Sarai Reader 01: Public Domain
Editorial Co-ordination: Raqs Media Collective (for Sarai)
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A Sarai is an enclosed space in a city, or, beside a highway, where travellers and caravans can find shelter, sustenance and companionship; a tavern, a public house, a meeting place; a destination and a point of departure; a place to rest in the middle of a journey.
Sarai: the New Media Initiative, Delhi, works with these readings of the word Sarai to create a space where old and new forms of media, their practitioners, and those who reflect on, or critically examine these practices, can find a convivial atmosphere, and enter into shared pursuits that will create a renewal of public cultures within and across city spaces.
The Sarai Reader (which is the first of what we hope will be more such collections) can be seen both as a navigation log of actual voyages and a map for possible journeys into a real and imagined territory that we have provisionally called the "Public Domain". This republic without territory is a sovereign entity that comes into being whenever people gather and begin to communicate, using whatever means that they have at hand, beyond the range of the telescope of the merchant, and outside the viewing platform of the microscope of the censor.
Our Public Domain has no borders and issues no visas; it has no legislators or chambers of commerce and elects no presidents. Our Public Domain has dispensed with a standing army but it does maintain a guerrilla air force that protects and safeguards the freedom of the both analogue and digital airwaves as public property!
The offices, ministries and embassies of the Public Domain are located throughout the world in cafes and public libraries, in the lobbies of cinemas, in theatres, in obstinately independent radio stations, in websites, between the pages of free zines. The source code of its constitution, written in free software, is open to all to amend.
This collection of texts can be read as one amongst many attempts to design Public Domains. Today's electronic street cultures, active in 'invisible' yet terribly real cities, are crying to be shaped. Their chaotic and often contradictory forms do not have to be scaled down or tamed. Instead, they can be taken further, into eccentric orbits of freedom and solidarity, even if the possibility of spiralling into dystopias of violence never seems far away. The architecture of existing hybrid environments demands to be questioned and overruled by a wave of creative and borderless imagination.
The Reader is an invitation, and a haphazard tourist guide to the real, existing, contemporary Public Domain. It contains travellers' tales, information about routes that are free of watchful eyes and other dangers, fragments of itineraries, and notes on modes of transport, as well as a gazetteer of rest stops and sarais on the way. Within it you will find, articles, photographs, essays, manifestos, fragments from e-mail discussions, downloads from websites and pieces both found and especially commissioned for this publication. Many of the authors are known to us only as entities in cyberspace, and we have happily pillaged websites as well as earlier collections that have inspired us. (Readme! ASCII Culture & The Revenge of Knowledge - The Nettime Reader, Published by Autonomedia, 1999 is an inspiration that we would like to especially acknowledge). Occasionally, we have hectored and harassed friends and comrades into writing or revising pieces we felt we could not do without. Our heart felt thanks to all those (friends as well as strangers) whose thoughts, ideas, images and rants have made their way into this collection.
The contributions themselves cover a wide variety of themes, ranging from the nature of public culture to conflicts over urban resources, issues of access, control and censorship of cultural material, to the publics and practices that constitute the media dense spaces of our cities. You will find film theory adjacent to new media practice, photo essays on city streets, nostalgia for small towns, ambivalent glances at the skyline of globalisation, short detours into cyberspace, testimonies of online and offline labour, reflections on image making and interpretation, engagements with cyberfeminism and the hacker's ethic sharing the same space as histories of radio, examinations of media law and the tactical uses of old and new media technologies.contd...
ENTERING THE PUBLIC DOMAIN - viii
CLAIMING THE CITY - 33
OLD MEDIA/NEW MEDIA: ONGOING HISTORIES - 55
INTERNET INTERVENTIONS - 109
WETWARE: BODIES IN THE DIGITAL DOMAIN - 147
'FREE AS IN FREEDOM': SOFTWARE AS CULTURE - 175