16.6.10

Lessig Quotes Huxley

Lawrence Lessig quotes Huxley (1927) in his OpenVideoAlliance webside chat:

"In the days before machinery men and women who wanted to amuse themselves were compelled, in their humble way, to be artists. Now they sit still and permit professionals to entertain them by the aid of machinery. It is difficult to believe that general artistic culture can flourish in this atmosphere of passivity."

In brief, if you want a populace that speaks, then you need to provide them with the tools, permissions, and incentives to speak. Copyright is responsible for creating a read-only culture rather than a read-write culture.

The pre-supposition here is that being creative (in-the-world) establishes a positive relation with others (sharing, expressive, empathic) and makes us more satisfied and fulfilled than mere consumption.

Particularly as an educator in the humanities, I feel I have a responsibility to promote a read-write culture by "all available means." Beyond the technological, this also means promoting theory that speaks to our "being-in-the-world" and intersubjective existence as a metaphysical defense for fair-use.

My RSA presentation this year focused on Latour's reading of Callicles in Plato's Gorgias. Latour's reading shares an extremely interesting overlap with Lessig's vision for 21st century political practice. Lessig cites two principles: first, we need an increase in the ability to see the dependencies between political agents and corporate/private profits. Second, we need the courage to act upon such visions. Seeing and courage, philosophy and sophistry, are for Latour the oppositions Plato lays out in the Gorgias (philosophy has insight, but not the courage to face the crowd. Sophistry might lack insight, but courageously faces and works with the multitude). What we need, then, is a commitment to the integration of what Latour identifies as the philosophic and the sophistic.

A few other interesting Lessig pieces I dug up in my travels today:

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