December 11, 2007

Flight Paths

by Noah Wardrip-Fruin · , 8:02 am

I push the loaded trolley across the car park, battling to keep its wonky wheels on track. I pop open the boot of my car and then for some reason, I have no idea why, I look up, into the clear blue autumnal sky. And I see him. It takes me a long moment to figure out what I am looking at. He is falling from the sky. A dark mass, growing larger quickly. I let go of the trolley and am dimly aware that it is getting away from me but I can’t move, I am stuck there in the middle of the supermarket car park, watching, as he hurtles toward the earth.

I’m interested to see, via if:book, that Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph are using CommentPress for a fiction experiment. At the same time, I find myself somewhat disturbed to see them both inviting community contributions of text, images, sound, etc — and also talking about charging for content. Both are experiments, in the world of online fiction, but not ones that seem to go together well.

7 Responses to “Flight Paths”


  1. Kate Pullinger Says:

    Hi – Yes, I know what you mean, this might seem oxymoronic, or even underhand. However, we wanted to keep all doors open to all possibilities, not knowing where this project might lead. I don’t foresee actually ‘charging for content’ (did we say that?!) but I am interested in thinking about ways that a project like this could, potentially, generate income. This iteration of the project is funded by Arts Council England, London, so we are not under pressure to generate income yet, but this has become more of an imperative for Chris and I with other digital fiction projects. But thanks for your interest, and thanks for mentioning us on your site. Cheers! Kate

  2. Kate Pullinger Says:

    I see the post on monetisation does say ‘charging for content’… well, like I said, we want to keep all doors open…

  3. noah Says:

    Kate, thanks for dropping by!

    I think the problem with the two positions is that one has the potential to cancel out the other. I wouldn’t contribute to Wikipedia for free if they were keeping their options open for denying free access to my work in the future. Unfortunately, the same goes for Flight Paths.

  4. Kate Pullinger Says:

    This is not what we intend! If the text is confusing, we’ll have another look at it. But thankfully we are not Wikipedia!

  5. nick Says:

    There have been cases in the past in which unpaid volunteers have built, for instance, the Internet Movie Database, only to see their work purchased by Amazon.com and made part of a commercial, retail site. I agree with Noah that this is a serious issue for cooperative ventures online. Knowing that my contributions will be part of a freely available collective work is important to me, and would be a requirement for my participation in a large-scale project of this sort. Whatever the problems with Wikipedia, they seem to me to have gotten this right.

  6. Mark Says:

    IMDB for some reason has managed to pull off the trick of not pissing everyone off despite basically taking their users’ contributions and locking them up, maybe because most people just use it for the website, which remains free and not too cluttered. The CDDB cd-tracklisting database is a canonical example of one that went the other way: they pissed off so many people that they spawned an alternative, and later another one.

    I’ve written about this elsewhere and think it’s not much of a gray area: if a company is “CrowdSourcing” (to use the jargon of the day) but not releasing the results under a license that meets the definition of free cultural works, then people should not participate for free. I have no problems with proprietary business models, but companies who follow them should be prepared to pay others just as they expect to be paid… not expect others to do their work for free.

  7. scott Says:

    I’ll be interested to see where the project goes, though I share the same reservations. I’m currently working on a project that will use some creative commons licensed photos (actually a lot of them), and while I could conceive of offshoots of the project might involve things people pay for (for example, a print book that did not include the photos), I intend to publish the project itself under the same license by which I’m acquiring the photos. Having said that, I can understand the impulse to create experiments with electronic literature that people actually pay for. I tend myself to view the opportunity to participate in the creation of a literary culture that is both legitimate and based on a gift economy as outweighing the benefits of getting paid for my electronic writing projects in conventional ways. I think the key in this case is that the terms of contributing to the network novel are clear at the outset.

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