Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Its all just one, really

Tom Chance pens a thoughtful piece on Lawrence Lessig's views on the 'two culture economies': supposedly, an amateur, "sharing economy" and a second, 'traditional', full copyright "commercial economy" (how this "commercial economy" got to be the 'traditional' one is beyond me). If that distinction sounds dubious to you (and like it might have internalized, unwittingly, the very dichotomy that the restrictive culture that Lessig thinks he is contesting, wants to promote) then read the piece for yourself. I found Lessig's _Free Culture_ extremely persuasive when I read it, and its hard to reconcile his view of two separate creative economies with the vision that seemed to run through that book - that all of culture, not some subdivision of it, was reliant on sharing, cross-pollination, and innovation based on relentless derivation. I found that analysis exhilarating, and often used the examples of borrowing lines one heard on a train in one's writing or joke-making or conversation-starters in my classes in Computer Ethics (at Brooklyn College) as entrees into an extended discussion on copyright and patent issues in software. That vision, I'd argue, would reject the kind of dichotomy that Lessig endorses (and Chance's piece is an extended take on that riff, as it argues for a kind of interdependence and inter-relationship between the two that in the final analysis renders that kind of distinction meaningless to begin with).


Anonymous Tom said...

Hullo, I'm glad you liked the article. As an update, Lessig stated at the iSummit in Dubrovnik that he thinks the two economies distinguish modes that we may be operating in, rather than kinds of person. So one moment I may be sharing my work, the next looking to gain recompense.

Still flawed, of course, but less obviously so.

His thesis is really just the result of years of CC advocacy, a tendency to focus on anything vaguely commercial (whether Magnatune or Sony) and buying too much into Benkler's analysis of peer production economics. They see all of culture through those frames, cease to discuss aspects and activities that don't fit that frame, but then fail to acknowledge the vast range of activities that fall outside.

4:13 AM  
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