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 TUNIS 2005

 GENEVA 2003



The Open Networks Declaration
International Collaboration in Media and Communication Cultures (Excerpts)

The Delhi Declaration of a New Context for New Media

World Information Cities

The streets of our cities are crowded with signals. Cinemas, desk top publishing, satellite television and fm radio, increasingly pervasive and ubiquitous computing, mobile telephony, telecommunications and the internet surround us in a matrix. The new landscape continues to feature analog and offline communication practices as diverse as theater, live performance, print culture and books and the production of visual and tactile objects. Old and new forms of communication create a new context for culture by their continuous interaction with each other. We live and work within this context. We also realize that this context extends deep into the substructure of local histories and situations, just as much as it extends far into a global space of communications that spans the entire planet. Our neighbourhoods and streets contain the world, and the world is a patchwork made up of all our local histories.

Communicative Practices

We, a diverse group of artists, activists, researchers and theoreticians from Europe and South Asia, celebrate that the culture of communicative practices is characterized by a rich heterogeneity of forms and protocols and expresses a healthy diversity in the face of the tendency of the formal operations of intellectual property to flatten the protocols of cultural production on to a single plane. Rather than have every cultural good available as a commodity designed for one time sale, the prevalence of a vigorous cluster of practices of ongoing cultural transaction within and outside formal commodity relations guarantees the diversities of contemporary cultural expression. This does not imply an antagonism or indifference to market imperatives, rather, it places such imperatives within a larger matrix of practices which also include sharing, gift giving and formal as well as informal protocols of reciprocity.

The Collaborative Nature of Cultural Practice

We recognize that all cultural work is necessarily collaborative, and that collaborators may either be part of generations either contemporaneous or previous to our own. Taking this further, everything that we produce today is also potential material for collaboration with partners in all our tomorrows. We also recognize that the collaborative nature of cultural work requires not only freedom of speech, but also increased mobility of our words, images and ideas. A key challenge is to develop methodologies that enable open sharing while developing a plurality of models and approaches towards sustainable, mixed and re-mixed modes of usage of intellectual and cultural resources, some of which may be expressed as different kinds of intellectual property (in some instances) and others as a varied cultural commons (in other instances).

The Question of 'Translatability'

The climate of mutuality that characterizes this landscape is founded on the many acts of making, sharing, viewing, listening, reading, researching, curation and criticism that draw their strengths from existing networks of everyday collaborations between different nodes spanning the universe of practice in new context media. Practitioners bring to this intersection of creative, intellectual and discursive energies the markers and histories of different cultural-historical-spatial specificities and the received as well as emerging traditions of different practices. Through processes of sustained interactions practitioners are able to evolve a neighbourhood of affinities in practice, a commons of expression. However, it needs to be clearly understood that this coming together is not contingent on an easy translatability, or the evolution of some kind of 'Esperanto' form of cultural practice. Rather, we need to work with the understanding that there are and will be necessary difficulties of translation, that invite us to be at least legible to each other, before we make the claim to comprehensively understand each other. We need to share with each other what we do not know about each other before we can make the claim to mutual understanding.

Designs for a Plurality of Commons

These encounters when allowed to play out to their fullest extent, can give rise to various designs for commoning, different protocols of working together, of sharing materials of having access to each other's work and materials, some of which may be expressed in quasi legal languages - as licenses and charters, while some others may be expressed simply as invitations and invocations.

We emphatically endorse a plurality of ways in which the commons of cultural and social media use can be and are being constituted through different modes of practice. Some of these may be more discursive than others, some may be more invested with aesthetic pursuits, while others may find themselves more committed to social and political questions, and still others may be recursive in the sense that they may involve practices of consistent but critical self reflexivity. The one thing that we do insist on is that the commons constituted by such collaborations grow immanently (admitting that there is no master plan or overall design) and that they make room for an ethic of collegial criticism across the boundaries of cultures, histories, tastes, forms and disciplines. In other words we want to insist that there are and will be many kinds of commons, and that we all must retain the right to be critical of different modes of commoning as they emerge, evolve and dissolve, even as we agree on the value of the commons itself.

Clearly, what this entails is a refined practice of trust. Where people allow for the fact that they need to nurture practices that foreground trust and respect precisely because they may not be transparent to each other. We recognize that the groundwork needed for such trust and for the conditions of collaboration to grow are directly proportional to cultural distance. And here by cultural distance we mean both the distance between practitioners based in different parts of the world, as well as the distances between different kinds of practitioners, regardless of the co ordinates of their physical location or historical inheritances. We need to take these distances seriously, and still establish open exchange.

For the full version of the declaration, please refer to:

The Vienna Document
We applaud all initiatives that reclaim the benefits of new communication technologies for the common public.

We recognize that street level open intelligence is of high public value and a cultural process that is highly dependent on information climate and environment conditions.

We do not accept a world where popular culture and human heritage is fenced in and IP restriction management separates us from our own thoughts.

We appreciate the fact that boundaries between users and producers become permeable in new communication environments and new practices dissolve traditional notions of authorship.

We are committed to critically observing the mindsets of possession and the creation of scarcity as processes implementing control in the information economy.

We refuse to live in an information society where nothing belongs to all of us, but everything is owned by cartels, locking human knowledge into the vaults of private interests.

We acknowledge that knowledge is for those who do, not for those who don't, because cultural progress implies that ideas emerge from exchanges, from communication, from interaction.

We do not want a world where you need a license to whistle a song or access your own memories.

We anticipate a silent spring in Information Society's landscapes when even a bird's song becomes subject of copyright control.

We realize that intangible information resources raise the issue of a digital ecology, the need to understand ecosystems constituted by information flows through various media.

The full version of the Vienna document can be downloaded from http://opencultures.net or world-information.org

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