All posts by Gallery 133

My Contribution to Voluntary Arts ‘Our Cultural Commons’ – a Series Of Articles

‘CultureBanked®’ – Our Digital Cultural Commons?

This piece is part of a weekly series of articles curated by Voluntary Arts and authored by cultural thinkers and doers. The series will be published between November 2017 and March 2018. It is being shaped in response to the emerging practice of cultural commoning and as a way of articulating ideas that have arisen in conversations about Our Cultural Commons over the past two years across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Our intention is that the series will help make visible the cultural commons in action and will encourage new approaches to sustaining creative cultural activity in local places. And we hope that the articles and the conversation they stimulate will contribute to the forming of ever more enabling cultural policy.


In a cultural sector which diverges massively around ownership – or simply ignores it – it is interesting that ‘the commons’ is increasingly in the vanguard of conversation. Before you can share though, you have to understand what’s yours and what’s not. My focus in this article is on Digital Cultural Commons. For simplicity, I’m referring here only to artistic production made, stored, distributed or represented digitally.

The objective of (digital) commoning is that content should to be available to all equally – exploitable, but non-exclusive. Starting from a position of giving it all away is not going to lead to a common stock of anything and neither is centralising ownership. Thinking about cultural products as common resources to build from – extensions of the knowledge-based commons – sends some hard-working artists into a miasmic fit of income loss induced panic. So first a few observations about how much we do and don’t own in terms of intellectual property (IP) and what the opportunities are for our digital commons in particular.

tech computers digital

The IP system often claims to respect the ‘rights of authors’ but in fact, little protection or monetisation is possible until the rights we have as authors have been offered up to, usually, a publisher. Twitter, Facebook, Unsplash, etc., like most content management sites, have absolute waivers when it comes to remuneration for, or control of original work. Basically, they assume all rights and insist that authors relinquish them. Even where Creative Commons licenses are used for sharing (e.g., Flickr), commercial sales are not permitted – though links to websites are. Currently, open licences invite capitalistic exploitation without protection. Copyright is arguably a charter for the protection of publishers and owners of rights – rather than for the protection of content creators. But, as creators, we do have power – if we choose to exercise it.

The perception of copyright as a corporate or publishers’ tool for profit also creates a resistance among artists who do not view their original works as appropriate for reproduction, sharing or ‘trade’ worthiness. This reasonable antipathy also bolsters the ‘anti-copyright’ movement, which has found expression in alternative licenses. Not being ‘defined’ by market value alone is important for the arts. At the same time, it’s clear that cultural creativity cannot be separated from the market. At the nub of it, who can afford NOT to profit? At some level, the arts are always reliant on the market for their existence. And yet they fail collectively to retain much of the value they create, resulting in centralisation – and globalisation – of resources. The arts have human value, aesthetically, morally and spiritually. They also create monetary value. Re-connecting the two functions is a goal for digital commoning.

‘CultureBanking’ in the UK, is a response to this need for a re-connection of the moral, spiritual and material imperatives for art and culture. It is also a movement to retain IP and re-connect the market with the commons, ‘banking’ our communal digital rights to re-fund cultural activity in localities and grow capital for future cultural investment. There are parallel initiatives bearing the same name around the world, all of which acknowledge that the way we fund local growth in arts and culture is flawed. In the USA Culturebank aims to create “a new paradigm in financing the arts by re-defining returns on investment”. At Culturebank in Sydney the model is equally re-distributive but uses crowdfunding methods, more akin to the SOUP model, like a modern potlatch system. The aim of ‘CultureBanking’ in the UK is to build locally sourced and rooted ‘banks’ of IP in communities which can hold their own in local national and international markets, channelling investment and income back to a real place with real benefits: Essentially, a Commons Collecting Society. Currently there are few media or market platforms performing this function. By taking control of the assets you create, you’re saying: “We’re here – these are our terms, take them or leave them”. It’s an important message – especially for young people whose ‘digital footprints have farthest to go.

laptop turntable digital

Whilst Creative Commons, CopyLeft, General Public Licenses, CopyFarLeft, Human Commons Licenses and user generated ‘culturebanked®’ commercial peer production licenses all represent attempts to revise the licensing of IP assets in order to create some kind of commons of digital ownership, what we need alongside these is enabling technology in order to put it to use. The development of smart contracts based on distributed digital ledgers such as Blockchain and distributed peer-to-peer initiatives such as Holochain are the beginnings of a decentralised approach that can support a more equitable system – offering artists, arts organisations, creative citizens and corporate rights-holders the possibility of ‘holding common ground’.

