McKenzie Wark on 17 Feb 2001 15:09:13 -0000

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Re: <nettime> Usenet archives sold, whay about README! ?

The Readme! anthology is a commodifed version of the nettime
list. The 'value added' is the extra editing, the selection, introduction,
design values, and the convenience of hardcopy for certain
kinds of reading. I'm actually teaching it in a course at the moment.
I told the students they didn't have to buy it. Everything is in the
nettime archive in one form or another. But most bought the book.
They went for the value added version.

As a general principle, i don't have a problem with commodifying
public content, provided, as in this case, the public part stays
public. Its not that different to any other kind of intellectual
property. To defend a claim to have written a book or a song, you
have to show some transformation of the source material, some
*difference* introduced that really does make a difference. What
is interesting is the potential for the database, as a genre, to be
subject to the same judgement. It is one thing for a story, image
or song to be more or less 'original', but a database? That's an
interesting concept.

The value in information now is often not intrinsic to it, but to its
selection, its relation to a field of distribution. People will pay to
have the field of distribution narrowed, or selected. All those books
with 'reader' in the title, which save you the trouble of searching
large, hetereogeneous fields of data. Or the compilation cd. The
field has been defined as a certain kind of aesthetic, beats of a
certain flavour.


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