Functional Form

Avoiding side-effects since 2004.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Share to the Future

Many of my problems with my society is its fixation on a single metaphor as an explanation for all human activity. Incentive. According to these theorists, my movements occur only where two lines intersect on a graph. But what works for sacks of soybeans is being over-applied as a model for our social behavior. Surely we can't really believe that artists only paint, that jazz musicians only play, and that actors only pretend because they are motivated by money. Would anyone with any taste really want to partake of culture produced in pursuit of that goal? Music is not a record, it's the experience of player and audience. Writing is not a printed book, but the ideas conveyed by the ink. Though we may confuse art with the physical objects on which it is distributed, we must remember that acts of self expression are not widgets. There is nothing produced or consumed. The industries that currently oligopolize distribution channels and waste our electromagnetic spectrum on their analog commercials don't add value to our culture. They parasitize it. We let them steal from our rights to share with one another because once upon a time we needed them to make us records and ship them to our malls. But if any recording can be copied infinitely and sent anywhere instantly at zero marginal cost, what's the sanity in banning sharing to promote companies whose role is supposedly the copying and distribution of music?. I went to a jazz concert tonight due to interest cultivated by music I supposedly stole, even though no one lost their copy as a result of my enjoyment. Without the network, I'd never had gotten interested in jazz. So if you ask me if talented artists suffer if record companies aren't allowed to restrict our freedom, I say it's quite the opposite situation. Only the hand-picked darlings of the industry currently make millions, and their songs are carefully crafted to appeal to the lowest common denominator that will efficiently move product off of limited store shelf-space. Variety isn't economical for the industry, and the hit-driven economy that is its alternative represents the Wal-Martization of music, in which sophistication and creativity are drowned out of the artificially-narrowed channels that are crowded with "what sells". Sharing isn't the end of music. On the contrary, music is sharing. Broadcast culture allowed the few to dictate the tastes of the many because there was only so much radio spectrum for the primitive analog systems to divide, but with digital technologies, these technical limitations are no longer a concern. Information is something that we can all broadcast, we can all manufacture. Sharing is merely the end of an industry. Good riddance.


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