Sunday, October 26, 2008

Internet Librarian, Remix

Recently, I came across a mention of the Internet Librarian conference. It looks like a great event and I think I may try to attend next year. It covers all the sorts of things that I am interested in.

A few days ago, I picked up a copy of Lawrence Lessig's latest book, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.

Some of the arguments and examples I've seen thus far feel recycled from his earlier book Free Culture (full text available via Creative Commons license), but I am finding the work to be very stimulating thus far. The main innovation in this work compared to the earlier one is that Lessig is seeking show not only that the current copyright/intellectual property regime is harmful and counter-innovation but that new business models (and indeed, cultural non-commercial models) can be developed.

The central metaphor that Lessig uses in this book is inspired by the computing world; the notion of Read-Only (RO) and Read-Write (RW). My first encounter with this in computing dates back to 3.5" diskettes where one could simply flip a switch between RO and RW. Anyhow, Lessig argues that most current content industries are heavily invested in RO methods, whereas RW culture offers so much potential for new creativity, and yes, business gains.

I wonder how this metaphor can apply to information institutions however. Most libraries, as I have experienced them, are very much "Read-Only" in their culture. What do I mean by this? Well, the policies and collections of the institution are "broadcast" to users who have little input in how they are designed and few easy avenues of communicating and producing with other users. This is where the future of archives (libraries and museums too!) lies in my estimation - fostering a space where people can come together and colloborate.

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