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This Remix Culture Wiki (RCWiki) was produced as a requirement within my core Doctoral courses, initiated within my directed study session with Tim Clark at Concordia University in Montreal, for the Autumn 2012 term. My first aim was to build a repository of modern and contemporary artists using one or more forms of Appropriation art: a central theme in my PhD research/creation project. For the time being, the RCWiki only catalogues 100 artists, each profiled via three web links, three artwork images and one 100-word biography. This was in my view the minimum to create a critical amount of interest, a respectable repertoire of individuals falling under this classification.


If all goes to plan, I would like to continue and develop the RMWiki with a second wave of artists, so to double the number of entries as well as to include a glossary of terms pertaining to remix culture. For the third wave I should be ready to widen the scope of creators to appropriation artistsoperating more within the digital festival circuits, such as Ars Electronica, MUTEK, and so on. I anticipate at this stage to also open up this Wiki to other contributors, to help me populate and manage it more effectively, and perhaps adding more dynamic content, to make it into a more engaging experience for users. Ultimately the RCWiki should be publicly accessible for all to use as a knowledge resource as well as to contribute with their own research findings, which is the true goal of any Wiki.


In the meantime, I will here briefly summarize my interests towards the field of Remix Culture, Appropriation Art, their parallel genres as well as explain the reasons of some of my choices so far. Firstly I should say that although I am fairly savvy, I do not agree that observing our tools of technology is enough to understand our present dispositions towards Remix Culture. I prefer to think that the latter result instead from a combination of the changing demands of consumers, the economic conditions in which creators are immersed, and the market pressures exerted by business entrepreneurs.


At the same time, I have chosen to only list visual artists in this version of RCWiki since they hold a unique position compared to other creators. The former cater for the tastes of a limited number of collectors, while musicians, film-makers and writers rather serve the masses. For this reason, in selling unique works to collectors instead of multiples to consumers, I believe visual artists use appropriation in more varied ways, and are not as subject to copyright laws as other creators would be.


But the cult of personality is still very present among visual artists; they too may be morally judged for using other people’s works. The “original or copy” debate has prevailed in human history, long before the advent of digital technology. Going all the way back to Plato’s dualist philosophy, he argued that everything in this world is a copy, and therefore inferior, because it is the simple echo of an ideal, an essence existing beyond the realm of sensible forms. Deleuze on the other hand, outlined the analogies between Platonism and Christianity, in regards to God making humans in his own image. But through sin, humans lost their resemblance to God, to become mere copies of the sacred.


The hierarchical relation between originals and copies began to dissolve in the 1980s with the widening use of photocopiers, home video cameras and tape recorders, which collapsed even further with home computing and broadband Internet access. By the early 2000s, the ever-decreasing costs of computing hardware, software and connectivity virtually flattened the discrepancies between amateur and professional productions. During the same period, blogs and social networking sites have encouraged a participative audience, effectively promoting the roles of content creator, distributor and recipient as interchangeable positions. By the end of this first decade of the 21st century, the once unidirectional broadcast system is fragmenting more and more into omni-directional multicasts. However, this new situation has yet to significantly change the old world order, as most of the content from our collective culture is still locked in the hand of corporate agencies, which show no sign of letting go.


The corporate interpretation of intellectual property has so far been about applying the single objective of controlling use and distribution, rather than to follow the motivations that created copyright law in the first place: to promote incentives for creation. In guaranteeing a limited-time monopoly on the profits from marketing her inventions, a creator could recover her investments in research and development before allowing others to exploit the same idea. But the current copyright models operating within music distribution, for example, express an appropriative conception of creativity, a “property value” that can de externalized from the embodied creator. In the industrial era of centralized cultural industries, it was not authors but publishers who had an exclusive control in determining which cultural works would reach the public, and used the legislation of copyright law to set monopoly prices.


As for ownership of online rights, publishers and distributors have attempted to extend the scarcity factors which were unavoidable in the sphere of physical carriers. But purely digital services such as iTunes can easily carry online every song ever made, at virtually no additional cost. Moreover, instead of passing on the savings of digital manufacturing, storage and delivery to customers, retailers such as Amazon continue to sell their downloadable ebooks at roughly the same prices as the physical copies. The major music labels still to this day require that signed artists hand over 85 per cent of their sales revenues. In the interim, all the production, promotion and management costs need to be covered by the artist’s meagre 15 per cent share. So unless an album goes platinum, this boils down to leaving artists with barely enough to make a living above the poverty line.


Meanwhile, non-commercial licenses that explicitly authorize the sharing practices of users have successfully been propagating in the datasphere. The “Open Content License” was the first of these to be released in 1998, then the “GNU Free Documentation License” and “License Art Libra” (Free Art License) in 2000, and the ubiquitous “Creative Commons License” released in 2002, to which more than 350 million creative works have by now signed up to. Of course, one of the main incentives for creating the above licenses was to mitigate the astronomical quantities of unauthorized channels, illegally sharing copyrighted material, such as Napster and Pirate Bay.


Whether legal or not, digital sharing practices have inconspicuously challenged the idea that creativity is best fostered through corporate models of ownership. In providing an alternative to the Majors who mostly concentrate their sales on a limited number of titles, sharing increases cultural diversity by allowing access to orphan and out-of-publication works, categories that cover a significant portion of our culture. Certainly, staging a prohibition war between law-abiding consumers and rogue distributors will prove to be a complex affair, since the distinctions between the two categories of Internet users are not as clear-cut as one would like to think. So far, audiences will need more convincing, for the reasons stated in this section, before they believe that copyright infringement financially disadvantages the creatives, increases organized crime or even promotes terrorism. In short, these ongoing legal skirmishes are deterring the digital economy to build a new social contract, to which the “prosumer classes” may contribute significantly.


Oli Sorenson