Who Controls New Media?
Open Art in Closed Systems
Berkman Center for Internet and Society
Guggenheim Museum
A panel discussion at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
March 21, 2002
Co-organized by the Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes New York

In the 1960s artists and technologists independently laid the groundwork for two parallel forms of democratic expression: the "open artwork" characterized by viewer participation, and a global Internet where ideas and images could be freely circulated. Four decades later, the expansion of copyright has raised questions of public use, interactivity has become a marketing buzzword, and national security and freedom of expression appear unreconcilable.

"Who Controls New Media" examines the historical roots of this shift, from Bertold Brecht's emancipatory theory of radio in the 1920s to Nam June Paik's Participation TV in the 1960s to the rise of Internet art in the 1990s. Following this analysis the participants present a number of contemporary attempts to reassert open protocols in what many artists see as an increasingly closed society. The discussion is punctuated by audiovisual documentation of artwork from such historical figures as John Cage as well as cutting-edge artworks from today's Internet.

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Ten years ago, the rich tapestry of interwoven communities and creative practices we call digital culture didn't exist. Ten years from now, it may again cease to exist-- not because of stock market crashes or terrorist attacks, but due to our inability to achieve the balance of chaos and regulation that encouraged the growth of the Internet in the first place.

The intellectual property debate is usually framed as a conflict between the interests of the public and the interests of creative people. Take away patents, and programmers might not have an incentive to program; take away copyright, and filmmakers might not film, dancers might not dance. Curiously, however, policymakers rarely bother to ask actual creators how they feel about these legal systems designed to protect them. Maybe it's because judges and senators usually rely on expert testimony--and it's hard to find an expert on "starving artists" by looking in the phone book. Whatever the reason, the testimony that usually makes it into the docket--intellectual property briefs from movie industry lawyers or cameo depositions by Metallica drummers-are about as far away from the perspective of the struggling artist as you can get.

The purpose of tonight's discussion is to correct this prevailing imbalance by breathing a fresh perspective on art and artists into the musty chambers of juridical proceedings. To do that, we've assembled a panel of remarkable folks who know at least as much about Nam June Paik and Hans Haacke as they do about nolo contendere and habeas corpus.

--Jon Ippolito, moderator
Dieter Daniels, a professor of art history and media theory at Leipzig's Academy of Visual Arts, has written extensively on Marcel Duchamp, Fluxus, and new media. He conceived and organized Leipzig's media biennale Minima Media, co-founded the Videonale in Bonn, and headed the mediatheque at the ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe from 1991-93. Daniels is the editor with Rudolf Frieling of two books and CD-ROMs produced by ZKM and the Goethe-Institut, Media Art Action and Media Art Interaction.

Alex Galloway is an artist, computer programmer, and Director of Content and Technology at Rhizome.org, a leading online platform for new media art. He is the producer of Carnivore, a networked art project. Based on the FBI software of the same name, Carnivore uses packet-sniffing technologies to create vivid depictions of raw data; the work is currently on tour to the Princeton Art Museum and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Galloway's first book, PROTOCOL, or, How Control Exists after Decentralization, will appear next year from The MIT Press.

Wendy Seltzer is a lawyer, computer programmer, and Berkman Center Fellow. In collaboration with Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig and others, Seltzer is launching three online projects to preserve and strengthen the public domain: Openlaw, an approach to legal argument modeled on the "open source" programming method; Creative Commons, an effort to provide artists and authors with alternatives to traditionally restrictive copyright licenses; and Chilling Effects, a project to identify and respond to ungrounded legal threats that have a "chilling effect" on online activity.

Moderator Jon Ippolito is an artist and Associate Curator of Media Arts at the Guggenheim, where he curated Virtual Reality: An Emerging Medium, the CyberAtlas project, and, with John G. Hanhardt, The Worlds of Nam June Paik. His publications include a forthcoming book entitled The Edge of Art.
What combination of factors makes this a critical juncture for creativity and the public sphere?

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How did we get here? What parallels can be seen in the emancipatory potential of earlier mediums such as radio?

Let's fast-forward to the turn of the millennium. What are the current technological and political analogues of the radio boom?

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Computers are bringing about a situation that's like the invention of harmony. Subroutines are like chords. No one would think of keeping a chord to himself. You'd give it to anyone who wanted it. You'd welcome alterations of it. Subroutines are altered by a single punch. We're getting music made by man himself, not just one man.
--John Cage, 1969, quoted in Richard Kostelanetz, John Cage: An Anthology (New York: Limelight, 1991), p. 209.

What have artists been up to during this historical zigzag between open and closed technologies?

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Define the open artwork and the open source programming paradigm. What is the difference between open source and open-licensed code (such as GPL)?

How do these various definitions of "open" compare?

Have open source and open-licenses succeeded in offering a real alternative to click-wrap licenses and copyrighted content?

Related links:
Richard Stallman's Free Software Foundation

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The evolution of the "open artwork" has, in the eyes of many artists and technologists, culminated in interactive design. Is this endpoint for open art a pinnacle or a dead end?

Are there definitions of interactivity that don't match Bill Gates' vision of the world?

Related links:
Antworten (Answers),
Antworten statistics
Dump Your Trash

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Isn't enclosure supposed to be good for artists? Why shouldn't they be rewarded for their creative efforts?

Intellectual property law assumes that artists and other creators need financial incentives to create truly innovative work. Has the lack of market-driven incentives for Internet art stunted the level of creativity we see online? Or has openness encouraged innovation in this context?

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Related links:

Desktop IS
Adam Killer
Untitled Game
The Impermanence Agent
The Dialectizer
The Fulifier

How have artists reacted to enclosure?

Related links:
The File Room
The Gallery of CSS Descramblers
0100101110101101.org's remake of Hell.com
Echelon literary contest
Trojan Cow project
Connective Force Attack

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In the 1990s it was popular for hackers to espouse a brand of crypto-anarchy premised on the supposed unregulability of the wild frontier known as the Internet. Is that realistic?

What new legal interventions are possible within the existing IP system to serve both artists and their public?

Related links:
Chilling Effects

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Participants answer audience questions.

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