Autonomous Archives: 03 AAARG.ORG
Cinematographer: Nisha Vasudevan
Duration: 00:59:36; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 2.338; Saturation: 0.097; Lightness: 0.254; Volume: 0.212; Cuts per Minute: 0.302; Words per Minute: 125.726
Summary: Properties of the Autonomous Archive
, a 2-day event, hosted by CAMP, was a gathering of key internet platforms, archival initiatives and related infrastructures.
The discussion was intended to focus on the qualities and powers of contemporary archives: including their stable or emergent properties, their performance and beauty, survival and capacity, and autonomy.
"In declaring their autonomy, archives seek to produce norms beyond normativity, and ethical claims beyond the law."
- excerpt from Pad.ma, Ten Theses on the Archive
, no. 9.
Day one was a day of presentations and discussions: "Show me your Properties!"
: Jan Gerber and Sebastian Lutgert - 'people annotate describe make add'
: Kenneth Goldsmith - 'If we had to ask permission, we wouldn't exist: a brief history of UbuWeb and the law'
: Sean Dockray
04 SFG (Shared Footage Group)
: 'Its past and future'
05 Sundar and Gurung
: 'Archiving in the vernacular, experiences from Tamil and Nepali'
06 Rochelle Pinto
: 'The mundane state - historians in a state archive'
07 Peter S. - flattr
: 'Flattr, the need for alternative financial views'
08 Matthew Fuller
: 'Two evil media stratagems: Structured data & Know your sorts'
09 Liang and Lutgert - Leaks
: 'Privacy and Scandal: Radia tapes and Wikileaks'
Sean Dockray, AAARG.org
architect and founder of the Public School
, in LA.
"AAAARG is a conversation platform - at different times it performs as a school, or a reading group, or a journal. It was created with the intention of developing critical discourse outside of an institutional framework. But rather than thinking of it like a new building, imagine scaffolding that attaches onto existing buildings and creates new architectures between them."
- from http://aaaaarg.org/about
SL: Our next speaker is Sean Dockray, who runs a website called aaarg.org
- various a's, dot, org - aaarg has always been something I've been really fascinated and interested in. About 10 years ago, I was running myself a website for texts,...
Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai
SL: And then when I stopped doing this exactly because I was always reading too much prose written by lawyers, and I didn't want to become a copyright market. And people would ask me 'Hey, you don't run that site anymore, that's so sad.' I was always telling them 'But you know, all the material is out there, and anyone can do something like this, and much better, with not so much effort.
SL: And then when I saw aaarg for the first time, I was really happy, that not only had someone done something like this - put up a site that had a lot of books on it, but had also done it, in many ways, much better... Because aaarg links to books, and also has this strong idea - and I think Sean is going to talk about that in his presentation. A strong idea about the tie-up between a digital library, and actual education.
SL: And from this year for example while travelling I noticed that aaarg has really become a piece of pivotal infrastructure on the internet. Especially in Asia, for many people it has become the default source for their materials.
SL: Also one of the challenges also for aaarg, is how you can... - essentially a fan project in many ways can become that provider of resources for so many people who actually rely on it.
SB: I don't see it on the projector...
SD: This desktop is actually because I cut my finger on a piece of rusty metal, and I went to open my computer to look up what you can do when you cut your finger on a piece of rusty metal.
SD: And my computer was just frozen into these abstract shapes and I couldn't get rid of them. So I took a camera phone photo, which now has become my desktop. And now that's punishing me by confusing me-
SD: Anyway, thanks for the introduction, Sebastian. And I was going to say that - I mean, over the past 10 years of my internet life or something, Sebastian and Kenneth have both been sort of giants - idol-types to me, for what they've done with ubu and textz.com
. To talk now is kind of wild in a way.
SD: I'm glad that Sebastian gave me a little hint about what to talk about...because for the past few days, I think I've written something like 5000 words. Like 'Oh I could talk about this, and this, and this...' But it doesn't add up in any good way that I felt very comfortable with. And so I thought, I'd figure it out in the morning. And then the morning came and I still hadn't figured it out.
SD: To be honest, I still haven't figured it out, even though I'm sitting here now. And so I think I was going to go with the flow as Sebastian had said. But then I wasn't counting on this problem. So now I can't even find that little piece of text that I wanted to read 'cause it's stuck on that screen somewhere.
