I have some discrete thoughts in response to Barlow’s moderately addled introduction to Cory Doctorow’s book, ‘Content’.
First of all, my work is a discrete object, treated as an object by computer operating systems, and by the people who enjoy it. My work is less effective (i.e. good) when it is not a discrete object.
Though the stuff of the universe may indeed be a little fuzzy, I myself am, for all intents and purposes, a discrete individual in the universe, and plan on remaining thus in the eyes of the law and my loved ones for the remainder of my experiential life. Despite being a collection of electrons, much like a digital object, by the way, I am an individual with inalienable rights, and in our society I have the right to own and be compensated for my work and my creations.
As a discrete individual, I’ve been working with the .xmf music file format and not only is that file an object, practically and realistically, the components of the file are discrete objects as well. In fact, the code base of the entire world has for a while now relied on programs that deal with each other in terms of objects. It was designed that way because that’s how we think about the world and it’s a good and efficient way of thinking. Mystical misapprehensions of magical computers where every object is reduced to electrons are irrelevant, because while this may be ultimately true, it is ultimately true of all matter, including us, and when people want to treat others like latent energy they become like Charles Manson and rightly should be locked up.
My point is that any object is an intellectual construct. Including us. We agree an object is there and give it a name. ‘Cyberspace’ is no different in any way. The main problem with Barlow’s line of thinking is that it leads to psychosis - we have more and more of our identity in so called ‘Cyberspace’, to let go of concepts that make objects discrete is to let go of humanity and give it over to other types of entities – effectively, in this case, the business corporation.
While most of the anti-copyright hyperbole seems to be aimed at corporations, it is ironic that the only beneficiaries in barlow’s scheme are not me and thee, it is corporations like Google or Microsoft that will have cheaper access to my creations and robbed of copyright, I have no means to take action to protect myself.
The Internet is part of what we are, an extension of the society we already have, and not some external realm. The application of the philosophy Barlow expresses on our current society, in it’s most benevolent form, will only mean that authors and artists become hobbyists, and that corporations, albeit corporations with new names, continue to profit at our expense, with no rights of any sort for the individual anywhere in sight.
‘Content’ by Cory Doctorow: