monoskop in Adema 2009


://twitter.com/aaaarg) on which updates are posted. The most
interesting part though is the ‘extra’ functions the platform offers: after
you have made an account, you can make your own collections, aggregations or
issues out of the texts in the library or the texts you add. This offers an
alternative (thematically ordered) way into the texts archived on the site.
You also have the possibility to make comments or start a discussion on the
texts. See for instance their elaborate [discussion
lists](http://a.aaaarg.org/discussions). The AAAARG community thus serves both
as a sharing and feedback community and in this way operates in a true p2p
fashion, in a way like p2p seemed originally intended. The difference being
that AAAARG is not based on a distributed network of computers, but is based
on one platform, to which registered users are able to upload a file (which is
not the case on Monoskop for instance – only downloading here).

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

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

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

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

![Eule - Society of
Control](https://openreflections.files.wordpress.com/2009/09


monoskop in Barok 2014


be the primary object of
research of Monoskop.
I attempted to comment on political, esthetic and technical aspects of publishing.
Let me finish by saying that Monoskop is an initiative open to people and future
and you are more than welcome to take part in it.

Dušan Barok
Written May 1-7, 2014, in Bergen and Prague. Translated by the author on May 10-13,
2014. This version generated June 10, 2014.



e label ‘book’ rather than the automated electro-chemical version of the offset
lithography of digital files on acid-free paper.
Despite that it is remarkable to observe a view spreading among publishers that
books created in software are books with attributes we have known for ages. On
top of that there is a tendency to handle files such as PDFs, EPUBs, MOBIs and
others as if they are printed books, even subject to the rules of limited edition, a
consequence of what can be found in the rise of so called electronic libraries that
“borrow” PDF files and while someone reads one, other users are left to wait in
the line.
Whilst, from today’s point of view of the humanities research, mass-printed books
are in the first place archives of the cultural content preserved in this way for the
time we run out of electricity or have the internet ‘switched off’ in some other
way.

III. Monoskop
Finally, I am getting to Monoskop and to begin with I am going to try to formulate
its brief definition, in three versions.
From the point of view of the humanities, Monoskop is a research, or questioning, whose object’s nature renders no answer as definite, since the object includes
art and culture in their widest sense, from folk music, through visual poetry to
experimental film, and namely their history as well as theory and techniques. The
research is framed by the means of recording itself, what makes it a practise whose
record is an expression with aesthetic qualities, what in turn means that the process of the research is subject to creative decisions whose outcomes are perceived
esthetically as well.
In the language of cultural management Monoskop is an independent research
project whose aim is subject to change according to its continual findings; which
has no legal body and thus as organisation it does not apply for funding; its participants have no set roles; and notably, it operates with no deadlines. It has a reach
to the global public about which, respecting the privacy of internet users, there
are no statistics other than general statistics on its social networks channels and a
figure of numbers of people and bots who registered on its website and subscribed
to its newsletter.
At the same time, technically said, Monoskop is primarily an internet website
and in this regard it is no different from any other communication media whose
function is to complicate interpersonal communication, at least due to the fact
that it is a medium with its own specific language, materiality, duration and access.
6

Contemporary media
Monoskop has began ten years ago in the milieu of a group of people running
a cultural space where they had organised events, workshops, discussion, a festival,
etc. Their expertise, if to call that way the trace left after years spent in the higher
education, varied well, and it spanned from fine art, architecture, philosophy,
through art history and literary theory, to library studies, cognitive science and
information technology. Each of us was obviously interested in these and other
fields other than his and her own, but the praxis in naming the substance whose
centripetal effects brought us into collaboration were the terms new media, media
culture and media art.
Notably, it was not contemporary art, because a constituent part of the praxis was
also non-visual expression, information media, etc., so the research began with the
essentially naive question ‘of what are we contemporary?’. There had been not
much written about media culture and art as such, a fact I perceived as drawback
but also as challenge.
The reflection, discussion and critique need to be grounded in reality, in a wider
context of the field, thus the research has began in-field. From the beginning, the
website of Monoskop served to record the environment, including people, groups,
organizations, events we had been in touch with and who/which were more or
less explicitly affiliated with media culture. The result of this is primarily a social
geography of live media culture and art, structured on the wiki into cities, with
a focus on the two recent decades.
Cities and agents
The first aim was to compile an overview of agents of this geography in their
wide variety, from eg. small independent and short-lived initiatives to established
museums. The focus on the 1990s and 2000s is of course problematic. One of
its qualities is a parallel to the history of the World Wide Web which goes back
precisely to the early 1990s and which is on the one hand the primary recording
medium of the Monoskop research and on the other a relevant self-archiving and–
stemming from its properties–presentation medium, in other words a platform on
which agents are not only meeting together but potentially influence one another
as well.
http://monoskop.org/Prague
The records are of diverse length and quality, while the priorities for what they
consist of can be generally summed up in several points in the following order:

7

1. Inclusion of a person, organisation or event in the context of the structure.
So in case of a festival or conference held in Prague the most important is to
mention it in the events section on the page on Prague.
2. Links to their web presence from inside their wiki pages, while it usually
implies their (self-)presentation.
http://monoskop.org/The_Media_Are_With_Us
3. Basic information, including a name or title in an original language, dates
of birth, foundation, real


ure is necessarily archived on the web while art of the 20th century lies in
collections “offline”, it applies vice versa as well.
In this way there began to appear new articles about filmmakers, fine artists, theorists and other partakers in artistic life of the previous century.
Since then the focus has considerably expanded to more than a century of art and
new media on the whole continent. Still it portrays merely another layer of the
research, the one which is yet a collection of fragmentary data, without much
context. Soon we also hit the limit of what is about this field online. The next
question was how to work in the internet environment with printed sources.
Log
http://monoskop.org/log
When I was installing this blog five years ago I treated it as a side project, an offshoot, which by the fact of being online may not be only an archive of selected
source literature for the Monoskop research but also a resource for others, mainly
students in the humanities. A few months later I found Aaaarg, then oriented
mainly on critical theory and philosophy; there was also Gigapedia with publications without thematic orientation; and several other community library portals
on password. These were the first sources where I was finding relevant literature
in electronic version, later on there were others too, I began to scan books and catalogues myself and to receive a large number of scans by email and soon came to
realise that every new entry is an event of its own not only for myself. According
to the response, the website has a wide usership across all the continents.
At this point it is proper to mention the copyright. When deciding about whether
to include this or that publication, there are at least two moments always present.
One brings me back to my local library at the


technologies as objects, things, while now
it seems much more productive to see them as processes, techniques. As indeed
nor the biologist does speak about the dear as biology. In this sense technology is
the science of techniques, including cultural techniques which span from reading,
writing and counting to painting, programming and publishing.
Media in the humanities are a compound of two long unrelated histories. One of
them treats media as a means of communication, signals sent from point A to the
point B, lacking the context and meaning. Another speaks about media as artistic
means of expression, such as the painting, sculpture, poetry, theatre, music or
film. The term “media art” is emblematic for this amalgam while the historical
awareness of these two threads sheds new light on it.
Media technology in art and the humanities continues to be the primary object of
research of Monoskop.
I attempted to comment on political, esthetic and technical aspects of publishing.
Let me finish by saying that Monoskop is an initiative open to people and future
and you are more than welcome to take part in it.

