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

An eyesore on the linear development of the Clydeside

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Another industrial eyesore removed from the historical conscience

The antiques warehouse that used to sit on the waterfront giving a bit of diversity of why folk would be attracted to the river side. Burnt to a cinder over a weekend. No doubt to be replaced by more sterile blocks of flats. Eyesores to the gentrifiers, or should we say cultural colonisers, is anything that might sit at a funny angle, never mind architectural or historical significance, to the grid mentality that builds, not so much flats, but rather, sells investment in cubic meters of walled concrete.trigger more text

If we didn’t have the shipyard museum in Govan, and the one lonely column, that stands outside the supermarket in Springburn, what would we have? Where is our industrial heritage? What was once the site of the engineer works that built and exported steam engines all over the world. (25% global market share) Only one single pole remains there, one stanchion from the Hyde Park Works in central Springburn, is what Springburn has physically to represent the industry sweat and labour of its steam engine building past. What an embarrassment. Maybe the city planners should sneak in of a night time and remove it, or it may internally combust on its own, if neglected long enough. With this kind of disregard towards our industrial architecture, it should be no surprise that another remnant of our industrial past is bulldozed after going up in flames…

“Glasgow continues to maintain its reputation as the city in which historic buildings “go on fire”, the latest victim of ‘spontaneous combustion being Scotway House in Partick, close to the river Clyde.
A large two-storey pile of polychromatic brick and sandstone, it was designed by Bruce & May and built as offices for the shipbuilders and engineers, David & William Henderson & Co. Many of the record-breaking yachts built in the Meadowside Shipyard were designed in the building, which was listed at Category B. Empty and derelict, however, it had long been on the Buildings at Risk register for Scotland.
With the decline of shipbuilding, Scotway House found itself isolated on cleared ground between the new Riverside Museum – that absurd, impractical shed designed by the late Zaha Hadid – and the new Glasgow Harbour flats. It was first proposed for demolition in 2002. Three years later, the Glasgow Harbour developers proposed re-erecting it on another site as a restaurant. In 2011 it was proposed to restore it as a rock ‘n’ roll hall of lame. Last year it was proposed to convert it into a bar and restaurant next to a planned complex of student flats. All in vain. Last January part of the roof was damaged by fire, and last month the whole building was gutted by a far worse fire. It now stands as a roofless shell, and no doubt what is left will soon be (is being) cleared away for development.” Piloty Private Eye.

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Dancing with Systems

By Donella H. Meadows Whole Earth  Winter 2001

People who are raised in the industrial world and who get enthused about systems thinking are likely to make a terrible mistake. They are likely to assume that here, in systems analysis, in interconnection and complication, in the power of the computer, here at last, is the key to prediction and control. This mistake is likely because the mindset of the industrial world assumes that there is a key to prediction and control.

I assumed that at first too. We all assumed it, as eager systems students at the great institution called MIT. More or less innocently, enchanted by what we could see through our new lens, we did what many discoverers do. We exaggerated our own ability to change the world. We did so not with any intent to deceive others, but in the expression of our own expectations and hopes. Systems thinking for us was more than subtle, complicated mindplay. It was going to Make Systems Work.

But self-organizing, nonlinear, feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable. They are understandable only in the most general way. The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable. The idea of making a complex system do just what you want it to do can be achieved only temporarily, at best. We can never fully understand our world, not in the way our reductionistic science has led us to expect. Our science itself, from quantum theory to the mathematics of chaos, leads us into irreducible uncertainty. For any objective other than the most trivial, we can’t optimize; we don’t even know what to optimize. We can’t keep track of everything. We can’t find a proper, sustainable relationship to nature, each other, or the institutions we create, if we try to do it from the role of omniscient conqueror.

For those who stake their identity on the role of omniscient conqueror, the uncertainty exposed by systems thinking is hard to take. If you can’t understand, predict, and control, what is there to do?

Systems thinking leads to another conclusion, however waiting, shining, obvious as soon as we stop being blinded by the illusion of control. It says that there is plenty to do, of a different sort of “doing.” The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being. Systems can’t be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned. We can’t surge forward with certainty into a world of no surprises, but we can expect surprises and learn from them and even profit from them. We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.

We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them! I already knew that, in a way before I began to study systems. I had learned about dancing with great powers from whitewater kayaking, from gardening, from playing music, from skiing. All those endeavors require one to stay wide awake, pay close attention, participate flat out, and respond to feedback. It had never occurred to me that those same requirements might apply to intellectual work, to management, to government, to getting along with people.

But there it was, the message emerging from every computer model we made. Living successfully in a world of systems requires more of us than our ability to calculate. It requires our full humanity our rationality, our ability to sort out truth from falsehood, our intuition, our compassion, our vision, and our morality.

I will summarize the most general “systems wisdoms” I have absorbed from modeling complex systems and hanging out with modelers. These are the take-home lessons, the concepts and practices that penetrate the discipline of systems so deeply that one begins, however imperfectly, to practice them not just in one’s profession, but in all of life.

The list probably isn’t complete, because I am still a student in the school of systems. And it isn’t unique to systems thinking. There are many ways to learn to dance. But here, as a start-off dancing lesson, are the practices I see my colleagues adopting, consciously or unconsciously, as they encounter systems.

Get the beat.

Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves. If it’s a piece of music or a whitewater rapid or a fluctuation in a commodity price, study its beat. If it’s a social system, watch it work. Learn its history. Ask people who’ve been around a long time to tell you what has happened. If possible, find or make a time graph of actual data from the system. Peoples’ memories are not always reliable when it comes to timing.

Starting with the behavior of the system forces you to focus on facts, not theories. It keeps you from falling too quickly into your own beliefs or misconceptions, or those of others. It’s amazing how many misconceptions there can be. People will swear that rainfall is decreasing, say, but when you look at the data, you find that what is really happening is that variability is increasing the droughts are deeper, but the floods are greater too. I have been told with great authority that milk price was going up when it was going down, that real interest rates were falling when they were rising, that the deficit was a higher fraction of the GNP than ever before when it wasn’t.

Starting with the behavior of the system directs one’s thoughts to dynamic, not static analysis not only to “what’s wrong?” but also to “how did we get there?” and “what behavior modes are possible?” and “if we don’t change direction, where are we going to end up?”

And finally, starting with history discourages the common and distracting tendency we all have to define a problem not by the system’s actual behavior, but by the lack of our favorite solution. (The problem is, we need to find more oil. The problem is, we need to ban abortion. The problem is, how can we attract more growth to this town?)

Listen to the wisdom of the system.

Aid and encourage the forces and structures that help the system run itself. Don’t be an unthinking intervener and destroy the system’s own self-maintenance capacities. Before you charge in to make things better, pay attention to the value of what’s already there.

A friend of mine, Nathan Gray, was once an aid worker in Guatemala. He told me of his frustration with agencies that would arrive with the intention of “creating jobs” and “increasing entrepreneurial abilities” and “attracting outside investors.” They would walk right past the thriving local market, where small-scale business people of all kinds, from basket-makers to vegetable growers to butchers to candy sellers, were displaying their entrepreneurial abilities in jobs they had created for themselves. Nathan spent his time talking to the people in the market, asking about their lives and businesses, learning what was in the way of those businesses expanding and incomes rising. He concluded that what was needed was not outside investors, but inside ones. Small loans available at reasonable interest rates, and classes in literacy and accounting, would produce much more long-term good for the community than bringing in a factory or assembly plant from outside.

