The readings for this week seem to bring our discussion of copyright law and the digital age back full circle. This has been a recurring thread in our weekly discussions and also in the videos we have watched, and these readings continue on the subject. Romos-Velasquez’s piece was a bit difficult for me to grasp at first simply because it’s hard to read something when I am unsure of what exactly that thing is. When I started, I couldn’t tell if the piece was a syllabus for a course, a prospectus for a dissertation, or just an academic essay. Now that I’ve finished it, I still don’t really know how to categorize it. It’s funny how much these types of classifications help (hurt?) our readings of texts. Regardless, there were some interesting things in this piece, specifically in relation to the other articles by Deborah Root. Romos-Velasquez’s text introduces a new look at artistic cannibalism–what she calls her “Re-Manifesto for the Digital Age.” Along with being a bit confusing, her Re-Manifesto has interesting perspectives on file-sharing and copying in the networked world. She writes, “I expose that the allure, the attraction of ‘the other’ is mutual and that it serves to form a symbiotic relationship that feeds both peoples.” I found this to be especially interesting in the way it contrasts with the manner in which Root describes cannibalism in her piece. She does not assert the same “symbiotic relationship” between the cannibal and cannibalized. Root links cannibalism to consumption, and she says, “Consumption is power, and the ability to consume excessively and willfully becomes the most desirable aspect of power” (9). Given that she describes power as “never benign” and that it “swallows life” (6), I don’t get the sense that feeding off of others is a harmonious event. Romos-Velasquez has more: “Cannibals cannibalize other cannibals in an endless cycle.” Again, this differs from Root’s assertions of cannibalization necessarily involving a hierarchical society in which certain individuals receive the short end of the stick, to use academic terms. But the differences between these two depictions are not as important as the fact that their similar focuses reveal a certifiable truth in our society: whether you want to call it good or bad, cannibalism is what we do. It’s how we gain knowledge, share knowledge, and live our lives. “Eating the fat” of other people’s work and thoughts is crucial in our lives; I don’t know what I would be doing in school if cannibalism in this sense was not acceptable. While I’m not sure how much I like their choice of words, both of these pieces highlight an integral aspect of the human experience and how it will only increase in the digital world.
Ramos-Velasquez, Vannessa: “Digital Anthropophagy & The Anthropophagic Re-Manifesto for the Digital Age”
Root, Deborah. Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation and the Commodification of Difference. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996.