'Copyfight', Critical Keywords for the Digital Humanities (Lüneburg: Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana University, 2014).

Open Education: A Study in Disruption (London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2014) - book co-authored by Coventry’s Open Media Group and Mute Publishing, and designed as a critical experiment with collaborative, processual writing. (Open access version available here.)

A performative project Janneke Adema has put together, based on our ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’ article for New Formations.


'Towards a Post-Digital Humanities: Cultural Analytics and the Computational Turn to Data-Driven Scholarship', American Literature, Volume 85, Number 4, December, 2013.

Pirate Philosophy

'Pirate Radical Philosophy', Radical Philosophy: A Journal of Socialist and Feminist Philosophy, 173, May/June, 2012.

Piracy and the law

Lecture on pirate philosophy

Special issue of Culture Machine on pirate philosophy

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here, in the OA archive CSeARCH or in Coventry University's online repository CURVE here

'The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists' Books and Radical Open Access' (co-authored with Janneke Adema), Materialities of the Text issue of New Formations, Number 78, Summer, 2013.

Forget the Book: Writing in the Age of Digital Publishing, with Doug Sery, Sean Cubitt and Sarah Kember, CREATe at Goldsmiths, University of London, 25 May, 2013.

Lecture on 'Radical open access in the humanities: or, will the future editors of Žižek have to publish his tweets?' at Columbia University


Centre for Disruptive Media: Our take on disruption

Disruption, as a term and theory, has been the subject of much discussion lately in both the mainstream and social media – a level of interest that has only increased as a result of Jill Lepore’s June 23, 2014 article for The New Yorker, ‘The Disruption Machine: What the Gospel of Inovation Gets Wrong’. In this article Lepore debunks some of the myths surrounding Clayton M. Christensen’s concept of disruptive technology, a concept the latter uses to develop his influential theory of the innovator’s dilemma. As a way of intervening in this debate, we, as the Centre for Disruptive Media, would like to articulate our own particular take on disruption. The text below is an extract from our forthcoming book, Open Media: A Study in Disruption. Written by myself, Pauline van Mourik Broekman, Ted Byfield, Shaun Hides and Simon Worthington both as a creative experiment with processual modes of writing, and as part of a collaboration between the Centre for Disruptive Media and Mute Publishing, this book is due to appear from Rowman and Littefield International later in 2014.

The term disruption has its origins with the economic theory of Karl Marx, according to which capitalist development occurs as a result of the creative destruction of the previous economic system. For Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto, ‘conservation of the old modes of production’ was the ‘first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes.’ By contrast, the bourgeoisie ‘cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society’. The concept of creative destruction was subsequently adapted in the 20th century by the economist Joseph Schumpeter to refer to the cycle of business innovation, what is now sometimes known as ‘Schumpeter’s gale’. Disruption has been given a further spin more recently by Christensen in the guise of disruptive technology. A disruptive technology, for Christensen in The Innovator’s Dilemma, is one that facilitates the production of a new market and a new network of values, and eventually succeeds in disrupting an already established market and value network.

Why, as researchers working in media and cultural studies, philosophy, critical theory, media arts, digital culture and politics, are we making such prominent use of a concept – disruption – that, for all its origins in the ideas of Marx, is far more readily associated with business, management and the market? We are doing so, firstly, because it is impossible to escape the market entirely today – and this is especially true of those of us who work in the university. And, secondly, because escaping the market would not necessarily be desirable anyway. As Jacques Derrida contends in Echographies of Television, a distinction needs to be made between ‘a certain commercialist determination of the market’, with its emphasis on ‘immediate monetaristic profitability’, and a sense of the market as a ‘public space’, which is actually a ‘condition of what is called democracy, the condition of the free expression of any and everyone about anything or anyone in the public space’. Accordingly, the approach we are adopting in relation to disruption involves drawing on theorists such as Marx, Derrida, Foucault and Badiou to develop a critical and creative approach to management, business and the market – and, with them, to the becoming business of the contemporary university.

We are taking this approach, not with the intention of somehow leaving capitalism and the market – or the university, for that matter – behind and replacing them with something else, such as ‘the commons’ or even communism. The problem with such a directly oppositional or dialectical stance is that it risks recreating, albeit in a different form, the very thing one is trying to escape (i.e. a system based on hierarchisation and competition, not least in relation to rival systems). Even the notion that the theory of disruption has been 'debunked' by Jill Lepore can be seen as part of the cycle of market innovation by which we are constantly encouraged to move on to the next new thing and leave the now old and unfashionable behind: the latter taking the form of the theory of disruption itself in this case. And that is before we even begin to address the fact that what Lapore’s New Yorker article challenges is not so much the idea that capitalism develops by ‘constantly revolutionising the instruments of production’ - that the emergence of digital photographic technology has ‘creatively disrupted' the analogue photographic industry, say. What Lepore challenges in the main is the rigour of Christensen’s research regarding the handpicked case studies he uses to demonstrate his concept of the ‘innovators dilemma’,  on the grounds that many many of the companies that are his case studies are selectively chosen and that they don't match his theory.