Dušan Barok
Written May 1-7, 2014, in Bergen and Prague. Translated by the author on May 10-13,
2014. This version generated June 10, 2014.



monoskop in Barok 2018


Athens](/Athens "Athens"), 17 March 2018. Moderated by [Kenneth
Goldsmith](/Kenneth_Goldsmith "Kenneth Goldsmith") (UbuWeb) and bringing
together [Dusan Barok](/Dusan_Barok "Dusan Barok") (Monoskop), [Marcell
Mars](/Marcell_Mars "Marcell Mars") (Public Library), [Peter
Sunde](/Peter_Sunde "Peter Sunde") (The Pirate Bay), [Vicki
Bennett](/Vicki_Bennett "Vicki Bennett") (People Like Us), [Cornelia
Sollfrank](/Cornelia_Sollfrank "Cornelia Sollfrank") (Giving What You Don't
Have), and Prodromos Tsiavos, the event was part of the _[Shadow Libraries:
UbuWeb in Athens](http://www.sgt.gr/eng/SPG2018/) _programme organised by [Ilan
Manouach](/Ilan_Manouach "Ilan Manouach"), Kenneth Goldsmith and the Onassis
Foundation._

[![Shadow Libraries.jpg](/images/thumb/8/8e/Shadow_Libraries.jpg/500px-
Shadow_Libraries.jpg)](/File:Shadow_Libraries.jpg)

This is the first time that I was asked to talk about Monoskop as a _shadow
library_.

What are shadow libraries?
[Lawrence Liang](/Lawrence_Liang "Lawrence Liang") wrote a think piece for _e-
flux_ a couple of years ago,
in response to the closure of Library.nu, a digital library that had operated
from 2004, first as Ebooksclub, later as Gigapedia.
He wrote that:

[![Liang Lawrence 2012 Shadow
Libraries.jpg](/images/thumb/5/53/Liang_Lawrence_2012_Shadow_Libraries.jpg
/500px-
Liang_Lawrence_2012_Shadow_Libraries.jpg)](http://www.e-flux.com/journal/37/61228
/shadow-libraries/)

In the essay, he moves between identifying Library.nu as digital Alexandria
and as its shadow.
In this account, even large libraries exist in the shadows cast by their
monumental precedessors.
There’s a lineage, there’s a tradition.

Almost everyone and every institution has a library, small or large.
They’re not necessarily Alexandrias, but they strive to st


n_Bratislava_1992_.jpg)](/Milan_Adamciak
"Milan Adamciak")

...standing in the middle.
A couple of pages later...

[![Hirsal Josef Groegerova Bohumila eds Slovo pismo akce hlas
pp232-233.jpg](/images/thumb/4/4b/Hirsal_Josef_Groegerova_Bohumila_eds_Slovo_pismo_akce_hlas_pp232-233.jpg
/500px-
Hirsal_Josef_Groegerova_Bohumila_eds_Slovo_pismo_akce_hlas_pp232-233.jpg)](https://monoskop.org/images/d/de/Hirsal_Josef_Groegerova_Bohumila_eds_Slovo_pismo_akce_hlas.pdf#page=117)

...you can clearly see how he found out about a book containing one million
random digits [see note 24 on the image]. The strangest book.

[![Million Random Digits with 100000 Normal Deviates
p400.jpg](/images/thumb/d/d5/Million_Random_Digits_with_100000_Normal_Deviates_p400.jpg
/500px-
Million_Random_Digits_with_100000_Normal_Deviates_p400.jpg)](https://monoskop.org/log/?p=5780)

He was still alive when we put it up on Monoskop, and could experience it.
...
Digital libraries may seem like virtual, grey places, nonplaces.
But these little chance encounters happen all the time there.
There are touches. There are traces. There are many hands involved, visible
hands.
They join writers’ hands and help creating new, unlimited editions.

[![Second-Hand Libraries.jpg](/images/thumb/d/d4/Second-Hand_Libraries.jpg
/500px-Second-Hand_Libraries.jpg)](/File:Second-Hand_Libraries.jpg)

They may be off Google, but for many, especially younger generation these are
the places to go to learn, to share.
Rather than in a shadow, they are out in the open, in plain sight.

[![Hawking 2017 on free access to
research.jpg](/images/thumb/e/ea/Hawking_2017_on_free_access_to_research.jpg
/500px-
Hawking_2017_on_free_access_to_research.jpg)](http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news
/step-inside-the-mind-of-the-young-stephen-hawking


go?
Will I go to an established publisher or an open access press?
Will I send it to MIT Press or Open Humanities Press?
Traditional publishers have better distribution, and they often have a strong
brand.
It’s often about career moves and bios, plans A’s and plan B’s.
There are no easy answers, but one can always be a little inventive.
In the end, one should not feel guilty for publishing with MIT Press.
But at the same time, one should neither feel guilty for scanning and sharing
such a book with others.
...
You know, there’s fighting, there are court cases.
[Aaaaarg](/Aaaaarg "Aaaaarg"), a digital library run by our dear friend [Sean
Dockray](/Sean_Dockray "Sean Dockray"), is facing a Canadian publisher.
Open Library is now facing the Authors Guild for lending scanned books
deaccessioned from libraries.
They need our help, our support.

[![Cabinet 2012 Monoskop
takedown.jpg](/images/thumb/2/28/Cabinet_2012_Monoskop_takedown.jpg/500px-
Cabinet_2012_Monoskop_takedown.jpg)](https://monoskop.org/log/?p=373#comment-16498)

But collisions of interests can be productive.
This is what our beloved _Cabinet_ magazine did when they found their PDFs
online.
They converted all their articles into HTML and put them online.
The most beautiful takedown request we have ever received.

