new mukurtu website

If  you havent changed your RSS feed to my new blog in transition, you should! Youll find news there about our new Mukurtu website!

20

12 2010

movingnew website in transition

Ive MOVED!!! check me out @ IN TRANSITION

Soooo.I created a new personal website, because Ive been a very bad blogger as of late!

Ill mostly be blogging at my new site.in transitionStay tuned and update that RSS feed!

08

11 2010

musings about the public domainvia recipes on facebook

Innocently enough I clicked on a link two of my friends liked on Facebook. When I landed on the page for Cooks Source Magazine my eyes darted from the bright red tomatoes to the groups motto: The web is considered public domain and then their mission: To take advantage of our motto. The page is a spoof and yet, its not. Its a reaction to a bit of Internet re-use and when those offended boldly and confidently state in a bit of mocking: The web is considered public domain, it is, in fact,  true, it is considered that. And yet, it is not, in any sense. In the legal sense, as I understand it from legal scholars the public domain has never been clearly defined. In a great article about the public domain Pamela Samuelson argues that:

Finally, public domain concepts may have proliferated in recent years because ‘the public domain’ does not really exist. It is a metaphor, a social-legal construct, that serves an instrumental purpose—to assist us in thinking of a complex issue, to organize our thoughts, to serve as a ‘short cut’ to denote a mindset, a view, a perception about the legal status of different types of information and what can be done with this information.

What Samuelson shows is that there are about 13 various versions of the public domain circulating now and that any invocation of the public domain is likely to cause confusion or at least be understood differently by different listeners. On the web there are many ideas circulating about the public domain and one of the most popular is that the public domain = free stuff. If its posted online I can and should be able to grab it and use it the way I want. Unless there are clear restrictions posted along with content in the form of copyright or Creative Commons licenses, the default mode seems to be, its free for re-use. The association of the circulation of materials and ideas with freedom (the liberty and justice infused notion) has a distinct history. Although the term “public domain” is absent from most of the early American literature concerning the regulation, circulation, reproduction and re-use of intellectual property, legal scholars and pro-commons advocates delight in quoting founding father Thomas Jefferson in his push for a benign intellectual property rights system when he states:

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.

In 1918 Justice Brandeis used Jefferson’s words to pen a dissenting opinion suggesting that:  “The general rule of law is, that the noblest of human productions—knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas—become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use.” Together Jefferson, Brandeis and a handful of other early American thinkers are marshaled in support of a “balanced” intellectual property regime that takes as its main focus the maintenance of a robust public domain where ideas move freely. In the early 1990s as the Internet and low-cost digital technologies grew, intellectual property debates came to the forefront of public discussions about information circulation, consumer vs. creator rights, and the role of the government in regulating and sustaining the public domain of ideas, what some then, have labeled the “commons.” Picking up on the “free meme” of Jefferson et al, and combining it with the focus on digital technologies and the expansion of the commons, Stewart Brand argued early in the webs history that:

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because its so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.

Richard Stallman picked this up and suggested that:

I believe that all generally useful information should be free. By free I am not referring to price, but rather to the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to ones own uses.When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving.

Finally, Internet enthusiast John Perry Barlow created a rallying cry out of this meme declaring that “information wants to be free.” This information wants to be free verision of knowledge circulation and distribution bookends an all too often binary narrative about “open access” or “information sharing” online where information is either free or it is hidden behind a firewall. It is open to all or closed off by corporate greed. Although Brand and Stallman allude to the sociality of information systems and the tension between sets of protocols surrounding information circulation, questions about the ethics and politics of openness, access, and information circulation within the public domain are often ignored as we battle over DRM and corporate greed.

