Yvette Johnson on Thu, 17 Aug 2017 02:24:25 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Musings on what's left of copyleft

Oriental food v toupes

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> On Jul 4, 2017, at 1:45 PM, Florian Cramer <flrncrmr@gmail.com> wrote:
> The following piece was commissioned for the book
> "Being Public - How Art Creates the Public Domain" (
> http://valiz.nl/webshop/en/categorieen/product/120-being-public-how-ar
> t-cre= ates-the-public.html) ,a volume containing essays chiefly by
> Dutch art researchers on the status quo of art in the public sphere.
> I had been asked by the editor to investigate this subject more
> specifically in relation to the Internet and digitality. The book, as
> such, addresses a traditional arts audience that may be completely
> unfamiliar with the subjects I cover, including free software,
> copyleft, net.art, UbuWeb etc.
> The publication of this volume happens to coincide with (a) my 20th
> anniversary of being a user of Debian GNU/Linux and involvement in
> one of the first conferences on the interrelations of Free Software
> and culture (Wizards of OS in Berlin), (b) the defense of Aymeric
> Mansoux's monumental PhD thesis on Free/Libre/Open Source Software and
> its complex appropriations and misreadings in the arts, at Goldsmiths
> in London.
> - Hence, the first half of the essay is an introduction into the
> subjects of anti-proprietary models of authorship and distribution,
> pointing out that they weren't invented by Free Software copyleft, but
> had important precursors in art movements like lettrism and Fluxus.
> The second half is a more pensive consideration of where the practical
> success of Free/Open Source software has led to (among others,
> low-cost infrastructures for Internet monopolists and the crapularity
> of throw-away gadgets), and to which degree artists' concepts of
> cornucopian gift cultures (from Bataille via the Situationists to
> Kenneth Goldsmith and Hito Steyerl) and ecologists' concepts of the
> commons aren't fundamentally at odds.
> -F
> % Does the Tragedy of the Commons Repeat Itself
> as a Tragedy of the Public Domain?
> % Florian Cramer, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences
> Gift Economies
> ==============
> ‘Potlatch’ is a traditional Native American gift exchange ceremony. In
> the twentieth century, the word was adopted for a radical politics and
> aesthetics of the public domain. The *Lettrist International*, a group
> of poets, artists and political activists that preceded the Situationist
> International, published its periodical *Potlatch* free of charge and
> free of copyright. From 1954 to 1957, *Potlatch* appeared in Paris and
> the Dutch section of the Situationist International published its own
> issue of the bulletin in 1959. In an essay included in the Dutch
> edition, Guy Debord explained gift exchange as a way in which to
> ‘reserve and surmount’ the ‘negativity’ of modern arts.[^1] With
> ‘negativity’, he not only meant aesthetics, but also economics. The
> successor to *Potlatch*, the journal *Internationale Situationniste*,
> was free of copyright too. This way, Lettrists and Situationists sought
> to pre-emptively undermine the collector’s and art market’s value of
> their work, at least in theory. In practice, none of the major
> participants kept up anti-copyright.[^2]
> Around the same time, in the 1960s, Fluxus sought to fundamentally
> rethink the economics and public accessibility of art when it focused on
> street performances and on its own genuine invention ‘multiples’: the
> production of artworks (from artists’ books to small sculptural objects)
> in affordable editions. Fluxus’ founder and theorist George Maciunas did
> not literally use the terms ‘access’ or ‘accessibility’, yet radically
> addressed them on both an institutional and aesthetic level. By moving
> contemporary art from museums and galleries to bookshops and streets,
> Fluxus sought to give it ‘non-elite status in society’.[^3] This, by
> itself, does not differ much from other programmes of bringing art into
> the public space, for example as open air sculpture. But Maciunas also
> sought to radically change form and language of contemporary art for
> this purpose. He wanted art to become ‘Vaudeville-art’ and
> ‘art-amusement’.[^4] Art should become ‘simple, amusing, concerned with
> insignificances, have no commodity or institutional value … obtainable
> by all and eventually produced by all’.[^5] This eventually lead to
> Fluxus being perceived, like Situationism, as counterculture rather than
> as contemporary art in its own time. Today, both are mostly seen as
> forerunners of contemporary performative, conceptualist and political
> art, although their radical anti-institutional agenda is being
> overlooked. Little attention has been paid to political-economic visions
> in both movements: a radical public domain without commodities and
> private property.
> This did not prevent Lettrist, Situationist and Fluxus work from ending
> up (or even being produced) as collector’s items wherever this work had
> a conventional material form, such as auto- or serigraphs, objects,
> installations, performance remnants, photographs or original copies of
> *Potlatch*. When the World Wide Web became a mass medium in the
> mid-1990s, the first avant-garde and contemporary art that became
> available online were Situationist writings from the 1960s; works that
> were conventional text with no collector’s value. Thanks to their
> non-copyright status, they could easily be retyped and uploaded. Works
> from Fluxus and closely related conceptual and intermedia art movements
> (including concrete and sound poetry, video and audio art) became the
> foundation of UbuWeb (www.ubu.com). Created in 1996 by poet and
> conceptual artist Kenneth Goldsmith and still maintained by him today,
> UbuWeb is the largest online library and electronic archive of
> avant-garde audio-visual documents. It has become the historically most
> successful public access initiative for contemporary arts, since it gave
> artists’ books, recordings and videos a public visibility which
> pre-Internet museums, archives and libraries could not physically
> provide. In addition, UbuWeb turned this art into a common good since
> all content of the website is freely and easily downloadable for any
> Internet user.
