Hack that shit

Posted on 6 April 2011

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Updated 1:56pm 6 April 2011

Mates of mine from The Edge and the State Library of Victoria are working on a project called Libraryhack. It’s based on an idea that was kicked around The Edge office ages ago when I was still there and something that’s been talked about all over the place.

Basically, libraries are repositories of huge amounts of data and cultural products (books, music, film etc) and hardly anyone every uses it. It just sits there waiting for someone to need to do some research. But it can do all sorts of other stuff too, and frankly, I think we’re all a bit silly for not playing with it more often.

Library Hack is opening up the dungeons of big state and federal Australian and New Zealand and breaking out their copyright-free stuff for creative types to copy, cut, mash, splice, and generally make new things out of.

The idea of using cultural products that are out of copyright has had a good outing recently, notably and profitably by Seth Grahame-Smith who hacked Jane Austen to make Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and history for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but also by Porter Grand with Little Women and Werewolves and a bunch of others.

For basic info on the Libraryhack project, this post on the blog is a good place to start. They’re running a competition where you submit your mash-ups in one of three categories: app/data, photo, or digital media. They’ve just closed their ideas comp and you can see the ideas that were submitted. You can put in as many ideas as you like which is pretty cool.

Then I think what happens is, if your idea is chosen to be part of the project, you get access to whatever you said you’d need in your submission and off you go and make your thing.

People have been doing mash-ups forever (like, literally, forever) and digital tools have opened up a whole new world of possibility for retooling works and jamming this thing into that thing, especially with music and video. The rise of Creative Commons licencing, an alternative to copyright, has also helped out a whole lot by enabling creators to release some rights to their work while keeping ownership and some level of control over it.

If you’re keen to hack your library but don’t know where or how to start, there are free workshops this month and next where you can get skilled up in the basics. Check out a couple of hacking efforts here and here that the guys who work at The Edge did.

So go nuts. Mess shit up. Win prizes.

Also, given that libraries are a public resource, you could just go in and find out what’s copyright-free and do whatever you want with it whenever you feel like it.

Maybe your mash-up will even get made into a movie starring Natalie Portman.

Image credits
Buried Treasure by David Boyle under a Creative Commons Attribution licence
Haven for Us by Casey David under a Creative Commons Attribution licence
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Posted in: Arty stuff