Posts Tagged ‘gift economy’
(thanks are due to Jay Walljasper for some kind edits and augmentations)
The commons describes a social practice that unleashes people’s capacity to create things together and take their lives and livelihood into their own hands. It is a social form that has long lived in the shadows of our market culture, but which is now on the rise.
But how does the commons relate to questions of culture and creativity, which we tend to think of as individualistic pursuits. What do we mean when we talk about cultural commons? First, we mean something that we create together, whether we are talking about wikipedia, which participants research, write and manage together on-line, or ancient traditions forged and passed along by a particular group such as, say, the Hopi nation. Secondly, we mean a way of creativity that embraces values like sharing, community and stewardship as opposed to privatization, enclosure and exploitation.
The founders of the United States embraced the ideas of the commons when it came to ideas. They understood that the best fresh ideas are generated out of previous ideas, and therefore should remain in the public domain (a cultural commons). Indeed, copyright and patent law in the early days of the nation expressly aimed to move new cultural creations into the public domain as soon as possible. Today’s long terms for copyright, (as much as 70 years beyond the life of the original creator) are a relatively new phenomenon.
It’s only very recently that the rise of intellectual property law has tipped the scales toward private ownership of every conceivable aspect of what we create, from breakthroughs in science and other academic fields to traditions in art and pop culture. Today people are attempting to claim exclusive rights to spices, healing herbs or yoga poses that have been used for centuries. Compare that to Benjamin Franklin, one of the founders of the U.S. Patent Office, who refused to patent the famous Franklin stove. Why? Because he said he was merely building on ideas of stoves that came before.
Novelist Jonathan Lethem documented how the free exchange of ideas works in art in an essay for Harper’s Magazine, “The Ecstasy of Influence” in which he traced patterns of borrowed influences through music (Delta bluesman Son House to Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters to British rock bands), animation (without Fritz the Cat, there would be no Ren & Stimpy Show), literature (Pyramus and Thisbe is the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which in turns was the the inspiration for West Side Story). To prove his point about the mutually collaborative nature of new ideas (as opposed to “eureka” theory, in which ideas are concocted out of thin air), he strived to footnote the influence of every line of his essay.
The Scientific Commons
A great example of a cultural commons from the field of science is the Human Genome Project, a massive collective effort on the part of scientists around the globe to decode human genetics. New information discovered in the project was shared for all to use and to improve upon in their own research. The project was competing with a private venture that sought to decode the genome, and then sell the data that was produced. The private venture didn’t succeed, and thankfully so because the high cost of their data may have stymied many subsequent scientific and medical advances.
The Human Genome Project used a commons approach that was based on two assumptions: 1) genes are part of nature and thus belong to all of us; and 2) that sharing and collaborating information would be more productive than privatizing it.
Busting Out of the Market Mindset
Many of us in the U.S. have grown up in a time that when market economics and privatized ownership were hailed as the formula for all progress, innovation, and prosperity. Private wealth is worshipped, while our common wealth has been dismantled. If something is not owned by an individual, we are told, it will fall prey to misuse, disuse, or overuse—the tragedy of the commons. Many people today have lost sight of the common as both a practical way to share things valuable to all of us and as a cooperative model of how we can relate to one another as creators and users of culture.
Examples of thriving systems managed according to the principles of the commons, rather than the privatized market, exist all around the world today, from fisheries off the coast of Greece to forests in Tanzania and Indonesia, to the open source software movement.
But most of us have been taught that the commons began to fade away in 17th and 18th century England, when private landowners claimed and enclosed (literally with fences) land used by commoners to graze livestock. Yet the commons endures to this day throughout the British countryside in form of legally-protected rights of way that entitle anyone to cross private property on tens of thousands of miles of paths throughout England, Scotland and Wales. This is also true in the cultural realm, where we make imaginative journeys thanks to stories, songs, ideas, knowledge and research belonging to all of us. It is not trespassing to take advantage of the creativity of Plato, Buddha, Leonardo daVinci, Shakespeare, Bach, Darwin, Florence Nightingale and many others.