SD: So instead you will get part of an image.... unless someone can help me.
SD: Oh...no no no! I see my mouse. I think its...
SD: Okay... The thing is I don't want you to read it to you.
SD: -It's a bit embarrassing...oh no.... ...
(still figuring his screen out)
SD: Okay. Well believe it or not, in some circles I'm considered to be the technologically competent one.
SD: I wanted to talk about... I was stuck with that image, which - for people who weren't in Cairo, where I also showed it, but it was sunny and so you couldn't see it - but it's my daughter and there's a chalkboard behind her. And it's the aftermath of the conference we had organised with Brian Holmes.
SD: And there was one section of it called Autonomous Spaces. It was sort of like people jotting things down during that session - is shown behind her. So it was kind of appropriate. And it was actually my way of introducing- also, the Public School is like a sister project to aaarg.org
and... And in some ways- and I think I probably may even talk about it a little more tomorrow... but they're related to one another.
SD: One thing that I thought of in the last few days was this idea of the bicephalous - the 2-headed creature - or even just down, in terms of social movements or something, that often have ... even if it's not acknowledged between the two parts - that there's a sort of legal component that's making it's demands legible in the eyes of the law and the state. And there's often, almost usually, something else is happening at the same time, which is maybe more violent or illegal. And that the two, kind of in a weird way, meet one another. So its hard to imagine the Civil Rights movement in the US without rioting in every single city in 1967 and 1968.
SD: To talk about aaarg, I basically had identified just 4 parts, that more or less explain the project. And then in those parts I had a couple of excerpts that I wanted to read.
SD: The thing that's funny is that that's not even the text. It's a different document.
SD: So, the 4 parts are basically - if I was to explain aaarg in a really short amount of time; you have content, the technology, the community and the legal issues. If I go through that, you get a sense of what's specific about it and know a little bit of history...so I'm looking at the thing that I want to show you.
SD: So here is a screenshot... no - it's the webpage of aaarg - a particular version of it - which is basically the library organised by date. And so, basically today or in the last some number of hours, these texts have been uploaded. And yesterday these texts were uploaded. And then so on. And so you can go back in time for five years, and you'd have to page through something like 11,000 texts to get to the end.
SD: So...one thing is that I don't upload any of these anymore. I just don't have the time recently. Although I have uploaded maybe half of the first 500 texts. But yeah, now of the most recent 10,500 or something, I've maybe uploaded 5 of them.
SD: So its really transitioned. I think maybe it started out something a little bit more like what Kenneth and Sebastian were just saying. But at this point, it's completely the opposite. It's a little chaotic in that way. And yet, there's a strange kind of consistency to the material that's uploaded and I've never had to take anything down from sort of being out of character.
SD: Out of character might be like a best-selling pulpy crappy novel- like the Bridges of Madison County or something. You know...if that got up(loaded), I'd feel like a stake had cut through my heart in a way. I'd feel really disappointed.
SD: So although there's no moderation process or anything like that, its a little disingenuous, because deep down I'm kind of hoping that a certain kind of material is what goes up there. And it's been lucky then, that in 5 years, it has, consistently. But the fact is that it is open. There is an upload button and that's the only way things happen. That's the only way things continue to get added, it's because people upload it.
SD: And the type of material is - I've described it as - critical theory, political theory, it's largely in the realm of theory or writing that circulates around politics...of all stripes.
SD: And then there's outliers, which are always kind of interesting. When we knew that a lot of stuff was coming in that were based on the form of the manifesto, then the US constitution was uploaded. And this is something that you can find in a billion places on the internet. I really wanted to have it be part of aaarg.
SD: So you know sometimes things are a little out of character. Or there's a plutonomy text published by...published by a city group a few years ago, which expresses the city group's view in a way, of envisioning the economic picture of the globe. And for someone this was important to go up. I don't really second guess it. I don't know, I think it kind of makes sense in its own way.
SD: That was really on the image that I was going to show, the one with my daughter which is somewhere lost over there.
- What's that..? -
SD: Oh...she's down here....
Q(KG): So how do you get to this page? I can't find...
SD: You go to the library... oh yeah, its not... and then this kinda comes...so design has never really been a...
