Bring the Digital Aesthetic into Meatspace and Deck The Walls with Imgur

Does that mean it’s useless to be ethical?

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I think Zazzle is filling this niche very nicely. I have created several little artwork pieces for my family and my former employer using their services. The print quality is excellent.


good question. I feel if anything that ethics should be encouraged more. but “useful/useless” doesn’t enter into it. to behave ethically only because it is useful to you implies an ulterior motive which would be de facto unethical.

but in terms of this particular thread, I guess what I mean is that the ethics re: theft of what used to be physical objects but are now digital files are outdated, IMO

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Well, I have no training in semantics, so I won’t win any arguments about it, but this is akin to the arguments I used to hear from clever high-school students about how there could be no such thing as altruism, since the warm fuzzy feeling one gets from helping out one’s fellow creatures constitutes payment for being one of the good guys. Why does anyone behave ethically? Just because? I’m not implying any kind of ulterior motive like, for instance, being extra sweet and understanding to a female friend in hopes that such niceness might eventually get one laid. That would be ulterior and unethical. But rather than employing ethics as a means to an end in general (which could, as you say, be unethical in certain circumstances), I had in mind employing ethical behavior as a means to a specific end: that of an ethical world. And so maybe I shouldn’t have used the word “useful,” although I do think it’s useful to behave ethically (even, or especially, if it’s at some cost to oneself) if one’s overall goal in life is to have lived an ethical life. So my question maybe could have been better phrased “is it pointless to be ethical?”

Well, yeah, I figured that was what you meant. But I’m old and crotchety and impossibly judgmental, and I don’t think the ethics should change all that much in this regard. We (maybe not you and I, but probably loads of other people many times on this very forum) have argued before about whether it’s really stealing to download or copy a file without paying for it, if it’s a song or a movie or whatever, since the downloader is merely making a copy rather than actually removing a physical thing. But to me, in most circumstances my tired and elderly mind can envision, it’s still crookery. Twenty years ago, if I wanted to listen to the new AC/DC song wherever I wanted, I either had to buy it in some form, wait to record it off the radio, or copy it from someone else’s recording. (Or shoplift it.) Most of the time, it was easiest to buy it, if you had (as I did) money in your music budget. I sent Gary from Blue Meannie Records all the way down to Australia for a vinyl box set of AC/DC’s first six albums, since that was the only way I could get them back then. Now, it’s easiest to obtain a sizable music library without paying any artist a nickel. That ain’t right.

When it comes to your example of the submarine cable map print, do you suggest that you wouldn’t take the cheap and easy way out and print the JPEG yourself on the cheap? Or would you go ahead and do it because you really want the damned thing and being ethical about it is a mug’s game wherein you won’t ever get anything nice without paying through the nose for it like a sucker?

I understand your point about which direction the market forces are blowing, aided and abetted by new technology. But do you endorse that direction?

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I suppose I do. the situation exists, humans tend to behave a certain way. I endorse sex education rather than abstinence. a religious fundamentalist might say that sex-ed is an endorsement of pre-marital or non-reproductive sex. I have no problem with recreational or pre-marital sex, but that doesn’t mean I endorse sex-ed because I actively encourage that behavior, it means the reality is that people are gonna fuck. according to the Ten Commandments, i’m ethically wrong, but that doesn’t change global human behavior.

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Aw, man… that saddens me a bit. Just because everyone is doin’ it doesn’t mean you have to endorse it. I won’t address the sex-ed metaphor, since it doesn’t really work. I’ll offer a new one. Years back, I worked as a production assistant on a big TV show. I won’t say which one, but the title sounded a little like Schmill and Schmace. Toward the end of the first season, I figured out that the $400 I was getting paid per 60-hour week worked out to slightly over $5.71 an hour… three and a half cents under the then-current minimum wage. I pointed that out to the payroll department, and on my next check I received a raise: to $402.50 per week. Certain powers-that-be at the company told me they couldn’t really give me an hourly raise, but that I would be encouraged to pad the mileage on my mileage form and make a few dozen more bucks each week that way. I wouldn’t do it. I understood that the section of the budget from which mileage was paid had more money in it to spend, and that the company had its reasons for not setting a precedent for higher hourly pay for its PAs, and that all the other PAs padded their mileage and everyone knew it and the bosses encouraged it since they didn’t want us to go broke… but I wouldn’t do it. I ended up quitting instead, to find a higher-paying job so I could pay my rent (which took a few months, so I ended up moving in with my sister for a while instead of keeping that apartment). A year later, I went back to Schmill and Schmace for a somewhat higher-paying position.

