"A celebration of all the people who are willing to share"
December 31, 2008 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Freesouls.cc - 296 Portraits of luminaries from the free culture movement. posted by Pinback (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is it just me, or does it seem that this could just as appropriately have been titled, "Photos of members of Joi Ito's circle jerk"?
posted by jayder at 12:14 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by PenDevil at 12:38 AM on January 1, 2009

"Freetards" and "Joi Ito's circle jerk" betray a certain bias towards not liking this book. That said, I don't like this book either.
posted by DU at 3:18 AM on January 1, 2009

all the people who are willing to share

Meaning, nobody else is "willing to share," whatever that means? From the last link ("Controversy"):

Ito muses, "Now the question is whether the demand for this book will actually exceed the number of people who appear in the book."

Since the book is priced at $370 plus shipping (you get a box with that; it's $76 for the "limited" edition"), that should not be hard to answer. "Free culture," indeed.
posted by beagle at 5:48 AM on January 1, 2009

The pictures are OK but I don't have a clue who most of these people are. Is there a page somewhere that I'm missing that will explain why they are leaders of the free culture movement?
posted by penguinliz at 6:00 AM on January 1, 2009

Oh, let's start 2009 off in a snarky frame of mind!

I looked at the first link, curious who Ito considered to be worthy of inclusion. Was more than a little disappointed. (Dean Ornish? Dean Ornish! George "It's MY Star Wars" Lucas!!??). Noticed where the links went for the exclusions (and agree; curious that those two especially were not in there!).

Then I read the Register's review.

While I disagree with the idea that Creative Commons precludes the creator profiting financially, I did find much of the criticism the review leveled at the book to be quite on target.

What a waste of time, energy, and material. I wonder what Cory "I hate Dead Tree Technologies So Give it all Away for Free" Doctorow has to say about an overpriced vanity publication such as this ...


Now get off my lawn, ya buggers!
posted by aldus_manutius at 7:06 AM on January 1, 2009

At least with a poetry contest scam, you get to read some very bad poems.
posted by box at 7:35 AM on January 1, 2009

To be fair, I would not pay very much for photographs of either Stallman or Raymond. Negative infinity is a number, right?
posted by DU at 7:59 AM on January 1, 2009

I know Joi pretty well, both from the tech conference circuit and his Warcraft guild. I can't think of a more friendly, generous, and modest guy. Leave it to Mefi to complain about the price of a print run of a bunch of freely available photographs. Good job on the snarking, though, you uncreative bastards.

What I like best about his photographs is for the few people in the book I know myself, the portraits look exactly like my mental image of how they look in their most typical, expressive poses. Andrew, Shawn, Larry, Howard, Ev, Jason, Hal, Anil. That's what those people all really look like to me. I'm tempted to buy a printed copy just so I have it to look at in 20 years.
posted by Nelson at 8:41 AM on January 1, 2009

JJ Abrams? John freaking Markoff? Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al Faisal??? This isn't "free souls", it's "my social network" in book form. Yeesh.
posted by scalefree at 10:02 AM on January 1, 2009


The ire is not drawn from the self publishing of a book of photographs. Snark is confronting the presumption that this represents the future of the publishing industry. And if the future of the book are vanity books by wealthy people patting themselves on the back about how in they are with the future, sold to those same people, I don't see how this improves over the current model.

I understand that this has special value to you because you know the people involved with it, and as such would be willing to pay money for it. It is borderline useless to the rest of us. Replacing the current industry with this gives me less things I wish to read.
posted by zabuni at 10:08 AM on January 1, 2009

"Copyrights are for professionals, Creative Commons is for amateurs seeking a niche for unmarketable work."

I think that's the best summary of most of the "free culture" garbage I've read. This collection of terrible photographs would never make it outside a Photo 101 class. If free culture advocates want to be taken seriously they need to start creating work actually worth a second glance. I have a feeling if they were doing that though they wouldn't be so quick to give it away.
posted by bradbane at 11:17 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Zabuni, thanks for the insight on where you're coming form. What I don't understand is the perception of a zero sum game. How does Joi publishing a book of photographs replace anyone else's ability to publish a book of photographs? I can understand if you don't find his book interesting, but does it somehow replace books you do find interesting? Are you concerned there's limited attention for books of photographs?
posted by Nelson at 12:31 PM on January 1, 2009

If free culture advocates want to be taken seriously they need to start creating work actually worth a second glance.

