On August 26-29, myself on behalf of Native Public Media, and a broad array of arts administrators, media producers, scholars, social media gurus, advocates and artists gathered in Boston for CommonWealth, the 2009 edition of NAMAC’s biennial national event. This landmark event – co-hosted by the Boston-based Center for Independent Documentary and thirty local arts and media organizations — is the central meeting point for the leadership of media, and visual arts organizations to strategize for the future of the field.
On Thursday, August 27th, I participated in one of the session panels, where I presented NPM’s position on the Cultural Commons. According to Harvard Scholar Lewis Hyde, “…cultural commons,” that vast store of unowned ideas, inventions and works of art that we have inherited from the past and that we continue to create… the question of the commercialization of culture, exemplified at the moment by many things–the ‘enclosure’ of the public domain, the patenting of aboriginal medicines, proprietary control of genetic materials or of the internet, and the general market triumphalism that has followed the end of the Cold War.”
However, in Indian Country, the concept of the commons is a double edged sword, especially when it comes to the internet. While the Cultural Commons belongs to all of us, Natives often feel they must protect some information from entering the Cultural Commons, in order to prevent it from being privatized or commodified. The Commons shouldn’t be a free for all; healthy boundaries are needed that respect people and communities. Indian Country has indicated to NPM and NCAI that they support Net Neutrality; the internet is a highway and should be free and open, however the information on the internet is the car and needs boundaries to operate safely.
Needless to say, we had a healthy discussion following the panel presentation. If you would like more information on my presentation, please contact me.