Caring for the Public Library, Interview with Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak

Marcell Mars (researcher and programmer) & Tomislav Medak (philosopher) work together on the project Memory of the World. They use the concept of the public library as a narrative device to address questions of general access to knowledge and how this has shifted in the digital age. As everyone has the tools to build their own library, they advocate for a new form of a public library, which consists of interconnected private libraries.

This mobilization of individual actors would help to generate a necessary discourse on the limiting aspects if intellectual property. Apart from their work on creating technical infrastructure for their project, they organize digitization campaigns for endangered knowledges, develop tools for sharing books and discursive formats such as exhibitions and texts.

Expanding Cinema, Interview with Sebatian Lütgert & Jan Gerber

Sebastian Lütgert & Jan Gerber are two artists and programmers who developed the movie database 0xdb and its underlying software The more than 15,000 films in the database are objects that cover films hard to find online. 0xbd is not just a database for films but treats film as a veritable digital object, which allows new ways of dealing with films.

The project offers a number of special features such as the visualization of the timeline, time-based annotations, additional information and interlinking with other objects and information, and allows for in-depth search. The project stands in the tradition of autonomous archives and other critical media practices and has collaborated with artists and political activists worldwide. The software, as well as the movies, are available for free.

From Notepad to Cultural Resource. The Aesthetics of Crosslinking at Monoskop, Interview with Dušan Barok

Dušan Barok is a researcher, artist and cultural activist based in Amsterdam. His practice involves networked media, participatory events, and experimental publishing, and he runs and edits Monoskop. Monoskop is a media wiki that evolved from linking and contextualizing information on Eastern European experimental and media arts to host rele­­­vant files, such as books, texts, documents, and media files, and thus became a publishing initiative in its own right.

Due to its constant growth, Monoskop has transformed from a special interest archive to become a significant cultural resource. Today the wiki comprises of 6,744 entries and 13,616 documents, and the related WordPress log introduces new publications on a regular basis. Increasingly, Monoskop also triggers off­line events, frequently with cultural institutions that have come to appreciate the unique resources of this autonomous archive.

The Practice of Sharing Knowledge, Interview with Sean Dockray

Sean Dockray is an artist and initiator of the knowledge-sharing platforms The Public School and aaaaarg.

aaaaarg is an online library and open source platform for freely sharing books and texts. It has its origin in collaborative working groups where resources were gathered in ‘online bookshelves.’ The project eventually evolved as part of the self-organized educational project known as The Public School where it served as a repository for shared study materials. From there it grew to become a major online resource for publications in the field of philosophy, art and political theory with tens of thousands of users, containing material in many different languages. The underlying infrastructure, as well as the contents, are the result of a collaborative effort to which various programmers and the users and editors of the site regularly contribute.

Commoning Infrastructures. Promises, challenges, and the role of art. Lecture by Daphne Dragona

Lecture by Daphne Dragona, Thursday 13.09.2018, at HeK (House of electronic Arts Basel)

Cultural scientist and curator Daphne Dragona talks about alternative community-based network systems and the role art can play in their development.

Practices of commoning are driven by affect, a sense of new possibilities and a desire to respond to existing asymmetries of power. In the case of network infrastructures, asymmetries usually refer to issues of access, as well as to the surveillance and commodification of circulating information. Wishing to oppose the structures of the sovereign corporate systems of communication, different examples of alternative networking have emerged in the last two decades. Initiated and built by artists, activists and other network practitioners, these infrastructures manifest a desire for accessible, user-owned and controlled systems, that respect the needs of different territories, communities and users.

What can we learn from the recent history of alternative and radical networking? What are the promises and challenges of the commoning of infrastructures in times of increasing socio-politcal divides and conflicts? When does commoning need to be readdressed and which forms of learning and doing might be of help? Turning to examples coming from the fields of art, this presentation will examine how the poetics and imaginaries of counter-infrastructures can assist in re-imagining the way we relate to each other and to the world itself.