Instead, we are adopting Derrida’s procedure for reading Hegel’s dialectic according to a non-oppositional difference in ‘From Restricted to General Economy: A Hegelianism Without Reserve’, and following the logic of capitalism and the market through ‘to the end, without reserve’ – to the point of agreeing with it against itself and, in this way, transforming it radically from within. Or, if you prefer things in language derived from the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, we are developing immanent forms of critique: critique not so much as a negative refusal of contemporary capitalism as an ‘affirmative or inventive’ means of mutating it.

What this means as far as disruptive technologies specifically are concerned is that we are conceiving them as forms of what Bernard Stiegler refers to as mnemonics (cultural memory), and what Plato described as pharmaka, or substances that function, undecidably, as neither simply poisons nor cures. As Stiegler maintains when arguing that the ‘task par excellence for philosophy’ today is the development of a ‘new critique of political economy’ that is capable of responding to an epistemic environment very different to that known by Marx, this ‘economy of the pharmaka is a therapeutic that does not result in a hypostasis opposing poison and remedy: the economy of the pharmakon is a composition of tendencies, and not a dialectical struggle between opposites.’ Rather than reject or critique such technologies outright, he suggests we need to explore how some of the tendencies of which our current economy of the pharmakon is composed can be deployed to give these technologies new and different inflections. Just as businesses use disruptive technologies as a form of innovation to create new markets and new value networks, according to Christensen, so we are using them to disrupt dominant understandings of business and the market.

Disruption here is therefore at least double in nature: it is a means of creating innovation for companies and thus helping to support the creative economy and find new sustainable business models so that art and culture, together with their potential transformative effects, can flourish, or at least survive, as public space in the neoliberal era; but it is also a means of generating new forms of critique and of creating different alternatives. Almost inevitably, the latter is in turn capable of providing a means for creating further business innovation in what amounts to a continual process, cycle or feedback loop, something that has been captured diagrammatically by Tatiana Bazzichelli in her account of networked disruption in relation to art and hacktivism. For Bazzichelli, ‘the goal is not to frontally oppose the adversaries, but to trick them by “becoming them”, embodying disruptive and ironic camouflages. Bypassing the classic power/contra-power strategy, which often results in aggressive interventions that replicate competitiveness and the violence of capitalism itself, to apply disruption as an art form means to imagine alternative routes based on the art of staging paradoxes and juxtapositions. Disruption becomes a means for a new form of criticism’.

This approach to disruption on our part can take the form of both: studying disruptive technologies, including those associated with telephones, mobiles and smart phones (in the Centre for Disruptive Media we have developed a creative archiving and digitisation research strand that includes the digitization of British Telecom’s Archive, for example); and experimenting with the development and use of disruptive media technologies, including those associated with open source software, collaborative web tools, open access, mobile and geolocative media. (Witness our Living Books About Life project. This is a series of open access books about life – with life understood both philosophically and biologically – that provide multiple points of interrogation and contestation, as well as connection and translation, between the humanities and the sciences.) Yet the idea for us here is also to go beyond current definitions of disruptive technologies, with a view to not just helping to create new markets by doing things the market does not expect, but also disrupting and displacing the existing markets by exploring new economic models and new economies. At one end of the spectrum this takes the form of experimenting with micro-payments, freemium models and the general shift in digital culture from monetizing content to monetizing experiences. (So the Centre for Disruptive Media’s virtual and mobile communications research strand includes Shakespeare Byte-Size, a project which has digitised the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust archive – as Coventry is close to Stratford-upon-Avon – using augmented reality encounters with Shakespeare.)

At the other end of the spectrum it involves us in a range of activities concerned with online attention economies, freemium models, gift economies, creative media activism, and so-called internet piracy. Indeed, one of the main businesses and markets the Centre is involved in disrupting with its experiments into new economies and new economic models is its own: namely, that of higher education and the idea of the university as it currently exists. What we are interested in here is the future of university teaching, learning, research and publication in the age of disruptive media. We view the emergence of media technologies such as smart phones, tablets, p2p networks and the mobile web as providing us with an opportunity to rethink the university – fundamentally, yet also creatively and affirmatively. In other words, our concern is with how digital media technologies can help us to disrupt some of the university’s core foundational concepts, values, practices and genres, both theoretically and performatively. These include the idea of the subject as a static, stable, unitary identity, the indivisible and individualized proprietorial author, the linear argument and text, originality, the finished object, fixity, intellectual property, copyright and even the human. The aim is to produce a counter-model both to the becoming business of the contemporary university and to what Bill Readings referred to as the ‘University of Culture’, epitomised for him by the German model Humboldt instituted in the 19th century at the University of Berlin.


