Share wars: Sharing, theft, and the everyday production of Web 2.0 on DeviantArt
The development of Web 2.0 led to celebratory accounts about its potential to unleash human creativity. A consensus emerged that described Web 2.0 creative production as universal, democratic, communal, non-commercial, and thoroughly revolutionary. This consensus viewed young, web-savvy media makers as Web 2.0 creativity’s avant-garde: a new generation of producers, born digital, who had upended Romantic notions of creativity, authorship, ownership and related cultural practices. In this paper I draw from a multi-year ethnographic study of young creators’ use of the web from 2007 through 2010 and examine the practice and rhetoric of theft and sharing on DeviantArt, a self-described social network and community of artists. I argue that rather than overturning traditional notions of creativity, participating in DeviantArt helped young creators reaffirm traditional notions of creativity tied to the moral rights of authors to control the distribution of their work. I also demonstrate how these young media makers in turn shaped Web 2.0 ideology and technologies in practice. Seemingly well-established features for “sharing” content were actually uneasy compromises that supported multiple interpretations rather than epitomize the new era of creativity promised by the creativity consensus. These compromises reproduced Web 2.0 in everyday practice.
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