Spent the day at the Free Cooperation conference here at Buffalo. Definitely well worth the time. I’ll comment a bit on two sessions: one in the morning on issues of open content, the other I moderated in the afternoon, on social networking architectures.
Open Content Initiatives
The presentations were relatively informal. The focus generally revolved around two issues. The first was whether it was somehow contradictory to believe in both copyleft approaches (GNU, Creative Commons, etc.) and that copyright is flawed, since the latter provides the structure for the former. The issue was raised by John Duda, who suggested that artists and activists might be shooting themselves in the foot (in the long term) by working against copyright.
To me at least, this poses an interesting question. Certainly, there is some indication that the licensing contracts found in creative commons licenses would fall back on copyright in order to be enforced. But I see no problem with treating copyleft as defendable in terms of copyright when legal defense against large commercial interests is involved, and treating it as a distribution preference among those who are seeking mutual aid. Christian Paul (of Intelligent Agent made a strong push for creative commons as a form of copyright that makes explicit sharing, and not necessarily privacy-friendly.
Although the discussion didn’t move in this direction, I think what was missing was the question of “fair use.” It’s a thorny issue to be sure, but Creative Commons approaches things from a slightly different angle. The guarantees of fair use are still worth fighting for, as are limits on the lengths of copyright, and do not dissuade from the value of owning a temporary and partial monopoly on selling your creative work.
A second topic revolved around two efforts at building collaborative repositories: Alan Moore’s “Collectivities” site (can’t find it) and a cooperative site called blips.tk (take that, Jakob Nielson!). The question in both cases what what an appropriate taxonomy would be. Both are efforts to escape the totalizing arts taxonomies that are already in existence, but they don’t want to totaly alienate users either. There were several suggestions that multiple taxonomies made sense (chronological, regional, form, etc.) and would allow users to apply various patterns to the data. Others suggested that allowing taxonomies to emerge would work. I suggested looking at unstructured discussions both on the site and off to help create semantic networks for the pieces. Scott Patterson (maybe this one?) suggested that we were looking for an analogue of Conversation Map as a tool for creating semantic networks from unstructured data. (I might have a mini-project to do on this.)
Some scribbled open questions from the session:
> Future of copyleft enforcement?
> Government appropriation of materials for own use?
> The Victorian Web
> .tk’s relationship to ICANN?