Archive | January, 2010

Towards_a_new_relationship_between_the_arts_and_the_public_part1.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)

29 Jan

My talk which follows Nick Hytner’s at the State of the Arts Conference

Let’s open up cloud computing | Charles Leadbeater | Comment is free |

22 Jan


Blue sky thinking: Sun behind the clouds on a sunny spring day at Hoxne, Suffolk. Photograph: Graham Turner/Guardian

The internet, our relationship with it, and our culture are about to undergo a change as profound and unsettling as the development of web 2.0 in the last decade, which made social media and search ??? Google and YouTube, Facebook and Twitter ??? mass, global phenomena. The rise of “cloud computing” will trigger a battle for control over a digital landscape that is only just coming into view.

The internet we have grown up with is a decentralised network of separate computers, with their own software and data. Cloud computing may look like an extension of this network-centric logic but, in fact, it is quite different.

As cloud computing comes of age, our links to one another will be increasingly routed through a vast shared “cloud” of data and software. These clouds, supported by huge server farms all over the world, will allow us to access data from many devices, not just computers; to use programs only when we need them and to share expensive resources such as servers more efficiently. Instead of linking to one another through a dumb, decentralised network, we will all be linking to and through shared clouds.

Which raises the question: whose clouds will these be?

Cloud computing is bringing with it “cloud capitalism”. Companies will make money from organising these clouds for us. Apple already is, with its iTunes cloud of music and its cloud of thousands of third-party apps to run on the iPhone. Cloud computing will also bring a kind of cloud culture: increasingly, we will express ourselves through these clouds of films, videos, pictures, books, stories and music.

But cloud capitalism and cloud culture will not always be in harmony. The best way to understand the coming conflicts over the cloud is to look at the issues already being raised by some of the earliest applications. China, where Google is belatedly standing up for the principles of a cloud free from government interference, is the most immediate example.

But Google also has a more pragmatic, commercial motive. Gmail is a cloud service. Users do not store their messages on their own computers but in a remote cloud run by Google. (The Guardian newspaper recently junked its own, costly email service in favour of Google’s enterprise-level Gmail offering.) If Google cannot maintain the integrity of the Gmail cloud, it does not have a secure service to sell. There will be many battles of this kind in years to come where corporations, citizens and governments struggle for control of the cloud.

An equally significant battle involving Google’s influence over the cloud is being played out in a nondescript courtroom in New York, where the company has been defending its plans, devised with several university libraries, to create a cloud of more than 10m digital books. The question is: on what terms will Google make these available to readers and recompense their authors and publishers?

This shared cultural cloud will come at a price that is difficult to calculate. Google will acquire considerable power over the future of publishing and books ??? which books to include in the cloud and which not.

The French and German governments warned the court that the company’s plans would create an “uncontrolled, autocratic concentration of power in a single corporate entity” that would threaten a fundamental human right: the free flow of ideas through literature. Google’s peers are also opposed. The Open Book Alliance, which includes Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo, wants to create its own cloud of digitised books.

This dispute is a template for many others to come. Governments will also have their own views about these clouds, seeing in them threats to national culture (the French response); threats to security (the Chinese response) or threats to competition (the response of the US department of justice).

Thus, just as it is emerging, open cloud culture is threatened on all sides by vested interests of traditional media companies, hungry new monopolists and governments that are intent of reasserting control over the unruly web. The “netizen” beneficiaries of open cloud culture are far less well funded and organised than its opponents. That is why before cloud capitalism becomes entrenched, there should a clear statement of principles to defend the public, open cloud against the encroachments of both corporations and governments.

I propose five main points towards that manifesto, an Open Cloud Declaration:

??? The first main threat to open cloud culture is homogeneity: we do not want a digital sky dominated by standardised clouds branded Google and Apple. The first principle should be variety: we need public clouds, such as the World Digital Library being created by a set of leading museums around the world and open, social clouds such as Wikipedia.

??? The second threat to open cloud culture is corporate control. To counter that, we need new approaches to regulate these commercial clouds, to limit their power and to expose them to competition, ensuring people have a diversity of potential suppliers of cloud-based services. Personal information stored in clouds needs to be safe and clearly to belong to the person rather than the cloud. The emergence of cloud capitalism will need to be matched by new forms of media regulation.

??? The third threat is the rearguard action being fought by industrial-era media companies to prevent clouds forming. At the heart of this is copyright. Cloud culture will breed creativity only if people can easily collaborate, share and create. New forms of licensing are required, building on open access and creative commons, which are designed to allow sharing but also to channel rewards to creative artists.

??? The fourth threat comes from attempted government control of the cloud on grounds of state security, public decency or economic necessity. These threats do not just come from authoritarian regimes in the east, but also from western liberal democracies where governments lack the courage to stand up for the open web. To counter that we need to find ways to support online activists in authoritarian regimes with ways around firewalls and to connect them with potential supporters outside.

??? The fifth, and most significant challenge to a truly open, public web is inequality. When people from the poorest countries arrive in the digital world, as many million will in this decade through the mobile web, they will find people in the rich countries a long way ahead. For cloud culture genuinely to promote global cultural relations, we should focus on: open source development of tools that develop capabilities outside the dominant regions; creating more initiatives like Wikipedia that are public, but diverse and global in reach; promoting more global exchanges such as Kiva which allow resources and skills in one place to be matched with need in another.

The potential for a more cosmopolitan, open cloud, which can connect hundreds of millions of people all over the world in shared endeavours, will only be realised if we tackle these threats. We are entering a new, exciting and yet dangerous phase in the web’s development. Huge untold opportunities will exist for anyone connected to the web ??? and by the end of this decade that will be several billion people ??? to draw on shared culture resources and add to th
em through their own creative expression.

Yet if we are not vigilant, we will find our culture will belong to corporations and governments, rather than us. That is why we need an Open Cloud Declaration, a set of principles for a global campaign to keep open a large, public, diverse space for clouds in all possible shapes and sizes.

??? This is an edited version of an essay written for Counterpoint, the independent thinktank of the British Council. “Cloud Culture: The Future of Global Cultural Relations”, a Counterpoint pamphlet by Charles Leadbeater, will be published on 8 February.

Pilot Theatre : Speakers

21 Jan

Jonathan Harris – one of the Keynote speakers at ALT Shift

You Kiss by the book…

20 Jan
Check out this website I found at

People Changing Places – Film

19 Jan

ALT Shift – Shift Happens launch – January 22nd – Shift Happens – arts and converging technologies conference

15 Jan

?? 2010   Created by Shift Happens 2010 on Ning.   Create Your Own Social Network

Badges  |  Help  |  Privacy  |  Terms of Service

Creative Commons: What every Educator needs to know

15 Jan

We need to act now to save theatre | Lyn Gardner | Stage |

13 Jan

Did You Know 4.0

8 Jan

new shift happens evolution video

RSA – State of the Arts Conference

7 Jan

speaking at this next Thursday