[spectre] Free-Media / Cultural Hotspots Network Meetings

Drew Hemment drew at futuresonic.com
Wed Apr 25 11:52:21 CEST 2007

Free-Media / Cultural Hotspots Network Meetings

There is today a grass roots open source movement that is sweeping  
across Brazil like wild fire and captivating the world's imagination.

A series of free-media events and gatherings over the coming weeks  
will draw together UK individuals and groups working in free-media,  
and culminate in a major conference and network meeting at  
Futuresonic 2007 in Manchester with the leading figures from the  
Brazilian open source movement joined by activists from across Europe.



Network meetings :

Friday 27 April / Cambridge
You are invited to a national meeting of
people and groups active in free-media.

Saturday 12 May / Manchester
Meet the leading figures in an open source
movement sweeping across Brazil like
wild fire.

Sunday 13 May / Manchester
An international gathering seeding new
local groups on the Brazilian model.

See also:

Addressing the sustainability of
future arts and culture.

An event looking at new techniques to
evolve media activism.

Hands-on experiments with video sniffin',
intercepting signals from wireless CCTV.


More info :


Friday 27 April / Cambridge
Temporary MediaShed, Dome 1, Parkers Piece, Cambridge

You are invited to a national meeting of people and groups active in  
open source media production and 'free-media' sustainable computing.  
The network meeting aims to reflect and draw together different  
approaches to open source media production. The meeting will explore  
the scope for a national tour of MediaShed's Gearbox free-media video  
toolkit resource and website, a one-stop space for low/no-budget film  

It will take place after the Gearbox launch on Friday 27 April  
2pm-4pm, please come and meet us then. The venue is a temporary dome  
that will be erected for Enter_Unknown Territories on Parkers Piece  
in central Cambridge. For directions see the Enter_ website and  
search for Parkers Piece or the domes.

If you are interested in attending this meeting contact
damien at isomorphic.demon.co.uk
(on behalf of the MediaShed www.mediashed.org)

Initiated by MediaShed, hosted by Enter and part of a programme of  
national activities led by Futuresonic. Gearbox is being implemented  
for the first time in a commission for the Futuresonic 2007  
exhibition, Art For Shopping Centres.


Saturday 12 May / Manchester
Saturday 12 May
Contact Theatre, Manchester


There is today a grass roots open source movement that is sweeping  
across Brazil like wild fire and captivating the world's imagination.

A high profile session coinciding with the initiation of a local  
Ponto de Cultura (Cultural Hotspot) in Manchester, based on the  
Brazilian model, will be headed by Claudio Prado.

Claudio Prado (Brazil), 63 is the leading figure in the Brazilian  
movement. He was deeply involved in the countercultural movement in  
1960's London - he was one of the organizers of the first Glastonbury  
Festival, and was involved in the launch of the International Times  
and of the first format of Time Out. In London he met the musician  
Gilberto Gil, now Culture Minister of Brazil, with whom he has had a  
lifetime friendship.

Claudio is now in a unique position, working in a very new frontier  
between government and media activists running the Digital Culture  
Department of the Ministry of Culture of Brazil. He is the man  
responsible for Brazil's involvement in international discussions  
around digital and open source culture, and all its consequences in  
IP regulations, cultural production and identity, creative economy  
and so on. He is also responsible for putting all these concepts into  
practice, through the Pontos de Cultura project - 600 grassroots  
cultural centers spread all around the country that receive a digital  
multimedia production infrastructure and take part in a series of  
meetings and workshops regarding free and open source software for  
multimedia production, open licensing, gift economy and similar  

Claudio will be joined by other international open source activists  
including :
Cristiano Scabello (Estudio Livre/Brazil), James Wallbank (Access  
Space/UK), Matthew Edmondson (Open IT Up/UK), Dave Carter (Head of  
Manchester Digital Development Agency), Vicky Sinclair (Ponto de  
Cultura - Manchester), Pedro Zaz (Brazcast.tv), Phil Mayer  
(Fluxo.org), Francesca Bria (Ponto de Cultura- Rome), Dario Biagetti  
(Cultura Digitale Italia- Italy), Aoife Giles (Photographer from  
Pontos de Cultura Brazil), MediaShed, UHC.

Conference sessions at 2pm and 8pm, with informal presentations  
sessions in the afternoon.


Sunday 13 May / Manchester
Sunday 13 May, 12pm-5pm
Zion Centre, Hulme


Followed by a workshop at Futuresonic 2007 drawing together people  
and groups active in open source media production, which will focus  
on the establishment and proliferation of local groups, with a focus  
on the goal of establishing a Ponto de Cultura (Cultural Hotspot)in  
Manchester based on the Brazilian model. The workshop will explore  
the local factors in different international contexts affect how open  
source and free-media communities can develop and take root.


