Into the Turing Galaxy. The State of the digital commons, Volker Grassmuck


Volker Grassmuck is a media researcher at the Helmholtz Center for Cultural Technology of Humboldt University Berlin. His main area of interest is the digital revolution, intellectual property and free knowledge. Previous areas of research include artificial intelligence, garbage, the history of media and identity discourses in Japan, and the knowledge order of digital media. He is also the project lead of and of the conference series "Wizards of OS", a freelance writer and an activist. As co-initiator of he is campaigning to promote user rights and freedoms in the ongoing copyright reforms. His publications includs "Freie Software zwischen Privat- und Gemeineigentum," Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Bonn 2002

Volker Grassmuck, Berlin

Volker Grassmuk gave the lecture about current state in the sphere of proprietary and public digital products. He pointed out that if we look in the first three decades of development of computer technologies, we will see that in that time there was a free sharing of programs, experiences and codes. In the beginning of the eighties some groups started to enclose codes and software that were previously in the public domain. In that sense Volker Grasmuk specifically mentioned Microsoft company as an example of such practice.

The commons precedes private property, and the knowledge commons is even older while intellectual property is a rather young institution. The digital revolution liberates knowledge from its material bottlenecks, it takes us from the Gutenberg into the Turing Galaxy, from the mass- consumption to "commons-based peer-production" (Yochai Benkler) of informational goods. Commodity and recycled PCs bring the means of symbolic production within the reach of everyone, while commodity Internet access and free wireless networks do the same for the means of distribution. The essential element of the digital commons is licenses that keep free what wants to be free. But the counter- revolution is defending vested interests with the help of restrictive law and technology. He strongly supported the idea around Creative Commons project saying that more and more users and especially European governmental bodies are moving to open source and free software solutions. He emphasizes the fact that Creative Commons idea and is not only about software but about cultural production in general.