Those fences of the 18th century England give us a powerful image and metaphor for the “enclosure” of culture going on today at an alarming pace. Here are a couple of examples. Media companies want to slow down your access to websites that don’t pay a premium fee for their place on the internet, a troubling violation of the commons principle of net neutrality that will allow huge enterprises to dominate the flow of information. Another is example is the Walt Disney Corporation, which has built its empire on appropriating and ultimately copyrighting material from the public domain—from The Little Mermaid and Robin Hood, all the way back to Mickey’s first cartoon “Steamboat Willie,” which was taken directly from Buster Keaton’s character Steamboat Bill. But try using an image of Mickey Mouse in your own work, and you’ll soon hear from the Mouse’s lawyers.
Creative Commons Licenses
No one wants to deny people the chance to make an honest living off their creative work. But the recent proliferation of copyright and intellectual property privileges means that many artists, scientists and other creators are denied access to material they need to do their most valuable work—an even graver threat to their livelihoods, and to the needs of society as a whole. The Creative Commons license was created to address this dilemma, allowing sharing, remixing and reuse that is not possible within the more restrictive copyright framework, but still protecting creators’ opportunity to realize profits when their work is bought and sold. I’m making a film called What We Got: DJ Spooky’s Journey To the Commons to highlight all that we share, from air, water and land to our art, culture and discoveries. I want to practice what I preach by sharing the movie we make online so that others can remix and repurpose it under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
Adapted from a presentation given at NAMAC
Day 4 was fab. Finally broke through the loss of the Fiji scene (I know, what’s the big deal?) and wrote all the way through Act 2. I feel the argument of the film and the narrative are joining nicely. This film won’t be for everyone, but frankly, who cares about that, now? I think its going to be good, and I trust some others will, too. I wrote Samir’s final speech, a unity of the natural commons and created commons, and the joy of a bright, somewhat unknown future guided by the commons-esque notion of a gift (a la Lewis Hyde). Knowing more about the end informs the rest of the script. I also feel I have a handle on the documentary/fiction blend within scenes. The whole is something that needs to be examined more closely, but I’m not ready for that, yet. I did figure out that a scene Jason wrote that takes place in a great commons – an AA meeting – is going to be near the end and in a way deal with Samir’s addiction to repeating old mistakes. In the room are archetypes of all kinds of people representing “recovering” institutions that want to steer a new path in the bold “share economy” of the future and not be doomed to repeat past mistakes. I know that sounds rather vague or silly or incomplete — so, you’ll just have to read it. I’ll post a draft of the script in a month or so, once its been revised and a few trusted souls feel it is ready for your feedback. Just an hour or so before I leave to rejoin my family “up north” (as they say here in Wisconsin). My goal: get the new outline up on the white board so that I can attack acts 3 and 4 next week. Act 5 (the final act) is in pretty good shape.
This was a frustrating day. For a long time I thought that there was a delicious irony in Fiji exporting their boutique bottled product while a good portion of their own population wanted access to clean water. For a long, long time that scene has been in the script. But I realized that Fiji’s problem with access to clean water is not only, or even primarily, the result of privatization and export of their water supply. It probably has more to do with bad government than anything else. Thus, it doesn’t fit my needs at this point in the script. What I need is a case in which water is privatized, resulting in restricted or no access for people. I wanted an example of water being treated as a commodity rather than a commons, or basic right. And examples abound. But it took the entire day to come to terms with this change, and then to read and research the alternatives. So, the train was stuck in the station for most of the day. As I sat, frustrated, I found Fiji’s PR person and follwed him on Twitter. His name is Rob Six, and his Twitter handle is @RobSix. Follow him. He seems like a good guy, if a little enthusiastic about bottled water — which is still a global problem, by the way. More later…..
Please know that the budget I’ve included here made a few assumptions that turned out not to be true. For instance, while the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee did provide space in-kind, it did not offer adequate legal services, so I had to purchase my own. Thank you FKKS! And technology has changed in just 3 years, when this budget was created, so keep that in mind. By and large, though, this budget is a good reflection of our effort. And we held to its bottom line. Let me know your thoughts. And please feel free to use the comments section of this blog to ask questions or discuss the budget. Hope you find this helpful. One note. Some links remained in the budget document that I pasted. I can’t get rid of them. They go nowhere. Sorry!