As Arthur Brock of Holochain puts it: “An equitable economy requires a composable grammar of the commons”. In addition, by developing processes and creating easily adoptable solutions for artists and arts organisations to take a commons-based approach to their IP, we can regenerate commons-based access to markets.

As we make these changes, there is undoubtedly an ecosystem to protect. The everyday creative things that people do together, the publicly funded arts and the creative industries are what make up the ‘cultural sector’. Upsetting one may upset the whole ecology. But just because we shouldn’t upset something doesn’t mean it is working well. Indeed the ecosystem of cultural creativity is already upset in a few ways. For example, the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) recently quoted a value on the UK cultural sector of £92 Billion (for scale, the amount by which Facebook has grown in a year!). If we compare this to Arts Council England’s planned annual budget for 2018-22 of £622 million and imagined a tax relationship between the two, it would show that the private arts and cultural sector is re-financing its public-sector counterpart at a rate of little more than half a percent (excluding gifts, trusts and endowments)! This leaves over 18% of that £92 billion to find to match the contribution expected of all of UK companies in tax (19%). Something in the region of £17 billion annually, therefore, is ‘missing’. Arguably, this is the current size of an annually accruing debt of the cultural ‘sector’ to its cultural ‘commons’.

motherboard electronics computer digital

Some handling of IP by the BBC also illustrates the extent to which there is, as yet, any substantial move towards supporting cultural commons for creators. Consider, for example, ‘The Voice’, which has broadly followed precisely the same format as purely commercial channels and sold out it’s right to ITV in 2015. A good indication of a ‘commons-led approach’ is whether or not ‘contestants’ create, own and disseminate their own intellectual property. Universally, in these shows, they do not. The IP remains with the show – not the acts – despite the ‘public broadcasting’ remit. A commons-led challenge for the BBC (and other cultural producers) is to commission programmes and platforms featuring new artists who compete to make new IP (the BBC would still own the format) using peer production licences. In this way, the BBC would be helping to create a genuinely diverse cultural economy of new, accessible work and empowering creative markets and communities with real diversity and growth potential.

Empowering culturally creative people to control their assets and re-financing the infrastructure that helped produce them is the cultural commons which many are looking for. What digital cultural commons have too little of are payment gateways to enable this two way relationship between civic roles and voluntary action (production) to happen. By hypothecating the financing of local creative economies using smart contracts and peer-to-peer micropayments to create a commons of digital assets, we can encourage fairer ‘ownership’ and participation in cultural life.

The problems of ‘grass roots’ funding, co-production, local collaboration and inter-sectoral working begin to look more like opportunities too:

At Olympia’s Brand Licensing Fair last year, a stand simply titled; ‘Spain’ was busy promoting its cultural wares. There’s no reason any village, town or city in the UK couldn’t perform the same function – for private gain and for civic benefit. The beauty of digital though, is that this can be done with just a time-stamp, a hash and a license.

Liam Murphy,
CultureBanked®

Liam Murphy

Liam Murphy is a Civic Entrepreneur and Writer who has worked as a gardener, picture framer, artist, book seller – and runs an art gallery in Great Yarmouth! He’s currently transferring his LTD company into a shared art and framing workshop using common stock and facilities and writing a book about the cultural industries. He’s also involved in various local and national cultural initiatives, including What Next? Cultural Education Partnerships and the Gulbenkian Enquiry Into The Civic Role Of Arts Organisations.

CultureBanking provides ‘plug-in’ help for user-led Collective Rights Management to creative communities.
To learn more about or get involved with the project go to the CultureBanking Meetup group.

Our Cultural Commons and How We ‘Bank’ Culture

Retention Of Nutrients
Retention Of Nutrients (Photo Kyle Ellefson) 

A few recent developments:

Voluntary Arts UK have invited me to contribute the final article about #DigitalCommons  for this excellent series about Our Cultural Commons: https://www.voluntaryarts.org/Pages/Category/our-cultural-commons in all sorts of contexts. It’s a really important subject at the moment and may well be a ‘third way’ for lots of places and communities.  Especially pertinent in the wake of the Carillion collapse…!

To further establish Culturebanking® I am working with Kendraio and other local partners to develop some of the open source tools needed for digital asset management and on some proof of concept projects for commons based Community (digital) Rights Management (Culture Banking) here in Norfolk.

There is also a Meetup group for anyone interested in being involved.

