New peer-reviewed academic article: “The origins and impacts of Swedish file-sharing: A case study” in the new journal Critical Studies in Peer Production (CSPP).
If it is possible to speak of a coherent file-sharing movement in Sweden, what are the principal societal factors shaping it? This paper contextualises the recent history of Swedish peer-to-peer-based file-sharing as forming part of a wider shift in politics towards a late-modern collective ethic. Everyday file-sharers operate as ‘occasional activists’, as pirate institutions not only speak for, but also run and build the networks. Such institutions – The Pirate Bay, Piratbyrån, and The Pirate Party – cannot be explained by invoking market logics, online communitarianism, or political motivation alone. The cyberliberties activism animating these hubs is connected to the larger framework of balancing utilitarianism, nationalism, individual autonomy and collectivism in Sweden. Further, the emergent Swedish file-sharing justificatory regime hinges on a general view of what the internet is, what it is good for, and how it should look in the future, as the file-sharer argumentation rests on the inevitability of unrestricted file exchange on the internet, while the industrialist concerns of the cultural industries emphasize instead how exchange should be regulated and sanctioned by accountable providers.
The activism which has supported file-sharing should not be seen as in any way “purist,” but rather “sticky”: it is not only to do with sloganeering, but with entrepreneurship, the construction of infrastructures, and marketing. Hence the confusion within some circles, and hence the additional layers of controversy surrounding especially The Pirate Bay, as it has been accused for being a callous business venture as well as an almost anarco-collectivist activist hub – something which distorts the established order within traditional rightwing as well as leftwing circles. This observation ties into what Karl Palmås says in his new book (Swedish only, I’m afraid) Prometheus eller Narcissus: Entreprenören som samhällsomvälvare, published by Swedish publishers Korpen.
This post is also available in: Swedish