[spectre] open source and - the media art center of 21C

rene beekman r at raakvlak.net
Sun Sep 11 15:57:52 CEST 2005

From: Simon Biggs
> As for the open source concept: I support this fully, although the 
> manner in
> which it is sometimes proposed can actually be destructive to 
> creativity and
> the sharing of resources. I think it can be accepted that open-source 
> is
> only a (possibly larger) part of the picture, not the whole thing.
> Proprietary systems will be with us for a long time, for many reasons;
> economic co-dependence, security, profit-motive research in the private
> sector, to name a few.
> A recent debate in the UK has concerned academic research publications 
> and
> journals.

like a lot of open-source programming, academic research, at least the 
vast majority of it, actually __produces something that is recognized 
by non-peers/general audience as valuable. they might not understand it 
fully, but at least they recognize there is a sufficiently high 
likelihood of it being of enough value and that they too at some point 
will benefit from that value to validate funding.
i don't dare say the same thing about the vast majority of government 
funded art that is produced. somehow we seem to have failed miserably 
at making non-peers/general audience feel that way about our art.
it is no secret that we score extremely low on the "general public 
appreciation" scale - in fact so low that it is at the very least 
extremely hard to justify a model similar to the one you describe for 
research publications in the uk.

scientists have realized that as producers of a good, they have a power 
to leverage. so instead of thinking that they are depending on 
publication in scientific journals, they have more or less turned the 
tables by making the product of their work - the research papers - in 
raw format available for free to anyone. on the one hand does this give 
them leverage to justify their government funding (transparency of 
public spending and free availability of the resulting products ), at 
the same time will it force the journals into a more valuable position; 
namely that of peer-review publisher and keeper-of-high-standarts.
what goods do artists produce that could be leveraged in a similar way?

now to go back to open-source programming in the media-art world;
since making the source code of a software product available for free 
to all has become an accepted way of justifying public funding (see 
above about the scientific journals) many media-art centres have 
focussed on the production of open-source software as a way to generate 
funding. many of the projects generated this way seem to have artistic 
use "tagged on" almost as an afterthought, quite often in the form of a 
limited series of residencies or something similar.

it's obvious that open-source software for artists does have its place 
and that releasing source-code of a publicly funded project as a way of 
making the product of publicly funded activities available is a viable 
strategy - though i do see them as two fundamentally different things.
what i was questioning was the validity of open-source software 
production as a model for media-arts centres in the what that it has 
been used in recent years.


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