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Moritz First Draft "The Cultural Commons"


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Moritz First Draft "The Cultural Commons"

  1. 1. c o n t e n t s 7 2 Director’s Statement Thomas Crow on the Villa scholars program in its second year 4 Ancient “Identity Theft” Erich S. Gruen takes a closer look at stereotypes and subversion among the peoples of the ancient Mediterranean 9 Acquisition Focus Claire L. Lyons finds inspiration in Pierre Trémaux’s Exploration archéologique 10 From Salvation to Empowerment Jan N. Bremmer’s European notes on contemporary American religion 16 The Cultural Commons Thomas Moritz evaluates democracy and digital progress 22 Screen Test Jessica Kedward-Sánchez on the future of video art at the Getty 29 EndNotes Publications, recent acquisitions, exhibitions 33 Tribute Herbert Henri Eduard Hymans, 195–007 34 Editor’s Postscript Carolyn Gray Anderson on taking risks 36 Gifts Research Library Council acquisitions 24 First Draft, The Newsletter of the Getty Research Institute, No. 6 Cover: T. R. Uthco and Ant Farm, installation for The Eternal Frame (detail), 1976, mixed media, Long Beach Museum of Art. Pictured are artists Jody Procter (left) and Chip Lord (right), and Doug Hall on screen as the “artist-president.” The Eternal Frame installation will be re-created for the Getty’s California Video exhibition in 2008. See p. 22. © 1976 T. R. Uthco/Ant Farm
  2. 2. The Cultural Commons Democracy and Digital Progress by ThO�As �ORIT� Arts and humanities institutions—and, specifically, the “memory institutions”1: libraries, archives, and museums—exist in a larger cultural and political context. Those of us who have spent most of our professional lives in such institutions may too easily lapse into a narrowed, self-referential mindset, forgetting that we have both effects and obligations in that larger world. 1
  3. 3. Although not always well appreciated, a strong and inex- a few days in Pakistan, I felt some shock looking at those images tricable link exists between the fundamental mission of our and hearing those sounds, aware of the grating contrast with cultural institutions and a common ethical imperative to nurture the culture outside the shop doors. A few days later I wandered and secure tolerant, secular democracy. The mission of most the streets of Peshawar in the North West Frontier Province, such institutions—whether explicitly or implicitly—focuses on then, as now, a center for Taliban activity. The fundamentalist the creation and sharing of knowledge for the common good. In madrassahs were well stocked with religious texts, 5 while no this regard, the mission of the J. Paul Getty Trust is both expansive media shops were apparent and the library shelves of the local and exacting. The original Trust Indenture of 195 requires “the university were quite empty. diffusion of artistic and general knowledge.” A more recent The resources that compose the fabric of our cultural expression states: “The Getty focuses on the visual arts in all of lives—that we often take for granted in Los Angeles and at the their dimensions and their capacity to strengthen and inspire Getty—were not available to most in Pakistan, whether in the aesthetic and humanistic values . . . with the conviction that “traditional” form of books, journals, and newspapers; or galleries, cultural enlightenment and community involvement in the arts lectures, concerts, cultural dialogues, films, videos; or the more can help lead to a more civil society” (emphasis mine). “contemporary” forms of Web-based digital media. Without launching a complex epistemological digression, Today, even in the wilds of Topanga Canyon, I receive e-mail, it seems useful to note that “diffusion of knowledge” implies phone service, newspapers (from Europe, North America, Asia), more than the simple dissemination of conventional products journals and books, TV, FM radio, and much more directly over or expressions of knowledge, as in books, articles, or exhibits. the Internet. In Pakistan today, and throughout most of the devel- “Diffusion of knowledge” also implies nurturing, developing, oping world (“cyber-universe” notwithstanding), such resources and sharing knowledge of the process and practices by which are available only to a small and privileged elite. knowledge is developed and created. With respect to the Getty’s For more than twenty years I have been given opportunities mission, this means close awareness, systematic documenting, to travel worldwide, primarily seeking better ways to share our and open sharing of the methods of critical scholarly practice common knowledge of the natural world in support of environ- and discourse by which we come to understand the intelligence mental conservation. I have become more and more sensitized of art. Arguably, a primary defining feature of this historic era will to the ways that the United States is represented internationally be the Internet and the World Wide Web, and the underlying and to the ways that we encourage others to understand us. powerful technologies that have enabled them. Only the revo- Whether in passing gringada jokes and comments or in news- lutions in genomics and nuclear physics seem capable of rivaling papers and media broadcasts, we are often, at best, parodied them. If, as much of our recent history suggests, advocacy for as well-meaning but clumsily destructive caricatures in our own secular, rational, tolerant democracy is a primary goal of this situation comedy. Again and again we seem to flaunt what is historic era, I believe that cultural institutions must reconsider our least estimable in our society and culture. mission in the context of the