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Sep 21 11

Reflections from Danny Piccirillo

by Kẏra

Cross-posted from his blog.

I can’t believe this was my first Students for Free Culture conference– I’ve been missing out! Firstly, wow. Running a conference is a lot of work. The board deserves serious props for all the time and effort they put into making this event happen and be awesome!

Learning about the long history of “Who let the dogs out?” was wildly entertaining, and listening to the fashion panel discuss how the industry is able to thrive thanks to a lack of copyright restrictions (as introduced by the TED Talk) was insightful. It was great being able to closely inspect a single work, revealing how every creative piece has a story, that everything is a remix, and also to be able to zoom way out and see how there are thriving industries that would not be possible with Intellectual Property restrictions. Seeing other industries unrestricted by IP that we take for granted would be useful in contrasting and comparing to those that are, and painting analogies that will help unfamiliar folks understand what we stand for. The ideals of the free culture movement are reflected through so many aspects of everyday life, and this was a great reminder of that.

I saw lots of friends and made many more. Everyone, from all different backgrounds and political persuasions, clearly wanted to do everything in their power build a freer culture, a freer society. The people at this event filled me with hope, something I am always struggling to sustain. I’ll be sure to carry this on to the Free Software Foundation’s similarly-themed LibrePlanet conference, which is specific to free software.

I was especially glad that web services were a major focus, as the Diaspora team gave a keynote presentation. Non-free, centralized, “walled-garden” web services like Facebook are an especially problematic and challenging issue, and it’s great to see people interested in the up and coming alternatives. It was slightly frustrating, though, when the question and answer session became a ranting session for audience members who demanded that the Diaspora team use their New-York-Times-acquired fame to spread some loosely-defined ideals of “open source” to everything imaginable. As someone entirely committed to software freedom, I sympathize with anyone who wishes we had louder voices on our side. I am even lovingly critical of the Diaspora project, as I support them entirely, but also fear for their success and regret that other projects like GNU social don’t receive anything near the same amount of attention. As they said in their attempt to respond, they use MacBooks, they don’t use Gitorious, they are pragmatists before idealists and probably not the best people in the room to talk to about making everything free. Still, I would not use their Q&A time to tell them to be the megaphone for my ideals. I can only be thankful for the work they are doing. It was still a great keynote, and the conference would not have been complete without the remix panel and education panel, two essential parts of today’s free culture movement.

The unconference was a blast! It was almost an entire day run by the attendees! The breakout rooms talked about everything from gender issues in the free culture community to FreedomBox and the importance of free network services. It was great to learn about cool projects like which lists free software web services like BeWelcome, an alternative to CouchSurfing, and lots more. For almost everyone, it was their first time hearing about free web services like Diaspora and StatusNet/, so I hope that many SFC followers begin migrating from Facebook and Twitter and resolve to delete their accounts there. I also gave a quick lightning rant on how free culture supporters should pay closer attention to licenses and talk about free ones instead of Creative Commons ones, as there are not only licenses for free cultural works that are not Creative Commons like the GNU Free Documentation License and Free Art License, but also Creative Commons licenses that are not for free cultural works, like those with the NoDerivs or NonCommercial clauses. I don’t think it went too bad for my first public speaking experience!

The entire conference covered lots of reasons why free culture rocks, but next time, I would love to see more dedicated discussion on action and organizing. I’ve certainly strengthened my commitment to boycott Facebook, and been inspired and motivated to start my own project which will someday be ready at (or check the wiki in the meantime). A dedicated space for people to share their own or their favorite free software and free culture projects would also be great, whether it’s a physical space at the conference or a space online. The lightning talks didn’t seem to be enough to cover projects in addition to the other interesting opinions, facts, and stories people shared. Also for next time, the more the merrier. Let’s make these conferences huge– tell everyone about the next one when it rolls around!

As a strong free software / free culture activist, I’ve long been concerned with bringing these movements into the public eye, and it was at this conference that I really saw it for the first time: we, as a society ever-adapting to our technology, are becoming aware of the implications of ownership and control on how we are able to express ourselves, speak freely, and communicate in a digital world. And what’s more? We care profoundly. That’s not something to be taken lightly.

Mar 5 11

Reflections from Camille François

by adikamdar

Camille François, Sciences-Po (Paris)

I arrived superjetlagged but superenthusiastic at SFCNYC, and I had two days to meet the community and to ask all the questions I wanted to. Indeed, before I left we (the French chapter) established a list of questions we wanted to ask the other chapters, and on top of that list was: Is there a simple, clear, operational definition of what free culture is and that we could give to people who keep bothering us with that question?