Expose your mental models to the open air.

Remember, always, that everything you know, and everything everyone knows, is only a model. Get your model out there where it can be shot at. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own. Instead of becoming a champion for one possible explanation or hypothesis or model, collect as many as possible. Consider all of them plausible until you find some evidence that causes you to rule one out. That way you will be emotionally able to see the evidence that rules out an assumption with which you might have confused your own identity.

You don’t have to put forth your mental model with diagrams and equations, though that’s a good discipline. You can do it with words or lists or pictures or arrows showing what you think is connected to what. The more you do that, in any form, the clearer your thinking will become, the faster you will admit your uncertainties and correct your mistakes, and the more flexible you will learn to be. Mental flexibility the willingness to redraw boundaries, to notice that a system has shifted into a new mode, to see how to redesign structure is a necessity when you live in a world of flexible systems.

Stay humble. Stay a learner.

Systems thinking has taught me to trust my intuition more and my figuring-out rationality less, to lean on both as much as I can, but still to be prepared for surprises. Working with systems, on the computer, in nature, among people, in organizations, constantly reminds me of how incomplete my mental models are, how complex the world is, and how much I don’t know.

The thing to do, when you don’t know, is not to bluff and not to freeze, but to learn. The way you learn is by experiment or, as Buckminster Fuller put it, by trial and error, error, error. In a world of complex systems it is not appropriate to charge forward with rigid, undeviating directives. “Stay the course” is only a good idea if you’re sure you’re on course. Pretending you’re in control even when you aren’t is a recipe not only for mistakes, but for not learning from mistakes. What’s appropriate when you’re learning is small steps, constant monitoring, and a willingness to change course as you find out more about where it’s leading.

That’s hard. It means making mistakes and, worse, admitting them. It means what psychologist Don Michael calls “error-embracing.” It takes a lot of courage to embrace your errors.

Honor and protect information.

A decision-maker can’t respond to information he or she doesn’t have, can’t respond accurately to information that is inaccurate, can’t respond in a timely way to information that is late. I would guess that 99 percent of what goes wrong in systems goes wrong because of faulty or missing information.

If I could, I would add an Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not distort, delay, or sequester information. You can drive a system crazy by muddying its information streams. You can make a system work better with surprising ease if you can give it more timely, accurate, and complete information.

For example, in 1986 new federal legislation required US companies to report all chemical emissions from each of their plants. Through the Freedom of Information Act (from a systems point of view one of the most important laws in the nation) that information became a matter of public record. In July 1988 the first data on chemical emissions became available. The reported emissions were not illegal, but they didn’t look very good when they were published in local papers by enterprising reporters, who had a tendency to make lists of “the top ten local polluters.” That’s all that happened. There were no lawsuits, no required reductions, no fines, no penalties. But within two years chemical emissions nationwide (as least as reported, and presumably also in fact) had decreased by 40 percent. Some companies were launching policies to bring their emissions down by 90 percent, just because of the release of previously sequestered information.

Locate responsibility in the system.

Look for the ways the system creates its own behavior. Do pay attention to the triggering events, the outside influences that bring forth one kind of behavior from the system rather than another. Sometimes those outside events can be controlled (as in reducing the pathogens in drinking water to keep down incidences of infectious disease). But sometimes they can’t. And sometimes blaming or trying to control the outside influence blinds one to the easier task of increasing responsibility within the system.

“Intrinsic responsibility” means that the system is designed to send feedback about the consequences of decision-making directly and quickly and compellingly to the decision-makers.

Dartmouth College reduced intrinsic responsibility when it took thermostats out of individual offices and classrooms and put temperature-control decisions under the guidance of a central computer. That was done as an energy-saving measure. My observation from a low level in the hierarchy is that the main consequence was greater oscillations in room temperature. When my office gets overheated now, instead of turning down the thermostat, I have to call an office across campus, which gets around to making corrections over a period of hours or days, and which often overcorrects, setting up the need for another phone call. One way of making that system more, rather than less, responsible, might have been to let professors keep control of their own thermostats and charge them directly for the amount of energy they use. (Thereby privatizing a commons!)

Designing a system for intrinsic responsibility could mean, for example, requiring all towns or companies that emit wastewater into a stream to place their intake pipe downstream from their outflow pipe. It could mean that neither insurance companies nor public funds should pay for medical costs resulting from smoking or from accidents in which a motorcycle rider didn’t wear a helmet or a car rider didn’t fasten the seat belt. It could mean Congress would no longer be allowed to legislate rules from which it exempts itself.

Make feedback policies for feedback systems.

President Jimmy Carter had an unusual ability to think in feedback terms and to make feedback policies. Unfortunately he had a hard time explaining them to a press and public that didn’t understand feedback.

He suggested, at a time when oil imports were soaring, that there be a tax on gasoline proportional to the fraction of US oil consumption that had to be imported. If imports continued to rise the tax would rise, until it suppressed demand and brought forth substitutes and reduced imports. If imports fell to zero, the tax would fall to zero.

The tax never got passed.

Carter was also trying to deal with a flood of illegal immigrants from Mexico. He suggested that nothing could be done about that immigration as long as there was a great gap in opportunity and living standards between the US and Mexico. Rather than spending money on border guards and barriers, he said, we should spend money helping to build the Mexican economy, and we should continue to do so until the immigration stopped.

That never happened either.

You can imagine why a dynamic, self-adjusting system cannot be governed by a static, unbending policy. It’s easier, more effective, and usually much cheaper to design policies that change depending on the state of the system. Especially where there are great uncertainties, the best policies not only contain feedback loops, but meta-feedback loops loops that alter, correct, and expand loops. These are policies that design learning into the management process.

Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.

Our culture, obsessed with numbers, has given us the idea that what we can measure is more important than what we can’t measure. You can look around and make up your own mind about whether quantity or quality is the outstanding characteristic of the world in which you live.

If something is ugly, say so. If it is tacky, inappropriate, out of proportion, unsustainable, morally degrading, ecologically impoverishing, or humanly demeaning, don’t let it pass. Don’t be stopped by the “if you can’t define it and measure it, I don’t have to pay attention to it” ploy. No one can [precisely] define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. No one can [precisely] define or measure any value. But if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren’t designed to produce them, if we don’t speak about them and point toward their presence or absence, they will cease to exist.

Go for the good of the whole.

Don’t maximize parts of systems or subsystems while ignoring the whole. As Kenneth Boulding once said, don’t go to great trouble to optimize something that never should be done at all. Aim to enhance total systems properties, such as [creativity], stability, diversity, resilience, and sustainability whether they are easily measured or not.

As you think about a system, spend part of your time from a vantage point that lets you see the whole system, not just the problem that may have drawn you to focus on the system to begin with. And realize that, especially in the short term, changes for the good of the whole may sometimes seem to be counter to the interests of a part of the system. It helps to remember that the parts of a system cannot survive without the whole. The long-term interests of your liver require the long-term health of your body, and the long-term interests of sawmills require the long-term health of forests.

