Decolonizing Networked Technology – Learning from the Street Dance
University of California, Berkeley – Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program
TRANSNATIONAL CULTURE IN THE INTERNET AGE, Sean Pager, Adam Candeub, eds., Elgar, 2011
The Jamaican music scene’s interpenetration with globally networked technology leads to a potentially serious problem: international copyright law is embedded in many of these networks or at least is part of the surveillance aspect of these networks. International copyright law does not apply well to Jamaican creative traditions. Jamaican music-making involves dynamic interaction with recorded music in ways that fit poorly with copyright law. These traditions have developed to serve the Jamaican poor in symbolic and material ways that help them resist and transcend local colonial inequality, and also produce dramatically large amounts of music in relation to the island’s population. However, copyright law enforcement embedded in globally networked technology can hinder these democratic and productive cultural practices, and slant both law and technology against the participation of historically marginalized communities. New technology also has great promise for Jamaican music-makers, especially because reputation and circulation of recordings are central to how most Jamaicans advance in music. While many have speculated on the effect of new technologies on royalties, the effect on reputation has not generally been accounted for in the national and international discussion of the Jamaican music industry. New technology can drastically increase and broaden Jamaicans’ potential for reputational advancement. This can aid both individual but also community success. These same technologies (including mobile phones, cameras and websites like YouTube) have made reputation increasingly important in countries outside Jamaica (while perhaps reducing the likelihood of royalties). In order to take advantage of new technology’s promise, copyright law will need alteration to avoid becoming an instrument of marginalization.