Daphne Dragona is a Berlin-based theorist and curator. Since 2015 she has been part of the curatorial team of transmediale festival. She has worked with different institutions for exhibitions, conferences, workshops and other events. Dragona has been working in the field of digital and urban commons since 2009, having curated Esse Nosse Posse: Common Wealth for Common People (EMST 2009), Mapping the Commons, Athens (EMST 2010), Off-the-cloud zone (transmediale, 2016) and “… An Archaeology of Silence in the Digital Age”, solo exhibition of Christoph Wachter and Mathias Jud (Aksioma, 2017). She holds a PhD from the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies of the University of Athens.

Artistic Shadow Libraries

Find the File, Festival, 21-24 March 2019
Berlin, Haus der Kulturen der Welt

The research project Creating Commons (Felix Stalder, Cornelia Sollfrank, Shusha Niederberger), based at the Zurich University of the Arts, is invited to present first results of its research as part of the festival Find the File. The festival is a discursive music festival that explores questions about collecting and archiving music, in discussions, concerts, and installations. It is about what new possibilities and challenges have arisen for archives with the digital, and how new forms of knowledge can develop through the collecting activities of ‘amateurs’. Last but not least, questions of accessibility will also be addressed.

Creating Commons is involved with two contributions:

1) Artistic Shadow Libraries, Video installation,
Creating Commons,
For the entire duration of the festivals in the foyer of the HKW

The interview montages show artists who create web archives as aesthetic commons practices: the art wiki monoskop, the no-budget avant-garde archive UbuWeb, the online libraries aaaaarg and, and, a database of 15,000 films. Through technical infrastructures, communities and mutual negotiation of terms of use, these ‘shadow libraries’ provide access to cultural goods – autonomous, collaborative, free. In times of progressing enclosures, they thus make an undogmatic and precarious contribution to wide accessibility and collaborative production of cultural memory.

2) Enter and Revive: Conditions for Accessibility and Reuse,
Discussion Sunday, 24 March 2019, 17:00
Guests: Diane Thram (musik anthropologist, Rhodes University), Marisella Ouma (Intellectual Property Consultant), Cornelia Sollfrank (artist and researcher), Gregory Markus (RE:VIVE, The Netherland Institute for Sound and Vision) Moderation: Florian Sievers

Archives and collections are increasingly making an effort to not only document the past but also to make their stock of material available for people to revive and experience, for the purposes of artistic- and knowledge creation. However, granting access to archival material implicates many legally and historically sensitive issues: What sort of tasks, what responsibilities do archives as well as archive-remixers have regarding provenance research, participation and accessibility? What practical examples are there for how to release the tension between reactivation and original context, reuse and author rights? What role does the immaterial character of music and sound play here? In what way can archival work become a commons-building exercise?

Creating Commons
Find the File Programm:
Installation Artistic Shadow Libraries:

Affects, Collectives, and Aesthetics. Panel at Transmediale 2019, Berlin

At transmediale, we hosted a panel discussion with Jeremy Gilbert (University of East London), Gary Hall (Coventry University) Laurence Rassel (Director of erg, Brussels), 01.02.2019

Jeremy Gilbert, Cornelia Sollfrank, Laurence Rassel, Felix Stalder, and Gary Hall (left to right) at the panel Creating Commons: Affects, Collectives, Aesthetics.
Photo: Laura Fiorio, transmediale, CC BY-SA 4.0

The commons have become a powerful vehicle for conceptualizing and experimenting with ways of being, becoming, and working together, within and across conflicting settings.

As they are based on a careful handling of resources, they are mostly discussed within the framework of alternative economies, leaving aside the affective drive that shapes their multiple forms. Focusing on concrete practices, this panel brings together concepts of affect with structural definitions of the (digital) commons and addresses a number of questions:

* What kind of aesthetic can contribute to a practice of commoning?
* How to create conditions for the production of free resources?
* What can the focus on affect add to the fostering of the commons?