|Acct.||Account Name||Unit||Qty||Rate||Amount||Detail Totals|
|1105||Project Intern(s)||UWM In-kind||0||$0||$0|
|1191||Production Staff taxes & fringe||allow||1||$31,325||$31,325|
|TOTAL 1100 DETAIL||$199,499|
|1300||RESEARCH & PREPRODUC|
|1301||Plane fares||RT – persons||2||$350||$700|
|1303||Hotel||persons – days||2||$100||$200|
|1307||Gratuities, Misc. Expenses||allow||1||$250||$250|
|TOTAL 1300 DETAIL||$2,270|
|1402||Camera w/ ultra-wide lens||months||7||$4,500||$31,500|
|1403||Sound Recordist||shoot days||84||$325||$27,300|
|1405||Add’l Lighting Package||allow||1||$2,000||$2,000|
|TOTAL 1400 DETAIL||$119,756|
|1506||Tolls, Parking, Gas||days||28||$20||$560|
|TOTAL 1500 DETAIL||$12,000|
|1691||Post-production Staff taxes & fringe||weeks / union payments||36||220.00||$7,832|
|TOTAL 1600 DETAIL||$122,572|
|1701||Avid (editing facilities)||weeks||36||$1,000||$36,000|
|1702||Edit phone, office & petty cash||Months||9||$75||$675|
|1705||Add’l VHS Dubs||T-120||150||$7||$1,050|
|1708||Computer Animation (Photos)||hours||4||$250||$1,000|
|1712||DigiBeta stock for masters||T-124||2||$180||$360|
|1713||Online Layoff to Digibeta||T-124||2||$180||$360|
|1714||Digibeta Copies from Master Digibeta||T-124||8||$180||$1,440|
|1715||Misc dubs, preview copies, etc||allow||1||$250||$250|
|1716||VHS cassettes of final film||dubs||100||$7||$700|
|1717||Edit Room Computer||allow||1||$2,000||$2,000|
|1718||Graphic Opening Sequence||allow||1||$15,000||$15,000|
|TOTAL 1700 DETAIL||$114,220|
|1801||Original Music Score (incl. production)||allow||1||$15,000||$15,000|
|1802||Music Cue Licensing||allow||1||$8,000||$8,000|
|1803||Archival Footage Licensing (incl. transfers)||allow||1||$1,500||$1,500|
|TOTAL 1800 DETAIL||$24,500|
|2001||Legal||UWM In-kind / allow||1||$0||$0|
|TOTAL 2000 DETAIL||$15,000|
|Outreach Grand Total||$262,048
I’m sharing this proposal because I notice a need out there to see examples of funded proposals. And, I believe that sharing profits us all — the commons (my current obsession and the topic of my next film). I’ll post the proposal that was first rejected by ITVS, too, so that you can compare. The big difference is in the detail of my articulation of the story and conflicts. We ended up making a film that strayed from what was proposed, but some of the storylines we predicted unfolded and most of the values we declared as important were presented in the final film. You can see clips of the film (and buy a DVD) at http://almosthomeoutreach.org — and it is still airing on PBS stations 2 years since it’s premiere on Independent Lens. Hope this proposal is useful to you.
Countering America’s denial and stereotyping of aging, Almost Home is a verité documentary about people who live, work and visit in an “old-age home.”
Consider this. The last wave of baby boomers will soon reach sixty; meaning half of all Americans must contemplate eldercare for themselves or a loved one. That’s 200 million of us dealing with eldercare. Now consider that those same 200 million live in a country steeped in denial of its aging, frightened by the specter of dependency and death. We combat aging with pills and surgery, dismiss it with humor, and avoid it by neglecting to plan ahead. We proffer images of “positive aging,” like 90-year-old marathon runners, and shun common realities of frailty and dementia. Almost Home, a cinema verité documentary about a year in the life of people who live and work in an “old age home,” rescues the true stories of older adults and those who care for them from an exile of denial.
Almost Home combines handheld mini-dv verité footage and “in the moment” interviews to tell the extraordinary story of Saint John’s in Milwaukee, a typical continuing care community (or “old age home”) transforming its 135-year-old medical model of care (think hospital) into a holistic, social one (think neighborhood) that focuses on the whole person rather than her ailments, and embraces dignity, autonomy and equality. This “culture-change” revolution tears down traditional walls between residents, staff, administration and families to replace the stigma of nursing homes as institutions of lonliness and death with a vision of “community” where people want to live, work and visit, and where healing isn’t encumbered by medical trappings. To succeed, the visionaries will have to win over cynical managers skeptical of change; resistant nurses mired in regulations; overworked and underpaid nursing assistants juggling precarious lives; and complacent residents and families used to being excluded from many of the decisions that affect them.
