January 29, 2005 · Lessig
In 20 minutes, I’m getting in a car to go to the airport to fly to Sao Paolo, to fly to Chicago, to fly to San Francisco, to get in a car to go home. It has been an insanely intense few days in this astonishing place.
This morning’s panel was packed in what seemed to be an old factory. The room was overflowing with at least 1,500 people, and a panel of 5. Manuel Castells began, with a careful and extremely interesting diagnosis of the net’s development. I then described the remix culture culture has been (legal and free) and the remix culture culture could be (amazing and diverse) and the blocks to that new culture coming about (law). Christian Alhert told the story of the BBC’s Creative Archive. And JP Barlow gave one of the most intense and powerful speeches I’ve ever seen him deliver. This place is personal to him.
Then Gil spoke. Needless to say, the warm up acts were just that. He electrified the audience, delivering a written speech as poetry slam. He promised more support for free software, and free culture. And he again embraced the Creative Commons movement in Brazil, which is exploding everywhere here. Again he took questions. Again he answered critics, directly, and passionately. I was reminded of his comment to me in the car the other night: we’re just citizens here.
After lunch, I visited the Youth Camp at the WSF, where 50,000 tents, and 80,000 kids are participating in WSF events. At the core was a Free Software lab, with about 50 machines, all running GNU/Linux, and constant lessons about how to set the systems up, how do to audio, and video editing, how to participate in free software communities. This was organized totally by the kids who ran it. Machines in shacks, hay on the ground, wires and boxes everywhere.
I got to talk to the organizers of at least one part of the lab for about an hour. JP Barlow and I peppered them with questions as they described their “Thousand points of culture” project — to build a thousand places around Brazil where free software tools exist for people to make, and remix, culture. The focus is video and audio; no one’s much worried about Office applications, or the like. It is an extraordinary, grass roots movement devoted first to an ideal (free software) and second to a practice (making it real).
They have the culture to do it. Again, there were geeks, but not only. There were men, but plenty of women (and lots of kids). They were instructing each other — some about code, some about culture, some about organizing, some about dealing with the government — as they built this infrastructure out. Think Woodstock, without the mud, and where the audience makes the music.
I’m going to write more about this, elsewhere. But I’ve not admired more in as long as I can remember.