Reconstruction Vol. 16, No. 1

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Affordances and Possibilities around the Personal Portable Library in Art and Research / Henry Warwick

The Radical Tactics of the Offline Library from henry warwick on Vimeo.

<1> The Personal Portable Library is basically a very simple device. It is a hard drive or USB memory stick filled with files. What kinds of files depends on curator or librarian's interests. Many people have hard drives filled with music, and they share drives, USB sticks, CDRs and DVDRs filled with music. In fact, according to the RIAA, Offline File Sharing exceeds online file sharing of music.[1] Music files, like font files, are small and easily transferred from one machine to another. Video files are another issue. A film can be 2 or more gigabytes in size and can take a fair amount of time to download. Also, due to their file size, fewer films can fit on a drive or USB stick. As a consequence, the MPAA has not released a study showing similar file sharing patterns for films. Film also suffers from a re-use problem. One rarely watches a given film more than once, while music has a high re-usability factor. So, low re-use combined with large slow file size and transfer times has made film sharing more a product of streaming technology, ranging from online broadcasts of TV shows on network websites to industry and capital approved systems like Netflix to unapproved torrent based viewers like PopcornTime. Books have a low reuse value. People will re-read books, but not often. People will share common fiction books, and will re-read the fiction that really touches them. Scholars and students have a completely different approach to books. For them, they are containers of knowledge and information.

<2> Scholars with personal libraries are nothing new. Charles Darwin had one, Walter Benjamin had one, and very likely the reader also has a library of books they use for reference. This is a common practice of scholars - to create Personal Libraries. Thanks to the impact of fossil fuels on transportation, libraries also became mobile - "bookmobiles" of the 1960s were common. Other personal portable libraries have existed. Walter Benjamin would cart cases of books with him around to do his research. The familiarity this intimacy with a collection permits that allowed hyper-complex research like his Arcades Project to exist. If he had worked digitally, he could have carried his entire library on a USB stick. So too, the libraries of scholars reading this article can also fit on a USB Stick or an inexpensive hard drive. If the average PDF file is five Megabytes, a cheap terabyte hard drive could contain upwards of 200,000 books - more than enough for significant scholarship. This is a very powerful fact, because it is easy to extrapolate and scale into larger collections. If the Library of Congress's 35 million books, the largest collection on earth, were (on average) five Megabyte PDF files, that would be 175,000,000 megabytes, or about 175 terabytes. Not quite portable by today's standards, but that is likely to change over time, just as we have gone from floppy disks that held 800 kilobytes to USB sticks that hold 64 Gigabytes in a few decades. Also, there are other file formats for documents, such as the .txt format. If the Library of Congress was rendered in .txt files, it would fit on a 40 terabyte array roughly the size of a large toaster oven. With one of these set up, duplicates could be made easily. Not everyone wants or needs the entire Library of Congress, and scaling can be calculated from this. Let's speculate and say that a scholar's field of inquiry could be competently covered in 100,000 books and articles. In PDF form, that would be about 500,000 Megabytes, or about half a terabyte - a drive one could buy anywhere for less than $80. Furthermore, these books could also be indexed using a portable indexer like Dropout on Windows, or in the computer itself with a system like Spotlight on Apple OSX. This allows scholars to look inside the files themselves and extract the information they require for their research. And this brings us to the essential message of this paper: the creative uses of a Personal Portable Library. As we noted, film has a low reuse value and large file size penalties. Music has a high reuse value, and low file size penalties. However, music is ancient - going back to, if not before, the found remains of humanities earliest recorded musical instruments, such as the bone flute found in the cave at Chauvet that are over 30,000 years old. Music's operations and uses in human society greatly predate written text. Also, music is of limited value to scholars in a variety of fields of research - melodies don't help much in doing metallurgy or genetics. Libraries of books and articles, however, are of significant value to scholars researching a vast variety of topics and have a high re-use rate. When digitized, these files have a minor impact on memory and bandwidth requirements. Therefore archives of music and films are outside our discussion, and we shall limit our scope to those files and systems, these Personal Portable Libraries.

