Open Culture
How we can open up culture and why we have to open it

Open Cultures

The catchphrase 'Open Culture' comprises a plethora of heterogeneous concepts which cannot entirely be reduced to the net or digital culture: the open source-movement, the open access-approach, the debate about so called 'commons', the fight against regressive copy right legislations, 'wikileaks', the hacker scene, certain artistic interventions and esthetical practices (like DIY culture for example), peer productions, blogs and desktop publishing.

But also the fight against standardization and restriction of diversity of seeds in the European Union, which especially the Monsanto corporation is striving for is in fact a battle against cultural closure, viz an artificial shortening in biodiversity. 'Open Culture' is therefore not necessarily restricted to 'digital' things, even though the net also plays a role in these other contexts – namely as the place from which the fight against the new EU seed law can be lead most effectively through online campaigning by spreading the word via blogs, social media platforms, e-mail and twitter.

All these battles manifest – each in their own way – the demand for accessibility of information and for a democratic culture with low-threshold entry requirements. In this context, free access to technology, culture, and information is pictured as an alternative plan to the capitalist principle of exploitation. A free society of free subjects might emerge from an open culture, even if we are dealing with a scattered, diverse movement and within it very different conceptions of what a free society might look like: from technocratic liberalism to 'cybercommunism'.

It is especially this contradictoriness in which the concepts, positions, strategies and structures of the open culture scene deploy a field which has formed around the practices of opening and participation – a network of relationships which keeps branching out and itself open: by being permeable, like networks are. Open culture is living up to its own promises by inviting everybody to participate and by keeping its gateways open. It aims at inclusion not at exclusivity. And it has not yet developed closed forms or demarcations. Open culture is still growing and it changes constantly. It is still nascent – the outcome needs yet to be determined.

Open culture doesn't have a center. It is maybe more like what we like to call a 'multitude': a web of 'singularities acting together', according to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri.

As opposed to traditional alternative cultures, the intention of 'Open Culture' is not to take up a certain space or to occupy a niche in order to position itself as an alternative to the false culture or the estranged form of bourgeois culture. 'Open Culture' rather wants to infiltrate it to change this culture from within. And it wants to enable us to better understand the tools and channels and to operate them autonomously.

But 'Open Culture' is by no means an invention of the digital age. The idea to redistribute the means of cultural production or to make them accessible for everybody equally keeps cropping up in the cultural history of the bourgeoisie, for example at the end of the 1970s within the DIY-movement of punk and post punk. Independently of each other, bands like Scritti Politi or The Desperate Bicycles would release self-produced records whose sleeves would accurately break down the production costs. On top of that they would provide tips and addresses of cheap pressing plants. 'It was easy/It was cheap/Go on, do it' goes the chorus of 'The medium was tedium', a programmatic song of the The Desperate Bicycles. Many of these over a hundred bands who would then follow their example would explicitly refer to these records: as a source of inspiration and information. The main goal of the DIY movement was to decentralize cultural production and to put an end to cultural hegemonies. To take possession of the means of production in such a way would therefore also always be a symbolic intervention in the cultural property situation and a practical suggestion to produce something yourself.

The yearning for an 'opened up culture' is therefore basically just as old as the idea that media and technology are private property which emerged together with the bourgeois society and was enshrined in patent and copy right laws. However, it is now for the first time that the digital present offers the technical possibilities to comprehensively enforce them. While the self-produced singles of English post-punk were still a typical niche product with hardly a chance to have a broad effect and make it into the charts, digitalization has entered our households long ago. The introduction of the computer as the dominant medium of our society – at least in the Western culture – and the amalgamation of private computing capacity to create a world-wide network and a global exchange platform are changing our cultural practice as a whole: production, distribution, and reception.

Because, firstly, the cultural artefacts are currently being transformed from their solid form – which used to be the way in which they existed and appeared for hundreds of years (as books, sound carriers, or visual arts pieces) – into digital abstraction (as data formats). This has consequences for the piece of art itself, for the underlying notions of piece and art, for its reception, its availability, and eventually also for the cultural practices that it constitutes.

