“While data trafficking through the web is increasing exponentially, the establishment seeks to ‘govern’ the process with more control and law enforcement. At the same time culture participants can move out of the ‘grey’ area to share and remix an over-abundance of cultural works. Do we need to dub the culture and re-appropriate the media?”
In just a bit more than a decade, global inter-cultural traffic has accelerated dramatically and has shaped much of the digital information age we are currently living in. The amount of information available currently on the internet is vast or virtually endless; never before people were able to have access to such a large body of cultural works from all around the world. Downloading and especially peer-to-peer file sharing has managed a great deal of those exchanged cultural works and continues to expand in different ways since Napster was introduced in 1999. I had my Napster installed, then a Kazaa software (although I was using mostly Soulseek, which is dedicated to music) to arrive to the third generation of P2P with Torrents and later to uploading/filesharing hosts like Mediafire. The online cultural database is bloating at the moment; it is overwhelming to the point of ‘information overload’.
These rapid processed have gathered the attention of many scholars and there are many issues that arise from them. A major concern is that copyrights are actually violated with every single download we enable to the point that one can wonder if these copyright laws are obsolete or not. On the other hand, corporations have found new ways to infiltrate in the virtual ‘public’ domain while new laws are forged to protect the established interest in the new digital age. A very fresh example is the ongoing debate in the US congress to apply internet censorship. It happened before: Napster was shut down; now websites like YouTube are under threat. New technologies have been always developed and controlled to serve the institutions and centers of power sometimes directly as tools of mass oppression. Although it is hard to predict the future of copyright laws, copyleft licenses are becoming more common. Copyleft provides an alternative ‘milieu’ of sharing, reusing and remixing freely the cultural work of others by using or ‘refining’ the existing copyright laws. That means that the above-mentioned widespread activities of file-sharing, downloading etc. would become much simpler and legal if we just use more of free formats like Creative Commons or GNU free documentation license. In that way we all agree and work together avoiding institutions and ‘grey’ regulatory areas.
The idea of reusing and remixing the work of others seems refreshing in a world saturated by over-production and over-protection of cultural work. A lot of this work is ‘sinking’ in a sea of manifold choices, passing unnoticed while our cognitive capacities are occupied to a high extend by the mass media and the mainstream. In a sense we can become more ‘active’ users of cultural artifacts i.e. digital files in late modernity. Free licenses revoke the basic ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’ principles of the environmentalist movement. Freeganism is also about recovering ‘waste’ and sharing while it is a basic objective of the Freegan Kolektiva to close the loops of the life-cycle of materials, in other words use and keep in a good condition everything that is available out there. Although it would be an arbitrary over-simplification to relate directly physical and digital sharing or reusing, it all stems from the ‘openess’ of people and their will to collaborate without any intermediaries or alienating media. It is about ensuring yourself and letting others ensure everything that is needed in life without financial requirements. Long ago the Situationists were promoting a re-configuration of the social space, which they observed to become increasingly mediated (by mass media and institutions) and leads to saturation of original expression and alienation. Their ‘detournement’ was essentially proposing the use of cultural creations not the appropriation of them, infused with original ideas.
A cultural remix is to give life to other peoples’ work, not just being an observer – but play, modify and re-create. In that way cultural objects can be adapted to your own personal situation and maybe they will be disseminated in your environment. It could become a life-affirmative ‘situation’ that can generate enjoyment, self-fulfillment or just fun in our communities. Cross-pollination of ideas and practices have always been the backbone of human innovation. Culture jamming is a critical remix, where the mainstream norm is tailored to fit the momentary original ‘situation’ as a form of re-appropriation of the social and cognitive space. In a similar fashion, we propose the term ‘Cultural Dubbing’ to pay homage to the earliest music producers to ever create remixes (back then called ‘versions’ and later ‘dubs’) – the dub controllers. Ever since people were dancing for half an hour continuously excited on the instrumental version of a song played by the sound system of Ruddy Redwood back in 1968 in Kingston Jamaica, the manipulation of already existing songs became a creative force itself. That sparkled a storm of creativity that flourished in Jamaica and was ‘remixed’ everywhere in the world since then. Now culture dubbing can become an open activity, free of copyrights and patents.