Expand time horizons.

The official time horizon of industrial society doesn’t extend beyond what will happen after the next election or beyond the payback period of current investments. The time horizon of most families still extends farther than that through the lifetimes of children or grandchildren. Many Native American cultures actively spoke of and considered in their decisions the effects upon the seventh generation to come. The longer the operant time horizon, the better the chances for survival.

In the strict systems sense there is no long-term/short-term distinction. Phenomena at different timescales are nested within each other. Actions taken now have some immediate effects and some that radiate out for decades to come. We experience now the consequences of actions set in motion yesterday and decades ago and centuries ago.

When you’re walking along a tricky, curving, unknown, surprising, obstacle-strewn path, you’d be a fool to keep your head down and look just at the next step in front of you. You’d be equally a fool just to peer far ahead and never notice what’s immediately under your feet. You need to be watching both the short and long terms the whole system.

Expand thought horizons.

Defy the disciplines. In spite of what you majored in, or what the textbooks say, or what you think you’re an expert at, follow a system wherever it leads. It will be sure to lead across traditional disciplinary lines. To understand that system, you will have to be able to learn from while not being limited by economists and chemists and psychologists and theologians. You will have to penetrate their jargons, integrate what they tell you, recognize what they can honestly see through their particular lenses, and discard the distortions that come from the narrowness and incompleteness of their lenses. They won’t make it easy for you.

Seeing systems whole requires more than being “interdisciplinary,” if that word means, as it usually does, putting together people from different disciplines and letting them talk past each other. Interdisciplinary communication works only if there is a real problem to be solved, and if the representatives from the various disciplines are more committed to solving the problem than to being academically correct. They will have to go into learning mode, to admit ignorance and be willing to be taught, by each other and by the system.

It can be done. It’s very exciting when it happens.

Expand the boundary of caring.

Living successfully in a world of complex systems means expanding not only time horizons and thought horizons; above all it means expanding the horizons of caring. There are moral reasons for doing that, of course. And if moral arguments are not sufficient, systems thinking provides the practical reasons to back up the moral ones. The real system is interconnected. No part of the human race is separate either from other human beings or from the global ecosystem. It will not be possible in this integrated world for your heart to succeed if your lungs fail, or for your company to succeed if your workers fail, or for the rich in Los Angeles to succeed if the poor in Los Angeles fail, or for Europe to succeed if Africa fails, or for the global economy to succeed if the global environment fails.

As with everything else about systems, most people already know the interconnections that make moral and practical rules turn out to be the same rules. They just have to bring themselves to believe what they know.

Celebrate complexity.

Let’s face it, the universe is messy. It is nonlinear, turbulent, and chaotic. It is dynamic. It spends its time in transient behavior on its way to somewhere else, not in mathematically neat equilibria. It self-organizes and evolves. It creates diversity, not uniformity. That’s what makes the world interesting, that’s what makes it beautiful, and that’s what makes it work.

There’s something within the human mind that is attracted to straight lines and not curves, to whole numbers and not fractions, to uniformity and not diversity, and to certainties and not mystery. But there is something else within us that has the opposite set of tendencies, since we ourselves evolved out of and are shaped by and structured as complex feedback systems. Only a part of us, a part that has emerged recently, designs buildings as boxes with uncompromising straight lines and flat surfaces. Another part of us recognizes instinctively that nature designs in fractals, with intriguing detail on every scale from the microscopic to the macroscopic. That part of us makes Gothic cathedrals and Persian carpets, symphonies and novels, Mardi Gras costumes and artificial intelligence programs, all with embellishments almost as complex as the ones we find in the world around us.

Hold fast to the goal of goodness.

Examples of bad human behavior are held up, magnified by the media, affirmed by the culture, as typical. Just what you would expect. After all, we’re only human. The far more numerous examples of human goodness are barely noticed. They are Not News. They are exceptions. Must have been a saint. Can’t expect everyone to behave like that.

And so expectations are lowered. The gap between desired behavior and actual behavior narrows. Fewer actions are taken to affirm and instill ideals. The public discourse is full of cynicism. Public leaders are visibly, unrepentantly, amoral or immoral and are not held to account. Idealism is ridiculed. Statements of moral belief are suspect. It is much easier to talk about hate in public than to talk about love.

We know what to do about eroding goals. Don’t weigh the bad news more heavily than the good. And keep standards absolute.

This is quite a list. Systems thinking can only tell us to do these things. It can’t do them for us. And so we are brought to the gap between understanding and implementation. Systems thinking by itself cannot bridge that gap. But it can lead us to the edge of what analysis can do and then point beyond to what can and must be done by the human spirit.

Donella Meadows died in the spring of 2001. This article was excerpted from the manuscript of her unfinished last book.

Culture Sport Glasgow bans art magazine

From: Variant <variantmag@btinternet.com> Date: 17 June 2008 11:10:21 BST
Culture Sport Glasgow bans art magazine
The arts & culture magazine ‘Variant’ has been banned from Tramway, a key cultural venue in Glasgow “that promotes public participation, education and debate, placing the building at the heart of local, national and international concerns, issues and innovation.”
It has been brought to Variant’s attention that Culture and Sport Glasgow (CSG), the private company set up to take over the running of culture and sport from Glasgow City Council, has issued an order banning Variant magazine from Tramway.
The Summer issue of Variant features an article about the controversial creation of Culture and Sport Glasgow, which is based on an academic study undertaken by Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt at the University of Strathclyde.
Despite having been contacted earlier this year to input into the research for this article, James Doherty — Media Manager of Culture and Sport Glasgow, and President of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) — on publication threatened legal action over its content, and has since reneged on responding to Variant’s invitation to identify and correct any substantial inaccuracies he alleged existed.
Instead, Variant has learnt that Charles Bell, CSG Arts Development Manager, has issued an order to deprive readers visiting Tramway of access to the magazine.
Doherty’s immediate recourse to legal threats and the ensuing attempts at censorship represent an obvious conflict of interest with his role in the NUJ to uphold and defend the principles of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression, and the right of the public to be informed.
Ironically, Charles Bell was a key speaker at today’s conference ‘Raising the Art of Conversation’, billed as “a chance to discuss policy issues affecting the cultural sector”.

