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July 10, 2006 / conceptbin

Brazil and the Creative Commons

Having spent quite a bit of time lately following the iSummit 2006 in Rio online, I was brought up short by an uncomfortable question: Is the fascination with the novelty of media-technologies a symptom of an underlying aversion to politics?

Chris Gilbert, in the online journal NMC Media-N, borrows a famous phrase from Lenin to ask whether the relevant questions about social relations are getting shunted aside:

“Electricity plus soviets equals socialism.” Somehow, by a logic that I sometimes call “anything but politics” and has a particular tenacity in the context of new media, it is always the soviets — meaning the councils, the new social relations— that get left out of the equation these days. That is, in the field of new media we have only electricity. Or for electricity one may substitute microprocessors, fiber-optics, pixels. The revolution, or the kinds of revolution new media people have in mind, will not only be televised, television will produce it. (Read Article)

Our media will change the world for us while we cradle our remote controls. Sad thought.

On the contrary, some of the most interesting thinking about digital networked media is taking place in the context of social change. Take for example the ongoing Brazilian experiment in getting communities connected to the internet and enabling them to make use of it cheaply using open source software and “recycled” computers. For my money this is one of the great visionary social projects of our time.

Recorded at the iSummit, here’s a podcast on the open source audio, video, and graphics production software created for use by communities at “cultural hotspots” around Brazil (see also Estudio Livre, MetaRecyclagem). Note that the point is not so much about software and hardware as it is about the idea and practice of a creative cultural commons.

And it makes me wish I knew Portuguese so I could do some proper research on Brazilian technoculture and politics.

3 Comments

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  1. what do you expect / Jul 12 2006 12:30 am

    The conference was sponsored by microsoft who even got to speak, are you surprised that iSummit had so little politics? CC are a fundamentally conservative organisation obsessed with becoming mainstream and prepared to sleep with anyone to get there. The user base however isn’t so conservative. At some point the bueracrats and “CC proletarians” are going to clash if CC continues down this path of accomodating corporations fundamentally opposed to software and cultural freedoms. They are certainly doing a good job of alienating many of their core promotors.

  2. Tom Poe / Jul 12 2006 5:56 pm

    “On the contrary, some of the most interesting thinking about digital networked media is taking place in the context of social change. Take for example the ongoing Brazilian experiment in getting communities connected to the internet and enabling them to make use of it cheaply using open source software and “recycled” computers. For my money this is one of the great visionary social projects of our time.”

    Here, in Iowa, there’s a small group that has started a Tin Can Network project. The idea is to collect 10,000 large coffee cans, prepare them ($3-$7), distribute one to every building in the community, and create a community-based wireless peer-to-peer network. No access to the Internet. If the community then decides to pursue an option to connect to the Internet, so-be-it. In the meantime, the community will have broadband capability for audio, video, tv and radio, VoIP (local calls), and fundamentally wipe out any need for phone or cable. In their place, locals will produce content in the form of videoconferences, audio and video projects, and plain old communications between the members of the community.

    It will be interesting to see what the local newspaper, phone monopoly, cable monopoly, and content producers in the area do in response. 🙂

  3. gauti / Jul 12 2006 11:12 pm

    Tom, that’s a very interesting idea – a local wi-fi meshwork for the community? I’d love to know more about the software and hardware platform. Here in SE London a local wi-fi mesh co-operative has been operating for a few years, called Boundless Co-op, with an associated media lab, also cooperatively run. Check out their sites for more info.

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