Creating Commons – and creating commons-based exhibition formats

Creating Commons is a three-year research project funded by the Swiss National Fund (SNF) to explore the cultural relevance of artistic commons projects. Starting point for the transdisciplinary research are specific projects that provide access to resources, often by building technical infrastructures or by organising settings for informal knowledge transfer, thus caring for specific cultural goods and making sure these goods remain widely accessible. The notion of the commons provides the theoretical framework for investigating how new forms of organisation can constitute evolving realities that point beyond the growing commercialization of culture and its damaging effects.

The research explores interstitial practices which open the space between art and commons. They are challenging established notions of contemporary aesthetic practice as well as of contemporary commons, requiring the development of a new theoretical and aesthetic framework for this emerging field. The framing questions for the research are: – how can new forms of organization and collaboration bring forth different kinds of cultural works and social relations? – how are new property relations articulated? – how can artistic practices contribute to the further developement of the commons as inclusive, diverse and democratic forms of organization? – what role can art and an expanded understanding of aesthetics play in the advancement of the commons as a political project?

In their presentation, two of the researchers working in the project give an introduction to the topic of their research, define a number of relevant concepts, explain their research methodolgy and present some of the related art projects. One of the main interests in working with the participants of the curatorial studies programme lies in discussing possible and adequate ways of showing artistic commons projects within an exhibition context.

Felix Stalder and Cornelia Sollfrank
Creating Commons – and creating commons-based exhibition formats

Friday, 20 April 2018, 4pm
ZHdK, Room 6.K04

Von Creative Commons zu Creating Commons

Die traditionelle Ordnung der Kultur – mit klaren Positionen für KünstlerIn/AutorIn, Werk und Publikum, vermittelt durch ProduzentInnen, VerlegerInnen, GaleristInnen etc. – ist durch die Digitalisierung endgültig in eine Krise geraten. Wie die neue Ordnung aussehen wird, ist nach wie vor unklar und höchst umstritten. Die erste Runde der Auseinandersetzung wurde auf dem Gebiet des Urheberrechts und damit über die Kontrolle der Zirkulation ausgetragen. In der aktuellen Runde dreht sich alles um zentrale Plattformen und deren Strukturen von Ordnung, Zugang und Wertschöpfung. Als ProduzentInnen der Kultur stehen KünstlerInnen im Zentrum dieser Umbrüche. Während ein Teil beflissen ist – vermeintlich im Eigeninteresse – die Rechteindustrien bei der Durchsetzung strikterer Gesetze zu unterstützen, verstehen sich andere als Ingenieure einer neuen Ordnung und experimentieren mit der Entwicklung eigener Formen von sozialer Produktion und Zirkulation. Continue reading “Von Creative Commons zu Creating Commons”

Commons Are not the Sharing Economy. A comment to Ossewaarde & Reijers (2017)

Ossewaarde, Marinus und Wessel Reijers (2017): „The illusion of the digital commons: ‘False consciousness’ in online alternative economies“, Organization 24/5, S. 609–628. (paywalled)

From the abstract:
“Digital commons such as Wikipedia, open-source software, and hospitality exchanges are frequently seen as forms of resistance to capitalist modes of production and consumption, as elements of alternative economies. In this article, however, we argue that the digital commons cannot by themselves constitute genuine forms of resistance for they are vulnerable to what we call ‘the illusion of the digital commons’, which leads to a form of ‘false consciousness’.”

This is both an interesting and annoying article. It’s interesting as it details how „sharing“ can be put into the service of profit-driven centralization. It’s annoying because it uses a small number of cases to make sweeping claims that feel more than a little disingenuous.

Continue reading “Commons Are not the Sharing Economy. A comment to Ossewaarde & Reijers (2017)”

The notion of the „commons“

In this research note, I try to clarify what I mean when I use the notion of the „commons“ in the context of this research project. The note is intended to further the research group’s shared understanding of the term. But at this point, it’s my personal point of view.

