Category Archives: public domain

Espace social et innovation ouverte

Présentation pour le panel « Innovation ouverte et living labs, la divergence cohésive par les réseaux sociaux ?» organisé par Patrick Dubé dans le cadre de la dixième conférence internationale webcom Montréal.

Siva on Open Access

SABREOCRACY.NET (formerly SIVACRACY.NET): An Important Message for the Folks at Google

All I’m asking for is full access for the public to government documents on Google BookSearch. These documents are in the public domain and therefore should not be limited by claims of copyright, by Google or by the Library Partners.

IMHO, these issues will eventually be solved, regardless of the source.

Audio People of the World: "You, Knight!"

Much to be said about a recent ITConversations podcast episode. Ostensibly, this episode was about the LibriVox success story. (LibriVox is a community project producing public domain audiobooks from public domain books in diverse languages.) Yet, during this conversation, Web analyst (and Microsoft employee) Jon Udell along with LibriVox founder Hugh McGuire managed to share much insight on such varied issues as community-building, project management, grassroots movement, open source development, participatory culture, and aurality/orality.

After the chat, Udell and McGuire followed up, on their respective blogs. Udell developed a useful script to make all LibriVox books into RSS feeds for use in iTunes and other media players. Such a collaboration is an appropriate example of the power of “scratch your own itch” development, described during the podcast conversation. The conversation also prompted Librivox reader Sean McGaughey to describe LibriVox as a killer app. [Update: Blog version of the same description.]

I was led to this podcast episode through a visit to LibriVox reader Kara Shallenberg’s blog. Started listening to the LibriVox podcast after reading about LibriVox on fellow YulBlogger Patrick Tanguay’s own blog. Among other things, LibriVox helped me appreciate Canadian Literature and I’m quite glad that the project may contribute to Montreal’s widespread recognition at the cutting edge of technology and culture.

As an aural learner, I was quite taken by Udell and McGuire’s comments on auditory media. It seems that these two guys really grok what is so neat about sound. At least, their ideas about sound are quite compatible with my own ideas about music, language, and the cultural importance of sound.

We might be in a minority, North Americans who care about sound. Many people (including some online visionaries) seem to care more about visuality. In fact, given the large number of Web designers in the “Web 2.0” movement, it might be said that auditory media have often been considered a subset of “audiovisual content.” Yet there is something to be said about sound standing alone in digital life.

For instance, McGuire and Udell talk about the possibility for people to undertake other activities while listening to audiobooks and other auditory content. Commuting is probably the easiest one to grasp, for most people, and while it might be fun to watch a DVD on a plane or bus, audio podcasts are possibly the ideal “distraction” for (hearing) commuters. Listening to podcasts while moving around has led to very stimulating experiences.

Fans of McLuhan would probably think of “hot” and “cool” media. The difference between video and audio podcasts clearly relates to McLuhan’s ideas about participation.

There’s also the issue of rhythm. While moving images certainly can be rhythmic, speech and musical rhythm seem, to me, to be more readily associated with diverse human activities. No idea where to look for the cognitive side of this but it’s clearly worth investigating.

For lack of a better word, sound is more “abstract” than other sensory experiences. Acoustic signals do have a physical reality but the practise of listening has been used to elicit important ideas about abstract structures in Euro-American aesthetics.

Lots more to talk about but it will do for today.

Discovering CanLit

As a Francophone born and raised in Montreal, I could have been exposed to (Anglophone) Canadian literature early on. But it took until a few years ago for CanLit to enter my life.

Here’s how it happened.

In November 2000, my wife and I were staying at a friend’s place in the Richmond Hill suburb of Toronto, while I was attending an academic conference. For several reasons, I wanted to take advantage of our time there as much as possible. We passed by a small bookstore and decided to go in. I think the book caught my eye before we went in. I had seen the author’s name before. Probably in something by or about John Irving, one of the few Anglophone authors that I had read (along with Douglas Adams and a few other things). The book’s cover or title might have caught my eye for other reasons. Reading the book’s blurb, I was intrigued by mentions of psychology (many members of my family are psychologists). So I decided to buy that book. My first item of literary Canadiana.

Those of you who know Canadian literature have probably figured out what it was. The Manticore, second volume of Robertson Davies’s Deptford Trilogy. Not that the book was really a revelation to me, but it was a pleasant discovery nonetheless. Robertson Davies’s humour, narrative style and, most importantly, use of language all titillated my literary sensitivity. Among Francophone authors, playfulness with language is quite prominent. At least, for those authors I’ve appreciated the most, the plot usually matters very little and emphasis is put on what we might call “mind games,” as they encourage active reading. Robertson Davies’s literary style wasn’t at all similar to what I had been used to, with Francophone authors, but it was compatible with my reading habits.

Robertson Davies was an important figure in John Irving’s life and it is little surprise that my appreciation for Irving would carry over to Robertson Davies. In fact, with all due respect to Irving, I find Robertson Davies to be a more satisfying writer than Irving precisely because Robertson Davies emphasises language over plot while Irving tends to focus on plot development. Frankly, I’ve grown tired of plot-based works, whether in literature or in film. To a musician, a storyline is just one of many devices that can be used. This is partly a matter of personal preference but it does translate into academic interests of mine.

