Open Source Culturematics Producing Open Data #startofplay

This is a development of the way I’ve been thinking for a while.  And what I wrote yesterday about organising all this stuff is part of it too.

So I talked at a gaming unconference on Saturday about Culturematics, open sourcing their development and opening up the data that they produce.

This is what I believe/wish I said:

Culturematics are Grant McCracken’s term for ‘little machines that make culture’ the sort of thing where you ask “what if…?” something and then you go out and do that something, you do it, you write about it, you do it again and write about it again etc. etc..  Tuttle is one of these (even though so many people thought it was a networking event, it’s actually a little game in creating culture) and so, more obviously was Tuttle2Texas and PLATE.  But I think Dave Gorman going out and finding all the Dave Gormans is one too and is Danny Wallace’s “Yes Man”   

So we know what these things are, some of us do them, some of us enjoy seeing them or taking part in them.  I met an unwitting culturematic maker today – he’s made a blog about rectangular out-painting on walls.  And in a sense, every blogger is doing this too – what if I wrote about stuff regularly and posted it on the internet with a comments section for other people to ridicule me?

The question then is what happens if a) you apply open source project principles to developing the process and b) you make open all the data/content/text (whatever) that gets made in the process?

a) opening the process development – look at it as if it were an open source software project.  My understanding is that most OS projects start with someone writing something that they find useful and putting it out there.  Over time other people use the software and decide that they want to alter it in some way, to add features or to make it interoperable with other software or whatever improvement they want to make.  So how does that apply to a traditional creative project? Well there are lots of different processes, over time we’ve categorised them according to the type of product that will come out – you know if you’re making a film or a book or a painting to hang in a gallery and because it cost lots of money to produce one or other of those, it was highly unlikely that you’d start something just exploring an idea and then decide it was going to be a book, no a film, no maybe it’s just a book after all – ah no maybe it’s actually a photographic exhibition…. with a book…. and a film of the “Making of…”  But that’s how we can work now, even if it drives us mad.  It would seem even more insane to start involving other people in this and allowing them to take what had been done (on the process) and then fork off in the direction they wanted to go.  Insane, but exciting.

And that’s where the open data bit comes in and kicks you in the teeth.  Take a simple project, what if once a day for a month I take a photograph at random from my Flickr collection and write a paragraph about it and then make a book out of the pictures and words?  OK so I can see how I would do that, create a blog, make everything Creative Commons Attribution licenced and post once a day and then export the blog to blurb or lulu or whatever and make a book out of it.  That’s fine for me.  What if someone comes along in the middle and goes “that’s a damn fine idea, I’m going to translate it into French”.  So they do.  That’s OK, it fits with the licence and all the stuff is up on the web already.

But what about if I’m making a film and we’ve written it, openly and collaboratively as described above (even assuming that can be done, I have my doubts), do we start shooting and posting everything online immediately?  And let everyone see inside what we’re doing? And take our stuff and maybe make something better with it than we could have? This is the point where most sensible people say “Yes I’d love someone else to make their content open like that, because it would be easier for me, but if you think I’m going to do that myself, share what I’ve been doing freely before I’ve made anything finished myself, you can take that idea and stick it where the sun don’t shine.” 

Maybe the sharing has to be once the “main creator” has had a chance to publish what they were doing.  Perhaps the opening of the data can only be at the end of some phase of the project.  Otherwise it would be a bit like working on an open source project that the original author had never actually compiled or run. I do think it has to be open from the start, it’s very difficult to open up something that started as a closed project.  But I could be wrong.  I’m thinking here particularly about the difficulty of working with the film footage that is still in the can from Tuttle2Texas.  

Sensible people would hate this.  But as a fully-paid-up member of the non-sensible club, I’m left thinking “It’s not for everyone, but it would be interesting to see what happened”. And it would certainly feel a bit like the ever-elusive “Real Creative Collaboration” I think, as usual, I’m looking for some willing playmates to have a go.

2 thoughts on “Open Source Culturematics Producing Open Data #startofplay”

  1. Maybe the sharing has to be once the “main creator” has had a chance to publish what they were doing. Perhaps the opening of the data can only be at the end of some phase of the project.

    But the kind of sharing that happens during development tends to be richer and more detailed than it would be if you wait till after the project is finished.

    In other words, talking about your process after the film (or whatever) has been completed, edited and so on is not going to capture the really interesting processes. It’s a bit like the scaffolding that vanishes when the project is finished – it’s vital that if people are to be inspired to build with your ideas then they must see this scaffolding.

    Extending the analogy, there are bits of scaffolding that you will leave unextended. These are comparable to decision points where other people might want to do their own investigations – to create forks (to use free software parlance).

  2. Hi, was updating my tumblr this morning, reflecting, reading bits and pieces, contemplating, pondering, searching … and came across your piece (google).

    I was thinking about starting points as # hashtags, and also end points, but more interestingly points on networks, even nodes. From Friday Tuttle conversation. The Life of Hashtags (organisms) in a Living Network.

    I was simultaneous thinking about The Convivial Camera – photography as a social practice – and the idea of (public) ‘projects’, what they are about, who benefits, mutual projects, reciprocal projects – and trying to simplify the organisational aspect and orientating towards the entanglement of encounters, and reflecting and representing and reproduction.

    Haven’t got any further with that thought. Just thought I’d mention it.

    Here’s the Tumblr link –
    Are Photos the secret ingredient of the internet economy?
    Grant McCracken

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