One way in which this confusion and binary gets played out is in the use, reuse and circulation of indigenous materials and knowledge. The dominant discourses animating the debates surrounding the intersection of indigenous cultural materials, digital technologies and intellectual property laws, has focused on protection and preservation—two terms that maintain the residue of colonial impulses and paternal law-making and seem to reject the notion that indigenous peoples are creators of cultural materials, products and knowledge. Part of this skewed debate is based on historical amnesia for how the public domain of ideas and materials came into existence and part is based on lingering stereotypes and racist frameworks that hold indigeneity and modernity at opposing ends of a progressive spectrum. While vast amounts of indigenous peoples’ tangible and intangible cultural heritage populates the public domain, most of it was procured through dubious colonial and post-colonial nation-making practices and legal regimes. Adding to the colonial “salvage” and “discovery” of indigenous materials was the until-recent classification of indigenous knowledge and traditional cultural expressions as “folklore” which provided the needed basis for non-protection under international intellectual property rights laws that saw folklore as part of the “universal heritage of humanity.” Tracing the history of the folklore classification in relation to international intellectual property rights, Monika Dommann finds that,

These legal categories had strong economic effects. Developed countries exported goods protected by intellectual property law, while developing countries exported folklore, falling into the public domain. Whereas developed countries could benefit commercially from their works, the cultural products of developing countries remained objects of commercial exploitation by others.

Similarly, within settler nations such as Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, indigenous peoples’ materials have been open for use, abuse, reuse and appropriation by individuals, corporations and collecting institutions who rely on legal definitions to exclude indigenous materials from IPR protections. Unlike the wronged blogger in the Cooks Magazine upheaval, Indigenous people often have little recourse as they often are not prepared to represent their work as individual work. Indigenous peoples and activists have fought to undo the historical legacy of the folklore designation and have achieved modest wins with the move to “traditional cultural expressions” (TCE) and “traditional knowledge” as categories of inclusion. WIPO and UNESCO, along with other institutions, have pushed these designations along with a renewed understanding of the dynamism of indigenous traditions and knowledge that provide the necessary focus on the production of indigenous materials and the necessity of IPR as one part of a multi-part solution to the concerns of indigenous peoples regarding the production, use, and reuse of their cultural knowledge and materials.

While the default mode for many may be to see the public domain as a set of free ideas and the web as a carrier of these, this version masks the ethical terrain of information circulation, hides histories of exclusion and makes us forget that information exists within social systems some of which are naturalized a become law and others which have yet to be recognized and respected.

citations:

Carla Hesse: “The Rise of Intellectual Property, 700 BC-AD 2000” (2002)

James Boyle: “Fencing Off Ideas: Enclosure & the Disappearance of the Public Domain” (2002)

Pamela Samuleson: “Enriching Discourse on Public Domains” (2006)

Monika Dommann: “Lost in Tradition? Reconsidering the History of Folklore and its Legal Protection Since 1800,” in Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions in a Digital Environment (2008).

John Perry Barlow. The Economy of Ideas: A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Age. Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong (1994)

Now hiring 2 devlopers for MUKURTU project

MUKURTU: an indigenous archive and content management tool

Developer II Position Description

We are seeking two developers for the Mukurtu project.

The Developer II position will act as the primary developer on an open source, grant-funded, Humanities-based digital archive project. The project seeks to create a robust digital archiving and content management tool for the specific needs of Indigenous communities globally. The Developer II position will develop in object-oriented PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, and XML, and assist in deployment of an open source software package for both online and standalone (offline) computers. The Developer II position will work closely with the project manager and the lead software development manager on the primary application and implementation of: additional media features, integration of multiple templates, protocol-driven access levels, granular levels of access to content, content management using international standards, MARC and Dublin Core crosswalks, customizable administration pages, xml export/import functions, robust installer package, integration of image, video, and audio media into the system, system documentation, and creation of user-testing feedback loop.

Applicants would have knowledge of and experience working with:

- PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, XHTML, XML, PHP and Flash/Actionscript

- Eclipse IDE (or similar shared workspace)

- Media-recording using Flash/Actionscript

Applicant must also have:

-Experience as a developer on multiple innovative multimedia projects

-Experience with content management systems and international standards

-Ability to collaborate well with others and to meet deadlines

-Ability to manage projects successfully with minimal supervision

-Enthusiasm for the humanities and academia in general

-A desire to work in a self-regulated manner with clients who are collaborators more than executive producers

-A desire to work with ideas and concepts that move way beyond branding, causal pleasure, communication graphics, and marketing strategies

9 months; with more work possible. We are seeking TWO developers, teams encouraged to apply.

