What is the Read Only Culture vs. Read & Write Culture?

In Lawrence Lessig’s book Remix, he primarily talks about copyright laws and how outdated and limiting they are as they prevent users from being creative as they cannot include other sources in their product (for example a part of a movie on a blog).

He also introduces two “cultures” to describe how people use media:

The Read Only Culture refers to a one-way process. Media is consumed rather passively and the content is provided from a professional source like traditional media. An example of the Read Only Culture would be to buy a book and read it only. There is not really something else that can be done with it.

On the other hand, the Read and Write Culture involves people who use the media to absorb the message and then re-use parts of the original message in a creative way to make something new out of it. Users become more active. They create and share. It involves a more reciprocal relationship between the consumer and the producer. If you look at blogs for example, the comment section enables a dialogue between the readers and the writer. And also tagging of blogs helps users to find what they are looking for in the masses of articles on the internet. Another example is anime+music which takes Japanese animation clips and turns it into a completely new music video.

It is time for individuals, companies and the industry to acknowledge the Read and Write Culture as people are no longer only readers, but (also due to computers, digital media and the internet) active content-generators/prosumers who do not want to only passively sit around doing nothing, but interact with knowledge and ideas and create something meaningful themselves!

One last comment: What I thought was really interesting, but then again it also makes total sense, is the way Lessig wrote his book – as a literary remix of sorts: He includes historic facts, cultural curiosity, legal knowledge and cites various sources such as Wikipedia, Congressional testimonies or modern best-sellers (Stephey, 2008).

Also check out the video of Lessig talking at TED!


Eury, M. (2009). Read Write v Read Only. Available at http://www.stickylearning.com.au/stickylearning/2009/06/read-write-v-read-only.html, accessed 16.04.2015.

Seo, D. (2006). “Read Only Culture vs. Read & Write Culture”, Lawrence Lessig. Available at http://us.aving.net/news/view.php?articleId=17613, accessed 16.04.2015.

Stephey, M.J. (2008). Lawrence Lessig: Decriminalizing the Remix. Available at http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1851241,00.html, accessed 16.04.2015.

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