> This type of public access, however, should not be confused with ‘Open
> Access’, the publishing of articles and books as freely available
> reading materials that, since the 1990s, has become a common practice in
> academia.[^6] UbuWeb does not comply to the legal requirements and
> formal criteria for Open Access since it operates in a grey zone of
> intellectual property. Unlike an Open Access website, UbuWeb neither has
> formal copyright clearance for all the works it contains, nor does it
> provide them under formal Open Access usage terms such as those of the
> Creative Commons licenses (more on them later). What UbuWeb does,
> however, have in common with the Open Access movement, is that it used
> the Internet as a catalyst for redefining publishing, from physically
> limited ownership of material properties to unlimited collective use of
> non-material goods.
> In her 1973 book *Six Years*, art critic Lucy Lippard characterized the
> performative, conceptualist and intermedia art of the late 1960s and
> early 1970s as a movement towards the ‘dematerialization of the art
> object’.[^7] In 1983, Jean-François Lyotard, founder of postmodernism as
> a philosophical concept, organized the exhibition *Les Immatériaux* at
> Centre Pompidou in Paris, which combined art installations by, among
> others, Daniel Buren and Dan Flavin with extensive displays of
> scientific inventions and computer technology. If one were to construct
> a genealogy from Fluxus and conceptual art via Lippard’s
> ‘dematerialization’ and Lyotard’s postmodern ‘immaterials’ to UbuWeb and
> the online Situationist text archives, then the latter might be seen as
> the ultimate realization of 1960s gift economy promises. Promises which,
> at the time, were still held back by analogue material constraints. Even
> cheap media such as print have affordances that can be prohibitive:
> printing, shipping and storage costs, the limited number of print copies
> versus the unlimited copying of digital files. Live performance art in
> public spaces was non-reproducible and therefore reinforced the aura of
> the unique artwork.
> In such a reading, UbuWeb delivers the original yet unrealized promise
> of Maciunas’ Fluxus Editions from the 1960s. Likewise, the Situationist
> servers—but also: every other electronic book, audio record, film, game
> copied and shared among people—provides the *Potlatch* that the Lettrist
> bulletin symbolized rather than realized. Digital technology, with its
> inherent facility of copying a file in infinite generations without
> quality loss and at comparatively negligible costs, would then have been
> the final missing building block for a working ‘gift economy’. This idea
> had also influenced the first generation of net.artist in the 1990s,
> including jodi, Heath Bunting, Alexei Shulgin, Vuk Ćosić and Olia
> Lialina, whose work mostly circulated outside exhibition spaces and
> suspended notions of ‘the original’.
> Concepts of a ‘gift economy’ based on ‘the commons’ did not only exist
> in the arts. They became generally popular with the Internet. By the
> 1990s, two popular phenomena substantiated them: Firstly, the GNU/Linux
> computer operating system, a fully working alternative to proprietary
> computer operating systems such as Unix, Windows and Mac OS, programmed
> by volunteers and available for free downloading, copying and
> adaptation. Secondly, the popular culture of freely sharing music in the
> MP3 format through decentralized Internet services such as Napster.
> Kenneth Goldsmith, founder of UbuWeb, later described Napster as his
> ‘epiphany’: ‘It was as if every record store, flea market and charity
> shop in the world had been connected by a searchable database and had
> flung their doors open, begging you to walk away with as much as you
> could carry for free. But it was even better, because the supply never
> exhausted; the coolest record you’ve ever dug up could now be shared
> with all your friends.’[^8] Linux received similar artistic
> appreciation, when in 1999, the Ars Electronica festival awarded it with
> its Golden Nica in the ‘.net’ category, a prize meant for electronic
> media art. The jury cited Linux’ cultural ‘impact on the “real” world’
> as a reason for its decision, along with the intention ‘to spark a
> discussion about whether a source code itself can be an artwork’.[^9]
> As if to prove that avant-garde art still does justice to its own name
> and historically runs ahead of popular culture, the fringe ‘gift
> economy’ concepts of Lettrists, Situationists and other counter-cultural
> groups became mass phenomena with Linux and MP3 file sharing three
> decades later. In his 1998 essay *The Hi-Tech Gift Economy*, British
> cultural studies scholar Richard Barbrook therefore called the Internet
> ‘Really Existing Anarcho-Communism’. He credited the Situationist
> International as a forerunner but criticized that it ‘could not escape
> from the elitist tradition of the avant-garde’.[^10] For his references
> to Linux, Barbrook drew on the software developer Eric S. Raymond who,
> in the same year, had helped coin the term ‘Open Source’ for the new
> collaborative software development model. (Shortly after, ‘Open Source’
> in software engineering became the blueprint for ‘Open Access’ in
> publishing.) In 2000, Raymond’s paper *Homesteading the Noosphere*
> characterized the ‘The Hacker Milieu as Gift Culture’, arguing that
> ‘Gift cultures are adaptations not to scarcity but to abundance’.[^11]
> The promise of digital technology and the Internet was that electronic
> replication of digital zeros and ones had overcome the constraints and
> affordances of mechanical reproduction. In that light, Lippard’s
> ‘dematerialization’ in conceptual art and Lyotard’s postmodern
> ‘immaterials’ seemed to be issues that the digital commons had resolved.
