adonnaM.mp3 - File Sharing, the Hidden Revolution in the Internet
About the exhibition
During the last ten years, there has been a lot of discussion about how our society and the private life of each one of us will be changed by digital technologies. File sharing is a prime example of how this revolution has long begun to take effect. Mp3 and Napster are catchphrases that dominate public debate. In spite of that, the basic principle behind file sharing remains largely unknown. Known as peer-to-peer, it takes the form, in this case, of a voluntary, decentrally organised network of internet users interested in music. Within such peer-to-peer networks, an immense music archive has grown up: accessible to anyone, without payment. All you need is a computer, an internet connection and the knowledge of how to use mp3 technology. Companies in the music industry claim that it threatens their very existence.
Peer-to-peer models, made practicable by a surge in technological development, signal the emergence of new channels of communication and media distribution. At the same time, they indicate the need for a different approach to cultural artefacts in an age of digital reproduction. Ultimately, they pose questions about the future forms of distribution, archiving and access to information and knowledge.
These developments arouse a conflict of economic interests – and clashes between new restrictions and long-established democratic concepts of the right of access to collective knowledge. It is almost impossible to predict the long term effects of this debate. It calls into question fundamental terms of social co-existence and artistic production, such as "freedom", "property", and "copyright". These need to be re-defined to suit the changing reality of the information society.
As a contemporary tool, mp3 technology is undoubtedly playing a part in this. For individuals, skills in using it and the new media are essential for taking part in today's processes. Its significance has led the digitalcraft Department of the Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt to examine the subject more closely.
The exhibition "adonnaM.mp3" is concerned with the phenomenon of audio file sharing and the file compression standard, mp3. It analyses the drastic changes which the use of this digital tool is effecting in society, the economy, art and design. The programme accompanying "adonnaM.mp3“ offers a brief introduction to the world of file sharing for beginners.
With this exhibition, digitalcraft assumes the role of a platform, registering and presenting the legal, social, economic and artistic viewpoints on a phenomenon that has aroused heated controversy. File sharing is revealed as a contemporary vehicle that provides the basis for a new means of communication and is also an instrument of creative expression.
Themes of the exhibition:
- What is mp3 and how does it really work?
- Technological development, play-back media and the history of audio recording
- Conflicts of interest and their consequences: peer-to-peer communities, copy protection and copyright law
- Popular culture in the internet and its changing aesthetics: art, design and mp3
- Interactive workshops on downloading, re-mixing and file compression
What lies in store for visitors to adonnaM.mp3?
For some years, a central concern of the digitalcraft department has been to research and analyse aspects of digital popular culture. The exhibition "I love you", which took a discriminating look at the phenomenon of computer viruses and security in the internet, is now followed by the "adonnaM.mp3" project, devoted to an issue concerning the exchange of knowledge over global networks.
The creators of "adonnaM.mp3" have taken mp3 as an example to illustrate the economic and socio-political implications of the use of digital technologies in everyday life.
"adonnaM.mp3" aims to give visitors a straightforward introduction to the causal relationships that lie behind the controversies raging over mp3. This includes a chronology of mp3, in which its economic aspects are explained. An overview of the technological background is provided by the mp3 pioneer, Micronas, which is also one of the exhibition's sponsors. Additionally, "adonnaM.mp3" will offer members of the public the opportunity of acquiring skills in using digital tools. A representative sample of commercial music portals is given, together with their fundamental business concepts. A hands-on approach to the subject is enabled by a compendium of the most widely-used file-sharing sites, with instructions on how to download files. The workshop series "Digital Musician“ at the Museum of Communication completes the educational programme.
A sensory dimension is added to the theoretical material in "adonnaM.mp3" by a selection of interactive design works that take the mp3 format as their central theme. These are presented in the context of the collecting and exhibiting strategy of the Museum of Applied Arts.
The artists and works are as follows:
Markus Bader – Lux
Gregor/Jesek/Schröder - Coverbox
Meso – Heavy Rotation Revisor
Schoenerwissen – Minitasking
Zirkeltraining – ReBraun
Lux is an exhibition piece created using a modified disco globe and the internet site http.//www.natural-reality.de/lux. At both ends of the system, exactly the same mp3 sequence can be played. This accumulates from music files fed in by visitors to the exhibition and the web site from their own collections.
"Coverbox" weaves imaginary networks from the links between various musicians, titles and pieces of music. At present, the "Coverbox" contains about five hundred cover versions in mp3 format and a wealth of unexpected cross-references which, used interactively by the visitor, display an endless variety of new images and network paths.
The Heavy Rotation Revisor is an installation and also an instrument, which can be played simultaneously by four people. The installation enables visitors to re-mix sounds from radio broadcasts "on air" and arrange them in new sound collages, along the lines of sampling.
Minitasking, a visual Gnutella client, displays the data flow of the Gnutella network protocol and shows how computing processes and the dynamics of protocols function. The project (www.minitasking.com) was created by Schoenerwissen, Office for Computational Design (Anne Pascual and Marcus Hauer) and received a number of prizes at Ars Electronica 2002 and at Transmediale.03.
ReBraun adds tailor-made software to a Braun stereo system from 1962 and uses it as hardware for bootlegging (the re-working of old hits into a new piece). It plays with the aesthetic rules of product design for hi-fi equipment – and breaks them.