“Critique of the Free and Open”

The ever-active Geert Lovink’s Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam continues to be the key venue for the articulation of a very important, very generous democratic critique of the real and imagined openness of digital media.

The Economies of the Commons 2, held on November 12, 2010 is a case in point. It includes an address by Yann Moulier Boutang, whose Cognitive Capitalism will be translated and published by Polity later next year, and will be touchstone for conversations on how the Googlization of political economy can be properly historicized.

I’m going to keep my eye on Nathaniel Tkacz. His negative enrollment of Karl Popper to critique Open Source is well done here.

Critique of the ‘Free and Open’ from network cultures on Vimeo.

“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?”

See also Masters of Media’s take on Lovink’s opening remarks

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