> As Aymeric Mansoux points out in his critical research on Open Source and
> its
> adoption in arts and culture, Raymond and others effectively paraphrased
> social-liberal economist John Maynard Keynes who, in 1930, had predicted
> that
> thanks to automation ‘the *economic problem* may be solved … within one
> hundred
> years’ so that an ‘age of leisure’ would follow.[^12] Keynes’ theory was
> influential in French post-war sociology and most prominently adopted by Guy
> Debord’s teacher Henri Lefebvre. Debord and the Situationists expected a
> transformation of society into a leisure society, propagated machine-made
> ‘industrial painting’ and based their ‘Potlatch’ on a firm expectation of
> the
> near end to economic scarcity.
> In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the debate on the Internet as a gift
> economy found its most prominent voice in law professor Lawrence Lessig,
> who saw the technology as a means to a *Free Culture* outside
> traditional intellectual property and media industry regimes.[^13] In
> 2001, Lessig co-founded the Creative Commons, a non-profit organization
> whose licenses encouraged people to apply the distribution principles of
> Open Source software such as Linux, including free copying and
> modification, to creative works of any kind, including texts, images and
> sound recordings. Wikipedia, founded in 2001, is among the best-known
> projects licensed under Creative Commons, and has become, besides Linux
> and MP3 file sharing, a poster case for the Internet as a ‘digital
> commons’. Today, most academic Open Access publications are released
> under the terms of a Creative Commons License, too.
> The underlying assumption is that in the age of digital media technology
> traditional copyright is too restricted for works to be truly publicly
> accessible, since it doesn’t permit downloading or sharing. In former
> times, public access to a work of art, such as a sculpture, would be
> simply granted by the fact that it is physically accessible and visible
> to anyone because it is a piece of public property installed in a public
> space. Copyright would only restrict others from reproducing this work.
> Today, this no longer affects only commercial parties. Taking, for
> example, a cell phone picture of a public art work and sharing it online
> constitutes an act of reproduction and publishing (rather than legal
> personal use), thereby legally violating the artist’s copyright.
> When the World Wide Web and social media were still new, these issues
> were not seen as issues of access and shifts in consumption of culture,
> but rather as a paradigm shift in cultural production. This was
> perfectly in line with Maciunas’ pre-Internet vision of art being
> ‘obtainable by all and eventually produced by all’.[^14] When legal
> scholar Yochai Benkler coined the notion of ‘commons-based peer
> production’ in 2002,[^15] he saw Wikipedia, Creative Commons and
> blogging as living proofs of a participatory ‘Wealth of Networks’, as
> opposed to traditional mass media with their sender/receiver and
> producer/consumer hierarchies.[^16] On a larger economic scale, ‘wealth
> of networks’ implied that economic egoism would be overcome and would
> lead to more effective and sustainable production. Where Keynes saw
> automation as the key to overcome economic scarcity, Benkler advocated
> network collaboration.[^17]
> The latest Internet-cultural iteration of Benkler’s optimism and,
> according to Mansoux,[^18] of Keynes’ 1930s post-scarcity visions is to
> be found in the so-called Maker movement. It was founded on the idea of
> using 3D printing and FabLabs for fully self-sufficient fabrication
> outside classical capitalist production and distribution chains.
> Bestseller writer and political consultant Jeremy Rifkin propagates a
> ‘Third Industrial Revolution’ based on these technologies. In his
> vision, they will lead to a ‘Zero Marginal Cost Society’.[^19] With
> nearly costless production, according to Rifkin, ‘the Internet of
> Things, the collaborative commons’ will lead to an ‘eclipse of
> capitalism’.[^20] In other words, Linux, MP3 file sharing and Wikipedia
> were seen as working commons because of their ‘dematerialization’ – with
> software and data being no longer subject to the material constraints of
> industrial production. But now this vision has transcended software and
> data to the point where even material products are expected to become
> shareable, like MP3 files. What Goldsmith had written about record
> stores ‘begging you to walk away with as much as you could carry for
> free’ with ‘the supply never exhausted’, would then apply to *any* store
> and *any* commodity.
