Shoring uncertain times (11 January 2009)

Ollsson’s closed down. When I came regularly to Washington, it was at Ollsson’s that I bought the books that one can’t discover on Amazon, those you need to hold in your hands to know that you want to read them. It was a bookstore to my taste, with just the right share of science, politics, music and fiction, and in each a smart selection. There is still a good bookstore in the neighborhood, Kramer Books, crowded with Sunday brunchers. Kramer is nice, but not as good as Ollsson’s. Rumor is that the independent bookstores that resisted to franchises and on-line bookstores in environments like Washington, now close one after the other. I eat a salad in a sandwich store. Leonard Cohen. Suzanne but not your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm.

In the afternoon meeting for the preparation of a future event in Paris whose aim is to put in place a constructive dialogue between creative communities and consumers/users. It’s the continuation of a 2006 meeting that produced the Paris accord. When we meet again with the American friends who steer these efforts, the is always a moment a friction. It often manifests itself on issues of vocabulary. For a few hours one could fear us to be unable to go beyond these issues. Then, we are again aligned. Each has made a small step, all measure what can be obtained to defend the specificity of one’s vision and what is secondary in comparison to what we will gain from acting together.

I quickly realize that I will not be able to abstract myself in this diary from the substance of our activities here. At best, I can hope that other features will show through my narrative.

Thanks to the tenacity and talent of Jamie Love and of those he brought together, what I call the coalition for the commons was able to entirely reframe the debates on access to health and to knowledge. Whether for advancing together innovation and public health for all, or to defend the rights of all to produce, access and use software tools and knowledge resources, the achievements are impressive, even though a lot remains to be done. However in the domain of creative works and activities, we are still struggling to find the right levers, and I believe I understand why. In this domain, the matter is not just to correct some market failures or to remove the obstacles that prevent free/open source software or open access to deliver all their potential. It is not even a matter of inventing mechanisms to supplement or organize the market contribution to innovation as Jamie, Tim Hubbard and others are doing for medical R&D. We are faced with the perspective of a much more radical transition: the end of the brief domination of the media distribution industries on access to culture. The Americans (meaning the US here, Canada is quite different) have even more difficulty than us Europeans to face this transition. That’s of course because of the power of media distribution industries in the US, but that’s not the only factor. Some thinkers such as Eben Moglen have little hesitation, because their vision of a new era makes them accept the turbulences surrounding the world youth’s takeover on the distribution of culture. Others fear these turbulences, but they are even more reluctant to create the conditions for a more peaceful transition to a new era, because this calls for new relations between the economy and non-market activities. I believe this reluctance is a mistake. I will come back to this.

Dinner with the speakers of the coming conference on intellectual rights policies in the next 4 years. Lebanon-Indian restaurant. Cocktail-party effect (the perceptive and cognitive ability to focus -more or less- on a conversation in the midst of many others) and pleasure of finding back many friendly faces.

This post is also available in: French

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email is never shared.Required fields are marked *