<3> Here, we will examine the creative use of these Personal Portable Libraries. We will look at two ranges: the use of the Personal Portable Library and related systems as Art, and the creative possibilities inherent to the Personal Portable Library for scholastic research and knowledge production.

<4> Personal Portable Libraries as Art have operated in a few ways; one where the material fact of the digital library is presented as art. Another where connectivity between archives is presented as art, and another which is a hybrid of both: where the digital archive itself and connectivity to it is seen as art. We'll examine the last system first, because it provides an interesting angle into how scholars can more effectively and creatively use these digital resources. This is not an exhaustive account of every use of a digital archive as Art, as much as these examples illuminate some fundamental aspects of the development of the Personal Portable Library and personal archives.

<5> The case studies in offline archives we will briefly examine are:

There are other examples, but these will suffice for the present discussion.

<6> 1 Terabyte 5 Million Dollars (2011) and Copy This Drive (2011) are both examples of a digital library or archive being presented directly as art objects. 1 Terabyte 5 Million Dollars is an art installation composed of a one terabyte hard drive filled with five million dollars worth of software downloaded from the Internet. Copy This Drive is an art installation composed of a computer and hard drive filled with a variety of files made by the artist, all of which are free to be copied. There is a crucial difference between the two - 1 Terabyte 5 Million Dollars you have no access to the drive itself. You come into a gallery and under a glass box is a hard drive. Nearby is a list of all the software on it, and the torrent site URLs to collect the software. The software ranges from the typical and mundane office productivity material to high end CAD drafting and 3D software and hundreds of thousands of type fonts. Given how little even a large hard-drive like that weighs (870g), at $5,000,000, its value in software is 136 times its own weight in gold (at $1314 ounce). What is essential to this piece is the sense of trust and honesty one attributes to the artists, the art collective ART404. One sees a hard drive, a title, and a list of software. One assumes that the hard drive is full of the software, but no verification is possible, as the drive is in a glass case. One must trust that the drive in the case actually contains the software listed.

<7> Copy This Drive goes farther than that, but more timidly. While 1 Terabyte 5 Million Dollars is about presenting an inaccessible hard drive full of unpaid-for software, Copy This Drive is much more psychological in its approach, for while there is no software to copy, the artist, Nick Briz, has made his works as a digital illustrator available for copying. Anyone can come into the gallery with a computer and copy all of his artwork, thus with Copy This Drive, the viewer has an expanded role - from a mere passive observer of an object to a participant that gives the object its meaning.

<8> The point of Copy This Drive was psychological, in that the artist was opening himself up to his audience - they could view all of his work - both realised and unfinished, as well as his personal notes and calendar. In effect, he brought himself closer to his audience by presenting vulnerability by way of total access.

<9> Both of these works present the material memory system, the hard drive, as a work of art in itself. This is hardly novel; consumer products have long been presented as objects of art - a Jaguar XKE sports car has been in the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art since the mid 1960s, and Duchamp presented a hat rack as sculpture a century ago. That is not the point of interest with these works - it is the contents of the drive that matter.

<10> While 1 Terabyte 5 Million Dollars directly confronts ideas of copyright, one is not permitted access to the drive itself, thusly skirting any copyright infringement questions, offloading those concerns onto the online torrent system of file distribution. Copy This Drive permits access to its drive full of files, but is much less involved with questions of copyright, as the copyright to the artwork and files belongs to Nick Briz who is surrendering that right at that time for the piece. The ability for the viewer to copy software off his machine remained a possibility, but an unlikelihood, given the ease of suchlike from online sources. In that way, Nick Briz largely evades questions of third party copyright ownership. Both works lie behind a wall of verification - one of access (­1 terabyte $5 million) and one of time and particularities of property ( Copy This Drive).

<11> Dead Drops (2010) and DeadSwap (2011) both present much more challenging approaches to copyright and the sharing of knowledge. We will examine Dead Drops, first, as it acts as a bridge from the aforementioned works to more recent developments.

