Shadow Libraries: Disobedient Care and Knowledge Commons

Tomislav Medak

23 December 2021, Thursday 19:30 IST/ 17:30 CET

Online event

While digital networks have enabled a massive expansion of access to all kinds of publications, public libraries were stopped from extending to digital ‘objects’ the de-commodified access they provide in the world of print. Consequently, the centrality of libraries in facilitating, organising and disseminating literature and science has faded. Thus, while a transition to the digital has provided opportunities to reconsider how societies produce, sustain and make available literature and science, incumbent interests combined with a property-form that treats intellectual creation as if it were a piece of land, have resisted the transformation of our systems of cultural production. Given this context, readers who have been denied access to information due to territorial, institutional and economic barriers have created their own alternative systems of access through the sharing of PDFs and shadow libraries to substitute what public libraries are not allowed to do.

In this talk Medak presents the context of amateur librarianship and mass disobedience against intellectual property from which Memory of the World as a shadow library emerged. He highlights the practices of digitising, sharing, creating collections and maintaining infrastructures of shadow libraries that he has called the custodianship of knowledge. Finally, he discusses the technopolitics behind the tools and workflows that has been developed to organise and support that practice as well as some of the tactical collections that have been created as interventions in the politics of memorialisation.

Tomislav Medak is a doctoral student at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University. Medak is a member of the theory and publishing team of the Multimedia Institute/MAMA in Zagreb, as well as an amateur librarian for the Memory of the World/Public Library project. His research focuses on technologies, capitalist development, and postcapitalist transition, particularly on economies of intellectual property and unevenness of technoscience. Together with Marcell Mars he co-edited Public Library and Guerrilla Open Access.

Tomislav Medak is one of the convenors of the Pirate Care project together with Valeria Graziano and Marcel Mars