Economies of the Commons: Public Keynotes & Responses / Sustainable Images for the Future

Tonight we had a four-part presentation. It all started with an introduction by Beeld & Geluid director Edwin van Huis giving a brief overview of the Images for the Future project, currently the biggest digitization project for moving images in Europe. They were able to get the massive sum needed for this kind of project by using not the cultural argument (“this is our heritage – please save it!”) but by making an economic equation which had to prove that the government would get a 20-60 million euro return upon investment. Or in other words by convincing them that the Dutch audiovisual heritage is valuable simply because it sells.


Next was Rick Prelinger from the Prelinger Archives. He gave a high-speed talk reflecting on the nature of (moving image) archives, his experiences with opening up his entire collection to the public on-line by using a free/fee division and his self-criticism on the archival world. Basically he stressed that what’s crucial for an archive is to be accessible. Archives have a social contract, which means that they should be an active part of the society they gather the remnants of. He stated that what the US archives lack in coordinated efforts, their European counterparts lack in local, small-scale, DIY projects to get involved in a community and to get that community inside their walls. His talk was illustrated with a series of photographs of which a different, older version can be found here.


David Bollier from On the Commons talked about how the commons disrupt the old business model, about how a different way of creating value came into being with the rise of the internet and its community-based inventions such as open software, wikis and the likes. The public domain may once have been a wasteland for things unnecessary to all, he propagated, but is now the place where creativity peeks. What the commons called into life was a ‘great value shift’ in which socially created value has become a macro-economical and cultural force in its own right. Part of his talk was based on a text by Benkler & Nissenbaum which can be found here.


In the discussion, Emjay Rechsteiner from the Dutch Filmmuseum was then invited to respond to these talks from his (institutional) point of view. Most of the topics discussed were about copyright issues, about which Edwin van Huis explained that their difficult position is that, as a moving image archive, most of their materials were obtained by promising the owners they would never let the public have general access to them. The response of the public was that, as big institutions, they are exactly the ones who could be able to broaden or alter the copyright restrictions they are caught up in. Another issue was what’s happening to the AV heritage of countries that don’t have the fundings for such massive projects like Images for the Future, to which the answer came that an organization called Archives at Risk is currently taking steps in this field.


in the final wrap-up, Prelinger expressed his (pretty realistic) fear that the monster projects certain cultural institutions are putting a lot of money in nowadays, may turn out to be useless in a few years, overtaken by developments in technology…

One Response to “Economies of the Commons: Public Keynotes & Responses / Sustainable Images for the Future”

  1. diagonal thoughts » Blog Archive » Economies of the Commons Report Says:

    [...] as the general public. The bottom line of this project was nicely synthesised in a report on their research blog: “They were able to get the massive sum needed for this kind of project by using not the [...]

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