danah boyd points out that as far as remix culture is concerned, we're in the middle of an ice age but the chilling effects are starting to thaw. On the global stage, pirate radio has shifted to pirate servers cropping up in almost exactly the same places that pirate enclaves existed hundreds of years earlier. Deep in the heart of youth culture the pirate and the ninja have taken up arms against the commodification of cool; invisibility has become a watchword and rightly so as the most vibrant elements of culture are orientated around mash-ups and file-sharing. Youtorrent, a new search engine for file-sharing, saw an unbelievable explosion of growth registering fifty thousand unique visitors a day before they'd been online a full week.
Certainly ignoring piracy isn't going to make it go away, and attempting to stop it through laws only bumps the servers one country over where they continue to operate. This leaves one option, accept that it will continue and develop new approaches, new ways to work within this paradigm that is undoing the traditional one-way flow of media and product. If you think things are fucked up now, just wait until those dvd burners are replaced by people downloading pirated blueprints to their 3-d printers and constructing consumer goods in their office. Piracy is "innovation by any means necessary," in the words of Matt Mason, and "(t)he pirates will keep coming back and multiplying no matter how many people are sued."
Matt Mason confronts these issues head-on, but where traditional industry has seen only a threat, he sees opportunity. With sections such as "How to Build an Open-Source Platform: The Four Pillars of Community" and "How to Look After a Virus," he provides tools to the reader to traverse this new cultural landscape that has opened up with the rise of the reputation economy.
His book plots our present position in relation to the converging vectors of music, advertising, and the rise of consumers more technologically savvy than the old media producers. From punk, disco, and hip-hop to the pirate radio that drove cultural mutations, from the rise of graffiti as public nuisance to its new status as brand, installation, and reclamation of public space, Mason charts the trends of subculture with the same insightful power as Dick Hebdige did years before while remaining accessible to non-academic readers.
Possibly the most outrageous fact that I pulled from this text was the concept that the very core of American industrial growth was a direct result of piracy on such a widespread scale that we became known as Yankees, a term rooted in the Dutch slur Janke used to refer to pirates. Sure, I'd been aware that the Hollywood film industry was a direct result of people like William Fox (of 20th Century) had fled to the west coast so they could make motion pictures without paying Edison's fees, but if I'd never read this book I'd have never known that a nun in the 40's was responsible for triggering the entire disco era.
There's a great deal of information buried in this book, and in this first reading I expect there are a number of nuggets I'll find reasons to reference in future discussions. My copy is already heavily highlighted, and I can only hope that this text helps reframe mainstream perception of file-sharing from thievery to community building. I know it will be poured over by advertisers and entrepreneurs looking to leverage new cultural trends. My hope is that those actually using these tools, those seeking to make a name for themselves through their music or art might read this text as well and create their own brands of punk capitalism by heeding the advice of this writer, known for his work on VICE magazine and the ground-breaking fanzine RWD.