Stefan Meretz reporting from Berlin: Wizards of OS 4

Stefan Meretz from Oekonux:

I participated at the WOS 4 confrence and I was
really positively surprised. The german online news mag Heise brought
these reports about the conference, mirroring quite well what was debated. From my view now some additional remarks.

What was only a fantasy at first Oekonux conference in Dortmund (2001), has now become reality: The ideas of free software had been overtaken in many areas of the society — globally. Like the GNU GPL for the domain of software had been an important trigger and safeguard of a free space, so are the CreativeCommons-Licenses for content of any kind. Meanwhile the CC project counted 140 million backlinks to their website. What GPL is for software, is CC for the area of culture.
Therefore “free culture” was the most used key term on WOS 4. If one imagine this as a model of an “onion” consisting of “shells”, then with free culture we reached the second “shell” after the first “shell” (or core) being free software. The third “shell” of the onion — witch had
become clear at different points — will be the core of societal production, following my rampant thesis:-)

Which evidences did I find for this thesis? Example 1: Lawrence Lessig has given an impressive presentation at WOS 4 (I wish I could do it as good as he did). Title: “The Read-Write Society”. Using the filesystem metaphor of “read-only” (RO) and “read-write” (RW) Lessig went through the history of bourgeois society along the 4 dimensions of labor, cuture, something (I forget), and politics. Concerning culture — and only this dimension he looked at in the following — the society of the 19th century was a RW society, where generally all citizens had “write access” to society creating the culture. Ok, I have some objections in mind, but anyway. The 20th century, however, had been
transformed into a RO society where lazy couch potatos of degenerated consumers absorb given offers. Powerful leverages are rules around the so called “intellectual property”, especially copyright. In the internet the struggle blusters between RO and RW, where big content companies want to make the people be only passive consumers. But, this is his thesis, the 21th century brings back a turn to RW culture where people will be themselves the producers of their (cultural) lives. Core of the RW cultur will be remixing, which means using cultural products for the creation of new cultural products. — Lots of examples especially from brasil were impressing. Or, watch this example (“
my lips
“), really funny:

Or this (“Jesus must survive“):

I found it a bit curios speaking about a “turn back” to a RW culture. Lessig also talked about chances for some cultures (in my words) to directly jump from the 19th to the 21st century without using the nonsense of copyright etc. at all. Hm, ok, is this true? Descriptively, yes. On another panel people from brasil (which had a somewhat special “guest status” on the WOS) told us about the kids of the
favelas who never spend a second on stuff like copyrights when they make their music and sell their music on the streets (and _only_ on the streets). If then european musicians take, remix and commercialize their music, then this is ok too. Question from the audience: Isn’t
this cutural imperialsm? Answer: No, because making culture always implies using other cultural products. Therefore in brasil there is no notion of “piracy” (maybe except in the music industry which are there too).

Back to Lessig. Following his RO/RW analogy I want to know from him if he sees similar developments concerning the other dimensions he mentions before — especially concerning “labor”. And if this is about making a “free societal operation system” where the RW culture can run
on? Unfortunately he didn’t get my question, well, that may happen which such sorts of analogies. His answer was very general, and fast he jumped from “labor” to “politics”, because he had some more examples on this topic. Ok, the third “shell” will come into his thinking some time — remember me to claim the copyright;-)

Example 2: Final panel “Brazil, the Free Culture Nation”.

Besides others on the podium was Claudio Prado, director of the department of digital culture of the brasilian ministry of culture (lead by Gilberto Gil) calling himself a “Hippie”. A nice abstract (and Film) to this:

I thought I misheard when he said, that it isn’t the goal to
create “work” and “social security” for the people, because this is not possible any more: “Jobs and employment are things of the 20th century.

The future has nothing to do with employment.” Therefore the new goal is: “Jumping from the 19th century to the 21th century bypassing the bullshit of the 20th century.” This is about empowering the people to act autonomously and to appropriate the digital technology in order to become independent from government. He said, that it is a bit schizophrenic when he said this as a representantive of a government, but the goal must be to make the government superfluous. — Whow, not bad!

After that, Volker Grassmuck, maintainer of WOS, takes this idea and said, that now the topic of WOS 5 is found. Ok, we will see, what he understands with the statement of Claudio Prado. If it goes well, then he means the “third shell” of the onion, that is, the question of the societal production not only of cultural goods, but all goods for the life of the people — beyond governments, jobs, and social security from above as we knew it sometime.

OK, I stop here. There were much more exciting panels at WOS. The conference would deserve more visitors, but for this purpose the admission price was simply much too high (60 EUR for 3 days, reduced half of it).

If the WOS takes the “third onion shell”, then it would be a nice thing to have the next OX conference together wth WOS. But this is only a fantasy…”

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