Opening up (Open Source and the commons)

Opening Up Francis McKee

In November 2003, Wired magazine published an article on the rise of the open source movement, claiming that. “We are at a convergent moment, when a philosophy, a strategy, and a technology have aligned to unleash great innovation.”

Open source ideology has now moved beyond the coding and programming to inform the broader fields of information and content distribution. At this level it acquired the power to fundamentally change the way in which society is organised.

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The term ‘open source’ originally referred to the development of computer software. Rather than a propriety piece of software that a customer would buy but could not then modify, open source software is developed collaboratively by many programmers and the source code is shared freely in the public realm thereby allowing anyone to modify or improve it. Often the programmers developing this software are volunteers, part of a larger collective enterprise producing reliable products that are then in competition with those sold by corporations.
The most obvious success story in open source must be the development of the Linux operating system. In 1991, a Finnish student called Linus Torvalds began writing a new computer program and solicited help via the internet from other volunteer programmers or hackers. Within a few years their exchange of information had spawned a global network of participants who had created a new operating system that was more reliable than many commercial alternatives. And it was free.
As Thomas Goetz points out in his Wired article1, this use of collective intelligence has spread far beyond the basics of computing:
Software is just the beginning. Open source has spread to other disciplines, from the hard sciences to the liberal arts. Biologists have embraced open source methods in genomics and informatics, building massive databases to genetically sequence E. coli, yeast, and other workhorses of lab research. NASA has adopted open source principles as part of its Mars mission, calling on volunteer “clickworkers” to identify millions of craters and help draw a map of the Red Planet. There is open source publishing: With Bruce Perens, who helped define open source software in the ’90s, Prentice Hall is publishing a series of computer books open to any use, modification,
or redistribution, with readers’ improvements considered for succeeding editions. There are library efforts like Project Gutenberg, which has already digitized more than 6,000 books, with hundreds of volunteers typing in, page by page, classics from Shakespeare to Stendhal; at the same time, a related project, Distributed Proofreading, deploys legions of copy editors to make sure the Gutenberg texts are correct. There are open source projects in law and religion. There’s even an open source cookbook.

ROOTS AND SOURCES

Open source ideology is closely bound up with the right to free speech and it is argued that there are links between the rise of the free speech movement in Berkeley in the early 1960s and the later developments in software in the same locality. Ironically, it is an attack: on machinery that lies at the heart of the most celebrated moment of the free speech movement. Concluding a speech on the Berkeley campus in December 1964, activist Mario Savio declared :

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

In his history of free software, Andrew Leonard3 cites a graduate student from Berkeley at that period who was familiar with both the free speech movement and knew the developing Unix software scene in the area:
Gage grins. Berkeley Unix, he proposes, offered a different way forward from the painful agony of hurling oneself into the operation of a demonic crankshaft. Berkeley Unix, with its source code available to all who wanted it, was the “gears and levers” of the machine. By promoting access to the source code, to the inner workings of that machine, the free-software/open-source movement empowered people to place their hands on the gears and levers, to take control of their computers, their Internet, their entire technological infrastructure.

“The open-source movement is a free speech movement,” says Gage. “Source code looks like poetry, but it’s also a machine—words that do. Unix opens up the discourse in the machinery because the words in Unix literally cause action, and those actions will cause other actions”

It wasn’t just the free speech movement however that provided the context for the development of free software in Berkeley. As the hippie culture evolved in San Francisco it also spawned groups that began to formulate ideas and practical solutions that would provide a framework for an ‘alternative’ society. One of the most important of these groups were the Diggers, activists who tried to create an infrastructure for the burgeoning Haight-Ashbury scene. Their work ranged from radical street theatre to more practical support for the communities appearing across the city, setting up free clinics and soup kitchens. Like Mario Savio, they vilified an industrial culture that folded man into machine though they identify computers as a means to free people from this relationship. In ‘Trip Without, a Ticket’, they state that Industrialization was a battle with 19th-century ecology to win breakfast at the cost of smog and insanity. Wars against ecology are suicidal. The U.S. standard of living is a bourgeois baby blanket for executives who scream in their sleep. No Pleistocene swamp could match the pestilential horror of modern urban sewage. No (children of White Western Progress will escape the dues of peoples forced to haul their raw materials.

But the tools (that’s all factories are) remain innocent and the ethics of greed aren’t necessary. Computers render the principles of wage-labor obsolete by incorporating them. We are being freed from mechanistic consciousness. We could evacuate the factories, turn them over to androids, clean up our pollution. North Americans could give up self-righteousness to expand their being.

This vision grows into a declaration of a free economy that is linked to a freedom of human impulses:
The Diggers are hip to property. Everything is free, do your own thing. Human beings are the means of exchange. Food, machines, clothing, materials, shelter and props are simply there. Stuff. A perfect dispenser would be an open Automat on the street. Locks are time-consuming. Combinations are clocks.

So a store of goods or clinic or restaurant that is free becomes a social art form. Ticketless theatre. Out of money and control.
“First you gotta pin down what’s wrong with the West. Distrust of human nature, which means distrust of Nature. Distrust of wildness in oneself literally means distrust of Wilderness.” (Gary Snyder).

Diggers assume free stores to liberate human nature. First free the space, goods and services. Let theories of economics follow social facts. Once a free store is assumed, human wanting and giving, needing and taking, become wide open to improvisation.

Written in 1968, these statements provided a Utopian blueprint for the communes and alternative cultures that followed. The practical realities of such schemes often meant they crashed quickly or descended into the same power struggles and petty greed of the society they were supposed to replace. Some practitioners though found practical applications of these ideas in a limited form which worked and revealed alternative economic models which were viable. One remarkable example was the archetypal hippie band, The Grateful Dead, who tacitly permitted the taping of their concert by fans. This led to the formation of a tape-swapping community that bypassed the traditional economics of the recording industry where music was heavily protected by copyright and taping was perceived as a threat. One taper, Alexis Muellner, recalls the events that sprang up around the tapes :

Software is just the beginning. Open source has spread to other disciplines, from the hard sciences to the liberal arts.

