The Golden Age of Creativity

Last year I was invited to hold a short speech and be part of a panel discussion about IP exploitation at TheArts+ Frankfurter Book Fair. Thought I post what I had to say:

A Golden Age of Creativity?

Hello and thank you all very much for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.

I am one of the many freelance creators, that could be called the foundation of the creative industries.

Our numbers are exploding but in the discussions about IP our voices are almost never heard.

One reason is, we all work alone, and there is no organization yet representing us.

But I think, the main reason is, that IP in our day to day work life is almost irrelevant.

How could that be?

The biggest problem creatives face is precarious work, or the gig economy.

As a creative I provide a service. I offer my skills, expertise and labour to create customized, mostly one-off products.
An animation, an advertisement, a website.

But my customers don't see me as a service provider, they buy products. Why does it matter?

In my field a good example would be the countless explainer video start ups. Competition is fierce and prices have been falling dramatically.

They are so low now, that fixed prices are offered,
often with guarantees that the clients will get the product they want, no matter how many changes will be necessary.

That's the value crisis as it looks like from my perspective. Work hours have been decoupled from the prices of products, that are really service work.

IP as a freelance creative is irrelevant to me, because almost always work for hire excludes me having any claim on IP.

Contracts are mostly take it or leave it.
And I usually don't have the commercial negotiating power, nor the funds for a lawyer, or the time to achieve the legal skills necessary to defend myself.

So why don't I start creating original work and license my IP? Platforms to do this already exist.

But to make money on graphic river or any other online market place, I have to invest my labour & expertise, expensive equipment, time to learn about and conform my files to the platforms standards.

And I will still have to read pages and pages of technical legal language, I do not understand.

In the end I will have spent days for a product, I don't even have the right to set a price for.

In fact, the pages on how those platforms calculate what I will earn are the most difficult to understand. But I guess the gist is, prices are set quite arbitrarily, the percentages I get are tiny, hard to calculate and sprinkled with fees. And the only way to earn more than pennies is to become what they call an exclusive. Meaning my work will be locked into a platform that isn't even transparent about their algorithm. The algorithm that decides if and who gets to see my work.

And you know what, these companies won't even protect me from others infringing my work. Graphic river states on its help page about piracy:

that they have to be "realistic about not being able to deal with all piracy."

What it means is, that they won't help me if somebody uses my files without paying. They only take legal actions against big infringer sites.

You might understand by now that the golden age of creativity doesn't look so golden to me.

But at least creative work is safe from automatization, right?

I spent lots of time learning and perfecting skills that today one can do with a single click.

And there are already things like Jukedeck.
Trained deep neural networks writing original music. You can customise the resulting track with the touch of a button, download it and use it completely royalty-free.

The price for a track? 99cents

So, Is this the dawn of a golden age of creativity?

I do believe so.

I work as a freelance creative but I am also an artist.
Arists have always worked in the precarious world of the gig economy.

There are many of us, and very few ever succeed. Even fewer get rich. But that doesn't stop us, we just have to create.

We share this trait now with everybody. We are all artists and creators now.

We do it daily. We use software to edit our photos and family movies, style our profiles and presentations, post on instagram and facebook.

And truly amazing things happen when we collaborate.
I am still amazed that wikipedia is possible, or that twitter revolutionized how the news get reported.

But if you think about it, most platforms owe their success in huge part to their users unpaid work.

Even if there was a way to implement strong IP protection without breaking the web, it could never recover the value lost by all this unpaid work.

But just because a value isn't monetized doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Wall street might think twitter has failed, but its users do not.

That's why those users are trying to buy twitter now. And platform cooperatives are on the rise.

The business model of collaborative work is creating value for society.

That’s why in the future we won't measure growth,
We will measure collective value created for and by communities.

If the creative industries wants to benefit from this mayor emerging value shift, we all have to explore new ways of being useful to society.

The future is not about IP transactions but collective intelligence.

And it's not our finished products but our services that this future needs. Open Innovation, Co-design, call it what ever you want, but it needs mediators who have experience in how to combine, express and translate ideas.