KG: ...I would check this everyday. I would come every single day if I knew that it existed.
SD: There's a few... there's a few views into it. And that was a practical addition one day, and I forget why. It's definitely not clear. There's not very much about the site that's clear. Or, everything is clear. But, that had to do with ...
SD: Let's say now I jump to the community part a little bit. ...which is, when I was the only person uploading things for a while, I'd be touched by a particular chapter within a book. I remember one of the earlier ones - Theory of the Quasi Object, in the Michel Serres' book and so I scanned it and put it up on this website. And it was just because that chapter invigorated me for some reason. And then I may never get around to reading something for another 4 weeks. And then that's when the next thing would be put up. And then if I put something else up, if I added the 250 first texts, who would ever know? It's just a basic design thing.
SD: And so I ended up getting to sending out an e-mail. So there's an e-mail list. And so if you sign up for the e-mail, you would be alerted to the fact that something new had been put up on the website. And once this happens, then people who were subscribed to the e-mail list, saw that there was something new on the site and so they'd go to it and download it.
SD: And they also knew that if they uploaded something, it would be sent out as an email to everyone else. It's sort of like a piece of positive reinforcement. It generated a lot more in the library, but it also generated...it was the beginning of there being some kind of community being generated. Which is to say people who are aware that there are other people who are both using and uploading things to the site. And also that by uploading something, that they also participated in it.
SD: The technology.... - my manner of casually speaking is a little imprecise and so I was hoping to have little safety rocks - so I can read a few of these pieces of writing which may have been a little more precise. Maybe this is better in a way because I just run through some of the parts, and then I can get to questions or something.
SD: The technology, has sort of evolved over time. I won't force you to listen to the evolution of Content Management Systems (CMSs)- I'd be happy to talk about it afterward with anybody. They always have to do with a database. So there is a database, there's files being stored somewhere, and then there's this front-end website. It's currently built on Drupal, with some custom modules. Its nothing very special.
SD: But I think when talking of the technology, its important to say that the technology doesn't end at the...you know- other limits of the website. But when you look at what comes in, there's something like 55,000 people who have signed up for the site. And I think about 3,000 of them have uploaded stuff. And so these people have all- not all of them, but a lot of them- have wrangled with their scanners in order to get something up on to the site.
SD: Which means that they also read a book, and they thought that this book belongs- or this chapter of this book- belongs to the site. So they figure out particular configuration of the scanner and some scanning software. Its easy when you get the hang of it, but at first, its not that easy to figure out how to put together a 60 page scan. So they overcome that somehow. And then they upload it.
SD: And so in a way, the technology is not only the website, but its also (the internet- ofcourse), but its their scanners, their computers, the people who are actually doing the work. And there's a lot of work actually, in scanning and uploading a book. It can take a couple of hours, to upload a whole book.
SD: What else had I wanted to mention?... Technology... nothing. Everything and nothing.
SD: Just to return to the community part, 'cause I think this is important. The community - typically with file sharing, you assume that people who are downloading stuff are just consumers- they're often portrayed as irreverent or disrespectful consumers who aren't giving producers their meal- something along these lines. I think the aaarg community is quite interesting in that the producer-consumer relationship doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
SD: Because for one, the people who produce these texts, who produce texts of theory- are avid readers of other theory. That's, I think, quite unique to theory. I think that when you're reading theory, you are often not reading it for pure pleasure where you just kind of like go to sleep and then, its gone from your life. Often, this is going into something you're actively working on, whether it be another text, or a film, or...even a sort of activist project. I think there's a usefulness to the texts that is particular in a way to the type of texts that are here.
SD: And so, the community - and this is a word I used to hate and I'm trying to come around to it- which is the word 'users'. Because I spent some time in the tech industry making websites. And the people who use websites are called users. And it'd just make me shiver... I'd be repulsed by the word in a way.
SD: But at the same time, the fact that we often self-identify as users. And we're portrayed / described as users by companies. And I think its after reading a little bit of... stuff that Steven Wright in Paris has been writing about Usership- I don't like the word a whole lot, but his defence of 'using', of the 'user', to sort of try an embrace this term, and to follow, to see what it can really mean. I'm sort still coming around to it.