[![The Writings of Swartz Aaron
2015.jpg](/images/thumb/7/77/The_Writings_of_Swartz_Aaron_2015.jpg/500px-
The_Writings_of_Swartz_Aaron_2015.jpg)](https://monoskop.org/log/?p=16598)

So what is at stake? What are these digital books?
They are poor versions of print books.
They come with no binding, no paper, no weight.
They come as PDFs, EPUBs, JPEGs in online readers, they come as HTML.
By the way, HTML is great, you can search it, copy, save it, it’s lightweight,


monoskop in Bodo 2014


forcement, such as
DVDs, torrents, or IRC channels. But the technical conditions of these distribution channels do not enable
the development of a library. Two of the most essential attributes of any proper library: the catalogue
and the community are hard to provide on such channels. The catalog doesn’t just organize the
knowledge stored in the collection; it is not just a tool of searching and browsing. It is a critical
component in the organization of the community of “librarians” who preserve and nourish the
collection. The catalog is what distinguishes an unstructured heap of computer files from a wellmaintained library, but it is the same catalog, which makes shadow libraries, unauthorized texts
collections an easy target of law enforcement. Those few digital online libraries that dare to provide
unauthorized access to texts in an organized manner, such as textz.org, a*.org, monoskop or Gigapedia/
library.nu, all had their bad experiences with law enforcement and rights holder dismay.
Of these pirate libraries, Gigapedia—later called Library.nu—was the largest at the turn of the 2010’s. At
its peak, it was several orders of magnitudes bigger than its peers, offering access to nearly a million
English language documents. It was not just size that made Gigapedia unique. Unlike most sites, it
moved beyond its initial specialization in scientific texts to incorporate a wide range of academic
disciplines. Compared to its peers, it also had a highly developed central metadata database, which
contained bibliographic details on the collection and also, significantly, on gaps in the collection, which
underpinned a process of actively solicited contributions from users. With the ubiquitous
scanner/copiers, the production of book scans was as easy as copying them, thus th


monoskop in Constant 2016


s share books]. Memory of the World (2014)
https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/10/28/
calibre-lets-share-books/
• Buringh, Eltjo; Van Zanden, Jan Luiten. Charting the “Rise of
the West”: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A
Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth
Centuries. The Journal of Economic History (2009) http://
journals.cambridge.org/article_S0022050709000837
• Mattern, Shannon. Library as Infrastructure. Places Journal
(2014) https://placesjournal.org/article/library-asinfrastructure/
• Antonić, Voja. Our beloved bookscanner. Memory of the
World (2012) https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/
blog/2012/10/28/our-beloved-bookscanner-2/
• Medak, Tomislav; Sekulić, Dubravka; Mertens, An. How to:
Bookscanning. Memory of the World (2014) https://
www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/12/08/how-tobookscanning/
• Barok, Dusan. Talks/Public Library. Monoskop (2015)
http://monoskop.org/Talks/Public_Library
• Custodians.online. In Solidarity with Library Genesis and
Science Hub (2015) http://custodians.online
• Battles, Matthew. Library: An Unquiet History Random
House (2014)
• Harris, Michael H. History of Libraries of the Western World.
Scarecrow Press (1999)
• MayDay Rooms. Activation (2015) http://
maydayrooms.org/activation/
• Krajewski, Markus. Paper Machines: About Cards &
Catalogs, 1548-1929. MIT Press (2011) https://
library.memoryoftheworld.org/b/
PaRC3gldHrZ3MuNPXyrh1hM1meyyaqvhaWlHTvr53NRjJ2k

For updates: https://www.zotero.org/groups/amateur_librarian__a_course_in_critical_pedagogy_reading_list
Last
Revision:
1·08·2016

1. For an economic history of the book in the Western Europe see Eltjo Buringh and Jan Luiten Van Zanden, “Charting the ‘Rise
of the West’: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term P


s share books]. Memory of the World (2014)
https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/10/28/
calibre-lets-share-books/
• Buringh, Eltjo; Van Zanden, Jan Luiten. Charting the “Rise of
the West”: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A
Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth
Centuries. The Journal of Economic History (2009) http://
journals.cambridge.org/article_S0022050709000837
• Mattern, Shannon. Library as Infrastructure. Places Journal
(2014) https://placesjournal.org/article/library-asinfrastructure/
• Antonić, Voja. Our beloved bookscanner. Memory of the
World (2012) https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/
blog/2012/10/28/our-beloved-bookscanner-2/
• Medak, Tomislav; Sekulić, Dubravka; Mertens, An. How to:
Bookscanning. Memory of the World (2014) https://
www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/12/08/how-tobookscanning/
• Barok, Dusan. Talks/Public Library. Monoskop (2015)
http://monoskop.org/Talks/Public_Library
• Custodians.online. In Solidarity with Library Genesis and
Science Hub (2015) http://custodians.online

P.64

P.65

• Battles, Matthew. Library: An Unquiet History Random
House (2014)
• Harris, Michael H. History of Libraries of the Western World.
Scarecrow Press (1999)
• MayDay Rooms. Activation (2015) http://
maydayrooms.org/activation/
• Krajewski, Markus. Paper Machines: About Cards &
Catalogs, 1548-1929. MIT Press (2011) https://
library.memoryoftheworld.org/b/
PaRC3gldHrZ3MuNPXyrh1hM1meyyaqvhaWlHTvr53NRjJ2k

Dernière version: https://www.zotero.org/groups/amateur_librarian__a_course_in_critical_pedagogy_reading_list
Last
Revision:
1·08·2016

1. 1. Pour une histoire économique du livre en Europe occidentale, voir Eltjo Buringh et Jan Luiten Van Zanden, « Charting the
‘Rise of the West’ : Manuscripts and Printed Boo


monoskop in Dekker & Barok 2017


guardians and it comes

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225

COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

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

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

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227

COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW


ing house. This
is not dissimilar from the music industry. And indeed, for
many the goal is to compose chants that would gain popularity across academia and get their place in the popular
imagination.
On the other hand, besides providing access, digital
libraries are also fit to provide context by treating publications as a corpus of texts that can be accessed through an
unlimited number of interfaces designed with an understanding of the functionality of databases and an openness
to the imagination of the community of users. This can
be done by creating layers of classification, interlinking
bodies of texts through references, creating alternative
indexes of persons, things and terms, making full-text
search possible, making visual search possible—across
the whole of corpus as well as its parts, and so on. Isn’t
this what makes a difference? To be sure, websites such
as Aaaaarg and Monoskop have explored only the tip of

AD

Indeed, looking at the archive in many alternative ways has

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LOST AND LIVING (IN) ARCHIVES

215

COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

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

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

AD

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

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

216

LOST AND LIVING (IN) ARCHIVES

AD

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

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

217

COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

as to be readable and useful for others as well. A similar
difference is between writing an entry in a personal diary
and writing a blog post. That is also why the autonomy
of technical


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

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

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LOST AND LIVING (IN) ARCHIVES

AD

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

It should not be an overstatement to say that while in the
previous decade Monoskop was shaped primarily by the
‘media culture’ milieu which it intended to document, the
branching out of its repository of highlighted publications
Monoskop Log in 2009, and the broadening of its focus to
also include the whole of the twentieth and twenty-first
century situates it more firmly in the context of online
archives, and especially digital libraries.
I only got to know others in this milieu later. I approached
Sean Dockray in 2010, Marcell Mars approached me the
following year, and then in 2013 he introduced me to Kenneth Goldsmith. We are in steady contact, especially through
public events hosted by various cultural centres and galleries.
The first large one was held at Ljubljana’s hackerspace Kiberpipa in 2012. Later came the conferences and workshops
organized by Kuda at a youth centre in Novi Sad (2013), by
the Institute of Network Cultures at WORM, Rotterdam (2014),
WKV and Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart (2014),
Mama & Nova Gallery in Zagreb (2015), ECC at Mundaneum,
Mons (2015), and most recently by the Media Depart


ding 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.