Videos from the first Disrupting the Humanities seminar

The videos from the first Disrupting the Humanities  seminar are now online.

Disrupting the Humanities is a series of 3 half-day seminars looking at research and scholarship in a 'posthumanities' context, organised by the Centre for Disruptive Media at Coventry University, and held over the course of spring and summer, 2014. Disrupting the Humanities both critically engages with the humanist legacy of the humanities, and creatively explores alternative and affirmative possible futures for the humanities.

The first seminar, Disrupting the Scholarly Establishment: How To Create Alternative and Affirmative Humanities Institutions, took place on Friday March 7th, 2014 at Coventry University.

Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths/CREATe)
Endre Dányi (Mattering Press)
Craig Saper (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Karen Newman (Coventry University)
Mark Amerika (The University of Colorado Boulder)

Please note: Although the videos have been edited, this isn't a 'normal' edit as we have tried to make the videos more 'interactive' by annotating them: i.e. by adding references to the websites, projects, persons and concepts  mentioned in the talks, as well as by inserting tweets from the participants. For more details, see the 'Experiments in Editing' post on the Disruptive Media blog. (It's also available on Janneke Adema's Open Reflections.)

All the videos can be found on the Disruptive Media wiki here:

And on a separate YouTube channel here:


Creative Hacktivism

Seminar presented at BOM (Birmingham Open Media) in collaboration with the Centre for Disruptive Media, Coventry University. 

Tuesday 24th June, 10.30am – 5.00pm

FREE but places strictly limited and must be booked in advance through Eventbrite at:

Hacker ethics and cultures have inspired some of the most innovative digital developments, from Apple's design to the very fabric of the Internet's infrastructure. In this one-day seminar The Centre for Disruptive Media in collaboration with BOM will critically explore the rise of 'hacktivism' and its close relationship with creative practice. Hacktivism, described as "politically motivated hacking" by cultural theorist Tim Jordan, is an approach increasingly used by creative practitioners such as artists, software designers and synthetic biologists to probe ethical problems in a digital context. 

This seminar fuses debates around creative practice and hacktivism by exploring artists and digital provocateurs who, through activism and digital interventions, have disturbed artistic, political and ethical boundaries to, among other things, increase public debate and extend critical thinking in these areas. Invited speakers and practitioners will present radical interventions that have highlighted urgent contemporary issues around privacy, surveillance, bio-ethics and the pursuit of 'free' information. This seminar will also explore the attempts of 'bio-hackers' who have worked with biological materials and who want to disturb and radically re-think, through artistic means, what it is to be human in posthuman times. Finally, this seminar will examine artists who have intervened in the way we produce, disseminate and communicate information through books and data. Book hacks disturb the book in this respect to trigger a re-thinking of its materiality and use as well as the infrastructures and political-economies that currently accompany the book in both print and digital formats.

The seminar will take place in BOM's new space at 1 Dudley Street, Birmingham B5 4EG prior to the building's refurbishment and BOM's launch this autumn. 


Janneke Adema – Research Fellow (Digital Media) Coventry University
Gina Czarnecki - Artist
Gary Hall - Director of the Centre for Disruptive Media, Coventry University
Mishka Henner – Artist
Tim Jordan - Professor of Digital Cultures at King's College London
Alessandro Ludovico - Artist, media critic and editor in chief of Neural magazine
Marcell Mars - Free software advocate, cultural explorer and social instigator
Karen Newman – Research Fellow (Digital Media) Coventry University  / Director of BOM
Robert M Ochshorn - Artist
Eleanor Saitta - Hacker, designer, artist, writer, barbarian
Stephanie de Smale – Researcher in the Open Wetlab, Amsterdam
Lily Wales - Artist


10.30 – 11.00              Arrival and coffee
11.00 – 11.15              Opening Address, Karen Newman
11.15 – 11.45              Keynote Presentation: Dr Tim Jordan    
11.45 – 12.15              Keynote Presentation: Eleanor Saitta
12.15 – 12.45              Keynote Presentation: Dr Alessandro Ludovico
12.45 – 13.15              Q&A and Discussion

13.15 – 14.00              Break for lunch (please note lunch will not be provided)

14.00 – 15.00              Media Hackers: Presentations and Discussion
Mishka Henner, Lily Wales (chaired by Karen Newman)

15.00 – 16.00              Bio-Hackers: Presentations and Discussion
Stephanie de Smale, Gina Czarnecki (chaired by Gary Hall)

16.00 – 17.00              Book Hackers: Presentations and Discussion
Robert M Ochshorn, Marcel Mars (chaired by Janneke Adema)


The Aesthetics of the Humanities: Towards a Poetic Knowledge Production

The Centre for Disruptive Media presents

Disrupting the Humanities
A series of 3 half-day seminars looking at research and scholarship in a 'posthumanities' context, organised by the Centre for Disruptive Media at Coventry University, and held over the course of spring and summer, 2014. Disrupting the Humanities will both critically engage with the humanist legacy of the humanities, and creatively explore alternative and affirmative possible futures for the humanities.

