economically efficient that it will make everything avail-
able online; the distinction between a best-seller and a book, DVD, or CD
that sells a single copy will be erased. Perhaps the Long Tail, or maybe the
mixed metaphor of a long-tailed celestial jukebox, will open a magical
gateway to heritage.
There’s some truth to these arguments; the digitalworld can store
words, images, and music at less cost than ever before, and the resulting
h e r i t a g e 49
longer tail will give knowledgeable consumers an opportunity to buy ob-
scure works that might never be “published” in
to take risks on art and artists capable of enriching our ex-
pressive life. Could Glenn Gould, Dustin Hoffman, Johnny Cash, or
Frank Zappa get into the big time if they were starting out today?
Perhaps the digitalworld, the world of art making and art distribu-
tion online, offers a haven for creativity: Are we merely witnessing a
transfer of cultural authority from one business model to another? Will
the Internet survive as a haven for consumer choice and creative risk?
Sure, there’s art all over the Internet. But let’s be a bit cautious. The In-
ternet is a
society, with haves and have-nots in the world of culture and
communication. It is a fence down the middle of our cultural commons,
separating the fully engaged from those left in the dust by lack of knowl-
edge, money, or the time required to gain access to new digital tools and
new creative choices. After all, to exercise our cultural rights in a digitalworld we must have the money, knowledge, and time required by culture
Think about the knowledge needed today. Our arts system wasn’t
always complicated, and learning new technologies was pretty straight-
Engineering, ed. Brian Tokar, 4 0 5 - 1 9 . London: Zed
Helmreich, Stefan. 2000. Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a
DigitalWorld, updated with a new preface (hardcover edition, 1998).
Berkeley: University of California Press.
. 2001 . Kinship in Hypertext: Transubstantiating Fatherhood and
Information Flow in Artificial Life. In Relative Values: Reconfiguring
Kinship Studies, ed. Sarah Franklin and Susan McKinnon, 1 1 6 - 4 3 . Durham,
NC: Duke University Press.
. 2003. A Tale of Three Seas: From Fishing through Aquaculture to
prospecting in Mexico (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003); C. Lowe,
Making the monkey: How the Togean macaque went from “new form” to
“endemic species” in Indonesians’ conservation biology, Cultural Anthropology 19
(2004): 491 – 516; P. West, Conservation Is Our Government Now: The Politics of Ecol-
ogy in Papua New Guinea (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).
18. S. Helmreich, Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a DigitalWorld (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
19. M. Strathern, Reproducing the Future: Anthropology
York: Random House, 2001); Alan M. Dershowitz, Supreme
Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000 (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2001); Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit
of Its Enemies since 9/11 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006); Ron Suskind, The
Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004).
4. For a brief description of the costly dynamic tension between anarchy
and oligarchy in the digitalworld, see Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Anarchist in
, including fi lm, in
the digitalworld. In the context of these invocations, the essay has not become
any less problematic than when it was fi rst written, nor has it always acquired
“Benjamin is enjoying a boom, but does he still have actuality?”1 Th is question
is inevitable at a time when our political, social, and personal lives seem more
than ever to be driven by developments in media technology, and thus by an
accelerated transformation, disintegration, and reconfi guration of the structures of
experience. Indeed, if we pose the question of
138 Media Mecca
tribalism while also declaring it is the ultimate technological or post-
The primitive survivalist aspects of the festival may seem to contrast with
the digitalworld of its inhabitants, but Burning Man has become a pastiche
of various parts of our culture and history. It has the spontaneous- gathering
feel of Woodstock, the spirituality and temporary community of the Rain-
bow Gathering, the campiness, outrageousness and identity- transformation
of the drag- queen scene, the edginess and danger of a Harley- Davidson con
, it is still there,
184 L I S T E N I N G I N C Y B E R S P A C E
intact and undiminished, quite unlike the grilled cheese sandwich I just ate.
Or as Thomas Jefferson more eloquently explained in 1813, “He who receives
an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he
who lights his taper at mine, receives light himself without darkening me.”12
Digital sound files, like ideas, are nonrivalrous. The analogy with ideas is
not capricious. As the law professor Lawrence Lessig maintains, “The digitalworld is closer to the world of ideas
absorption into the everyday rehearsals of ballet dancers; the rou-
tine practices of aspiring boxers; the encounters among staff, visitors, and
art at England’s National Gallery; and the vast array of interactions and
political tensions swirling through a highly diverse section of New York
City. Clearly, it could be otherwise, but these films reverberate with the
voices of those who encounter others who fascinate and inspire them.
What common qualities emerge from how filmmakers engage with this
twenty-first-century digitalworld and adopt the technologies now availa