April 2007


"Our entire global system is a political construct, and Brazil is  
doing its best to hack that system to make it work better for the  
billions of people on this planet who dont own Microsoft stock. " -  
Alex Steffen

 From the favelas of Sao Paolo to villages far up the Amazon, in the  
poorest communities in Brazil, a network of grassroots digital media  
centres are leading an open source revolution. At the last count,  
there were 600 of these Pontos de Cultura (Culture Hotspots) running  
on free software, recycled technology and a balance between  
government support and the dedication of local activists. Its a model  
which promises to extend open source culture through a whole society  
- and which is creating excitement around the world.

"Every license for Office plus Windows in Brazil means we have to  
export 60 sacks of soybeans," explains Marcelo DElia Branco,  
coordinator of the countrys Free Software Project. "For the right to  
use one copy of the software for one year or a year and a half, until  
the next upgrade, we have to till the earth, plant, harvest, and  
export 60 sacks of soybeans. When I explain this to farmers, they go  

The adoption of free, open source software by the government of the  
worlds fifth largest country has a straightforward logic to it. But  
its the vision that goes beyond that logic which is increasingly  
drawing international attention. For Claudio Prado, the man who  
started the Pontos network, another world is not just possible - its  
already here. "The digital world is another world," he insists.  
"Industrial Age logic is no longer sustainable."

Soon after the election of President Lulas government in 2002, Prado  
went to see his old friend, the renowned musician Gilberto Gil, who  
had just been made Minister of Culture. He wanted to talk to him  
about an idea for using technology and cultural activity to help  
Brazils poorest communities find "a shortcut from the 19th century to  
the 21st".

"Because this wasnt something that could fit into the Ministry of  
Culture the way it was, he asked me to wait a few weeks." Instead of  
waiting, Prado decided to make a start - and so, as a few weeks  
turned into two years, he found himself building a new department out  
of good will and thin air. He would speak at international events on  
behalf of the government - yet with no budget, the Digital Culture  
programme was being run by activists and grassroots organisations,  
instead of civil servants.

This suited Prado down to the ground. He talks mischievously about  
how he "hacked the state" and built a government programme "from the  
outside-in". And two years later, when funding finally arrived, he  
was able to build on the network of artists, activists and hackers  
which had collected around the project in the mean time.

Prados suspicion of bureaucracy and top-down, one-size-fits-all  
solutions has influenced the way government interacts with the  
Pontos. Rather than parachute new facilities into a community, the  
programme works with existing local organisations. But although the  
resources attached are significant, the selection process favours  
organisations without previous experience of government funding.

"NGOs that are used to receiving money from government become experts  
in - receiving money from government!" Prado laughs. "So we dont  
choose the projects by whether they have their papers in order."  
Instead, potential applicants are judged on their cultural and social  
merit, and then provided with help to complete a formal application.

Each new Ponto gets a multimedia kit including a video camera and  
microphones, as well as a set of recycled computers. But its not  
about giving people a load of technology, then hiring a company to  
come in and fix things every time something goes wrong. The focus is  
on self-reliance and demystifying the grey box - opening up the  
machine and learning how to maintain it for yourself.

The convergence of artists, activists and hackers is not unique to  
Brazil. All over the world, groups are coming together and creating  
hubs of free software, recycled technology and grassroots creativity.  
The difference is, Brazil is the first country where a government has  
got seriously behind the idea.

The hope is that, as open source culture makes the transition from  
the margins to the heart of society, it can bring with it a different  
approach to development and economics - one based on collaboration,  
autonomy and decentralisation.

Text commission for Free Studio event at Futuresonic 2007 :



Free-media is an approach to technology and media production which  
makes use of the surplus of computers and electronics in society,  
promoting recycled computing and open source methodologies. It  
doesn’t cost much because it makes use of public domain Free and Open  
Source Software, and recycles freely available old equipment, waste  
materials and junk (FOSS). Free-media increases access to media  
technologies, especially to the people who need it most and can  
afford it the least, and lowers environmental impact of the media we  
produce and consume.

Free-media is about finding inspiration and resources in our built  
and natural environment that were previously dismissed as being  
without value or irrelevant. It is media that is open, transparent,  
unrestricted and outside proprietary controls, so you can freely  
change it, rewrite it or rebuild it to suit yourself. Free-media  
allows signals, things, objects, people and actions to pass “freely”  
between each other. It is about opening up the implicit meaning of  
media itself - to mediate not by controlling and ordering what can be  
said, shown or heard but by providing the means to unblock channels  
of access, release currents of energy and reveal the margins of what  
people can feel, sense, reason and imagine.

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