The Los Angeles Times has an article on the 700-square mile Umatilla County, Oregon free wi-fi network (one of the largest in the US, but not the largest) which is used by the police, emergency workers, port shippers, and onion farmers:
The long, strange journey of the Grateful Dead has taken a new twist, one that forces us to ask – Who really owns music, the artists or the fans? Who owns the value (and values) generated by a band and its fan base, and how should that “wealth” be controlled and allocated? We are about to find out.
Macedonia, a province of the former Yugoslavia (and which is an independent state), will be the first country in the world to get a countrywide wi-fi network. Macedonia covers 9,600 square miles or 25,000 square kilometers (slightly larger than Vermont) and has two million residents.
For people whose work is the written word, reporters can be stunningly indifferent to what words actually mean. The word “conservative” is a prime example. We have today a President who thinks the federal government is going to bring democracy to the Arab world. He has intruded that government into the affairs of ordinary Americans to a degree not seen before, and he has run up staggering deficits to boot. Yet this is a “conservative” President, for no apparent reason other than that he says he is.
Today is the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S., and the mad race is on to buy, buy, buy, until that climactic day of ecstasy in the American market system, Christmas. Although it may seem utopian for anyone to question the consumption stampede now underway, there are some brave souls and creative dissenters who’d like to stop the madness. Today seems like a fine day to showcase some of these efforts.
One reason that the commons is so alien to some people, I have concluded, is because it cuts so deeply. It is not just about economics and social policy (although there’s plenty of disagreement there); the commons also represents a different worldview and even a different metaphysics. I come to this hypothesis after reading an excellent essay on the future of the Internet by Doc Searls, and a side-discussion that it prompted with Eric Raymond, a leading commentator on open source software.
It’s bad enough that the Mining Act of 1872 remains the governing statute for mining on public lands. The handiwork of the most corrupt administration in U.S. history until now, Ulysses S. Grant’s, this law has allowed mining companies to cart away more than $245 billion in royalty-free minerals over the past 125 years. For only $2.50 to $5 an acre, large mining companies could pillage the public land, privatize the profits and walk away from the toxic runoff that contaminated rivers, drinking supplies and soil.
In Scripture, the bestowal of a name was an event of great importance. A name was an expression of character; and humans earned new ones in accordance with their inner growth. Jacob, after he spent an entire night wrestling with his demons, and finally prevailed over them, became Israel. His old name meant “to seize by the heel.” His new one, “God will rule.”
Now that the marketplace has become the ubiquitous theater of our social lives, we buy things and services to express our emotions. But this means that a strange fee-for-service “wall” now intervenes between us and the people we love. It’s a fair question to ask, Is it really possible to say “I love you” by paid proxy? Is it possible to “rent a mom”?
Two events last week show how traditional notions of “property” are becoming nearly untenable in the emerging digital culture. On the one hand, we have a case where a major company unleashed malicious software to secretly colonize millions of computers in an attempt to extend the reach of property-rights enforcement. And on the other hand, we have some major software corporations (including a company involved in the former controversy!) deciding that market success lies in buying and giving away tech patents for free. My brain is suffering from some intellectual whiplash.
Two reports – one in Europe and another in the U.S. – provide a peek into the digital divide (measured by computer and Internet use in the home) along the lines of age, education and location (rural versus urban). The E.U. Report does not address the divide based on income, unlike the Pew Report, and that’s unfortunate. The Pew Report does not address the urban versus rural divide, unlike the E.U. Report.
E.U. digital divide in 2004
A classic tactic of market enclosure is now being directed at our precious national parks: slash budgets, bemoan the resulting problems, and then propose privatization as the “solution.” House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) has proposed that the federal government sell sixteen national parks and raise revenue by selling advertising and naming rights to park buildings. He estimated the sales would raise $2.4 billion over five years.
Writers in Hollywood have the impossible task of coming up with creative stories while living under the thumb of philistine studio executives obsessed with the bottom line. This problem has only gotten worse in recent years as the noose of commercialism has grown tighter and tighter. Now, I am thrilled to report, the Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild have said enough is enough. In a White Paper published today, the two Hollywood guilds are challenging the next, more pernicious form of “product placement.”
There was a lot of eye-rolling during the week, and cracks about a media hoard that was rumored to exceed 400. Still, on Saturday, people came out anyway, lined up along Main Street two hours before Charles and Camilla were due. Charles was here at the invitation of local organic farmers. The couple would visit the farmer’s market at Toby’s Feed Barn, and then go to an organic farm. But why were we there, lined up behind the barriers, waiting for a glimpse?
Pity the avant garde performance artist! Marina Abramovic has carved a star into her stomach, fasted for ten days while living on a shelf in a Chelsea art gallery, and stood mute in an Italian gallery while random visitors were invited to do anything to her body with knives, scissors and needles. Very edgy, very calculated to shock. But the ultimate taboo, one that even provocateur Abramovic declined to challenge, was…art as private property.
Sandoval County, New Mexico is rolling out wireless broadband service throughout the county (3714 square miles or 9620 square kilometers) for municipal and public use. When the network is fully deployed, Sandoval will join the southeastern part of Washington state as regions having the largest wi-fi “clouds” in the US. Visit the Sandoval County website at www.ollagrande.net for more information, including the five-year plan and scope of work.
The success of open-source software has made it a symbol of a new and better cultural order, one marked by openness, freedom and peer accountability rather than private control and profit maximization over all else. But is open-source mostly a rhetorical pose, or can its core principles really work in other cultural domains, such as music?
I find it fascinating that artists – whose creative work depends so greatly on their cultural environment – can be incredibly possessive in trying to lock up their own works. At a conference of folk singers and songwriters that I attended last year, a remarkable number of them jealously claimed ownership in songs that clearly were derived from the great river of shared folk tunes: our common inheritance.
You’ve heard about the new iPod video player and believe me, this is big. Now kids will be able to watch movies behind their textbooks in class. They’ll have another way to sit in the back seat and ignore their parents on family car trips. I mean, we wouldn’t want parents and kids actually to talk with one another.
The must-read of the day is FCC Commissioner Michael Copps’ statement concurring in the decision to allow the SBC-AT&T and Verizon-MCI mergers. Copps believes that more conditions should have been placed on the merged entities. He also blames his own agency for the lack of competition in the market for telecommunications services.