<12> Dead Drops was created by the Berlin artist, Aram Bertholl, while artist in residence, at the New York art space, EYEBEAM, in October 2010. From the Dead Drops website:

"'Dead Drops' is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessable (sic) to anybody in public space. Everyone is invited to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data. Each dead drop is installed empty except a readme.txt file explaining the project. 'Dead Drops' is open to participation." [2]

<13> The advantages of Dead Drops are clear - they require no commitment, they are easily accessed in public spaces, they are inexpensive and quick to set up, and are inherently local and require little if any computer skills. Also, Dead Drop is anonymous - no records are kept of visitors. Thus, Dead Drops is a fun and simple gesture, but only just so. This is not to ignore its strengths: it is a fine gesture to make people think about certain ideas - social formation around public electronic virtual spaces, the nature and meaning of file sharing and copyright, the value of file sharing and the singularly contemporary image of people engaging in virtual community by sticking their laptops onto a USB stick that is protruding from a wall, and all the ideas about community, society, trust, and the associated affect that go into such an act and such a technology.

<14> However, there are a certain number of clear and significant problems with the material practicality of Dead Drops, even with dozens of Dead Drops registered all over the world. These delicate pieces of electronic gadgetry are cemented into walls in the outdoors. Such systems cannot be expected to survive major rain storms, hail, sleet, and snow and all the other trials and tribulations the Earth can hurl at a small delicate piece of plastic, metal and silicon cemented into a crack in a brick wall. Also, the odds of a user's computer to contract a virus from one of these drives approaches unity given sufficient numbers of users.[3] On top of this, there is a problem of formatting, where if someone makes a Dead Drop formatted in MacOS or Windows NTFS, its usability in other operating systems may be limited or non-existent. And finally, the anonymity afforded by Dead Drops is limited as anyone can see someone accessing the Dead Drop while they stand there by a wall holding their laptop in place for the duration of the contact. If one is moving a substantial amount of data, they may be standing there for some time. From this it is fairly straightforward to conclude that Dead Drops, operates as designed - it is a simple and effective gesture. It also points at a serious gap in common public address as it bridges - through the simple application of some inexpensive digital technology and basic masonry skills - an important gap between public file sharing and how a file sharing community can be developed and nurtured. As a tactical media project, it is not necessary to be a fully practical system, as it is primarily an artistic and creative gesture designed to provoke discussion around file sharing, more than a concrete attempt at building sustainable coherent networks of file sharing.

<15> While the DeadDrops project was material and direct - a network of USB sticks cemented into walls around the world -DeadSwap[4] existed as a proposed system of clandestine offline file sharing. DeadSwap was, by its own self description:

"[…] an offline file sharing system where participants covertly pass a USB stick from one to another. The route of the USB memory stick and the identity of the other participants is not known by the users but controlled by local, independently operated SMS gateways that are kept as a carefully shared secret by their users. …deadSwap is a social experiment exploring the possibilities of creating an entirely off-line file-sharing and communications platform where people pass a USB memory stick from one to another. The coordination of the passing-on of the stick is done through an anonymous SMS gateway, meaning that the system does not require Internet availability and also that, with certain precautions, it can be a very private system that is quite difficult to monitor. … To participate in a deadSwap network you only need to send a request to the respective SMS Gateway. The person who has the stick at that moment gets the request and contacts you with the rendezvous information for the delivery. When you have the stick, you will eventually get a request SMS, which you have to answer with the rendezvous information for the next transfer. All SMS's will be sent through the gateway. No participant will have the phone number of another."[5]

<16> The SMS Gateway for DeadSwap is no longer in service, and the webpage for DeadSwap has been removed. DeadSwap is thus more of an historical artefact, a gesture in time. DeadSwap was developed by Telekommunisten, the nom de plume of Dymtri Kleiner, author of the Telekommunist Manifesto[6]. In a personal discussion with Mr Kleiner in the summer of 2013, he revealed that his interest in developing DeadSwap was more of a creative artistic gesture than a solid steadfast utility.