220

LOST AND LIVING (IN) ARCHIVES

AD

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

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

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

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

221

COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

myself to be part of in the early 2000s. I was naive enough
to attempt to make a book on the theme between 2008–2010.
During that period I came to notice the ambivalence of the
notion of medium in an art


nd 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

223

COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

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

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

AD

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

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

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

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

224

LOST AND LIVING (IN) ARCHIVES

225

COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW

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

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

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LOST AND LIVING (IN) ARCHIVES

227

COPYING AS A WAY TO START SOMETHING NEW


monoskop in Giorgetta, Nicoletti & Adema 2015


e
publishing world.

As part of their research, they asked some questions to Janneke Adema, who is
Research Fellow in Digital Media at Coventry University, with a PhD in Media
(Coventry University) and a background in History (MA) and Philosophy (MA)
(both University of Groningen) and Book and Digital Media Studies (MA) (Leiden
University). Janneke’s PhD thesis focuses on the future of the scholarly book
in the humanities. She has been conducting research for the
[OAPEN](http://project.oapen.org/index.php/about-oapen) project, and
subsequently the OAPEN foundation, from 2008 until 2013 (including research
for OAPEN-NL and DOAB). Her research for OAPEN focused on user needs and
publishing models concerning Open Access books in the Humanities and Social
Sciences.

**Davide Giorgetta & Valerio Nicoletti: Does a way out from the debate between
publishers and digital independent libraries (Monoskop Log, Ubuweb,
Aaaarg.org) exist, in terms of copyright? An alternative solution able to
solve the issue and to provide equal opportunities to everyone? Would the fear
of publishers of a possible reduction of incomes be legitimized if the access
to their digital publications was open and free?**

Janneke Adema: This is an interesting question, since for many academics this
‘way out’ (at least in so far it concerns scholarly publications) has been
envisioned in or through the open access movement and the use of Creative
Commons licenses. However, the open access movement, a rather plural and
loosely defined group of people, institutions and networks, in its more
moderate instantiations tends to distance itself from piracy and copyright
infringement or copy(far)left practices. Through its use of and favoring of
Creative Commons licenses one could even argue that it has been mainly
concer


for our entangled becoming with our research and
publications? (Barad 2007, Kember and Zylinska 2012)

Examples that I find interesting in the realm of the humanities in this
respect include projects that experiment with such a critique of our fixed,
print-based practices and institutions in an affirmative way: for example Mark
Amerika’s [remixthebook](http://www.remixthebook.com/) project; Open
Humanities’ [Living Books about Life](http://www.livingbooksaboutlife.org/)
series; projects such as
[Vectors](http://vectors.usc.edu/issues/index.php?issue=7) and
[Scalar](http://scalar.usc.edu/); and collaborative knowledge production,
archiving and creation projects, from wiki-based research projects to AAAARG.

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

JA: In short my answer to this question would be ‘no’. Books are embodied
entities, which are materially established through their specific affordances
in relationship to their production, dissemination, reception and
preservation. This means that the specific materiality of the (digital) book
is partly an outcome of these ongoing processes. Katherine Hayles has argued
in this respect that materiality is an emergent property:

> In this view of materiality, it is not merely an inert collection of
physical properties but a dynamic quality that emerges from the interplay
between the text as a physical artifact, its conceptual content, and the
interpretive activities of readers and writers. Materiality thus cannot be
specified in advance; rather, it occupies a borderland— or better, performs as
connective tissue—joining the physical a


monoskop in Hamerman 2015


networks of peer-to-peer
file sharing. Many legal battles waged over the explosion of audiovisual file
sharing through p2p services such as Napster, BitTorrent and MediaFire. At its
peak, Napster boasted over 80 million users; the p2p music-sharing service was
shut down after a high-profile lawsuit by the RIAA in 2001.

The US Department of Justice brought charges against open access activist
_[Aaron Swartz](http://www.fvckthemedia.com/issue51/editorial)_ in 2011 for
his large-scale unauthorized downloading of files from the JStor Academic
database. Swartz, who sadly committed suicide before his trial, was an
organizer for Demand Progress, a campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act,
which was defeated in 2012. Swartz’s actions and the fight around SOPA
represent a benchmark in the struggle for open-access and anti-copyright
practices surrounding the digital book.

Aaaaaarg, Monoskop, UbuWeb and Public Library are representative cases of the
pirate library because of their explicit engagement with archival form, their
embrace of ideas of the _[digital commons](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Commons)_ within current left-leaning thought, and their like-minded focus on critical theory and the arts.

All of these projects lend themselves to be considered _as libraries_ ,
retooled for open digital networks.

_Aaaaaarg.org_ , started by Los Angeles based artist Sean Dockray, hosts
full-text pdfs of over 50,000 books and articles. The library is connected to a an
alternative education project called the Public School, which serves as a
platform for self-organizing lectures, workshops and projects in cities across
the globe. _Aaaaaarg_ ’s catalog is viewable by the public, but
upload/download privileges are restricted through an invite system, thus
circumv


f its maintenance and the organizers’
attempts to elude copyright regulations. Text-sharing sites such as _Aaaaaarg_
have also been referred to as _[shadow
libraries_](http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/sharing-instinct/),
reflecting their quasi-covert status and their efforts to evade shutdown.

Monoskop.org, a project founded by media artist _[Dušan
Barok](http://monoskop.org/Du%C5%A1an_Barok)_ , is a wiki for collaborative
studies of art, media and the humanities that was born in 2004 out of Barok’s
study of media art and related cultural practices. Its significant holdings -
about 3,000 full-length texts and many more excerpts, links and citations -
include avant-garde and modernist magazines, writings on sound art, scanned
illustrations, and media theory texts.

As a wiki, any user can edit any article or upload content, and see their
changes reflected immediately. Monoskop is comprised of two sister sites: the
Monoskop wiki and Monoskop Log, the accompanying text repository. Monoskop Log
is structured as a Wordpress site with links hosted on third-party sites, much
like the rare-music download blogs that became popular in the mid-2000s.
Though this architecture is relatively unstable, links are fixed on-demand and
site mirroring and redundancy balance out some of the instability.

