Utopias battlefield

Legal proposals reflect not only current citizens concern but also try to create better environment for future generations. That’s why they inevitably become a battleground not only for present interests but also different utopias, to which the parties involved into debate strive for. Therefore the compromise is very hard to achieve and require broader reflection then only economical or strictly legal. Unfortunately those two dominate public debate (not only) about copyright law. An anthropological input can be relativization and historicalization of the ideas activated in the debate. For example such modern categories as „an individual property” or „an ownership of idea’s expression” belong to axiological system that is quite unique in global perspective.

Others than global North’s systems are based on broad commons domain and barely recognize the need to impoverishment of public resources by extrapolation cultural works from it. Unfortunately global South’s countries are now forced to implement the system dominated by the extraneous ideas. It is widely known problem, especially in an aspect of intellectual property in Africa and India. But this conflict can be also observed in my country, Poland, because of our experience of communist time – quite liberal regarding to copyright. Public ownership of media and culture was a part of state ideology, so a lot of people can not accept that their cultural heritage founded by society during 45 years is now unavailable because of copyright (mainly there is uncertain who is a right holder). On the other hand, part of society accepts „sacred right of property” as a main rule and experiences its questioning as a return to an oppressive ideology of ancien regime. When those two options meet it is very hard to communicate. Copyfighters should find a language to present own ideas to people who are not on the same page regarding critical reflection over neo-liberalism and over-consumption. One of the solution is in-politicization of the discussion and redirecting it to the ground of emotions, relationships etc.

But in such case there is usually another disagreement regarding to general humankind philosophy: leftists idea is that people do evil or follow wrong ideology because they are uninformed, non-educated or badly raised.  The right oriented people are convinced that human beings are bad by design and had to be curbing by law and other norms. So it’s hard to find common ground in this discussion also.

Another way could be focusing on such a value as freedom because of its wide recognitions and imprecise definition. This is a strategy that worked during Stop Acta protests but is efficiency is  limited in the long run.

Copyright and economy

There are two arguments often used to protect idea of copyright: it encourages artists to activity and supports new business models of creative sector. Lot of bullshit.  The idea that an artist need to be encouraged to create is total misunderstanding of our natural need to create which, in case of artist, is kind of compulsion he/she cannot reject. So there is no sens to reduce human creativity to economic incentives. They don’t need incentives, although of course they should be payed for their work. But there is no need to provide copyright law for that. Artist were payed for their work before Statute of Ann was signed – and still are (like painters who gain money from selling their pictures without selling copyrights to them or performance artists for shows). IMO state policy should strongly support cultural activity of their citizens –  both artist and non-artist. But copyright law is not about paying, it is about control other than right-holder’s use of cultural content (read: https://digitalrightsgonzo.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/162/).



Source: wikipedia.org

This argument that artists need to be financially encouraged to create is typical for economic point of view (recently economy made the top of mine enemies list, joining psychology and sociology ’cause of this stupid category of „rationality” that is based on :) ) The idea that all human behavior can be interpreted as „do ut des” is wrong. No matter what is a object of transaction – money, seashells or prestige. I don’t buy simplification of  all social relationships to this functional level. Even exchange is not only about it. We had those discussion in anthropology many years ago. Malinowski and Mauss argued about an institution of a gift. Mauss was right – reciprocity is just a part of the gift-exchange but it enables the realization of many other purposes aimed at the benefit of the whole community. But Malinowski was also right that social behaviors (like gift-exchange) are based on a deep needs of individuals (like sharing) which are expressed in specific frames of a culture. They were writing about Inuis’ and Triobrands’ institutions but their conclusions are more general. We do a lot of things without expecting a reciprocity. Joy, fun, altruism, generosity, ambition, a desire for self-realization (do not forget about ennui!) are equally compelling reasons to take action as the expectation of financial profit.


Copyright is supposed to support artists but in fact it works to their disadvantage. If you are a young artist now it means that people we’ll be able to legally share your work with friends, translate it into other languages or remix it without asking for permission in… 22nd century. And this is much more probable that nobody will know you at that time because of copyright regime lasting  through more then 100 years after work was done.

If we are focused on creative sector – it is a different story than art, this is about lifestyle (design, fashion etc) and pop culture. But even though there is no sense to encourage production if you strongly limit access to the results of that production. So you need to release a lot of copyrighted material, not only as a marketing tool and samples. But copyright doesn’t help you in this, you have to use all your power (=money and lobbying) to sustain  restrictions to access and use of your products. I think that HADOPI is a good example how efficient they are, 1,5 million Euro, one case. So much about rationality and economy :)

Photo: Picture of Bronislaw Malinowski with natives on Trobriand Islands in 1918.Author unknown (maybe Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wmalinowski_triobriand_isles_1918.jpg

For our sake

I’ve just seen few episodes of US tv series „Castle”. It’s about criminal investigations leaded by the writer and homicide detective with an increasing support of new technologies. The scheme of the episodes is similar – the body was found, they have to find the killer. They start from a detailed reconstruction of the last days of the victim. So they analyze data from bank account statements, videos from  ATMs monitoring, phone records, information about card payments, street monitoring, geolocalization etc. This is really impressive how much information about every day life of common citizens are gathered. One could be anxious, but int the series all that surveillance machinery is presented as acting on our favor. You may even think that it makes our life more secure, because by monitoring, for example, you can identify the killer. Even though monitoring on the show have not yet saved anyone, because the police are watching it AFTER the victim was killed.