Therefore, this, secondly, also changes the cultural sphere as a space of specific ex- and inclusion. The traditional form of cultural goods used to always reference to the concrete tangibility of its appearance as an object. Being objects, these goods could also be transformed into material property and kept away from the public, for example in private collections. If you would gain access to these collections without permission, say in order to examine certain originals yourself, you would break the laws which prevailed with regard to the Old Masters in exactly the same way in which it prevailed for other valuable objects. Both legally belonged to the sphere of personal privacy and therefore constituted statutory protected goods.

Now digitalization changes culture in various respects, but most of all with regard to its availability and the possibilities of participation it offers.

Because the digital age is about to open up the entire cultural sphere, we need to ask ourselves if we think this is altogether desirable, and if yes, how we can keep the access open. How can we defend and unfurl the emancipation possibilities that digitalized culture provides on a broad front.

The Egalitarianism of Devices

The old cultural objects that you would own were directed at a certain practice of reception which took place in the private sphere in which people could enjoy their cultural goods to the exclusion of the public.

This practice of reception and the object form of culture were closely intertwined – to some extent they still are: the bourgeois rules of the house give special weight to the private mise-en-scène of the respective collections (of books, records, or pictorial pieces of art). And from this access to culture emerges the class habitus which comes with the specific commodity form of the bourgeois subject. The well-assorted library is proof of wide reading and certain cultural preferences. It embodies the special value we ascribe to culture. So we put it on display right in the living room instead of hiding it like digital media hide the data and the programmes they store. The iPad of the person sitting opposite from us on the train will never reveal what book the owner is currently reading: ‘trash’ or Dostoevsky, business spreadsheets or soccer results … Its back side remains – quite unlike the back of a book – silent.

Therefore, digital storage media in a way even formally implicate a break with the traditional practice of distinction of the (educated) bourgeois subject. Its self-assurance through record cabinet or library they counterpose with the egalitarianism of the devices. For socio-cultural hierarchies constitute these only (if at all) with regard to their capacity and topicality, but no longer with regard to the content they store. At least these contents don't have the same authoritative effect that a well-filled library has.

The digital distribution of cultural merchandise (like file sharing or downloading entire movie and record archives with hard disks) oversteps the mark of the private space which is a central criterion of bourgeois subjectivity. And it bursts the form of ownership which used to be at the center of the definition of the traditional cultural merchandise. The notion of its 'aura' which is supposedly exuded by its genuine and inimitable presence transfigure it into a metaphysical entity, something religious to which we ascribe a peculiar power over our senses. Digitalization puts an end to this devoutness. And it breaks up the culturally established hierarchy by, for example, making it possible to download music for free which up to now used to be very expensive and only available through certain niche markets (and to gain access to them required special knowledge). All of a sudden, everything is more or less equally available through the net where it can basically be found and called up easily – provided that we know of its existence. By this, cultural privileges are flattened, exclusions get reversed. What so far used to be only available in the form of rare and expensive originals is now freely accessible. To inspect certain art pieces we would have to travel to far away museums and now we don't even have to leave our houses to see them. The net seems to be the ideal media to store, tag, and administer human culture.

Already in 1936, Walter Benjamin would describe the emancipatory potential of reproduced culture in his essay 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction'.

Reproducibility is often experienced as a shock, the loss of a generally accepted cultural value system: the loss of the aura of digital cultural goods as opposed to analogous ones, for example the mp3 format as opposed to the 'valuable' vinyl record with its unique sensuous qualities; or the book as opposed to the e-book which especially shows in the romanticizing of old flaws (vinyl crackling, the smell and the heaviness of old books). This is the logical consequence of the overheated and highly emotionalized perception of culture within the bourgeois society. In this, cultural competency as a bourgeois key competency is always linked to certain kinds of media and when they change, the bourgeois society is at a risk of getting run over by technological progress.