<17> DeadSwap is interesting on a number of levels. As a gesture of digital art it creates a replicable and secure model of subversive media sharing. While DeadSwap itself is no longer in operation, other similar systems of clandestine file sharing are easily replicable. DeadSwap evades copyright issues because it is simply a system by which people can anonymously contact each other to trade hard drives. What is on those drives is of no consequence to the DeadSwap system. Modelled on spycraft, DeadSwap becomes a framework for secure offline filesharing in a world of hypersecurity regimes. However, DeadSwap was developed prior to the revelations of Edward Snowden and how the NSA is recording internet and phone transactions all over the world. This revelation makes much of a DeadSwap framework precarious - the SMS messages and locations and sources are all recorded. Of course, they're buried in vast collections of data held by the NSA. However, filtering the data is not terrifically difficult, especially if it is noticed or otherwise flagged and tagged for review.

<18> It is this kind of surveillance that bring us to PirateBox and DATAFIELD. The PirateBox, originally called Freedrop,[7] is a creative gesture by David Darts, an art professor at NYU. He built it to fill a need for himself and found it useful for others. He posted the instructions on how to build it on a wiki page. [8] The first one he built is a metal lunch box, painted black with a white skull-and-crossbones. Inside is mounted a microserver running Linux (Debian distro) operating system, and on top of that is a barebones Python-powered Web server. This device creates an open file-sharing network in any public space.[9]

<19> A subtle but important point about this device is that it is an offline device: it doesn't / can't connect to the Internet. Also, no log is kept of who accesses it. Connecting to the PirateBox's WiFi network is simple - in one's computer network connection system, one simply selects the PirateBox as an open network. This opens a simple user interface for uploading and downloading files to the box. Many people can connect to the box at once. Eventually the built in switch to the PirateBox saturates, and performance deteriorates, but this is not unexpected. On his wiki, Darts describes the PirateBox as a device

"designed to facilitate sharing which, by definition, is the opposite of stealing. The misleading connection between stealing and sharing has been promulgated by old media interests and their well funded lobby groups who claim that sharing and remixing copyrighted materials hurts artists… Today it is not productive to restrict sharing in order to pay for centralized production and distribution. Prohibiting people from freely sharing and remixing information and culture serves no one's interests but the publishers."

<20> Interest in the PirateBox is broad and international. In 2012, of the 100 articles on the PirateBox wiki listed as articles regarding the PirateBox, only thirty-seven were in English.[10] One of Darts' concerns is how community develops in a given type or kind of space, in this case, an ersatz electronic WiFi space. The PirateBox creates a temporary space for file sharing, a temporary community in a virtualised space. In this way, the social space that the PirateBox creates can be seen as a kind of Latourian acting network object mode of the social, where the social doesn't really exist until it acquires technology that enables agency to connect. He decries the centralisation of media and sees the PirateBox as a "symbolic response to this centralized control."

<21> The PirateBox is a significantly useful tool as it can be logically scaled on a local basis, and act as a locus of knowledge dissemination and distribution. To scale a PirateBox from a small USB stick to a terabyte drive is a trivial effort. As a drive is filled courtesy of users, its contents could then be deleted by users to make room for other data. This makes the PirateBox initially more of a vessel of information in motion and circulation than a library or archive. However, over time, as files are deposited, it would become a powerful local archive and library.

<22> In this way the PirateBox acts as a valuable and sustainable adjutant, a localised meshnet and assistant to Personal Portable Libraries; where localised file sharing is edited and copied to another drive, which is then sent to circulate, and where the circulation becomes a part of the data infrastructure that always already exists in the western context of digital society. From there it can then be recontextualised into other less digitally saturated locales for their use. The PirateBox claims its own space that operates by its own rules - a virtualised Temporary Autonomous Zone,[11] a zone defined by the boundaries of the WiFi signal, the available drive space inside the PirateBox itself, and the good will of those within range of the PirateBox's WiFi signal. Reciprocally, the circulation of Personal Portable Libraries acts as a valuable and sustainable (if decidedly more diffuse) adjutant and assistant to PirateBox, for no two Personal Portable Libraries will necessarily be alike, as they will have their own particular paths through the network of users who have shared them. The PirateBox puts its trust in the self-generating community that automatically arises when one of these turns on. Since no records are kept, even if a member of the PirateBox WiFi node finds it objectionable, they cannot "kill it." [12]