Monoskop makes clear that it is offering content under the fair-use doctrine
and that this content is for personal and scholarly use, not commercial use.
Barok notes that though there have been a small number of takedowns, people
generally appreciate unrestricted access to the types of materials in Monoskop
log, whether they are authors or publishers.

_Public Library_ , a somewhat newer pirate library founded by Croatian
Internet activist and researcher Marcell Mars and his collaborators, currently
offers a collection of about 6,300 texts. The project frames itself through a
utopian philosophy of building a truly universal library, radically extending
enlightenment-era conceptions of democracy. Through democratizing the _tools
of librarianship_ – book scanning, classification systems, cataloging,
information – it promises a broader, de-institutionalized public library.

In __[Public Library: An
Essay](https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/10/27/public-library-an-essay/#sdendnote19sym)__ , Public Library’s organizers frame p2p libraries as
“fragile knowledge infrastructures built and maintained by brave librarians
practicing civil disobedience which the world of researc


ccordingly, they attract a modest but engaged audience of
critics, artists, designers, activists, and scholars.

The activities of Aaaaaarg and Public Library may fall closer to ‘ _[peer
preservation](http://computationalculture.net/article/book-piracy-as-peer-preservation)_ ’
than ‘peer production,’ as the desires to share information
widely and to preserve these collections against shutdown often come into
conflict. In a _[recent piece](http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/sharing-instinct/)_ for e-flux coauthored with Lawrence Liang, Dockray accordingly
laments “the unfortunate fact that digital shadow libraries have to operate
somewhat below the radar: it introduces a precariousness that doesn’t allow
imagination to really expand, as it becomes stuck on techniques of evasion,
distribution, and redundancy.”

![](http://i.imgur.com/KFe3chu.png)

UbuWeb and Monoskop, which digitize rare, out-of-print art texts and media
rather than in-print titles, can be said to fulfill the aims of preservation
and access. UbuWeb and Monoskop are openly used and discussed as classroom
resources and in online arts journalism more frequently than the more
aggressively anti-copyright sources; more on-the-record and mainstream
visibility likely -- but doesn’t necessarily -- equate to wider usage.

**From Alternative Space to Alternative Media**

Aaaaaarg _[locates itself as a
‘scaffolding’](http://chtodelat.org/b9-texts-2/vilensky/materialities-of-independent-publishing-a-conversation-with-aaaaarg-chto-delat-i-cite-mute-and-neural/)_ between institutions, a platform that unfolds between institutional
gaps and fills them in, rather than directly opposing them. Over ten years
after it was founded, it continues to provide a community for “niche”
varieties of political critique.

Drawing upon different strains of ‘alternative networking,’ the digital
text-sharing underground gives a voice to those quieted b


rather than the supposedly neutral status quo, we must
support truly free, not-for-profit alternatives to corporate journalism and
“clickbait” media designed to lure traffic for advertisers. We must support
creative platforms that encourage blending high-academic language with pop-
culture; quantitative analysis with art-making; appropriation with
authenticity: the pirate libraries serve just these purposes.

Pirate libraries help bring about what Gary Hall calls the “unbound book” as
text-form; as he writes, we can perceive such a digital book “as liquid and
living, open to being continually updated and collaboratively written, edited,
annotated, critiqued, updated, shared, supplemented, revised, re-ordered,
reiterated and reimagined.” These projects allow us to re-imagine both
archival practices and the digital book for social networks based on the gift.

Aaaaaarg, Monoskop, UbuWeb, and Public Library build a record of critical and
artistic discourse that is held in common, user-responsive and networkable.
Amateur librarians sustain these projects through technological ‘hacks’ that
innovate upon present archival tools and push digital preservation practices
forward.

Pirate libraries critique the ivory tower’s monopoly over the digital book.
They posit a space where alternative communities can flourish.

Between the cracks of the new information capital, the digital text-sharing
underground fosters the coming-into-being of another kind of information
society, one in which the historical record is the democratically-shared basis
for new forms of knowledge.

From this we should take away the understanding that _piracy is normal_ and
the public domain it builds is abundant. While these practices will continue
just beneath the official surface


monoskop in Mars & Medak 2017


e Croatian Right to the City movement
(Pravo na grad, 2016). He interpreted to numerous books into Croatian language,
including Multitude (Hardt & Negri, 2009) and A Hacker Manifesto (Wark,
2006c). He is an author and performer with the internationally acclaimed Zagrebbased performance collective BADco (BADco, 2016). Tomislav writes and talks
about politics of technological development, and politics and aesthetics.
Tomislav and Marcell have been working together for almost two decades.
Their recent collaborations include a number of activities around the Public Library
project, including HAIP festival (Ljubljana, 2012), exhibitions in
Württembergischer Kunstverein (Stuttgart, 2014) and Galerija Nova (Zagreb,
2015), as well as coordinated digitization projects Written-off (2015), Digital
Archive of Praxis and the Korčula Summer School (2016), and Catalogue of
Liberated Books (2013) (in Monoskop, 2016b).
243

CHAPTER 12

Ana Kuzmanic is an artist based in Zagreb and Associate Professor at the
Faculty of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Geodesy at the University in Split
(Croatia), lecturing in drawing, design and architectural presentation. She is a
member of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists. Since 2007 she held more
than a dozen individual exhibitions and took part in numerous collective
exhibitions in Croatia, the UK, Italy, Egypt, the Netherlands, the USA, Lithuania
and Slovenia. In 2011 she co-founded the international artist collective Eastern
Surf, which has “organised, produced and participated in a number of projects
including exhibitions, performance, video, sculpture, publications and web based
work” (Eastern Surf, 2017). Ana's artwork critically deconstructs dominant social
readings of reality. It tests traditional roles of artists and viewers, givin


ense of entitlement for building alternatives to dominant
modes of oppression can only arrive at the close proximity to capitalist centres of
power. The periphery (of capitalism), in contrast, relies on strategies of ‘stealing’
and bypassing socio-economic barriers by refusing to submit to the harmonized
regulation that sets the frame for global economic exchange. If we honestly look
back and try to compare the achievements of digital piracy vs. the achievements of
reformist Creative Commons, it is obvious that the struggle for access to
knowledge is still alive mostly because of piracy.
PJ & AK: This brings us to the struggle against (knowledge as) private
property. What are the main problems in this struggle? How do you go about them?
MM & TM: Many projects addressing the crisis of access to knowledge are
originated in Eastern Europe. Examples include Library Genesis, Science Hub,
Monoskop and Memory of the World. Balázs Bodó’s research (2016) on the ethos
of Library Genesis and Science Hub resonates with our beliefs, shared through all
abovementioned projects, that the concept of private property should not be taken
for granted. Private property can and should be permanently questioned,
challenged and negotiated. This is especially the case in the face of artificial
scarcity (such as lack of access to knowledge caused by intellectual property in
context of digital networks) or selfish speculations over scarce basic human