SD: And I think the people who are the community of aaarg are truly users of theory, in that they don't see it as objects. You can never really own and just have to yourself, but its an entire ecosystem, or conversation. And they can participate, they can use certain parts of that conversation and contribute to it. And everyone else has to contend with their use of it. And they have to contend with everyone elses use of it.
SD: And so...that's a little bit what I wanted to cover with community. And finally, the last part- and this is probably the biggest - it has to do with legal issues. In a way, some of what I had to say is redundant to what Kenneth was saying. But I wish I had the creativity and energy to reply a lot of the time. But I find myself to be like one of those people who throws their hands up in terror, from certain letters.
SD: And this may have to do with the fact that a lot of these texts are - they are not scarce in certain markets. And I think with Ubuweb there's a certain kind of scarcity that's there, that really isn't here. For example, someone uploads Difference And Repititon. And I can go to my local book store and buy that, I can go to Porter's and buy that. Its all over the place. And so the argument of scarcity doesn't make sense when I look at it from my perspective. But of course my perspective isn't the only perspective of the people who are using the site.
KG(ubu): I think the difference is in-print and out-of-print. Stuff that gets uploaded to this site is clearly in-print.
KG: But most of what's on ubu, you can't buy it anywhere. If it is, it might be wildly expensive. I think that's the great difference between the 2 projects.
SD: This is partly why I get terrified by cease-and-desist letters- is the fact that a lot of this stuff is in-print. And at a certain point I made a decision - that actually you know the fact that in-print material circulating on aaarg is not just -that is important, also because of what I was just saying. The scarcity in a way is a matter of perspective.
Lawrence: But its also a matter of geography.
Lawrence: I can't walk into a Barnes and Noble right here.. so its definitely scarce here.
KG: ...whole Derrida's collective works- any Barnes and Noble branch.
Lawrence: Yeah. There is no Barnes and Noble here.
KG: Oh, there's no Barnes and Noble here? Oh, isn't that great. Lucky you! Do they have a similar thing like Barnes and Noble?
SB: There's Crosswords where you will definitely not find...
AS: But then Lawrence was lived in New York now so its okay.
Lawrence: There is for example in the Copyright Act in India, there is actually an exception which says that if the work is not available in India at an affordable cost, etc, you can actually make upto 3 copies of it in a public library. And this was meant to address this entire question of non-access. But the problem was now intepreting the fact that Amazon is available anywhere in the world- makes it available. So we're trying to look at that..
SD: I mean when I'm using the word 'perspective', that's I suppose a geographical perspective, but its supposed to encompass a lot of things... Also a lot of the... you know I took it down. But a lot of the stuff that's on aaarg for instance is readily available to academics. When you're logging in with your university ID, then you have JSTOR access.
SD: So its access to this huge database of academic journals. And then you...
KG: But you can't find Derrida's collected works on JSTOR.
SD: No you can't find that, but you can't find a lot of other things. And so some people say 'Oh other stuff I could just get on JSTOR'.
KG: But most people don't have access to...
SD: Yeah, and also...if you take one person, they would be in grad school. And then they won't be in grad school. And then 3 months after they leave, they lose that access. And then they get a job adjunct teaching, and then they get access again for 3 months, and then they don't have it anymore.
SD: So actually library access is similar to health care, in that you get to use it, and then its a precariousness to your access to a lot of the texts.
SD: I was going to walk through some of the particular cease-and-desist letters. I don't think that's actually going to add anything to this conversation. So, again, this is something if you actually are curious, I'd be happy to talk to you about it afterwards.
SD: I'm just trying to ...actually I had book-ended this talk with 2 texts that were written kind of recently. Can you tell me the time actually? -
SL: Um....yeah we have 10 minutes for questions still...
SD: There were 2 texts that I'd book-ended this with. One was a sort of an argument for space of reflection... which in a way is an argument for a school. Both of these texts were written in collaboration... its a co-authored text between Matteo Pasquinelli, Jason Smith, Caleb Waldorf and myself. And we made this text for a conference at UC San Diego about the state of the arts in the future, public education, and so on.
SD: All of us are sort of unaffiliated. And so we're trying to contend with that, and our relationship with this project called the Public School within that setting. So a couple of excerpts from that I wanted to read.
SD: And the first one was this argument for a space of reflection. Sort of like the old definition of 'school', the Greek definition- which is like a clearing...as though time and space of... for reflection which was different from the space of performative action.
