Friday, January 23, 2009

Now and Then: MP3 and the Sophists

Back from  Jonathan Sterne's talk entitled: Is Music a Thing?  The thingness of music was approached from the standpoint of the MP3 as a container technology for music.  His historical re-contextualization of the MP3 format  provided  an entry point into the current file sharing debates and the broader cultural claims about whether or not the internet has ushered in a "new gift economy." One of the more provocative claims was his discussion of how the commodity form is still operative even if the exchange value seems less important to the thing. We were reminded of how Benjamin's analysis of the commodity form partly diagnoses bourgeois subjectivity  through the practice of collection and possession. Which means that the celebration of the digital economy as a sharing economy may be missing an important characteristic of the practices associated with the commodity form in terms of possession.  To think about the commodity form, both in terms of monetized exchange and in terms of the practices of possession/ acquisition will be helpful as I  read Fredal's essay about sophists charging fees. Join me, if you have the inclination. I hope to write about the essay next week.

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