Andersson Schwarz, J. (2014) ‘Catering for whom? The problematic ethos of audiovisual distribution online’. In: Virginia Crisp & Gabriel Menotti (eds.) Besides the Screen: The Distribution, Exhibition and Consumption of Moving Images. London: Wallflower.

  • This piece discusses an unnamed, invite-only cinephile tracker . The chapter provides an overview and discussion of some of these kinds of sites, and discusses the “way these [sites] are integrated in a wider economy of film circulation, user agency, knowledge, and affects” (1). To do all these things, A. relies on some of the theories of culture and sociality outlined by Bourdieu.
  • Trajectory: “First, I will describe the phenomenon of private torrent trackers. Secondly, I will discuss some of the signifying discourses that users of one such forum presented in my fieldwork. Mainly, I will criticize the ideal of a “universal library” that many of these users invoked, by contrasting this with the heritage of self-reliance that characterizes peer-to-peer based file-sharing. Third, the chapter will provide a theoretical discussion of how Bourdieu can be related to the field of film consumption, premised by the re-distributive and productive aspects lent to it by file-sharing networks” (1).
  • Relying on Bolin’s work, A. notes that file-sharers exhibit a kind of productive agency among media consumers (3).
  • Methodology: This study is based on to interview sessions with file-sharers on the ground in Sweden and over the network in the case of the cinephile site.
  • Useful observation: The barriers to entry into p2p communities include 1) material barriers; 2) knowledge barriers; and 3) social reciprocity (you must be a good citizen of the community).
  • Useful observation: The tension between the argument for a universal library of human culture and its construction in a highly regulated, invite-only environment (6).
  • Useful observation: In his interviews, A. noted a high prevalence to both the archive/library as well as an emphasis on self-reliance (coincidentally, a prominent theme in the OS/hacker community) (8).
  • A. notes that there are two layers of exchange in private, invite-only bittorrent trackers: the first is a layer that traffics in metadata about media and is freely available/legal to share; the second is the actual distribution of copyrighted works. As A. notes, for site users, “the world is permeable, they sift through registers of knowledge management, and draw on layer A in order to access layer B. For the non-users, the site is closed, open to members only – layer B literally fenced off” (9).
  • Useful observation: A. notes that what many filesharers do to justify their practice involves invoking a domestic mode of reasoning rather than an industrial one.
  • According to A., a “hard morality is embedded in the infrastructural setup” of the cinephile site . . . it exerts a “hard determinism” that ensures that you are committed to doing what’s “right” (sharing) even in the face of what might happen if you were caught (legal action) (14-5). This also means acknowledging that your actions might hurt the very industry you care so much about.
  • A. goes on to note that actions in file-sharing communities are twice determined: “behavior is guided by some very tangible restrictions embedded into the local infrastructure; second, it is guided by the softer determinism exerted by the doxa and norms of the field that action is embedded within” (15).

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