The article they don’t want you to read is:
‘The New Bohemia’
by Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt
Variant issue 32, Summer 2008
Text version: http://www.variant.org.uk/32texts/CSG.html
PDF version: http://www.variant.org.uk/pdfs/issue32/Variant32RGN.pdf
PDF of CSG structure diagram: http://www.variant.org.uk/pdfs/issue32/csg_diagram.pdf

And you might also be interested in reading:
‘Public / Private Partnership: What crisis of legitimacy?’
by Leigh French
Public Art Resource+Research Scotland (PAR+RS)
http://www.publicartscotland.com/features/5-Public-Private-Partnership-What-crisis-of-legitimacy-
——————————————-
Variant
…in-depth coverage in the context of
broader social, political & cultural issues.
1/2 189b Maryhill Road
Glasgow G20 7XJ
t. +44 (0)141 333 9522
e. variantmag@btinternet.com
http://www.variant.org.uk
receive events info & online Variant:
variantforum-subscribe@topica.com
——————————————-

The New Bohemia Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt

“The referendum on Scottish devolution on September 11th 1997 was a historic moment for our country. But the ‘Yes Yes’ result was not a mandate for politicians, civil servants, local government officers or any other public sector officials to take on extra powers ‘on behalf of the people’.”
Bridget McConnell, 19971

In summer 2007, Variant reported on the unprecedented move of Glasgow City Council (GCC) devolving its Cultural and Leisure Services department to a private charitable trust.2 The main challenges outlined at the time came from Unison – representing the majority of public sector workers affected – which objected that workers would suffer, that previous fundraising attempts offered a spurious precedent for guaranteeing future funding (which might contribute further pressure to seek private investment), that democratic accountability beyond the ‘lucky six’ councillors appointed to the board would be lost in relation to a number of key services (leading to an ‘arms-length’ private company), that the scheme represented a tax dodge (explicitly prohibited within Labour Party policy)3 and that this move would compromise the credibility and fundraising potential of legitimate charities. Unison mounted a legal challenge, applying for an interim interdict against the Council’s proposals in March 2007 and seeking a judicial review of the process, both of which were unsuccessful.

In January 2007, as a result of similar concerns, Culture Minister, Patricia Ferguson, had sought reassurance about the legality of the move.4 Another objection was made by Scots Tory MEP, Struan Stevenson – responding to the claims of a whistleblower presumed to be a high-level GCC official – on the grounds that the creation of a new company to oversee culture and leisure should have been put out to tender and that the state cannot directly or indirectly subsidise a company.5 Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes passed the matter over to European Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, who is widely acknowledged to be in favour of free markets.6 McCreevy contacted the Scottish Executive on 10 April 2007 which, just days before Bridget McConnell’s husband lost his job as First Minister, penned a joint response with GCC, refuting any claims of illegality, which was accepted by the Commission.7

Within its first year of trading, Culture and Sport Glasgow (CSG) has given some indication of its future trajectory. Controversial proposals to allow private companies to develop businesses in two of its parks have been strongly resisted and so far resulted in plans for a nightclub in the botanical gardens being scrapped. Initial fears about job security – especially for casual workers – appear to have been founded, with staff at Tramway being offered contracts that discriminate against artists who rely on flexibility in their paid work, thereby undermining the indirect subsidy that reaches the city’s creative practitioners through invigilation work. A year ago, Variant asserted that “one of Glasgow’s proud boasts is that of the free access to museums. How long will that last if the Trust gets into financial difficulties?” Somewhat predictably, it has just been announced that the feted Kelvingrove Museum will be introducing admission charges. It would seem to be an appropriate moment to take a closer look at the formation of Culture and Sport Glasgow, the overlapping networks and interests of its key personnel and the early implications of this transfer for culture within the broader strategies being devised for Glasgow, which are paralleled in other cities around the world.

With reference to city council reports and minutes, it is clear that the genesis of CSG suffered from a lack of transparency from the outset. In November 2005, in the wake of the Cultural Commission making its final report to the Scottish Executive and responsibility for cultural provision having largely been delegated to local authorities Glasgow’s Cultural Strategy was approved by the council. In her introduction to this document, Bridget McConnell (then Executive Director of Cultural and Leisure Services), affirmed the link between cultural participation and economic regeneration, highlighted the continued need for private investment in Glasgow and noted that cultural tourism accounted for 37% of all tourism to the city.8 Indeed, the potential of culture to increase tourism has become widely asserted as a phenomenon, with precedents ranging from Bankside (Tate Modern) to Bilbao (Guggenheim Museum), and McConnell has invoked Bilbao when discussing the new Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum, due to open on the banks of the Clyde in 2010.9

It was McConnell’s proposal to create a new company to manage the city’s cultural provision, which was swiftly taken up by Councillor John Lynch (then Executive Member for Culture and Sport), abetted by Councillors Steven Purcell and Aileen Colleran, who would go on to occupy key roles in Culture and Sport Glasgow. This ultimately led to the formation of two companies – one limited by guarantee with charitable status (with an estimated turnover of £19 million p.a.), and an additional trading arm, or Community Interest Company (CIC), to carry out those functions not deemed charitable by HM Revenue and Customs while gifting all income to the charity. While this proposal has the veneer of passing through the appropriate consultancy phase and council committees before finally being approved at a meeting of the GCC Executive Committee on 2 February 2007, it is interesting to note that Culture and Sport Glasgow and its trading arm had already been incorporated as private limited companies six weeks earlier, on 22 December 2006, with an application for charitable status having been made the day before.10

The intrusion of capital into the cultural arena is a familiar story throughout the modern period. In his landmark examination of how ruling class cohesiveness is achieved through cultural participation, G. William Domhoff describes how the Bohemian Club was founded in San Francisco in 1872 by artists, writers and musicians who subscribed to the myth of Bohemia, whereby creativity springs from poverty. This privileging of creative talent over financial means was soon displaced by more pragmatic concerns about the daily running of the club and, in the late nineteenth century, wealthy, untalented men were voted into the club, thus securing the future of its activities.11 This paves the way for a detailed consideration of the financial motives informing cultural provision in Glasgow.

The diagram [click for PDF] that begins this text details the interactions between the invited board members of Culture and Sport Glasgow and some of their external connections, which are elaborated here:

Bridget McConnell – Executive Director of Culture and Sport Glasgow, and Culture and Sport Glasgow (Trading) CIC
As the manoeuvres outlined above demonstrate, Bridget McConnell was the driving force behind the creation of Culture and Sport Glasgow. Appointed as Director of Cultural and Leisure services in 1998, her tenure was blighted by union wrangles over jobs and by run-ins with the city’s artistic communities about departmental policies or lack thereof. Promoted to Executive Director with negligible discussion in August 2005, reports of top council jobs being axed were appearing on the front page of the Herald by the following November.

As Cultural and Leisure Services complained that an extra £3.5m p.a. was needed to run its museums properly, figures produced by McConnell for the period 1 April 2006 and 26 January 2007 showed her department having a net overspend of £981,000. Yet, while the devolution to CSG was justified to the GCC Executive Committee and the media on financial grounds, McConnell’s perspective has always been broader, extending to discussions around culture at a national level.12 In 2000, she served as a member of the focus group set up to implement the National Cultural Strategy13 and – through CoSLA14 and VOCAL15 – ensured that the work of local authorities in delivering cultural provision was fully recognised.16 On the occasion of Culture Minister, Patricia Ferguson, making her recommendations on the future of the arts in Scotland in January 2006, in response to the findings of the Cultural Commission, it was said that “arts figures across Scotland are unanimous in one thing: the conclusions of Ferguson’s blueprint, which controversially propose to hand more influence over Scotland’s arts scene to local and central government, were wrought in [Bridget McConnell’s] image.”17 In order to make her plans a reality, McConnell has secured the help of some of the most influential pro-business minds in Glasgow City Council and beyond.