The point is, I had signed a deal memo, and that was the deal I had made. Everyone thinks I’m a sucker for not taking the extra mileage money, and plenty of people think I’m an arrogant over-principled stuffed-shirt on a high horse for sticking to a principle like that. They think I’m weird for buying my own lunch instead of eating the company-bought lunch, on those days when I’m not actually working through lunch. My wife thinks I’m lame for not coming home with a ream of paper from the copy room for our kids to use to draw on. And I almost never talk about these things, since I know it makes me sound like an arrogant prig on a high horse.

But goddammit, I wanna live in a world wherein artists get paid, and there’s only one thing I can reliably and effectively do to make that world real: pay up. Whether or not anyone else does. I can’t change global behavior, but I can change my own. And if anyone bothers to ask what I endorse, I can tell them that I don’t endorse taking things without paying for them, unless they are actually intended to be gifts.


OK, then let’s switch to a gift economy and remove the ethical conundrum.

I’d have no quarrel with that. But as long as an artist wants to get paid for their creation, I think we should pay them.

On a societal level, nobody’s gonna listen to me, and I’ve long since made my peace with that. :wink:

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As a photographer, as a theatre designer, and as a human being, I hereby award you The Slow Clap.

Garcon! Bring me more of this, it’s fantastic!

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I don’t think it’s possible to actually argue against your position, surely anybody would say you’re right. Actually, when we were eating lunch (that you paid for) literally at a movie studio, with everyone there potentially affected by it, I nonchalantly mentioned that I acquired whatever we were talking about through dubious means, and you mentioned your views as you’ve discussed here and I’ve been embarrassed about that ever since! I knew you were right, I knew before you told me; I have always known that the justifications I used are BS. In particular, being broke really isn’t a valid reason, even knowing that I’m the type of person who does actually spend more money than most on these things when I’m able to, which is a common argument.

As it happens, I’m with you for the full extent of your principle (not taking the copy paper and so on), and have always felt unable to do that sort of thing. And I have also gone to relatively extreme measures to acquire physical copies that the band gets paid for of hard-to-get-in-the-US music, well after the point where all of it was available online if I wanted.

All that said what I really wanted to talk about is how people value art. For example, these days many people value music and TV at essentially zero. Movies are the same, except that most people do still place value on the experience of going to the theater. And so this extends to the kind of art that this thread was originally about, images. Basically since everything is available at the click of a mouse for free online, there’s no value.

As a result, people tend to deeply engage with things far less. When you have to work to acquire things (like your AC/DC albums from Australia), you have a greater sense of urgency for actually getting something out of it. You cherish and savor it - or if it turns out to be something you don’t really like, you still give it several chances, and sometimes it grows on you and becomes a favorite. So the value is really rather obvious. I’m sure for example that you played all of those albums and really got into them, in a way that people really just don’t if they just download a torrent with the entire AC/DC discography. There’s no time invested and background knowledge acquired, which has to happen over time to really fully appreciate.

Still-image art is the most undervalued there is, because for most people it’s apparently hard to understand why it should have any value. I’m not sure why it’s hard to understand, but people don’t realize how much time, money, and hard work goes into creating things like this. Perhaps the temporal aspect makes it easier to understand that music and movies involve work and money to create. When you talk to professional photographers, graphic designers, and people like that, you’ll hear endless stories of clients who don’t understand why they need to pay - as if this kind of work isn’t really work.

So as for @funruly 's point that there’s a disconnect, a market gap, that’s true - although there are already several companies trying to fill this gap, notably Society6 which many independent artists use - besides wall prints they will print your art on basically anything that people might want to buy. I don’t think there’s really any excuse to have something printed yourself if an official print is unavailable or unreasonably priced (which the submarine cables map is); the arguments for downloading music make a certain kind of sense especially when artists make most of their money from performing, but for visual artists, the prints (or comic books or whatever) are their performance and that’s what you’re paying for.

But now we get into a weird area that’s hard to explain - why exactly is an official print you buy somewhere more valuable than something you printed yourself (which these days is very possibly indistinguishable)? Part of it is knowing that the artist got something out of it, but it’s more than that… it’s placing value on a practically useless physical object that has no inherent value for what are really vague reasons.