Usually, commons are regarded as complex, comprehensive institutions. De Angelis & Stavrides (2010), for example, differentiate between commons (resources) commoners (people, community) and commoning (ongoing social practices).

For a dictionary entry, I defined commons simply as “resources managed by a community for joint use. ” (Stalder 2017) Continue reading “The notion of the „commons“”

Commonist Aesthetics

With Commonist Aesthetics, the editorial team Binna Choi (Casco), Sven Lütticken, Jorinde Seijdel (Open!) introduces “the idea of commonism” – not communism – as a topic that various writers and artists will explore and expand upon in the course of this series. Commonist aesthetics pertain to the world of the senses, or a “residually common world” that is continuously subject to new divisions, new appropriations, and attempts at reclamation and re-imagining…. Full Article at Open!

Articles in this series so far:

Giving What You Don’t Have (springerin Interview)

In a conversation with Felix Stalder, Cornelia Sollfrank provides background information on her current research project Giving What You Don’t Have – a project that explores ideas of peer-to-peer production and distribution in the art context. (published in springerin, Kritische Netzpraxis, Band XXI – Winter 2015, pp. 35-37, originally in German).

FS: Your current project “Giving What You Don’t Have” (GWYDH) can be read as a continuation of your intensive engagement with copyright in the digital context. At the same time, it also marks a turning point. Whereas earlier works often centered around how inappropriate and frequently obstructive copyright is in terms of current practices, now you are dealing with projects that largely ignore copyright. What was the reason for this change of perspective?

Continue reading “Giving What You Don’t Have (springerin Interview)”

Zum Stand der Commons

Hintergrundinterview mit  Felix Stalder von Krystian Woznicki,  Berliner Gazette.

1. Commons ist in gesellschaftspolitischen Debatten in aller Munde: Von “collaborative commons” (J.Rifkin) bis hin zu “atmospheric commons” (N.Klein). Wie schätzt Du die aktuelle Konjunktur ein? Worauf führst Du sie zurück? Welche Positionen hältst Du für wegweisend?

Das Interesse an den Commons nährt sich aus zwei Quellen. Zum einen aus der tiefen Krise der kapitalistischen Ordnung, die sich nicht nur in der Finanzkrise, sondern vor allem in der Umweltkrise manifestiert. Hier werden sehr fundamentale Konstruktionsmängel deutlich, etwa, dass die „Umwelt“ als Externalität betrachtet wird, aus der man Rohstoffe entnehmen kann, oder in die man Abfall entsorgen kann, ohne dass dies ins ökonomische Kalkül einbezogen werden muss. Dieses Problem kann auch ein „grüner Kapitalismus“ nicht lösen, denn Kapitalismus braucht solche Externalitäten, ohne diese hört er auf, Kapitalismus, das heiß ein System welches auf das Ziel der Kapitalanhäufung – und eben nicht andere – ausgerichtet ist, zu sein. Das ist kein neuer Gedanke, Karl Polyani hat den bereits in den 1940er Jahren sehr klar formuliert, aber heute sind die Folgen dieses Problem in Gestalt der Umweltkrise mehr als deutlich sichtbar und es ist schwer vorstellbar, wie der Kapitalismus, trotz aller Innovationsfähigkeit, dieses Problem angehen kann. Continue reading “Zum Stand der Commons”

Commons, informational (Dictionary Entry)

This is an entry which I contributed to the 2nd edition of the “Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology” Georg Ritzer (ed). 2017.

We take it as a sign of the times that, for the first time, a major English language social science reference work contains the term ‘commons’.

Commons, informational

Commons are resources managed by a community for joint use. Commons have existed in different periods of time and in different cultural contexts as a wide variety of concrete institutions (Ostrom 1990). In the West, they have been marginalized by the rise of private property regimes at the outset of industrialization, particularly through the process of land enclosure (Linebaugh 2013). However, even in the West commons have never completely disappeared and, particularly in Alpine regions, traditional institutions of the commons have survived until today. Continue reading “Commons, informational (Dictionary Entry)”