The second seminar will take place on Wednesday June 11th at Coventry University (ETG34) from 2:30-6:00pm

The Aesthetics of the Humanities: Towards a Poetic Knowledge Production


Erin Manning (Concordia University)
Søren Pold (Aarhus University)
Johanna Drucker (UCLA)
Silvio Lorusso (IUAV University of Venice)

The event is free but registration is recommended to ensure a place

The Aesthetics of the Humanities: Towards a Poetic Knowledge Production

The increasing use of digital tools and interfaces to represent scholarly materials has once again drawn our attention to both the importance of aesthetics in the (digital) humanities and to questions of form, design and poetics in relationship to our systems and practices of knowledge production. In this respect, imagining how creativity, reasoning, interpretation and aesthetics are intrinsically entangled, would be the start of a critique of what can still be seen as one of the major oppositions structuring humanities scholarship: an opposition between, on the one hand, more rationalistic, conceptual and objectifying tendencies in knowledge production and representation and, on the other, the role played by subjectivity, artfulness, feeling, experience and sensory aspects in research practices as well as in their media of dissemination and communication.

This critique has been triggered by, among other things, new data visualisation tools and methods. These tools and methods offer alternative ways of representing information and of thinking about information aesthetics or 'infosthetics'. But what does this mean for our conventional ways of reading, understanding and analysing data and information? What is the role of design and aesthetics in knowledge formation? And what is gained or lost at the hands of these new ways of extracting and representing data? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed by our international cast of speakers.

In the process, this seminar will examine how such developments relate to the humanities in particular, as a field with a history of resistance to more visual forms of knowledge representation and production? Such conservatism on the part of the humanities is intrinsically bound-up with its textual condition - what Jessica Pressman has called its 'aesthetics of bookishness'. At the same time the multimodality of the digital medium has fuelled the idea that scholarly content is separate from its material instantiation or presentation. There is a felt need to emphasise again how a media's materiality or specific format influences its meaning and use. From this point of view, if we pay more attention to the performative aspects of materiality, of media, and of design, then we might be more receptive to seeing the ideology that is inherent in our representations and the politics that is instantiated in our continued practical iterations of these representations. Interfaces are not merely representing our information and data, they are creating and interpreting it too. Yet how is this interpretation being represented and performed?

One response would be to extend our visual epistemologies by stimulating humanist training in visual representation, interface critique, and design tools and methodologies. But, as scholars, do we not also need to become more involved in the actual design, visualisation, and performance of our materials, so as to generate new relationships between data and interpretation, and explore what can be thought of as a new poetics of scholarship?

Wednesday June 11th
Coventry University
Jordan Well
Ellen Terry Building, Room 34 (ETG34)
CV1 5RW Coventry
United Kingdom


Capitalism vs Communism: Copyfight

An interesting dispute is currently taking place between the online community of readers of radical political thought and the independent radical publisher Lawrence & Wishart.

The dispute concerns Lawrence & Wishart's request that the Marxists Internet Archive delete ten copies of the scholarly edition of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels for which the former owns copyright. Lawrence & Wishart – at one point in its history the Communist Party of Great Britain’s publishing house - are making this request because they wish to enter into an arrangement with a distributor to sell a digital version of the Collected Works, which runs to fifty volumes in all, to university libraries internationally, to be purchased out of public funds.  However, in the words of one volunteer at the Marxists Internet Archive, this has left Lawrence & Wishart in a situation where it 'wants to spread the words of communism via a capitalistic method'. (A 'Response to Lawrence & Wishart statement on MECW', written on behalf of the Marxists Internet Archive, is available here.)

Lawrence & Wishart thus seem to be facing a similar 'campaign of online abuse' to that which greeted Verso’s December 2009 'cease and desist' letter asking the knowledge-sharing platform AAAAARG.ORG to take down copies of those titles by Žižek, Rancière, Badiou, etc. for which Verso reserves the rights. 

As I pointed out in relation to AAAAARG.ORG’s 'pirating' of texts written by the editorial collective of the journal Radical Philosophy - and some of my own, too - this is one of the problems with our current system of copyright: because it’s one of the main ways in which knowledge and research is commodified and privatised, it makes it very difficult for those who are committed to the struggle against the increasing marketisation of culture and society to unambiguously support defences against infringement on the basis of the protection of economic rights to their commercial exploitation.


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