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
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
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.