256

KNOWLEDGE COMMONS AND ACTIVIST PEDAGOGIES

resources (such as problems related to housing, water or waterfront development)
(Mars, Medak, & Sekulić, 2016).
The struggle to challenge the property regime used to be at the forefront of the
Free Software Movement. In the spectacular chain of recent events, where the
revelations of sweeping control


spite of enormous expansion of potentials for providing access to knowledge
to all regardless of their social status or geographic location brought about by the
digital technologies, public libraries have been radically limited in pursuing their
mission. This results in side-lining of public libraries in enormous expansion of
258

KNOWLEDGE COMMONS AND ACTIVIST PEDAGOGIES

commodification of knowledge in the digital realm, and brings huge profits to
academic publishers. In response to these limitations, a number of projects have
sprung up in order to maintain public interest by illegal means.
PJ & AK: Can you provide a short genealogy of these projects?
MM & TM: Founded in 1996, Ubu was one of the first online repositories.
Then, in 2001, Textz.com started distributing texts in critical theory. After
Textz.com got shot down in early 2004, it took another year for Aaaaarg to emerge
and Monoskop followed soon thereafter. In the latter part of the 2000s, Gigapedia
started a different trajectory of providing access to comprehensive repositories.
Gigapedia was a game changer, because it provided access to thousands and
thousands of scholarly titles and made access to that large corpus no longer limited
to those working or studying in the rich institutions of the Global North. In 2012
publishing industry shut down Gigapedia (at the time, it was known as Library.nu).
Fortunately, the resulting vacuum did not last for long, as Library.nu repository got
merged into the holdings of Library Genesis. Building on the legacy of Soviet
scholars who devised the ways of shadow production and distribution of
knowledge in the form of samizdat and early digital distribution of texts in the
post-Soviet period (Balázs, 2014), Library Genesis has built a robust infrastructure
with the mission to pr


liberal capitalism. In this
way, the essential building blocks of the hacker culture – relations of production,
relations of property, and issues of redistribution – are being drowned out, and
262

KNOWLEDGE COMMONS AND ACTIVIST PEDAGOGIES

collective and massive endeavour of commonizing is being eclipsed by the
capacity of the few crypto-savvy tricksters to avoid government control.
Obviously, we strongly disagree with the individualist, privative and 1337 (elite)
thrust of these developments.
PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) arrives
very close to visions of deschooling offered by authors such as Ivan Illich (1971),
Everett Reimer (1971), Paul Goodman (1973), and John Holt (1967). Recent
research indicates that digital technologies offer some fresh opportunities for the
project of deschooling (Hart, 2001; Jandrić, 2014, 2015b), and projects such as
Monoskop (Monoskop, 2016) and The Public Library project (Memory of the
World, 2016a) provide important stepping-stones for emancipation of the
oppressed. Yet, such forms of knowledge and education are hardly – if at all –
recognised by the mainstream. How do you go about this problem? Should these
projects try and align with the mainstream, or act as subversions of the mainstream,
or both? Why?
MM & TM: We are currently developing a more fine-tuned approach to
educational aspects of amateur librarianship. The forms of custodianship over
knowledge commons that underpin the practices behind Monoskop, Public Library,
Aaaaarg, Ubu, Library Genesis, and Science Hub are part and parcel of our
contemporary world – whether you are a non-academic with no access to scholarly
libraries, or student/faculty outside of the few well-endowed academic institutions
in the Global North. As much as commercialization and privatization of education
are becoming mainstream across the world, so are the strategies of reproducing
one’s knowledge and academic research that depend on the de-commodified access
of shadow libraries.
Academic research papers are narrower in scope than textbooks, and Monoskop
is thematically more specific than Library Genesis. However, all these practices
exhibit ways in which our epistemologies and pedagogies are built around
institutional structures that reproduce inequality and differentiated access based on
race, gender, class and geography. By building own knowledge infrastructures, we
build different bodies of knowledge and different forms of relating to our realities –
in words of Walter Mignolo, we create new forms of epistemic disobedience
(2009). Through Public Library, we have digitized and made available several
collections that represent epistemologically different corpuses of knowledge. A
good example of that is the digital collection of books selected by Black Panther
Herman Wallace as his dream library for political education (Memory of the
World, 2016b).
PJ & AK: Your work breaks traditional distinctions between professionals and
amateurs


monoskop in Medak, Mars & WHW 2015


lic Library

may • 2015
price 50 kn

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

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

ZAGREB • ¶ May • 2015

Public Library

1.
Marcell Mars, Manar Zarroug
& Tomislav Medak

75

Public Library (essay)
2.
Paul Otlet

87

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

111

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

121

Marcell Mars,
Manar Zarroug
& Tomislav Medak

Public library (essay)

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


non Mattern, “Library as Infrastructure”, Design
Observer, 9 June 2014, http://places.designobserver.com/
entryprint.html?entry=38488.

Public library (essay)

81

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

82

M. Mars • M. Zarroug • T. Medak

ries, such as Gigapedia (later Library.nu), handled
their upload and maintenance costs by selling advertising space to the pornographic and gambling
industries. Legal action was


tes, and initiates discussions around
it. It also as a courseware extension to the self-organized education platform The Public School.17
16 Andrew Losowsky, “Library.nu, Book Downloading Site,
Targeted in Injunctions Requested by 17 Publishers,” Huffington Post, 15 February 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.
com/2012/02/15/librarynu-book-downloading-injunction_
n_1280383.html.
17 “The Public School”, The Public School, n.d.,
https://www.thepublicschool.org/.

Public library (essay)

83

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

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

84

M. Mars • M. Zarroug • T. Medak

With the emergence of the internet and software
tools such as Calibre and “[let’s share books],”20 librarianship has been given an opportunity, similar to astronomy and the project SETI@home21, to
inc


we were acting like data-punks. Not
so much “here’s three chords, now form your band.”
More like: “Here’s three gigs, now go form your autonomous art collective.” The new tactic might be
more question of being metadata-punks. On the one
hand, it is about freeing information about information rather than the information itself. We need
to move up the order of informational density and

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McKenzie Wark

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

Metadata Punk

115

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

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McKenzie Wark

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

Metadata Punk

117

118

public library

http://midnightnotes.memoryoftheworld.org/

119

Tomislav Medak

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

The institution of the public library has crystallized,
developed and advanced around historical junctures
unleashed by epochal economic, technological and
political changes. A series of crises since the advent
of print have contributed to the configuration of the
institutional entanglement of the public library as
we know it today:01 defined by a publicly available
collection, housed in a public building, indexed and
made accessible with a help of a public catalog, serviced by trained librarians and supported through
public financing. Libraries today embody the idea
of universal access to all knowledge, acting as custodians of a culture of reading, archivists of material
and ephemeral cultural production, go-betweens
of information and knowledge. However, libraries have also embraced a broader spirit of public
service and infrastructure: providing information,
01 F