The beauty of it was that we were doing our part to expand the taping phenomenon by educating more and more people, and helping to unlock mysteries surrounding the tapes…At the same time, we spread the magic of the music through our events, which then went beyond just the music. They became a fertile ground for exploring artistic and creative freedom through multimedia, dance, and improvisation – some of the same themes the Acid Tests explored. In doing all of this we were creating a large community of active Deadheads in western Massachusetts, who in turn were sharing the music with all of their friends. It was a classic snowball effect.

The tapes not only spread the word about the Grateful Dead’s music but spawned a whole new series of cultural events. The real economic impact of this phenomenon only became clear long after the demise of the Haight-Ashbury culture. By the eighties, the band seldom recorded but toured prodigiously. The tapes in circulation generated such a reputation for the group that they consistently expanded their fan base and established themselves in a secure, and lucrative, position outside the trends of pop or fashion.

THE FREE WORLD

It was within this radical, Utopian context that programmers at Berkeley developed the world’s first standard operating system for computers – Unix. While few of these programmers were active radicals themselves, the general spirit of the region at the time certainly seems to have permeated their labs and gelled with a general academic respect for the sharing of knowledge. As Andrew Leonard6 points out, the most striking aspect of the Berkeley coders was their attitude:

Berkeley’s most important contribution was not software; it was the way Berkeley created software. At Berkeley, a small core group — never more than four people at any one time — coordinated the contributions of an ever-growing network of far- flung, mostly volunteer programmers into progressive releases of steadily improving software. In so doing, they codified a template for what is now referred to as the ‘open-source software development methodology.’ Put more simply, the Berkeley hackers set up a system for creating free software.

This general spirit of freedom and cooperation would have consequences that eventually reverberated far beyond Berkeley. Richard Stallman, a programmer who worked at Harvard in the ’70s, practiced a similar philosophy of sharing, establishing an ‘informal rule’ that if he distributed free copies of the software he was developing, hackers would send any improvements they made baCk to him. When Stallman’s lab community of hackers was eventually drawn into a private company in the ’80s, Stallman retaliated by matching their innovations program by program (distributing his work freely) in an unprecedented bout of coding that lasted almost two years. Setting up GNU in 1984, an organisation dedicated to ‘free software’, Stallman laid the foundations for the emergence of the open source movement in the ’90s.

At the same time, the world’s media was being transformed by several key developments. The video recorder was about to become a domestic commonplace, revolutionising viewing habits for cinema and television as films became infinitely reproducible. For musicians, the rise of sampling technology revealed an equally radical future as elements of one song could be lifted and then dropped into an entirely new musical context. The economics of cultural property and intellectual copyright began to be Challenged in ways in whiCh the movie industry, the music business and the art world had not foreseen.

THE NEW WORLD

In the early 21st century ‘open source’ begins to make sense of many of these developments. The ’90s saw traditional media industries flounder as they attempted to come to terms with a changing world where Napster, video pirates and web publishing overturned previous certainties for good. Now, recent initiatives in science and business are beginning to describe a new landscape. Looking at ways in which open source could benefit his business, for instance, Paul Everitt, of Digital Creations explains:

Thus, the question was, “Can going open source increase the value of our company?” Here’s what we saw:

Going open source will increase our user base by a factor of 100 within three months. Wider brand and stronger identity leads to more consulting and increased valuation on our company.

Open source gives rock solid, battle-tested, bulletproof software on more platforms and with more capabilities than closed source, thus increasing the value of our consulting.
Fostering a community creates an army of messengers, which is pretty effective marketing.

This is not the last innovation we’ll make.
In the status quo, the value of packaging the software as a product would approach zero, as we had zero market penetration. What is the value of a killer product with few users? The cost to enter the established web application server market was going to be prohibitive.

The investment grows us into a larger, more profitable company, one that can make a credible push to create a platform via open source. Since our consulting is only on the platform, a strong platform is imperative.
Open source makes the value of our ideas more apparent, thus the perceived value of the company is apparent.

Our architecture is ‘safer’ for consulting customers. With thousands of people using it, the software is far less marginal. The customer is able to fix things themselves or reasonably find someone to do it for them. Finally, the software will “exist forever”. Dramatically increasing the base of users and sites using it gives us a tremendous boost in “legitimacy”.

The exit plan isn’t about the golden eggs (the intellectual property) laid last year. It is about the golden goose and tomorrow’s golden eggs. The shelf life of eggs these days is shrinking dramatically, and the value of an egg that no one knows about is tiny. Give the eggs away as a testament to the value of the goose and a prediction of eggs to come. The community can work with us to dramatically increase the pace of innovation and responsiveness to new technical trends, such as XML and WebDAV.

Ride the coattails of the nascent Open Source community and its established Channels suCh as RedHat. OSS has a certain buzz that is greater than its real customer-closing value, but this buzz is getting hot. Moving aggressively towards Open Source can make us a category killer for the web application server market segment.

Perhaps the developments in science have been even more surprising. Interviewing biologist Michael Eisen, Thomas Goetz (2003) discovered that older models for scientific publishing are in decay:

“The guiding principle of science has been that freely available material is more useful; it’s more likely to generate better science,” Eisen says. But freely available is not the same as free of Charge. Science journals, with their historically narrow readerships, often charge thousands for a subscription. One of the biggest disseminators is Elsevier, the science publishing unit of an Anglo-Dutch media conglomerate, which distributes some 1,700 academic journals, from Advances in Enzyme Regulation to Veterinary Parasitology.

“The whole premise for that model just evaporated with the Internet,” Eisen continues. “Technology now makes openness possible; it’s maximum openness. The rules of the game have changed, but the system has failed to respond.” Proof that the scientific community at large have recognised this failure came in 2003 when TheWellcome Trust: produced a position statement on scientific publishing that acknowledged the value of open source8:

With recent advances in Internet publishing, the Trust is aware that there are a number of new models for the publication of research results and will encourage initiatives that broaden the range of opportunities for quality research to be widely disseminated and freely accessed.

