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Online File Sharing: Innovations in Media Consumption
Södertörn University, School of Culture and Education, Media and Communication Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7353-4172
2014 (English)Book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This book summarizes the role that The Pirate Bay has played during the last decade, but also connects the history of this infamous site with the emergence of legal services such as Spotify. The book also serves as an up-to-date summary of various strands of research on file sharing—particularly, user motivation and justification.


It is apparent that file sharing on the Internet has become an emerging norm of media consumption—especially among young people. This book provides a critical perspective on this phenomenon, exploring issues related to file sharing, downloading, peer-to-peer networks, "piracy," and (not least) policy issues regarding these practices. Andersson Schwartz critically engages with the justificatory discourses of the actual file-sharers, taking Sweden as a geographic focus. By focusing on the example of Sweden—home to both The Pirate Bay and Spotify—he provides a unique insight into a mentality that drives both innovation and deviance and accommodates sharing in both its unadulterated and its compliant, business-friendly forms.


Online file sharing does not only entail music files but movies, software, and e-books alike. The phenomenon has been an integral part of online life for more than a decade. From my own and other researchers' findings it is apparent that unregulated file sharing is an emergent norm—if not even a new condition to media consumption—especially among young people. In countries like the US, the UK, Sweden, and South Korea, access to high-speed broadband is commonplace; both file sharers who I have interviewed and those who speak out in online forums hold that file sharing is as natural an element online as trees would be in the forest. This original and thought-provoking book critically summarizes debates on this topic, on a level which is approachable to undergraduates, yet useful for postgraduates and senior scholars as well. The book is based on a novel approach that fuses close-range, micro observations of user behavior and reasoning with macro perspectives of political economy and infrastructural features of digitization. Through exploring the reflexive management of the self, found among media audiences, insights into more innovative modes of management in the media industries are elicited. Through merging an ontological inquiry (popularized by theorists such as Bruno Latour) with an economics of complexity and networks (popularized by theorists like Manuel Castells) new insights into both online sociality, media anthropology, and modes of accumulation can be sought. The continuity between Spotify and illegal file sharing is explored through a critical account that examines the discourses of both file sharers and industry stalwarts. Tendencies towards "information idealism" and "networked accumulation" are scrutinized; they are found to be endemic among actors striving to extract value from online, granular dissemination. In the first place, the book would suit undergraduates on courses in media and communications—especially undergrad courses in new media, and the sociology of the Internet. The book can be seen as a critical introduction, a historical overview, as well as a case study of file-sharing—explaining the infrastructures, the particular modes of media use involved; ultimately, sketching out a political economy of unregulated file-sharing, based on the current historical record, listing some observed economic repercussions, alongside potential future ones. A major secondary market would be postgraduate students, Ph.D. students, researchers, and lecturers. The great appeal with this book is that it would be of interest to several groups within academia. It would appeal both to scholars of my own subject, media and communications (especially, the history and sociology of new, digital media)—but it would appeal also to scholars of science and technology studies (STS), since the topic raises numerous interesting questions about the nature of technology, the complexity of agency and morality, while simultaneously offering a "case study," and thus some specificity in an otherwise broad, slippery subject.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London & New York, NY: Routledge, 2014, 1. , 236 p.
Keyword [en]
Intellectual Property, Sweden, European Studies, European Economic Law, Entertainment Industry, Music Business, Media Economics, Sociology of the Media, Media Theory, Cybercultures, New Media, The Pirate Bay, Spotify, Digital Piracy, File Sharing, Audience Studies, Material Culture, Consumption Culture, Economics of Innovation
National Category
Cultural Studies Media Studies Human Geography
Research subject
Critical and Cultural Theory
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-22497ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84917127877ISBN: 978-0-415-85430-6 (print)OAI: diva2:698902
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond
Available from: 2014-02-25 Created: 2014-02-25 Last updated: 2015-01-07Bibliographically approved

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