Write: Ali Halit Diker Illustration: Necip Şahin
Let debate on the harms inflicted by Internet culture on society rage on—some of the things we brush off by calling them “virtual” do establish connections with our essence.
The influence of the daily-increasing use of the Internet on social life is still the subject of numerous debates. While debates about the overuse of the Internet on individuals’ social lives rage on one hand, the use of the Internet as a space for both freedom and resistance increases on the other. One of the properties allowing the Internet to produce these spaces is that cultural products enter circulation in a non-hierarchical environment of production and sharing. This environment of production and sharing allows humankind to regain the habit of collective cultural production it had long ago. Popular culture, which was based solely on consumption for some time, is being reshaped in the hands of society just as it was centuries ago. This collective mode of production, seen in Anatolian traditions especially in oral literature, has been spreading on the Internet under the name “open culture” for quite some time. Looking at both Turkey and the world as a whole, folk literature and folk arts have been spread in a natural way, from mouth to mouth or via master-apprentice relationships, rather than by the organization of a central authority. Folk bards and epics are a part of this collective production and social consciousness.
THE LEGEND OF KÖROĞLU
The Epic of Köroğlu, one of Anatolia’s best-known legends, is about the legendary life of Ruşen Ali, who lived in the 16th century, passed from mouth to mouth. According to the story, which takes place in Bolu’s Dörtdivan district, Ruşan Ali’s father is the aide of the Bey of Bolu. One day, the Bey of Bolu requests a beautiful horse from Ruşen Ali’s father Yusuf. Yusuf thus conducts research, asks around, and finally appears before the Bye of Bolu with two skinny ponies he believes will be very beautiful horses in the future. The Bey of Bolu, angered by the situation, has Yusuf’s eyes gouged, blinding him. This is where the name Köroğlu—“son of the blind”—comes from. Köroğlu comes to take his father’s revenge, going up to the mountains and combating the Bey of Bolu’s cruelties and injustices. Like in the world-famous story of Robin Hood, Köroğlu, too, is an outlaw who takes from the rich to give to the poor. Although the methods he used are not to be taken as an example, Köroğlu is still a symbol of freedom for the people. His story, meanwhile, was told from mouth to mouth for years, turning into a legend. For instance, the part in which he gains immortality, bravery, and the ability for poetry from the three foamy waters he drinks in the mountains of Bingöl was likely added to the stories by the people who value Köroğlu so specially.
Today, particularly with the popularization of social media, cultural products are easily shared, altered, and reproduced. These capabilities provided by digitalization provides an alternative against both cultural monopolization and the commercialization of culture. As in the example of Köroğlu, society is producing its own culture in accordance with the era it is in. For this, it both uses data it receives externally and adds its own production ability. For example, the Turkish saying “tüfek icat oldu mertlik bozuldu” (valor was ruined with the invention of the rifle), a cliché used and heard relatively often, comes from the legend of Köroğlu. In the story, the rifle, known as the “hollow iron” and the ruiner of valor, is what causes Köroğlu to give up his struggle. Yet the legend has been told so often that the story has more than one different ending. The “My Art versus Yours” project by Aslı Narin and Murat Durusoy, two young artists, points to this social consciousness in some way in the years 2009 and 2010. In the project, the artists digitally process an image that is premade or one they produce themselves, recreating and uploading it to the address myartversusyours.blogspot.com. They thus intervene in what each other produces, attempting to find a common aesthetic language or putting forth a pluralistic aesthetic approach.
Another academic and artist who works toward open culture and social consciousness is Burak Arıkan. With his network-mapping work, Arıkan forms maps on events concerning society closely and deeply, visualizing these and thus creating an aesthetic language and contributing to social responsibility in a sense. Arıkan, whose work “Artist Collector Network: Phase II” is on display at Maçka Art Gallery through December 13, works with non-governmental organizations too. The most important point in Arıkan’s social mapping work is his effort to create a more transparent society via emerging technologies and software.
The spread of the Internet and sharing culture appears to have regained cultural production for society significantly. Thanks to this, culture is moving from being a consumable product to a concept that evolves autonomously and truly is produced by the masses. Meanwhile, everyone who supports this system, which facilitates freer circulation, becomes one part of this contemporary Köroğlu story being played out.
ALTERNATIVE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
Some artists today prefer not copyright—the best-known form of intellectual property rights, which significantly restricts both the usage rights and the reproduction or alteration of their works by society—but “copyleft” licenses known as Creative Commons or Art Libre. GNU, a free software project, contributed to the development of both these licenses.
THE WORLD’S FIRST COLLABORATIVE SENTENCE
One of the first works that can be pointed to as an example of social culture production and took place on the Internet is “The World’s First Collaborative Sentence,” realized in 1994 by Douglas Davis. Davis only implemented the necessary infrastructure for the sentence to be formed. With the additions made by visitors to his webpage, he facilitated the creation of “The World’s First Collaborative Sentence.”