The Wellcome Trust therefore supports open and unrestricted access to the published output of research, including the open access model (defined below), as a fundamental part of its charitable mission and a public benefit to be encouraged wherever possible.
This statement returns science to the spirit of the early natural philosophers sharing discoveries through networks of letters and journals such as the Transactions of the Royal Society.
With the acceptance of open source ideas in such areas of society it becomes more likely that these concepts will have a lasting impact. The collapse of the dot com bubble proved that older models of entrepreneurship lack the intuitive grasp of the internet as a medium and do not yet comprehend the odd mix of gift economy and commerce that have shaped its development. A more agile approach now seems necessary for any entrepreneur entering this new economy.

THE CCA – CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS IN GLASGOW

In 2006 CCA began to develop an ‘open source’ approach to its organisational structure as a pragmatic response to the expansion of the building in 2001. The lottery refurbishment of CCA added greatly increased the size of the building which now occupied most of the Greek Thomson structure, and all of the 19th villa behind it. The organisation struggled economically to fill such a large set of spaces and the aggressive business model that accompanied the new building did not work with the kind of programming that was expected by CCA’s audiences. It was clear though that the new building has fine resources, excellent gallery spaces, an acoustically perfect performance space, a dramatic central courtyard with a restaurant, a wood workshop, a small cinema, an artist’s flat. And Glasgow is a city with a large artists community, a great music scene, audiences hungry for film, literature and performance. It seemed clear that the building had much to contribute to those wider groups. In its debilitated state in 2006, the preciousness

The collapse of the dot com bubble proved that older models of entrepreneurship lack the intuitive grasp of the internet as a medium

of the building as a ‘lottery jewel’ had also faded. This gave us an opportunity to ‘repurpose’ several spaces. The bookshop space that felt misplaced became a third gallery on the ground floor. CCA office spaces that felt overly luxurious became a hack-lab and the Creative Lab residency space. Glasgow Life came in to support an independent programme for Intermedia Gallery which had become unmoored from King Street. Initially through word-of-mouth the theatre, clubroom and cinema were made available to artists and organisations that needed temporary project space.

When it became clear that offering the space in this way was useful and supportive to other organisations we started to formalise the process. For artists and organisations with minimal funding we would offer space for free. Technicians and Front of House staff would have to be paid for if needed but we offered our staff at cost, taking no profit from the organisations. Of course, if organisations clearly had additional funding we would charge for the space but still at a subsidised rate. The galleries on the ground floor remain at the heart of CCA’s own programme and are programmed solely by our own curatorial team.
To make this policy work two elements are vital. The first is co-ordination. As activities grew in the building, we created a role for someone to liaise and co- ordinate the multiple events across the building. The second vital element involves selection. Clearly such a policy could easily be taken advantage of or it could quickly become a kaleidoscope of random events. To prevent this, each event and every partner programme is considered internally and every new event must be proposed to the CCA.
Our criteria for inclusion in the programme are based on a wide variety of things. Quality is a priority and we also give a great deal of consideration to whether the proposal is appropriate to CCA. Our programme stresses experimental work and activities that cannot be easily housed in other venues. So, for instance mainstream theatre proposals are not a high priority as there are many venues

across the city that are better suited to those proposals. Equally, proposals that tend to demand high amounts of rehearsal time are not high priorities as they occupy space that could be used by other, more public, activities.

Over several years we have built up many long term partners through this open source policy. Regular users tend to come to. us at the beginning of the year and speak to us about dates across the entire year. The benefits for everyone from this include a much greater feeling of ownership of the space by a wider spectrum of the arts community. The openness of the programme also brings in a broader variety of audiences and helps us break down some of the barriers to access that can easily grow around an art centre. The building can provide support for a large section of the arts

community in the city and the programme can reflect more cultural perspectives than our small team could achieve on its own. Perhaps the bottom fine is we hope the activity cultural momentum and diversity of the programme demonstrates the best possible use of public funding for the arts in the city.

Opening up Francis McKee

Source: East End Transmissions I 15

The case of North Kelvin Meadows and The Glasgow Effect

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North Kelvin Meadows

Think about it. Is there another campaign at present in the city that has used its assets, common sense, media, resources and everything else to the best of their ability? Can you think of another campaign that has as good a prospect of winning, if given the right support? A project that has helped to delineate the council bosses, position clearly, of profit over people? This campaign if successful would set an example for others to follow in the de-privatisation of public land. The campaign is well run and seems to do all the right things in many ways. It would be a very important model and win if successful and as well to the encouragement of other incipient campaigns and growing spaces in the community. But remember, It could also have the complete opposite effect if it fails. It would set greening spaces back years. The city council bosses also know this, (and the Scottish government) as well as having the added incentive for development opportunities and of stocking the council coffers with the moneys involved, by the selling of this commons and many others like it, that will inevitably come into the future sights of developers .trigger more text

The Meadows, would be just the kind of win to boost campaigns of this nature all over the city. Do people in growing spaces realise how important this campaign is to the sustainability of growing and green space? I hope they do and start to come up with some ideas in supporting the campaign, learning from it and using the inspired imagination in building solidarity for the next round in defending this space and others. There is a need to keep up momentum and it should not be left only to the people directly involved at the meadows. (Or other places.) The city council, or/and the Government, will decide the fate of this space. But it will need a collective “City Peoples Council” to make sure they make the right decision and set a precedent for future community development.

Whats this to do with “The Glasgow Effect”?

Quoting from the article links below: ‘A recent report finds that radical attempts to solve Glasgow’s housing problems in the 1960s and 1970s left the city vulnerable when government policy steered investment away from housing and towards retail and other industries in subsequent decades. Walsh added: “The Scottish Office embarked on a series of policies that effectively wrote off the city – they designated it a ‘declining city’ and their plans focused on economic growth elsewhere.”
“This was a policy that went on for decades despite an awareness that this was having a massively negative impact in socio-economic terms and therefore on health.”’