Who, if not the creatives, are better equipped to work with ideas on such an incredible scale?

We could help governments and companies communicate with their citizens and users. We could lead the way in implementing the resulting changes.

We could be the facilitators in a process that will lead us, eventually, to the sustainable socio-economic models we all know, we need.

All of us could really matter. Thank you. 

Science Fiction, Cities & Utopia - Eden Kupermintz

How postmodernism and its cities prevent us from Utopian Dreaming

Science Fiction is the art of thinking about new ways to be.
As Henri Lefebvre says: "'Change life! 'Change society!' These precepts mean nothing without the production of an appropriate space[...] new social relationships call for a new space, and vice versa".

"The first utopias, whether Plato's Atlantis or More's eponymous Utopia, were conceived as cities and insulated ones at that. This isn't a mistake or coincidence as the history of society and that of the city are closely interlinked, whether in Europe or outside of it. So too, science fiction's cities. Their ideas and ideals spring from and grow with changes in society: feminist, post-colonial and neo-liberal ideas seep into these conceptions and representations, changing them as the face of society and its cultural discourse changes. aim can be seen as political: as we have learned to do with other parts of our lives, we must not look at urban planning as a “naïve” attempt at pragmatism or efficiency but rather as a “deeper”, often subjugating, attempt at control of discourse and our ways of life. Science fiction, like in many other fields, can either assist us in our critique and struggle or further solidify and serve the current, entrenched order of life. It can conceive of cities as spaces containing news ways to be or as maps for the ways power wishes it to be."

Eden Kupermintz  EMBASSY//TOWN #rpTEN

"what matrix tells you is be docile except the one of you who is the genius that's a mainstay of the non-radical science fiction group sure rebellion is possible but it's only the exceptional human who can perform it."

There were many great talks @re:publica this year but this one is great, about Utopia and mentions Ursula LeGuin! Plus I had never heard of Henry Lefebvre before. Started to search for good online links about him with not too much luck yet. But I found the book/quote below after reading: Why do we need utopias? where Malene Freudendal-Pedersen mentions it. If you happen to know about good reading materials or talks about him please let me know.

This consciousness of the possible-impossible replaces consciousness of the past.

Henri Lefebvre: Key Writings

Henri Lefebvre - The Survival of Capitalism

Anybody has subtitles for this?

Political Space in the Work of Henri Lefebvre: Ideology and Utopia
Grégory BUSQUET, UMR LAVUE (Mosaïques), Université Paris Ouest Nanterre

Another book still on my reading list, which I post here, because it seems to be another twist on the "mainstay of the non-radical science fiction group sure rebellion is possible but it's only the exceptional human who can perform it."

When the Sleeper Wakes. A Story of the Years to Come. - H.G. WELLS

Great podcast episode about The Sleeper Awakes The SFFaudio Podcast #266 

"Struck by a strange ailment, a Victorian gentleman called Graham falls into a sudden coma. When he wakes up 203 years later, he discovers the trust set up by executors of his estate has grown so much that he is now the owner of almost everything on the planet. Under his name his trustees rule the planet, bringing in an age of total peace and startlingly advanced technology, but at a steep price — democracy is dead, the rich are brainless and hedonistic while the poor are all but slaves overseen by brutal military police.Broken free from the trustees prison by a politician called Ostrog, Graham finds himself stuck in the middle of an uprising as Ostrog promises to restore Graham's power and bring an end to the council's reign."

Ernst Bloch - The Utopian Function of Art and Literature

As he put it: "processus cum figures, figurae in processu" (The process is made by those who are made by the process), so that he restored honour to the idea of utopia by seeing it not as a pre-existing programmatic state which had to be reached under wise and all-knowing leadership either of the party or the church, but as an autopoietic process driven by the labouring, creating and producing human being driven on by their material hunger as well as their dreams of overcoming that hunger. 