<23> Since the PirateBox have no access to the Internet itself, it is completely offline, and therefore invisible to corporate interests and government intrusion. It is also self correcting - if material is uploaded onto a PirateBox that is objectionable either through general universal taboos (porn or advertising, for instance) or parochial political considerations, those materials can be deleted. Also, importantly, the PirateBox is built from common consumer products. It is this using of common consumer IT items that gives the PirateBox resilience. The PirateBox can naturally form partnerships and alliances in its users, resulting in communities and Organised Networks [13] organically erupting along the lines of file sharing with these technologies, in a kind of resonance of Proudhon's spontaneous organisation theory, which also resonates with chaos theory wherein "the most disorderly reams of data live an unexpected kind of order[14] ," i.e., in chaotic situations, situations where causality is necessarily interrupted as a subject of statistics and probability, patterns naturally occur and erupt. It is this resilient sub-order to action that creates resilience in practice - order comes "for free." However, it doesn't and can't happen in a directly predictable manner, since a curved dialectic between identity and activity inherently prevail, rendering it a statistical process of probability - the vagaries of sociality. It is in this chaotic labyrinth of clues and happenstance that these sharing networks can first appear and continue as such.

<24> As a kind of fulfillment of the PirateBox as theory, DATAFIELD was an artistic gesture by the author to bring PirateBox's ideas into practice in a more direct and applicable form. DATAFIELD was put into practice at the "Dark Side of the Digital" Conference at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (UWM) by the 21st Century Studies, directed by Richard Grusin. Instructions were given on how to access DATAFIELD and share its files. After three days, ten people had accessed DATAFIELD and one user dumped 40,000+ books, another added one book. The other eight only accessed books through DATAFIELD. While that isn't a large number of participants, it was a small and very busy conference. DATAFIELD was built using a Western Digital (WD) MyNet N900 Central Wifi Media Server procured at a local electronic emporium on "special sale" for $120. Its permissions were reprogrammed by the author turning it into an open network, and that it not require any contact with the internet to operate. The use of this particular equipment was central to DATAFIELD. While PirateBox uses a custom collection of parts - a Wifi router, server, memory stratum, antennae, housing, battery pack) that are then laboriously assembled into a unit, housed in a metal lunchbox and programmed, the WD N900 comes pre-assembled in a sleek black plastic box approximately 9 x 6 x 1 inches in size - the size of a book. Unlike the PirateBox, it is not battery operated and it does track use of its files - not to specific machine MAC addresses, but more noting that (some named) machine engaged DATAFIELD in (some specific) activities.[15] This makes it less mobile, but it also gives it the advantage of never having to shut down to change batteries. DATAFIELD ran for three days, continuously.

<25> DATAFIELD has a very different approach to copyright. DATAFIELD is not concerned with it - it is not against copyright, it is simply indifferent. While 1 Terabyte 5 Million Dollars and Copy This Drive were both rather cagey with questions of copyright, DATAFIELD is more like DeadDrops - it simply doesn't care as it is providing a utility for sharing. In contrast, PirateBox operates like this, but its name explicitly favours a particular stance in that regard - that of the "Pirate". DATAFIELD rejects the "piracy" rhetoric and the proprietarian theory that underlies notions and theories of piracy, positive or negative. DATAFIELD is more of an information utility than a tactical antagonism. It doesn't engage debate. It simply gets on with its work.

<26> The next step in such research is to investigate the placement of such utilities in public spaces geared toward scholastic labour - clearly, student centres, cafes, university lounges, libraries, and similar centres of learning would be optimal placements for devices like DATAFIELD. In a private conversation in Spring 2014, Patrick Lichty at UWM discussed putting battery powered DATAFIELD-like devices on tethered balloons or rooftops allowing greater access by line of sight to the Wifi server. Loaded with a library of books, such a device would be a boon to student and faculty research efforts.