I watched whole season but didn’t find any reference to privacy issues or possible abuses of the surveillance technology. Servility of the American movie and tv production to the ideology promoted by the state is well known, this is just another example. I found it noteworthy because this is a sign that pop culture joined the war against whistleblowers  like Snowden. And the power of pop culture influence on common thinking should not be underestimated. This reflection starts with frankfurter’s school and still is developing. Very interesting insights came from Tim Edensor’s reflection over how pop culture builds nationalism (in ‚National Identity, Popular Culture and Everyday Life’). I think we  can easily and legitimately transpose it on the other fields – like privacy issues. He make a good point in the discussion about roots of nationalism. Most of the previous authors argued if it comes from the elites, state or grassroots activism but he showed how the material  and pop culture shape our identity (you may find it close to Michael Billing’s idea of ‚banal nationalism’). But what is important here it is the indication Edensor made about the close connection between an ideology that supports the State and role of the pop culture that is only seemingly entertaining.

Just think how different is the position of surveillance in the ‚Castle” series that in candid camera format. The old one taught us that new tech can be dangerous for our privacy and we should be careful with them, the new one is the opposite, it is just a pure apologia of the big brother’s system. But during the cold war tracking citizens was supposed to be enemy’s malpractice, not the good ones’.

celebrating diversity

I had quite interesting afternoon. First I listened to Bruno Latour, one of the most significant anthropologist, philosopher and science sociologist of our times (the title of speech was: ‚How to use Occam Razor to multiply ontological templates’). Then I was taking part, for the first time in my life, in Buddhist lecture provided by James Low. Latour was presenting his ideas about “so called Modern”, Nature vs. Culture myth and his new project of digital humanity (it’s a issue for another post). James was talking about it how Tibetan Buddhism can help us to deal with anxiety. There is significant connection between those two lectures because both of them are based on the strong critic of Western beliefs about themselves and their civilization.

 /I must make a confession now. In order to celebrate diversity – Frenchman speaking English (oh, it’s so hot) in old Tsarist building for young Polish students & Scotsman teaching Tibetan Buddhism under the Oceania totem (it was in Museum of Asia and Pacific) – I made a Malibu drink, so if you will find rest of this post not so clear don’t blame me./

 I didn’t find Latour lecture very revealing but it is just because I studied his works for a whole semester, so I’m familiar with them. Shortly speaking Latour redirect our scientific inquiry from Others to Ourselves and found very interesting assumptions that were invisible before:

– he postulate the symmetry in anthropology. While we decide to research ourselves in context of nature and culture, it is obvious that we should focus on our distinguish (and distinctive) Science. We believed (in very non-logic) fantasy that although there are different cultures but (with all the respect) there is only one (guess which one) tradition that have strong connection with objective reality. Other words, we can accept the relativity of our culture but we are sure that only we know the Nature, they have just their imaginable ethno-natures.

– he researched the moment in out history when subject-object distinction was settled (17 c.). He also show consequences of this division (hierarchy!) for our thinking about the world and our, human, place it it („crown of creation” is one of them). This is much deeper questioning of our culture than Derrida’s because Latour reject totally the idea of subject and object while deconstructionists stuck in it .

– this leads him to ‚the collective’ and actor-network theory (ANT), which I find with huge gratitude because finally I got some theory to use in analyzing my research of Polish Jewish communists :) Shortly speaking ANT is based on the philosophical vision of …/pause for Malibu#2/… the relations between so called objects (like humans) and subjects (animals, microbes, phenomenons, material entities) – how they are connected and how they influence mutually. Latour reject the idea that being object or a subject is a constant attribute. He pointed that it only results from the perspective that we took. Each entity has a potential to be as much a subject as an object. /OMG what they give those cows to drink, this milk is so strong/

If you know something about Buddhism you probably already guess that it is the moment when I found connection between Latour’s and James Low’s lecture. They share this perspective of our unstable identity, just adjust it to the different levels of our reflection over the human condition and being in the world. So, as James explained, we can only recognize our vulnerability for the influence of other entities but we cannot close our doors for it. As he said, there is no way that we can look through the whole and decide: oh, this is nice experience, I let it in, oh, this one is upsetting, let them soaked outside. Everything is shaping our fantasy about ourselves, even buildings and smells (this is exactly what Latour called collective), so there is no use to struggle for stable identity. There is no use to maintain our attention on preventing changes. We’d better learn how to stay open for a different experiences that will inevitably come. So this is all about multiplicity, again.

weapon of – not so now – weak

James C. Scott – great anthropologist, almost unknown in Poland, now the most inspiring for me. He researched i.a. the Zomia, great Asian territory, last one on our planet without real state power over local communities (and huge as whole Eastern Europe). He defines such tactics of peasants like indolence, laziness, denial as the weapons of the weak, kind of passive resistance without politicizing. I guess it is close to anarchists interpretation of modern kind of rent strike which is common in Poland where lot of people just don’t pay theirs bills and loans. Suppose that it will be very useful in Web researching too :)