I know of a lot of artists who are releasing under a cc license, some very successful, some not so much. I think that's not a valid criticism, unless we're to assume that your taste is to be taken more seriously.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:56 PM on January 1, 2009

"Copyrights are for professionals, Creative Commons is for amateurs seeking a niche for unmarketable work."

That explains the astounding failure of Linux to take over a single desktop or server.
posted by DU at 2:06 PM on January 1, 2009

Just to clarify: the idea that a creative work needs a price tag or major chain distribution to make it legitimate is beyond preposterous. Creative Commons is an assertion of copyright, and without it as an underlying framework it wouldn't work at all. An artist can choose what they want to do with their legal claim to creative control. Unless all you're talking about is corporate graphics, major media works and the narrow and becoming outmoded concept of mass-distribution through a few channels, where does the value of the work equal the amount of money people pay for it? Does that make the Billboard Top 10 the ultimate test of creative worth? Creative Commons can't make a particular artist great, but using CC does not make an artist unworthy.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:07 PM on January 1, 2009

I totally agree Nelson, which is why I find some of the protests by the Creative Commons groups so distracting. If the group was simply a proponent of giving items away, I would have no problems, but they also advocate for the dissolution of copyright itself, and a replacement which is nebulous and never fully discussed.

From the book, Cory Doctorow:

Copyright−with all its quirks, exceptions and carve-outs−was, for centuries, a legal regime that attempted to address the unique characteristics of knowledge, rather than pretending to be just another set of rules for the governance of property. The legacy of forty years of "property talk" is a endless war between intractable positions of ownership, theft and fair dealing.

If we're going to find a lasting peace in the knowledge wars, it's time to set property aside, time to start recognizing that knowledge−valuable, precious, expensive knowledge−isn't owned. Can't be owned. The state should regulate our relative interests in the ephemeral realm of thought, but that regulation must be about knowledge, not a clumsy remake of the property system.

They seek to destroy the current system, and so cannot co-exist.

2. In the age of media downsizing and closure, the techno-libertarian utopianism grates. They cheer over the deaths of old media and saying that the free market will find new ways of monetizing creative output in classic underpants gnome thinking:

1. Creative artistic works.
2. Release them for free.
3. ???

When face with the prospect of this, isn't a wonder that people give up the faith? And when faced with this, they give us in response a circle jerk of a picture book and declare it to be the future, and how things will be published.

Champions of free culture have not made an alternative ecosystem that would match the existing infrastructure put in place. If Microsoft, Oracle, Apple where to be destroyed tomorrow in cataclysmic fire tomorrow, I would simply continue to use firefox to browse the web, watching videos using vlc from my NAS running Debian, using OpenOffice to edit documents. If all non-CC media was to face a similar fate, and the television stations only to show CC media, I would be much the poorer.
posted by zabuni at 2:15 PM on January 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty sure the final goal state of free culture is not PROFIT!. The rest of your misunderstanding can be traced that one simple fact.
posted by DU at 2:42 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, but profit is required in order to have art. Not all art, but without some profit, much art is relegated to those who have other means of subsistence, the rich, the trustifarians, and those they fund. An example being this book, which seem to be a bunch of upper class people high from the tech conference circuit fiving themselves over their own awesomeness.
posted by zabuni at 2:48 PM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

If all non-CC media was to face a similar fate, and the television stations only to show CC media, I would be much the poorer.

First of all, that's not going to happen. It's important to remember that Creative Commons does not by necessity include all the beliefs of its proponents. I hear a lot of Linux detractors use Stallman quotes to discredit the software or the whole idea of the GPL/LGPL, or the idea that people could create something useful through collective volunteer action. I usually ignore them.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:48 PM on January 1, 2009

Yes, but profit is required in order to have art.

No. I think you're confusing the useful utility of Creative Commons to some artists with the idea that we're all going to abandon copyright altogether if we start using it.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:52 PM on January 1, 2009

I believe this to be a stop on the douchebag express.
posted by Rumple at 4:21 PM on January 1, 2009

I know of a lot of artists who are releasing under a cc license, some very successful, some not so much. I think that's not a valid criticism, unless we're to assume that your taste is to be taken more seriously.