Controlling the majority of cultural provision in Glasgow, Bridget McConnell would be expected to have an interest in culture. Some insight into her taste in art comes from the Christmas present she commissioned for husband Jack in 2004 – an oil painting by Hamish MacDonald of the farmhouse on Arran where Jack grew up. Writing in 1997 – the year Glasgow-based artist Christine Borland was nominated for the Turner Prize, with her contemporary, Douglas Gordon, having won the prestigious prize the previous year – McConnell confined her appraisal of visual art successes in Scotland to an earlier generation of painters, mis-spelling John Bellany’s name and merging Peter Howson’s with that of Ken Currie to commend “the internationally successful Belamey, Campbell and Howie.”18 To compensate for the gaps in her arts knowledge, McConnell has seconded Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York as an advisor, although his role seems largely confined to making links with wealthy Scottish émigrés as part of the CSG development strategy.
One final point of interest before considering the dealings of other CSG representatives is that McConnell’s brother, Robert McLuckie, is the millionaire owner of property company, Camvo 37. In 2007, retired detective sergeant Alistair Watson – the officer behind the ‘cash for honours’ inquiry that dogged Tony Blair – sparked an investigation into McLuckie’s dealings with the Scottish Executive by writing to the Metropolitan Police. Apparently, five houses and a plot of prime building land, sold to Camvo 37 by the Executive for just two pounds in 2004 on the site of the former Ladysbridge Hospital in Aberdeenshire, had been valued at upwards of £1million. A condition of the sale had been that McLuckie should pay for any subsequent renovation, yet he applied for £120,000 from an Executive quango, Communities Scotland, to help build new homes on the land and another £230,000 of NHS and council cash was allegedly spent renovating the existing houses, despite interventions from Inland Revenue. It was reported that, six months before negotiations began, another McLuckie company, Choices Community Care, had donated more than £2,000 to Jack McConnell’s election funds.19

Bailie Liz Cameron – Chair of Culture and Sport Glasgow
Passionate about promoting Glasgow abroad, former Lord Provost, Liz Cameron, travels the world at the city’s expense. This has seen her taking trips to New York, Sri Lanka and Melbourne, the latter of which was undertaken as part of the delegation to secure the 2014 Commonwealth Games for Glasgow. Aside from her work for Glasgow City Council, Cameron works as Vice Chair of Glasgow Cultural Enterprises (the company set up by the council in 1988 to manage various cultural venues, which acts as something of a precedent for CSG) and Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (to be discussed in more detail later). Her connections extend into virtually every aspect of cultural life in Glasgow, while her presence on the planning applications committee ensures that development projects are tailored to fit the city’s priorities.

Councillor Steven Purcell, – Board Member of Culture and Sport Glasgow
Leader of Glasgow City Council, Purcell has been accused by Christopher Mason (leader of the council’s LibDems) of being on a crusade to ‘Blairise’ the council by presiding over changes which saw the traditional committee system replaced with a policy-making cabinet, or executive, of fifteen councillors in summer 2006.20 He is avowedly pro-business, and the devolution of cultural and leisure provision follows the creation of several other limited liability partnerships by the council in recent years. In November 2007, Purcell consolidated his approach by offering rent-free premises to new business start-ups in the city. He is a central figure in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, opening the process up to tendering and making Scottish businesses aware of procurement opportunities. Working alongside Liz Cameron, Purcell acts as Chair of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau; he is also a Non-Executive Director of the Scottish Exhibitions and Conference Centre (SECC) and has a non-financial interest in Scottish Enterprise Glasgow.

In response to fears about the vulnerability of charitable companies like Culture and Sport Glasgow to the 2002 Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act, Purcell reassured citizens that “a commitment to meeting all the Freedom of Information requests currently met by Cultural and Leisure Services is guaranteed as Culture and Sport Glasgow is a publicly owned company and is therefore obliged to comply with the legislation.”21 And, while the CSG Board congratulated itself on the Scottish Information Commissioner’s praise for its publication scheme as “one of best he had ever seen for a publicly-owned company,”22 successive requests for information about various aspects of its operation, have thus far yielded nothing.

Councillor Stephen Curran – Board Member of Culture and Sport Glasgow, and Culture and Sport Glasgow (Trading) CIC
As City Treasurer, Scottish Labour Councillor Stephen Curran has the unenviable task of running a council with a £1.3 billion debt which pays £90 million in interest every year. Combined with the almost £1m overspend shown by Cultural and Leisure Services in the 2006-07 financial year, fiscal prudence invoked in the creation of Culture and Sport Glasgow and its trading arm will continue to be integral to both new companies.

Councillor Aileen Colleran – Board Member of Culture and Sport Glasgow, and Culture and Sport Glasgow (Trading) CIC
In May 2007, the Council Business Manager became Chief Whip and took up a place on the board of both CSG companies. She also undertakes remunerated work as Director/Board Member for two other independent companies set up by the council – Glasgow Cultural Enterprises and City Building LLP.

Councillor James Dornan – Board Member of Culture and Sport Glasgow
Dornan’s appointment to the Board represents the healing of a rift between the SNP and CSG. Having initially opposed the devolution of cultural and leisure provision to the charitable company, SNP leader within Glasgow City Council, John Mason, announced in May 2007 that the SNP would be represented on the board.

Lord Norman Somerville Macfarlane of Bearsden – Independent Director of Culture and Sport Glasgow
A prominent Scottish industrialist, the octogenarian Conservative peer is Honorary Life President of both his own packaging company, Macfarlane Group plc, and of drinks giant, Diageo, one of the biggest alcohol companies in the world. Macfarlane has held Directorships at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Clydesdale Bank and his cultural links extend to Scottish Ballet, the Scottish National Orchestra, Third Eye Centre (now the Centre for Contemporary Arts), National Art Collection Fund and National Galleries of Scotland. As Chair of the Kelvingrove Renovation Appeal Trust, he was publicly credited with overseeing a massive fundraising effort to enable Glasgow City Council’s flagship venue to re-open, while the work of professional fundraiser, Alan Horn, is rarely acknowledged.

In March 2008, in recognition of the synergy he brings to business and the arts, Lord Macfarlane was honoured with a Goodman Award (along with the founders of frieze magazine) by Arts and Business, the organisation set up during the Thatcher era to promote partnerships between the two realms. However, all is not rosy in the world of art and business, with Macfarlane Group suffering from a lower demand in packaging, at a time of enhanced ecological awareness, to record losses in the four years up to 2005. When a country’s monetary systems flounder, works of art are known to provide an alternative means of preserving economic capital. Since the American Depression of the 1930s, it has been understood that “exhibiting one’s own art works alongside prestigious international art works, and hence adding to the symbolic value of all the works and to their consequent monetary value, preserved overall capital for the owner by increasing an art work’s present cultural capital for later transformation into economic capital – a good investment of both time and money.”23 Macfarlane is currently Chair of the committee to organise the ‘Glasgow Boys’ exhibition due to take place at Kelvingrove in 2010, with a tour to London’s Royal Academy, a foray into programming which will boost the value of his well-publicised private collection of Glasgow Boys’ paintings.

The Rt Hon George Reid – Independent Director of Culture and Sport Glasgow
As Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament under Jack McConnell, from 2003 until May 2007, George Reid oversaw many corporate interventions into the Scottish Parliament. He was Honorary President of the Scottish Parliament Business Exchange, which was set up to ‘educate’ parliamentarians about business; while participants are asked to sign a no-lobbying guarantee, dues of £7,500 have tended to confine membership to representatives of trans-national corporations and professional lobbyists. One of its members is Holyrood Communications, a political communications company owned by public consultations advisory firm, Holyrood Consultations, which changed its name to 2Collaborate in 2006. On behalf of its clients the Scottish Executive, 2Collaborate launched a campaign – sponsored by Microsoft, CapGemini and the Herald newspaper – to advocate private interventions into public services.

As of May 2008, Reid remains a board member of the Futures Forum24, a think tank set up by the Scottish Parliament to extend its outreach work into fields such as the arts and entrepreneurship. Its foundation was, in turn, informed by the Global Business Network which involves creative futurologists such as Douglas Coupland, Brian Eno, Bruce Sterling and Francis Fukuyama and “works with Fortune 500 companies from virtually every industry and continent, as well as with many national governments, nonprofits, and foundations” to help iron out the uncertainties of global business futures.25

Sir Angus Grossart – Independent Director of Culture and Sport Glasgow
Sir Angus Grossart is Chairman and Chief Executive of Noble Grossart, the merchant bank he founded in 1969. Vice Chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland until 2005, Grossart has been linked with fifty business ventures, via Directorships ranging from British Petroleum to Scottish and Newcastle. His links with culture include, amongst others, trusteeships at the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, vice-presidency of Scottish Opera, chairmanship of the Fine Art Society (of which Noble Grossart owns 29%) and directorship of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Lord Dennis Stevenson of Coddenham – Independent Director of Culture and Sport Glasgow
Like his fellow Independent Directors, Stevenson has multifarious business and governmental links, engendered through his work for think tanks – including Demos, the Social Market Foundation, SRU, Lexington Communications and Huntsworth PR group – which lead right to the heart of the New Labour government. His cultural involvement extends into work for the British Council, a high-profile Directorship of the Tate Gallery and an appointment as Chancellor of the University of the Arts (the powerful merger of six art and design schools in London).

Dr. Kenneth Chrystie – Chair of Culture and Sport Glasgow (Trading) CIC
A trained lawyer, Chrystie was Partner of Glasgow-based firm, McClure Naismith, from 1972 to 2007 where he became a specialist in intellectual property law,26 which is crucial to the much-vaunted creative industries. Retained as a consultant to McClure’s, he also offers his services to Murgitroyd and Co, Scotland’s only listed firm of patent attorneys. In July 2007, Chrystie was appointed as a Member of Strathclyde University Incubator (chaired by Ian Murgitroyd),27 which nurtures nascent companies until they can thrive on their own and raises questions about conflict of interest.

Flora Martin – Board Member of Culture and Sport Glasgow (Trading) CIC
With a background in the military side of the civil service – working at the Fleet Air Arm base near Perth and the Faslane MoD base at Helensburgh – Martin is widely considered to be one of Scotland’s PR gurus. She started her own company, Flora Martin PR, in 1989, with clients largely centred on the alcohol and hotel trades. In 1996, she sold her company to Citigate Communications for in excess of £1 million, staying on to build the turnover up to £5 million, with clients from Asda to Bank of Scotland. Stepping down to become independent in 2004, three years later she became Chair of Platform PR, which works in government relations (i.e. lobbying) and communications strategies, helping their clients to “weather controversies and cope with crises.”28 Martin will head Platform’s new Glasgow office.

Edward Crozier – Board Member of Culture and Sport Glasgow (Trading) CIC
Managing Director of Whisky Galore Films Limited, Director of Promenade Productions, Britannia Productions and several other media-related companies, Crozier has produced a handful of West End productions. He holds a Directorship at Scottish Opera and, in-keeping with the sporting element of Culture and Sport Glasgow, is a member of the Scottish Rugby Union Council, a Grade ‘A’ rugby referee and past Chairman of the Scottish Rugby Referees Association. He also currently sits on the judging panel for the Scottish Entrepreneur of the year awards.

Seamus MacInnes – Board Member of Culture and Sport Glasgow (Trading) CIC
Seumas MacInnes is the entrepreneurial restaurateur behind the expanding Allied Irish Bank-funded chain of Gandolfi restaurants based in the Merchant City area of Glasgow, the hitherto ignored yet historical eastern edge of Glasgow city centre, which has been earmarked for development by GCC. Gandolfi is a member of the Glasgow Restaurateurs Association29 which represents the main restaurants in the city and forms part of Glasgow’s branding and tourism strategies. MacInnes – who is from Barra in the Western Isles – is a darling of the Herald newspaper, having served as a food columnist there in 2000-1.

The Bigger Picture

In March 2004,30 Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (which, it will be remembered, has CSG’s Steven Purcell and Liz Cameron as its Chair and Vice Chair respectively)31 branded the city with the slogan ‘Glasgow: Scotland with style’. In his introduction to the brand guide, the Bureau’s Chief Executive, Scott Taylor, writes “Since the launch of the brand, in excess of 535,000 additional tourists have visited the city generating £62 million in local economic benefit and delivering a 2% year-on-year increase in hotel occupancy,” thus consolidating the link between the brand and the city’s tourism strategy.

Glasgow City Marketing Bureau is part of a consortium – together with Glasgow City Council, Visit Scotland, Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce – set up to develop Glasgow’s tourism strategy.32 As a leading representative of three of the five partner organisations, Steven Purcell embraces tourism as a key industry within Glasgow’s economic development strategy and sets the target of attracting one million visitors by 2016 to take the sector into the £1 billion p.a. bracket. The route for achieving this 80% growth in tourism encompasses a major events strategy centred on the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the afore-mentioned Riverside Museum and the Arena at the SECC. Capitalising on the markets for leisure and ‘discretionary business tourism’, the strategy makes explicit reference to the role of Culture and Sport Glasgow, the renovated Kelvingrove Museum and the regeneration of Merchant City.

As we have seen, Bridget McConnell is fully conversant with the potential of culture and sport to increase the revenue of a city through tourism, and her ambitions for Glasgow, as expressed in CSG’s priorities, closely overlap with those of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau. Emphasis on cultural tourism has led to a ‘festival mentality’, whereby the city’s support is concentrated on attracting temporary tourists rather than supporting Glasgow’s creative practitioners directly.33 March 2008 saw the Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival, Aye Write! – The Bank of Scotland Book Festival – and the 16th French Film Festival. This was followed, in April 2008, by the Glasgow Art Fair and the two-week visual arts fest, Glasgow International. An annual exhibition that quickly became biennial, Glasgow International effectively brands the exhibitions already taking place in the city’s main institutions and grassroots organisations in a bid to attract visitors en masse. On 13 May, 2008, Katrina Brown was announced as the new Director of Glasgow International. Undertaking this role on behalf of the Common Guild – the ‘public’ arm of Glasgow’s predominant commercial gallery, the Modern Institute – this appointment perfectly consolidates the creeping commercialisation of the art world in Glasgow.

