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Gone Digital: Aboriginal Remix and the Cultural Commons

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2005

Kimberly Christen
Washington State University, Comparative Ethnic Studies. E-mail:


Recently the commons has become a predominant metaphor for the types of social relationships between people, ideas, and new digital technologies. In IP debates, the commons signifies openness, the exclusion of intermediaries, and remix culture that is creative, innovative, and politically disobedient. This article examines the material and social implications of these debates (and the legal copyright regimes they interact with) in the translation and remix of Warumungu culture onto a set of locally produced DVDs. Although DVD technology can account for concerns such as monitoring access, preserving cultural knowledge, and reinforcing existing kinship networks, it also brings with it the possibility of multiple reproductions, knowledge sampling, and unintended mobilizations. Tracking the shifting mandates and emergent protocols in this digital interface redirects the lines of the debate to include multiple structures of accountability, ongoing systems of inequity, and overlapping access regimes involved in the always tense processes of cultural innovation.

Research Article
© 2005 International Cultural Property Society

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