I was given the chance to attend this conference, and I am now given the opportunity to give you my thoughts about it, so let me tell you briefly what I’ve learned at SFCNYC. When I came back home everyone asked me how it was, and I was so tired that I could barely articulate, so it came down to two words: Amazing Community. Now that I’m more awake I can of course elaborate more on all the rest, but I think it remains the main point. We can work together to elaborate a short definition of what free culture is (and thanks to Aditi for re-sending us the Wheeler declaration, it helps a lot to answer people’s questions about our goals!) but what’s magical about our movement is the community it creates. Maybe it’s OK that there is no concrete and definitive one-line goal written in gold letters on our website, because it might be what makes us more creative everyday.

read more…

Mar 4 11

Reflections from Max Cho

by adikamdar

Max Cho, Yale University

Students for Free Culture NYC inspired me to think if we should re examine the value of copyright today. What works warrant protection? Should publicly paid professors be forced to give away their writings and intellectual property? Should we demand that, if it benefits the students who can’t afford education? Today, most Americans believe that piracy is morally acceptable. Laws that lack popular support should require strong justifications for their existence.

Pablo Ortellado’s point that university students in Brazil simply can’t afford books strikes home with this point. A technology as disruptive as the Internet and computers will find incredible resistance among those who profit from the status quo: but an easy way to guarantee society can progress past current technology is to rethink laws forged for media that wasn’t anticipated, with a more vested public interest.

Susan Crawford’s always scary rhetoric particularly underscores how important the Internet is becoming to most people. Restriction of speech has frequently been attributed to the government. But the Internet is so much more than speech: it’s commerce, it’s education, it’s entertainment. A single point of control, with no competition, is a scary thought.

I’m hopeful that people care about the Internet powerfully—that free access to the net will be one day regarded as universal as health care.

Mar 4 11

Reflections from Sarah Fox

by adikamdar

Sarah Fox, Georgia Center for Nonprofits

It is certainly good to for a burgeoning free culturist to keep up with IP law news and read the latest academic releases concerning the seemingly imminent death of the public domain, but it is perhaps more/just as advantageous for her to connect with like-minded peers in a massive knowledge exchange spanning 48 hours. There she is able to ask questions about our most pressing issues and have them answered by important copy-fighters, artists, scientist, and academics.

It is here that she is able to meet representatives from organizations like Public Knowledge, Wikimedia, and Mozilla whose work has been influential in her discovery of and continued interest in the health of the public domain and collective knowledge. She is able to express her gratitude for their contributions and vow to make a difference herself.

She is able to consult with other student leaders about how they are informing and advocating in their own corners of the globe. She can talk with them about the difficulties they have faced during their tenure as copyleft advisors. Most importantly, though, she is inspired to start a chapter at her own university and now has wealth of advice and knowledge of resources that will help her do so.

Mar 4 11

Reflections from Clarissa Alaric Moore

by adikamdar

Clarissa Alaric Moore, University of Oklahoma

To My Friends, and To My Friends To Be:

I suppose if anyone is to understand how Students for Free Culture came to my attention, and why I would be interested in the first place in making the trek from my comfortable Oklahoma hills to the crowded, and LOUD streets of New York City, I should give a bit of back ground about who I am. Here goes:

I like freedom, being free, free stuff, openness, opening, giving away, taking, and sharing. Most importantly, I have liked these things for a minute. By “minute” I mean, for about… how old am I again?

Yea, I think that about covers that. Seems like enough context right? On to the conference. What was that like? Why did I go? Well, we all know why I went, I like meeting people with similar interests, I like learning new things, and I love eating bagels. Conferences tend to be good places for all of those things. This one was especially full of bagel-ey goodness… but more on that later. Let’s get to the more important things.

“What?” you ask, “Bagels aren’t more important than learning new stuff, and stuff?!?” I’ll respond, that may be true, but not now. Bagel talk can happen later, never you worry.

Being introduced to the community of Students for Free Culture I’ll have to admit has been one of my fonder experiences to date, maybe not one of my fondest experiences, but it ranks pretty high up there.

read more…

Mar 3 11

Reflections from Pablo Vazquez

by adikamdar

Pablo Vazquez, University of Texas, San Antonio

I came into the conference Saturday morning, excited, with only 2 hours of sleep, and with a slight hangover. I put on one of my suits, grabbed my short black top hat, and scrambled out the door. When I arrived, I was someone wary. I didn’t know anyone and there didn’t really seem to be a way to socially interact with people. However, I knew that we were all unspoken friends, all believing in the same cause of free culture, heading towards a bright new future.