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

134

Tomislav Medak

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

The Future After the Library

135

totalizing modernity is detourned by re-appropriating the forms of visual representation and classification that the institutions of modernity used to
construct a linear historical narrative of evolutions
and breaks in the 19th and 20th century. Genealogical
tables, events, artifacts and discourses of the past
were re-enacted, over-affirmed and displaced to
open up the historic p


itution of the public library finds itself
today under a double attack. One unleashed by
the dismantling of the institutionalized forms of
social redistribution and solidarity. The other by
the commodifying forces of expanding copyright
protections and digital rights management, control
over the data flows and command over the classification and order of information. In a world of
collapsing planetary boundaries and unequal development, those who control the epistemic order

136

Tomislav Medak

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

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

The Future After the Library

137

138

public library

http://kok.memoryoftheworld.org

139

Public Library
www.memoryoftheworld.org

Publishers
What, How & for Whom / WHW
Slovenska 5/1 • HR-10000 Zagreb
+385 (0) 1 3907261
whw@whw.hr • www.whw.hr
ISBN 978-953-55951-


monoskop in Sekulic 2018


suicide on January 11, 2013. But he left us with an assignment – if you have
access, you have a responsibility to share with those who do not; “with enough
of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message opposing the
privatization of knowledge — we'll make it a thing of the past. Will you join
us?” (8) He pointed to an important issue – every new cycle of technological
development (in this case the move from paper to digital) brings a new threat
of enclosure of the knowledge in the public domain.

While “the core and the periphery adopt different strategies of opposition to
the inequalities and exclusions [digital] technologies start to reproduce”
some technologies used by corporations to enclose can be used to liberate
knowledge and make it accessible. The existence of projects such as Library
Genesis, sci-hub, Public Library/Memory of the World, aaaarg.org, monoskop,
and ubuweb, commonly known as shadow libraries, show how building
infrastructure for storing, indexing, and access, as well as supporting
digitization, can not only be put to use by the periphery, but used as a
challenge to the normalization of enclosure offered by the core. The people
building alternative networks of distribution also build networks of support
and solidarity. Those on the peripheries need to 'steal' the knowledge behind
paywalls in order to fight the asymmetries paywalls enforce – peripheries
“steal” in order to advance. Depending on the vantage point, digitization of a
book can be stealing, or liberating it to return the knowledge (from the dusty
library closed stacks) back into circulation. “Old” knowledge can teach new
tricksters a handful of tricks.

In 2015 I realized none of the architecture students of the major European
architecture schools can have a


monoskop in Sollfrank 2018


cial 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 asse


monoskop in Thylstrup 2019


e concern is that support for the
DPLA will undercut already eroding support for small, local public
libraries.”42 While Palfrey offers good arguments for why the DPLA could
easily work in unison with, rather than jeopardize, smaller public libraries,
and while the DPLA is building infrastructures to support this claim,43 the
discussion nevertheless highlights the difficulties with determining when
something is “public,” and even national.

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

Today


ical infrastructures.
Not all shadow libraries fit perfectly into the category of mass digitization.
Some of them are smaller in size, more selective, and less industrial.
Nevertheless, I include them because their open access strategies allow for
unlimited downloads. Thus, shadow libraries, while perhaps selective in size
themselves, offer the opportunity to reproduce works at a massive and
distributed scale. As such, they are the perfect example of a mass
digitization assemblage.

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

As the case studies show, shadow libraries have become significant mass
digitization infrastructures that offer the user free access to academic
articles and books, often by means of illegal file-sharing. They are informal
and unstable networks that rel


ent. Revisiting once more the theoretical debate, the
case of lib.ru shows that shadow libraries may certainly be global phenomena,
yet one should be careful with disregarding the specific cultural-political
trajectories that shape each individual shadow library. Lib.ru demonstrates
how the infrapolitics of shadow libraries emerge as infrastructural
expressions of the convergence between historical sovereign trajectories,
global information infrastructures, and public-private governance structures.
Shadow libraries are not just globalized projects that exist in parallel to
sovereign state structures and global economic flows. Instead, they are
entangled in territorial public-private governance practices that produce
their own late-sovereign infrapolitics, which, paradoxically, are embedded in
larger mass digitization problematics, both on their own territory and on the
global scene.

## Monoskop

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

### The Shadow Library as a Legal Stratagem

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

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

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

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

### Monoskop as a Territorializing Assemblage

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

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

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

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

## UbuWeb

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


13. Bodó 2016. 14. Bodó 2016. 15. Vul 2003. 16. “In Defense
of Maxim Moshkov's Library,” n.d., The International Union of Internet
Professionals, . 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid. 19.
Schmidt 2009, 7. 20. Ibid. 21. Carey 2015. 22. Mjør 2009, 84. 23. Bodó 2015.
24. Kiriya 2012. 25. Yurchak 2008, 732. 26. Komaromi, 74. 27. Mjør, 85. 28.
Litres.ru, . 29. Library Genesis,
. 30. Kiriya 2012. 31. Karaganis 2011, 65, 426. 32.
Kiriya 2012, 458. 33. For a great analysis of the late-Soviet youth’s
relationship with consumerist products, read Yurchak’s careful study in
_Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation_
(2006). 34. “Dušan Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 35. Ibid. 36.
Ibid. 37. Monoskop,” last modified March 28, 2018, Monoskop.
monoskop.org/Monoskop>. monoskop.org/Monoskop>. 38. “Dušan
Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 39. Fuller and Goffey 2012, 21. 40.
“Dušan Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 11. 41. In an interview, Dušan
Barok mentions his inspirations, including early examples such as textz.com, a
shadow library created by the Berlin-based artist Sebastian Lütgert. Textz.com
was one of the first websites to facilitate free access to books on culture,
politics, and media theory in the form of text files. Often the format would
itself toy with legal limits. Thus, Lütgert declared in a mischievous manner
that the website would offer a text in various formats during a legal debacle
with Surhkamp Verlag: “Today, we are proud to announce the release of
walser.php (), a 10,000-line php script
that is able to generate the plain ascii version of ‘Death of a Critic.’ The
script can be redistributed and modified (and, of course, linked to) under the
terms of the GNU General Public License, but may not be run without written
permission by Suhrkamp Verlag. Of course, reverse-engineering the writings of
senile German revisionists is not the core business of textz.com, so
walser.php includes makewalser.php, a utility that can produce an unlimited
number of similar (both free as in speech and free as in copy) php scripts for
any digital text”; see “Suhrkamp recalls walser.pdf, textz.com releases
walser.php,” Rolux.org,
.
42. Fuller and Goffey 2012, 11. 43. “MONOSKOP Project Finished,” COL-ME Co-
located Media Expedition, [www.col-me.info/node/841](http://www.col-
me.info/node/841). 44. “Dušan Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 45.
Aymeric Mansoux is a senior lecturer at the Piet Zwart Institute whose
research deals with the defining, constraining, and confining of cultural
freedom in the context of network-based practices. Marcel Mars is an advocate
of free software and a researcher who is also active in a shadow library named
_Public Library,_ (also interchangeably
known as Memory of the World). 46. “Dušan Barok,” Memory of the World,
. 47. “Dušan Barok: Interview,”
_Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 48. Castells 1996. 49. Kenneth Goldsmith,”UbuWeb Wants
to Be Free” (last modified July 18, 2007),


