Just got home from the excellent Access to Knowledge (A2K) conference in Yale. The weekend was chock-a-block with provocative speakers during the sessions and stimulating discussions during the coffee breaks. Some of the more memorable bits:
- Eric von Hippel of MIT Management School talking about the case of French Chefs as a norm based intellectual property system.
- Richard Jefferson of the non-profit Cambia speaking eloquently about the development of agriculture as the first "open source" system of communal knowledge sharing and distribution.
- Lawrence Liang and Achal Prabhala of The Alternative Law Forum tag-team presenting on the virtues of piracy.
- Ronaldo Lemus at the Center for Technology & Society in Rio de Janiero expounding on "periphery" cultural production, from baile funk in Brazil to the movie industry in Nigeria.
- Jamie Love of the Consumer Project on Technology giving a stirring overview of the historic forces that have led to A2K, including the free software / open source movements, open archives and publishing projects, blogging and the open architecture of the internet itself.
That said, now having left the conference, I have some difficulties with seeing A2K as a true social movement or an academic field of inquiry. A2K is still too thinly articulated and too poorly understood to be more than a meme or broad basket of adjoining concerns and ideas.
At bare minimum A2K is a marketing tool for existing campaigns to reform IP policy.
At best A2K is a still inchoate analytic framework that seeks to promote scholarship and advocacy beyond the current intellectual property system toward a structure that better rewards creativity and artistic production while also promoting a healthy public knowledge commons.
Maybe I'm just getting old and cynical. Ten years ago I might have dropped everything I was doing to pledge my activist sword to Jamie Love in the quest for the A2K grail. It may turn out to be the Next Big Thing on the global social justice agenda. But for now, I'll wait and see...