Monday, June 11, 2007

symposium 'traditional cultural expressions in a digital environment', 8-9 June, Lucerne

This weekend, the time for our eDiversity international symposium on traditional cultural expressions (TCE) in a digital environment finally came.
After almost 6 months of careful planning and organisation, inviting experts, booking venues and menues, going through every detail of the programme, both logistically and substantively, the morning of the 8th of June arrived.
It was a beautiful day in Lucerne and a good start for a very interesting, open and intensive discussion on the TCE pertinent issues.
The debates were unique at least in a couple of points. The first one was the interdisciplinary character of the contributions and the diverse backgrounds of the speakers that sought to reach out to other disciplines (history, philosophy, social sciences and law) and add value to the TCE discussions. The second point of distinction had to do with situating the debates in the new digital environment and seeking to address its repercussions (both positive and negative) for the protection and promotion of TCE.
With the benefit of hindsight, although as an organiser not entirely impartial in my view, a third point worth mentioning is the interesting group of experts and their willingness for open dialogues and exchange of ideas (a rare thing, I would say).
Finally, a word on my own contribution on new technologies and their impact upon the protection and promotion of TCE (ppt here; paper here). My main objective was to reveal that the digital technologies do change the entire environment where TCE are to be protected and promoted. Digital technologies and their far-reaching economic and societal implications (using the long tail and the participative web as examples) cannot be exhausted in the TCE discussions by mere references to the negative impact of these upon copyright enforcement and ICTs instrumentalisation for development purposes. A broader conceptual understanding is needed. Upon the latter, one could then take the concrete steps of putting together a multi-faceted flexible toolbox, which may properly address the specificities of TCE beyond copyright (at lower transcation costs too).
I was extremely lucky to have Herbert Burkert of the University of St. Gallen as a formal discussant and Sacha Wunsch-Vincent of OECD as a moderator. They put things into the right perspective and draw the precise contours of the topic framing it into the symposium's objectives. I am most grateful for their contributions, in particular to Herbert, who not only supported my views but also challenged the public and livened up the debate with his rhetotical skills.

Here are some visual impressions from the TCE discussions.

creative industries workshop

A week ago I had the pleasure to visit a most interesting Exploratory Workshop on "Rethinking Added Value in the Creative Industries", convened by Christoph Weckerle of the Research Unit Creative Industries at the University of Art and Design Zurich (hgk Zurich, 29-31 May 2007). The event gathered together people interested in the creative industries but having diverse backgrounds and personal research agendas. The goal was to agree on some common ground definitions and future research objectives, which we could evetually take up in a research network funded by the European Science Foundation.
After some general examinations of the pertinent issues, it was clear that the wide variety of positions was rather difficult to reconcile, so we set more concrete tasks and worked on them in smaller gropus. With astonishingly promising results.
By the end of the first day, we could all agree on a list of topics that need to be taken up in order to properly assess the workings of the creative industries and how should they be efficiently and sustainably supported.
These topics were 6 and included in a random order (or the way I have them in my random notes):
(i) institutions, regulation and public policies (including culture and cultural diversity);
(ii) labour, individuals, skills;
(iii) organisation, firms, business models;
(iv) demand (broadly defined incl. users' reactions, user created content, etc.);
(v) localisation;
(vi) innovation, learning and technology.
/Brian Moeran convincingly and justly in my opinion insisted also on including 'values' as a cross-cutting category/.
On the second day, we (in 3 groups) elaborated the most important questions that one is to formulate within these 6 categories (quite extensive, so I won't put it up here).
It seems in the end that we were more successful than we were supposed to be at the level of an exploratory workshop. Perhaps that was thanks to the excellent organisation and atmosphere (working partly in the sun at the balcony of the hgk) provided by Christoph and his team.

For me as a lawyer, the workshop was a particularly fascinating experience to be surrounded by non-lawyers only :) and to test some of the set definitions legal scholars use in their strict legal analyses (or often poor attempts for interdisciplinarity). The notions of 'creative industries', 'cultural industries', 'culture', 'diversity', even 'law', had broader meanings in the workshop's discusssions, were less policy-laden but rather pragmatic in my view.
(Commodification of culture was certainly not a dirty word).