Peter Thompson - The Frankfurt school, part 6: Ernst Bloch and the Principle of Hope

A giant post of links and ideas I will be chewing on and coming back to for a long while. If you have any recommended readings or talks, especially ones that use these ideas and connect them with today and use popular language, please let me know. For example I didn't find many (or recent) articles in English. I found recent German ones in the press, but they weren't too exciting. 

The Text in English of this discussion you can find here:
Bloch and Theodor W. Adorno on the Contradictions of Utopian Longing

Bloch, Ernst. _The Utopian Function of Art and Literature_. (1988). "Something's Missing" (1964)

"For Bloch, Thomas More’s conception of Utopia in space meant that the utopia was here now, but that I/we are not there.  However, in placing utopia into time meant that not only were we not in utopia, but also that utopia wasn’t here yet.  Placing the utopian into the future did not empty it of its meaning and critical purpose as though it did not and could not exist.  Utopia does not exist yet but depends on people living and working now to realize it in the future.  Bloch imaged this as the more we travel toward the future isle of utopia, the more it will arise from the sea of the possible – out of the present chaos, which the sea represents."

To say that something’s missing means that the seeds, the incipient foment of that something is already present, without which no one would know that it is missing.  The concept of God or utopia already contain the elements of the utopic reality that is missing, and it is from this knowledge and experience that utopia can be realized.  Without this eschatological dynamic, no notion of utopia or of thinking itself would be possible. 

"Hope can be thwarted, but for Bloch [1999:16-17], that does not mean it is defeated.  Even in the midst of its decline and disappointment, hope still nails a flag on the sinking ship’s mast, for the decline is not accepted. For the hunger of hope is “an irrepressible sense of the awakening of meaning,” and, as such, true hope is an expression of never-ending defiance against all odds for the Not-yet-being, whose ultimate realization will be the beginning of the true Utopia."



Adorno to Bloch on the Blockage of Utopia

(with much more links to further reading. I am speechless (just sounds: woooahh!). Go have a look around that site. It's amazing: - Ralph Dumain)

Compiled by Ralph Dumain:

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources:
A Selective Work in Progress

and his Reason & Society blog / #Utopia

"There was a real reluctance to speculate about the future, for two quite explicit reasons. The first is the argument that it is impossible to think oneself out of present circumstances and predict the needs and conditions for their satisfaction that will be created in the future; in this sense, the imaginative construction of utopia as a political goal is strictly speaking impossible. 
e. Secondly, and this was the essence of their attacks on the utopian socialists, the construction of such blueprints carries with it the danger of idealism. Where the utopian socialists -leaders and followers - chiefly erred was in thinking that the propagation of a plan for the good society would, through the operation of reason, result in its own realisation."

Bloch's cosmology requires utopia in order that we may be able to imagine, will, and effect the future. And since 'the hinge on human history is its producer' the future is effected through our action; the content and quality of utopian anticipation are therefore of fundamental importance.  

"Bloch's central thesis is that human dreaming has always reached towards utopia, with varying mixes of the abstract and the concrete; but only with Marxism has it become possible for utopia to be fully graspable in the imagination and hence in reality. Bloch claims Marxist credentials for this position by repeated reference to a letter from Marx to Ruge, dated 1843, in which Marx wrote: Our motto must therefore be: reform of consciousness not through dogmas, but through analysis of mystical consciousness which is still unclear to itself. It will then become apparent that the world has long possessed the dream of a matter, of which it must only possess the consciousness to possess it in reality. It will become apparent that it is not a question of a great thought-dash between past and future, but of the carrying-through of the thoughts of the past."

"Bloch also quotes the more well-known passage about purposive action as a distinguishing characteristic of the human species: We are assuming work in a form in which it belongs exclusively to man. A spider carries out operations which resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts many builder to shame with the building of its wax cells. But what distinguishes the worst builder from the best bee from the outset is that he has built the cell in his head before he builds it in wax, at the end of the work process there is a result which already existed in the imagination of the worker at the beginning of that process, i.e. already existed ideally. Not that he only effects a formal change in the real; he also realizes his purpose in the natural world."