<27> Clearly, these kinds of Wifi enabled offline library systems make a great deal of sense. Building them is trivial - Wifi media servers can be procured easily and cheaply at emporia across North America, Europe, and much of East Asia from a variety of vendors. Reprogramming them to be open Wifi networks requires some work. However, an informed novice can find ample online documentation for this - it's not very hard.

<28> With such systems available, people can create Personal Portable Libraries of their own of amazing richness and detail, and that brings us to the next point: creative applications of these libraries, their internal systems, and their potential in developing new styles and methods of research and writing. An important part of this is the implementation of indexing. Different indexing systems give different results and have varying degrees of utility. For example, Apple's built in index system, Spotlight, is very fast, but has a number of significant limitations, such as a lack of proximity search within a document or set of documents. Windows OS indexers are much more powerful, and one, Dropout, is free and portable.

<29> One advantage of this method of research is that once books are reduced to data they can be ordered as such. An example would be to find specific data across a range of documents. For example, one could search on "Nature" (capital N) in all the works of Karl Marx so as to come to a very precise understanding of how Marx used the term. A book was published to this effect in 1999[16], and while it is a good book, if one happened to disagree with his conclusions, one would best research it as well. Thus what undoubtedly took Mr Burkett months to do in 1998 and earlier as he researched Marx's writings, one could be guided directly to every mentioning of Nature by Marx in a matter of seconds. Copying the data out of the document and into another text document would take little effort, and within an hour or so, one would have a complete dossier on every mentioning of Nature by Marx, and thus be able to appreciate or disagree with Burkell's research with pinpoint accuracy. Now, take that and apply it to any idea by any author, and one can do massive amounts of research and collect massive amounts of data very quickly. If Walter Benjamin had his infamous library indexed on a USB stick, the Arcades Project would have been completed much more quickly, and would not have been such a burden for him to carry around. Who knows - perhaps he would have survived the war because he would not have been burdened with paper and been able to travel much more easily.

<30> This advantage of digital indexing's speed in gathering precise data from a large group of documents has other effects. Searching for a precise quote in your library becomes trivial - simply type in the quotation and the indexer will find it in your documents. This allows for the possibility of massive quotation capacitance - even books made entirely of quotes. Interestingly, this was done in 1969, (albeit not easily) by John Brockman, with his book, By the Late John Brockman[17], where every page consists of a short paragraph or line, and much of it composed of quotations from philosophy and literature, each cited in the endnotes, and these disparate quotes strung together to create a new set of ideas and perspectives. Brockman was able to speak using other's voices. Using such techniques and an indexed personal portable library, one could assemble a dense book composed completely of quotations arranged to compose a completely different set of statements than anything the original quotes were written for.

<31> This strategy opens up other possibilities by combining the non-creative aesthetics of Kenneth Goldsmith [18] with the imperatives of writing and thought itself. However there is enormous institutional resistance to this, and for some good reasons, as one cannot cross certain thresholds in the control and in the manipulation of text without entering into a new post-IP era, and crossing over into what Thomas Hobbes feared as the original animalized man, only implemented by means of the most sophisticated technologies.

<32> The previous sentence, italicised for emphasis, is an example of just such manipulation. Using a Personal Portable Library of some 50,000 books, a search was made using these keywords: "one could" "manipulation" "sophisticated technologies" and found this quote by Giorgio Agamben, keywords italicised:

"One could not, however, cross certain thresholds in the control and in the manipulation of bodies without entering into a new biopolitical era, without crossing over into what Michel Foucault called the progressive animalization of man, implemented by means of the most sophisticated technologies." [19]

<33> From that sentence, words were changed in order to express a completely different thought.[20] However, the line, in structure and form, remained the same. One could discuss this in terms of plagiarist theory [21], however, that in itself is problematised when one exposes other statements or texts to further processing. One could run this process in different directions,

"See Dick run. Run, Dick, run!"

"See Rover bark. Bark, Rover, bark!"
"Watch the Cubs lose. Lose, Cubs, lose!"

