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<nettime> WOS 2: die neue aufrichtigkeit
Jim Carrico on Sun, 21 Oct 2001 01:48:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> WOS 2: die neue aufrichtigkeit


Greetings from the world's coldest rainforest, the world's largest
squatter's camp, a million square kilometers of unceded aboriginal land
that is neither british nor columbian. The icy downpour (a little early
this year!) is in stark contrast to sunny, balmy berlin, city of
construction sites, after-after-hours clubs, and international capitol of
cool, where we've been hangin with hipster intellectuals till dawn and
beyond.  (yo homes! respect to neven, mike, pit, erik, and sabine.)  The
occasion: the Wizards-of-OS 2 [1] conference, an attempt to focus an
amorphous worldwide movement which aims to apply the strategies of free
software to culture. Did it succeed? I would have to say no - but the lack
of answers is more than mitigated by the fact that finally we're asking
the right questions.

It starts with noticing that the most outrageous experiment in practical
anarchy ever attempted just happens to comprise the leading edge of the
most massively and suddenly successful communications medium in history,
but that this has so far had little influence on our 'social self-image'
as a species, outside a few tech enclaves.  Free software "works": can
other forms of creative expression evolve which draw from a similar
reservoir of seemingly untapped and unlimited resources? If open-ness, the
lack of central control, is good for software, is it also good for
writing, music, visual or virtual art of any kind? If not, why not?

No solid answers yet; no problem. As usual with these affairs, the
important stuff happens in the hallways and interzones, in the randomizing
churn of emergent behavour.

Some highlights:

The Sarai [2] project from New Delhi, inspired by the "public domain"  
waystations on the ancient caravan routes, aiming to create a 'digital
sarai' for collaborative, open, and exploratory art and communication. "
The free exchange of code, information and cultural products is central to
our conception of the digital public domain.  That is why we will
encourage everyone, scholars, practitioners and citizens at large, to
engage and enlarge this domain. For a society like India, where hierarchy,
inequality and control influence the production of ideas, a free software
culture is worth fighting for."

The life sharing [3] project from Bologna - an anagram of 'file sharing'
which extends this idea to it's ultimate limits: making literally
everything on their server publicly accessible, a virtual root account for
every visitor to their site - including access to all personal email etc -
read-only, but wide open all the same. What nerve!

A brief report on the now-defunct Luther Blissett [4] project, a "multiple
name" collaborative identity used by a nameless number of individuals for
purposes of radical intervention, which overtly connects the 'free
software' concept with situationist [5] notions of anti-copyright and
cultural insurrection.

And of course Michael Linton's LETS [6] system, an "open money" [7]
project that puts the "eco" back into "economics" by reinventing money as
community currency, a simple measurement of value ("imagine running out of
inches") backed by the reputation of the issuer.  They've been working for
about 20 years in a very practical way developing an economic model that
has been taken up by communities all over the world - there are thousands
of LETS networks, with hundreds of thousands of members. The next step is
to connect them all together.

A money system based on reciprocity and reputation may sound familiar to
anyone who has been following the debate on artist-friendly micropayment
systems on this and other sites over the last year or so - and indeed this
idea of a community currency is a very close fit with what we see as an
essential democratizing of the world's financial infrastructure.  It also
begins to approach Todd Boyle's ideas [8] about using shared accounting
systems (aka webledgers) to route around banks in our financial dealings
with one another.  Clearly, we need to start putting these ideas into

And dare we mention the panel on Collaborative Journalism hosted by Erik
Moeller of Infoanarchy [9], featuring Meg Hourihan, late of Blogger.com,
and Timothy Lord of Slashdot. On short notice, due to late cancellation, I
was offered the opportunity to present a talk on 'reciprocity and gift
culture', as a solution to the problem of finding and rewarding high
quality and high resonance writing, music or any other cultural product,
particularly in the context of p2p networks and ubiquitous access to
distribution. Notes to the talk are available at
http://potlatch.net/WOS/p2pj-1.html .

Despite occasional lapses into seemingly directionless discourse, WOS 2
was refreshingly free from irony, sarcasm, or smug self-satisfaction.  
Sept.11 and its aftermath have opened a portal into the hell dimension, a
whirling vortex of perpetual warfare that threatens to engulf history and
humanity. This adds a certain seriousness to everything we do, and social
experiments which tend to oppose this bleak scenario are now being
approached with a sense that the time for bullshitting is over - the "new
sincerity" is here.


1. http://wizards-of-os.org/

2. http://www.sarai.net

3. http://www.0100101110101101.org

4. http://lutherblissett.net/primer/ramp.html

5. http://nothingness.org/SI/index.html

6. http://www.gmlets.u-net.com/faq.html

7. http://www.openmoney.org

8. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/decentralization/message/4107

9. http://www.infoanarchy.org

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