Because digitalization not only erases the social hierarchy based on private ownership of cultural goods but also the hierarchy of center and periphery. In an era of global net accesses we are no longer forced to limit ourselves to the cultural offerings and the horizons of our neighbourhood or to invest a lot of time and money to travel to the places where something is happening. The geographic advantage of a cultural center is thus – at least partially – annulled. For producers of culture in the periphery the chances of finding an audience are increasing, which is proven by the example of British post-punk: until the end of the 1970s, bands would have to relocate to London if they wanted to produce a record and be recognized on a more than regional level. As a consequence, the rest of the country was a pop-cultural wasteland. Only when the DIY principle was introduced remote areas would be put on the musical map.

In that sense, the history of technology is always also a history of cultural opening: motorised means of transportation would make distances appear smaller; audio and visual reproduction technologies would multiply cultural treasures and make them available even from a distance; live broadcasting via satellite now make it possible to attend an event on the other side of the world, etc. Every new technology embodies new possibilities for cultural participation which can be put to use actively or passively. And digitalization has only accelerated the process. Yet digitalization is not simply a further advancement and optimization of already existing possibilities but it also marks a quantum leap and we currently cannot even imagine where it will take us within the next fifty years.

At this point in time we have to assume that the way in which we produce and receive culture will have radically changed in just a couple of years. What will vanish is the old order of production and reception which ascribes active and passive roles. Nowadays, consumers of culture are equipped with numerous means to become producers themselves. They neither need particular tools nor any special training, but at most a bit of dexterity and some basic knowledge. Sound programmes which let you remix somebody else's music are, for example, part of the standard equipment of the latest generation of computers, and if they are missing they can be downloaded from the internet. And we can share the results with others there, too.

Therefore, digital culture has now become the most potent token of an old utopia: to eliminate the closing mechanisms of a bourgeois society which is stratified into classes and layers and to socialize both the production and the reception of culture. This intervention constitutes by no means a trivial task in a bourgeois society which, in spite of all the formal affirmations of democracy, equality and enlightenment, has for centuries generated very diverse entry requirements for culture and its means of production and which equips its subjects with unequal opportunities for action, speaker positions and scopes. In general, these correspond to their positioning with regard to class, gender and ethnicity.

Digitality on the other hand enables new and different cultural (and therefore also: social) relations which are no longer necessarily conditioned by certain privileges and control over cultural means of production. At the same time, new forms of participation and inclusion have emerged and they create collectives where before there was only the rigid competitive struggle of dog eat dog in place. In these we are able to act out on our digital coexistence openly and collectively (with a feedback effect also on its analogous forms). This used to be restricted to a privileged few – be that commercial enterprises (in the sector of technological developments) or artists (in the cultural sector).

Net culture has established non-profit oriented ways of trading and communicating which need to be regarded as important empirical values and model situations for a universal and profound modification rather than merely restricting them to the context of our individual yearning to have access to data bases which are as comprehensive as possible. By all means, they must not be blocked only because they interfere with the private interests of individuals.

The digital culture we create in our work must therefore act in the knowledge that it does what it does not for itself and its own scene but for everyone. The social relations it thereby creates can definitely be generalized.

Sales Crises and Distribution Battles: On the Ecenomic Significance of Illegal Downloading

The digital avant-garde is deducting the subversive pathos with which they stage themselves in countless forums, blogs, in the context of the CCC or in similar places of high definatory power from the democratization of a so far property-oriented bourgeois culture. It is borne by the belief that free access to all cultural goods (along with unregulated distribution of these) could revise the prevailing social order. Digital activists think of themselves as a countervailing power, as Robin Hood-characters whose political branches are actually called 'Pirate Parties' for a reason. But this self-conception combines the old myths with progressive contents and participatory potentials with images from the bohemian individual anarchism mindset or from the ideas of liberal progress optimism. The fact that data piracy may have very drastic consequences for those who get caught provides the digital resistance movement against repressive copy right legislation with a seemingly self-explanatory militancy.