A final note… most artists are aware that the market that exists for their art is not always ideal, and they might be fine with people printing things themselves (particularly if they have other sources of income and don’t want to put any work into selling prints) or using their art for other things (non-commercial use) - one example is people getting art tattooed, which is very common. In these cases you can look for a way to donate money to the artist, however much you think it’s worth to you. If they don’t have something set up for that, you can contact them to see how it might be possible. Or you can just assume they don’t really care, which might very well be the case, but personally I wouldn’t.

edit: I suppose it wouldn’t be too far out of place to mention my little way of bringing the digital aesthetic to meatspace :wink: ;):


Hello Chris, Donald.


My appreciation for artists, and makers, is independent from considering it an ethical issue to respect business models that rely on ignoring or criminalizing technological progress.

I don’t subscribe to Valenti’s Boston strangler argument. The VHS has come, gone, and forgotten.* And yet still film and television and video arts persist.

Surely, I can agree that there seem to be less big-name acts like Aerosmith these days making Aero-bucks. Surely, I agree that bootleg selling at swap-meets is detestable. But, I think on the whole, the rise of internet-culture and video-game culture has created more opportunities for more people to make income based music or image-art (motion, static, photog, cgi, whatevs), than before.

To me, artists that cling to older pre-internet notions of how to make money are like take-out restaurants that don’t post their menus online.

/* no book club jokes, please.


I will buy some of deez.

Howdy there, fun.

“Technological progress” sounds like it’s always a good thing, and in this case, recent technological progress has been a very good thing for those who would like instant access to all the music and filmed/taped/ recorded entertainment of all history without paying for any of it. I’m a soggy-toed Canute if I want everyone to do things the way I do, and indeed if I want everyone to think that file-sharing and bootlegging is somehow wrong. I know that. Still, cloning is “technological progress,” and plenty of halfway-respectable minds have voiced ethical concerns about the potential misuse of such technology. New = Good? Naw, you don’t believe that any more than I do.

No entity with two synapses to rub together thinks Jack Valenti ever said anything wise or intellectually honest in his life, AFAIC. But one of my favorite bands is having a hell of a time being a band these days. They all have day jobs now, though they had decent MTV airplay back around '92. They couldn’t sell their first two albums on their website even though they were officially out of print, since Warner Records sent 'em a cease-and-desist (which ain’t the internet’s fault, I agree), and now they make what money they can from European tours, since few people bother paying for CDs or downloads from their back catalog.

I rarely (though occasionally) mourn a restaurant that fails the dog-eat-dog Darwinian test of survival, but I do mourn artists that are damned good at their art, but piss-poor at making the New Digital Economy work for them. Plenty of them are game to try, but if you don’t have the constitution for relentless touring and you can’t design a halfway-decent t-shirt, but you do know how to make kick-ass records, you’re pretty much doomed.

I dunno. It’s easier than ever, technically speaking, to get one’s work out there, and also to virally explode into a worldwide phenomenon. But of course, the chances of any given artist busting through the gargantuan morass of pure crap to become that viral hit are vanishingly small. And then in an eyeblink, the attention of the world has moved on. But we’re not talking about the Aerosmiths and the Biebers so much. The working-stiff artists are the ones who have to creatively bust ass to monetize their creativity anymore, since their actual art, as Chris points out so well above, is devalued to the point of being free and thereby utterly disposable.

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I’ll hit snooze on responding to that analogy.

When a home-cloning kit becomes as affordable as a cd-burner, or even a 3-d printer, I’m sure that there will be plenty of humans that want to reproduce, but can’t via conventionally acceptable methods, will make much better arguments than I could attempt to now.

You know that even that teaser breaks my heart. But I still don’t see to your reason that it’s an ethical flaw to do what is technically feasible to achieve what one desires.

Fer instance, one of the songs I am absolutely crazy about now is from this LA band Wake Up Lucid, called Get Fucked.

It’s a good song. Listen to it.

I first heard it on the Feb 21 Mike Watt from Pedro Show (the gods bless his name, mike watt). I went looking on Amazon, not on sale for another couple of weeks. I want to give them money for the song right but I can’t because ???

