Home | About Me | Photos | Writing | Research | Scratchpad | Projects

scratchpad

A collection of random thoughts written in a blog-style, with primitive indexing.

I went to a policy research seminar at the Institute for Public Policy Research this Thursday. I don't want to write endlessly about the experience. Instead I just want to jot a few thoughts down about the subject - do we need to protect the public domain? Yes!

...

Several theorists that I have come across so far when reading about alienation emphasise concepts of self-realisation and objectification, suggesting that un-alienated work consists in achieving them both. Indeed, they could be synonymous. Other candidates for features of un-alienated work are autonomy, scope for creativity and curiosity, passion and a particular interface between the individual and the contact communities. But by looking at the Taoist understanding of self-realisation, I have come to suspect that all of these concepts can be described as features of self-realisation, which is the key to tackling alienation.

...

There's an interesting article in the Seattle Times' magazine about cognitive overload, brought about by trying to do too much at once. I find it interesting because it affects me; switching between email, essays, chat windows and whatever else I'm doing, I'm constantly working my brain on too many things, which means I'm constantly tired. I probably take about a week off each year, working months at a time without a proper day off. And because I do so many projects whilst trying to study several modules for my degree at any one time, I've got lots of things on my mind at any one time.

...

Often when I mention Free Software and Creative Commons to people they react as though it's a silly minor issue that I'm wasting my time on, considering the scale of problems like climate change, AIDS/HIV, Trade Justice, third world debt and poverty, etc. etc. So here are two reasons I've been mulling over for why Greens, Socialists and other progressives should support and even promote these issues.

...

Early this year I wrote to my local MP several times about copyright. One letter I wrote was in response to a government inititiative, the Music Manifesto, to give schools more money for music. I put forward the idea that one wonderful way of bringing music into schools was by encouraging more contemporary artists to release their work under Creative Commons licenses that allowed school children to modify and experiment with their work. My letter went as follows:

...

In starting to flesh out the Hacker Ethic as a subject of philosophical enquiry, I want to begin by working through the concepts of work and play. These two concepts are difficult to define; in some senses we think of work as being productive and play as being wasteful; or work as being something we begrudgingly do as a mean to an end, and play as something we happily do as an end in itself. A useful simplification of the Hacker Ethic might be to say that work and play can be considered the same activity, but with slightly different characteristics. Both are productive activity, but work is one that produces exchange value as well as the value to the individual and his/her productive community, whilst play is done simply for the immediate personal and community benefits.

...

I often write about the "free software movement". But what exactly is this movement, or does it even exist? If we consider the different reasons people have for using and advocating free software, it almost makes more sense to talk about a broad coalition of coherent movements who unite on one point only: a the advocacy of specific software products (e.g. Linux, OpenOffice.org and Mozilla Firefox). Consider the Open Source advocate who is interested in cheaper software for businesses, and perhaps in the development model Eric Raymond wrote about in The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Then contrast that advocate with myself, as an example of a Free Software advocate who is interested in deconstructing the so-called "Intellectual Property" system for the sake of an almost Marxist interpretation of freedom. If we were discussing any other issue, even within the technology world, I can imagine us completely disagreeing. So are we part of the same movement?

...

Recently I built up a ramshackle compost heap / bin out of scraps of wood I found in skips and dumps. Having spent a couple of weeks filling it with kitchen scraps and bits of cardboard, I thought I'd find out what the web has to tell me about composting. If you're thinking of the same thing, let me help you out: don't! Here's Tom's super-quick guide to the science of composting.

...

Wired have an absolutely fantastic article on Brazil's increasingly progressive stance on copyright and patents. From their fight with the drug czars over generic copies of patented AIDS drugs, to Gilberto Gil's advocacy of Creative Commons licenses for cultural works, to the unparalleled spread of Free Software in government agencies and civil society, Brazil is according to Stallman second to none. Only India comes close.

Reports Sans Frontieres have released a freedom of press index for 2004. The usual suspects are at the bottom (North Korea, Burma, China, Cuba). Iraq suffered because of the 44 journalists who died since the war began. Interestingly, the UK dropped to 28 because of an increase of threats from paramilitary groups (the index mentions no other problems), whilst the USA dropped but remains above the UK despite the arrests of journalists at anti-Bush demonstrations and the problems with privacy of sources.

Here's an excellent essay on the pressures journalists face in the mainstream media to tone down their line, or to simply lie, about subjects that are sensitive for the publishers. Given as a speech to the Enviromedia conference in Johannesburg, he largely speaks of his own experiences as well as referencing cases from the Torygraph and elsewhere.

Some thoughts from a session in the ESF's Solidarity Village. Most Free Software is based upon a gift economy. Bounties and exchanges of work in kind, combined with the practises of mentoring and commuting learning, place Hackers in a guild-like system. The fact that Hackers are willing to do a lot of their work with no compensation in a form recognised by today's financial markets, and yet create an exchange value recognised by those markets, opens them to the possibility of developing other kinds of markets with other kinds of compensation, within existing financial markets.

...

Intellectual Property is an unusually socialised property system, because its standard justification - that society gives a temporary monopoly to a creative person in return for the benefits of their work - is based upon society's rights not an individual's rights. That its standard justification is socialised is a contingent truth - it is conceivable that if could be defended, and constituted, in terms of an individual's rights and the state's duty to protect these rights. Indeed recent arguments from corporations who trade in IP take this approach. So if a property system already framed in terms of society's rights can be further communalised, and can provide increases in innovation and productivity as well as new benefits to the creative persons themselves, then it is surely a worthy candidate for the left to study?

...