The gray areas and markets which emerge where historically older regulations meet new cultural practices which they cannot contain are proof that digital activism is fighting for the present – as opposed to members of the political class who, if commenting on the topic, disqualify themselves as digital know-nothings because they unresistingly parrot the demands of the entertainment industry (for better access to user data, for example).

The ignorance and the clumsiness which make bourgeois politicians look so ridiculous help to provide the digital utopia that everything that can be digitalized has to be freely available with plausibility and persuasiveness. Attempts to yet again limit internet freedom and to punish too overtly aggressive protagonists (like the sharehoster megaupload some years ago) are highly symbolic and typical rearguard actions. Even if these battles should stretch over the next couple of years, the combatants are fighting a lost cause. The cultural practice of the internet can never be fenced in again in order to protect the property privileges of the few who may still be influential but are also entirely out of convincing arguments that go beyond their vested interest which they want to see acknowledged once more at everybody else's cost. Cultural practice and the user's requirements cannot be legally contained. Past attempts of legal prohibition have clearly shown that: alcohol prohibition, illegalization of drugs, etc.

Besides, where digital freedom is scheduled to be limited for the sake of the profit margins of the entertainment industry, we only see deceleration battles supposed to buy the time which will be necessary to adapt the production of cultural goods to the new technical situation. This has been neglected – and not for the first time – until the entertainment industry slipped into the crisis which is now causing it to call for draconian measures. But in the long run these will not give them an edge of course.

With regard to the latest sales crisis of certain cultural merchandise the entertainment industry even welcomes these 'illegal downloads': as a badly needed scapegoat which helps to distract from a general system malfunction: the over-production which is just as big a factor in the crisis of the music industry as the online-habits of the listeners. Never before have so many CDs been released and the numbers are still rising; and all this in spite of the fact that the CD is already being viewed as dead media in the public mind and the sales figures are continuously declining. So even though CD production is becoming less and less profitable the markets are being flooded – and as a result getting successively more multitudinous. As is known, the demand will always sink in accordance to rising supplies.

We had reached a similar situation already in the late 1970s. Back then, too, the music industry would blame privately 'pirated' material through audio cassettes for their losses in sales. In psychology, this strategy is known as 'external attribution'. 'External attribution' matches the egocentric and non-reflecting attitudes which are necessary system properties for players on capitalistic markets because only they are able to justify to themselves the brutal competitive battle of the rat race and the catastrophic waste of resources which simply come with unregulated production.

Thanks to cheap blank cassettes it was possible to deliberately disregard the fact that the losses in sales actually stemmed from changes in the music business. At the end of the 1970s these were the worldwide economic crises, a boom in independent productions (not just in the post-punk environment), and accelerating trend changes which lead to numerous one-hit wonders who would just not refinance themselves through long-lasting success.

Moralising campaigns with slogans like 'Hometaping is killing music' (which got spoofed really fast as 'Homefucking is killing prostitution') are ill fitted to correct 'wrong' consumer behaviour. They are actually aimed at externalizing the faults of the industry. This is the only way in which bloated economic structures can be psychologically maintained until it is too late after all. Twenty years later we got to hear the corresponding '10.000 gebrannte CDs vernichten eine Nachwuchsband' ['10.000 burnt CDs destroy a new upcoming band']. With regard to the impertinently poor quality of upcoming bands, for example in the 'alternative rock' sector, a lot of the listeners seemed to be actually tempted by this perspective and the home burnt CD gained wide acceptance just as quickly as privately recorded cassettes did earlier on. So even without the possibility to obtain their products for free via the internet, the present-day entertainment business would have suffered losses in sales which are directly related to their release policy. The only open question remains who or what they would then be holding responsible…

What is hardly ever considered in the current debate about downloads and file sharing is how the two universal shifts reflect in the economic framework: decreasing wages and an increase in precarious employment relationships tighten the money which is available to be spent on cultural goods by the individual. Ways to purchase these goods for free can also be interpreted as a (sometimes desperate) attempt to make up for this fact and to still be able to cater to one's cultural needs, even if people ultimately don't have the money any more. On top of that, the acquisition of knowledge about popular culture isn't merely a recreational activity any more. Its role in the daily dogfight competition as economic resource and human capital of the post-Fordist subject is not to be underestimated.

