Debating Free and Open

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"“Content for all, revenues for some.” For this session we explore the theory behind terms and terminologies. What do the terms ‘free’ and ‘open’ mean in their current contexts? How are they used and in what new political condition do they gain resonance? What is open, how open is it, and for whom? Can anything be learned by reconsidering the work of the grand master of openness as a political concept, Karl Popper? Or are there historical examples of open societies and the commons we can draw from to answer these questions? How do we situate unpaid, crowd-sourced content made profitable by companies such as Google in relation to freedom and openness? We should nuance the definition of data or information, asking whether it comes from open archives versus audiovisual material from emerging artists, established reporters or other cultural producers. Is a resource still open if a user’s attention to it is then sold to advertisers? Indeed, is openness an absolute (either/or) concept, is does it make sense to think of openness as a scale? Alternatively, is it possible to develop an ethics of closure? There is no way back to the old intellectual property rights regimes. But how then are cultural producers going to make a living? How can we create sustainable sources of income for the ‘digital natives’? How can we reconcile the now diverging interests of professionals and amateurs?"


  • Yann Moulier-Boutang, University of Technology of Compiègne, editor of Quarterly French Review MULTITUDES

Sustainablility of Free and Open: from Terra Nullius to the new Commons

A comparison can be made between the former commons before the application of the terra nullius principle of european colonization and enclosures of primitive accumulation in Western countries and the new commons of the digital era. Like the public sector, the open source and free movement are yielding for free positive externalities to market economy without the ressources granted by state. Unless you tackle with the revenue issue, like the copyleft movement or the Creatives commons licences, the model has to be highly funded through private sponsorship or public subvention with all the disadvantages in terms of freedom. Economic sustainability of the new commons is a crucial political issue.

  • Dmytri Kleiner, author of Telekommunist Manifesto, ​

The Telekommunist Manifesto is an exploration of class conflict and property, born in the realization of the primacy of economic capacity in social struggles. Emphasis is placed on the distribution of productive assets and their output. The interpretation here is always tethered to the understanding that wealth and power are intrinsically linked, and only through the former can the later be achieved. As a collective of intellectual workers, the work of Telekommunisten is very much rooted in the free software and free culture communities. However, a central premise of this Manifesto is that engaging in software development and the production of immaterial cultural works is not enough. The communization of immaterial property alone cannot change the distribution of material productive assets, and therefore cannot eliminate exploitation, only workers self-organization of production can.

  • Simona Levi is a multidisciplinary artist born in Italy and established in Barcelona since 1990. She is the Director of Conservas, a cultural activity centre. Since 2000, she has directed the arts festival INn MOTION which takes place at the Centre of Contemporary Culture of the city of Barcelona. She is an outstanding activist in European social movements in the area of free circulation of knowledge and the right to housing. She is also involved in several artistic and activist platforms. She is co-founder of EXGAE, a civil organization that defends from the abuses of the cultural industry trade groups. ​

Death Knell for Open Politics

Openness has become the master category of politics in network cultures. Whereas recent instantiations of the open cannot be understood without reference to 80s software cultures, the idea of openness extends beyond this specific context: Openness has a history. Most famously, it was mobilised by Karl Popper as a critique of totalitarian knowledge and to justify market organisation and the related (neo)liberal disposition. In this presentation I make some critical observations regarding the function of openness both in contemporary network cultures and in the writings of Popper. By placing these distinct but related iterations in dialogue, I hope to point out that there is much more at stake in the battle for openness than its mere realisation. ​

  • Moderator: Geert Lovink, founding director of the Institute of Network Cultures, is a Dutch-Australian media theorist and critic. He holds a PhD from the University of Melbourne and in 2003 was at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland. In 2004 Lovink was appointed as Research Professor at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and Associate Professor at University of Amsterdam. He is the founder of Internet projects such as nettime and fibreculture. His recent book titles are Dark Fiber (2002), Uncanny Networks (2002) and My First Recession (2003). In 2005-06 he was a fellow at the WissenschaftskollegBerlin Institute for Advanced Study where he finished his third volume on critical Internet culture, Zero Comments (2007). ​