Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do You Really Get What You Pay For?: What is "Free" anyway.




In an interview, Bob Dylan commented on the prevalance of downloading: " I don’t know anybody made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years. These modern records – they have sound all over them. There’s no definition, no vocal – just static. I remember when that Napster guy came up, it was like, ‘Everybody’s getting music for free’. I was like, ‘Why not? It ain’t worth anything anyway.’

Chris Anderson's "Free: The Future of a Radical Price" explores the relation of media, money and consumption, at the nexus of free dissemination of information and intellectual property . To me, it's a little bit kind of like that Ourosboros thing, the snake of the world that can swallow its own tail.. If art/content is the reason for consumers to check out an internet site, and at the same time, is itself supported by advertising, what is the meaning of "free" if our time and attention are in some way demanded as the cost for "free" information.

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired and NY Times writer and author of the Long Tail, which looks at the economic impact of niche products, services and technologies, may totally be onto something, or he may not.

It seems like a profound concept, until one considers that a dramatically informative device that provided content free existed in most homes for quite some time in the last century; it was called, of course, television. Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker goes mano y mano with the central ideas of Anderson's book. While Anderson writes information wants to be free, just as "life wants to spread and water wants to run downhill," Gladwell observes "Why are the self-interested motives if powerful companies being elevated to a philosophical principal."

A review from Harvard's Neiman Lab (link here) Apparently a man of his convictions, Mr. Anderson's book was available as a free audio and ebook download when first published this past summer.

A free excerpt of the book here

Malcolm Gladwell, in the New Yorker, out for blood here

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Current Reading

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Current Listening

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