>> From the 1990s to the early 2010s, these visions and debates remained
> largely exclusive to hacker culture, media activism and specialized
> areas of Internet art and media theory. This changed only recently. In
> 2013, artist and filmmaker Hito Steyerl brought the issue to the centre
> of contemporary art when she coined the term ‘circulationism’ in an
> essay for the *e-flux journal*. Using filmmaking terminology, Steyerl
> stated that, in the Internet age, image production is superseded by
> ‘postproduction’. She suggests:
>>> What the Soviet avant-garde of the twentieth century called
>>> productivism - the claim that art should enter production and the
>>> factory - could now be replaced by circulationism. Circulationism is
>>> not about the art of making an image, but of postproducing,
>>> launching, and accelerating it.[^21]
> The label ‘circulationism’ is not only a good fit for the endlessly
> ‘post-produced’ visual memes on image boards and moving image remixes on
> YouTube. The older Internet gift economies of Linux, Wikipedia, MP3 file
> sharing, UbuWeb and Situationist web sites are ‘circulationist’, too,
> since they are all sites of postproduction: Wikipedia with its policy
> not to publish any original research but only information from
> ‘reputable sources’, GNU/Linux as a clone of the Unix operating system
> that AT&T had developed in the 1970s. Steyerl concludes her essay with a
> Rifkin-esque extrapolation from software and data to hardware:
>>> Why not open-source water, energy, and Dom Pérignon champagne? If
>>> circulationism is to mean anything, it has to move into the world of
>>> offline distribution, of 3D dissemination of resources, of music,
>>> land, and inspiration.’[^22]
> This view is shared in the contemporary philosophical movement of
> accelerationism. In their 2016 book *Inventing the Future:
> Postcapitalism and a World Without Work*, Nick Srnicek and Alex
> Williams, authors of the 2013 ‘\#ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an
> Accelerationist Politics’,[^23] advocate ‘full automation’ in
> combination with universal basic income.[^24]
> What is envisioned in these scenarios is the maximum expansion of the
> public domain through the abolition of work and any form of
> property.[^25] Yet the political backgrounds of these writers and actors
> are extremely diverse, sometimes even contradictory: democratic
> socialist (Barbrook), neo-Leninist (Srnicek/Williams), right-wing
> libertarian (Raymond), liberal (Lessig), new age (Zeitgeist movement).
> On top of that, they range from contemporary art (Steyerl) to political
> consultancy of EU governments (Rifkin).
> The Double Meaning of the ‘Public Domain’
> =========================================
> Strictly speaking, a gift economy, and a potlatch, can only exist if the
> difference between gift exchange and other forms of economic exchange is
> still in place. In a Keynesian full-automation, post-scarcity future,
> everything and hence nothing would be a gift. From the Lettrists to the
> ‘Third Industrial Revolution’, the gift thus covertly disappears from
> the scene. What’s more, technology gradually replaces culture as agent
> and site of economic change. This results in artists’ real-life public
> domain practices, from Lettrism to net.art and UbuWeb, being less and
> less acknowledged, even in the writings of artists such as Steyerl.
> For their concept of the gift economy, Lettrists and Situationists drew
> on the French anthropologist Marcel Mauss (like Georges Bataille before
> and Jean Baudrillard after them). In the 1920s, Mauss had described the
> Potlatch as an ‘archaic’ economy of reciprocal gift exchange. Despite
> its common understanding as a counter-model to modern Western economic
> models of accumulation, the Potlatch ultimately is no less consumerist
> than modern capitalism, since it is based on social peer pressure of
> excessive giving and taking.[^26]
> In the contemporary art market, where 19th/20th century-style production
> and sales business models rule and economic visions such as Rifkin’s or
> Srnicek/Williams’ are out of question, gift economies nevertheless
> remain a provocation. They squarely contradict the art market’s
> principle of selling items to collectors and its creation of value
> through balancing an item’s scarcity against collector demand. There
> could thus be no sharper contradiction than the one between a Potlatch,
> whether in its traditional or in its Lettrist form, and a contemporary
> art fair such as Art Basel or Frieze.[^27]
> Reformation-age pamphlets and graphic prints, including Dürer’s, can be
> interpreted as early Western forms of an art in the public domain that
> circumvented traditional art markets (most of all, clerical and
> aristocratic patronage, churches and palaces). With early 20th century
> Dadaism as their precursor,[^28] Situationism and Fluxus pioneered a
> practice of the public domain that transgressed the two realms of
> publishing media and public space. Merriam-Webster defines the public
> domain both as ‘land owned directly by the government’ and as ‘the realm
> embracing property rights that belong to the community at large, are
> unprotected by copyright or patent’.[^29] Contemporary English
> gravitates towards the second definition, the public domain as creative
> works that are free from individual rights claims. In other European
> languages, however, the double definition of ‘the public domain’ is
> still more pronounced, for example in the French expression ‘domaine
> publique’ and the Dutch ‘publieke domein’. Legally, the concept thus
> refers to (a) physical property and (b) intellectual property: to
> physical territory that is not privately owned, and to creative
> work—writing, pictures, audiovisuals, designs, technical
> inventions—whose copyrights or patents have either expired or been given
> up.