The second exercise in branding extant visual arts activity within the city is Trongate 103, which is due to open in 2009. Led by Glasgow City Council’s Department of Development and Regeneration, this will see the redevelopment of a block at the corner of Trongate and King Street – which has long housed eight arts organisations – to form a unified arts complex.34 Tapping into a familiar, and often disastrous,35 strategy of culture-led regeneration, this dovetails neatly with the Five Year Action Plan devised for the regeneration of the Merchant City area at the east of the city centre. This badly-punctuated document is explicit about the Council’s intentions to capitalise on the potential of this area, ensuring that derelict properties are renovated and inhabited. At the time of writing, the cultural tenants of Trongate 103 have been offered five year leases based on existing rents, after which time their future is uncertain.

Also consistent with the events-based strategy being perpetuated in the city is Culture and Sport Glasgow’s involvement in the bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. When McConnell was promoted to Executive Director of Cultural and Leisure Services, her role grew to encompass sport. Together with husband, Jack, and GCC/CSG representatives Liz Cameron and Steven Purcell, McConnell has travelled the world as an ambassador of Glasgow to ensure that the Games come to the city. Recent reports that she may have been sidelined to protect SNP sensitivities would seem to be contradicted by the relocation of the sports development team of CSG to the Commonwealth site.

Critic of neoliberalism, David Harvey, discusses the organisation of urban spectacles, like shopping centres and the Olympic Games, to “create a positive and high quality image of place…” Serial repetition of successful models, he says, “is understandable, given the grim history of deindustrialization and restructuring that left most major cities in the advanced capitalist world with few options except to compete with each other, mainly as financial, consumption, and entertainment centres. Imaging a city through the organisation of spectacular urban spaces became a means to attract capital and people (of the right sort) in a period (since 1973) of intensified inter-urban competition and urban entrepreneurialism.”36 Indeed, the Commonwealth Games is viewed by the CSG team as a major opportunity for Scottish business. While accounts of Culture and Sport Glasgow have largely ignored its trading arm, the entrepreneurial muscle of Ed Crozier combined with the business-nurturing approach of Kenneth Chrystie will no doubt ensure that the maximum amount of capital is extracted from this event. In parallel with this, the hospitality-based PR work of Flora Martin and the role of influential Merchant City-based restaurateur, Seamus MacInnes, will no doubt contribute to the profitable tourist-led regeneration.

More than the sum of its parts, the creation of Culture and Sport Glasgow represents the wholesale takeover of culture by business interests. It posits a strategy for economic regeneration that depends on the whims of elite tourism and its pace of consumption in a period of economic crisis. It demonstrates an ethos that is smothering this city and others like it, regarding culture solely in terms of its use value, stripped of any emancipatory potential. Far from being considered in terms of the universal creativity to which every citizen has a right, culture in Glasgow is framed in terms of passive participation and money-making potential, with the city’s burghers fast accumulating cultural capital in the process. It remains to be seen how this approach will affect the creativity of future generations as Glasgow’s cultural communities are rendered impoverished and complicit in the new Bohemia.

This research was undertaken as part of an MRes in Social Research in the Department of Geography and Sociology at the University of Strathclyde.

Notes
1. Bridget McConnell, ‘Culture and the New Politics: Reflections from a Small Country.’ In M. Jacobs (ed.) Creative Futures. Fabian Society, London, pp. 16-22.
2. Anon. ‘O Rose, thou art sick! Outsourcing Glasgow’s Cultural and Leisure Services.’ Variant, 29, pp. 30-1.
3. This point refers to Labour’s policy document Scotland’s Future: Report of the Scottish Policy Forum which opposes the creation of charities for outsourcing services, a policy inserted at the insistence of Unison states: ‘We will look at ways to ensure the legitimate incentives that apply to charities are not used as vehicles for outsourcing by local authorities.’ See Gerry Braiden, ‘Council’s proposal to hand over museums ‘against party policy’.’ The Herald. 2 March, 2007, p.2.
4. Paul Hutcheon, ‘Executive queries legality of new culture trust: Glasgow council’s bid to hand over libraries and museums hits legal snag.’ The Sunday Herald. 4 February, 2007, p. 28.
5. John McCann, ‘Glasgow museums trust faces Euro probe: Investigation over claims charity is operating illegally.’ Evening Times. 3 May, 2007, p. 2.
6. Honor Mahony, ‘Free marketers in top commission posts.’ EU Observer, 13 August 2004.
7. Gerry Braiden, ‘Commissioner clears city over culture and sport trust claims.’ The Herald. 30 August, 2007, p. 6. http://www.theherald.co.uk/politics/news/display.var.1651843.0.0.php
8. Bridget McConnell in C. Landry (ed) Glasgow: The People, The Place, The Potential. Glasgow’s Cultural Strategy., 2006. http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/YourCouncil/PolicyPlanning_Strategy/ServiceDepartments/CultureandSportGlasgow/
9. M. McLaughlin, ‘Museum faces delays as costs spiral to £74m.’ The Scotsman. 13 June, 2007, p. 21.
10. Culture and Sport Glasgow Articles of Association and Certificate of Incorporation of a Private Limited Company (Company No. 313851) 22 December 2006 and letter from Burness to OSCR 21 December 2006.
11. G.William Domhoff, The Bohemian Gove and Other Retreats: A Study in Ruling-Class Cohesiveness. Harper & Row, New York, 1974. pp. 52-54.
12. It will be remembered that her husband, Jack McConnell, First Minister of Scotland November 2001-May 2007, had made the development of devolved powers for culture a priority. This was reflected in his 2003 St Andrew’s Day speech in which he said, ‘I believe we can now make the development of our creative drive, our imagination, the next major enterprise for our society. Arts for all can be a reality, a democratic right, and an achievement of the early 21st Century.’ See http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/News-Extras/176
13. On 18 December 2002, in her capacity as Chair of VOCAL, Bridget McConnell wrote to the group charged with implementation of the Scottish Executive’s National Cultural Strategy to propose a national review of local government cultural and leisure services. See minutes of Joint Implementation Group meeting 14 January 2003, item 4.6. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/FOI/19260/jointgroup. This intervention led to her being copied into documents collected by the subsequent Cultural Commission (a visit to the Cultural Commission archive held in Stirling revealed that the marginalia of documents included the note ‘Copies to Frank [McAveety], James [Boyle], Bridget).
14. Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. McConnell served as Link Arts Adviser (1997-2001) and Joint Chair of the CoSLA/VOCAL Culture Strategy Task Group (2005).
15. The Voice of Chief Officers of Culture, Leisure and Community Services in Scotland.
16. See Scottish Executive/COSLA Implementation of the National Cultural Strategy: Guidance for Local Authorities, March 2003.
17. See Eddie Barnes and William Lyons, ‘Are our artists being strung along?’ Scotland on Sunday. 22 January, 2006. p. 13. In the same article, it was claimed that McConnell had always viewed the Scottish Arts Council as an impediment to her plans of offering ‘access to excellence’, which may have led to its demise as a result of the Cultural Commission process. Elsewhere, it was reported that a memo was sent from civil servants to the Executive in advance of the Cultural Commission, seriously undermining the efficacy of the Scottish Arts Council, and reported a feud between Bridget McConnell and James Boyle. See Paul Hutcheon, ‘Revealed: civil servants’ attack on arts council: Memo sparks fears of secret agenda.’ The Sunday Herald. 10 April, 2005. p. 10.
18. Bridget McConnell, ‘Culture and the New Politics: Reflections from a Small Country.’ op. cit. p. 17.
19. Paul Gilbride, ‘McConnell’s relative faces probe into £2 property deal’ The Express, 26 March 2007, p.15.
20. Stephen Stewart, ‘Chaos as council stopped by sit-in protest: Anger over cabinet system.’ The Herald. 30 June, 2006. p. 9.
21. Brian Currie, ‘No hiding place for secrets in our new city leisure trusts: Freedom of Information pledge by Purcell.’ Evening Times. 8 March, 2007, p. 7.
22. Culture and Sport Glasgow. Minutes of Meeting of Board of Directors, 27 June, 2007. Note 7(4). See http://www.csglasgow.org/aboutus/meetings_minutes/
23. Michael Grenfell and Cheryl Hardy, Art Rules: Pierre Bourdieu and the Visual Arts. Berg, Oxford, 2007. p. 97.
24. http://www.scotlandfutureforum.org/sff/people.asp
25. http://www.gbn.com/
26. Kenneth Chrystie is a founder member of The Intellectual Property Lawyers Organisation (TIPLO) based in London.
27. http://www.ukbi.co.uk/index.asp?PID=542
28. Platform PR website http://www.platformpr.co.uk/TrackRecord.aspx
29. http://www.bestglasgowrestaurants.com/index.php?page=restaurants&id=86&start=0
30. There seems to be some confusion about dates in the literature. The brand guide claims that GCMB launched the brand in March 2004 while its Chief Executive, Scott Taylor, dates the inception of the bureau to April 2005. See Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, Glasgow: Scotland with style: The City Brand. September, 2007. http://www.seeglasgow.com/glasgow-the-brand
31. According to Steven Purcell’s introduction to the brand guide, ‘The Bureau has a team of 43 people engaged in branding and public relations; conference, meetings and incentive sales; event creation, management and marketing; conference and event accommodation bookings; ICT and finance and administration.’
32. Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, Glasgow’s Tourism Strategy to 2016, 2007. This strategy is predicated on the understanding that ‘tourism is the fastest-growing global economic sector in terms of foreign exchange earnings and job creation’ (p. 7). In considering the policy context for the strategy, it is noted that it ‘takes advantage of the favourable national policy environment’ (p. 4).
33. One of the few roles of the former CLS relinquished by CSG was that of direct grant-giving powers.
34. See http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/Residents/ArtsDevelopment/Newsletter/visualart.htm
35. In Dublin, regeneration of the Temple Bar area led to hiked rents which precluded its former cultural tenants; the same pattern has been seen in the Shoreditch area of London, notably through the spectacular demise of the Lux Centre. Benedict Seymour, ‘The Last Picture Show’, Mute, 22, December 2001 documents the rent support originally offered to the Lux by the British Film Institute (themselves renting the building from Glasshouse developers) which was reneged upon when the BFI underwent a funding squeeze, and concludes: ‘With the forced exodus from New Labour’s bathetic grands projets already begun, the challenge now is to discover a ‘third way’ between the unaccountable bureaucracy that consumed the Lux and the culture pimping that sustains the ICA. If anything good comes out of the eclipse of the Lux it will involve creating a better, viable and contemporary form of the autonomy sought by the original cooperatives a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.’ See http://www.metamute.org/en/The-Last-Picture-Show
36. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Blackwell, Oxford, 1980, p. 92.

