Posted in communication and networking, education, electronic imaging and displays, music

Public music

The World’s Fair blog recently posted a YouTube video, “Mother of All Funk Chords,” which features a mish-mash of (what else) YouTube videos copy-and-pasted together to create an epic guitar riff.

As World’s Fair points out, this is the type of stuff “that really dictates the passage of copyright laws, since it’s obviously a creation of considerable originality and artistic value, but made with previously released parts.”

I think this brings up a really good point: the issue of public art and how technology is driving the creation of this.

YouTube is in essence a technology that provides supposedly public art to an international audience. People also have the ability to copy, edit, and adjust these videos and create their own art, and typically return it to the international audience via YouTube. Yet it is hard to control videos that are truly “public” and those that are ripped off of other commercial sites.

That said, more and more people are starting to see the Internet as an international and democratic art gallery.  Some, nay, the majority of artists are trying to take advantage of this, as well as the egalitarian aspects of distributing and popularizing art. The Graffiti Research Lab is one of the most well-known with their LED throwies they’ve made and their effort to get art out to the masses, damn the man!

(P.S.: Don’t get me started on the academic arguments of whether or not distribution over the Internet of knowledge and ideas of different uses of public space is anarchist or not. My two cents: it’s NOT!).

And no matter how savy the creator is in tagging their stuff with popular Google search words, inevitably the masses choose what’s popular, what comes up first in Internet searches and what gets passed around to friends and family members.

So do artists benefit or suffer from free democratic distribution their work? If someone uses other people’s public distributed videos to create new work, how should the original artists be given their dues? I think this is something that is going to take a while to hash out formally, but informally I think a system is already being developed. Is it a fair system? Discuss.



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.