On the Cultural History of Release Groups

In almost every discussion on internet culture people do defend its merits with regards to the revitalisation of sharing communities. Books are entitled Praising Copies/Lob der Kopie (Dirk von Gehlen 2011) and they declare the end of traditional categories of property and originality. Urs Gasser (Born Digital, 2008), Stefan Münkler (Emergenz digitaler Öffentlichkeiten, 2009) and other authors and researchers have thereby tried to provide an insight into internet communities. Nevertheless, what is lacking in their studies is a thoroughly historical examination of the specific small group of people who have continuously provided a vast amount of data to be downloaded, shared and liked: the so-called release groups.

Although Urs Gasser states that a specific source lacks more and more relevance in contrast to the content it provides for today’s internet culture (cf. Dirk von Gehlen, Mashup, p.57), I do think it is worthwhile to search for traces of the more centralised modes of providing fresh content. The (Warez)Scene is a merely invisible community: an offspring of the Hacker-movement that seems to root back to the early days of the computer era. All the discussions about the appropriability of code, information or of software started right there. Subsequently, tools of online sharing (e.g. Bulletin Board Systems or Newsgroups) have been developed long before companies like Audiogalaxy discovered that one can capitalize such software programmes or platforms. To write the history of today’s internet culture means to investigate and appreciate their stake in the translation of a counterculture into mass culture.

As part of my current research on internet music piracy I am looking for (former) participants of The Scene that are either willing to answer my questions, or can share some chat protocols, screenshots, experiences, etc. with me. It is understood that any contact will be anonymous or incognito and this status will be guaranteed in the final paper of my master thesis as well.

Please do feel free to contact me: sebastianschwesinger (…) hotmail.com