Openness, Freedom, Culture & Creativity

There is a growing discourse about what openness and freedom means in the contemporary context. This is the thematic question guiding the OpenCities unconference scheduled for June 23rd and 24th.

My new friend David Eaves joined us for the most recent OpenCities organizers meet-up. David is a remarkable fellow, extremely bright and talented, who shares my interests in public policy and the lessons to be learned from open source software. Add him to your feeds.


David Eaves’ recent post, If you only read one book – make it Free Culture, highlights the stakes in a beautifully succinct way:

If we are moving from an information society to a creativity society (as argued by the likes of Max Wyman in Defiant Imagination and Richard Florida in Rise of the Creative Class) then determining who is allowed to be creative, and how they are allowed to be creative, is possible the most important question confronting us. It’s answer will determine not only the rules of our economy, but the shape and nature of our culture and communities.

Read David’s review.

If you don’t know Lawrence Lessig’s work, go no further. Watch his classic Free Culture presentation. Summing up his main argument:

  1. Creativity and innovation always builds on the past;
  2. The past always tries to control the creativity that builds on it (through copyright);
  3. Free societies enables the future by limiting the past (by limiting copyright);
  4. Ours is less and less a free society.

Lessig’s Free Culture is an important starting point for a social, cultural, economic and political conversation that is increasing vocal and that is already breaking out of the hard core of those interested in the obscurities of intellectual property law. As a larger and larger slice of the population embrace the technology tools for self-expression, this debate will continue to rise to the surface of public discourse.

And there are many related debates – it’s not just about copyright. It’s also about Net Neutrality. It’s about public space.

The relatively obscure copyright debate between activists and industry lobbyists masks a bigger shift in the tectonic plates of society. Today’s copyright debate is a weak signal of something bigger beneath the surface: an emerging new paradigm of knowledge and creative development, cultural expression, economic production and political participation.

Comprehending how this new paradigm is colliding with the old and understanding the forces unleashed at the points of collision, is one of the greatest (and most fascinating) challenges in business, politics, policy and academia today. But where can the conversation begin to meet the everyday reality of most people?

OpenCities says it happens in our local communities with an open conversation among peers. Join the conversation on June 23rd, 2007.

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