Spreadable Media, some thoughts from SXSW and MIT

I posted recently about my enjoyment of the Spreadable Media book and its online world and I thought I would mention a specific point the authors made in their discussion at SXSW this year. Most readers interested in the area will be familiar with the argument that the viral media metaphor misses a crucial aspect of agency in its explanation of networked media culture, so I wanted to foreground a different point. This is a proposition about fair use, piracy, and how the spreadability of content can be best understood.

My understanding of Sam and the gang’s idea is that losing control of the means of distribution does not make any IP holder the victim of piracy, the two are not the same and do not both always lead to “bad things”. In order for any content maker to benefit from the digital, networked environment of modern media entertainment they must understand the differences in value and evaluation systems between distributors with economic logic (including ad revenue generating generic pirate bays) and and communities engaged with content who valorise and value based sharing and social relationships. The producers that are lucky enough or good enough will find their content in the current era’s replacement of the mix tape (a practice always existing and unauthorised but now visible). In the legistlative and regulatory debates surrounding Internet freedom the ability to engage in collective circulation as participation must be preserved. However this facility should not be confused with the practice of placing unauthorised advertisements around the digital mix tape that audience members create and pass back and forth as gifts. This is the scourge Jon Taplin was analysing at last year’s FOE and charging Google as partially responsible for. These distinctions are really important to keep in mind in any discussion of digital creative endeavours. Definitions of creativity vs authorship vs production vs participation are also sources of great tension and certainly the resources linked to here provide great insight to these debates. I am looking forward to the next FOE.

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