Now, I’m sure there’s a way for me to rip this song/album off of soundcloud, but I’m too lazy for that. So I have to hope that I remember to go back and buy this in a couple of weeks.

It’s just dumb and I feel bad for the bands and picture artists that are leaving money on the table. Mostly because they put too much faith in brokers who are behind-the-times.

Full disclosure: I still buy physical CDs whenever I can, even though I rip them to mp3 (not mp4) immediately. I've also spent several euros buying physical versions of the films I most covet when I could easily torrent them, because reasons.

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I am having the same problem with this (my taste in music differs from yours, I suspect).

I heard it, I like it, I can’t buy it yet.

The world should have moved on from airplay ahead of record sales. If you play it on the radio and I like it I want to buy the album it’s from now. If I have to wait weeks I’ll forget.


:point_up: I don’t know who Courtney Barnett is, but that’s melodious punk and I likes it.

You’re a good egg, Mackey Cobblepot. You have my endorsement.

Just because one wants something that is technically feasible does not automatically mean that one should be able to have it. We both know that, but I suspect I’m misreading your message. In any case, I do see where you’re coming from. Remember that AC/DC box set I went to so much trouble to get? Though it included a 12" single of the otherwise-unavailable-at-the-time “Cold Hearted Man,” it did not include a song entitled “Fling Thing,” which was the b-side to the fairly rare Australian-only “Jailbreak” single, which could not obtain by hook or by crook. So I eventually got “Fling Thing” on Napster (or Limewire, I forget which). I told myself at the time that there was no way I could hear the song otherwise, and there was no way to pay the band to obtain it. I got a few other unobtainable songs the same way. But y’know, it never did feel right, and so I came to the only conclusion I’m comfortable with: if it ain’t for sale or gift, I can’t have it. It’s what I would want as an artist. If someone stole and posted a song or movie I had made but not released (whether it was because it wasn’t finished, or I didn’t think it good enough to release, or I simply wasn’t ready), I wouldn’t want people to be able to obtain it. If I wanted to sell my music, I wouldn’t want people freely exchanging it. Since they’re gonna do that anyway, my hand is forced: if I want people to hear my music I have to put it out there and hope somebody bothers to pay for it. Some principled souls like you will pay, and also shoulder the burden for countless freeloading deadbeats who can’t be bothered.

Yeah, I know, but it’s really hard to think of them otherwise, even though just about everyone I know does this. Including me, a few years ago.

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What in the name of Emmett Kelly is up with the punk clown abuse this week? Just yesterday, while farting around on some unrelated website I happened to see a link for the new Offspring video, and since my band used to cover Offspring songs some twenty years ago, I gave it a click.

I thought there was a relevant question answered by John Darnielle of the band The Mountain Goats on his tumblr, I’m not sure this is the one I had in mind but this is what I found:

Now, AC/DC and everyone else might not all feel exactly the same way, but it’s interesting to consider this from the artist’s perspective. If they don’t put any effort into making it easy for you to find some rare Australia-only b-side… I’m willing to bet that they really don’t care if you get it through other means.

The evidence is clear that not all artists feel this way, but, I’ve seen similar remarks from other music artists that lead me to believe that many/most are happy that their “true fans” are able to obtain everything that they want to regardless of its availability, because they know that having happy fans is more important than having each one of those happy fans bending over backwards to find a copy of that rare Australia-only single (most likely would have to be bought second-hand anyway) that the band themselves doesn’t really care about enough to re-release anywhere else.

If you faithfully buy all their new stuff, if you go to their concerts when you can, if you buy their t-shirts… honestly there’s no reason not to go download that rare thing you could never easily or affordably put your hands on (though I’ll point out that sticking to your principles is certainly a valid reason).

Of course this is dangerously close to a common argument serial pirates make, which is “well I would have never spent money on it anyway, so there’s no harm” - I do think there’s something to that (especially in the case of rarities as explained above), but only within reason. And the problem is that once you get used to it, your threshold for when you would have spent money on something is raised.

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In the same way that you need to apply an extra layer of consideration to allowing someone to take a compromising photo of you (because digital everything) these days, we need to acknowledge as a society that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

To me, this means accepting and embracing the full suite of digital abilities as anyone’s right to exercise. I’d say this looks like a central government-run file-sharing infrastructure, with appropriate compensation for artists coming from consolidated revenue.

Fuck the gate-keeping dinosaurs.

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