The dwindling of enormous record collections along with the shrinking of the required playing devices to handy-sized iPods makes downloading even more attractive. However, it not only represents the deliberate decision for a handy and comfortable format but also the neoliberal invocation for 'flexibility' which accounts for the altered requirements of the capital for a mobile workforce. With the iPod we can now carry the music room of the old bourgeois culture around with us. The record industry ultimately laments the effects of a development of which it is itself the protagonist. After all, in many cases the people working for the big record labels suffer from flexibilization and wage reduction most drastically (and usually earlier than workers in other sectors).

Therefore, digitalization is counteracting widespread impoverishment in the so-called 'information age' (which it – as the basis for automation and outsourcing – has also generated). With its help we can still thoroughly devote ourselves to culture within the altered framework of post-Fordism. It's just that in order to make this possible, culture has to change its traditional physical form and become itself flexible.

Open Culture as a Capitalistic Rejuvenation Cure

Of course, the factors listed above remain hidden in the entertainment industry's complaints about plummeting market shares. Its old form which developed during the time of the Western boom and the economic miracle has become a sluggish dinosaur with regard to new customer needs. And the dinosaur will have to cease sooner or later exactly because the free market economy is organised like a Darwinian fight for survival. Therefore, it cannot accept inadaptability. The vanishing of record companies does not signify the end of the system but its periodical rejuvenation. The advocates of the neoclassical economic theory have spelled it out for us clear enough: the market can neither be circumvented nor permanently blocked through political regulating attempts. Now this is what the entertainment industry is experiencing firsthand. So wherever digital culture is glorifying its fight against restrictive copy right laws as a fight against the system it is just as ignorant about what it is trying to fight as the advocates of the music and porno industry that are currently drowning in it.

Where it opts for free downloading and propagates alternative models like the so-called 'culture flatrate', digital culture is only the cultural political avant-garde that helps the system to recapitulate, for which it is long overdue. The plea for free access to culture, to knowledge, software and hardware is not anti-capitalist subversion but merely a self-purification process. All things considered, a digital practice which removes copy protection, puts data and programs in free circulation and creates anti-monopolistic operating systems through collective programming efforts or makes secret documents publicly accessible, only helps to prevent the imminent collapse; also because it trains the workforce of tomorrow. Even if it may seem like that for a moment, the web 2.0 is by no means finally implementing a grassroots democracy, it only establishes 'capitalism 2.0'.

Where the entertainment industry stubbornly insists on a model which used to be profitable in the past, it doesn't stand a chance. All it wants is to preserve an old operating system which is no longer compatible with everyday life and the technical possibilities. In a way it is the entertainment industry which is acting subversively (along with the politicians and legislative initiatives that politically organize their interests) while net activists and pirate parties are saving the system from itself, making it fit for the future.

The Open Society and its Art

The paraflows-Festival for Digital Art and Cultures therefore puts the term 'Open Culture' up for negotiation, in order to debate what its subversive and what its system stabilizing potential is. At first, we need to differentiate precisely between positions and postulations, as brought forward by digital culture in theory as well as in practice.

