left to right: J. P. Barlow, L. Lessig, G. Gil, G. Knox, M. smith, B. Kahle
Cultural Hotpots in Brazil (Pontos de Cultura): taking them glocal.
December 14 the Hewlett Foundation in Palo Alto, Californian, hosted a meeting to discuss the cultural hotspot program in Brazil and what steps will take it glocal through the establishment of a non-profit called the International Observatory of Digital Culture. Claudio Prado from the ministry of culture explained the existing program which began a few years ago, and with just $8 million has spread to more than 600 sites, about 150 of which are online. The emphasis is on providing recycled computers to the underserved, as well as open source software for multi-media production (sound, music, images), and for the participant to think of creating and uploading first, rather than consuming and downloading. This depends on broadband access to the Internet which some hotspots don't have. He said the program is not about the technology but for the participants to move ahead and to be happy as they create their own art and music. Gilbert Gil, the Minister of Culture was delayed by bad weather in Canada, and he arrived around lunch.
In the interim a panel, organized by Gordon Knox of the Montalvo Center for the Arts in Saratoga, California, addressed different issues and ideas. Mike Smith, who heads the education initiative at Hewlett, outlined the program on open education resources (which our Center at Santa Clara University is quite involved in) and how this might apply as they expand the program and perhaps try to replicate a hotspot in Africa or elsewhere. Remixing media is at the heart of these activities, and Smith noted that the remixing is a learning experience.
Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive gave a rundown of their activities: on demand printing, scanning out of copyright books, archiving as much of the Internet as possible since 1996(?), and the challenges of media management as one video format falls out of favor and for a short time a new one is used for archiving. Besides the archive in San Francisco (on a fault zone), he has placed one in Egypt (the stable middle east), and in Amsterdam (a flood zone). He is passionate about a very modest goal: using unlimited storage and bandwidth to make all the world's knowledge available to all at no cost.
Joel Slayton of Cadre, San Jose State University, reminded us that all these words we use (open, sharing, community, identity) have different meanings depending on the circumstances, and that we should not be romantic about this project. We need to look at new models of open source education and consider why networks cannot be autonomous.
Lawrence Lessig told the story of the highly paid lawyers at Universal going after a woman who had uploaded a video of her child dancing with the faint background music from Prince. What prompts such unbalanced efforts on the part of copyright holders?
Gil spoke after lunch and said his government tried to be unobtrusive in this program. They had made various discoveries including the existence of many Quilombola communities around the Brazil. These are the vestiges of slave communities which had been invisible to most Brazilians, and now they are telling their stories and recording their music.
Gordon Knox then opened the floor to questions and suggestions from the audience which numbered about forty. While there was an enthusiastic response to the meeting and the proposal, but at this meeting nobody stepped forward to take concrete action except Brewster Kahle who proposed having a contest for the hot spots and donated 10 $1,000 prizes for competitions. Gordon said they would probably start a blog, contact all those interested, and assemble further ideas and comments after the New Year. In February or March there would be another meeting of what might be a steering committee, and in March or April a trip to Brazil to see what is going on in some exemplary hotspots. At the Zero One festival in San Jose this summer the project would be formally launched.
There are a host of questions to answer, and in my work with a Latin American network of telecenters, somos@telecentros, there was not always agreement on how big a tent the network should be, or if it should be confined to those who shared a core set of values. For instance, if the observatory decides that the emphasis on free software is paramount, will hotspots using Adobe and Microsoft tools be welcome? While the emphasis is on combinations of media, mixing, and re-use, some indigenous and local groups see outside influences, including media, as corrosive to their own culture, nor do they want to always wish to share what they have created. How will groups such as these be accomodated?
Videos on the Pontos de Cultura:
The International Observatory of Digital Culture is not online at the time of this report.
Hewlett Foundation, open education resources