SD: And what that argument was, was that this isn't (this space of reflection) isn't a given. Its especially not given today where, that would arguably be the university, but hardly any university is fulfilling that role. And so its sort of an argument for theory not as a thing that precedes performative action; but that performatvie action that is necessary for creating the space for theory to happen, which to me is a little bit of ... (?) to what I was talking about with content, with why these particular texts, and how that relates to the overall site.
SD: And then the end part was actually in reference to ... there's been so many student occupations over the past you could say 2 years- but I was just in Brazil, and even in 2007, 3 and 4 years ago, across hundreds of universities there students were occupying rectories(?) and things.
SD: And... it was sort of an attempt to tie together what I was talking about with that. But because I can't actually access my Word Document here, I'll just sort of gesture towards that and leave it at that. If there are any questions...
Q(KG): One thing I wanted to say is... by using iFile, how then the works that are in-print - how liable are you...?
SD: Yes thank you. So this is the problem also with trying - with me trying to wing it, is I'm absolutely forgetful. And that is a sort of important part of what I wanted to talk about was the centralisation versus distribution.
SD: And I think with a file sharing project there's... its kind of idiotic in a way to just try and have all the files on your server, which is exactly what we do. And we continue to do it. But we're at the point that a lot of people who visit the site are presented with links to something like mediafile or an ifile. Its sort of a long story, but basically the explanation is that all files are stored on aaarg on the server centrally.
SD: But what we do is we encourage people to download the files from there and then upload them to external ... to upload them to other places, and to try and keep that alive, to keep the links always alive, if you don't see the direct download link, this is where its kind of complicated and stupid, but it came after a couple of cease-and-desists - after one particular cease-and-desist letter where we were trying to give the image that we weren't actually hosting any files. And so new people who had come to the site wouldn't be able to see the direct download link.
SD: And its not something I felt particularly good about, but it seemed to me like a tactical necessity or something, in order to keep the site going. And in fact, its been, for the last year and a half- the first cease-and-desist letter came a year and a half ago only. So, for 4 years, there were no letters. And then in the last year and a half-
Q(KG): You should talk about the big cease-and-desist letter you last got.
SD: Yeah.. yeah...
SD: Another thing that I had, at least, hoped to touch on a little bit, is the status of libraries. It will come to the MacMillan thing. But in particular, like in the US, the institution of the public library is a relatively recent thing. You can look at Andrew Carnegie's funding of libraries,.. not very long ago in the history of the country even, as starting a lot of it. And the way that a lot of the original library collections were actually created, was through women's groups, like at the beginning of the last century. Accumulating a lot of books and then donating them to- or making them available for the community to check out...
SD: And this is when books were objects. You know, when you'd finish reading a book, and then you'd lend it to your friend. Or you could give it away. Because you actually owned it, you could give it away..... Like in the Pad.ma presentation, you know, now we're dealing with different type of thing. We're sort of renting the material that we're consuming. We never really own it, because we can't actually even give it away.
SD: And so this is a question that I have about the status of libraries, going forward. Especially books- more and more are being sold as a... not as things, but ... there's a tendency towards digital files, towards PDFs. And the question, a very simple question- who has the right to start a library?- It was self-evident 100 years ago; anyone who had a bunch of books could start a library. But this is actually seems to be illegal at the moment, given that you can buy an e-book for your Kindle or something, but you're not allowed to even transfer that to someone else. You're not allowed to give it to someone else.
SD: So, to get around to your question, the reason there's a big moment of hostility earlier in the year having to do with Macmillan- who is a very large publisher. Macmillan... sent a bunch of cease-and-desist letters to the site that was mirroring all of our ...where the files were being uploaded to.
SD: At a certain point the company that was hosting all those files just deleted everything, without any warning... I mean, there was warning, there several warnings- but there's still a violence to it. It was gone and there was no hope of getting it back. But of course it was a mirror, so we had another copy somewhere else, so it wasn't the end of the world.
SD: But my point is that we've never invested a lot of resources at getting rid of this problem. If you look at the particular arrangements that Macmillan has been making, for one Mark Taylor- this guy that they hired from the music industry to fight piracy. So they hired him- 'do that thing that you did for the music industry, but for us'.
