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Why RWX

Today we launch a new blog on ArtsJournal. It grew out of discussions Jean Cook, Adam Huttler and I had after a week-long group blog conversation we had here last summer on artist rights and creativity.

What are the animating ideas of our time? Certainly the revolution in the ways we get information is one. But it’s not just the idea that technology has made it possible to get access to more information than ever before and gee, look what we can do now. Nor is it just about the democratization of access to more stuff. The tools of the revolution are fascinating and cool and sometimes just plain fun, but it can’t just be about the tools and what’s possible.

I think what is more interesting is what this technology revolution is changing in our values and what it is not. Values like who owns information and the products of our creativity. Values about how power is shared and how it isn’t. Values about how (and how much) artists get compensated for their work.

Technology is changing notions about how things can best be accomplished. Technology challenges the ways we organize to get things done. Do we still need institutions? If so, should they be different kinds of institutions than the ones we have now? What’s a recording worth – not just the money value, but the reputational value, the community value? Who owns it, and what does it mean to own something now?

Then there’s the whole issue of government; technology holds out the possibility that we the people will be more informed, better organized and better able to see how our government really works (or doesn’t). But technology might also be the thing that makes government better able to repress and control us. What protections do we need? What rights do we need to assert, and how do we have a reasonable discussion about them?

For me, technology is a values debate. Which of our traditional values reassert themselves in the new technology. Which need to evolve because technology removes some point of friction or reward that was important in the old but not so much in the new.

One of the surest ways to fail at technology is to not understand the values or the people who will be using it. Technology can’t change our fundamental values with a click of a switch. But it can certainly change how those values are expressed – for both good and bad. This blog is where I’d like to see some of those debates about values play out.

Jean and Adam no doubt have different aspirations for posting here, but this is the way I’ll be approaching things. A small administrative note: You’ll see in the side right column the RWX newswire. These are stories about issues that seem to fit the RWX idea that we’ve curated from sources we all read and they’ll be updated daily. The column on the right below our lead story will be filled for now by links to stories we want to especially draw attention to. We’ll add other things as we go along. Thanks for coming.

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