Geert Lovink‘s keynote, “After the Critique of Free and Open,” focused on the practical aspects of a free culture, and a need for the movement to shift from making legal demands and instead focus on the platforms and revenue models that could support the kind of culture we’re striving towards.
According to Lovink, we need to take the global economic crisis we are in right now as a starting point for discussing all these issues. We also aren’t burdened anymore by the need to introduce web 2.0 or promulgate the advantages of participatory culture. In a way we’ve moved to the second stage, but we’re still within web 2.0.
Instead of making demands on the current system, we must look for the implications of the alternatives. Lovink proposed that we move away from the emphasis on amateur as a victim, and towards the empowerment of young professionals, because in Lovink’s view, amateurs are emerging, starting professionals. What should we demand of our new technologies? The technologies we create and embrace should empower young people to take part in the economy, because these technologies can bring about the redistribution of wealth that isn’t happening centrally; they can help us in our embracing experimental economic models. Coming from a 1980s DIY background, Lovink said that he understands that these technical demands are good in themselves, but now it’s more important to think about and practice what alternative revenue models could be.
One example: what should we make of Facebook? It’s grown enormously, but more and more, especially in the last calendar year, people have felt that there’s something wrong with the service. There are a lot of protests against the way that Facebook is exploiting people’s social graph and network of friends. Facebook is a good example because these problems all stem from the revenue model. We should move the Facebook critique one step further: This is not the type of revenue model we want.
There are initiatives to address those problems. Some services allow you to download your own data from Facebook. Sepukoo and the web2.0suicidemachine allow you to remove your data. Projects like Appleseed and Diaspora* are alternatives to Facebook, but it’s a bit dangerous to look at them as oppositional.
But there are all kinds of services that use different revenue models. Identi.ca and Thimbl are alternatives to Twitter, Kickstarter and Flattr are alternative payment models, SellABand and FabChannel are failed but noble attempts. It’s the place of the free culture movement to move towards these new revenue ideas.
In response to a question after the keynote, Lovink said that taking a view that focuses on political or legal questions and are agnostic about the actual revenue and business models for creators are actually cynical. The free culture movement has to support artists and not take what Lovink called a “Lessig-style” view that artists in the future will need to have a “Walmart” day-job. According to Lovink, we can catalyze the change to a more free and decentralized culture by internalizing this logic, and we can’t afford to continue to be business-model agnostic.