Free Culture



I was at Free?! ( as a speaker.

The first part of the day was the brunch club:

We gathered around tables to discuss various free culture-related topics and write notes on the tablecloths. These were later hung in the gallery upstairs as part of the “(Mis)Interpreting Free Culture Exhibition” art show accompanying the event. The show is excellent, with a wide range of thought-provoking work.

I was on the “tools” table. We discussed what makes a useful free culture tool, which came down as much to social and community affordances as technical or legal ones. Blender’s community and funding was repeatedly mentioned as a model. During the discussion I encountered some excellent projects I hadn’t heard of before:

The second part was the Plenary Debate, which brought together some leading free culture film producers to discuss how they made their projects work.

It was refreshing to hear a candid discussion of the frustrations and strengths of crowdfunding approaches based on the long-term experience of the panel members. Jamie King in particular communicated the unpredictability of funding, the harsh statistics of who actually pays for downloads, and the joys of being able to pay artists when they do.
It was also good to see the new Blender short film on a big screen thanks to Ton Roosendaal:

The last part of the day was the “Winters Night Copyright Fairytale” event in the evening.

This brought performances and talks on various free culture themes together with a framing animation and narrative in the form of a fairytale.

With the benefit of hindsight I wish I’d fitted my talks more to the fairytale theme, but I did manage to accidentally fit my slides to its typographic style.

Femke Snelting framed the story with readings from remixed newly out-of-copyright texts by Rabindranath Tagore and Virginia Woolf made using NLTK. Nikita Mazurov’s passion for pirating movies made me wish I could have got to the London Cryptofestival ( ) where he was also speaking. Paul Keller’s presentation of the history and possible future direction of Creative Commons gave me a real confidence boost in that organization. And there was much more. The event was recorded and I think it will be online early next year.

The slides from my talks are available here:

Free?! was very much about stepping back and taking stock of Free Culture. I found being reminded (and helping to remind others) of the origins and issues of Free Culture inspiring, and looking seriously at where and how it needs to be rethought invigorating. As a result, I know what I have to do next.

Do have a look at the website if you couldn’t make it to the event.