Mirko Tobias Schäfer / Assistant Professor
University of Utrecht Department for Media and Culture Studies

Made by Users

Software-based products can be copied, modified or further developed. Competent users have the necessary skills, tools and networks to develop modified products which were originally invented by corporate companies. In return companies will use the ideas of competent users. The results are products which are developed by both, users and companies: A Microsoft Xbox becomes a Linux web server, a Nintendo Gameboy can be used as a music editor and Sony’s cute little AIBO turns into an electronic pit bull. Using technology (and that includes all the stuff we call media) means defining culture. The work of Dick Hebdige (1979), Arnold Pacey (1983; 2001), de Certeau (1984), John Fiske (1987), etc. shows that the concept of redesigning or redefining cultural artefacts is not only an issue of new media. But software and software-based products in a network society are, more than other cultural artefacts, suitable to get modified or redesigned.

In this paper I describe:

  1. how the collaborative work of competent users is providing innovation and that this could create
  2. an interactive market, where product definitions are possible only for a moment before these artefacts become modified or reshaped and that this raises questions concerning copyrights and democracy.
  3. In conclusion my paper will argue that an interdisciplinary action between social sciences and computer sciences will be necessary to understand the cultural practices in the digital age and to formulate terms, models and a theoretical framework for transferring a valuable concept of cultural freedom into the 21st century.

The term cultural freedom describes the free access of citizens to cultural resources and their right to shape culture by using these resources. This should provoke a society wide discourse on cultural values, ethic issues and civil rights.

Date August 2004 Category Publications

Made by users. How users improve things, provide innovation and change our idea of culture, in Goriunova, Olga; Shulgin, Alexei (Ed.): Read_Me, Software Art and Cultures, Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2004, (pp. 62-77)

2000 - 2022 Mirko Tobias Schäfer

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