Where digital culture believes to be developing political alternatives to the system in place it will have to reach clarity as to what extent it unanimously plays into the system's hands – exactly by criticizing it and trying to fix it through revealing its mistakes and weak points. The digital freedom it keeps talking about and that it quite rightly claims has to be understood in its ideological core in order to be able to isolate from those who also talk about it but merely mean a completely unfettered market economy. The debate about digital freedom – and the definatory power over what it should contain – must not be left to the data liberals with whom we are still in an alliance of convenience while campaigning together for dearly needed rights or legal certainty.

Sobriety with regard to one's own possibilities and entanglements will be of vital importance, at least where digital culture wants to be more than mere propaganda for what is culturally possible and technically achievable at a given time – which unfortunately is the case all too often. Instead, it should fathom itself as an experimental form by which new possibilities can be tried out and determined. The euphoria which is so common among the protagonists of the digital culture-scene when it comes to testing, practicing and establishing the very latest ideas often reveals more about their lack of understanding with regard to cultural production within the framework of a capitalist society than it actually provides information about the real chances and the scope of the digital world.

To save themselves from their own enthusiasm about everything technical – which more often than not becomes banal apotheosis – digital creatives should first and foremost begin to think of themselves as the public subjects they already are: as digital workers. This is the only way in which to reverse the old bourgeois division into artists and workers which has usually been internalized even by the most advanced creative minds of the 21st century.

Especially with regard to this our struggle for free access to culture must not remain a culture struggle. It has to conceive itself as the litigator of quintessential basic contradictions of the bourgeois society on the basis of cultural merchandise. Therefore, our main concern should probably not be to win this battle but to fight it. For only as long as this battle is fought can we gain through it an awareness of our universal unfreedom and demonstrate it by this particularly prominent example.

The postulation for an 'Open Culture' therefore also includes the demand to open up culture itself. So far it used to be merely a supposedly private enclave within goods producing capitalism and it would only be reinforced by us choosing to become artists, a century-old special form. We now have to give up this special form in order to – finally! – escape from the prison of art and 'artistic freedom', which has for so long kept us depending on societal affluence and bourgeois benevolence, which clearly shows for example in the rapid loss of significance that avant-garde art undergoes in times of economic crisis.

Where we keep thinking of ourselves as artists we accommodate the expectations of our target group by merely catering to their conceptions of art and artists. Instead we have to become economic subjects who are not just fighting for survival on the digital art market but who understand that this battle is essentially the same as the competition in which all subjects in a capitalist economy are entangled – where we all are mere human commodities.

In this way we can get out of the ghetto of art – be it a digital or an analogous one – and come back into the open to fight there for reality rather than continue to produce aesthetic irreality.

For the claim of digital culture that everything that can be digitalized should also be freely accessible shows a classical flaw in its reasoning: it supports the idea that art is a privileged form which supposedly distinguishes it from the articles of daily use in the supermarket. That these too should be 'in the public domain' will most certainly not be acceptable to a majority of the anti-copyright movement. Where net activists insist that it is very well possible to distinguish between a can of peas and a CD (or rather: the music that it contains), and that to take the former without paying for it constitutes theft while the unregulated distribution of copyrighted material is merely a minor offence because it is directly opposed to one's claim for freedom, the old context of delusion of art is confirmed. Art is not allowed be a commodity in order to conceal from ourselves the discrepancy negating totality of the commodity form over and over again.

By getting digitalized the CD loses its commodity form (which used to be signified by the imprinted barcode), because our computers transform it into something non-material: a playlist, a download button, or an mp3-format. The material carrier substance links the cultural artefact with the commodity and the way it is presented in stores where it can then be bought and eventually materially owned. But where its materiality is made to disappear increasingly it becomes all the more susceptible to idealistic notions of art and therefore for the very ideology which is locking out art from corporative economy. In this belief system, art is supposed to be a counterpart to the disdainful commodity of everyday life, whose mundane form quintessentially represents the capitalist economy. That it basically imprints itself on everything which appears in its context – every yoghurt pot and every protest song – is a fact that can then be deliberately overlooked.