> The cybernetic utopia of circulationism, accelerationism, the Third
> Industrial Revolution, Open Source thus is to collapse both definitions
> and areas of the public domain into one: When the Dom Pérignon bottle
> becomes infinitely downloadable, there is no more sense in
> differentiating physical from intellectual property. De jure, however,
> intellectual property has a clearly different status from physical
> property, being a metaphor born out of the invention of the printing
> press. Western jurisdictions put most intellectual property violations
> under civil law yet physical property violations under criminal law.
> ‘Property’ thus does not equal ‘property’.
>> From Peer Production to Non-profit Organization
> ===============================================
> In 2012, *Forbes Magazine* estimated the total operating costs for the
> Internet at \$100-200 billion per year.[^30] The figure only reflects
> operating costs of Internet service providers, excludes public
> investments into network infrastructure, costs for cell phone and
> telephone networks, expenses of Internet and media companies for
> maintaining their own services as well as computer hardware expenses of
> private households, public administrations, educational institutions et
> cetera. The Internet is not, to use Lyotard’s word, an ‘immaterial’.
> Optical fibre cables, its infrastructural backbone, are a degrading
> organic material that needs to be replaced every ten years. Scarcity of
> Internet resources may not be visible today since its infrastructure
> still benefits from massive private and public investment, and from
> slave labour combined with massively unfair trade in the production of
> electronic hardware. The current picture of data abundance might be
> skewed in the same way as the picture of electricity and oil abundance
> was skewed in the 1950s and 1960s.
> With the world population projected to grow to ten billion people and
> more, global warming, depletion of natural resources, scarcity of
> energy, scarcity of raw materials needed for electronics and industrial
> production and, leaving hyperbolic prophecies aside, no realistic
> perspective that artificial intelligence robotics will soon make the
> bulk of manual labour obsolete (which would still beg the question on
> what energy and material resources those machines would run?), Keynes’
> hope that ‘the *economic problem* may be solved’ and create an age of
> leisure, appears dated. It is one of the contradictions of our present
> times that some of the same thinkers who subscribe to a philosophical
> ‘new materialism’—with its focus on ecology, a ‘parliament of things’
> (Latour), ‘object-oriented ontology’ and worries about the ecological
> catastrophe of the anthropocene—also believe in total leisure through
> total automation, as if computing and robotics operated in some
> immaterial void where the laws of physics, economy and natural resource
> exploitation are suspended.
> Likewise, a critical look back at radical public domain projects of
> artists and media activists reveals countless flaws: The anti-copyright
> publishing of the Situationist International was only possible because
> the group was financed through gallery sales of paintings by its
> co-founding member Asger Jorn.[^31] Fluxus’ alternative business model
> of selling multiple editions faltered after less than a year. None of
> the participating artists followed the initial suggestion to sign over
> their individual copyright to Fluxus Editions.[^32] Most Internet public
> domain projects were only possible through infrastructural support of
> public arts or educational institutions. UbuWeb, for example, runs on a
> university server in Mexico. Kenneth Goldsmith periodically warns users
> that the website might cease operation any day because of technical or
> legal difficulties, and recommends that people download its contents to
> their home computers. Unlike Fluxus Editions, UbuWeb does not have an
> economic compensation model for the artists whose works it provides,
> thus assuming that they have other sources of income (including the art
> market). The support infrastructures for Internet art in the public
> domain are, in the end, identical to those for traditional public art.
> The most prominent digital commons projects have, in the meantime,
> become corporate. Linux started as a student project at a public
> university but is now financed by an IT industry consortium consisting,
> among others, of IBM, Intel, Samsung, Huawei, Oracle, Hewlett Packard,
> Qualcomm, Google, Facebook, Ebay, Toyota and Hitachi. In 2014,
> statistics showed that more than 80% of Linux kernel code is currently
> written by corporate employees, with the mobile and embedded devices
> industry and its agenda driving the development of the software (among
> others, because Linux forms the basic software stack for micro
> controllers and for the Android smartphone operating system).[^33] This
> does not change the fact that Linux is Open Source and freely available
> to anyone to download, use and modify. But ever since the Linux commons
> has become a corporate commons, it is evident that a commons does not
> necessarily need to be democratic; it is not necessarily a public domain
> under public governance.
> Wikipedia and its sister project, the Wikimedia Commons, is subject to
> similar issues of governance and community representation. 90% of
> Wikipedia’s editors are male and most of them work in the technology
> industry. The non-profit organization running the encyclopaedia
> experiences major internal conflicts over organizational policy and
> transparency, and is being criticized for being ‘increasingly run by
> those with Silicon Valley connections’.[^34] Academic Open Access
> publishing has turned—squarely against its founders’ intentions—into a
> revenue model for publishers that charge extra fees for giving up
> exclusive distribution rights.
