[Commons-research] Draft report from Free Culture 2008

Giorgos Cheliotis gcheliotis.lists at gmail.com
Wed Sep 17 12:17:27 EDT 2008

Dear all,

here is a report I wrote for the research workshop. Please take a look  
at it and let me know quickly in case you find that I have  
misrepresented anyone. I wrote this in a hurry and based on my own  
recollection of events. As long as you don't find anything seriously  
wrong with it, iCommons will post it online. If anyone is kind enough  
to do some proofreading as well, I'd appreciate it.


Report from Free Culture 2008, a.k.a. the Research Lab of iSummit 2008

by Giorgos Cheliotis, based on personal recollection and the notes of  
Prodromos Tsiavos

Every year the iSummit attracts several academics from different  
disciplinary backgrounds with a common interest in the promotion and  
study of free cultural or 'commons-based' practices. This year we  
organized the First Interdisciplinary Research Workshop on Free  
Culture, or Free Culture 2008 for short, as one of the iSummit 'Labs',  
to provide an opportunity for academics, researchers and practitioners  
to present their findings and learn form each other.

By any measure Free Culture 2008 was a success. The workshop was well  
attended (15-40 participants per session) considering how many  
presentations, discussions and meetings were taking place in parallel  
during the summit. But it is not about the numbers. Many of the  
presenters expressed their gratitude for the organization of the  
workshop and their appreciation for the quantity and quality of the  
constructive feedback they received during the summit. In keeping with  
the spirit of the summit, sessions were attended by a wonderful mix of  
researchers, practitioners and 'amateur scholars' who engaged in  
discussion and constructive criticism on a very open and egalitarian  

But the workshop did not start at the summit, it started much earlier,  
before everyone could fly to Sapporo. The workshop's highly  
interdisciplinary academic committee reviewed extended abstracts  
submitted by researchers from around the world and the chairs selected  
about half of the submissions for presentation at the iSummit, based  
on the results of the peer review process. Over 90 reviews were  
written in a very short timeframe and this was already a first success  
for the workshop and a first big step towards guaranteeing that the  
presentations would meet certain criteria of quality and  
methodological rigor, as expected by the research community.  We are  
greatly indebted to the academic program committee for their  
stewardship of the workshop.

Given the more academic nature of the research workshop as opposed to  
other iSummit labs,  it was organized mostly around formal  
presentations of ongoing research, with the addition of a free-for-all  
speed-geeking session and a concluding open discussion session. The  
sessions were as follows:

Session 1: Perspectives on Free Culture

Herkko Hietanen (Helsinki Institute for Information Technology)  
started off the presentations of the workshop with " Honey I Took Out  
The Trash: Curbside Recycling Motivations and the Free Culture  
Movement", an exploration of the relationships between the  
environmental and the free culture movements. Christopher Adams, an  
independent scholar from Taiwan, presented a more theoretical  
perspective on free culture and its relation to the native American  
tradition of potlatch with "Sovereignty of Free Culture: Georges  
Bataille and the Accursed Share". Leah Belsky (Yale Law School)  
presented her work with Yochai Benkler and Byron Kahr on the study of  
well-known communities and indie music labels employing different  
forms of commons-based production methods, titled "Everything in its  
Right Place: Social Cooperation and the Production and Distribution of  
Creative Works".  Finally, Jeong Min Choi (Seoul National University)  
presented her work with Jisuk Woo and Seo Woo Choi on the clampdown of  
the entertainment industry on Korean file-sharing users and the  
effects that lawsuits have had on users' subsequent behavior, "How the  
Korean Entertainment Industry’s Move to Directly Sue Individual  
Internet Users Influences the Users’ Attitudes and Activities".

Session 2: Applications and Challenges of Free Cultural Practices

Prodromos Tsiavos (London School of Economics and Public Policy)  
started the next session with his presentation titled "The Museum as a  
Cathedral and a Bazaar: Tracing Flows of Rights in the UK Cultural,  
Memory and Education Sector", a work in progress on the utilization of  
commons-based approaches by UK cultural institutions and individual  
artists. Eric Johnson (University of North Dakota Law School) took  
over to present "Copysquare and Konomark: New Ways to Be Friendly With  
Your Intellectual Property", two proposals on new ways for authors to  
indicate their pro-sharing attitude and license content for use in  
various media formats. Finally, Wolf Richter (Oxford Internet  
Institute) presented his work with Irene Cassarino on the application  
of an open licensing model for the production of a collaborative film,  
in "Lessons Learnt From Implementing an Open Licensing Model in  
Distributed Film Production – The case of "A Swarm of Angels"".

Session 3: Online Communities and Social Networks

Philipp Schmidt (UNU/MERIT and the University of Western Cape) kicked  
off the third session with a presentation of the methodology he is  
using for a survey of Wikipedia users, whose results should be out  
soon, in "Wikipedia - First Results From the Official Survey and Some  
Thoughts on Motivation, Distribution, and Quality". Then Alek  
Tarkowski (University of Warsaw) presented an analysis of data he has  
collected on Flickr users and the licenses they use, in "Social and  
Cultural Practices with Free Cultural Works. Case Study of the Flickr  
Web Service". Chih-Kang Cheng (Yuan Ze University) took over the  
podium to present a case study of the most popular online community in  
Taiwan, which is a BBS, in "The Study of Sharing Behavior in BBS  
platform in Taiwan – a Case Study of Virtual Communities in PTT".  
Giorgos Cheliotis (National University of Singapore) closed the  
session with his presentation of preliminary results on a study of  
collaborative remixing in the ccMixter online community, titled "Remix  
Culture: An Empirical Investigation of Creative Reuse and the  
Licensing of Digital Media in Online Communities".

