which
they no longer understood as pure media of information. In his work
*Video Corridor* (1969--70), Bruce Nauman stacked two monitors at the
end of a corridor that was approximately 10 meters long but only 50
centimeters wide. On the lower monitor ran a video showing the empty
hallway. The upper monitor displayed an image captured by a camera
installed at the entrance of the hall, about 3 meters high. If the
viewer moved down the corridor toward the two []{#Page_44
type="pagebreak" title="44"}monitors, he or she would thus be recorded
by the latter camera. Yet the closer one came to the monitor, the
farther one would be from the camera, so that one\'s image on the
monitor would become smaller and smaller. Recorded from behind, viewers
would thus watch themselves walking away from themselves. Surveillance
by others, self-surveillance, recording, and disappearance were directly
and intuitively connected with one another and thematized as fundamental
issues of electronic media.

Toward the end of the 1960s, the easier availability and mobility of
analog electronic production technologies promoted the search for
counter-publics and the exploration of media as comprehensive
lifeworlds. In 1967, Sony introduced its first Portapak system: a
battery-powered, self-contained recording system -- consisting of a
camera, a cord, and a recorder -- with which it was possible to make
(black-and-white) video recordings outside of a studio. Although the
recording apparatus, which required additional devices for editing and
projection, was offered at the relatively expensive price of \$1,500
(which corresponds to about €8,000 today), it was still affordable for
interested groups. Compared with the situation of traditional film
cameras, these new cameras considerably lowered the initial hurdle for
media production, for video tapes were not only much cheaper than film
reels (and could be used for multiple recordings); they also made it
possible to view recorded material immediately and on location. This
enabled the production of works that were far more intuitive and
spontaneous than earlier ones. The 1970s saw the formation of many video
groups, media workshops, and other initiatives for the independent
production of electronic media. Through their own distribution,
festivals, and other channels, such groups created alternative public
spheres. The latter became especially prominent in the United States
where, at the end of the 1960s, the providers of cable networks were
legally obligated to establish public-access channels, on which citizens
were able to operate self-organized and non-commercial television
programs. This gave rise to a considerable public-access movement there,
which at one point extended across 4,000 cities and was responsible for
producing programs from and for these different
communities.[^72[]{#Page_45 type="pagebreak"

What these initiatives shared in common, in Western Europe and the
United States, was their attempt to close the gap between the
consumption and production of media, to activate the public, and at
least in part to experiment with the media themselves. Non-professional
producers were empowered with the ability to control who told their
stories and how this happened. Groups that previously had no access to
the medial public sphere now had opportunities to represent themselves
and their own interests. By working together on their own productions,
such groups demystified the medium of television and simultaneously
equipped it with a critical consciousness.

Especially well received in Germany was the work of Hans Magnus
Enzensberger, who in 1970 argued (on the basis of Bertolt Brecht\'s
radio theory) in favor of distinguishing between "repressive" and
"emancipatory" uses of media. For him, the emancipatory potential of
media lay in the fact that "every receiver is \[...\] a potential
transmitter" that can participate "interactively" in "collective
production."[^73^](#c1-note-0073){#c1-note-0073a} In the same year, the
first German video group, Telewissen, debuted in public with a
demonstration in downtown Darmstadt. In 1980, at the peak of the
movement for independent video production, there were approximately a
hundred such groups throughout (West) Germany. The lack of distribution
channels, however, represented a nearly insuperable obstacle and ensured
that many independent productions were seldom viewed outside of
small-scale settings. Tapes had to be exchanged between groups through
the mail, and they were mainly shown at gatherings and events, and in
bars. The dynamic of alternative media shifted toward a small subculture
(though one networked throughout all of Europe) of pirate radio and
television broadcasters. At the beginning of the 1980s and in the space
of Radio Dreyeckland in Freiburg, which had been founded in 1977 as
Radio Verte Fessenheim, operations began at Germany\'s first pirate or
citizens\' radio station, which regularly broadcast information about
the political protest movements that had arisen against the use of
nuclear power in Fessenheim (France), Wyh