> Given their present state, none of these projects still fit the
> 1990s/2000s narratives of ‘Anarcho-Communism’ (Barbrook), ‘bazaar’
> development (Raymond), ‘read/write culture’ versus ‘read-only culture’
> (Lessig) and ‘commons-based peer production’ (Benkler). Instead, as a
> result of matured and professionalized organization, their ways of
> working have aligned themselves to those of industry consortia and
> design committees. It is difficult to spot organizational differences
> between non-profit Internet projects such as Linux, Wikipedia and The
> Creative Commons, and the general sector of non-profit organizations,
> with their mix of volunteer and payroll work. The same questions that
> concern internal governance and external influence of non-profit,
> non-governmental organizations thus also concern the major Open Source
> and Open Content projects.
> Tragedy of the Commons
> ======================
> Activist arts projects weren’t free of these pressures and dynamics
> either. *Potlatch* ended up being reprinted as a book by Gallimard,
> France’s most reputable publishing house. The book cover does not
> attribute it to the anonymous collective of the Lettrist International,
> but reads ‘Guy Debord présente Potlatch (1954-1957)’, with ‘Guy Debord’
> typeset as the book’s author’s name. On page 7, the book bears the
> copyright mark ‘© Éditions Gallimard, 1996’.
> When the ecologist Garrett Hardin coined term ‘the commons’ in 1968, he
> intrinsically linked it to the idea that they were doomed to fail in a
> ‘tragedy’. In his paper, Hardin used the term in a way similar to the
> first dictionary definition of the ‘public domain’, namely as commonly
> used space.[^35] However, he did not focus on the space as such but on
> its economic exploitation. For Hardin,
>>> The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture
>>> open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to
>>> keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. … As a rational
>>> being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain.[^36]
> As a result, the herdsmen will have their cattle overgraze the shared
> resource:
>>> Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his
>>> herd without limit - in a world that is limited. Ruin is the
>>> destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best
>>> interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons.
>>> Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.[^37]
> Today, Hardin’s theory seem to be backed up by facts like the one that
> the world’s biggest fifteen ships create as much environmental pollution
> as all the cars in the world because their engines run on waste oil, on
> open oceans.[^38] Yet his notion of the commons has been criticized for
> lacking any differentiation between unregulated ‘open access resources’,
> such as open oceans, and policy-regulated ‘common-pool resources’, such
> as fisheries and forests, to use the terminology and examples of Nobel
> Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom.[^39] Ostrom’s notion of ‘open
> access resources’ must not be confused with ‘open access’ as in Open
> Access publishing. It concerns the exploitation of material resources
> while Open Access publishing is about the creation of immaterial goods.
> Furthermore, Ostrom’s ‘open access resources’ are ‘open’ in the sense
> that their access and exploitation is completely unregulated, while Open
> Access publishing involves standards and rules for both, such as the
> provisions that an Open Access publication may not be commercially
> exploited or incorporated into a non-Open Access work.[^40]
> The various theories of the commons from Hardin to Ostrom indicate the
> lack of a generally agreed-upon concept of ‘the commons’ and thus, by
> implication, the lack of a universal notion of access. Terms such as
> ‘Creative Commons’ and ‘Open Access’ avoid these issues by offering
> practical solutions rather than theoretical definitions. Yet the issues
> remain unresolved. As the understanding and practice of copyright and
> intellectual property greatly differs across cultures and political
> systems (despite the Berne Convention for Protection of Literary and
> Artistic Works signed by all 170 United Nations member states), neither
> ‘the commons’, nor ‘access’ can be as universally defined as suggested
> for the Creative Commons and the Open Access movement.
> It is even questionable whether the notion of the commons applies to
> such a globally standardized system as the Internet. In its current
> status quo, the Internet can hardly be called a commons. It is, in
> Ostrom’s terms, neither an open access resource nor a common-pool
> resource, because of the private ownership and control of most parts of
> its technical infrastructure. As it exists today, the Internet is also
> driven by industrial manufacturing of electronic hardware in low-wage
> countries, the inexpensive, ecologically questionable extraction of
> natural resources for manufacturing and electricity, and finally the
> concentration of Internet traffic and, increasingly, physical network
> infrastructure onto only a handful of large corporations (Google,
> Facebook, Amazon).
> If one nevertheless suspends these objections and hypothetically assumes
> Benkler’s belief that the Internet *is* a commons and that projects like
> Linux and Wikipedia constitute true commons production, then Hardin’s
> ‘tragedy of the commons’ still provides a useful critical perspective.
> Increasingly, Linux and Wikipedia are exploited to serve as ‘back-ends’
> for private services. Google’s search engine now relies on Wikipedia for
> its top-ranked search results and uses the free encyclopaedia to
> auto-generate information summaries on search result pages themselves,
> thus encouraging users to remain on Google’s advertising-financed site.
