Free Culture Reviews


“OurSpace” by Christine Harold. “OurSpace” Christine Harold has produced a deep, subtle and thought-provoking history and critique of the strategies that activists have used to try to resist corporate enclosure of public social space over the last fifty years. Harold places strategies such as parody, appropriation, piracy, and amplification within their historical and social context to draw out their strengths and limitations for contemporary circumstances. And then, crucially, she explains how these strategies can be taken further.OurSpace presents a well-argued analysis of the hubris and unintentional complicity of Naomi Klein, Adbusters and of contemporary academic and activist soi-disant Situationists. It is also presents well-argued analysis of existing critiques of them. There are no sacred cows in OurSpace but nor are there any scapegoats. Adbusters may be attacking the wrong target with their talk of an “image machine”, argues Harold, but the strategy of intensification that they deploy with their Black Spot sneakers shows a way forward. This is a well-balanced and constructive critique.Some critics and opponents of Free Culture seem to regard it as an attempt to apply Free Software ideology to culture in general for no good reason. OurSpace describes one good reason by describing a genuine threat to the openness of society and positioning Free Culture activism, including the use of Creative Commons licences, as a possible contemporary answer to that threat.Harold explores the relation of commerce to culture and counterculture in depth, identifying the positive social effects of social media and mass media in their historical contexts. It goes on, as with the Black Spot example, to identify strategies of reform and exemplification that could perform Naomi Klein’s elusive “Judo Throw” on the forms of capital rather than just its discarded images. This is a good read for those building brands as well as for those trying to deconstruct them.I cannot recommend OurSpace highly enough to anyone with an interest in Free Culture or media/brand/corporate politics. I found that it challenged some of my long-held positions while providing me with a better foundation for others. And the author has set up a wiki for the book, so if there’s anything you really don’t agree with you can comment there.

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