While PBS programs have addressed issues of aging before, none have offered an intimate portrait of a diverse, multi-generational universe of people connected by aging and care giving. Utilizing our total access to Saint John’s , we will present their stories in their own words and actions without interpretation by experts, narration or a host. Direct cinema is hardly a new approach to filmmaking, but it is a radical choice for this subject because several people in the film suffer from dementia. One of our greatest challenges (and rewards) is adapting a standard verité approach to one that captures the drama and personality of people unable to access memory or understand their own lives as a continuum. Giving such people a voice is among our major goals.
Our perspective is 360 degrees – each moment can be understood from multiple characters’ points of view. Shooting for a full year, we will be able to interconnect stories through overlapping characters, and weave them together into an overarching narrative about whether Saint John’s will succeed in it’s grand culture change experiment, and help lead America to rethink our approach to elder care. Almost Home is a drama that elicits important issues: coping with physical and mental disability; coping with and planning for death; negotiating family care responsibilities; dealing with the challenges posed by high staff turnover and worker stress; the challenge of innovation in a field governed by intense regulation and shrinking resources. Eighteen weeks into a 52-week shoot schedule, the following stories are unfolding before our camera:
John George, the young, gay, hip manager of the nursing home, grew up in a hardscrabble, stoic family near the Wisconsin-Canadian border. During a family visit he lies to cover up a journey to his grandmother’s grave, “just to talk.” At the gravesite he tells us of the close relationship with his grandma that inspired his career. At a “culture change” conference the speaker asks who would put their parents up in the institution where they work. No one raises their hands, including John. “That’s my goal,” he tells us later, “to create a place where I would send my grandma.”
But changing the culture of care is hard and the management team grows impatient with John, finally exploding with a barrage of accusations: why spend so much money on culture change in the nursing home when Saint John’s lake-view independent living apartments are the prime marketing tool? One manager strikes the heart of much of the resistance to change: nurses resist “managerial fads” and CNAs, who are mostly African-American, resent all-white management “coaching”, which often seems patronizing. John tries to model the new mode of care, forming tight bonds with residents like Lloyd Herrold, whom he takes on visits to the art musem. Riding home he confesses his failure to a colleague. But John is driven. He puts full faith in his staff and gives them the power to make decisions, while issuing the edict that staff must change or move on. Those who stay transform into a team that throws out the institutional mentality, working together to create a home where residents can wake, eat and sleep on their own schedules. Staff start interviewing residents and posting their stories for all to see. Wheel-chair “slumpers” slowly become engaged, death becomes a shared experience between residents and staff, and Saint John’s culture transforms.
Edie and Lloyd Herrold, once notables on Milwaukee’s social circuit, are now separated by Lloyd’s Parkinson’s, which forces him to move from their independent living apartment to the nursing home. Publicly, Edie is comforted by friends who ask after Lloyd. Privately, she is racked with guilt for not providing his care. What nobody knows is that she also faces surgery for a nerve disease, and fears it may force a move to the nursing home. (We will film her informing Lloyd and experiencing surgery in June). Lloyd, meanwhile, is working feverishly in therapy to walk again, hoping to return to their apartment. Desperate to leave the nursing home, he is often found wandering into elevators and ripping off his WanderGuard bracelet. Embracing new culture change principles of autonomy, nurse Erika Stoving meets with him to discuss leaving, but the combination of his clouded brain and her determination that he remain in the nursing home makes for an awkward affair. In the wee morning hours a somewhat lucid Lloyd eloquently articulates the painful experience of Parkinson’s – the words are there, but he can’t mouth them – which frustrates him to the point that his entire body freezes. The words surface again at the art museum where he interprets for John George several paintings, touching on personal themes of lonliness, untapped strength and fantasies of escape. Perhaps the brightest light comes from a fellow resident with Alzheimers who takes to helping Lloyd walk up and down the halls, laughing all the way.