> By putting a proprietary service layer on top of Linux that, among
> others, heavily tracks user behaviour, Google’s Android operating system
> effectively turns Linux into a proprietary operating system while
> legally conforming to its Open Source license. In a 2012 critical paper
> on Android, Kimberly Spreeuwenberg and Thomas Poell therefore conclude
> that the ‘exploitation \[of Open Source\] has not only become more
> pervasive, but also more encompassing and multifaceted’.[^41]
> Hardin identifies economic growth and surplus extraction as the ultimate
> reason for the tragedy of the commons. This is just as true for a case
> such as Linux whose Open Source availability may be pessimistically
> interpreted as a driver for surplus extraction like Google’s - which
> conversely results in wasteful gadget production and resource
> consumption. Yet for Hardin, commons ‘may work reasonably satisfactorily
> for centuries’ if there is no economic growth and population numbers do
> not increase above ‘the carrying capacity of the land’. Gift economies,
> however, from Potlatch to Kenneth Goldsmith’s cornucopian record stores
> and Hito Steyerl’s open-sourced Dom Pérignon, *are* economies of excess.
> They never pretended to be ecologically reasonable. Against communist
> interpretations, Georges Bataille characterized the Potlatch as ‘the
> meaningful form of luxury’ that ‘determines the rank of the one who
> displays it’.[^42] The gift economies of Lettrism, Situationism, Fluxus,
> 1980s postpunk culture and later net.art involved excessive production
> of ephemera—pamphlets, multiples, performative leftovers, badges,
> pamphlets, code works—whose exchange was poor people’s luxury and whose
> volatility was part of this ‘circulationism’. In that sense, the tragedy
> of the commons, violation of the commons’ rules of constraint, is a
> crucial part of these practices. ‘Circulationism’, if taken as an
> umbrella term for everything from Berlin Dada to UbuWeb, is not about
> ecological-ethical self-constraint, but it amounts to a bohemian
> antithesis to scarcity, including the artificially created scarcity of
> gallery art.
> In this perspective, the Internet has only been a temporary accelerator
> (in the late 1990s and early 2000s perhaps more than today) for a
> history that is politically, not technologically driven. Being neither
> commons nor gift, the public domain now exceeds separations of ‘public
> space’ and ‘free information’, as these cultural practices and excesses
> show.
> (With thanks to Marcell Mars, Henry Warwick and Jens Schröter for their
> suggestions and critical feedback.)
> [^1]: NOTBORED, ‘Potlatch’. Web. 2007.
>    http://www.notbored.org/potlatch.html
> [^2]: Debord, too, published all books that appeared with his author’s
>    name under classical copyright.
> [^3]: Maciunas, George. ‘Manifesto II.’ Text. George Maciunas Foundation
>    Inc. N.p., 24 Feb. 2010 (1971). Web. 12 July 2016.
> [^4]: Ibid.
> [^5]: Ibid.
> [^6]: This book is an Open Access publication, too.
> [^7]: Lippard, Lucy R. *Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art
>    Object from 1966 to 1972*. New York: Praeger, 1973.
> [^8]: ‘Kenneth Goldsmith on the Joy of Acquiring Music via File Sharing
>    Networks.’ *Epiphanies: Life-changing Encounters with Music*. Ed.
>    Tony Herrington. London: Strange Attractor Press, 2015. 75.
> [^9]: ‘Linux Torvalds Wins Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica.’ *Linux
>    Today*. 29 May 1999. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.
>    [http://www.linuxtoday.com/news/1999052900305PS]
> [^10]: Barbrook, Richard. ‘The hi-tech gift economy’. First Monday 3.12
>    (1998).
> [^11]: Raymond, Eric S. ‘Homesteading the Noosphere’. First Monday 3.10
>    (1998).
> [^12]: Keynes, John Maynard. ‘Economic possibilities for our
>    grandchildren’. *Essays in Persuasion* (1933): p. 358-73. Mansoux’
>    full doctoral research is still unpublished; an excerpt is available
>    in Mansoux, Aymeric. ‘My Lawyer Is an Artist: Free Culture Licenses
>    as Art Manifestos.’ *Hz \#19, Fylkingen’s Web Journal*. 2014. Web.
>    01 Apr. 2016.
>    [http://www.hz-journal.org/n19/mansoux.html]
> [^13]: Lessig, Lawrence. *Free Culture: How big media uses technology
>    and the law to lock down culture and control creativity*. Penguin,
>    2004.
> [^14]: Maciunas, George. ‘Manifesto II.’ Text. George Maciunas
>    Foundation Inc. N.p., 24 Feb. 2010 (1971). Web. 12 July 2016.
> [^15]: Benkler, Yochai. *The Wealth of Networks: How social production
>    transforms markets and freedom*. Yale University Press, 2006.
> [^16]: Ibid.
> [^17]: In 2008, the cultish ‘Zeitgeist Movement’ advocated a
>    ‘post-scarcity economy’ in which economic and political decisions
>    should be delegated to a central computer. Zeitgeist became a major
>    force behind the *Occupy* protests in New York City and Frankfurt,
>    Germany, both taking place at the center of the two cities’ banking
>    districts.
> [^18]: Mansoux, Aymeric, unpublished PhD thesis
> [^19]: Rifkin, Jeremy. *The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of
>    Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism*.
>    St. Martin’s Griffin. 2015.
> [^20]: Ibid.; Rifkin, Jeremy. *The Third Industrial Revolution: how
>    lateral power is transforming energy, the economy, and the world*.
>    Macmillan, 2011. Rifkin, Jeremy. *The End of Work*. Winnipeg: Social
>    Planning Council of Winnipeg, 1996.
