jPod – Douglas Coupland

I used to avoid anyone who’d read Generation X. I still haven’t ready it myself. Microserfs was an amusing and insightful short story bloated into a pointless schmaltzfest.

But BoingBoing plugged jPod so I bought a copy. And it’s very good.

jPod is uncomfortable and hilarious reading. Most critics seem to have missed the point of it. They complain about the intrusion of pointless lists, 418 spam, and pages of sparse typography into the text. They complain about the ironies all the way down. They complain about the pointlessness and coldness of the characters existences and the blankness of the characters themselves. And about their amoral world.

They complain, in other words, about the accurate portrayal of geek culture after the gold rush and its genuine ironies and insanities. This is something that needs demistifying not romanticising, a jPod not a Microserfs. It’s telling that many prefer the warmer, fuzzier, happy-ending-land of Microserfs. Shooting the messenger is a mistake, particularly when he’s a character in the book himself. Better to listen to what he’s saying, because it has needed saying for far too long now.

Copyleft Concepts


Reification is the mistake of concentrating on licences as an end in themselves. A licence is only useful as a practical means to the ideological ends of free culture. To forget this and to concentrate on licences as a subject fetishises the concretised form of an abstract set of relations, which is reification. Free culture’s unquestioning and contextless adoption of free software’s strategy of licensing is also reification.


The freedom that copyleft creates is reflexive, it is cultural freedom directed only to cultural freedom. From the point of view of general social ends this is a degenerate form of freedom, in the mathematical rather than the moral sense. A guild would use access to knowledge to maximise wealth. A union would use access to knowledge to reduce poverty. Copyleft uses access to knowledge to maximise access to knowledge. Or the threat of withdrawal of labour (code) to protect labour’s ability to work. Community projects are reflexive as they exist only to ensure that they continue to make the work they host available to the community. This is an optimal state of social relations among cultural peers, and does not prevent those peers making use of cultural value for their own pluralistic ends. Since reflexivity collects value from pluralism, it will generate more value for all its subjects than instrumentalism can, since instrumentalism neccessarily excludes some subjects.


The opposite of reflexivity; trying to use the value created by copyleft for a specific end, usually social or economic. Anyone trying to make an “ethical licence”, a “commerce-friendly” licence or a “better world” licence is trying to make copyleft instrumental. Projects that seek to promote a brand or to create work that can be used for the project host’s enrichment are instrumental, particularly if they give the host more rights over work than contributors. Attempting to instrumentalise the creation of cultural value will create less value than reflexivity because it will exclude some possible contributors. This will affect the intended end as much as any other end which means that instrumentalism is therefore self-defeating. It is also anti-pluralistic, coercive, and therefore immoral.


Copyleft reverses the monopoly effects of copyright. It reverses the restrictive effects of a common copyright tool, the exclusive licence. It reverses the meaning of a form without changing the form. Copyleft is therefore an ironisation of copyright law, a ironisation of legal form.


Copyleft may dissipate local value but aggregate global value. You can extract value from copylefted material, it does create a surplus. You just cannot prevent anyone else extracting value as well.

End Game

Copyleft is an end-game strategy (at least it was in software). It trades the ability to maximise extraction of wealth for the ability to minimise exclusion from wealth. This will create fewer millionaires but will create more multimillion-dollar industries. It will also protect workers’ access to their work. It’s less tragic to not make your fortune than to not be able to work.


Copyleft enables pluralism, supporting opportunity equally. A pluralistic approach to copyright does not, it fragments opportunity, creating value ghettos. Copyleft is freedom for everyone, freedom of choice within a system that protects that choice, rather than freedom for some individuals to choose amongst systems of exclusion.


The reflexivity and pluralism of copyleft allow everyone to use the value of copylefted work to pursue their own ends. Attempting to yoke copyleft to a given social agenda will reduce the number of ends that work can serve, and will reduce the amount of work made available as a result of pursuing those ends to use under copyleft to everyone, including those seeking to yoke copyleft to their own agenda.

Chordinator in Sourceforge


After some struggles with Sourceforge, the source code for chordinator is now available.

