Last week I experimented briefly with content syndication on Clicknoise, part of a wider campaign of mine to tinker with WordPress plugins. I accidentally succeeded in syndicating posts from Inner Ear Infection, where my friend Bruce writes. Surprised to have gotten the php correct, I quickly removed all of the new content from this blog, as I hadn’t asked permission to syndicate it (and didn’t really want to do so anyway).
As you can probably tell, I’m an “old soldier” when it comes to authoring and crediting sources (and here I’d like to credit my friend and collaborator Phil Western with that phrase, as he refers to himself as an “old soldier” with music). I’m deeply attached to the things I originate, and the geneaology of works of art in this age of electronic re/coproduction is equally troubling to me as it is exciting. While I believe that co-produced knowledge (e.g., wikipedia, nowpublic, del.icio.us) is a truly emancipatory project, when it comes to artistic production I am less convinced. No historical example of collective authoring satisfies me; I obstinately refuse to give up my stake, my investment in things I’ve crafted. I get my hands dirty in some source material and turn it into something else. If someone grabs the thing I’ve just made and transforms it, but fails to mask it in their own personal aesthetic contrivance, I think my feeling of being ripped off is justifiable. But most bootleggers don’t do that, do they? I hear tons of mashups, most of them flat, derivative dross. The perceived value of mashups might depend merely on the recontextualization of well-known works (and, as Cory Doctorow has suggested, their appeal possibly also depends on the perception that the appropriation is subversive or illegal).
I was just reading this, and while I find much of it to be overblown (Wikipedia – not “the” wikipedia – is a community of editors – many of whom are well-known to each other, hardly an example of the idea of the “hive” of automatons Lanier is erecting and whacking at like so much pinata), Lanier’s invocation of the value of people, of authors, of those who take responsibility for their utterances has a deep resonance for me when applied to art.
I might launch a parallel syndication-only blog in the coming weeks as an experiment. I’d like to see what a bot can do using the same RSS feeds and random google searches that I use to churn out Clicknoise in my old skool manner. The only remaining question – what to call it?