Robertson Davies died a while ago and his place in CanLit is set in stone. I’m sure many Canadians had to read some of his work in school and despise anything related to him because of compulsory reading. Contrary to what many schoolteachers seem to assume, forcing someone to read an author’s writing is not the best way to get that person to like that author. In fact, I’m sure many people find Robertson Davies stuffy, old-fashioned, old-school. His trilogies have been relegated to the Canadian Classics collections. A mere example of Canadiana.

It is therefore no surprise that those who have read Roberton Davies’s books choose not to discuss them and that those who have not read anything by him have little inclination to do so. I was just lucky in “discovering” his work for myself and have enjoyed, out of my own reasons, everything he has written. Not to fulfill a CanLit or CanCon quota, but to simply have fun with literature.

More recently, my relationship to CanLit took a new direction as I was exposed to LibriVox through an entry on YulBlogger Patrick Tanguay’s i never knew blog. LibriVox is a website dedicated to audio recordings of Public Domain works. Thankfully, the site has a podcast through which MP3 version of the audio recordings of complete works are being distributed. A bit like “books on tape” but in “free as in beer” and “free as in speech” form. Ideal for the commuter.

The first work to which I listened was Oscar Wilde’s three act The Importance of Being Earnest. Obviously, I knew of Wilde’s work. I did expect that, one day, I would read some of his work. But I never did. Too busy. Books are inconvenient to carry if you’re not sure you will read them. I have other things to read anyway. Electronic books can be really neat and I did read complete works on a PalmOS device, but I wouldn’t really have thought of reading Wilde like that. Listening to some of Wilde’s work while commuting or working turned out to be ideal. The voices themselves made the experience even more enjoyable. The time-shifting nature of the podcast meant that I was free to listen to those recordings as I chose while the shuffle function of my Digital Audio Jukebox meant that those recordings would come at unscheduled intervals. All in all, my LibriVox experience has been a very pleasurable one, in the past few weeks.

What does it have to do with CanLit, you ask? Or maybe you guessed it. The subsequent work to be distributed in the LibriVox podcast was an admirable piece of CanLit that is having a rather positive effect on me: Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock.

If people think of Robertson Davies as an oldie, Leacock is an ancestor. Which doesn’t mean that he should be dismissed, of course. My immediate reaction to hearing Leacock’s preface, with all its cynicism about academia, was similar to that of someone meeting an estranged cousin.

Further on through the book, I noticed very significant connections between Leacock’s writing and that of Robertson Davies. I started thinking that either Robertson Davies was deeply influenced by Leacock or that both of them were displaying something common to CanLit in general. Given the fact that Robertson Davies wrote about Stephen Leacock, the direct influence hypothesis seems to hold. But given the fact that many Canadian writers , including Robertson Davies, have received the Stephen Leacock Memorial Award for Humour, there might be some broader connection throughout Canadian literature, at least in the part that has to do with humour.

Nice that there is still such a thing as the Public Domain.

World Intellectual Property Exploitation Organization Ultimately Threatened (WIPEOUT)

I do hope they realize it. The infamous, and famously exploitative, lobby group for “intellectual property” is ultimately going to lose.

Signs of their ultimate demise abound in the actions of both the RIAA and the MPAA (as well as equivalent lobby groups in other North America and Europe). These people just don’t get it.

Been laughing out loud at some comments about the recent debate over the alleged benefits of extending British copyright for performing artists over the fifty years that anyone in their right mind would think is fair. Even some musicians are revealing the lack of breadth in their argument: they just want to be able to live off the money from their recordings from the late 1950s and early 1960s. That would stimulate innovation how, exactly? The fact that it took these people that long to realize that copyrights are meant to be temporary is preciously funny. “Oh, wait! I thought I was supposed to keep my monopoly over these recordings forever.”

Also funny is the stance of Apple Corps. and the remaining Beatles over what should be done with their music. Their first recordings will come out of copyright in the UK (and several other places) in a few years. Instead of taking advantage of the situation by making sure that the last people who by their music get added value, they prevent online music stores from selling their tracks and release a set of anachronistic remixes. Weird.

Been thinking for a while about a type of “two cultures” theory. What Larry Lessig calls “Free Culture” on one side and “Commerical Culture” on the other. The meaning of “culture” used in those cases can be relatively close to anthropological concepts, though it’s also about “creative culture,” including arts and entertainments. In the U.S. of A., Lessig’s primary target, “free culture” seems to be under attack. Elsewhere, it florishes. In any way we think about it, “free culture” is more beneficial for the greater group than a “closed culture,” whether it’s based on commercial value, on jealousy, or both. If we think competitively, there is little doubt in my head that “free culture” will eventually win and that U.S. “commercial culture” (or “permission culture,” as Lessig calls it) will collapse, bringing down a large part of U.S. society.

That is, unless some people finally wake up.