Global Digital Culture| Poor Images, Ad Hoc Archives, Artists’ Rights: The Scrappy Beauties of Handmade Digital Culture

Laura U. Marks


Case studies of media artworks and collections in the Arab world focus on two factors that arise from uneven access to media technology. First, the informal media economy relies on retrofitting, bootlegging, and creative making do. The beauty of many media artworks arising from this economy lies not in an isolated perfection, but in the material and energetic connectivity of perceptible human tinkering and laboriously human-built archives. Second, most media images in circulation are low resolution, glitchy, or otherwise “poor.” This audiovisual poverty draws attention to the patterns of circulation and invites a critique of the ideologies implicit in media compression. These artworks and archival practices draw attention to the agency of individuals, artists’ organizations, and archival materials themselves. At the same time, many organizations go to great lengths to respect the rights of the artists whose work they manage, putting “propriety rights” above property rights.


media art, informal media economy, Arab media organizations, archives, media compression, piracy, artists’ rights

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