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Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own

Overview

A world organized around centralized control, strict intellectual property rights, and hierarchies of credentialed experts is under siege. A radically different order of society based on open access, decentralized creativity, collaborative intelligence, and cheap and easy sharing is ascendant. ?from Viral Spiral

From free and open-source software, Creative Commons licenses, Wikipedia, remix music and video mashups, peer production, open science, open education, and open ...

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Overview

A world organized around centralized control, strict intellectual property rights, and hierarchies of credentialed experts is under siege. A radically different order of society based on open access, decentralized creativity, collaborative intelligence, and cheap and easy sharing is ascendant. —from Viral Spiral

From free and open-source software, Creative Commons licenses, Wikipedia, remix music and video mashups, peer production, open science, open education, and open business, the world of digital media has spawned a new "sharing economy" that increasingly competes with entrenched media giants.

Reporting from the heart of this "free culture" movement, journalist and activist David Bollier provides the first comprehensive history of the attempt by a global brigade of techies, lawyers, artists, musicians, scientists, businesspeople, innovators, and geeks of all stripes to create a digital republic committed to freedom and innovation. Viral Spiral—the term Bollier coins to describe the almost-magical process by which Internet users can come together to build online commons and tools—brilliantly interweaves the disparate strands of this eclectic movement. The story describes major technological developments and pivotal legal struggles, as well as fascinating profiles of hacker Richard Stallman, copyright scholar Lawrence Lessig, and other colorful figures.

A milestone in reporting on the Internet by one of our leading media critics, Viral Spiral is for anyone seeking to take the full measure of the new digital era.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Comprehensive report and analysis on the ways that activists, academics and artists are reshaping the Internet and pushing back against copyright monopolies. There is a transformation taking place in the way people create, organize and think about culture, declares public-policy analyst Bollier (Brand Name Bullies, 2005, etc.). He pins this transformation on the Internet, and particularly on "Web 2.0," which is more focused on conversation and community than its predecessor. Bollier believes that efforts to share software, upload videos and tend to Friendster pages are forging a new commons in the 19th-century sense of the term: a resource shared and managed by all its users. Big media and software companies fight these efforts, the author contends, because they want to lock up creative output for as long as they can monetize it, even though their actions come at the expense of creating a community and may actually cost them sales. This notion has been articulated by others-most notably and cogently Lawrence Lessig (Remix, 2008, etc.) and Siva Vaidhyanathan (The Anarchist in the Library, 2004, etc.)-but Bollier surveys the entire Creative Commons movement with a journalist's eye. He is far from objective, however. A cofounder of the advocacy group Public Knowledge, the author clearly has a rooting interest on the side of sound-sampling DJs and open-source software programs; those who want the other side of the debate will need to look elsewhere. Bollier slows the narrative with tedious passages about the inner workings of various advocacy organizations, and readers without a degree in computer science are likely to get lost in the weeds when he delves into the particulars of varioussoftware licenses and varieties of copyright available under a Creative Commons license. Still, the author tells a good and important story, one that is likely to gain more relevance as time goes on and Web 2.0 has a greater impact on users' ability to participate in culture. A good book for specialists and advocates, but not quite so appealing for the general reader.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595583963
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 1/13/2009
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David Bollier is a journalist, activist, and public policy analyst as well as editor of onthecommons.org and co-founder of Public Knowledge. Senior Fellow at the Norman Lear Center, Bollier is the author of numerous highly praised books, including Brand Name Bullies and Silent Theft. He lives in Amherst, MA.
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