‘Mini interviews’ with Panel leads and keynote speakers

1. David Bollier

2. William Uricchio

3. Kate Theimer

4. John Ellis

1. David Bollier (August 29th)

Q: What are your expectations of this third edition of Economies of the Commons?

DB: I hope to learn more about specific revenue models that can support commons-based management of resources; innovative projects that take full advantage of distributed creativity and networking technologies; and some analytic principles for understanding the ways that market and non-market forms of provisioning can coexist and actually help each other.

Q: What is your vision on the commons?

DB: The commons has the potential to become a robust sector of self-organized governance and resource management spanning diverse sectors of everyday life. It can feasibly manage countless natural resources, civic activities, culture and digital spaces. But given the presumption in most industrialized societies that only the market can generate wealth and progress, and that the state’s primary mission is to help advance these goals, the great challenge facing commoners is to develop new legal, technological, social mechanisms that can protect their commons from market enclosures. This, in turn, will require a new appreciation for commoning, the social practices and ethic of making a commons.

Q: Why should the digitalized data of cultural archives be openly available?

DB: The digital data of cultural archives constitutes a kind of public infrastructure that morally or legally belongs to everyone, especially since it is a non-rivalrous resource that can be used and re-used without being depleted. Opening digital archives to broad general use generates much greater value for society than keeping them closed and quasi-proprietary. Our challenge is to change our mindsets so that we can get beyond narrow institutional priorities and habits; to regard archives as enabling infrastructures for unimagined new types of creativity and economic development; and to develop new legal principles and revenue models to support this vision.

Q: What does, in your opinion, a sustainable future for the digital archive look like?

DB: Digital archives must develop new sorts of ongoing, symbiotic relationships with artistic communities, civil society, digital innovators and business enterprises as the foundation for a new ecosystem of value-creation. For their part, these user communities, directly and through government, must step up to support digital archives as commons. This means participating in the life and development of digital archives as well as helping meet their economic costs as public infrastructures of unique cultural, civic and economic importance.

2. William Uricchio (September 20th)

Q: What are your expectations of this third edition of Economies of the Commons?

WU: I look forward to completing the cycle of thought that began in 2008 with sorting out the various implications of the audiovisual ‘commons’, continued in 2010 with figuring out how to make it both economically sustainable and ‘open’, and now moves on to the larger question of the future of culture.  The future of culture – what could be a more engaging topic??  The contours of cultural change are increasingly clear: vastly expanded access to cultural data, technologically-enabled innovations, newly empowered participants….  But the challenges to ‘business as usual’ are as terrifying as the future is exciting.  I expect eC3 to provide perspective, to offer diverse vantage points from which we can strategize our next moves.

Q: What is your vision on the commons?

WU: The ‘commons’ is very much a creature of a culture in transition.  Its historical demarcation hearkens back to the early acceleration of individual ownership in the 16th Century when the commons suddenly became ‘special’; and its invocation today coincides with the emergence of new property logics.  We need the commons as a historical precedent to give form to a nostalgic ambition – a past to help guide our future.  And it’s a noble and worthy ambition.  But beneath it, I suspect, is a much larger process of cultural change … a process that could have transformative implications for our ideas about the proper allocation of resources.

Q: What does, in your opinion, a sustainable future for the digital archive look like?

WB: A sustainable future is a future built upon the demands of a people for access to their culture, their public memories, their right to participate in a culture of their own making.  We see increasing signs of people shaking off the notion of culture as a mere commodity, a disposable accessory, and I think anything we can do to accelerate this trend spells long term sustainability for the digital archive.  We need to embrace this in our educational practices and in our public debates.  We need to fight for it.  We need to use it. A public without a memory and without its culture is too terrifying to contemplate!

3. Kate Theimer (September 26th)

Q: What are your expectations of (this third edition of) Economies of the Commons?

KT: Since this will be the first Economies of the Commons conference I have attended, I am looking forward to learning more about the Images for the Future project and considering issues related to the “economies of sharing.” Economic issues are rarely given prominence in discussions of digitization, so I hope to learn more about how to establish viable frameworks. My own panel will focus on ‘re-imagining the archive,’ and I am sure the fellow speakers will present ideas that will challenge me to think more creatively in my own reimagining.

Q: Why should the digitalized data of cultural archives be openly available?

KT: Cultural archives represent the history and legacy of all people and so should be as openly available as possible. The information in archives supports scholarship, economic enterprise, artistic and creative endeavors, and personal growth and fulfillment. Access to the archives of other countries and cultures can help us better understand each other’s histories and environments. The material in archives can also support efforts as diverse as promoting social justice and understanding global environmental changes. For all these reasons, making the contents of cultural archives openly available can help make the world a better and more informed place.

Q: How can the archivists’ voice get heard in the struggle with the international copyright policy formation process?

KT: The first step in being heard is being present. Archival organizations need to commit resources so that their representatives can attend meetings of groups such as WIPO. Having a presence at these meetings will help open doors and also let the industries know that they cannot operate in secret. Archival organizations must also coordinate internationally, both because IP policy is now international and because all our organizations are operating with increasingly limited financial resources.  Our voices will also be louder if we join with partners outside of archives who share our interests and concerns, many of whom may not be our traditional library and history allies. To create these kinds of new partnerships, archivists need to have a presence where the issues are being discussed.

Q: What does, in your opinion, a sustainable future for the digital archive look like?

KT: The outlook for a sustainable future for digital archives is a very challenging one. Any consideration of a sustainable future must take into consideration economic resources as well as environmental ones. I think long term preservation of digital archives will require collaborative and cooperative solutions, created with the assistance of industry, government, and cultural partners. Any sustainable future will also depend upon providing easy access and generating broad public interest. Effectively communicating the value of the archives and getting people to actively engage with them will be essential to ensuring their continued survival.

4. John Ellis (September 27th)

Q: What are your expectations of this third edition of Economies of the Commons?

JE: As it’s my first conference, I’ll be learning. Also meeting old friends. Also being stimulated to fresh thoughts.

Q: Why should the digitalized data of cultural archives be openly available?

JE: 1) This is our heritage and our history. We cannot be cut off from this history. We need to see and hear; to remember, learn and rethink. 2) We need to have sounds and images that are as easily available as print now is. 3) The future needs new works informed by history, interpreting history and bringing history alive. So we need the raw material for that process. 4) The future also needs works that reuse existing images in ways that have not yet been imagined. Cultural archives are the raw material for that process, too.

Q: How can the archivists’ voice get heard in the struggle with the international copyright policy formation process?

JE: At the moment, copyright is the norm, but it has recognized exceptions. A simple proposition is to reverse the process: open access should be the norm, and copyright should be the exception. Copyright should be something that creators/owners choose to opt into rather than have as a given. Apart from that, archivists know two key things better than anyone else: the amount of preserved material that never gets used because of copyright; and the vast waste of effort that goes into the everyday search for rights holders. These two facts demonstrate that the current system does not work to anyone’s advantage in the vast majority of cases. Archivists have valuable evidence in a debate that is dominated by evidence-free assertions.

Q: What does, in your opinion, a sustainable future for the digital archive look like?

JE: An endless process of backing up! Or, to be serious, a process of improving metadata and search provision so that the material can find its users.


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