powerful, convergent technologies that have created the Web, with its demonstrated potential for building networks that are truly global both in reach and Toward a Global Digital Commons comprehensiveness. In 107, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The field of knowledge is the We must reconsider how our mission-consistent “content” common property of all mankind.”7 is now distributed and licensed for use—both conventionally Jefferson was not naively expressing a utopian vision. He and on the Web. As a culture and as a society, we must make far clearly understood the practical implications of his proposition (in more serious investments in developing and sharing globally the 1790s he noted the importance of preservation of knowledge the very best elements of our artistic and humanistic culture. by the provision and maintenance of multiple copies of texts). The compromises concerning copyright and patent codified in the U.S. Constitution reflect the wisdom of this Jeffersonian Some Observations from the Field view. Many have attributed the notable successes of American In October 199, I walked into a video shop in the upscale Clifton culture and economy to the wise balance the Founding Fathers neighborhood of Karachi, Pakistan. The walls were filled with Hollywood posters of Rambo, armed to the teeth, and with re- Facing page: Detail of a hand-colored engraving of a lead/tin wire’s reaction to electricity in Martinus van Marum, Beschreibung einer ungemein grossen vealing pictures of distressed actresses in distressed garments. Elektrisier-Maschine (Leipzig, 1786–1798), pl. 9. In this plate, Marum shows one The bootleg tape shop down the street offered the predictable of many phases of the fine lines created though a wire’s contact with a large amount of electricity generated by a machine of his own invention. array of music, some Asian but mostly Western pop. After only 2675-394 17
  4. 4. Sadly, it has been a dominant and simplistic fallacy of this political-economic era that, as a single article of faith, somehow the market can fully support the costs of fulfilling mission, thereby producing a more civil society. In the 1990s, I often heard the mantra “No margin [e.g., revenues], no mission.” However, this assumption is a relatively recent phenomenon. One need only look to the burgeoning of the arts through public sector support since the 190s. And my personal experiences in Pakistan and throughout the developing world suggest that sole reliance on “the market” will not successfully meet the challenge of building strong and vibrant democratic societies.9 Public investment and appropriate provisions in law to insure parity of access and use have made essential contributions to the continued vitality of the American experiment. In the past twenty-five years, inadequacies of support both from the public sector and the philanthropic sector have too achieved between incentives to authors and inventors for their often forced a resort to market-based fees for provision of basic creations and innovations, and the reversion of these “products” mission-defined resources and services—and, most particularly, to the public domain for free public use—including commercial for publications, whether traditional printed publications or application. digital resources. (I will note here that print/paper and digital This equilibrium between recognition of and compensation formats do not pose exclusive alternatives. They represent parts for novelty and the requirement for sharing is also reflected in of a spectrum of choices that can contribute to diffusion of the observations of philosophers of science. Robert K. Merton knowledge.) noted that, given the accretive nature of science (and, at least by implication, of human culture), uniquely original contributions to the common fund of knowledge are necessarily quite limited. The Web? The American public library and the tradition of public It is both a premise and a promise of the World Wide Web that library services—as Andrew Carnegie and many, many other “information wants to be free.” 10 But, while Stewart Brand’s distinguished Americans have realized—is a direct institutional challenge, issued in 19 at the first Hackers Conference, may expression of the Jeffersonian ethic respecting our common be compelling, information, irrespective of format, inescapably fund of knowledge (as is, in fact, the strong and vibrant tradition carries real costs (and in some instances it can command signifi- of American publishing). And the broader tradition of great cant revenues). public museums and allied cultural institutions is fully resonant Surveying the early history of the Web, it seems clear that the with that tradition. Web has become an unprecedented, rich venue for democratic We proudly note that the Getty, taken as a whole, is a discourse and individual expression (as well as for marginalia tremendously productive cultural center. We produce a rich and and graffiti), but it has not yet fulfilled its promise of egalitarian various array of cultural services and resources ranging from the access to resources like contemporary books and journals 11— glamorous (exhibits and events) to the utilitarian (conservation media for which dissemination traditionally has been dependent techniques, bibliographies, and vocabularies); but all these efforts make valuable contributions to the cultural commons and stand Above: Ilene Segalove, What Is Business? (detail), 1982, single-channel color in useful contrast to the entertainments with which America so video, 29 min. Segalove’s work will appear in the 2008 Getty exhibition California Video. abundantly supplies itself and the world. © Ilene Segalove In this context, it is important to