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Organizing Committee:

"AAAARG is a conversation platform - at different times it performs as a school, or a reading group, or a journal.

AAAARG was created with the intention of developing critical discourse outside of an institutional framework. But rather than thinking of it like a new building, imagine scaffolding that attaches onto existing buildings and creates new architectures between them."



For some, AAAARG is an online library or archive: a resource facilitating the free sharing of digital copies of books that, by and large, relate to the tradition of continental philosophy and critical theory.  The sharing of these texts serves a democratizing and educational function, enabling equal access to resources that might be otherwise unavailable, or unaffordable. For others, AAAARG is a website for book pirates, which violates both authorial copyright and the copyright license owned by publishers. Or, expressed in terms less legalistic, the free distribution of these texts harms publishers and authors by intercepting remuneration they might otherwise receive for their labor. 

In this class, we will consider AAAARG as a model for distribution in a digital environment, and the political and economic implications of such a model. Our goal is not to reject or affirm its politics categorically—if such a politics can be assigned—but to question, probe, and assess the outcomes of this project, and others like it, as we consider the future of publishing, writing, and readership more generally. 

This class will take the form of an open discussion with no one facilitator.  



Janneke Adema, "Scanners, collectors and aggregators.  On the 'underground movement' of (pirated) theory text sharing

Emmett Stinson, "The Pirate Code"

David Wallace-Wells, "The Pirate's Prophet: On Lewis Hyde"

Morgan Currie, "Small is beautiful: A discussion with AAARG architect Sean Dockray

Cory Doctorow, "Why free e-books should be part of the plot for writers"

Steven Poole, "On writers, 'digital rights management', and the internet"

Gary Hall, "Pirate Philosophy (Version 1.0): Open Access, Open Editing, Free Content, Free/Libre/Open Media"  (originally published in Culture Machine. Vol 10. 2009 ; other pieces here may be of interest)

Verso Books, Letter to AAAARG Administrator + User Comments


AND, different but related:

Kenneth Goldsmith (UbuWeb), "An Open Letter to the Frameworks Community"


antonioserna's picture

does anyone have an update to verso vs aaaarg?

Thanks, everyone, for a really interesting discussion last night.

Some relevant comments by Bob Stein from a future-of-publishing panel discussion at MIT last year, covering propriety formats vs pdfs, the likelihood of "wholesale piracy" and the desirability=profitability of communities of readers:

"Publishers seem to think that all the problems that have confronted the music industry and the video industry are not going to show their ugly faces around the publishing industry. I think the reality is that as soon as we get a decent device for reading books on, which my guess is will be a larger version of this [iPhone] […]—the key thing is that it won't require DRM, DRM is just not going to work—once you have devices that are not DRM-based then suddenly there's wholesale piracy where people are trading things around.
"I think that what'll happen is there's going to be a necessity of redefining content to include the conversation that it engenders. Because as the value of straight content—whether it's music or video or text, goes to zero because of the ubiquity of piracy and availability—what people likely will pay for is the ability to be part of a community. So I want to redefine the page to include the conversation it engenders. And that people might actually pay for."

From earlier in the panel discussion, a neat description of pdfs by a literary agent: "they're easy for me to move"

The whole recording is interesting, though heavy on industry matters. Available on MIT's video archive of its events, "MIT World." Subtitle? "Distributed Intelligence."

There is a lecture at CUNY Grad Ctr (35th & 5th) the day after this class. Since it's on a similar topic and may be of interest, details are below:

Eben Moglen discusses "The dotCommunist Manifesto" Wednesday 11/17, 7pm, Skylight Room

The Digital Humanities Initiative invites you to join us for our next meeting, which is next Wednesday November 17, when we'll be joining the Digital Studies Group to hear Prof. Eben Moglen of Columbia University Law School. He'll be discussing questions of intellectual property and 21st century digital technologies, given a IP system based on industrial forms and legal structures.

You may have heard about his talk given earlier this year at NYU, "Freedom and the Cloud" (you can see it here: which inspired a group of students to create Diaspora, "the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network."

Steve and Chris ask us to read Moglen's "The dotCommunist Manifesto," which is at and is short! :)

It'll be at 7pm in the Skylight Room (9th floor at the Graduate Center).

alm2129's picture

hi, trying to access that first reading i met with a 404, so i searched again for it, and found it here, but i dont know if its code on the site routing such links to error mssg; either way here it is...

We've posted a few suggested readings as primer for Tuesday's discussion; have a look if you can. See you there!


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