Erika Stoving is the epitome of a dedicated nurse, working hours beyond her shift to care for every detail of the residents while also caring for her 2-year-old baby girl at home. It’s a delicate balance thrown off kilter by the new changes at work that make her uncertain about where she stands. She’s accountable when a resident is dropped, but instead of embracing the new culture’s transparency, she follows orders not to tell the resident’s family all of the details in order to protect the institution. When she meets with Lloyd Herrold she is again caught, wanting to honor his autonomy but knowing he can’t function outside of the nursing home. And when Edie Herrold, angry about losing her once dapper husband, insists that Erika put a bib on Lloyd, Erika is again caught between the new culture’s mandate to reject bibs as degrading and a family member’s request.
Nursing supervisor Sharon Prusow is also caught in the crossfire over the new changes. Families appreciate the time she now gives them, like when Lloyd Herrold’s daughter inquires about missing clothes and Sharon calmly explains how her father wanders the halls and often places his clothing in other resident’s drawers. But her nurses resist changes, claiming that doing away with an institutional medical cart in the hall or ceasing pulse checks in the middle of the night makes their job too difficult and risks residents’ lives. And when state inspectiors issue the first violations she has received in her entire career, she feels that culture change may have distracted her attention to details. John George places her on probation, wrestling privately with the dilemma of whether to fire one of his best friends. In response, Sharon starts cracking down on her staff.
What she might not know is the ordeal of daily life faced by many nursing assistants like Enchantra Cosey who, like most of her colleagues, is poor (making less than $8/hour), African American, and working two jobs. Enchantra deals with the seamy side of care, changing diapers and bathing residents. At home she is raising two grandchildren fathered by her 15 year-old boy, while her oldest son is in prison. She, however, embraces the new culture change which encourages her bond with Pauline Coggs, one of the few African American residents. In death, Pauline has taught Enchantra about strength. Fearless, Pauline instructs an official gathering of staff (including Enchantra) to end her therapies and withhold lifesaving measures. Free of the burden of keeping her body functional, she attains a kind of bliss, which Enchantra relishes whenever she has a moment, listening to Pauline’s stories and jazz floating from her room. These moments offset the more difficult ones her job presents, like when Dolores Haig, who has Alzheimer’s, slaps Enchantra while she assists her to the toilet.
Delores can be belligerent with staff. Her husband, Bob Haig, does what he can to calm her. Bob is 90, and goes to work at his photography studio every day. Before work he walks from his independent living apartment to the nursing home to wake up, dress and make-up Delores. It is sweet and sad to see him “doll her up,” as staff put it. They understand Bob pines for the wife Alzheimer’s has stolen from him. In a meeting with Erika Stoving and John George, Bob spends the entire time remembering his and Delores’ global adventures. In his photography studio he confesses to being utterly confused about how to deal with Delores. When he throws her an 88th birthday party she seems happy, even a little saucy, until they visit the apartment they used to share. In a rare moment of clarity she declares to her grandchildren “I miss this place, you should see the dump where I live now.” Hurt, Bob finally takes John George up on his offer to enroll him in a support group.
Winding his way through all of these lives is the indomitable Ralph Nelson. He sails. He woodworks. He surfs the internet. After losing his wife 12 years ago, he is finally ready to date again. A fixture at cocktail parties and other functions, Ralph pours his heart into everything he does. Knowing how difficult it is for Edie Herrold and Bob Haig to accept their spouses’ deterioration, he joins them for lunch to ease the pain. Knowing how strapped Saint John’s is for cash, he leads trash pick-up brigades and refinishes the building’s benches. But there is one line he will not cross – the threshold to the nursing home. He explains that his projects are a way to do for the nursing home residents in lieu of visits. The truth is he is afraid of becoming frail, which is why he stays active and volunteers in a program with 2nd graders. “Just let me fall down, dead, when my time comes,” he says. “I don’t want to lose my independence.” He is just the person John George hope to comfort by achieving a culture change that makes the nursing home less frightening.
Providing an antidote to our youth-obsessed culture, Almost Home portrays older adults as they really are: people who cope with disability, dementia and death while also continuing to love, desire and engage in meaningful relationships. Almost Home will resonate with older adults who rarely see themselves depicted honestly on television. Already a significant PBS audience for cultural and arts programming, we hope to expand their viewing horizons. Almost Home is also a multi-generational drama that reflects the reality of the long-term care industry where upper management is often white, while frontline workers are often minority. To build relevant audiences we have forged partnerships with organizations like AARP and the National Association for the Black Aged. Because Almost Home features the stories of so many people from a variety of generations – second graders to middle-aged adult children to the older adults – and racial, economic and educational backgrounds, we are poised to appeal to an unusually broad and diverse audience.