note that the capacity of Facing page: William Wegman, To the New Gallery, 1993, colored ink on paper the cultural community to make contributions is based on a tax- (recent acquisition). © William Wegman exempt status that is, significantly, a form of social investment 2007.M.1 amounting to many billions of dollars. The intended missions of As directions for an imaginary performance that marks the Holly Solomon Gallery’s move from Fifth Avenue to SoHo in New York, Wegman’s map speaks more to cultural institutions are the definitive basis of their tax exemption; the process of making one’s way around the city and knowing the important thus, tax exemption is a form of social contract, not an entitle- turns to make on certain streets (or perhaps not) than to providing effective locational information. Thus, Wegman disseminates way-finding information that ment, institutionally or personally. yields a cache of knowledge not limited to the ostensible destination. 1
  5. 5. upon conventional market models. If we as a society can agree on the necessity of providing global access to knowledge, our dilemma is then how to meet costs with the same urgency that we have too often directed at less worthy goals. In 00 Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan reflected upon the economic experience of the 1990s and diagnosed an “infectious greed” that afflicted the American business com- munity. 1 He did not extend his diagnosis to the cultural realm; but, arguably, the conspicuous failure of support for our cultural institutions and the consequent forced adoption by those institutions of revenue-producing barriers to access can be understood as extended symptoms of that infection. PublIC OR PeRIsh A Cultural Commons? To date, the global science community has made remarkable Brewster Kahle, head of the San Francisco-based progress toward free and open access to scientific-knowledge Internet Archive, insists that it is decidedly within resources. Initiatives such as GenBank, the Global Biodiversity our grasp to provide universal access to knowl- Information Facility (GBIF), PubMed, and many others demonstrate edge. Kahle and his team archive an average of the effectiveness and utility of free and open access. But we have thirteen terabytes of digitized information every not made comparable progress in the arts and humanities. month, from online material such as expired Web I believe that it is the sum of our informed, rational discourse pages to music, film, books, and images. Success- in the arts, sciences, and humanities that makes the strongest and fully securing funding for their project, they have most compelling argument for modeling an open secular society established that to scan, make universally avail- and for the continued progress of democratic innovation. able, and permanently archive any book costs An extremely narrow spectrum of religious and sectarian around thirty dollars—a surprisingly economical texts is easily and widely available worldwide—in Pakistan and endeavor. Like Tom Moritz, Kahle warns that we America—but the intelligence, insight, and wisdom of our secular must not allow the thirty percent of the project culture (perhaps most important, the dynamic and critical discourse that’s troublesome to interfere with digitization by which “knowledge” is democratically tested) are systematically of the other seventy percent. Seeing no reason restricted. I want to propose that we must strategically and that every book ever published can’t very soon systematically make our knowledge available for global access be made available online, Kahle observes of the and use. With focused public and private sector investments vast numbers of books being written in the world, in digitization, and with open and free diffusion, we have the “At most it’s six billion people typing at sixty words per minute, twenty-four hours a day. It’s potential to make enormous contributions to the establishment not that much text!” A rare and refreshingly and securing of secular democracy. Cultural memory institutions undaunted perspective. have a unique opportunity to lead such efforts.1 We must no longer permit the trailing edge of our culture— the Web as Times Square—to be pervasively available while Check it out: continuing to tolerate barriers to access for the best of our culture. We must not continue to sustain models that contribute to market failure by which the most deserving, the most deprived members of our global society are denied access. Above left: Brewster Kahle (right), director and cofounder We must reconsider legal restrictions based in extremely of the Internet Archive, shows Peter Bruce, director general and chief technology officer of Library and Archives Canada, narrow and overreaching interpretations of “intellectual property” some features of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. and primarily driven by the special interests of the entertainment It can be used to surf 85 billion Web pages, including billions archived since 1996 and no longer searchable on industries. All stakeholders must be willing to be good corporate the Internet. citizens and to make modest concessions for the common good. Above right: Each of the Internet Archive’s racks of data storage holds up to one hundred terabytes of digitized In the United States, we make minimal investment of public content. They measure six feet tall by two feet wide and weigh about a ton. 0
