“It makes culture more transparent to its inhabitants. (275)” Benkler in The Wealth of Networks discusses the way the average person with a connection to the Internet and a few simple tools (mostly free if one scouts around for opensource) can create and participate in a resurgence of folk culture. It may not be mom and pop strumming a guitar in the living room, but it is being created by the regular “folk.” According to Benkler what is significant about this is the mystery that used to surround production is now able to be understood by those participating in the creation of new artifacts. With this new understanding comes the ability to critique it and in turn critique our culture. (Perhaps this is the reason that I respect a critique about my own work coming from another artist rather than those who are not – although non-artists (you know what I mean so don’t give me any flack about my term) sometimes offer the most interesting observations.)
I really appreciated Benkler’s explanation and treatment of background knowledge or shared assumptions and meaning making in the shaping and changing of our collective culture. Benkler describes culture as the collective understanding of who we are, the way things ought to be, and our attempt at making sense of the world we live in. This is made possible through dialog among people. Which is where all this participation in the creation of artifacts is so important. No longer is it the only the elite who have access to understand and use the tools necessary, but (as we have heard 5 billion times now) anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.
Creative Commons definitely has a role to play in fostering this transparent conversation. For example, I could be one of those special elite people with bags and bags of money, but I might feel quite comfortable with the fact that someone might have more to “say” based on what I “said.” Why not allow them to copy, paste and remix. I can then copy, paste and remix a response. We can engage in an open conversation and change our minds about meaning, thus changing the culture. At any rate, whether I explained that very well or not, Creative Commons allows me to use artifacts from the culture to create new works.
Fresh on my mind though was the story yesterday about the girls in Afghanistan who were attacked with acid for daring to attend school. How does everything I have been reading in Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks apply to them? They don’t have any computers that I could see in the empty class on today’s news. The Taliban and/or other terrorists don’t care if I post some remix denouncing what they did. I wonder if the Taliban would be up for a little remix of their ideas. I am pretty sure that it is in our background knowledge (the big bad West) that throwing acid on girls and women is unacceptable. Or is it?