"Help Civilisation collapse. Collapse Civilisation, collapse!"

"Kill God now. Die God, die!"

<34> As you can see, what started off as a quote from the Fun with Dick and Jane, an American reading primer of the 1950s, was easily substituted into a completely different set of statements. However, by using the (A B C. C B, C!) word formula, a certain sensibility (in this case, ironic humour around early childhood education) was woven into each statement. So, too, by using Agamben's quote, a certain sensibility was lent to the sentence, however it was not one of irony and humour, as much as it was one of direction and illumination. However, unlike the Dick and Jane quote, which was selected specifically for its iconic form, Agamben's quote itself was not sought out - only its contents, insofar as the contents cohered to the search criteria. In this way ideas, as data, are now subject to manipulation and development, like photographs in Adobe Photoshop image editor. Such textual modifications could be seen as a "parody" of the original. On other grounds this could be seen as a kind ofDétournement as outlined by Debord and Wolman.[22] As they noted, "Détournement is less effective the more it approaches a rational reply" and "Détournement by simple reversal is always the most direct and the least effective." [23]And this is precisely what happened above - the Agamben quote as modified was not a reply, nor was it a simple reversal. However, it was also not a classic Situationist détournement because, as noted above: the Agamben quote was only selected due to its coherence to search criteria. It wasn't "selected" for itself as a statement to be examined and then processed. It was selected by search criteria, regardless of authorship or provenance. It didn't have to be Agamben. It could have been McLuhan or Habermas or any number of other writers who would have afforded a sentence structure for modification had they been selected by the search criteria. While the statement modified from Agamben came to completely different conclusions, due to the shift in language and vocabulary based on completely different interests and assumptions, it was not in opposition to Agamben's statement. In fact, Agamben as author of the statement is no longer critical to the statement itself. Knowledge is reduced to data - all the ontological and epistemological fineries have been stripped and removed, flattened as objects in a database. Provenance, authorship, sourcing all of these become objects in the database - none of greater or lesser value - they become points of data, and can be manipulated as such. None of that was possible without instant access to the contents of a huge block of disparate texts, as afforded by a Personal Portable Library. This opens up any digital text to redirection and manipulation as data to create new meanings and ideas, all implied and made possible by the indexing of a Personal Portable Library. This is a powerful point, one for which we really have no cultural traditions or institutions for parsing, understanding, and managing. There are similar structures, viz. Google Scholar. However, one cannot copy/paste text out of Google Scholar, nor can one easily manipulate the data provided by Google Scholar.

<35> A Personal Portable Library is just a collection of eBooks or other media. It can be used as an art object itself - the ancient Library of Alexandria has been mythologised over millennia, so too, vast concentrated collections of knowledge hold special and highly contested power today. How people deal with these archives in a world of Proprietarian over-reach is much contested. This is nothing new to libraries - the library has been a deeply contested institution since its invention. Today, storing huge numbers of eBooks on an inexpensive drive is a fairly trivial task and just as contested, resulting in works like PirateBox and DATAFIELD. Indexing eBooks flattens the book into data, data that can be processed and reprocessed into new knowledge. This has an effect of flattening the ontology of knowledge - questions of epistemology, authorship, context - it's all flattened into a data construct, just so many ones and zeros, and the fineries of epistemology, authorship, and context are left to the human operator's discretion. This data can be ordered and re-ordered, developed and collected for a variety of purposes. It can be used in terms of simple research, such as how Marx used the term "Nature", or other more creative systems with serious implications surrounding them, such as that demonstrated with the Agamben quote. Even more radical applications of non-creative aesthetics can be applied to texts - they can be dismembered, re-ordered, and re-written - all aspects of what an indexed Personal Portable Library can do to and with text in conjunction with a basic word processor. The abstraction of text into data is not new. What is new is the abilities in Big Data or even not-so-big data to derive and analyse huge amounts of knowledge, find what is needed and then manipulate it as needed or desired, for purposes of art, research, and the creative mind.