  6. 6. funds in digital capture and provision of access to knowledge NOTES resources. We must, in our common interest, build and secure a 1Lorcan Dempsey, et al., “Scientific, Industrial, and Cultural Heritage: A Shared Approach,” global knowledge commons based on principles of fair access Ariadne 22 (1999), (accessed March 18, 2007). and responsible use. 2 In making these assertions, I assume that all contributors to In the current era, John Rawls’s concept of “Justice as Fairness” perhaps best captures the force of this imperative. For a succinct summary, see: our culture, particularly scholars, authors, editors, publishers, original-position/ (accessed March 18, 2007). booksellers, and librarians, have always had common cause. 3 In 1953 the J. Paul Getty Trust was still known as the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Recent divisive arguments—as, for example, between publishers original Indenture is posted at (accessed July 11, 2007) and the Getty’s current mission statement is posted at http:// and librarians—may derive primarily from differences in our (accessed July 11, 2007). relative familiarity with and capacity to understand and adapt 4The decades-long history of U.S. Information Agency Libraries and Information Centers to the challenges of the Internet environment. For all of us, there worldwide suggests that this imperative has been strongly recognized in previous eras. have been difficulties in disentangling ourselves from exclusive 5 P. W. Singer, Pakistan’s Madrassahs: Ensuring a System of Education Not Jihad, dependence on market models; but this has been much easier Brookings Analysis Paper 14, November 2001, for librarians than for commercial publishers and sectors of the singer/20020103.pdf (accessed April 3, 2007). film and recording industries. 6 I might add that recently when I gave a talk in Albany, New York, it was pointed out There may be a “culture war” going on. But the struggle is to me that communities just one hundred miles north of us in the Adirondacks suffered some of the same deprivations as those in Pakistan. being waged not merely at a distance on the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times. And it is not a reflexive red-blue disagreement 7Thomas Jefferson to Henry Dearborn (United States Secretary of War), June 22, 1807, (accessed April 3, 2007). between Republicans and Democrats—or, for that matter, be- tween librarians, authors, and publishers. Rather, the struggle 8 “The substantive findings of science are a product of social collaboration and are assigned to the community. They constitute a common heritage in which the equity of exists between those who intend closed, privileged, authoritarian the individual producer is severely limited.” Robert K. Merton, “A Note on Science societies and those who advocate for open, tolerant, academi- and Democracy,” Journal of Law and Political Sociology 1 (1942): 121. This notion is obviously controversial and, particularly in the humanities, scholars seem inextricably cally free, secular democracies. It is our challenge as a culture wedded to the value of individual distinction. In the arts, the individual creative act is to analyze closely the “conflict of business models” 1 and to almost universally recognized as essential. resolve the “clash” by developing fair compensation for those 9 As but one example, I am aware of a situation in which a national museum in a with legitimate stakes, while eliminating barriers to access and Latin American country was told by a tax-exempt publisher of an electronic resource that the annual licensing fee would amount to $85,000 (USD). The cost would have use. Thomas Jefferson would have confirmed this mission. been prohibitive were it $850 and, moreover, with this type of digital resource, addi- ethically, all but the most mercantile of cultural knowledge tional increments of use are nonrivalrous and impose virtually zero additional cost to the provider. workers have a common mission: the widest possible dissemination of knowledge for the continued benefit of 10 “Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine— all. We must not fail to use every effective means at our too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable disposal to provide for all our common heritage of human to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, ‘intellectual property,’ the moral rightness of casual distribution, because knowledge. each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.” Stewart Brand, The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT (New York: Viking, 1987), 202. 11 “Figures released by the largest publisher of scientific journals—Amsterdam-based Elsevier—help explain why many scientists and others are frustrated. Its 1,700 journals, which produce $1.6 billion in revenue, garner a remarkable 30 percent profit margin. ‘I do realize that the 30 percent sticks out,’ Elsevier Vice President Pieter Bolman said. ‘But what we still do feel—and this is, I think, where the real measure is—we’re still very much in the top of author satisfaction and reader satisfaction.’” Rick Weiss, “A Fight for Free Access to Medical Research: Online Plan Challenges Publishers’ Dominance,” Washington Post, August 5, 2003, A01. 12 Testimony of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Federal Reserve Board’s Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress, 107th Cong., 2nd. sess., July 16, 2002. See (accessed April 3, 2007). 13The American Museum of Natural History made its complete legacy of scientific publications freely available on the Web in January 2005: dspace/statistics (accessed April 3, 2007). In the first year of availability, nearly 500,000 successful downloads occurred. 14Kevin Kelly, “Scan This Book! What Will Happen to Books? Reader, Take Heart! Thomas Moritz is associate director of administration Publisher, Be Very, Very Afraid. Internet Search Engines Will Set Them Free. A Manifesto,” and chief of knowledge management at the GRI. (accessed April 3, 2007). 1