Friday, January 05, 2007

Allmansratt (Every Person's Right) and the Global Commons

I wrote something in response to a UK Green Poltician talking about Pirate Bay in Sweden:

New Statesman - Sian's been very naughty

This is what I wrote:

There is a very Green issue underlying this. Sweden has held out legally partly because of a different tradition in relation to commons and public goods in Swede.

Sweden has a very specific Scandinavian idea of land ownership. "Everybody's right" means that land that others own can be used by you for certain purposes, including walking over it, camping out and picking berries etc...

This is partly because Sweden is a huge land area with a tiny population, and partly because they are a deeply socialist bunch.

Anyway, hopefully Pirate Bay brings a sense of the commons to the zone of culture, and we can loosen the stranglehold of ownership a little.

What emerges from this for me is that if you want to start a global commons movement, it is a good idea to begin with the politics of copyright, and then extend the debates to ownership in general.
This is an issue that young peple understand (the MP3 generation) and it illustrates perfectly the limitations of private ownership.

Indeed in Sweden there is allready an anti-copyright party. Could this become a movement for Global reform of ownership, and the democritisation of the Global Commons?

This is an area where MP3 politics and Green politics intersect, so it is something that will draw people from many directions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too made comment to Sian Berry's post but would see the issue differently I think. The issue that I would contend is the implicit assumption that 'culture' must necessarily be equated in terms of mass weight - ie this global digital network of Mp3 etc - this gadget, that gadget and the next. Keep buying, keep downloading - must have - must see. But ubiquity doesn't imply value, nor does it imply culture. So WHAT actually is being fought over? how does it enrich us? DOES it enrich us? The frenzy of 'must have' serves only the media giants. It serves their myth that THEIR product is OUR culture - and we must have. This isn't a landscape being fought over - its U2, Cliff Richard and Robbie Williams. How enriching is that? Nor is it the loss of copyright that these moguls really fear. What they fear is the loss of our cooperation. 'The emperor has no clothes' so instead can we not find value and culture that doesn't necessarily involve their product. The copyright stranglehold is easily negated :- stop buying - stop investing it with some kind of cultural gravitas that it barely deserves. There are other choices. And this I think is the truly Green issue. Their are local cultures of language, art and music struggling to survive. Green economy is meant to be the economy of scale and of human worth. And this strikes at the very heart of what we call 'culture'. I won't go on!! But there are other choices by which we give our lives a sense of meaning and cohesion. The power to disenfranchise the huge media networks is here and now. Shrug and walk away.

2:35 AM  
Blogger DanT said...

You have a point here. But the loss of our co-operation is not the only issue.

Baudrillard put forward that case that our indifference is what power fears most. He felt that the crucial issue was our participation in mindless commercialism, but if we walked awy from that the it owuld solve the problem.

But he is overlooking two things. Firstly that the modern economy actualy requiires less participation. High productivity means that less people are employed. Also the global democratic deficit menas that national level democracy has become less meaningful.

Meaning that the powerful need us to participate less. Shruggin our shoulders is not enough, we need to change the game, and reclaim meaning in our lives. Green issues are about reclaiming the planet we live on. In the same way as we were asked to reclaim public space by 'reclaim the streets' so should we ' reclaim the planet.'

3:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't disagree at all with that. 'Shrug and walk away' was the wrong term. I mean more fully - walk towards different choices.

I'm a painter so perhaps see this as a more spiritual than political issue. A life's 'Meaning' can't be legislated from above (religion notwithstanding!!), yet huge swathes of society, it seems, are willing to allow it to be exactly that. I can only paint, nothing more: offer my cultural choice. This isn't less participation, it's more - more searching and more questioning: Who defines culture? What does it represent to me? If this planet has ever left us, it was taken whilst we slept. And this can only be a personal impression, but to hand the word 'culture' to Hollywood/the internet et al, is a type of sleep. This was my concern. Culture is assuredly in need of being reclaimed - but do we find it in Hollywood, Apple, EMI etc.? They'd like us to believe so.
Art is a hugley pwerful and motive force - unseen and dark - it demonstrates meaning. Perhaps the same CAN be said of the Mp3 culture, but to me it smells more like chloroform.

1:07 PM  
Blogger DanT said...

That is very interesting. What you say actaully cuts to the core of the theoretical work I've been doing in the Anthropology of Media.

That was about the tension between agency and information. But what you say about art is quite right. It is almost like marx put it, with alienation. it is importan that you can see yourself reflected back in the world.

Not invisible, as in mass culture, only an observer. And not static, as in a photo of yourself. But dynamically, as you express yourself through creation.

It is a lack of this, I would say, that has put us to sleep. So many of our representations are "information" that is fixed and not something we are supposed to modify. So we inhabit realities that we are largely cut off from.

However, the MP3 generation is not as passive as you might assume. There is quite a lively culture of ripping things off and transforming them: A kind fo remix culture. And judging by my old student's union, and the stuff I find on the net, they are more activist than any generation since 68.

So I agree with you wholeheartedly, but urge you not to underestimate people's energy. It is part of the media machine to ignore such things that might give us hope for change.

3:18 PM  
Blogger DanT said...

Here is an example of what I mean:

But maybe I am assuming too much, is this what smells of chloroform?

3:24 PM  
Anonymous luddite said...

No, not at all chloroform! (Even to this Luddite!).
However I remain concerned about the sheer pace and quantity of information that these media can generate (and their ubiquity). Jung made the point of mankind’s relative infancy and fragility of consciousness; and developmental psychology in children must give some cause for concern.
Nature has a pace that our invention might outstrip, but at what cost? There’s a danger (perhaps) of dissociation from nature. The future resource of imagination – encouragement and time to reflect/daydream – seems to face a threat. (not least in our schools)
Art can be crucially healing in this respect, but the organic gestation of idea and realisation can only benefit from a space to grow. Of itself, copyright law is of no concern to me. Art will be made. It finds a way, Re The very worst – Nazi Germany. And of course copright IS being exploited (whisper Bono!). But with respect to Sian Berry’s article, the premise of still MORE art, to keep us paying our way, doesn’t seem helpful. Some processes can’t be forced. Instead, might Green politics focus upon art/culture in its diversity of choice – forms with different emphases of time and ambition; forms that might heal dissociation, AND challenge some media monopolies. (I’m clearly biased!!)
No, I don’t lose hope! It’s certainly a time of great transition, so much to be played out.
Anyway, best of luck with your research.

4:20 AM  

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