All best,

LM

The Gulbenkian Enquiry and upcoming Gallery133 Activity

Phase one of the enquiry, along with consultations on phase two will be published on the 10th July.

Building the local cultural economy.
Building the local cultural economy.

Gallery133 is devising a workshop to follow on from it’s asset mapping and location work in Lowestoft and Yarmouth. The workshop is planned to take place in September and will be available to artists and arts professionals. We will be covering areas such as arts based regeneration, cultural planning and ‘growing the cultural economy’. Speakers and those wanting to attend are invited to contact Gallery133 at mail@gallery133.net

More details to follow.

CultureBanking… Worth getting curious about?

Building the local cultural economy.
Building the local cultural economy.

Where public services are struggling in towns, cities and rural areas of the greatest social deprivation, the existence of market-driven environments are often even harder to establish and less central to the existing culture of those areas. Problems derived from economic stagnation such as de-motivation, lowered expectations and passivity mean that stimulating economic activity – and cultural economic activity in particular – is especially difficult. Harnessing and growing local communities’ enthusiasms, craft skills and innovation is more and more essential – especially ‘post Brexit’.

Arts organisations and individuals are finding themselves in often foreign environments where they are being asked to demonstrate commercial viability and to become almost entirely self funding – or perish – particularly those who relied on Local Authorities. (See #CivicRoleArts in January 2017 for results of the Gulbenkian Enquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Orgs, which Gallery 133 has contributed to)

Even in the state run NPO environment, there is a trend towards using public money to leverage private investment. There is a need on a local, national and international basis for new mechanisms which encourage a more ‘market – driven’ environment in the cultural sector, but one which doesn’t crush small and local endeavours. CultureBank is precisely such a mechanism…

Solutions

A proposed mixture of online magazine and and guided donation website, crowd-funder, Collective Rights Management and ‘imprinted brand'; CultureBanking aims to act as a ‘route to market’ to value, support and ultimately re-cycle the cultural output of communities for spiritual, emotional, social and financial improvement and sustainability. 

A ‘local label’ that can trade globally:

We aim to help build local integrated thriving economies – where trade is a mechanism of connecting people and countering isolation. The idea is based on a combination of a gift-exchanging business models and asset based community development. 

Relying upon and working with FinTech developers in the areas of smart contracts and Distributed Ledger Technologies, Gallery133 is working in 2017 on elements of the business with a phased ‘Feasibility/Scoping, Testing and future Launch proposed…

By building connections between cultural producers and innovators and their fans, patrons, audiences or more prosaically, ‘consumers’ or ‘markets’, CultureBanking is inviting potential users to direct their cultural spending not just towards cultural products they enjoy (film, music, books, theatre etc) but also towards changes they want to see in the world  – both locally and nationally. 

We’re organising 3 focus sessions with local arts organisations in order to make sure the research and development comes directly from real needs amongst local artists, musicians and makers (Please see below for registering an interest in these sessions).

G133 is currently reserving IP rights and researching how CB might work across different medias from crafts to music to film and digital technology…

We are talking to potential partners and investors in all sectors and are especially interested in the potential for Action Research projects in UK Universities…

We’re also interested in working with arts organisations and companies from Fintech, IP legal, accounting and ‘Ap’ software development areas. if you would like to know more about CultureBanking, find out how it could benefit you or would like to sign up to a mailing list to receive updates about it’s future development, or possibly attend one of our focus sessions – please go to: gallery133.net and fill in the contact form details. There is also a Facebook page for Gallery133 and @thegallery133 Twitter account where you can leave any comments or queries.

To discuss any matters in particular, please use:  mail@gallery133.net

Liam Murphy.

Director

Gallery133

What Next?

What Next? Yarmouth and Lowestoft Chapter will be convening a  meeting towards the end of September/early October (TBC) as a follow-up to our consultation meeting with John Knell last year about the ongoing development of a Great Yarmouth Arts Strategy. The session is being organised on behalf of Great Yarmouth Borough Council and What Next? will be operating as a consulting partner to assess the ongoing needs of artists and all in the creative and cultural sector in the area. Invitations will be sent out once a date has been decided but anyone interested in attending can contact: mail@gallery133.net to reserve a place.

All best,

Liam Murphy.