SD: Okay. Part 2, this comes right after... right as there's a viable .... PDFs had become a viable market. I don't think they were before. Before e- the Kindle and the iPad... they really hit the market hard. And of course who they were being sold towards primarily, were the students.... You can basically imagine the business planning meeting at Macmillan, which is - 'what do we do about all these changes in technologies? Oh! We're Macmillan! We're an iPad partner' - which they are- 'what we can do is just make sure that students get iPads, and then we start distributing things, not just textbooks...
SD: So you can see that their future business plan is actually oriented around e-books. And I think what happened was- you're in a situation where there's no shortage of PDFs. Its not like Macmillan says- 'Oh yeah, we imagine this future where people will be reading on kindles. So what we need to do is get texts into a digital form.'- They're all over the place. They're everywhere. They already exist.
SD: What they have to do is eliminate them, to be able to sell them. So its a slightly... I mean what happened with Macmillan, I think, was that they were trying to clear the pathway a little bit so they could start to make some money on e-books through this business strategy of partnering with the iPad.
SD: And of course.. the one other thing that is interesting... About a year ago, Macmillan made a lot of news for 'standing up to Amazon' - that was the newspaper headlines. 'Macmillan stands up to Amazon'. Amazon wanted to lower the prices of e-books to ...10 dollars or something, and Macmillan insisted that they wouldn't work with them, unless they could keep the prices quite high.
SD: So if you put all these pieces together, then this is precisely why I was terrified in a very real way of Macmillan's cease-and-desist letters. And that kind of prompted the move to external links. 'Cause there's this thought that if things were being downloaded from outside the website, they you know.. But they kept on coming, quite hard and my hosting company was taking those quite seriously.
RB: You talked about 'community'- that's a loaded term, and yet you use it in a very positive sense. I'm wondering what kind of strength or resources can you draw from this community when you're compelled to deal with the Macmillans?
SD: ... . ...
RB: It seems like, what is the role, what is the responsibility of this community in dealing with the struggle of sustenance? Sustaining this initiative. Otherwise it seems to me- why should you be terrified alone? Why should that burden fall on a few people? If you can't- if this is supposed to be a community, then what's the responsibility...?
SD: Yeah, obviously when I call it a community, probably if you do a survey of a 1,000 people, then 90% of them may say that they're not a community. So what does that mean? But that said, something in the first text that I wanted to read, talked about composition, and how we realise ourselves as a part of something... something that we might not be aware of yet.
SD: 'Community' - I was using it quite loosely, but I was also...I mean this is also a little bit of ...trying for wish fulfillment or something. I want the people that are using the site to be aware that there's 55,000 other people like them using the site, and that they have a real...that there's a power in this, there's enormous potential in this. I don't know what it is, but I think somehow, if there are certain things that are to change in the world, then it involves acknowledging, coming to terms with that power.
SD: And I think that there's been a few times where ... people have come together. Often its in the form of just speculating on how to just create a big torrent of the site or something, and keep the library alive through anything that might come. I think that's important. Other times when I needed to move to a different server, then things just kind of happened.
SD: And in one case in particular, when we had moved to external links- we didn't 'move' of course. It was just an act of like - how do we get (at that time) 6,000 texts... how do we suddenly create external links?... how do we upload 6,000 texts to some 3rd party hosting sites? How do we manage that? And so I coded one little thing that made it easier to keep track of what had been, what hadn't been, and also what people wanted, quickly. I think it took about 2-3 weeks before 95% of the texts had been uploaded elsewhere.
SD: It was just that people understood what needed to happen. And even then it wasn't like a big huge message across the whole screen. It was a ...it was a couple of minor messages, but it was more- I explained to a few people and then those few people explained it to other people- which is exactly how the site grew in the first place. People tell other people about it, and tell other people about it, and tell other people about it..... And then before you know it, you have a lot of ...I don't know, feels like a Ponzi scheme or something ...
SD: But in the end, at a very practical level, I think people mobilised to do something quite measurable. And if that's any kind of anecdote or analogy for what else might be...
Q(SL): Still, I think if you look at the site technically - and the same goes for UbuWeb - If you look at its technical properties, then these are building communities in the ways of aaarg becoming this de facto institution in its field, as UbuWeb, still, these are individual properties. These are very much driven by the individual will to do this.