Session 4: Speed-Geeking and Poster Session

This was a free-for-all session with some invited posters and the  
opportunity for anyone to walk in and present their ideas relating to  
the themes of the workshop. In a less formal setting than in other  
sessions, Prodromos Tsiavos (London School of Economics and Public  
Policy) presented some results of his work on the self-organization of  
the Creative Commons volunteer community and with a special focus on  
the patterns that emerge from online interactions on mailing lists.  
Koichiro Hayashi (Institute of Information Security) presented a  
proposal for a platform for the registration, tracking and enforcement  
of CC licenses on any type of digital content. And Kim Tucker (Meraka  
Institute) talked to us about his proposal for a new license that will  
solve some of the incompatibilities between the CC BY-SA and the GFDL  

Session 5A: Quantifying the Digital Commons

Juan Carlos De Martin (NEXA) in "Geospatial Context Extraction for  
Creative Commons Licensed Digital Contents" provided an overview of  
the methodology utilized by researchers of the NEXA center at the  
Technical University of Torino, including Elias Carotti and Davide  
Bardoni, to crawl the Web for CC-licensed content and extract  
geospatial information about the location of the author utilizing  
information retrieval methods. Then Ben Bildstein (Queensland  
University of Technology) presented his study of  CC license use in  
Australia and the lessons derived from this study on how to best  
collect data on CC use, in  "New Methodologies for Quantifying Licence- 
Based Commons on the Web".

Session 5B: Perspectives on Freedom and the Commons in East Asia

First HyoJung Sun (Seoul National University) presented her work with  
Jisuk Woo and HyunSoo Na on the role of user-created content in Korean  
politics with "Influence of the UCC Regulation during the Political  
Campaign in Korea on Free Culture". Then, instead of Han-Teng Liao's  
(Oxford Internet Institute) scheduled presentation which was  
unfortunately cancelled due to the presenter's inability to travel to  
the workshop venue, Cynthia Jimes (ISKME) presented an overview of  
research activities at the Institute for the Study of Knowledge  
Management in Education in " "Travel Well" Open Educational Resources:  
A Presentation of Ongoing Research", joint work with Lisa Petrides and  
Anastasia Karaglani.

Session 6: A Research and Action Agenda for Free Culture

This was the most important session for the future of research on free  
culture. The aim of the session was to (a) identify future directions  
that would be ripe with research challenges but also promising to  
yield insight that would be useful to the practice of free culture  
advocacy, and (b) make an assessment of the workshop and decide  
whether to repeat it and in what format.

The session started with a discussion of potential areas of research,  
where the collection of more data and the visualization of this data  
for intuitive exploration and communication of findings was proposed  
as one potential area of focus. Action research was also mentioned as  
a methodology that would be relevant in the context of practice- 
inspired and practice-informed research. Global-scope studies and  
comparative studies across multiple jurisdictions were also favored by  
some participants as areas needing much more development. But the  
discussion quickly turned to practical issues, such as how to organize  
a network for continuous communication and collaboration among  
interested researchers and whether we should plan a journal special  
issue, or a special track in an existing research conference.

Participants tried to propose solutions to the perennial problem of  
engaging in interdisciplinary collaborations while at the same time  
being respected in one's own scientific community. There was some  
consensus that we should not attempt to create a new discipline, but  
that we nevertheless need venues and opportunities to engage in cross- 
disciplinary dialogue and do research across disciplinary boundaries,  
as the phenomena that interest us the most tend to cut across multiple  
dimensions of the Internet, including law, IT, economics,  
communications, media studies and policy (just to name a few).

The most concrete and positive outcome of the entire workshop was the  
unanimous agreement of all participants to the idea of repeating this  
gathering on an annual basis. Epitomizing the positive assessment of  
this year's proceedings was Lawrence Lessig's proposal to help find a  
venue for the workshop next year and also to help turn it into a  
larger and more substantive academic conference, a proposal that was  
greeted with enthusiasm by the rest of the participants in the session.

The rest of the discussion focused on what the envisioned conference  
should look like, in light of the lessons we learned from Free Culture  
2008. It was tentatively agreed to raise the bar for participation at  
the conference next year by requiring that presenters submit a full  
paper at some stage in the process (this year it was optional and  
selection was based solely on extended abstracts). This, along with  
having more time dedicated to research presentations and research- 
focused discussion will help ensure that next year's event will be  
more focused and session participation will be more consistent, which  
will be essential to building rapport and promoting genuine dialogue  
among participants.

Some participants also voiced concerns with respect to the conference  
potentially attaining too much of a traditional academic character and  
losing the relative spontaneity and participatory nature of the  
iSummit. It was therefore suggested that we maintain some slots for  
open discussion and seek to synthesize perspectives and findings in  
the form of panels or by any other means, instead of focusing only on  
single-person presentations. Finally, several potential publishing  
venues were brought up but it was agreed that it is somewhat premature  
to be concerned with this at the moment and we should rather focus our  
energies in planning Free Culture 2009. The following participants  
registered their interest in assisting with the organization of next  
year's conference (in no particular order):

Wolf Richter
Lawrence Lessig
Juan Carlos De Martin
Alek Tarkowski
Leah Belsky
Ben Bildstein
Christopher Adams
Rachel Cobcroft
Prodromos Tsiavos
Giorgos Cheliotis

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