Ruth Levitas:
Marxism, Romanticism and Utopia: Ernst Bloch and William Morris

Podcast:  German Philosophy Seminars
The Romantic-Revolutionary Gnosis of Geist der Utopie

Johan Siebers (IGRS, London)

"As global culture is once again pregnant with the urge to formulate alternatives to the neoliberal politics and cultural politics of the last three decades, there is a need to return to the rich tradition of utopian thought in philosophy. In this semester the German Philosophy Seminar will be devoted to a single book that has played a central role in utopian philosophy: Ernst Bloch's Geist der Utopie. Published in 1918 as Bloch's first book on recommendation by Otto Klemperer, it occupies a place as a secret source at the beginning of important currents in 20th century German thought.

Nevertheless, its reception has been limited in recent years. Barocque from the outset and written in a modernist-expressionist style which some have called dithyrambic and with which Bloch immediately placed himself outside the accepted forms of academic philosophical writing, he sets out in this book to reformulate and rescue the ideas of transcendence, totality, longing and purpose in a materialist, existentialist and revolutionary context.

In doing so, Bloch reconstitutes philosophy from the start -- it is this feature that makes this work an eminently philosophical one and that gives it a unique place in the history of German philosophy; philosophy appears here, in its form as much as in its content, as a meditation on the forms of utopia and our travels towards it. It defines its efficacy, also its existential, critical, cultural and political efficacy, in that context."

The Bloch Series @ Nyx A Noctournal :


Again this fits in philosophically with his general approach which sees history not simply as a series of events but as something which carries within it all sorts of lost opportunities, traces of unrealised potential and sparks and dreams of future possibilities. This is why he talks of the “ontology of not yet being” as the central philosophical expression of our time. In other words, the process of the fermentation of world history will throw up all sorts of strange constructs that have to prove themselves in the world and we have to try to come to terms with them within what he calls the “darkness of the lived moment”. As we experience today, it is not always easy to get it right.

Peter Thompson also The Frankfurt school, part 6: Ernst Bloch and the Principle of Hope
and The official Blog for the Centre for Ernst Bloch Studies based at the University of Sheffield and maintained by Peter Thompson.





Ernst Bloch Gespräche mit einem Philosophen

"Franz Marc (February 8, 1880 – March 4, 1916) was a German painter and printmaker, one of the key figures of the German Expressionistmovement. He was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a journal whose name later became synonymous with the circle of artists collaborating in it."

Kim Stanley Robinson - Utopia & Postcapitalism

Is it really impossible to imagine the end of capitalism?
No, it is not. I just sketched it out in twenty minutes.

"To tell a utopian story in the current situation that we are in historically can be regarded as optimistic and we all know that optimism is usually synonymous with ignorance, naivety, maybe downright stupidity and pessimism, on the other hand is usually seen as very realistic and even wise. Given the world is, I mean, how can you deny it?

... Cruel optimism is useless."

If we did things right as a civilization could we live all adequacy, avoid the extinction and have all the big mamals and the rest of the biosphere, us, happy in their own  adequacies? 
Can that physically work for 7 billion?

You run the numbers and the answer is yes. 
So then I think it's not cruel optimism to talk optimistically.

Pessimistic optimism.
Angry Optimism - piano furioso

Kim Stanley Robinson

A pessimistic optimist. That's how I liked to describe myself as a teenager, still do. There are many reasons why you shouldn't miss this lecture, but for one: he talks about "Vampires vs. Zombies - the most obvious story of our time. If we would tell this story civilization would electrocute itself. " Two pop culture themes, I have been obsessed with in a hate/love relationship for quite a while. He gives a great analysis of Vampires (capitalism) as seducers and Zombies (the precariat = all of us) as a permission to slay people on Television. You don't have to feel guilt for shooting zombies. But right, zombies are us.

Guess his remark about him trademarking Vampires vs. Zombies was the joke of someone talking about postcapitalism. "You can take it if you want."

