Group Essay——Week 3

Group work

Through this week talks of file sharing and free access to journals and research, which bring us the discussion of the inherent tension between consumer practices and brands. The apparent contrast of ideology between the two presenters made us question how does the interplay of power or control function between cultural industries and consumer, and is it possible to strike the right balance. The concept of ‘textual poaching’, which developed by Michel de Certeau (1984) and further elaborated by Henry Jenkins (1992), position fans of media texts as active audience who borrow, remix and manipulate textual materials as part of their consumption (Jenkins 2006). However, this potentially invasive activities are usually associated with the copyrights and seen as deviant thieves.

Within the file sharing communities, instated of simply sharing files, some member certainly go further by extending their passion through participate in the work of construction and amendment those files. Take Korean drama or reality programe for instance, due to the rapid gain in popularity among the global, subtitling has become instrumental to the circulation of  the fandom culture, way of convenience fans from aboard who mainly relay on the subtitles to understand the dialogue between characters. With the efforts devoted to the work, the file shares claimed their action of ‘fansubs’ as adding value to their obsessions, and completely inconsistent with the ‘real’ pirates who simply redistributed the work of others (Crisp, 2014). Even in the file sharing communities, there are plain distinction between different ways of ‘pirates’ viewed. Crisp highlights ways in which the authority of media producers and such negative labeling on piracy have addressed the traditional copyright law into public, in term of limiting the activities in fandom.

Crisp(2014) and Adema shared the discussion of piracy as an act of power challenging the existing power hierarchy. Crisp(2014) argues that piracy can varies under different context, and in Chinese case, this is against the Government’s power hierarchy and its information control(censorship). While Adema suggests the option to have ‘open access’ where the act of against power/knowledge structure is replicated to prevent knowledge control or constraint being held by publishers. “Power comes from below; that is, there is no binary and all-encompassing opposition between rulers and ruled at the root of power relations, and serving as a general matrix – no such duality extending from the top down and reacting on more and more limited groups to the very depths of the social body”(Foucault, 1997). They fully demonstrated Foucault’s model of power that both speaker held a radical examination where power doesn’t simply be held by certain party or identity but rather decides by different context. Which leads to a clear view that power, even in the controversies of copyright, knowledge and digital sales, is being distributed in different relationships or networks, to creat discourse.

Adema and Crisp(2014) corresponded in the disscusion of ideology when deciding the exclusive content for publishing. Adema argued that ideology/generalisation is inserted when considering the content being released or exclusive, it adapted to the global structure where the power hierarchy and flow of knowledge are dictated from the “prestiged” to the low, and preventing the exchange, innovation or discovery of information and intelligent, particularly when the author and publisher of the journals do not cooperate in partnership or any employment, no monetary exchange inbetween. However, Crisp’s(2014) idea of ideology dealt with the boundaries of the “deviant” or normal behaviour and the act of “othering” in piracy, where the ideology of deviance is demonstrated through the Western’s conception of “copyright”. According to Gayatri Spivak, it is suggested that othering be “the process by which imperial discourse creates its others”. Both speakers also handled the “exclusive knowledge” the imperial discourse is trying to protect, where the act of othering is replicated, to remain the prestiged status of the imperial with its power and knowledge. Addtionally, the concept of hegemony is also examined. “…Dominant groups in society, including fundamentally but not exclusively the ruling class, maintain their dominance by securing the ‘spontaneous consent’ of subordinate groups, including the working class, through the negotiated construction of a political and ideological consensus which incorporates both dominant and dominated groups.”(Strinati, 1995: 165). “These two levels correspond on the one hand to the functions of ‘hegemony’ which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of ‘direct domination’ or command exercised through the state and ‘juridical’ government.” (Gramsci, 1971: 12). Here both author maintained the discussion of dominance of dominant group and it being the notion, which involved both intellectual and monetary inducement. Although they didn’t further explain the class movement and struggle inbetween, we believe they illustrated the essence of hegemony. Due to the fact that both cases(digital piracy and ‘open access’) exemplify the act of taking other classes’ interest into account and finding a way to combined them with its own interest(previlege to hold the highest place in the hierarchy), which is the signature of hegemony besides the dominance and interplay of power. It corresponded with and further displayed Foucault’s idea where power is dispersed within the networked relationships.

Copyright interests tend to make the piracy become a matter of morality. But due to the capitalism society concept, people make a full use of any resources so as to bring a fertile environment to piracy. And the form of capitalism society to a certain extent combined with the democracy. For the ordinary people or stand on the side of consumers, piracy represents their rights to watch and provides them with the equal chance to participate. According to Yingjin Zhang, “a form of Internet democracy triumphed in this spectacular case of visual democracy, a form of democracy made possible primarily by film piracy and secondarily by digital video and Internet technologies.” Therefore, the process of piracy appears to be a battle for the democracy, which was rebelling against the corporate overlords or the inherent social conditions. It is a voice of freedom, however, the digital world merely makes the piracy becomes easily.

“The most precious aspects of our capitalist system, which protect individuals property, creativity and investment.”(Pang 2004, 19). As we know, capitalism serves not only to allow people to have right and chance to gain the knowledge, but it also stands against the industry’s monopoly by piracy. According to Bishop, “with such a history of unfairness and one-sided contract negotiations with artists, greed, the lust for power, price gouging, and price fixing, the industry has worked hard to earn its unfavorable reputation” (2004, 101).

Although someone argue that piracy make the authors or artists lose their intellectual property right, but the fact is, “authors and artists seldom retain control over copyright, but routinely assign those rights to corporate entities who then have virtual carte blanche over decisions as to the work’s commercial exploitation” (Yar 2008, 616).” Because of pirating, people have more choice to choose what they really like. For example, people can listen music before purchase it and people can watch a low quality film before buying a DVD.

“Discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy” Foucault, 1997) Both speaker offers a deep analyse of the piracy and its cultural practices, scrutinized of the boundaries of behaviour and such. It provoked us the reflection on the relationships of power, discourse, individual and dominant groups. Where all these elements are not stable, clear-cut and do not stand indepently, they could also be the effect or strategy of each other. It will then gives a broader understandings of the society’s regimes and its truth, where “truth” or reality can change anytime relying on the consequences of discourse, if it also to be the premise.



Foucault, Michel. 1997. J Bristow,Sexuality. London. p.177

Foucault, Michel. 1997. Bristow. London. p. 178

Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections form the Prision Notebook, edited and translated by Quintin Hoare & Goffrey Nowell Smith, Lawrence and Wishart, London. 12

Jenkins, Henry. 1992. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, Routledge. London.

Strinati, Dominic. 1995. An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture. Routledge. London.

Simon, Roger. 1991. Gramsci’s Political Thought: An introduction. Lawrence and Wishart. London.

Spivak G. C. 1980. Revolutions that yet have no model: Derrida’s limited inc. Diacritics, 10(4): 29-49

Spivak G. C. 1985. The Rani of Sirmur: an essay in reading the archives. History and Theory, 24(3): 247-272


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