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<nettime> IP and the City
Konrad Becker on Mon, 17 Oct 2005 13:27:05 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> IP and the City

below an editorial of the new World-Information infopaper... plus related links...

This Monday at Netbase, a pre-view on World-Information City "Billboard Call
Bangalore 2005" artists campaigning projects with Marina Grzinic, Ljubliana;
Elffriede, Vienna. And a panel discussion on IP and the City with Hanna Hacker,
Vienna; Felix Stalder, Zurich; Veronika Weidinger, Vienna

greetings, ->K


IP and the City

Restricted Lifescapes and the Wealth of the Commons

The booms, bubbles and busts of the digital networking revolution of the 90s have
ebbed into normality. The new logic of information economies is interacting with
the full range of social and political contexts, producing new systems of
domination but also new domains of freedom. It is now that from deep societal
transformations the new informational lifescapes start to emerge. 

Thus it has become necessary to highlight the strong normalizing forces that shape
this process. This is not just a question of abstract information policy. On the
contrary, the building of immaterial landscapes has very material consequences for
social, cultural and economic realities. With digital restriction technologies and
expanded intellectual property regimes on the rise, it is an urgent task to
develop new ways to protect and extend the wealth of our intellectual and cultural

Human life is physical and informational at the same time, our physical and
cultural dimensions are mutually constitutive. Their interrelations emerging from
historical and local context are now more than ever influenced by global
transformations in the info sphere. The term "globalization" describes a deep
change in how physical and informational spaces are organized and how they
intersect with one another to form landscapes, both physical and informational.
"Zoning", the establishment of domains governed by special rules, is a key concept
to understand these new landscapes. 

Physical space is increasingly fragmented into "export zones", special "safety
zones", VIP lounges at transportation hubs, gated communities, "no-go areas" and
so forth. Just when for the first time in history a majority of humanity lives in
cities, their form starts dissolving and is replaced by a patchwork of distinct
sectors. Every city has places that are fully global alongside others which are
intensely local, "first world" and "third world" are no longer regional
identifiers, but signify various patches within a single geographic domain. 

Informational landscapes are fragmented by similar processes. What used to be
relatively open and accessible cultural spaces are increasingly caved up in
special administrative zones, privatized claims of intellectual property, and
policed through the ever increasing scope of patents and copyrights. What comes
natural to people, to create, transform and share ideas, thoughts, and experiences
- as songs, as computer programs, as stories, as new processes how to make things
better - is being prohibited by proprietary claims of "data lords" who enforce
dominion over their own zones of the cultural landscape. This is accompanied by
intense propaganda efforts extolling the "evils" of sharing culture. There is no
trespassing, and while their culture is ubiquitous around the globe, we are more
and more restricted from making our own. 

Counter-movements that talk about the commons instead of proprietary zones have
been gathering strength around the globe. The goal is to devise new ways in which
information can flow freely from one place to another, from people to people.
Instead of deepening fragmentation, information and cultures are held to be a
resource produced and used collaboratively, rather than being controlled by
particular owners. People should be free to appropriate information as they see
fit, based on their own historical and personal needs and desire, rather than
having to consume the standardized products of McWorld. More than ever
informational commons, accessible under conditions of their own choosing, are
needed to help reconnect people bypassed by the standard flows of information and

In this paper, we bring together theoreticians and practitioners, artists and
lawyers, programmers and musicians who offer a diverse critique of the new regime
of physical and informational zoning. This collection of cultural intelligence
looks into alternative models of how to reinvent cultural practices based on a
collaborative plurality of commons and, perhaps, imbue fragmentation of space with
a new positive sense of shared differences. As each and every one of us produces
culture in the course of our daily lifes, we are forced to choose sides: do we, in
the myriad of small acts that constitute life in the information society, enforce
restrictions or enable access? 

Konrad Becker, Netbase/t0, Institute for New Culture Technologies

Felix Stalder, lecturer in Media Economics at the Academy of Art and Design,
Zurich, co-founder of openflows.org




World-Information City is part of an ongoing project between Bangalore, Delhi,
Amsterdam and Vienna (www.opencultures.net)

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