To ensure that we reach the diverse populations represented in Almost Home, and to fulfill the core PBS mission of delivering both quality television and meaningful community service, we are organizing an ambitious $250,000 national educational outreach effort. We will partner with national organizations not associated with aging (NAACP, YMCA, American Library Association) and local coalitions of aging professionals, community groups and public television stations in 20 communities across the nation to design and implement a grassroots effort to reach out to people who do not yet identify themselves as potential caregivers or care recipients and encourage their recognition, understanding and consideration of long-term care issues. We are also working with a national board of advisors to develop a curriculum that can be woven into continuing education courses for professional caregivers who must obtain such credits to keep their licenses active. A comprehensive web site will support all outreach efforts.
Wisconsin Public Television is our producing partner station, and PBS has registered support for our project at a length of 90 minutes, leaving time for a 30-minute follow-up by local stations. Editing begins in July, and delivery is planned for April. More than 77% of our budget has been raised.
Well, not exactly.
But he’s getting there. Below is his idea to “open source” funding of business plans with the goal of sharing successful plans so that they might be replicated. It’s a gift economy to stimulate the market economy. I wonder whether his terms undermine the impulse, enclosing significant parts of the business plan down the road — but only funded entrepreneurs will see the full contract. Who knows, maybe Mark will post those terms, too. Anyway….a break for you from reading my funding proposals. Now, go submit your own.
Its easy to write about what the government or other people should do with our/their money. It’s harder to come up with a course of action that I can undertake on my own that possibly, somehow could make a difference. My first inclination is always to try to look “for the next big thing”. But the next big thing is just that, next. Its not now. Its Venture Capital. Its not self funding, renewal capital.
Rather than trying to be a Venture Capitalist, I was looking for an idea that hopefully could inspire people to create businesses that could quickly become self funding. Businesses that just needed a jump start to get the ball rolling and create jobs. Im a big believer that entrepreneurs will lead us out of this mess. I just needed a way to help.
So here it is. Some people will love it, some will hate it. It is what it is.
You must post your business plan here on my blog where I expect other people can and will comment on it. I also expect that other people will steal the idea and use it elsewhere. That is the idea. Call this an open source funding environment.
If its a good idea and worth funding, we want it replicated elsewhere. The idea is not just to help you, but to figure out how to help the economy through hard work and ingenuity. If you come up with the idea and get funding, you have a head start. If you execute better than others, you could possibly make money at it. As you will see from the rules below, these are going to be businesses that are mostly driven by sweat equity.
I will invest money in businesses presented here on this blog. No minimum, no maximum, but a very specific set of rules. Here they are:
1. It can be an existing business or a start up.
2. It can not be a business that generates any revenue from advertising. Why ? Because I want this to be a business where you sell something and get paid for it. Thats the only way to get and stay profitable in such a short period of time.
3. It MUST BE CASH FLOW BREAK EVEN within 60 days
4. It must be profitable within 90 days.
5. Funding will be on a monthly basis. If you dont make your numbers, the funding stops
6. You must demonstrate as part of your plan that you sell your product or service for more than what it costs you to produce, fully encumbered
7. Everyone must work. The organization is completely flat. There are no employees reporting to managers. There is the founder/owners and everyone else
8. You must post your business plan here, or you can post it on slideshare.com , scribd.com or google docs, all completely public for anyone to see and/or download
9. I make no promises that if your business is profitable, that I will invest more money. Once you get the initial funding you are on your own
10. I will make no promises that I will be available to offer help. If I want to , I will. If not, I wont.
11. If you do get money, it goes into a bank that I specify, and I have the ability to watch the funds flow and the opportunity to require that I cosign any outflows.
12. In your business plan , make sure to specify how much equity I will receive or how I will get a return on my money.
13. No mult-level marketing programs (added 2/10/09 1pm)
Im sure I will come up with more rules as I see what comes along, if anything.
(More at Mark’s blog)