Open Knowledge Foundation process: An opportunity to build an space for free/open movement convergence & embrace the ambivalence of openness
The adoption of the information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the emergence of more fluid and open conception of knowledge and information accessibility, together with other processes such as the increase of education levels in the global north, open up a set of possibilities in most society field that has the potential to enhance a more free, solidarian and justice society. But they also have the potential of less free, unsolidarian and unfair society. The ICTs have no directionality (or a single directionality) for themselves. What would be the resulting balence is still unknow. Furthermore, deep changes tend to have ambivalente effects, both possitive and necative. It might constitute a high improvement in certain aspects (such as larger access to knowledge), but it might also make other sources of inequality worths or open up new problems and sources of power concetration that might requere new solutions for power monitoring and control. Research could be a great alee in this regard.
In this context, an open/free paradigm is emerging as an organizational format supported by the adoption of ICTs, that seems to better adapt to the current organizational environment. In the last decade several initiatives and networks emerged in very diverse places and field such as Creative common process, Wikimedia movement, free software developers, and hackers networks, as well as, advocacy movement on access to knowledge movement, for free culture, and transparency. These several processes could expand and reinforce each other, however, there is a lack of an space, continuation and/or protocol, in sum a process for convergence between them. The processes such as Wikimedia or Creative Commons are, and need to be, focus on assuring the resource they provide to be able to provide an space for the general convergence. In this context, the process of convergence impulsed by Open Knowledge Foundation could solve that need. The OKFest 2012 was a wonderful example of it. OKFest took place in Helsinki in September 2012 with the attendance of more than 1000 “openners”.
OKFest was wonderfully multi-diverse in several dimensions. First, it covered 13 thematic schemes. Second, diversity was also achieved in terms of typology of actors as being participated by advocacy, entrepreneurs, hackers, researchers, and policy makers. Last, diversity was also present in terms of political strategies, from building resources strategy, to campaigning for citizens mobilizations, to groups working on legal and regulatory action, to lobbing, institutional pedagogy, and the search of political representation. An space of confluence, more than thinking in homogeneity and singling, should think in how to create fertile ecosystems or combination between diverse. OKFest was also unique and right as building upon the synergy and truly collaboration of exiting processes, knowing to share protagonisms and to root locally, and in creating an atmosphere of respect, honesty, tolerance, and welcoming. This welcoming atmosphere is particularly unique and key to accomplish its function, that is not present in other attend to build confluence spaces.
However, I would like to stress one aspect. OKFN/Fest could provide a space for convergence between sectors and actors and help to articulate the open paradigm, as far as it is and provide an example of applying the same paradigm that promote, and as far as it is an example of ethics in working for and in “openness”. The adoption of ICTs and the “open/free” paradigm is not only “shaking” the way in which organize things, but it also “shakes” what is ethic (what is correct and fair, and what is wrong). There is a widespread agreement in the world of open knowledge around the use and promotion of free/open licenses as the minimal conditions for promoting openness. But the type of license (to be an open license, instead of copyright) is a necessary condition, but there are still many aspects that are left aside that have to do with organizational principles and ethics. I would like to bring here the attention to the expression the Copyright of the Copyleft which is being used to refer to the practices based on adopting an open licenses, but under an untransparent, dictatorial, abusive and uncooperative organizational norms and principles. Beyond the promotion of free and open licenses, defining and promoting ethical models in the open paradigm is very important. In this regard, OKFN/Fest has an opportunity to though light on the ambivalence of openness, provide ethical references, and to activate ways to balance it in order that we moves towards the more free, solidarian and justice society side of the potential.
I believe OKFN will be able to do it. So beyond my involvement with OKFN organizing (as part of the advosary board of OKFest 2012, co-organizer of the gender and diversity stream, and member of the spanish chapter), I just donate to their campaign to collect support for their activities. You might want to consider to do so: http://okfn.org/support/