Darren Wershler (b. 1966)

The Tapeworm Foundry
(/ubu Editions, 2002) [PDF, 2mb]

FREE as in speech and beer: open source, peer-to-peer and the economics of the online revolution
(Toronto: Financial Times Press, 2002) [PDF, 24mb]

The rapid-fire, uncontrollable exchange of digital information — text files (including books), software, full-length feature films, pornography, video games — is quickly eroding copyright laws, licensing systems, distribution systems, pricing schemes and the other trappings of intellectual property management that our society has carefully tended for the last two centuries. Simultaneously, our ideas about ownership, authorship and the creative process are changing dramatically.

But this “crisis” in the handling of intellectual property isn’t the whole story. Increasingly, people are coming to the conclusion that the death of intellectual property as we know it is a good and laudable turn of events, that software and other types of intellectual property should be free – free as in “speech,” free as in “beer,” and sometimes free as in speech and beer.

In this groundbreaking exploration of how technology is transforming our core economic beliefs, poet, editor and cultural critic Darren Wershler-Henry draws together all of the elements of this fascinating story: the history, the philosophy and the present reality of data-sharing technology.

A brilliant and provocative look at the current intellectual property debate, FREE as in speech and beer is essential reading for anyone driven by the power and potential of the Internet.

“Between the two extremes of everything for free and everything for profit, Darren Wershler-Henry’s book provides a searching analysis and a balanced view of the real new economy. A richly rewarding read.” — Derrick de Kerckhove

“The essential primer on the looming struggle between copyright and community, this book is as fun as free beer and as necessary as free speech.” — Hal Niedzviecki

CommonSpace: Beyond Virtual Community
Darren Wershler and Mark Surman (Toronto: Financial Times FT.COM, 2000) [PDF, 25mb]

Commonspace is the collective mind of the Internet, a synergy built from the space between the bits and fueled entirely by people power. As the Internet grows, commonspace is changing the way we live, think, play and do business. Surman and Wershler-Henry provide a detailed cognitive map of the emerging virtual landscape, and a set of tools that will  help readers draw on the power of the collective.

On the Internet, traditional business logic has turned upside down … with spectacular results:

  1. New economy companies are building multi-billion-dollar market caps not by consolidating power, but by giving it away.
  2. The open source movement is changing the way we create software and formulate new ideas. As Microsoft shakes in its boots, our beliefs about economic value and work are turning inside out.
  3. Online communities are becoming essential components in the creation of political movements, the organization of ideas and the overall success of businesses.
  4. Smart, ethical dot-coms are collaborating with their customers-and even their competitors-to create services that could never have been imagined 10 years ago.
When personal need and passion mix with the benefits of community and cooperation, unparalleled momentum, new kinds of information and mind-blowing new social worlds are the result. This is commonspace.

“Forget the marketing chatter and the media pundits-Surman and Wershler-Henry tell you what’s really going on theNet. Insight, laughs and irreverent opinions … this book sounds just like the Internet.” — David Weinberger

“Commonspace is the new commonplace, the new common sense.” — Derrick de Kerckhove

Virus 23 0 (first issue, 1989) [PDF, 20mb]
Virus 23 pi (2nd issue, fall 1990) [PDF, 22mb]
Virus 23 $ (3rd issue, 1992) [PDF, 20mb]

VIRUS 23: an introduction

"CAUTION: Are you ready to expose your nervous system to this potent Canadian mind virus? A blend of cyberpunk, Crowleyanity, shamanism and psychedelia, 'Virus 23' comes disguised in an attractive, graphically innovative zine. This "new edge" publication has been mutating Simian brains for the past two issues by infecting them with techno-shamanism, reviews of the weird, and reports of the strange. Its a metaphysical pit-bull that will rip your flabby world to shreds." (Mark Frauenfelder)

From 1989 to 1992, I fell in with a group of sun-staring visionaries from Red Deer, Alberta -- chiefly Bruce and Eric Fletcher, their friend Paul Pype, and later, Gunnar Blodgett (collectively known as ADoSA, the Alberta Department of Spiritual Affairs). I met them in 1989 in Edmonton, when I had arranged to interview a then relatively-unknown science fiction author named William Gibson about his work, because I was writing my MA thesis on it. When I showed up to the interview location, aside from William Gibson and his friend, the science fiction writer Tom Maddox, there were these other guys already there, and they had beer. Needless to say, we became friends very quickly.

Over the next four years, we released three thick zines crammed full of the zeitgeist of the moment -- what, in retrospect, might be called industrial culture or early cyberpunk. (We were all young enough and happy enough to still be flirting with nihilism.) Our contemporaries were the pre-digital bOING bOING, Mondo 2000, ReSearch and many others. In a pre-Web era, Virus 23 nevertheless developed a worldwide audience (we sent copies to every continent except Antarctica) thanks to the underground mail networks. Mike Gunderloy's fabled Factsheet Five, the definitive zine about other zines, was particularly helpful, twice naming Virus 23 its Zine of the Month.

For an infrequent publication from northern Canada, Virus 23 had considerable cultural impact. When Gunderloy published his book The World of Zines: A Guide to the Independent Magazine Revolution, the blurb on the back cover cited Virus 23. I've lost track of many of the talented artists, writers, musicians and photographers who contributed to this project, so I can't do much of a "Where are they now," but I do know about the half-life of my own work from this period. After I interviewed Guy Maddin about his brand-new movie Archangel, he liked the zine so much that he put a big number 23 on the original movie poster for his next film, Careful. Digital versions of My William Gibson and Jack Womack interviews still show up all over the web, as does "WARNING," a version of an early poem by Christian Bok that I adapted into an ad for the zine and posted to Andy Hawks' FutureCulture mailing list in about 1992.

Other than the MySpace page that Bruce Fletcher built for the zine many years ago (, there has been no authoritative source for this material, until now. It has never been avaiable in its entirety. Several of the editors do not even have their own original copies. Complete scans of the three issues follow this introductory note. Enjoy. -- Darren Wershler, 2011

"Uncreative is the New Creative: Kenneth Goldsmith Not Typing" in UbuWeb Papers
"Apostrophe" [Object 10] in UbuWeb Papers
"Noise in the Channel" [Open Letter 3] in UbuWeb Papers

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