I settled in and was immediately blown away by the high-quality panels and speakers, along with the intriguing questions posed by my fellow attendees. I kept my eyes glued to my phone, linked to the IRC chat as it was, and my ears perked to listen to all the fantastic discussion going on. From the history of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” to a brave new attempt at social networking and even my own question on Steampunk answered by the fashion panel, I could not help but be dragged in by the sheer awesomeness and flow of ideas occurring in this small (and slightly too warm for my tastes) amphitheater.

Afterward, I joined the group for the after-party (with fantastically free beers) at New Work City. Again, I was amazed by the innovations going on within the free culture movement with the immersive video-dance machine that was the center of all attention. I couldn’t really interact with anyone (though I did have a stirring drunken political discussion with a couple of friends and a fellow attendee) and regret that the conference didn’t have a meet-and-greet/introduce-yourself early in the day so that I could really feel connected to these awesome people. However, here I am, deep in the heart of Texas again, ready to apply the principles of free culture to my city and society at large! Go Students for Free Culture and thanks for the motivation!

Mar 3 11

Reflections from Jan-Christoph Borchardt

by adikamdar

Jan-Christoph Borchardt, Stuttgart Media University

Cross-posted from his blog.

Without question, this year’s Students for Free Culture conference at New York University was an exceptional experience. So interesting to hear about fashion copyright, problems of textbook access in Brazil and who really let the dogs out. I enjoyed the lively panel discussion and the convenient backchannel for the audience.

But the best was meeting all the great people. Getting to know projects that are being worked on, initiatives driven forward in an effort to spread free culture and how everyone does their little big things which are all insanely awesome:

In fact, the unconference day turned out to be my most favorite part. It was my first one so I didn’t really know how it would be organized (or unorganized for that matter). The discussion rounds were really refreshing in the broad spectrum of views from people who know their stuff but also from newcomers interested in the topic. The lightning talks gave quick insight into aforementioned projects and much more. That definitely inspired me to do something similar for the chapter I will be starting next month at Stuttgart Media University in Germany. If you’re in the neighborhood, let me know!

read more…

Mar 3 11

Reflections from Tandazani Dhlakama

by adikamdar

Tandazani Dhlakama, St. Lawrence University

This year’s Students for Free Culture conference was great! I knew that I would learn many new things but was not sure what to expect since it was my first conference. I first heard about the conference from my digital media and culture professor at St. Lawrence University. She urged the whole class to go since she is an avid supporter of the free culture.

I received some very valuable information from the guest speakers. They were all very inspiring, energetic and approachable. Some of my favorite presentations were the fashion and remix panelists. The panels gave the audience a chance to hear different views in regards to certain topics. I thought that it was such a good idea to have the audience post their questions on the board and have them screened as the panelists spoke.

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Mar 2 11

Reflections from Sujan Shrestha

by adikamdar

Sujan Shrestha, Thames Valley University

I am a PhD student from Thames Valley University, London, UK. Considering the context and culture of a developing country such as Nepal, my research aim is to provide an offline mobile learning solution using a low-cost open source mobile learning technology. It will support the need for access to knowledge and address the challenges and issues of delivering learning in rural schools of Nepal and identify the implication of introducing a new technology in such a constrained environment. Therefore, my research interest is in the open-source mobile platforms for education and ICT4D (Information communication technology for development).

read more…

Feb 22 11

It Ends!

by adikamdar

Organizing unconference #sfcnyc

Hey all! We’re glad you guys came to (or tuned in to) the 2011 Students for Free Culture conference. We’re going to try and get videos and presentations up as soon as possible, so keep checking back here!

For now, though:

  • Blog about the weekend! Write, write, write, write, write, and send us what you’ve written, either via comments or email (board [at] freeculture [dot] org). We can even link to it from here! Hey!
  • Send us presentations, summaries, or websites! If you were representing a cool project or talked about it at the unconference or whatever, send it our way!
  • Upload pictures! If you’re putting them on flickr, Picasaweb, or another site, use the tag “SFCNYC” and we encourage you to slap on a Creative Commons license!
  • Upload videos! Tag them “SFCNYC”! and Vimeo are two video-sharing sites that come to mind that let you put on a Creative Commons license on your works, though they both use Flash (correct me if I’m wrong). YouTube is starting to use WebM for high quality videos, though you can’t license your uploads (correct me if I’m wrong). Maybe we’ll make a Miro Community site. Suggestions are welcome.
  • And so on and so forth.

We hope you guys had a great time, and please feel free to get in contact with us if you’re interested in starting your own Students for Free Culture chapter!