Brain Pickings

Lawrence Lessig on the Free Access Movement


Open access to knowledge, a business model for science, and the value of “uncool” innovation.

Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig is easily the most important voice in intellectual property today, whose work — including founding Creative Commons — has done for remix culture what Al Gore’s did for climate change. In this animated excerpt from a lecture he gave in Geneva last week, Lessig introduces the Science Commons project and makes a compelling case for universal access to knowledge through new information architecture that supports its recombination and reconfiguration, advocating for what he calls “the free access movement.”

Ultimately, he argues — and we wholeheartedly agree — that encouraging exclusivity of access is inconsistent with the ethics of our world, the sort of paradigm that lets knowledge wither in the hands of the privileged.

We need to recognize in the academy, I think, an ethical obligation […] An ethical obligation which is at the core of our mission. Our mission is universal access to knowledge—not American university access to knowledge, but universal access to knowledge in every part of the globe.

We don’t need, for our work, exclusivity; and we shouldn’t practice, with our work, exclusivity. And we should name those who do, wrong. Those who do are inconsistent with the ethic of our work.” ~ Lawrence Lessig

See the full 50-minute talk below:

Archiving is not enough. Because what it does is leave these right out there, and by leaving these rights out there, it encourages this architecture of closed access. It encourages models of access that block access to the non-elite around the world. And it discourages unplanned, unanticipated and ‘uncool’ innovation — the sort of thing publishers would’ve said of Google Books.” ~ Lawrence Lessig

More than six years later, Lessig’s Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity remains an absolute must-read. Unlike most books, whose cultural relevance tends to wane with time, this is a cultural essential that’s only increasingly relevant as we grapple with new facets of what constitutes creative labor.

[UPDATE: Per appropriate albeit abrasive reader comment below, a reminder that Free Culture is also available as a free downloadable PDF if you can stomach the reading experience that entails.]

HT @matthiasrascher

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Mabel Pike: Portrait of a 91-Year-Old Moccasin Maker


What ancient beadwork has to do with the blessings of the digital age.

91-year-old Tlingit Native elder Mabel Pike learned beading when she was six and her great-grandmother taught her how to sew moccasins in the 1920s. In 1926, after their village in Douglas, Alaska burned down, Mabel’s parents moved the family to Juneau, where Mabel and her sisters began making and selling handcrafted Native wares. Mabel eventually became a Tlingit master artist, going on to teach beadwork at Stanford and pass on the traditions of her clan’s culture.

In this lovely video portrait, part of Etsy’s Handmade Portraits series, Mabel talks about the traditional patterns of her culture, her deep passion for her craft and everything it stands for, and her hate for the word “abstract.” It exudes the same kind of bittersweet poeticism you might recall from these 7 short documentaries about dying crafts, but it’s also lined with Mabel’s steady, quiet optimism.

When I finish a pair of moccasins, I sure hate to part with them. I’m not in this for money-making. I do my sewing because that’s my life, it’s always been my life, from the day I was six years old.” ~ Mabel Pike

I just lose myself in my sewing. I don’t know how to describe it. You know, when I start beading, it’s like I’m so absorbed in what I’m doing, I forget everything. I’m sewing, and I’m creating, and I’m designing. And I just don’t know how to describe it. I just lose myself in it.” ~ Mabel Pike

The way Mabel describes her work — this state of total engagement, of complete immersion — encapsulates the state renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined as “flow,” the true mark of creativity in action.

For your daily pause moment: It’s utterly remarkable that we live in an age when online platforms like Vimeo and Etsy and Twitter and WordPress are allowing us to not only learn about the fascinating cultural heritage of ancient traditions, but to also actively support these indigenous artists in ways that would’ve never been possible a mere decade ago.

To support Mabel’s work and that of other indigenous artists, do visit Alaksa Native Arts Foundation’s online shop.

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Papercraft 2: Analog Creativity for the Digital Age


Retrostalgic craft, or what analog art has to do with digital design.

Nearly two years ago, the fine folks of Gestalten brought us the exquisite Papercraft: Design and Art With Paper. Today, they’re back with a delicious, highly anticipated sequel: Papercraft 2 — a stunning anthology of exploring how designers and artists are re-discovering the analog magic of paper in the digital age. Through a showcase of groundbreaking work, the collection reveals how designers are using various techniques — cutting, folding, gluing, collaging, shredding — to craft stride-stopping visual storytelling.

In addition to the 250 pages of mesmerizing artwork, the book features a DVD of the best paper-based stop-motion, animation and music videos from the tipping point of this art form, unraveling the bleeding-edge creative potential of this age-old material.

Needless to say, given our love for creative book trailers, Papercraft 2 gets serious bonus points for the lovely video sneak peek.

Other Gestalten goodies we love: Data Flow 2, which collects seven years of data visualization eye candy in one place; Bompas and Parr: Return of the Jelly Knights, the fascinating microdocumentary about London’s jelly architects; The Story of Eames Furniture, an astounding 800-page volume 13 years in the making documenting the golden duo of modernist design.

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Analog Infoviz: Handmade Visualization Toolkit


What 99 red balloons have to do with the spam economy and Lady Gaga.

We love data visualization and have a soft spot for analog art. We’ve previously explored several examples of physical data art and now, from Bogotá-based designer Jose Duarte comes this ingenious Handmade Visualization Toolkit, exploring simple ways to visualize information quickly. Using ordinary materials like chalk, string, stickers and balloons, you can experiment with various visualization techniques, from area charts to bubble graphs to — yes, you guessed it — Venn diagrams.

Using the kit, he made these lovely lo-fi visualizations of data from the 2010 State of the Internet report, revealing, among other things, that Lady Gaga is bigger on Twitter than Obama and the majority of the world’s email volume is spam.

Internet users by country

The most popular twitter accounts

Internet users 2000-2010

Spam vs. real email sent every day: 90 out of every 100 emails are spam

And it seems like Jose will send you a kit for free if you shoot him an email — what’s not to love?

via Flavorwire

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