Basically they are saying in the early 80s, the city stopped investing in its people and social housing and shifted its interests to business investment. Which is a big part of the reason for the so called “Glasgow Effect”.  Why the poverty levels in Glasgow, were 30% higher than other cities, such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, that deindustrialise at the same time as Glasgow.  You can read about this below. But it also needs to be remembered, importantly. At the same time (early 80s), as the government were de-investing in people, a group of folk in Reidvale, Dennistoun, were investing in themselves. (As the corporation were ripping down tenements and communities with them and packing families of to the schemes and tower blocks, as the corporation, geographically blighted the city space for the use of motorways and commerce.) Many of the people in Reidvale Dennison, during these clearances, said No! We want to stay in our community. Fix our houses we are not moving! And they did stay in their houses, in their community. The rest is history as the people of Reidvale, created a model for Community Based Housing Associations, that is used, not only in Glasgow, but all over Britain.

We have now suffered 30-40 years of de-investment in people. Now the car loving motorway builders are proclaiming “People make Glasgow”  If people make Glasgow, it is going to need more than a branding exercise, that has more to do with selling produce than investing in people. If people make Glasgow, it will be about making council bosses do what they are told and forcing them to invest in our kids, our vulnerable and those trapped in poverty. We need basically to make them eat their own words.

Ideas for looking forward

There is no reason “The Glasgow Effect” should not be made into something wonderful, something unique and meaningful to the people of Glasgow. Turned on its head from something that is done to the city’s people, to something that they do for themselves.

The council did not listen to the people in the community of Reidvale at that time , they were made to listen. And in the case of Kelvin meadows and other such like projects, (the city administration should really be boasting about, the achievements of its citizens, rather than taking the credit), they didn’t listen to any of them either. They were made to listen, Govanhill baths, Kelvingrove bandstand,  Kinningpark Complex, to name a few. As Glaswegian’s, we may have a few attitude problems and don’t think positively enough, as Carol Craig, et al, will remind us. But most, commonly ignore, or underestimate the states role in all of this. The systematic draining of money, resources and assets that took place during the 80s (and continues to this day) that had and is still having a massive effect on the poorest in our city. This was no news to the many who, experienced, have reported and written about it throughout. They were also ignored, and still are.

People “do” make Glasgow. If only more of them realised this simple fact.

The Meadows should become a collective meeting grounds as part of helping to create a “Dear Green Place” benchmark – for those with any interest in freeing the soil of this city in perpetuity for our kids and future generations – until the developers are completely cast off this bit of public land. Winning could be easier than we think and the effect could spread to awaken the public conscience to more ideas for looking forward. And perish the thought, there is a lot of fun to be had to.

It is not rocket science, when we look around us, to understand where the money is being spent, invested and where it is not. Do we really need reports that take years to write to tell us this? It is right in front of our eyes. Like everything else, we have just gotten used to it. So much of our attention is being diverted by, the positive thinking industry, or the  “But this is the real world” theory. So much energy put into ideas, concepts, explanations, excuses of why things are happening to us. We are all just getting used to all of it, learned to live with it and to shield ourselves from dealing with it. There was an old 60s saying that is fitting when the glut of rhetoric outweighed the practicalities. “Move you arse and your brain will follow.” Not poetic, but It has never been more apt advice, than it is at present. People make Glasgow, sure, but which people, you? Me? What are the ideas for doing it together? Because it’s not going to happen otherwise.

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/8404/scotland-office-policies-blamed-glasgow-effect-forthcoming-report
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14493634.Revealed___Glasgow_effect__mortality_rate_blamed_on_Westminster_social_engineering/?ref=ebln

https://northkelvinmeadow.com

The secret History of our Streets
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04ck993

Half of it is about showing up. Frida Berrigan

 

Recent videos – Radical Imagination Project

Film crew


Norman Armstrong Free Wheel North
Radical Imagination Project. Discussions with folk who have worked and committed much of their time to community activism. Norman Armstrong
Norman, a tenacious community worker, who “gets things done” but unlike many fly-by-night “social entrepreneurs” is rooted in his community and has the philosophy and principals to match. freewheelnorth.org.uk
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO

May Day picnic Glasgow Green 2016
A small may Day event on the Glasgow green at Free Wheel North. Part of an effort to have the Glasgow’s May Day event in the open. More information for next year to follow. spiritofrevolt.info    iwwscotland.wordpress.com
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO


John Cooper on the spirit of revolt and the Castlemilk connection
John Cooper, a name synonymous with Castlemilk and community struggle over the last 40 years or so. The evening took us through the adventures and campaigns of himself and his Castlemilk comrades, from the miners strike to the present. A social history. Find more on the “Spirit of Revolt” website at. spiritofrevolt.info Film in two bits Talk and after discussion. facebook.com/castlemilkagainstausterity/
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO


John Cooper – After talk discussion (Castlemilk Against Austerity) Castlemilk, experience and its relevance to the youth who take up the mantle today of community organising. facebook.com/castlemilkagainstausterity
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO


The Downtrodden Tenant
Bad housing exists not because the housing system is not working but because it is the way it works. Peter Morton has taught me more about technology in the last few months than I knew before. His boundless energy to educate, given the fact he is in a wheelchair and on strong medication through bad health is an inspiration. We are working on a pile of projects around the Radical Imagination and opening the “Open Source” to the people who need it most. This film denotes Peters struggle with Renfrew Council, their lack of duty of care and how the use of his technological skills were used to collect empirical data to back up a case against their failure to uphold their own housing policy. Downtrodden Tenant Blog
(Filmed by Radical imagination film group) radicalimagination.co.uk
View on VIMEO


Self Determination Power Event Common Sense and Freedom 1990
A wee blast from the past. The Self-Determination and Power event was organised by a loose alliance of the Free University of Glasgow, the Edinburgh Review, then under the editorship of James Kelman advocate Peter Kravitz, and Scottish Child magazine, edited by Rosemary Milne. Also involved were Variant, then a glossy magazine containing provocations from Stewart Home, Pete Horobin’s Dundee-based Data Attic and others; West Coast literary magazine, Here and Now magazine, the radical-based Clydeside Press, and the Scotia bar, then a hub for free-thinking dissent down by the river just across from the Gorbals. radicalimagination.co.uk/about/what-happened-in-1990
(Produced by Street Level) streetlevelphotoworks.org
View on VIMEO

Videos can also be viewed on Youtube

Common Good Games

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As part of the “Common Good Games” celebration at the January Reshuffle. Our city council, who are full of people of challenging ambition for our city and are keen for the competitive sports. We challenge you to a tug-of-war on any of the bomb sites of Govan that are not earmarked for business development or green space invasion. If we win, we demand proper democratic decision making and consultation on developments that are public led for the benefit of the public first – That is, not forced on the public by the induccommongood2 14dec07ement of seemingly benevolent business schemes and public relations propaganda. A “Win-Win” situation as you are often heard to say. Come on down to Govan this Sat. 26th. And by the way, don’t think to use school kids as cheerleaders for your team by giving them a day-off lessons – It’s on a Saturday

Bob I send you the record of the inaugural Commongood Games. I am delighted to be able to report the following result: Fatcats 0, Kelvingrove residents 1. A 3&2halfs team turned out at the Kelvingrove park blaise pitches tonight for a game of footnoball in the pitch dark to celebrate the end of the fatcats disco-in-a-tent event. Yes, everyone making a fuss won a great win for commonsense. I would like to think that my efforts as a councillor were backed up by residents’ and others’ efforts in drawing the various committees and boards attention to the obvious (to us anyway) daftness of drink-all-you can to a loud band_taut_rope-hankie in a tent within a few metres of private homes. The two pix show us in front of the compound wherein deconstruction seemed to be underway. Yay!

Why To create awareness and draw attention to the total lack of accountability of the Glasgow City Council, to public opinion. To object the Councils full attention being focused on foisting on the public extravagant spectacles such as the Commonwealth Games, which will only create a land grabbing culture, rather than a community culture. The destruction of the idea of Common Good, rather than preservation of it.

The Common Good Games (How to play) Make up a game | Join in one | Take photographs of games activity – Sent Them to City strolls. Send pictures of places you see games being played – Football pitches – Park – Green spaces – Spare ground – Streets – indoors

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Games you remember playing – Would like to play – Have seen of interest. Finals of “Common Games” May Day Glasgow Green.

What is the Common Good (The simplest explanation)

The common Good can be found all around you. It is what makes up our communities. It is all of our cities institutions, Art galleries, museums, schools, parks. It is also the history of how these things came about. The Common Good belongs to everyone both rich and poor alike. It is common to us all. The Common Good is what we do for each other, and what we give to each other. If the common good is privatised it will be rendered meaningless. See links on right.

common-sticker The page you are looking at is part of the Common Good.

The Commonwealth Games is a kickback from British Empire days. There is nothing Commonwealth about them, apart from the robbery of the commonwealth into the pockets of the not so common wealthy.

Now it is much easier to convince people that the Commonwealth Games is a wonderful achievement for the city and we will share and benefit from winning this prestigious event. People like sport – so our kind and generous city administrators are giving the people what they want? Did they not give us “The Garden Festival” “Culture City” “City of Architecture” and many more accolades that we can be proud of? Did we not enjoy ourselves for a few weeks? Did not each succeeding council leader in turn promise that the profits from these events would be spent on creating social inclusion? And do we not see the benefits of this social inclusion all around us? All these beautiful flats along the river – nice hotels, bistros all the shopping retail outlets and Tesco’s we could only dream of before these accolades became ours – the people’s of Glasgow.

It is through the profits of these events and achievements that we have been able to afford to welcome so many asylum seekers to our city. Have we not spread this wealth and social inclusion to the folk in Keppochhill, Parkhead, Hutchesontown, Bridgeton, Dalmarnock, Queenslie, Royston, Braidfauld, Ibrox, Barlanark, Ashfield, Milton, Wyndford, Easterhouse, Summerhill, to mention a few. OK perhaps a few of these places fell through the regeneration net. But we really promise this time. If you let use have the Commonwealth Games and allow us to sell of some old dusty buildings a few parks that no ones bothered about anyway. We will make sure everyone benefits. Honest.

What is a game?

Games are about interaction enjoyment therapy fun. When we were kids we learned through playing games. The Olympics and such like aren’t about games, they are about power and the glorification of power. Imagine folk training for 4 years just to run round a track faster than everyone else. Is that fun. It night be for those who do it and those who watch. I’m OK with it up to here. But why should it create so much human misery, devastate so much community and cost the poorest the most money. For if we take the time to study what happens before and after these short lived gatherings – we would understand why the people of New York were ecstatic about – not by winning the bid for the Olympics – but losing it.

Are you fed up listening to this rubbish? Then the Common Good Games are for YOU

What action you take will become part of the Common Good

There are 4 ways you could contribute.

Do some serious research, some scholarly militancy.

You Could help to create noise, create informative propaganda,

Do your own thing then link up, or have unbridled “meaningful” fun.

Or all 4

The Common Good Concept (For armchair gamists)

Common good The common good is a term that can refer to several different concepts. In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific ” good ” that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community This is also how the common good is broadly defined in philosophy, ethics and political science

Common good (economics) In economics the term common good is used to refer to competitive non-excludable goods .

Other games

Play Democracy Rules: ( “rule by the people” ) This game is participatory and has been played for centuries

Play Accountability Rules: ( In leadership roles, it is the acknowledgement and assumption of responsibility for actions)

Play “Practicing real Consultation” listening to and taking on-board the views of the public and interested groups.”

Enough of this stuff. If the Common Good games are to be successful they need to be visible. After all the games committee, [you] do not have a million bucks to spread adverts all over buildings. We are not allowed to spend public money without the bosses making sure we don’t do anything useful with it. So we need to use what is already here, what we got.

 

 

 

 

 

About

City Strolls has been hopefully serving a useful community function for the last 10 years. During that time the site has hosted events, updates and community activities.

A quote has sat at the top of City Strolls from the start. “This is the city and I am one of its citizens. Whatever interests the rest interests me, politics, wars, markets, newspapers, schools, the mayor and councils, banks, tariffs, steamships, factories, stocks, stores, real estate and personal estate.” Walt Whitman. It still encompasses to me what are the essential ingredients to life in the city (or anywhere).

If you do not get out and engage with other human beings you will not have much to say about them. City Strolls was, back in the day, when I had time to organise strolls and participate in them, about doing just that – strolling in your city. Not walking to go someplace with your head down, but looking up like a tourist and looking at, sometimes even well known things afresh. There was no planned root to a stroll. Time varied from 2 hours to 6 or so. Kids would be bored for the first bit but soon would be off exploring where they wanted, because we were free to wander anywhere, it wasn’t important. The conversation went where it needed to go. There were no leaders we were all tour guides.

Like other aspects of our lives, we need to put ourselves in the moment, to understand the connections. We learn by walking, by observing, by juxtaposing elements, how things overlay, interact, relate to each other. Looking at things from different angles, reserving judgment till we know all of the facts –till we look ourselves.

Peoples lives today are filled with endless farcical anomalies and deviations that folk are forced to worry about. We can only offer or highlight a few alternative paths through this debris, that may shine some light on the things we should really be worrying about. And on things that can offer some reflection on more human ways to live.

City Strolls Is dedicated to:

• Common Good awareness and the commons in general.
• Creating critical connections towards movement building.
• Encouraging organising social change towards institutional change.
• Creating events to encourage solidarity, learning and understanding.
• Encouraging skill sharing, networking and the avoidance of reinventing the wheel.
• Including: Encouraging the use of what we have that is free and available.
• Encouraging the use of free software and computer programming.
• Encouraging education and learning, Free University, Open Education…
• Encouraging growing, gardening, Understanding food sovereignty and permaculture.
• Transferring the organisational skills learned in the garden to the community.
• Participatory Action Research and the production of community documentation.
• Encourage young folk to organise and encourage their responsibility through self run projects.
• Relearning the city and taking it back from commerce, traffic and corporate blight.
• Carry out tasks and events with imagination to encourage participation.
• Broadening awareness of wider political activity.
• Using any medium available to express these ideas.

Looting the Commons

Looting the Commons
An interview with Michael Perelman

By Pierre Loiselle (znet)

Issues around intellectual property rights have spurred a lot of absurd scenarios with a plethora of bizarre claims and litigations in the courts. Furthermore, we are seeing how the U.S.-imposed patent system is assaulting the lives of people the world over. Michael Perelman is professor of economics at California State University at Chico. His books include Class Warfare in the Information Age, The Invention of Capitalism, and The Perverse Economy: The Impact of Markets on People and the Environment. I spoke with him about his latest book Steal this Idea!: Intellectual Property Rights and the Corporate Confiscation of Creativity.

PIERRE LOISELLE: In Steal this Idea!, you write that “intellectual property rights have contributed to one of the most massive redistribution of wealth that has ever occurred.” Could you expand on this?

MICHAEL PERELMAN: It’s very simple. Anybody who gets sick in the United States pays an enormous amount of money and that money comes from taxpayers, who give their money to government researchers, who develop new discoveries, who turn them over to private companies, who patent some drug, who then charge exorbitant fees for that drug. So in effect, money is taken from people as taxpayers, as consumers, and given over to the pharmaceutical companies.

How does this distribution of wealth play out on a global scale?

What happens is people come into a country like India. They patent something like the neem tree, which is a traditional source of medicine. They patent something like basmati rice. Then they expect to charge people for using this, even people who discovered it in the first place.

Intellectual property rights are instrumental for the so-called “first world” economy. Why?

Well, if you think about the United States, where is it that we have a comparative advantage? What we see is the types of things that we are dependent on: oil, more and more, even food. They are increasing in number and importance. The things that the U.S. exports, that the rest of the world needs from us, are declining in importance. People in China and people in India can do what we can do just about as well as we can, especially because in the United States we are letting our educational system deteriorate, in the hopes of privatizing it and making it into a business.

What is it that the United States can export easily? Other than weapons, our major export is intellectual property. We’re demanding countries around the world pay royalties for intellectual property. We’re exporting music, films, and software. Virtually everything that we are developing a comparative advantage in is heavily dependent on intellectual property. So, it becomes very important for the United States to be able to trade, in effect, intellectual property for things like oil.

Can you describe the machinations of how the patent system actually works in the international arena?

The United States is demanding that other countries make their patent systems conform more or less to our patent system. They are pushing underdeveloped countries to accept this sort of intellectual property rights. During the election of 2000, for example, the U.S. was demanding full price from Africa for AIDS medicine. AIDS medicine costs many times more than what the average African would be making, even if they were able to work. If they where suffering from AIDS, then the costs would be even more prohibitive. The point-person in the Clinton administration was Al Gore. This became a sore issue until Act Up started chanting wherever Gore was appearing: “AIDS Kills.” Eventually the United States agreed in effect that the South African government (not Africa in general) would have the right to use generic AIDS drugs. Of course, the fine print in the agreement was far less generous than the public relations relief that the Gore campaign got from this agreement.

If any country were to defy the United States in that respect, they would be cut off from trade or subjected to boycotts or even military force if it came to that.

Tell us about the historic role that intellectual property rights have played in the development of the economy as we know it today.

The U.S. was founded on the idea that intellectual property rights would be fairly non-existent except for patents, which were put into the Constitution more or less as an afterthought. Regularly, people would take books and novels that were published in Europe and reprint them here and nothing would be given to the author. The United States at the time was a consumer rather than a producer of intellectual property so we routinely violated the intellectual property of others. It was only when the United States became a predominate accumulator of intellectual property that intellectual property rights become sacrosanct.

When the United States has a deep recession or stagnation, suddenly you start seeing calls for stronger intellectual property as a way to somehow strengthen the economy. There was virtually no support for intellectual property laws in the 1870s. Corporations would routinely steal ideas from inventors. In fact, there was one Supreme Court case regarding a braking system on the railroads. The Supreme Court ruled that the inventor deserved nothing because the idea was in the air and if that person hadn’t invented it, someone else would.

A decade later in the 1880s, there was a serious recession. What do we do to get? Too much competition. Prices in manufacturing goods were going down because productive capacity was increasing faster than was the capacity of people to buy the stuff. Intellectual property at that time was not meant so much to be a means of giving an incentive to people to create more intellectual property, but to get around anti-trust legislation. It allowed the large corporations to share their patents in patent pools. In that way, they could restrain competition and get together and organize in ways that would otherwise be illegal.

The next big upsurge of intellectual property came in the 1960s when the United States was suddenly getting into a deficit situation; that is, we started in the United States importing more than we were exporting. What can we do? Oh, we can charge more for intellectual property and that will give us some benefits and it will make it more difficult for people in other countries to compete with us. So again, you have a big upsurge in intellectual property.

You can make the case that modern western capitalism grew and developed because of the absence of intellectual property. What we think of today is that modern scientific and technological advancements were key to the development of what we call the capitalist state. What made Western science burst out ahead of the rest of the world? If you go back to 1400, science was not particularly advanced. Various members of the nobility would hire themselves a scientist, like Leonardo da Vinci, as an ornament and then say: “I have the great Leonardo da Vinci and he works in my court, and you see what I great person I am.” Eventually, as science developed, the nobility were unable to distinguish who was the great scientist and who wasn’t.

As a result, they set up what were called scientific societies—in England, it was a Royal Society. These scientific societies were places where scientists would meet and communicate with scientists from other countries and bring their theories and bestow the type of honor on various scientists who would allow the nobility to know what kind of scientist they were buying. It meant that what we now call intellectual property, scientific information, was freely spread all around the western world.

You talk about treating knowledge as a commodity, both in Steal this Idea!, as well as in Class Warfare in the Information Age. Would you draw a parallel from the anarchist dictum of “property is theft” to the notion of intellectual property?

Let’s talk about intellectual property as theft. Nobody invents anything. That is, there has never been anyone in the history of the world that has invented anything. By that, I mean all information, all ideas depend on what goes before them. If I was to come up with a new idea, I do so because I have drawn on the work and experience of generations of people before me. What the patent system means is that I take this flow of information and suddenly say: “I claim credit for the whole thing.” I would think that’s theft because no one person really did anything.

One of my favorite examples of this was the telephone. It turned out that two people tried to patent the telephone on the same day unbeknownst to each other. The two people were working in parallel lines to patent the telephone and it happened that Alexander Graham Bell got there in the morning and Elisha Gray got there in the afternoon. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, as everybody knows. So it becomes difficult to think of a fair patent system unless you have a way of distinguishing and there is no way of distinguishing who did what and who deserves credit for what. The only way to figure out who did what or who deserves credit for what is through the legal system. That means each of the contenders goes to court and these court cases are becoming increasingly expensive. As intellectual property becomes more finely embedded within the technological system, the prospect of court cases increases exponentially.

What are the implications of treating knowledge as a commodity?

It doesn’t work as a commodity at first and here is the reason: I have brilliant idea and I say, “Who would like to buy this from me?” You say, “Sure, show me your idea.” I show you my idea and you say, “No, I don’t want to buy it.” But the problem is you already have it. It’s like going into a clothing store and you try on this suit and you take the suit off, you put on your street clothes, walk out, and somehow you still have the suit. It means that the only way I could sell you the information is to keep it secret. Of course, what makes information so valuable is the more it’s shared, the more it’s used, the more valuable it gets.

Secondly, in economics, one of the first things you learn is that the price system should, under competitive conditions, set prices equal to the cost of producing one more unit. That is what competition does and that is what every class in economics teaches. What’s the cost of producing one more unit of information; that is, replicating the same idea? The first person to invent, let’s say, the binomial theorem in mathematics, might have taken years to develop it. It takes only five minutes for that person to explain to the next person how they did it. Now, all you have to do is go on the Internet and you look at it, it’s already there. It costs nothing to produce, just as it costs nothing to produce another MP3 copy of a song or a piece of software. So what that says is that under competition, the price of intellectual property would go to zero. The producers of intellectual property say: “Well, if that happens I wouldn’t have an incentive to produce intellectual property.” So to prevent the price from going to zero, you give the producer of intellectual property a monopoly, i.e., nobody is allowed to use that except under terms that you define.

Of course, a monopoly is just the opposite of what capitalism is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be based on the competitive system. So in effect, what we have is a capitalist system that is not really based on capitalism with respect to intellectual property because it’s based on monopoly.

Tell us about how intellectual property rights confiscate creativity.

They confiscate creativity in several ways. First of all, a friend of a friend invents a new type of crank for a bicycle, which is not round and therefore it gives you a lot more power all the time. What would happen, obviously, is one of the large bike companies would take over this patent; take over this idea. The individual inventor, who’s selling little bits and pieces of what he is doing to specialized bike users, would lose out because there is no way that he could go up against a multinational corporation in a patent fight. It’s confiscation in that respect.

The second type of confiscation occurs because, in the case of the pharma- ceuticals, the public already paid for the intellectual property. That is, it supported the science that is then turned around and patented.

Even if the person who claims the intellectual property really did do the work that they say they did, it’s confiscation because they’re claiming the right to all the information and all the work, all the research that went before. That’s a third form of confiscation.

Finally, even if that person had thought of the idea out of whole cloth and had not depended on other scientists or researchers, that scientist still owes a lot to society because that scientist enjoyed the education and the upbringing from society as a whole. We take advantage of what society offers us. Society has provided enormous amounts of information and other inputs to make science possible. All of a sudden a single corporation steps in and says, “All that is mine.” I call that confiscation.

But there is something that goes beyond confiscation and that would be destruction of creativity. You get the destruction of creativity because the whole system becomes less friendly to creativity. When you work as a scientist in the corporation, it’s rare that scientists have the freedom to explore what they would like to do, where their interests are. They are often pushed into doing something that is in the corporate interest and has little to do with science. It may be just modifying some little thing so you can maintain the patent a little bit longer, even though it’s not an improvement. It may be that they’re just trying to get around a patent by copying something—what they call reverse engineering—and making it in a way that they can claim that it really doesn’t violate someone’s patent. This may be creative in a sense, but it’s not creating something new. It’s just working around a patent system.

You write, “It should be no surprise that today, when knowledge and information are so crucial to the economy, that the tradition of looting the commons extends to knowledge and information.”

Let me add to that. Scientific advances take about 20 or 30 years before they actually show up in a consumer product. We have a long tradition of relatively open science and a relatively short period of corporate science being so dominant. For centuries we have been putting scientific information into the commons, making it available. What is happening now is that the system of intellectual property is draining the commons. When you do that, the outcome should be a rapid increase in the development of new applications. But we’re not reinvesting in the scientific commons very much; we are short changing what we call basic science, the sort of science that would lead to the great products of the future, so we are looting the commons in the sense that we are draining all this previous information.

Do you have any ideas on what people can do to get ourselves out of this mess?

I wish I knew. There is something now called the Creative Commons and they are working hard to take information and put it into the public domain. But with corporate power increasing in the way it is, it becomes difficult to get around that.

It’s going to require a strong organizing. It is very difficult to even begin a discussion on a rational level. There are only a handful of people who seem to be taking a great interest in this problem. Maybe that is justified, given so many problems out there. It is certainly something that is going to impose a heavy cost on us sooner or later. It’s a very important subject and with the problems that we have been generating so quickly, we are going to need all the information shared as much as possible in order that we have any hope making this world into a better world.

Pierre Loiselle is a community radio enthusiast and freelance journalist living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

From:Z Magazine Online May 2005 Volume 18 Number 5

To subscribe and support znet

_____Links____________________


Friends of the commons

What is the commons On this web site, we use the terms commons , common assets , common property and common wealth . They all refer to the same thing in slightly different ways.

Commons is the generic term. It embraces all the creations of nature and society that we inherit jointly and freely, and hold in trust for future generations.

Common assets are those parts of the commons that have a value in the market. Radio airwaves are a common asset, as are timber and minerals on public lands. So, increasingly, are air and water.

Common property refers to a class of human-made rights that lies somewhere between private property and state property. Examples include conservation easements held by land trusts, Alaskans’ right to dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund, and everyone’s right to waterfront access.

Common wealth refers to the monetary and non-monetary value of the commons in supporting life and well-being. Like stockholders’ equity in a corporation, it may increase or decrease from year to year depending on how well the commons is managed.

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Common Good

Common Good Awareness Project was set up to create awareness of the Common Good fund in Scotland. What it is. What is happening to it and how it could be used for the benefit of the public who own it.

This participatory idea of economics would have much more relevance to administering the Common Good Fund – or even useful in shaping ideas in creating accountability and public control of Scotland’s Common Good.

Scotland it is very unique. Because, our Common Good is actually protected by laws that go beck 500 years and consists of lots of valuable assets, such as land, property, art, jewels and the like—and all the things we get into free—that is also part of our Common Good to. So we (the public) own these valuables in perpetuity so our kids and their kids can get the benefit of them to.

Now there are people employed in government whose job is to look after these assets in trust for the public—to make sure the assets work for the benefit of the public and the profits made from the CG return to the common good fund. This is not happening in many places and some of the decisions on what happens to these funds are being carried out without due public consent or consultation.

We need to find better ways to develop and protect these assets in a more participatory and publicly accountable way. And to help set up templates to share with other places to re establish the Common Good as a tool in helping to establish public control of assets and land.

Strolls Beginnings

These pages were from the start of City Strolls, 10 years ago. The idea was if you don’t get out and about nothing happens – or you won’t be aware of what does. We went for walks, not guided tours but participatory tours learning from each other. As well as looking at nice building, we would look at developments and ask what is this, what is it doing here and what has it got to do with me? So much can be learned about the city and its people when you walk to engage rather than usually walk to go from A to B.

Confused and bewildered by what goes on around you? Well join the gang your not alone. CITY STROLLS is a web site born out of listening to the endless hyperbole given out by faceless public relations and the advertising machines that claims to speak and act in our name on maters and decisions concerning our city and our liberty. CITY STROLLS believes, The only way to change circumstances that affect our lives is to organize community events and communications that will have an impact on these decisions.

  • If you are interested in looking at things from a different angle or perspective
  • Pursuing ideas for art; photography, architecture and critical observation
  • Share skills; ideas, on things that shape your community and environment
  • Developing an idea of what community and environment mean, within the city?
  • Or just having a chat or a stroll with like minded people – its you this site is for.

Navigation

The navigation at the right is the CITY STROLLS pages and will give you some idea behind the ethos of the project.
If you click on a topic that contains more than one page – such as Politics -Learning etc. The titles will appear for that section at the bottom of the navigation. list .Long pages have been broken up by some content titles.
Some sections contain more than others. These will be added or subtracted to as the site develops..

Section updates

I will endeavor to keep all of the sections on the site updated on a regular basis but, as I am a one man band some sections may suffer less attention than others. If you feel this the case and there are aspects you would like to see developed more or would be interested in contributing input. Let me know

The “Learning” section I hope to develop into workshops and would be interested in anyone with anything to offer, add or suggest. I would hope that workshops would be run as an open discussion format rather than a teacher / student setup.

I will endeavor to display links. references, reading materials, and contacts that have connections to the pages and would be interested to hear of others from you.. Hope there aren’t to many tYpos or many excruciating spelling mistakes. I work on the philosophy of the Chinese newspaper editor who, “leaves some mistakes in, in order to give his readership the pleasure of finding them .( That’s my excuse anyway) ” Enjoy. Bob

 

Thanks

As a participatory web site your input and views are important. I would like to thank people who have emailed so far with suggestions corrections and views, especially, CITYS STROLLS New York connection and Strolls back- room technical and soundboard advisors Luke and Brian. Keep them coming.

 

City Strolls

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