New models for ‘cultural production’. The new is the culture, not the model

The Free Culture Forum (FCF) has published a document that under the title ‘How-To for Sustainable Creativity in the Digital Era’ made a strong defense of free culture and different strategists for promoting creativity inspired on it. The FCF is defined as “a space for creating tools and strengthening civil society in regards to the creation and distribution of art, culture and knowledge in the digital age”. Last November they celebrate their second meeting in Barcelona. After it, they have published the How-To for Sustainable Creativity… a declaration whose point of departure is very simple: “Many of the old models no longer work. They have become unsustainable and detrimental to civil society. We need to define and promote innovative strategies that make cultural practices sustainable and empower the wealth of society in general”. And following this statement they elaborate a long argument in favor of models for a “sustainable creativity”. I completely endorse the main principles of the declaration, although I don’t agree with their arguments. Paradoxical perhaps? I don’t think so.

The main statement in the document is that the Internet and digital technologies has open up new ways for promoting the creativity of citizens, bringing about models for cultural production that are radically different from those of the cultural industries. Against the last, the document pose they arguments pointing our very clearly a key issue, that “culture should not be simply seen as synonymous with generating profit”. However, recognizing the great work of the document I should say that it is problematic when sometimes it uses the same language that cultural industries are using when defending their economical arguments and putting up barriers against the free circulation of culture.

Although it is important to show that it is possible to elaborate business models based on free culture, free culture will probably lose its fight in the economic domain because it cannot defeat those who are the best in making money from culture (at least with the present day rules). So the main argument in favor of free culture should be posed in terms of social benefits. And the main benefit is evident terms of the kind of society that could be built based on free culture.

Free culture is therefore not simply a difference in the model of cultural production (between ‘cultural industries’ and ‘free culture projects). The difference is not in the model, but in the culture. Culture is something different in each case. It means that civil society, industry, artist and creators are attributed different social responsibilities, duties and attributions in each case. Defending and promoting free culture, in my opinion, is not only opening a space for a different model for ‘cultural production’ and collaboration. It means opening space for a different culture, for a different type of civil society, for a different type of citizens.

We are not only discussing about a specific domain of our society (culture), but about a different kind of society. We are discussing the kind of science, mass media, politics and education we want to have in our societies. In this case we are legitimated to ask politicians and public administrators to promote the conditions for a culture that is not necessarily the most profitable in economic terms but that allow for the kind of society we want to have.

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February 2024