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

The character of the flaneur, both in its original instantiations in French
literature and in Walter Benjamin’s early twentieth-century writings, was
certainly driven by pleasure; yet, on a more fundamen


es of mass digitization projects
such as Google Books with its infrastructural conditions and contexts of
experience and agency? On the one hand, Google Books appears to provide the
view from above, lending itself as a logistical aid in its information-rich
environment. On the other hand, Google Books also produces an alienating
effect of impenetrability on two levels. First, although Google presents
itself as a compass, its seemingly infinite and constantly rearranging
universe nevertheless creates a sense of vertigo, only reinforced by the
almost existential question “Do you feel lucky?” Second, Google Books also
feels impenetrable on a deeper level, with its black-boxed governing and
ordering principles, hidden behind complex layers of code, corporate cultures,
and nondisclosure agreements.51 But even less-commercial mass digitization
projects such as, for instance, Europeana and Monoskop can produce a sense of
claustrophobia and alienation in the user. Think only of the frustration
encountered when reaching dead ends in the form of broken links or in lack of
access set down by European copyright regulations. Or even the alienation and
dissatisfaction that can well up when there are seemingly no other limits to
knowledge, such as in Monoskop, than one’s own cognitive shortcomings.

The figure of the labyrinth also serves as a reminder that informational
strolling is not only a leisurely experience, but also a laborious process.
Penelope Doob thus points out the common medieval spelling of labyrinth as
_laborintus_ , which foregrounds the concept of labor and “difficult process,”
whether frustrating, useful, or both.52 In an age in which “labor itself is
now play, just as play becomes more and more laborious,”53 Doob’s etymological
excursion serves to highlight the fact that in many mass digitization projects
it is indeed the user’s leisurely information scrolling that in the end
generates profit, cultural value, and budgetary justification for mass
digitization platforms. Jose van Dijck’s analysis of the valuation of traffic
in a digital environment is a timely reminder of how traffic is valued in a
cultural


es it “impossible to rise above
the structure and observe it from the outside, because it transcends the
graphic two-dimensionality of the two earlier forms of labyrinths.”58 Deleuze
expressed the senselessness of these contemporary labyrinths as a “theater
where nothing is fixed, a labyrinth without a thread (Ariadne has hung
herself).”59

In mass digitization, this new infrastructural imaginary feeds a looming
concern over how best to curate and infrastructurate cultural collections. It
is this concern that we see at play in the aforementioned institutional
concerns over how to best create meaningful paths in the cultural collections.
The main question that resounds is: where should the paths lead if there is no
longer one truth, that is, if the labyrinth has no center? Some mass
digitization projects seem to revel in this new reality. As we have seen,
shadow libraries such as Monoskop and UbuWeb use the affordances of the
digital to create new cultural connections outside of the formal hierarchies
of cultural memory institutions. Yet, while embraced by some, predictably the
new distribution of authority generates anxiety in the cultural memory circles
that had hitherto been able to hold claim to knowledge organization expertise.
This is the dizzying perspective that haunts the cultural memory professionals
faced with Europeana’s data governance model. Thus, as one Europeana
professional explained to me in 2010, “Europeana aims at an open-linked-data
model with a number of implications. One implication is that there will be no
control of data usage, which makes it possible, for instance, to link classics
with porn. Libraries do not agree to this loss of control which was at the
base of their self-understanding.”60 The Europeana professional then proceeded
to reco


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

It seems only natural, then, that mass digitization projects, and their
actors, have actively adopted the discourse of serendipity, both as a selling
point and a strategic claim. Talking about Google’s digitization program, Dr.
Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian and Director of Oxford University Library
Services, notes: “Library users have always loved browsing books for the
serendipitous discoveries they provide. Digital books offer a similar thrill,
but on multiple levels—deep entry into the texts or the ability to browse the
virtual shelf of books assembled from the world's great libraries.”75 But it
has also raised questions for those people who are in charge, not only of
holding serendipity forth as an ideal, but also building the architecture to
facilitate it. Dan Cohen, speaking on behalf


acilitate some activity that will subsequently take place. It is
anticipatory, but not causal.”109 The inscription of platforms into the
material infrastructures of the Internet thus assume a value-producing
futurity. If serendipity is what is craved, then platforms are the site in
which this is thought to take place.

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

A significant trait of platform-based corporations such as Google and Facebook
is that they more often than not present themselves as apolitical, neutral,
and empowering tools of connectivity, passive until picked up by the user.
Yet, as Lisa Nakamura notes, “reading’s economies, cultures of sharing, and
circuits of travel have never been passive.”113 One of digital platforms’ most
im


monoskop in WHW 2016


while collecting legitimization points from the art world as enhanced cultural capital that could serve as armour against future attacks
by the defenders of the holy scripture of copyright laws. But here the more
important tactic was to show the movement as an army of many and to
strengthen it through self-presentation. The exhibition presented Public
Library as a collection of collections, and the repertory form (used in archive science to describe a collection) was taken as the basic narrative procedure. It mobilized and activated several archives and open digital repositories, such as MayDay Rooms from London, The Ignorant Schoolmaster and
His Committees from Belgrade, Library Genesis and Aaaaaarg.org, Catalogue
of Free Books, (Digitized) Praxis, the digitized work of the Midnight Notes
Collective, and Textz.com, with special emphasis on activating the digital
repositories UbuWeb and Monoskop. Not only did the exhibition attempt to
enlist the gallery audience but, equally important, the project was testing
its own strength in building, articulating, announcing, and proposing, or
speculating on, a broader movement to oppose the copyright of cultural
goods within and adjacent to the art field.
Presenting such a movement in an art institution changes one of the
basic tenets of art, and for an art institution the project’s main allure probably lies in this kind of expansion of the art field. A shared politics is welcome, but nothing makes an art institution so happy as the sense of purpose that a project like Public Library can endow it with. (This, of course,
comes with its own irony, for while art institutions nowadays compete for
projects that show emphatically how obsolete the aesthetic regime of art is,
they continue to base their claims of social influence on knowledge ga

 

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