Shadow Libraries: Disobedient Care and Knowledge Commons

Tomislav Medak & Marcell Mars

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 Madek and Mars will present the context of amateur librarianship and mass disobedience against intellectual property from which their Memory of the World as a shadow library emerged. They will highlight the practices of digitising, sharing, creating collections and maintaining infrastructures of shadow libraries that they have called the custodianship of knowledge. Lastly they will discuss the technopolitics behind the tools and workflows that they have developed to organise and support that practice as well as some of the tactical collections that they have created as interventions in the politics of memorialisation.

About the speakers:

Marcell Mars is a researcher and developer. Mars is one of the founders of Multimedia Institute/MAMA in Zagreb. His research Ruling Class Studies, started at the Jan van Eyck Academy (2011), examined state-of-the-art digital innovation, adaptation, and intelligence created by corporations such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and eBay. Together with Tomislav Medak he founded Memory of the World/Public Library, for which he develops and maintains software infrastructure.

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.

Together with Valeria Graziano, Mars and Medak are the convenors of the Pirate Care project.