With its material carrier substance the cultural artefact also starts to lose more and more of the political substance that art traditionally used to have. Because bourgeois art was not political in that it would voice individual dissatisfaction but in so far as it would express the discrepancy between its reality and its appearance, between its Gestalt and its content. Where it can no longer generate this discrepancy-within-itself because, digitalized, it can hardly take on a visible commodity form any more, art loses its old moment of reflection – it degenerates into an advertisement for the circumstances.

Where the old material cultural commodity used to rebel time and again against the commodity form which was imposed upon it by the bourgeois discourse (as the image of idealized freedom), the new digitalized art has to follow in its footsteps. It has to proceed against the kind of freedom that on the other hand it has to call for in order to be able to focus on the contradictions and the incongruities of the bourgeois freedom paradigm rather than go by the assumption that it would be able to enter a state of romantic hippie paradise with free exchange of information and data if only it could redeem the capitalist conditions directly from themselves by winning the fight for freedom just this once and dissolve the capitalist contradictions in harmony and happiness.

The unfreedom within goods producing capitalism is able to grind out an area of freedom on the internet which is the showplace of so many fierce battles. But an area of freedom does not make a free society.

'Open Culture' is traditionally an area of articulation and a playground for idealistic dispositions which conceptualize exactly this perspective one way or the other. By following higher motives they believe that they are able to give us a foretaste of it already in the present. People that work on free software usually don't do it in view of material rewards. The openness that 'Open Culture' has in mind does not at all contradict the ideal image of the 'open society' as propagated by Karl Popper. But in an open society it is mainly the information which is free while the subjects are only free insofar that they can use and circulate the information freely. That they have to be kept in material unfreedom for this is either neglected or reduced to a side conflict in this perspective: the poor, the materially particularly dependent, and the outclassed people lack, above all, information and insight, while they have minimum wage standards, statutory health insurance and ownership of the means of production.

So the free availability of culture on the net that we postulate may not be our ultimate aim. It is merely a lever that we want to apply. The claim for free culture substantiates a more general demand for freedom and where we accomplish the former the call for the latter may fall silent again. So when we act we have to be aware of this paradox if we want to achieve more than just the permission to download exactly as much as we want.

All of this raises questions that paraflows 2013 would like to discuss:

First we need to reach clarity on what concept of culture (and freedom) should be underlying our demand for free access to it, how it relates to the traditional notion of art and where the two are incongruous. What kind of freedom are we talking about in our claim for freedom and to whom should it apply? In what way do we want to enforce it and how will we implement it? Does liberty really always have to be – as suggested by an old platitude – the liberty of other people or is there a kind of liberty that we can take without the necessity to universalize it? And what is its relevance for our practices – everyday as well as artistic ones? In how far is it really desirable? What are the advantages of the current state of unfreedom we are in or the precarious freedom which turns us into human commodities on a free market?

Is the freedom that we want not simply an individual freedom due to privileges like the advanced skills to conceal our activities on the net that we have and therefore merely a selection advantage which guarantees that only the clueless, the naïve, and the badly protected participants are caught and prosecuted?

And: how are we supposed to deal with the fact that our demand for freedom also invariably weakens our position as makers of digital cultural goods? How can we call for a free culture when at the same time this would mean to share our own cultural products and therefore the basis of our existence as producers of cultural goods?

To what extent does the specific form of digital work even allow for class consciousness and what are the consequences to it if all accesses will be opened up? In what way do alternative models like a cultural flat rate play into the hands of the system in place and what are its potentials that cannot be subsumed under it? What possibilities does the net offer as a worldwide cultural community against the particular interests of post-Fordist countries? What forms of resistance can be put into effect there with its specific form and what will these have to give up to fit into the net and into the culture it supports? And last but not least: what models can we find in a digital culture free from entrance restrictions (and therefore from the possibility to commercialize exclusivity) – not just to survive but, first and foremost, to live a good life?

Frank Apunkt Schneider/Günther Friesinger