“I recently read your account of a debacle with YouTube. I find it interesting how any criticism of streaming services or file sharing is immediately labelled as a defense of authorship and/or a loss of sales, but not often put into a different context. Would you argue that easier access to music signifies a democratization of the medium, allowing more access to more people or are you weary of this categorization?
The argument that access to commodities is tantamount to democratization is the very argument deployed in the defense of globalized capitalism, and the colonial export of Western culture around the globe, so I would definitely distance myself from that stance. And, based on our own cultural privileges, we become numb to the exclusions faced by people who can’t keep up with the latest OS, etc. I mean, I still run Mac OS 10.5.8, and that is causing me increasing problems - particularly when viewing the web, because my browsers are “out of date.” I mean, there are lots of people out there - particularly in Third World countries - still using really old computers that can’t handle all these pointless upgrades to Yahoo! Mail or whatever. But nobody talks about it. Nobody thinks about it. Often times, even when it affects them personally. That is the big ruse of democracy via internet access. It really displays the inherent classism and willing blindness to poverty that most people engage in.
If an American had to pay the equivalent of $10,000 - $15,000 for a computer, maybe there would be more outrage. Yet, that kind of purchase parity exists for people in other countries where annual income is less than a low-income American’s monthly income. So let’s keep it real… well, too late, isn’t it? The entire IT marketplace revolves around this rhetoric of democratization. And it has been successfully sold around the world. Amazing. Crushing. Disparaging. What can I say? This topic really upsets me. It illustrates so much of what I despise about capitalism, and the cultures it breeds. Capitalism works best with slavery. Not with unionization. It is not about equal distribution and access. It is absolutely about offering the golden ring to a chosen few - and every fucking Disney and Pixar film is programming kids, particularly boys, to believe they are the “chosen one.” Who’s teaching kids about social cooperation? Who’s teaching them about more open models of gender and sexuality that don’t revolve around the heteronormative family unit, and the gender-biased dominations that comes with (which includes things like the two gay dads on “Modern Family,” etc.)? It encourages people to want as much as they can get their hands on - including free MP3 files - with no willingness or ability to share in constructive ways. By “constructive,” I mean sharing in ways that amount to more than giving other people more junk to collect. It means sharing in terms of experience and interaction - not commodity exchange. Access means nothing if people have no tools for understanding how that access relates to power and domination. It means even less if the social processes one enacts for access mean replicating the very dominations one wishes to overcome. Distancing oneself from the obsessions of wealth is another important aspect of “democracy,” and it is a skill to be learned. It is not inherently pro-capitalist. It is not inherently free market. Today’s world of Western global access actively discourages learning such skills. It teaches people to actively unlearn democracy.”