Copies have been dethroned; the economic model built on them is collapsing. In a regime of superabundant free copies, copies are no longer the basis of wealth. Now relationships, links, connections, and sharing are. Value has shifted away from a copy toward the many ways to recall, annotate, personalize, edit, authenticate, display, mark, transfer, and engage a work. Art is a conversation, not a patent office. The citation of sources belongs to the realms of journalism and scholarship, not art. Reality can’t be copyrighted.
IT’S HARDLY a coincidence that “Shipping Out,” Wallace’s most well-known essay, appeared only a month before Infinite Jest, his most well-known novel, was published. Both are about the same thing (amusing ourselves to death), with different governing données (lethally entertaining movie, lethally pampering leisure cruise). In an interview after the novel came out, Wallace, asked what’s so great about writing, said that we’re existentially alone on the planet—I can’t know what you’re thinking and feeling, and you can’t know what I’m thinking and feeling—so writing, at its best, is a bridge constructed across the bridge of human loneliness.