Thought Leadership (Around The Bench)

Or ‘One Good Course Deserves Another’

Poducts Of Framing Workshop

Thought Leadership, Returns On Investment, John Betjeman, Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden (and an host of artists worthy of review); McKinsey’s Management Consultancy,, the need to ‘draw it first!’ and some wonderful anecdotes about the rich and reputed. These have all been subjects of conversation ‘around the bench’ whilst working with Simon Pell on Gallery133’s Picture Framing Course. Simon, it transpires, is the Pell of ‘Pell and Bales’ fundraisers, the highest value fundraiser the UK has produced, as he points out with justifiable pride, although at pains to distance himself from the present incarnation of the company he sold some years ago but had built from the kitchen table upwards. This chimes strongly with me as we discuss our previous and ongoing business creations, adventures in solo child rearing, several artists and those anecdotes.

Simon came on the Picture Framing Course to help him re-invigorate a modest but interesting collection of assembled artworks, prints and ephemera accumulated whilst running a business, raising children and broadly having some fascinating experiences which I was afforded the pleasure of hearing about over our six days together in the Gallery133 workshop: ‘Bench-talk’ you might say. Our conversation was ‘framed’ – pardon the pun – as I’d been meditating on some enduring themes whilst reflecting on my previous two years of trying to invent and grow Gallery133:

‘What if people could do (or help others to do) stuff they need to do without seeking external ‘funding’ and learn to do this by creating (sharing) wealth  (capacity) instead of emphasising or demonstrating their – or others – disadvantages to ‘get on’?’… (A bit of a mouth-full I know).

’Charity wounds’ goes the maxim and a year battling to invent a business in Yarmouth convinced me of it’s truth. ’’CultureBanking’ is my response to the problems it can proliferate. It wasn’t until I met Simon that I learned what I was doing in the language of the marketeer: Thought Leadership – apparently! This sounds good, I do the web search to see what it could mean for CultureBanking.

Here’s the Wiki reference for anyone who’s interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_leader. It tells us: “The Oxford English Dictionary gives as its first citation for the phrase an 1887 description of Henry Ward Beecher as “one of the great thought-leaders in America.” It was revived or reinvented by marketers in the 1980s. In a 1990 article in the Wall Street Journal Marketing section, Patrick Reilly used the term “thought leader publications” to refer to such magazines as Harper’s”. David Brooks wrote a satirical piece in the New York Times which is also entertaining – here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/opinion/brooks-the-thought-leader.html?hpw&rref=opinion&_r=1

It would be edifying to think that I could emulate the proclivities of the pilloried as a:

“ …highflying, good-doing yacht-to-yacht concept peddler. Each year, (I would get) to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative, where successful people gather to express compassion for those not invited.”

Succinctly put. But having spent much of the last 20 years as a single parent living in a string of ‘social houses’ whilst managing on a single person’s state allowance and working in the burgeoning ‘grey economy’, I decide ‘Thought Leadership’ IS for me. At 47, I am due my Gap Yar in South America and my college application definitely should say: “I Went to Panama (Great Yarmouth?) to Teach the Natives About Math (Art) but They Ended Up Teaching Me About Life” !

I do actually have a college application to write. Its for the MA in Creative Entrepreneurship at the University of East Anglia. I was invited to apply by Ian Chance, the course Director who, after our long telephone conversation, and to my great excitement, has some enthusiasm for the idea of ‘CultureBanking’. I’ll let you know what the application says when I’ve written it – wish me luck? Judging by the list of Alumni and guest speakers, I hope to be in good company again.  Thanks Simon.  It was a real pleasure sharing a bench.  Amazing what can come from of an ‘umble picture framing course!

 

Seeking New Opportunities...

From Islington to Yarmouth With Love: A Report from What Next? Central

What Next? (Yarmouth and Lowestoft)

Fresh back from a whistle stop trip to Saddler’s Wells yesterday for a meeting of the What Next? regional groups, here’s just a taster of the inspirational stories, ventures and ideas currently fomenting:

Together we can turn Yarmouth and Lowestoft into Islington! (joke).

A Growing Movement:

WN? Sunderland reported early attendances of around 80 people – all meeting in a local record store! The massive response shows how much enthusiasm and talent is out there. WN? Cardiff talked about the recent successful ‘Cardiff Without Culture?’ campaign which received 2.5 million impressions and restored the local authority’s proposed cuts to Cultural Services. WN? Sheffield has been taking practical action in the form of the sheffieldcreativeguild.com using methods like http://www.timebanking.org/ amongst others to grow local creative economies. Well worthy of a glance for Creatives here on the easternmost side of East Anglia… 

Whilst WN? is not seeking to grow exponentially, it will be seeking finance to create a supporting role to encourage capacity in local groups. This could be fund-raising support, advice or networking but will ultimately enable local chapters to grow in the ways we need to. Generating new kinds of activity, business-models, trading initiatives and new ways of working across a variety of civic functions all need to be supported and encouraged.

