We were very happy with the turnout of the Economies of the Commons 2 conference in Amsterdam. For those of you who could not make it, there is a full video report of all presented lectures to be found at the DeBalie website and can also be watched below.
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 12, 2010
Conference Keynote Charlotte Hess
Constructing a Commons-Based Digital Infrastructure As the digital universe swells to 1.2 zettabytes, as increasing amounts of valuable information are lost or enclosed, as more libraries close, as economies fall, as global inequities rise, there is an ever greater need for robust systems of knowledge delivery that get the right information to the right people at the exact time of need. Immediate and open access to knowledge is necessary for scientific discovery, the creative process, effective education, public health, economic well-being, and informed decision-making. However, no one institution, corporation, or government can build a robust global digital infrastructure by itself. This presentation addresses the complex array of challenges in the collection, organization, dissemination, and preservation of human knowledge in digital format. Drawing from work in higher education, research libraries, and commons analysis, I discuss the critical need for participants from multiple areas of expertise and various economic sectors to come together to construct a sustainable, commons-based infrastructure to ensure immediate accessibility of civilization’s digital record to present and future generations. This enormous task requires long-term commitment, continued investment, and deep sense of responsibility.
Critique of the ‘Free and Open’
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?
Creating an open repository of digital cultural artifacts is a valuable start, but then the question remains, what will users do with this content? This panel seeks to answer how an active audience can be involved in online cultural material. How can institutions involve audiences in sharing describing, reviewing, tagging, and especially reusing the digital commons? How can audience make use of these resources in a meaningful way? What kinds of licenses should institutions require, and how might the artists themselves feel about having their materials available online? This panel will be part show-and-tell, part discussion of best practices, as curators, scholars and directors of cultural institutions explain how they promote engagement and creative re-use of online collections.
Public Debate: Future of the Public Domain in Europe
A public debate about the future of the public domain in Europe and the role of evolving media and information infrastructures. The public domain can best be understood as the space of shared information, knowledge and communication resources that allow citizens free access to knowledge, ideas, and cultural expressions, as well as the means for discussing and sharing them. A thriving public domain is of vital importance for the democratic development of society, the free exchange of ideas and opinions, and thereby for the innovative power of society to find new solutions for emerging challenges. The public domain is always a contested area, where different social actors assume their role in shaping its future. Public institutions have traditionally understood their role as central to the constitution of the public domain, alongside civic initiatives and interests, as the public domain offers the space for common and shared insights, ideas and expressions that create the cultural and social context, the ‘glue’ of society. It is curious that while an ever increasing percentage of the European population gets their access to information, cultural expressions, and communication resources via networked media / the internet, public institutions perform only a marginal role in providing this access. While the public domain should be considered as complementary to that of the market the responsibility for digital and on-line access to information, expression and communication is left almost entirely to private actors. In pluralist societies public institutions, including governments, have a clear responsibility for the public domain. In the view of Dutch media and cultural sociologist Wim Knulst these public institutions should ‘guarantee the diversity and quality of the public offering of information, expression and communication’  This succinct formula, drafted in 1990 in view of an ever changing media and demographic context for cultural policies, is still perfectly apt today. Recent initiatives such as the Manifesto for the Public Domain have addressed this responsibility anew . Our question is how this responsibility for the digital public domain will be filled in the immediate future?
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 13
In order for the public domain to be sustainable in the long run, appropriate revenue models are needed. Such models should support both the preservation of online repositories and the injection of newly created content into those repositories. In this session our aim is to construct the roles of stakeholders and protocols of a sustainable digital public domain. This will enable us to ask questions like: which revenue models can balance the growing costs of preserving digital cultural heritage, while unlocking it for a large audience? How can consumers participate in the distribution of culture while the integrity of the cultural products is somehow preserved? How to define the boundaries of a cultural product? Who retains the intellectual property of a collective work? Do interfaces like iTunes support the production or distribution of culture in the public domain? How can public/private partnerships bolster the digital commons?
Open Content, Tools and Technology
What infrastructures and institutions create and safeguard open access resources? ‘Open’ content can be seen as a spectrum that ranges from audiovisual data to art, texts, and code, made available by individuals and open access archives for hands-on use. These are resources preserved and created by libraries, newspapers, magazine publishers, video producers, the general public, Wikipedia, YouTube, science and education communities, cultural organizations, professional creators, and youth. How do national and transnational initiatives paid for and accessible by the public, such as the UK and Dutch data commons and Europeana, push the agenda? Does their licensing framework set open standards? What other protocols, such as those being developed for the semantic web, can these projects set? How are these projects hampered by legislation that does not exist in different national agendas, or are Balkanized by national interests? Topics include open codecs, open source tools, open publishing, and open government data.
Materiality and Sustainability of Culture
While digital reproduction is often touted as free, there are very real material and labor costs associated with the sustainability of digital objects beyond the first copy, including the hosting institutions and servers that manage artifacts. What are the critical costs behind the infrastructure of a digital cultural commons, and how does this differ from 20th century public broadcasting or archival models? How are we going to pay for continual distribution, preservation, and hosting of digital archives? This session will investigate these economic questions along with theoretical concerns for the reliability and authenticity of fragile digital data requiring refreshing and migration to new platforms over time.