[1] Ernesto, "RIAA: Online Music Piracy Pales In Comparison to Offline Swapping", TorrentFreak, July 26,2012., "A leaked presentation from the RIAA shows that online file-sharing isn't the biggest source of illegal music acquisition in the U.S. The confidential data reveals that 65% of all music files are "unpaid" but the vast majority of these are obtained through offline swapping. The report further shows that cyberlockers such as Megaupload are only a marginal source of pirated music." June 25, 2014.

[2] DeadDrops - "Un-cloud your files in cement! 'Dead Drops' is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space." Accessed 10 Feb. 2012.

[3] Where one takes odds of infection per contact, and then multiplies it. The odds of infection per contact create a delta which eventually concludes in a 1:1, i.e., unity value where every contact that doesn't cause infection is increasingly smaller in odds. If the odds of infection are 1:1000, and one only contacts a Dead Drop 10 times, then the odds are only 1:100 of infection. But if one contacts 10,000 Dead Drops, the odds of infection are multiples of unity.

[4] As of this writing, July 2014, DeadSwap is no longer in operation.

[5] DeadSwap Handbook. Accessed 12 Mar. 2012 As of this writing, this page is no longer available.

[6] Kleiner, Dmytri. The Telekommunist Manifesto. Network Notebooks 03. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2010.

[7] Jacob Aron. "PirateBox lets you share files with anyone close by," New Scientist, January 28, 2011,, accessed 12 Feb. 2012.

[8] Pirate Box DIY., Accessed 12 Feb. 2012 - no longer available - for more on PirateBox, go to

[9] "Inside the PirateBox sits a Free Agent Dockstar, an Asus WL330GE wireless router, and a SanDisk 16GB flash drive. The software, including Debian Linux and the DD-WRT open-source router firmware, is all free. The total build cost is under $100, not counting the lunchbox enclosure and the optional battery pack (the PirateBox can alternately run on AC power)." From: Nate Anderson, "PirateBox: an artistic provocation in lunchbox form," Ars Technica, January 30, 2011, Accessed 7 Mar. 2012.

[10] PirateBox Press. Accessed 12 Feb. 2012. No longer available - for more information on PirateBox, go to

[11] The Autonomous Zone as a reference to Hakim Bey's book, TAZ - The Temporary Autonomus Zone. New York: Autonomedia, 1991.

[12] Indeed, if the forces of capital burst into a cafe with armed guards, and found the PirateBox and confiscate it, anyone else there with their laptop is simply "online" - they could be reading email for all the PirateBox knows. At worst, the owner of the PirateBox is simply out the $100 worth of digital gear, spray paint, and vintage metal lunch box that goes into making a PirateBox. It is not as though building one is difficult, or even expensive by North American or European standards of living.

[13] Ned Rossiter's lengthy discussion of Organized Networks would be of great value at such contexts and junctures from his book, Organized Networks - Media Theory, Creative Labour, New Institutions. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, NAi, 2005.

[14] Gleick, James. Chaos: Making A New Science. New York: Open Road, 1988.

[15] This ability to track was important as this was as much a research object - it was important to see how and how many people used it.

[16] Burkett, Paul. Marx and Nature: A Red and Green Perspective. New York: Macmillan, 1999.

[17] Brockman, John. By the Late John Brockman. New York: Macmillan, 1969.

[18] Goldsmith, Kenneth. Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age. New York: Columbia Univeristy Press, 2011. Throughout this book, Goldsmith outlines a variety of processes and theories of "un-creatively" manipulating text. A vision outlined in this article is to take uncreative writing and use it creatively.

[19] Agamben, Giogio. "No To Biopolitical Tatooing." Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 201 - 202. New York: Routledge, June 2008.

[20] Note: for the sake of simplicity and clarity, this is the only use of this technique in this paper.

[21] As found in Stewart Home's book, Plagiarism, Art as Commodity and Strategies for Its Negation. London: Aporia Press, 1987.

[22] Knabb, Ken, editor and translator. Situationist International Anthology Revised and Expanded Edition. Oakland: AK Press, 2006.

[23] Ibid. 211.

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