[-empyre-] Week Four - Design

Michael Dieter mdieter at unimelb.edu.au
Tue Jun 22 13:56:01 EST 2010

Hey empyre,

I'd like to introduce our final guests for the topic of Publishing in
Convergence under the topic of design: Femke Snelting and Pierre
Huyghebaert from Open Source Publishing, and Mat-Wall Smith and Andrew
Murphie from Fibreculture.

However, just before doing so, I’d like to chime in with some thoughts on
OA, if only to emphasize that the critiques of free culture presented so
far have not by default been arguing in favor the existing regimes of
copyright and intellectual property. As Gary notes, it is widely
recognized that these systems are highly exploitative, exclusionary and
(moreover) completely inadequate for the age of networked media:

> Of course I’m aware that in-work academic labourers are paid by their
> institutions and many have a lot to benefit from making their research
> and publications available on a free and open basis. And, yes, ‘for
> other kinds of writers, the idea of free culture may simply result in
> more alienated labour’, as Emmett Stinson quite rightly points out.
> However, at the same time, and as others have suggested, the vast
> majority of (non-academic, non-affiliated) authors, artists and
> musicians actually benefit very little from the current copyright
> economy, too. A few top stars may earn a lot, but most people don’t. An
> Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society Study from 2007 suggested that
> the ‘typical earnings of a British professional writer aged 25-34 are
> only £5,000 per annum’. In his recent book, Nice Work If You Can Get It,
> Andrew Ross even goes so far as to argue that 'in the court of public
> opinion, corporate IP warriors can always win points by broadcasting the
> claim that they are defending the labor rights of vulnerable artists.
> Yet the historical record and the experience of working artists today
> confirm that the struggling proprietary author has always been more of a
> convenient fiction for publishers to exploit than a consistent
> beneficiary of copyright rewards. Culture-industry executives are able
> to masquerade as the last line of protection for artists, when in fact
> they are systematically stripping them of their copyrights.' If so, then
> it might not be just academic labourers who have things to gain from
> experimenting with different kinds of economies and ‘alternate
> modernities’.

With this concluding point, however, I also wonder what 'might be gained'
from those unsupported artists and authors openly contributing to free
culture. There is a strong argument to make that vying for 'exposure' or
'hype' only further fuels a mode of communicative capitalism that
maintains the secondary parasited role of knowledge or creative labor in
deeply problematic ways (especially combined with the still dominant UGC
logic of 'social media' platforms). This is why, for me, it's not about
moving back to the existing IP regimes if you're critical of the
'theoretically correct' support of free culture. Rather, it's simply
willing to ask how can art and cultural works might exist in network
societies outside of patronage, care-giving or charity, AND residual
systems of property.

This is, of course, why Creative Commons appears so problematic. Besides
issues of a paradoxical inverted ownership model and of structured versus
unstructured commons, without any material compensation for artists, such
initiatives are more invested in assisting the Law come to terms with
digital and networked technologies (copying-machines), than with
supporting cultural production per se (Lessig is very clear on this

Just as a side-note, the Venture-Communism project interests me a lot in
this respect, since it's at least willing to experiment with figuring out
ways that artists can autonomously make a living under networked
conditions. Dmytri Kleiner’s overview: “Venture Communism is an investment
model designed to be a form of revolutionary worker's struggle. The
Venture Commune is a type of voluntary worker's association, designed to
enclose the productivity of labour and enable the possibility of the
collective accumulation of Land and Capital, which, in the endgame, will
eventually allow the workers to buy the entire world from the
Capitalists.” http://www.telekommunisten.net/WhatIsVentureCommunism

OK, to move along now to the introductions, it’s my pleasure to invite
Femke and Pierre from Open Source Publishing, and Mat and Andrew from
Fibreculture to the list. Following the debates this week around OA, we'd
like to also draw attention to the complexities of informational design
underpinning experimentations with digital publishing. This has already
been gestured to in a post by Joost Kircz, since the rise of e-books
suggests a return to the weird kinds of media objects that characterized
the hypertext and multimedia CD-ROM era. More pragmatically, there’s new
questions of open fonts, the rapidly expanding field of informational
visualization and database management to consider, along with effective
architectures for collaboration (i.e. Liquid Books, the Institute for the
Future of the Book).

Again, a lot to talk about! By way of drawing the discussion to a close
over the next few days, however, there might be relevant links for all
contributors here: from the design of software-enabled technologies as
reading devices, neurological/affective intensities, to questions of
access, control and economics, I look forward to reading your posts!


Pierre Huyghebaert <http://www.speculoos.com> Exploring several practices
around graphic design, he currently drives the studio Speculoos. He is
interested in using free software to re-learn to work in alternate ways
and collaboratively on cartography, type design, web interface, schematic
illustration, teaching and book design.

Andrew Murphie is associate professor at University of New South Wales in
the School of English, Media and Performing Arts. His research interests
include media philosophy and sociology; social impact of models and
practices of mind from cybernetics to neuroscience; electronic arts, music
and design; open access publishing and education; continental philosophy,
cultural theory; digital humanities. He has a special interest in
Guattari, Deleuze and Whitehead, and post-connectionist theories of
thinking processes. He is the founding editor of The Fibreculture Journal
(running since 2003, now published by the prestigious Open Humanities
Press), and a member of the editorial boards of Performance Paradigm,
Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture, and Scan. He is
involved in research with the Senselab in Montréal, and with Kolding
Design School in Denmark, where he was a guest Professor in December,
2009. He is currently a Chief Investigator (with Anna Munster) on an
Australian Research Council Discovery Project, 2007-2010: Dynamic Media:
Innovative Social and Artistic Developments in New Media in Australia,
Britain, Canada and Scandinavia since 1990.

Femke Snelting <http://snelting.domainepublic.net/> is an artist and
designer residing in Brussels, developing projects at the intersection of
design, feminism and free software. Together with Renee Turner and Riek
Sijbring, she forms De Geuzen <http://www.geuzen.org/> (a foundation for
multi-visual research). Femke is member of Constant
<http://www.constantvzw.org/> and participates in Samedies
<http://samedi.collectifs.net/>, femmes et logiciels libres. With Pierre
Huyghebaert and Harrisson, she initiated the design and research team Open
Source Publishing <http://ospublish.constantvzw.org/> (OSP).

Mat Wall-Smith is a media theorist and experimentalist with several years
experience in sound design and as a lecturer in media studies at
University of New South Wales, Sydney. He is currently writing a PhD about
ecologies of thought, affect and technology drawing on the philosophical
work of Brian Massumi and Bernard Stiegler. He is a member of the
Fibreculture Journal editorial committee.


Michael Dieter
School of Culture and Communication
University of Melbourne

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