Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, October 13, 2006

Peer-To-Peer Art: How P2P Networks Are Transforming The Creative Landscape

Peer-to-peer networks are transforming the independent art distribution paradigm as well as the traditional creative landscape dominated so far by large commercial corporations.

The floodgates have opened. Hard copy media - CDs, DVDs, magazines and newspapers - are going the way of the dinosaurs. Just ask Tower Records, who recently filed for bankruptcy, again. The inefficiency of overpriced plastic disks, or advertising-heavy print media light on content and free of links are being blown away by the speed and flexibility of direct digital content delivery.

Photo credit: Cory Doctorow

Peer-to-peer networks are changing the way we do business, communicate, the way we think, and now the way that we make and distribute art. As the emerging age of user generated media, citizen journalism and social networks moves relentlessly forward, so too the ways that we communicate evolve.

Both big business and independent artists and film-makers are taking advantage of this revolution in content delivery and distribution. From art cinema released and distributed only through peer-to-peer networks, such as Anders Weberg's Filter to corporate monoliths making friends with Bit Torrent it would seem that peer to peer is transforming the creative landscape on a scale not seen since the birth of the codex, wireless radio or the camcorder.

What impact is peer-to-peer network culture having on the way we make and consume art and media?



For experimental film-makers like Anders Weberg it offers a way to get his films out to a growing networked audience, without the intercession of studios or galleries. Weberg's 73-minute experimental film Filter is interesting not only for its content, but also for the approach the artist has taken to its distribution.

Photo credit: Anders Weberg

On the film's website, Weberg creates an interesting challenge for the film - to have it survive or die out at the whim of his audience. He writes that Filter is:

''Art made for - and only available on - the peer to peer networks. The original artwork is first shared by the artist until one other user has downloaded it. After that the artwork will be available for as long as other users share it. The original file and all the material used to create it are deleted by the artist.

"There's no original"''

This is a bold and interesting move on the part of the film-maker, putting trust in the work and the power of those sharing files via peer to peer networks such as BitTorrent. It is at once a meditation on the ephemeral nature of art, and a blind leap of faith.

Photo credit: (c)

To the film's credit, it is, at the time of writing, still circulating via BitTorrent and can be downloaded via the site.

But perhaps Weber's leap of faith was not such a difficult one to make, given that the peer to peer networks are home to countless media files long since abandoned by the studios and distributors that own the rights to them.

A cursory glance at the files listed on the Pirate Bay or Demonoid, two popular Bit Torrent trackers, reveals a multitude of long since deleted albums, rare and abandoned films and even banned books.

The networks' tastes are broader and deeper than the mass media have been thus far willing to profit from. With the popularity of The Long Tail, perhaps the buzz-concept of the year, this is set to change.

Video credit: The Long Tail video animation

Smelling profit and putting their fears behind them, the world's major film, TV and music studios are lining up to sell their products online, tapping into the power of networked culture and the peer to peer paradigm.

Disney recently went on record as saying:

''We understand now that piracy is a business model, it exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do - through quality, price and availability.''

This change of opinion was brought about by the viewing of a perfect quality, high definition, advertising-free copy of their popular TV show Desperate Housewives downloaded from BitTorrent by Disney executives 15 minutes after it had aired on TV. The message was simple. If this could be done, why was it not being done by them?

Video credit: Steal This Film - Robi Good's Video Remix

The writing is on the wall.

There are an infinite number of audiences interested in an infinite variety of content topics, and both independent artists and media conglomerates alike are starting to pay attention. If you want to reach a global audience, there is no better direction to turn than peer to peer digital content delivery.

Michael Pick -
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posted by Michael Pick on Friday, October 13 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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