Here is the book he mentions:

Why Civil Resistance Works - The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth

He also talks about where the money, for the things Bernie Sanders wants but can't quite fund, could come from. Tom Moylan  retweeted the talk yesterday on twitter and I checked in what context and found this wonderful article:

Here are some Excerpts :

1. The Economy is About Power
…Our world is one in which the invisible hand is clearly not doing its job—one in need of more directed and democratic control…

2. Expertise Is Not Legitimacy
…This is a good thing, as far as it goes, but our party of experts often forget that expertise is a tool. It helps you to get where you want to go. Politics is also about goals and worldviews. It isn’t enough to be smart and trained. The first question for politicians is the old union question: which side are you on? …

3. You’re Allowed to Want Economic Security
… For much of the twentieth century, mainstream liberal economists understood that security—whether in a union, in job tenure, or in guaranteed health care and other safety nets—was a widespread and perfectly legitimate goal. In fact, it was the first thing anyone should want from an economy, because it was the precondition to feeling—and being—safe enough to go on and take risks, or just enjoy life…

4. You Are More than Human Capital
…A person’s worth is not what they can earn, and “return on investment” is the wrong way to think about living, just as “networking” is the wrong way to think about relationships. These ways of valuing ourselves are cultural and psychic distortions, in which a market culture colonizes the minds of the people living under it. But they are not just mistakes or spiritual failings: they are imposed on us by all-in, all-pervading competition and insecurity. Part of the point of an economy of safety is to let people remember what else and who else they are….

My Favorite:
5. Solidarity Is Different from Hope
…Hope may be shared, but it switches easily to a personal register: your hope, my hope. Solidarity is different: it looks around, and it acts with and for other people, because we are in this thing together. We haven’t had a politics like this for a long time; but the Sanders moment is a recollection of how it feels, and a move toward rebuilding it…

6. Democracy Is More than Voting
…Ultimately, it is about organized people deciding how money should be organized—in financial regulation, say, or campaign finance reform—rather than the other way around…

7. Not Everything Has to Be Earned
…And of course working hard and honoring the rules (at least where the rules are fair and legitimate) deserves respect. But the national fixation on people getting what they “deserve,” from meritocratic rewards in higher education to incarceration (“Do the crime, do the time,” the prosecutors say) has gotten out of hand. It locks us into a mutual suspicion of people getting away with something—pocketing some perk or job or government benefit that they didn’t “really earn”—while ignoring the way the whole economy tilts its rewards toward those who already have wealth...

8. Equal Treatment Is Not Enough
…It turns out that the American capitalism that long took for granted a subordinated race at work and sex at home will not automatically repair either historical injury. Whether your preferred redress for these problems is anchored in reparations orsocial democracy (and there are principled and strategic considerations on both sides of that question), what has to happen now to make good on both gender and racial emancipation is change in structures. The structures we have now sometimes secure personally equal treatment; they also produce persistent, predictable, inequitable results. It is these structures that need to change…

9. We Need a Fight to Make Peace with the Planet
…In short, “peace with the planet” means conflict, with the industries that do best from the current energy economy and with the laws and infrastructure that make all of us, especially in the rich world, part of the problem…

10. We Have in Common What We Decide to Have in Common
… In 1958, approaching the high-water mark of the social-democratic era in American life, John Kenneth Galbraith argued that “the affluent society” was on its way to an economy of widespread leisure, robust social provision, light workloads, and new frontiers of activity undertaken for its own sake, whether work or play. It was not the most profound vision of human liberation ever forecast, but it described early a possible path from what Marx called the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom. That vision was broken by a combination of free-trade globalization, post-welfarist domestic reform, and the global growth of inequality. Although it may not seem radical today as an end-state, steps toward making it a real and palpable possibility—and not just for a privileged plurality, but really for everyone—would be radical indeed…

Plus a great podcast I just discovered:

In other words, he uses fiction to ask many of the same questions that we have been asking our interviewees throughout the project. The result, I think, is one of the strongest and most wide-ranging interviews in The Conversation.


A Massive Jolt to the Imagination