I don't have a problem with CC itself or the idea of it. I mean, I am a photographer and I have released a couple of images under CC licenses for Wikipedia. People should be able to do whatever they want with their copyright, include giving it away. What I do have a problem with is what zabuni basically said, these 'freetards' aren't happy with some people giving away some things, they want everyone to give away everything because - insert bong rip here - information wants to be free maaaan and all profit making is for evil, corrupt, corporate artists.

They want to do away with copyright completely, even though the only thing most of these people know about copyright involves Linux and RIAA lawsuits. I don't think profit is necessary to create art - that is ridiculous - but profit is necessary for professional artists to exist. Would Linux work as well or be as successful if all those volunteer programmers donating their free time didn't have day jobs to go to? How would most people ever gain the training and experience necessary to do something as complex as work on an operating system if they were not programming for a living?

These people are not helping their cause by producing amateurish circlejerks to be bought up by their friends and then pointing to that as some kind of "success" for their anti-copyright crusade. If this guy had taken photos of people not associated with free culture the silence would be deafening.
posted by bradbane at 6:40 PM on January 1, 2009

The problem I have with CC is that it buys into the current insanely inflated copyright regime.

Fourteen years, if registered, was good enough for the Founding Fathers in an age when it took a serious effort of Industry to produce a copy. Anything longer, or more inclusive, in this day and age is just plain silly, and I refuse to take it seriously.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:51 PM on January 1, 2009

bradbane: Part of the reason I argue is that there is I have seen open source software work with a profit motive, something that many copyfighters seem to be averse to. Google contributes to open source, Google make bazillions of dollars, we all win.

This makes it difficult to create a ecosystem where you can get the support of businesses, or even create businesses that can make money off it.

The question that is begged is: why the hell do we need businesses in the arts anyway? For mediums where the barrier to create is low, I entirely agree, you don't. People will still write novels, make music, put on plays, for the the sheer love of creation. This leads to high signal to noise ratios, but filters have and are being created to remove the large amounts of cruft. It probably won't be a financially viable for the vast majority of people, but it isn't right now. Cold comfort for those in the industry. I think quality suffers, but this may be ameliorated by the fact that more niches are being addressed. Whether this is a total sum loss is debatable.

Mediums that require actual capital to create (Movies, Animation, Video Games) don't seem to do as well. The outleys required, even when done as cheaply as possible, require thousands of dollars, making professional content, at least for movies. Video games seem to run the gamut. And animation can be done on the cheap, but not for near the technical quality or volume that the current industry does.

Copyright is a temporary monopoly of a given artistic work given to an author so that they may profit from it. We do this because we it gives the artist incentive to create. I still believe this is required for the creation of some works. Whether this cost to society is worth the creation of art is probably where the disagreement lies. I believe it so.

Could I be convinced otherwise? Sure. I already half convinced of that in the music and publishing industries. Mostly because both are so threadbare already, at least in terms of providing direct incentive to create for artists.
posted by zabuni at 6:50 AM on January 2, 2009

Yeah, I don't have much patience for the "all art should be free and let's burn copyright" crowd either. It's not a very thoughtful position. It's also not something very many people espouse. There's Cory, sure, and I think he is valuable as a firebrand. And give him credit: he really does stick to his own ideals and release his own stuff under CC licenses. But I tend to prefer listening to folks like Larry Lessig (and Joi, for that matter). Creative Commons is firmly rooted in the current copyright system, it's not trying to overturn it. The argument is "it is valuable for cultural works to be released under open licenses. If you wish to release your work that way, we will help you".

I can't leave this thread without calling out the statement profit is required in order to have art. Put that in all caps on a canvas and you have a Jenny Holzer piece. Do you really believe that?
posted by Nelson at 9:05 AM on January 2, 2009

I misspoke when I said profit. There needs to be some form of revenue, even if that means donations. Equipment needs to be bought, technical people need to be paid. For some media, this is vanishingly small, with books requiring at most a computer, and a song can be made, for well, a song. And while movies can be made on the cheap, that is still in the range of thousands of dollars, and that greatly limits what can be done with the medium. This may change in the future, as personal computers made music and text creation cost little to nothing.
posted by zabuni at 8:49 PM on January 2, 2009

« Older Picture London without Londoners   |   In Search of Salinger Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments