Serfing the Net

We are living in an age of unprecedented creativity, they tell us. But there was a dark time not long ago, the story goes, when authors exercised dictatorial control over passive readers, movie studios foisted films on captive audiences, listeners were held hostage in their own homes by long-playing records, prime-time television only came on once a day, and professional journalists were gatekeepers to world events.

One version of this tale cites the remote control as the first significant tool of human liberation, enabling viewers to change channels at will without leaving the comfort of their sofas. The next great advance in the forward march of emancipation, I’ve heard people claim, was the joystick, which took the relationship between observer and screen to the next level. And then, unleashing a torrent of interactivity, came the personal computer and its descendants: cell phones, digital cameras, iPods, TiVo, etc. Hook these magical gadgets up to a broadband connection, and innovation abounds: We can copy and paste, comment and link, download and share. The network revolution, the story goes, has finally made culture a two-way street, liberating the masses from the grip of greedy entertainment industries and quaint notions of authorial control and originality. We are all “content generators” now, free to produce, consume, exchange and remix as we like, free of charge in every instance.

This stirring tale of empowerment is told both by big business evangelists and smash-the-state anarchists, an unlikely alliance that is brought together by a shared fascination

— source | Astra Taylor | Jan 2010

Nullius in verba


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