[NetBehaviour] You Can't Spell Fungible Without Fun

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Wed Nov 10 20:32:07 CET 2010

this also relates to aura and the istinction  between analog and digital 
phenomenologies, and what's tagged where; it's possible to make a digital 
editor as an artwork and tagged as such (for example an editor of inter- 
ferences and substitutions); it's also possible to consider a digital art- 
work as basically functional since any pixel can be substituted for any 
other (and at what point does the artwork lose its originary distinction?) 
- the fungibility of cultural works has to do with setting; it's also 
possible to quote them (Sherrie Levine or re-enactment stuff like Mark 
Tribe today) as discourse - issues also arise in relation to forgeries or 
copies - take a fake Vermeer - what makes this less valuable to the viewer 
- what makes an unsigned copy if WinX less valuable etc. - Macs are flawed 
and brilliant here, bridging analog hardware and digital signatures, as if 
you can't have one (their) without the other (theirs) -

On Wed, 10 Nov 2010, Rob Myers wrote:

> http://robmyers.org/weblog/2010/11/you-cant-spell-fungible-without-fun.html
> There are artworks that are very similar technically but utterly
> distinct culturally and historically. Take the examples of a Kasimir
> Malevich painting of a black square from revolutionary Russia and an Ad
> Reinhardt painting of a black square from 1960s America. Technically
> speaking you can't get much more basic than a black square, but
> culturally speaking there's no way you can swap one of those black
> squares for any other.
> In contrast, software consists of easily substituted black boxes of
> functionality whose formal qualities are insignificant (Vi and Emacs
> aside ;-) ).
> Stallman's Four Freedoms are freedoms of *use*; the freedom to operate
> software as a tool, as a means to an end. Stallman has written, briefly,
> about how he views the freedom to use non-software works. That freedom
> decreases the less the work is a means and the more it is an end, from
> educational resources through to works of opinion and expression.
> So fungibility for code and culture may simply be a product of the
> degree to which something is a means rather than an end.
> In contrast to Stallman's freedom of use, the EFF use the concept of
> freedom of speech to argue for people's ability to work with software.
> When we talk about free culture in general then if it has any meaning it
> is primarily as a synonym for freedom of speech.
> In order to speak freely, you must be free to refer to and quote the
> words (or sounds or images or...) of others. And because of the
> non-fungibility of cultural works, no other words (or sounds or images
> or...) can be substituted.
> A text editor works on a novel or a program listing equally well, and in
> some jurisdictions software is regarded as a literary work for the
> purpose of copyright. Different criteria of freedom may apply to the
> fixed forms of software and art, but the restrictions are just the same.
> For free software, part of the solution to this was alternative
> copyright licensing.
> So fungibility is related to use but free culture is concerned with
> speech. It is not the case that free culture supposes or can in any way
> cause cultural fungibility. And the non-fungibility of cultural works is
> precisely why free culture requires the same solutions as free software
> does at the level of copyright.
> [originally posted to the cc-community list, but blogged and posted here
> as it's fun, if not fungible]
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