Contact:

Send CV and cover letter to:

Dr. Kimberly Christen @ kim.christen@gmail.com

Specify MUKURTU PROJECT in subject line

27

10 2010

the end of a long weekunpacking open access

Last year during open access week I blogged about the crowdedness under the open access banner and suggested that pulling out threads of practices and models that relate to access would be beneficial to the movement. Further it would be useful to understand the terms and limits of how open access functions  within and is mobilized by various sets of stakeholders.For openness to function as a fruitful concept within these diverse settings we must also challenge its association as a self-evident benefit to all. If access is an ethical question and the state of openness a political and social act then how can the normative claim be made that open access is good. With everything from pharmaceuticals to academic publishing under its banner how do we decide what the contours of open access could be? My suggestion is that we must delineate what structures, contexts and resources we are discussing before we fall into the trap of universalizing and naturalizing a concept (and a movement) that has many faces and many goals.

So, in the interest of brevity, one (of many possible) example: The recent Open Video conference defined open video as “the idea that the moving image should belong to everyone. This vision requires not only free and open video technologies, but also that viewers are empowered to go beyond just watching—creating, sharing, and engaging in the multimedia public sphere they now inhabit.” (full disclosure: I was supposed to present on a panel at OVC about ethics and openness but could not attend)

Let me think this through, unpack it a bit. The underlying assumption is that openness is a public goodthe more the moving image is set freei.e. that we see it as something that belongs to everyone the better off everyone will bepeople will automatically be empowered and creation and sharing will follow. To the first tacit assumption I point to a few examples from indigenous communities to challenge the notion that the moving image a) should belong to everyone or b) that being open automatically benefits everyone (an undifferentiated public). After recognizing both the unauthorized use of and limits of traditional intellectual property rights laws to protect indigenous peoples cultural materials and expressions from being used inappropriately or with out proper acknowledgment, Terri Janke co-wrote a manual in consultation with Aboriginal peoples to serve as a set of guidelines for filmmakers (and others) who want to work with Indigenous peoples and/or their cultural materials and knowledge. Pathways and Protocols: A Filmmakers Guide to Working with Indigenous People, Culture and Concepts shows that Indigenous peoples use of moving images has a long history connected to both outside engagements with non-Indigenous filmmakers, video productions and the like as well as local in-community traditions of performance and the display and circulation of knowledge and material culture.

The document suggests a range of practical guidelines. In one section the authors suggest that in order to maintain the secrecy of Indigenous knowledge and other cultural practices indigenous peoples

  • be given full and proper attribution for sharing their heritage
  • control the recording of cultural customs and expressions, and the particular language which may be intrinsic to cultural identity, knowledge, skill and teaching of culture.

Similarly, the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) film archives section has an ethical code surrounding archiving, accessing and distributing Aboriginal materials (also see previous post). The policy was created after extensive consultation with Aboriginal communities across Australia. It reads (in part):

Access to the collections

  • The rights of the legal copyright owner will be respected.  The Audiovisual Archive also recognizes the rights of Indigenous communities and individuals, who are the owners of most of the knowledge contained in the collections.  Every attempt will be made to provide access to the collections in accordance with the wishes of the copyright owner(s) and Indigenous owner(s).
  • Copies of material will only be provided for publication purposes if the requestor has consulted with the relevant Indigenous community or individual(s) and has received written permission to proceed, even in such cases where the copyright owner has approved publication.
  • The privacy of all clients will be respected, including that of the legal copyright owner.
  • The Audiovisual Archive encourages the widest possible access to its collections, but recognises the right of Indigenous communities to decide how their knowledge is communicated. Material which has been identified as secret/sacred will not be made available without the consent of the relevant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Although it may not be possible to provide access to certain collection materials due to cultural or other restrictions, the Audiovisual Archive recognises the publics right to ask for access and an honest explanation as to why such access is, or is not, possible.

These documents attempt to make sense of Aboriginal systems of access and distribution as ethical systems that overlap with and engage other forms of information circulation. In doing so they promote a set of guidelines not a manifesto, or set of demands, or legal regulationsbut guidelines that then need to be worked out on-the-ground, face-to-face with the people (s) involved. Both of these documents could be read as against open access when it is conceived of as liberating materialssetting then free from constraints and restrictions. This common way of framing OA always makes me stop and ask: liberated from where and for whom? To liberate suggests that something is being oppressed or or subject to abusive powerit does not seem to allow room for differential access parameters that are not abusive, oppressive or destructive. Liberation of this kind is taken to be a universal valuewho doesnt want to be liberated? This rhetoric masks the ethical concerns by many indigenous people over the circulation of their cultural materials. Without falling into a slippery slope mentality where if one film is restricted, pretty soon the whole corpus is, we should be able to recognize that there are alternative ways of imagining access that do not provide for unencumbered openness as the goal. [For specific examples see: Ara Iritija,the  Reciprocal Research Network, the Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures, the Mukurtu archiving tool, Plateau Peoples' Web Portal and the Reanimating Cultural Heritage project.]

Working with the Vanuatu Cultural Centre and National Museum to produce a culturally relevant database for Indigenous digital materials, Haidy Geismar suggests that “Seeing photographs becomes not just a question of what is proper or appropriate but a political act, and having the power to control the visibility of images, it is hoped, may facilitate the devolution of other kinds of power and authority” (2009). That is, seeing and not seeing are political and ethical acts. The priority of open access, then, is alsoas a system of seeinga political and ethical stance, one that is mobilized around a set of assumed universal claims about the contours of openness and the range of access. At the end of open access week, I think it would benefit the movement and those who manage diverse projects under its banner to introduce specificity, context and alternative ethical and political concerns into a newly enriched  OA vocabulary.

AIATSIS: culture collection indigenous archiving

Re-posting from Jane Simpson over at Transient Languages and Cultures this great story on AIATSISs film and video archiving and the need to keep up with digitizing these cultural materials. The last few seconds of the story the reporter touches on the issue of repatriation of materials (digital and otherwise) and access to the collections for Aboriginal Australians.

REPORTER: [A] IATSIS returns material to indigenous communities around Australia and encourages them to visit the archives to look for records of family members.

JAMES BON: See the photograph plays many things in peoples life. Some people dont read. Like to look at something, all of a sudden something clicks. I remember they talked about this, the old people talked about this. A lot of the cultural stuff, thats why its good, a lot of these things are preserved. Now we see you can revive it.

One central part of AIATSISs archiving, access and dissemination policies that is not mentioned is their respect for both traditional copyright and indigenous protocols. Their policy on this complex issue strikes a good balance and is also geared toward negotiation:

Access to the collections

  • The rights of the legal copyright owner will be respected.  The Audiovisual Archive also recognises the rights of Indigenous communities and individuals, who are the owners of most of the knowledge contained in the collections.  Every attempt will be made to provide access to the collections in accordance with the wishes of the copyright owner(s) and Indigenous owner(s).
  • Copies of material will only be provided for publication purposes if the requestor has consulted with the relevant Indigenous community or individual(s) and has received written permission to proceed, even in such cases where the copyright owner has approved publication.
  • Interactions with clients will be courteous at all times.  Information provided to clients will be accurate and procedures transparent.  Every effort will be made to keep clients abreast of developments affecting their access to the collection.
  • The privacy of all clients will be respected, including that of the legal copyright owner.
  • The AIATSIS Audiovisual Archive will not charge for listening or viewing an item on site, or for minor research on behalf of a client.  Fees will be charged for copying or for major research in order to recoup costs.
  • All clients requesting copies of archival material must sign an indemnity form stating their intended use and prohibiting any other use, manipulation of sounds or images, or uses which may cause pain or embarrassment, or offend the sensitivities of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • The Audiovisual Archive encourages the widest possible access to its collections, but recognises the right of Indigenous communities to decide how their knowledge is communicated.  Material which has been identified as secret/sacred will not be made available without the consent of the relevant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.
  • The Audiovisual Archive will actively seek to improve accessibility of its collections through documentation; promoting its collections; and proactively and reactively repatriating copies to originating communities.
  • Public communication of collection materials by the Audiovisual Archives will be developed in consultation with Indigenous owner(s) and with permission from the copyright owner(s).  Pressure from expedient parties to change the content or style of such presentations, will be resisted.
  • Collection materials which are publicly communicated will be accompanied by an acknowledgement of authorship and cultural ownership.
  • Collection materials which are publicly communicated will be accompanied by an accurate and culturally appropriate description, in keeping with the views and sensitivities of the relevant Indigenous owner(s) obtained through a process of consultation.
  • Although it may not be possible to provide access to certain collection materials due to cultural or other restrictions, the Audiovisual Archive recognises the publics right to ask for access and an honest explanation as to why such access is, or is not, possible.
  • Access to duplicate material from another archive will be dependent on the conditions specified by the originating archive.

