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<nettime> Re: Reflections on Dan Hunter's Culture War
Jamie King on Thu, 7 Oct 2004 02:10:18 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Re: Reflections on Dan Hunter's Culture War


Patrice Riemens wrote:

> Dan Hunter's Culture War
>
> A very good and useful paper, immo, which has attracted some controversy I 
> fail to understand. 

I'm not clear which controversy you're referring to, but attach some 
points I already forwarded to Dan last week. With page references:

p.4, line 4.

'As the modern era advanced the importance of industrial production waned.'

This is a lacuna reproduced in many accounts of the shift toward IP in 
maintaining modern capital.

On the one had, it is necessary to understand the basic 'need' for 
communication and information that has been created during the last 
thirty years of development -- that information and communication are 
today commodities, ones that determine the global distribution and 
organisation of work, sell products, 'regenerate' cities, produce 
stock-market value. It is a matter of routine now to point out that the 
casual economies of everyday life do more to determine the value of a 
company's 'immaterial assets', and therefore its substantial value, than 
any assessment of material assets or productivity. Indeed, the combined 
immaterial labour, not only of hundreds of thousands of day-traders, 
casual private investors and speculators, but of those who read papers, 
'buy into' and share ad hoc narratives about brands, has a market-moving 
power that is openly acknowledged and deployed. Subjectivity and meaning 
are, today, the primary producers of value.

On the other hand, those who cry out at such statements that industrial 
production is as important as ever in providing food, engines, 
computers, componentsm and so on, do so with good reason. Indeed 
material work is an astounding omission in many accounts of the 
'post-industrial' era, given that many writers could not have produced 
their accounts without standing on top a huge pile of dead labour.

However, the critical importance of material labour is today precisely 
_in its relationship with immaterial labour_. The possibility of 
dislocating material production from the most intense centres of capital 
concentration, through complex systems of mediation, has had huge 
consequences for all labour, whether domestic or offshore. A particular 
physical inventory or plant is increasingly disposable to a typical 
industry, which may carry out its process, or parts of its process, in 
any number of locations. In the case of the automobile industry, for 
example, high and low end cars often share the same components, and 
these could be machined in any one of a hundred factories. What gives 
the all-important Point Of Difference (love that term) is the 
trademarked/patented shape of the shell, the colour tints and, of 
course, the trademarked logo, branding and marketing. As far as 
contemporary capital is concerned -- and in a certain sense it is true 
-- it is these intangibles that create the 'value' of the car, and which 
need to be protected.

p. 15 second para

In respect to 'Marxist-Lessigism', it is a good gag, but a one-liner. It 
should be restricted to one line. Lessig's reformist position has very 
little in common with a Marxist analysis.

And it is probably aggravating to those involved in IP activism in 
whatever context to hear of the 'Marxist-Lessigist' 'movement'. Lessig's 
reformism is given little shrift in most 'activist' circles, which tend 
to favour the high benchmarks set by e.g. Free Software and the GPL. 
Lessig's work, and the Creative Commons project, is just one element of 
organising and working around IP issues. In my view it has its uses, but 
is part of the increasing litigiousness of everyday life ('a license for 
all, and a license for each') that so many seem bizarely keen to 
sponsor. Not the world I want to live in. Not the cornerstone of any 
'movement'.

p. 20 passim

1. The 'movement' is certainly not restricted to 'students', nor are 
they the most important part of it.

2. The movement is not restricted to protesting expansionism and so 
forth. In a variety of projects, activist groups all over the world are 
demonstrating the possibility of autonomous information infrastructures 
for sharing of 'protected' intellectual properties, and for the creation 
of shared resources outside of the IP regime. See numerous projects 
known to nettimers who I'm sure could furnish examples to Hunter.

3. Last year, at the first World Summit on Information Society in 
Geneva, a group of activists produced an autonomous counter-summit, WE 
SEIZE!, stating a project for a radical, autonomous information 
practice. Although it is questionable whether physical violence should 
be taken as a litmus for 'real' poltical activity, this event was indeed 
co-ercively controlled by the state, as was an earlier information 
project by the same group, Geneva03, during the G8 that year. (See 
www.geneva03.org.) At the G8, the same group organised a demonstration 
of more than two thousand to the WTO and WIPO buildings, which were not 
entirely peaceable... video of this is available at www.v2v.cc.

4. 'Maybe the most militant will undertake denial of service attacks on 
the MPAA website.'

The _most_ militant will probably be coding free software, not worrying 
about denying Hollywood the chance to profitably distribute its 
propaganda. Others are building new infrastructures for creating and 
sharing entirely free (as-in-libre/as-in-gratis) content. Other 
'militants', perhaps, are using Bittorrent or other filesharing 
protocols to enjoy sharing content without much regard for Valenti's 
pronouncements. None are wasting their time hacking the MPAA's website. 
They'd rather hack the regime that _supports_ the MPAA.

p. 22 second para

'Open source' movement. He means Free Software movement. There is no 
coherent movement around Open Source, which is a dead, 
libertarian-as-in-not-anarchist meme. Where it IS used, Open Source 
usually indicates Free Software in matter of fact, as it does here.

Cheers

Jamie


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