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Creative Industries: from properties to relationships.
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by Rob van Kranenburg 23 Intellectual Property

If you are a scientist you believe that it is good to find out how the world works, that it is good to find out what the realities are, that it is good to turn over to mankind at large the greatest possible power to control the world... It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe that the knowledge of the world, and the power which this gives, is a thing which is of intrinsic value to humanity, and that you are using it to help in the spread of knowledge, and are willing to take the consequences.
-- J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967)

One of the most intriguing aspects of Bauhaus is that the most successful unit, – the unit coming ‘closest to Bauhaus intentions’, as Gropius stated, the pottery workshop – was located 25 kilometers from Weimar, in Dornburg. It was hard to reach by train, and hard to reach by car. The workshop master Max Krehan owned the workshop, so there was a business interest from the start. The relationship with Marcks , the Master of Form, was not contaminated with formalized roundtable discussions, but was a productive twoway (abstract-concrete) interrelationship.

“More important still, in terms of what Gropius hoped for the entire Bauhaus, was the way in which the pottery workshop operated in close co-operation with the local community in which it found itself. It made pots for the community and the town of Dornburg leased the workshop a plot of land which the students used for vegetables and on which, it was hoped, they would build.” Whitford, Frank, Bauhaus, Thames & Hudson, 1984, p. 73-4

So what can we learn from this? That we must not aim to define, alter or transform practices, processes, places or people. The aim should be to define a vision. A vision that should be able to inspire and empower people in their concrete experience of agency in this seemingly undesignerly new world, towards a humanistic and optimistic positive attitude in the role, function and leadership of the creative individual in his and her capability to make sense, to work within an uncertain framework of unforeseen consequences, unintended uses, and procedural breakdown.

One of the key elements in the nurturing of a climate in which small entrepreneurs, corporate structures, smart citizens (as in wired citizens) and buying and or exporting power, create an overtone that one might call a cultural economy, is the kind and quality of the relationship between formal and informal structures.

This explains why it is so very hard to ‘script’ or to top down dictate the appearance of a creative industry. The history of the two most successful and indepent Dutch media labs, V2 and Waag Society for Old and New Media show traces of oppositional groups, organic growth, strong personal networks, deep theoretical roots and very little planning in the sense of what is recognized as planning in the big projects that are hosted and developed by the Dutch Ministery of Economy.

The decisive factor in the development of a successful creative industry in a western European context will be the development of a new economic agency, tools to operate within an ultra connected environment (ubicomp, RFID, biometrics), tools that have to compete with a vital individual agency to act and become more independent from state and corporate institutions (do it yourself, get your medication online, bypass the middlemen).

These new tools need to be informed by the realization that we have moved from an economy of properties to an economy of relationships. Any object that is standalone nowadays, is simply not visible. It is not the individual properties of an object that have value, no, it is the kind and quality of the relationships that it has with other objects that determines its value.

It is therefore that the IP battles fought at this moment are so irrelevant for 21th century possibilities of economic policy agency. Winners are those who can move away from the ideas of property rights and patents over things and licenses to adapt specific modules for services, as money making models. At the Contested Commons Conference (Sarai/CSDS, Delhi, January 2005) an impressive number of voices argued to go beyond Creative (some rights reserved) Commons, as this way of operating leaves the fundamental notions of individual ownership and individual rights to specific ideas a person might conjure up, intact. Apart from the facts that the notion of ‘originality’ is a specific historic constellation – for in a networked world all nodes draw upon the same published data -, that this idea of being ‘the first’ in or with something is a specific western historic sociocultural constellation as if this is of any matter in our over mediatized globally networked environment.

That these notions should underly a vision of trade in an age of ubicomp and locative persavise computing in which any businessmodel (from Microsoft to Nokia to the iPod) is vulnerable, seems not only very unproductive, but also extremely unwise.

The default in vibrant cities like Bangalore and New Delhi is the unplanned, the illegal, and the pirated. The majority of architecture is unplanned, creole, and organically tuned to doing business because of the clustering of business interest. Directly against western economic policies of spreading business interest so as to avoid direct competition, in Bangalore and Delhi we find “the old clustering story”but now with realization that customized infrastructure seems fundamental:

As the system of patent and intellectual property rights is crumbling in high tech western countries, corporations such as Philips sponsor IP Faculties in China.

Instead of regressing back into an untenable situation that cripples creativity and the kind of link management that is required for a creative cultural sustainable economy, China and India both would do well to take a leap forward away from licenses and individual property rights to new forms of scripting solidarity between producers and consumers, citizens and policy, money and power.

A design for commoning, for living together locally in a globally connected world, that seems to be the new challenge and agency in a cultural economy policy. For this to happen, policy needs to find new ways of presenting its data and information. Instead of talking about solidarity, it should talk about friendship. Instead of talking about profit, it should talk about sustainability. Instead of talking about sustainability, it should talk about the trades and the quality of work of artisans and small entrepreneurs. It should get rid of the essay, the report, the document and start cross media content in visual, narrative documentary productions. It should reduce the cycle of producing clear information for SME and lone entrepreneurs by adopting rapid prototyping and demo or die research strategies. It should plan, provide and pay for the infrastructure as broadband and wireless have become basic human rights, not outsource infrastructural demands to an open market.

This cripples progress and a creative industry. It should plan only the outlines of the wildest vision imaginable, all else is letting go.

You can find more about 'the future of Ideas - Intellectual Property' in the Books and Links section.

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