AIATSIS is not only preserving Aboriginal cultural heritage and knowledge and not only facilitating repatriation and the revival of traditions and language, they are also, and importantly, promoting the recognition of Aboriginal systems of knowledge management, distribution and access without trivializing the need to also provide access to the public within distinct bounds and under circumstances that may not always square neatly with liberal notions of access.

iphone + langauge preservation revitalization

Ive blogged before about great uses of new digital technologies and partnerships that advance the needs of indigenous communities. Check out this article about the new apps for the iphone:

The leap from Native culture to pop culture has officially been made. The Cherokee language is now available for the first time on iPhones and iPods for more than 300 million users across the globe. The Cherokee Nation has been working with the software developers at Apple, Inc. for several years to incorporate the tribe’s unique written language, called the Cherokee syllabary, into new technology offered by the software giant. Cherokee is the first Native language to be featured on Apple, Inc. devices, and one of about only 40 languages overall.

More on Muckaty

Take a look at Bruce Reyburns insightful write-up Let’s end the Nuclear Nightmare at Muckaty, NT. about the nuclear dump site situation just north of Tennant Creek.

04

06 2010

Mukurtu in the news

We got a news release from WSU about the new phase of the Mukurtu project.

PULLMAN, Wash. — Kimberly Christen, assistant professor of comparative ethnic studies at Washington State University, has been awarded a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a prototype open-source software package to reconnect indigenous communities with cultural heritage materials housed in museums, archives and libraries.

The $49,606 grant supports the development of “Mukurtu: An Indigenous Archive and Publishing Tool,” a digital, standards-based, adaptable archiving tool that emphasizes cultural protocols and provides a means for indigenous knowledge to inform public and private collections.

Developer needed for Mukurtu project phase three

Developer II Position Description

MUKURTU PROJECT
The Developer II position will act as the primary developer on an open source, NEH grant-funded, Humanities-based digital archive project. The project seeks to create a robust digital archiving and content management tool for the specific needs of Indigenous communities globally (this is phase three of an existing project). The Developer II position will develop in object-oriented PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, and XML, and assist in deployment of an open source software package for both online and standalone (offline) computers. The Developer II position will work closely with the project manager and the lead software development manager on the primary application and implementation of additional media features, templates, customizable administration pages, xml export functions, robust installer package, and integration of image, video, and audio media into the system.

Applicant would have knowledge of and experience working with:

* PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, XHTML, XML, PHP and Flash/Actionscript
* Eclipse IDE (or similar shared workspace)
* Media-recording using Flash/Actionscript

Applicant must also have:

* Experience as a developer on multiple innovative multimedia projects
* Ability to collaborate well with others and to meet deadlines
* Ability to manage projects successfully with minimal supervision
* Enthusiasm for the humanities and academia in general
* A desire to work in a self-regulated manner with clients who are collaborators more than executive producers
* A desire to work with ideas and concepts that move way beyond branding, causal pleasure, communication graphics, and marketing strategies

Seven-month project time line beginning early May 2010 with possibility of additional work. $40/hour, 15 hours/week.

Contact:

Send CV and cover letter to:

Dr. Kimberly Christen: kim.christen (at) gmail.com

Specify MUKURTU PROJECT in subject line

Deadline: April 30, 2010 (or until filled)

16

04 2010


Creative Commons License
Long Road by Kimberly Christen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.