> [^21]: Steyerl, Hito. ‘Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?’ *E-flux
>    Journal \#49*. E-flux, Nov. 2013. Web.
>    [http://www.e-flux.com/journal/too-much-world-is-the-internet-dead/]
> [^22]: Ibid.
> [^23]: Srnicek, Nick, and Alex Williams. ‘\# Accelerate: Manifesto for
>    an accelerationist politics.’ *Accelerate: The Accelerationist
>    Reader* (2013): 347-362.
> [^24]: Srnicek, Nick, and Alex Williams, *Inventing the Future:
>    Postcapitalism and a World Without Work*. Verso Books: 2016
> [^25]: A demand that Situationists and Anarchists had voiced much
>    earlier, for example: Black, Bob. *The Abolition of Work and Other
>    Essays*. Loompanics Unlimited, 1986.
> [^26]: Mauss, Marcel. *Essai Sur Le Don. The Gift. Forms and Functions
>    of Exchange in Archaic Societies…* Translated by Ian Cunnison,
>    London, 1954.
> [^27]: The dominance of the art market for early 21st century art—along
>    with the political-economic shifts away from welfare state systems
>    in Europe and elsewhere—means that even traditional forms of art in
>    the public sphere are no longer firmly established. They no longer
>    function as a Keynesian corrective to the free market. 1950s/60s
>    Situationist psychogeography was a counter-movement to post-war
>    modernist urbanism where drifting in the urban space contradicted
>    any rigid, built structure. Yet today, even a classical modernist
>    sculpture on a public square might qualify as ‘situationist’ when
>    juxtaposed to an oligarch’s private art depot locked away in an
>    airport warehouse. - See Segal, David. ‘Swiss Freeports Are Home for
>    a Growing Treasury of Art.’ *The New York Times*, 21 July 2012. Web.
>    31 Mar. 2016.
>    [
> http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/business/swiss-freeports-are-home-for-a-growing-treasury-of-art.html
> ]
> [^28]: For example, the absurdist political leaflets and tabloids that
>    were spread on streets and in parliament by the Berlin Dadaists.
> [^29]: ‘Public Domain.’ *Merriam-Webster*. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
>    [http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/public%20domain]
> [^30]: Price, Greg. ‘How Much Does the Internet Cost to Run.’ *Forbes
>    Magazine*, 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
>    [
> http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2012/03/14/how-much-does-the-internet-cost-to-run/\#22f6467e5b64
> ]
> [^31]: Kurczynski, Karen. *The Art and Politics of Asger Jorn: The
>    Avant-Garde Won’t Give Up*. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2014. Print.
>    148
> [^32]: Kellein, Thomas. *The Dream of Fluxus: George Maciunas : An
>    Artist’s Biography*. Edition Hansjörg Mayer, 2007. Print.
> [^33]: ‘Who Writes Linux? Corporations, More than Ever.’ *InfoWorld*.
>    Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
>    [
> http://www.infoworld.com/article/2610207/open-source-software/who-writes-linux--corporations--more-than-ever.html
> ]
> [^34]: Atlantic Media Company, Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
>    [
> http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/90-of-wikipedias-editors-are-male-heres-what-theyre-doing-about-it/280882/
> ];
>    ‘The Secret Search Engine Tearing Wikipedia Apart.’ Motherboard.
>    Web. 01 Apr. 2016.
>    [
> http://motherboard.vice.com/read/wikipedias-secret-google-competitor-search-engine-is-tearing-it-apart
> ]
> [^35]: Hardin, Garrett. ‘The Tragedy of the Commons.’ *Science* 162.3859
>    (1968): 1243-1248.
> [^36]: Ibid.
> [^37]: Ibid.
> [^38]: Vidal, John. ‘Health Risks of Shipping Pollution Have Been
>    ‘Underestimated’’ The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 09 Apr.
>    2009. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.
>    <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/apr/09/shipping-pollution>.
> [^39]: Ostrom, Elinor. ‘The Challenge of Common-Pool Resources.’
>    *Environment Magazine*. July/August 2008. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.
>    <
> http://www.environmentmagazine.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/July-August%202008/ostrom-full.html
>> .
> [^40]: These are options in the Creative Commons Licenses, the licenses
>    most frequently used for Open Access publications.
> [^41]: Spreeuwenberg, Kimberly, Poell, Thomas. ‘Android and the
>    Political Economy of the Mobile Internet: A Renewal of Open Source
>    Critique.’ *First Monday*, 17, 7, 2 July 2012. Web. 02 Apr. 2016.
>    <http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4050/3271>.
>    There are more examples for the private-market exploitation of the
>    Linux operating system, most prominently the use of Linux and other
>    Open Source software as technical engines for running proprietary
>    web services and social media. They have been left out here for the
>    sake of brevity.
> [^42]: Bataille, Georges, *The Accursed Share*, New York: Zone Books,
>    1988. 76.
> This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0
> International License. To view a copy of this license, visit
> http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ or send a letter to Creative
> Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.
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