SL: Because if you look at it as how do you distribute texts that you don't want to bring lawyers' letters in with- how do you distribute then? Obviously technically this is something every geek would say that this is (?). You don't do it on public web server that has your contact information. This distribution ...over bittorrent, or other distribution methods that do not have (?)great infrastructure. But still, I think the reason you're doing it is because your archives have different properties that are just as valuable, which is exactly this kind of proposal of doing something that anyone else can do, but for some reason only a handful of people are doing.
SL: And to do it in a fashion that is visible, that is also by design not state-of-the-art encrypted communication... It doesn't least have a picture of community... but it tries to be... While it has to move tactically and stragetically, tries to be as open and transparent as possible.
Q(KG): Actually... I'd like to point, Sean, your site has a login. Why is that? Why is it behind a protective wall?
SD: Yeah, it wasn't always. That was again after the OMA letter which is the first cease-and-desist letter. No no no...it wasn't after that one, it was actually when a few university presses wrote- Columbia, Edinburgh- wrote around the same time. And I started to think- well actually, maybe 4 different things within the same week-
SD: And I started to think that there was a conspiracy. I started to think there was something behind it. And it went to a login, because I was like - I can't actually hunt down every item that is being asked about, and I can't respond to all these things. Its becoming a job. So it actually led to a login. Though its open, you just sign up. You can sign up and you get an account. That was it. It would just... which isn't the case anymore.
KG: Oh you can't?
SD: You can sign up, but I have to approve you?
KG: Oh?... How do you know who you're approving?
SD: Because I make you say who you are.
KG: Uhuh... is that?
SD: Yeah people lie...
SD: Yeah, I mean... again its not ideal, and its not something that I'm particularly proud of the way that its necessary..., but its worked. I don't know how else to say it.
KG (to SL): So when you were doing textz, did you ...you ended up having login as well, didn't you? It was open for a while, then...
SL: Ya....but this was also completely half-assed. I didn't care. It was just very specific cases where I didn't ...Ya there was one, but then you ...just as with aaarg, as you can access the direct download links if you know how, you could access all of it, if you knew how. ... ... ...
Q: I was wondering if you found any of your users use your site as a means of self-publishing, since you're obviously tapped into a specific community. And so...
Q: ...you know, material hosted on your site is obviously ..(?)
SD: Yeah ...just a few quick things. I remember that there were some people who were really enthusiastic about object oriented philosophy, who were posting- not to make any... But yeah, we've done it. I find it very interesting and we've done a class and all that. But I'm just saying that at the very beginning of that, there was someone who was uploading a lot of stuff, from that area. And I remember one ...I have no idea who it was, but someone got really defensive about aaarg, like 'you can't do that here. You're just doing self-promotion'.
SD: And there was all this really minor squirmish that no one probably noticed except for me, becuase I watch over all that stuff. And I just found it really interesting that someone would try to use it in that way, and again someone else would defend the site, like they had an image of what it ought to be used for. And I'm happy that they had this kind of conflict. They came to some resolution.
SD: But there's other cases. I know a friend of mine, Benjamin Bratton- I don't think its self-promotion- but he uploaded all his books. And I think it was more a show of support, in a way. He was just saying 'I'd rather be on this site, than another site.'
KG: I have a really good question - do you get swamped with junk? Term papers,...and you know..
SD: Well, here's another thing. Some people - I've asked- some people have thought about putting up something that they've written that's been really good. And then they feel that it can't compete with Paulo Verno or something. So they don't want to put it up, because they don't... they feel threatened or something by proximity to other great things.
SD: I mean, there's a lot of stuff I don't particularly like because there's just so much stuff up there. But I don't think 'junk' is how I'd characterise it.
AS: You were saying something about the bicephalous...
AS: ... because there's different things going on. You run a gallery space, and then there's Public School, and then there's aaarg... ...I'm sure we can talk about this tomorrow.... links across the Public School and aaarg is something to talk about...
SD: I'll talk about it more tomorrow. And now we have 10 minutes.
SD: I think the links between the projects is - just in a quick sentence - is that its gotten to the point where you almost can't look at one project without (?) the other one.
AS: Which came first?
