Rhizome needs to drop its membership fee and free its content
During the debate regarding Rhizome's membership fee I was very vocal
in my support of the idea. The argument went like this: an obligatory
membership fee for Rhizome is better than no Rhizome at all. I was sure
that if the fee wasn't implemented then Rhizome as we know it would
cease to exist. There would be no more lists, no more ArtBase, and no
more web site.
But what I failed to understand is that the fee basically caused
Rhizome to cease to exist. As the founders and current directors of
Rhizome know well, to exist on the network you need to be linked. I am
hyper-referenced therefor I am. Rhizome's membership fee effectively
shuts down links to articles and artwork on Rhizome's web site.
I know, it's free on friday. But if I want to link to a Rhizome post or
artwork, am I to attach a disclaimer? "This link only functions on
I know, first time's free. But what if I have visitors to my site who
follow the links to Rhizome regularly? They get shut out.
Why should Rhizome care? Since I can't trust links will resolve to the
article or the artwork they point too, I simply don't link to Rhizome.
I didn't mean this to happen, it just started happening. I can't help
but think that other people must feel the same way.
These days newer on-line publishing technologies like weblogs, (RSS,
RDF, Atom) feeds, and link aggregators (like del.icio.us) are
connecting people to information in very exciting ways but I have a
feeling that Rhizome is being left out and left behind. How many blogs
link to Rhizome articles and artworks? Probably not many, blog authors
know the value of freely linking across the web; Rhizome stops them at
Being locked up behind the membership fee leads to a degradation in the
content on Rhizome. We could argue whether it's happening or not – I'm
not sure it's happening myself – but I'm sure it's going to happen and
I'll tell you why. Folks don't want to post to closed forums. If they
want their articles read or their artwork looked at they want to be
linked far and wide. Sure they might drop a post on Rhizome (if they're
a member) and a few other places. If the other places are free, guess
where the links will go? Not to Rhizome. So at best you'll get
duplicate content on Rhizome which is harder to find. Since not as many
people are finding Rhizome, membership might start to drop. Since
membership is dropping even fewer articles are posted; a very bad
downward cycle could start.
Rhizome needs to drop the fee, find new ways to connect with new
audiences – an XML feed of the Rhiz list posts would be a good start
– and then work on ways to get these new audiences to donate
Perhaps it was an emergency at the time the fee curtain came down. I
hope it's over and Rhizome finds a way to free their content.
I really want to link Rhizome.