_The two of us wrote this article together. Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd. We have made use of everything that came within range, what was closest as well as farthest away. We have been aided, inspired multiplied . _
JP: Code is described as many things: it is a cultural logic, a machinic operation or a process that is unfolding. It is becoming, today’s hegemonic metaphor; inspiring quasi-semiotic investigations within cultural and artistic practice (e.g. The Matrix). No-one leaves before it has set its mark on them...
Let us begin with a story about art. In this story, art produces aesthetic works of durability and stability — things that “stand up on their own”. The act of artistic production doesn’t come from nowhere; neither is it born in the heads of private individuals. It doesn’t dwell in a social nothingness. Nor does it start with a blank canvas. Any moment of production involves the reassembling and rearranging of the diverse materials, practices and influences that came before it and which surround it.
On the face of it, the Creative Commons project appears to be a success. It has generated interest in the issue of intellectual property and the erosion of the “public domain”, and it has contributed to re-thinking the role of the “commons” in the “information age”. It has provided institutional, practical and legal support for individuals and groups wishing to experiment and communicate with culture more freely. A growing number of intellectual and artistic workers are now enrolling in the Creative Commons network and exercising the agency and freedom it has made available.
Free software sustains and enables the internet. Across the world, people continue to freely contribute ideas and expertise to an important and growing movement. The internet itself was largely born out of a culture of contributing code and content in an electronic public “space” of global proportions. This has meant that the constellation of software supporting the internet, and the content that sits upon it, is to a large degree, non-market, peer-produced and free (as in “freedom” and as in “beer”). But, why do people code, hack, test, write and create free culture?
We have written this manifesto always wishing to unfold the concept and practice of free/libre and open-source. We wanted it to stretch out so that it might take us in new directions. To start off with, we were sure that the practice of non-proprietary software code production was not a narrowly technical or economic affair, but something that was always also socio-political.
The concept of the commons has a long heritage. The Romans distinguished between different categories of property, these were: Firstly, res privatæ, which consisted of things capable of being possessed by an individual or family. The second, res publicæ, which consisted of things built and set aside for public use by the state, such as public buildings and roads. The third, res communes, which consisted of natural things used by all, such as the air, water and wild animals.