From Variant Mag

Repatriating the Lakota Ghost Dance shirt and the twilight of the Common Good

This autumn sees the 10th anniversary of the repatriation of the Lakota Ghost Dance shirt, to the Lakota people – which was in the possession of Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow.

It is possible to take almost anything from people, once you have removed the symbols of their culture, because symbolic culture is an important part of a type of value system that creates taboos and boundaries that help to maintain and protect a common good. The Lakota know this well – together with the symbolic value of objects – not as museum pieces – but as part of their daily rituals. The value of our culture, if there is any, is in how it intertwines in our daily lives – it is not, as it has become for many – a day out at the art gallery to see the “Doctor Who” exhibition.

The 10th anniversary of the repatriation of the Lakota Ghost Dance shirt, to its rightful owners, should remind us that it is almost the 3nd anniversary of the robbing of the Glasgow people’s Common Good by the cities administrators.

The Lakota, travel across oceans to reclaim their cultural heritage – Glaswegian’s, apart from a dedicated few, have hardly started to cross a symbolic road, to reclaim “their” common heritage.

American Indians see at first hand how the destruction of there culture and value system goes hand in hand with the destruction, colonisation and appropriation of their land and livelihood. We need to learn from the Lakota, and demand the repatriation of Glasgow’s common good to the city – and for it to be used for the benefit of local people.

Common Good
A beginners guide

The New Bohemia
How business took over the cities culture

Council plans on museums ‘against party policy’

Plans by Labour-run Glasgow City Council to hand over control of its museums, galleries and sports facilities to an independent charitable trust is against party policy, it has been claimed.

Opposition politicians and unions have pointed to Labour’s latest policy document which opposes the creation of charities for outsourcing services, claiming there is a massive paradox between what the party is pledging and what its largest council is trying to do.

The policy was inserted into Scotland’s Future: Report of the Scottish Policy Forum at the insistence of the Labour-affiliated public-sector union Unison.

It is understood it was drafted in 2006 with specific reference to proposals at Fife Council to hand over the management of its facilities to a trust, and was approved last November at Labour’s Scottish conference in Oban.

The policy states: “We will look at ways to ensure the legitimate incentives that apply to charities are not used as vehicles for outsourcing by local authorities.”

Unison, which is pursuing a number of avenues to halt the hiving off of the culture and leisure department, has been quietly raising the issue with Labour politicians in an effort to encourage them to highlight the contradictions with its elected members in Glasgow.

But the policy document has now fallen into the hands of opposition councillors, who will use the proposed transfer and creation of Culture and Sport Glasgow, which has now been cleared by Scotland’s charities regulator, as an election issue.

Christopher Mason, leader of Glasgow council’s LibDems, said: “This is an extraordinary twist to the tale of (GCC leader) Steven Purcell’s crusade to Blairise’ the council.

“This part of the Labour Party’s new policy statement was written with the deliberate purpose of committing it to oppose the kind of thing Steven is seeking to do.”

Mike Kirby, Glasgow branch secretary for Unison, added: “Unison was instrumental in having this policy included and of course we are raising this with politicians in the run-up to the elections. We’re concerned the party in Glasgow is moving away from the general policies in Scotland.”

But John Lynch, executive member for culture and sport, said: “Dr Mason’s comments are disingenuous and clearly an attempt by the LibDems to hide from the fact their expensive plans for a Local Income Tax would add 6.5p in every pound to income-tax bills.”

Herald