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Native Models for New Media Partnerships
New legal framework promises to bridge cultural divides
Cross-Cultural Partnership

How can the free access to information required for a democratic society be reconciled with the privacy rights of electronic citizens? This question looms large in a world of gene patenting, Global Positioning Satellites, and warrantless wiretaps.

Vera Francis with Wabanaki TransformersYet sometimes the key to the future lies in the past. Indigenous peoples share medicines, songs, and stories in ways that are neither fully open nor closed, but that reinforce the social fabric of their communities.

That's why Still Water has brought together representatives of both indigenous and electronic networks to envision a legal and cultural framework for sharing knowledge in a way that is responsible and sustainable. The novel framework they have created, the Cross-Cultural Partnership, can help organizations, businesses, and individuals build bridges of ethical behavior across the cultural clashes that increasingly divide this globalized world.

Right: Vera Francis performing with the Wabanaki Transformers.

Meant to be tailored to each circumstance, the framework encourages partners to define and abide by practices that emphasize kinship rather than competition, participation rather than passivity, genealogy rather than genius.

Neeru Paharia demonstrating Creative Commons licenses.The framework is designed to overcome some of the shortcomings of the first generation of protocols for sharing knowledge, such as Creative Commons licenses. As inspiring as these protocols are, they unfortunately emphasize consumption instead of creation, because they lack provisions for offering source files rather than simply executables. More importantly, they emphasize a social dynamic of detachment rather than connection; simply put, there is no easy way for someone who uploads their mp3 under a Creative Commons license to find out who ends up listening to it or remixing it. This "free-for-all" ethic may have been useful for the early Internet, but it does not serve the long-term sustainability of artistic and electronic networks, which rely on meaningful social ties rather than hit-and-run mashups. And anyone who's worked with Native communities knows how poorly the "information wants to be free" network model works for indigenous peoples.

Cross-Cultural Partnership participants

So in 2006 Still Water worked with Wampanoag elder gkisedtanamoogk and Micmac elder Miigam'agan to envision a more ambitious legal framework, designed to guide networks between the opposing poles of "copyright lockdown" and "information wants to be free" toward a more sustainable model for online and indigenous communities. A four-day intensive workshop in November brought together some very bright representatives of Native and electronic networks: Charlene Francis of the Penobscot Nation; James Leach of Cambridge University and Papua New Guinea; Wendy Seltzer of Harvard's Berkman Center; and Neeru Paharia, former director of Creative Commons.

The framework they drafted is meant to help bridge some of the many cultural divides permeate our society: between drug companies and rainforest shamans over medicinal herbs; between Native peoples and musicians over ceremonial chants; between artists and technologists in art and science collaborations; and between libertarians and communitarians over control of software design.

Cross-Cultural Partnership logo

The framework itself, as well as more on the philosophy and contributors behind it, can be found at:

http://newmedia.umaine.edu/stillwater/partnership/







Updated: 2007-02-02 by Jon Ippolito


Updated: 2007-02-27 by Jon Ippolito

Updated: 2007-03-16 by Jon Ippolito
Posted 2007-02-02 13:44:12 by Jon Ippolito
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