SD: Aaarg is 5 years old and the Public School is 3 years old. They didn't have a relationship at the beginning, but.... they kind of grafted together, in a way, and I think in a very interesting way that preserves relative autonomy. But at the same time, they are also deeply unrelated. ...
SL: Are there any more immediate questions? ....One last? ...Yeah, and then we can break for lunch.
NM: I think its a question to perhaps both of you- you're both dealing with the kind of material that is Avant Garde or ... has a certain enthrallment for that particular audience. But how does one then speak of material that is either semi-legitimate or legitimate? For instance the question of self-publishing. Material that you can perhaps legally put out there, like in the context of Pad.ma... And this is a kind of speculative question, and I know both of you ... there is a certain kind of material that you deal with and that's it,
NM: but what would you say from what you're already doing to something that tries to be material that does have possibly.... people who are looking for distribution networks or platforms for material that is somehow legitimate... or legal so to speak?
KG: So, what advice would we give to Macmillan?
KG: How to build a successful distribution network?
NM: No. ...
KG: Imagine...doing UbuWeb with all stuff that was given to us, and no stuff that was not given to us.
NM: Or... what would you say to Vimeo that is doing stuff where artists are contributing their own video?
KG: Viemo? Vimeo is shit. Its the most controlled, censored... It kills me to see musicians actually posting some content on Vimeo. Vimeo is absolutely disgusting. And they're not even bothering to hold (?) their own content. I have great problems with supposed democracy of Vimeo or Youtube. Its totally false.
KG: I think... Ubu deals with classical Avant Garde. I was wondering why my students aren't creating UbuWeb for everybody under 23 years old. That would be fantastic. Why isn't that happening? That should be happening. Everybody can post to Youtube and everybody can post to Vimeo, and everyone can post everywhere. But what's important I think, is the filtering of the material. You need somebody to point and say 'That's actually better than that.' Not everything is good. Not everything is equal. You need a filter and somebody to say.
SD: Sean, I think its admirable that your site is self... What you just showed up there, that was... that looked pretty good, what came in the last day, it wasn't junk. That's remarkable. Because for me, democracy and quality in art, kind of really don't work. And yet, I would think it would be a great thing for someone to set up. Where is it? Wouldn't 23 year olds who are excited by this want to be setting these kinds of things up? I think its a great question for younger people in the room. Where's that happening? Where's UbuWeb for everyone under 23? OR UbuWebs for everyone over 70? Or more?
KG: I just don't understand why this isn't happening all over the place.
LL: Part of the reason is to make UbuWeb, or Aaarg, or Pad.ma was the point that you had earlier made- that as long as they remain a certain kind of niche... Because this anxiety we've had in Pad.ma of people putting up their birthday videos up- it doesn't make sense there. No one's going to come to Pad.ma looking for a birthday video. They'd find it on Youtube.
KG: But I think every niche should have... why shouldn't every niche have an Ubu? Its just not happening. I think its strange, its actually really rare that you have these sites. I go to them.. I don't understand.
SL: Maybe its something we should also put on the agenda about how these individual efforts translate? Or is it a problem of perception? Maybe every niche has their aaarg, maybe they're just not ...
KG: You would know that..
SD: But is that the question... It seemed like the question was about legitimacy, and then you ended up talking about niche v/s popular. So then niche becomes illegitimate, or...? I don't know what the connection between them could be.
NM: No... the connection is them being legal, that it is possible. For instance if you self-publish... But the question I also wanted to ask you, and is perhaps disconned, there are things happening which are niche but are possibly not online- There is this group called the Street Scholars and the contradiction that something like Street Scholars ...(?) texts that are available in the Indian context and with theory that is happening here, and actually positions itself as being- speaking- we will not speak in terms of western theory and how that co-relates to something that at some level might even become -'this is the (?) and sends an apology.. this is the (?) of theory. And then how do you have a conversation across cultures? Possibly this is the case for (?) the fact that they have to speak across projects .... the ones that exist here...
Anyways I'm not sure if I had a question there, but the idea that there has to be some conversations that happen as well across these things.
LL: I have a piece of information,- a bunch of libraries in Bangalore have gotten together saying we need to scan our materials and put up a lot of the ... So I supposed that's happening.
SL: Alright. It seems ... we barely scratched the surface. But I think the plan for the day is to first go wider before we then go deeper again.