Here’s a sample:

(defmethod colour-generator (hue-fun saturation-fun brightness-fun)
"Make a function to make a new instance of colour."
(lambda ()
(make-instance 'colour
:hue (funcall hue-fun)
:saturation (funcall saturation-fun)
:brightness (funcall brightness-fun))))

(defmethod random-colour-generator (&key (min-hue 0.0) (max-hue 1.0)
(min-saturation 0.0) (max-saturation 1.0)
(min-brightness 0.0) (max-brightness 1.0))
"Make a function to make a random colour."
(colour-generator (random-generator min-hue max-hue)
(random-generator min-saturation max-saturation)
(random-generator min-brightness max-brightness)))

(defmethod n-random-colours ((n integer) &key (min-hue 0.0) (max-hue 1.0)
(min-saturation 0.0) (max-saturation 1.0)
(min-brightness 0.0) (max-brightness 1.0))
"Make a list of n random colours."
(let ((generate (random-colour-generator :min-hue min-hue
:max-hue max-hue
:min-saturation min-saturation
:max-saturation max-saturation
:min-brightness min-brightness
:max-brightness max-brightness)))
(loop repeat n
collect (funcall generate))))

Aesthetics And Freedom

An aesthetician considers the role of historical philosophical ideals of freedom in aesthetics.

What Is The Schillinger System

What Is The Schillinger System

The idea behind the Schillinger System is simple and inevitable: it undertakes the application of mathematical logic to all the materials of music and to their functions

And to art as well (in “The Mathematical Basis Of The Arts”). A complete mathematical system for composition from the mid 20th Century. STYLE & CULTURE – Just whose idea is it anyway? STYLE & CULTURE – Just whose idea is it anyway?

Not everyone seems to have noticed, but it’s clear we recently zipped past the “information economy” and straight into the “copyright economy.” It’s no longer about access to information ” everyone has access. Now it’s about ownership of the characters, stories, tunes, trademarks, software and other ephemera of our daily lives. If serfdom returns to L.A., we won’t end up as peons working on other people’s landed estates ” no, the great dynasties of the future may be built on cartoon characters.

Yay Hooray | yh collab: redesign famous logos in web 2.0 format!

Yay Hooray | yh collab: redesign famous logos in web 2.0 format!

Proof that aesthetics are objects. 🙂

Everybody loves Eric Raymond » Lug Radio Live 2006

Everybody loves Eric Raymond » Lug Radio Live 2006This is just a couple of slides from my rather confused and wandering talk about ELER at Lug Radio Live 2006. The full slides are available here in format and exported html.A very funny presentation on a very funny copyleft comic strip.

Kathleen Kucka

Kathleen KuckaEngaging painted low-dimensional abstracts. Good stuff. | Talent & The Commons | Talent & The Commons

We need to rethink DRM and its role in preserving artistic livelihoods.

Yes. IF DRM works it will prevent artists becoming popular and destroy the lasting publicity value of their recordings. If it doesn’t work it will simply annoy fans. So thinking about it, we need to make sure that DRM doesn’t work, otherwise artistic livelihoods will suffer.

I don’t think that’s the kind of thinking that’s being pleaded for, though.

There is a common fantasy that using the Internet or a Creative Commons licence will magically make you rich and famous just by you releasing a single file. When this fantasy is shown to be just that, people don’t blame their own laziness or naiveté, they blame the internet or the licence. Talent (assuming you have it) is only part of the equation of success. It takes damn hard work, a lot of overtime, schmoozing, no small amount of publicity, working the circuit and a good accountant to have even a chance at success. The commons does not offset laziness or naiveté, but the media industry does exploit it. Anyone who thinks that copyleft will destroy the recording industry’s ability to make them a millionaire might want to ask a few one-hit wonders what “recover expenses” means in a contract, and how you retrain as an accountant.

The assumption that every artist or musician has special social and economic privileges by virtue of their genius is a Romantic conceit that is exploited by middlemen to -er- exploit artists of whatever talent. And to try to create a kind of copyright gentry with mere listeners and viewers (and artists) as serfs. You need to be able to deal with irony (or at least doublethink) in this area, otherwise you end up pleading for industry cartels against the public in the name of struggling artists.

The commons won’t reward talent any more than copyright does. Deal with it.