Culture and Civics:

On the subject of ‘civic functions’, What Next? is soon to launch it’s consultation partnership led by Calouste Gulbenkian (UK) into the Civic Role of Art and Culture: Questions like: What is it? What can it be? What are good examples of it in practice? How should we grow it? abide. There will be some funding available to choose examples from around the regions of how arts and culture are being used (or not) for civic functions. This could be an opportunity for Yarmouth and Lowestoft to look into new – and old –  ideas like guilds and creative networks, ‘time banking’, #culturebanking and new virtual ways that arts and cultural work can help to fulfil ‘civic functions’ and increase opportunity, inclusivity and participation. There is £40,000 available to facilitate WN’s involvement. WN? Yarmouth and Lowestoft will form part of the reference group on this enquiry.

Not All Talk: Get Involved?

There’s also opportunities for groups in the regions to generate activity around these ideas and to finance new initiatives. Come along to the next WN? meeting and help make a plan for action…? 

Currently, the admin time allowed for managing WN? is about 4 hours a week and none of this work is financed. What Next? (Yarmouth and Lowestoft) is seeking help from local arts organisations and individuals who can help with things like minor admin tasks, taking minutes (not usually essential), providing meeting venues and generally growing arts and culture opportunities in the area – and we also want to hear from artists, business owners, professionals and creatives who’d like to come to a meeting and talk about what they do – or want to do! – to other like-minded folk…

What Next? aims to be about promoting arts and culture through ‘building unlikely alliances’ – so it’s really important to spread the message and join up with as wide a variety of other interests as possible. Please share…!

I look forward to meeting you at a WN? event soon…

Liam Murphy

Chair WN? Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

mail@gallery133.net

http://www.whatnextnorfolk.org.uk – ‘sister’ group meeting weekly in Norwich

http://www.whatnextculture.co.uk – National Site.

The Arts Funding Debate (again)

#culturebanking 

Ever come across a surprisingly large organisation which simply falls apart due to financial mis-management?

Naming no names, there are particular, largely public sector financial conventions which consistently lead to the wasting and mis-management of money. Probably the most widespread is the government auditing led practice of ‘spend to save’. We all know this and most have individual anecdotes. I’m talking about the time honoured tradition in which government departments (it happens across the European Community too) make ill-planned and sometimes vast transfers of cash to the first recipient who can most easily receive it on the basis that if the money allocated is not spent in the current financial year, it will mean a reduction in the following years budget. The ongoing effect of these ill timed payments (they happen more often than anyone would want to admit) is not only poor strategic use of the investment but often the hamstringing of good work which the recipient was carrying out under greater pressures brought on by the responsibility of spending millions of pounds on some hastily invented projects which become financial millstones hindering core services rather than helping. Rewards are for wasting money and not saving it.

This system of government and local authority financing has found a natural antidote, all be it not a desirable one in everyone’s books with privatisation of functions, but this doesn’t always address the problem as contracts are allocated and funded in much the same way to private tendered companies as they were previously.

In considering the real machinations of financing specific government and LA functions, we are really evaluating those areas of service delivery and governance which might lend themselves to being financed in an alternative way and those which demand only the accountability which being under the direct control of an elected chamber can offer.

We could all make our own lists of which might be which – and why not? Here’s a quick ‘back of a beermat’ effort:

‘Out-sourced': Bins, Roads, Maintenance Works, Property Management, Tourism and Leisure.

‘Direct government funded and direct accountability': Police, Treasury, Children’s Services,  Planning, Social Services.

Ok – that’ll do. Some may not be black and white – but you get the gist. It’s at this point – and you see it clearly by looking at all local authorities with under £20 Million annual budgets: ‘Arts and Culture’ probably doesn’t even warrant it’s own officer or department.

Compounding this, the Tory government has favoured directing available funding towards the Arts Council and away from local authorities to and so we are hearing a plethora of ‘initiatives’ from that direction aimed at ‘democratising’ arts and culture. ’64 Million Artists’ is one such venture, whereby consultants are hired to approach the Arts Councils’ crop of chosen ‘providers’ in order to ‘explore’ ways of ‘reaching out’ to the ‘grass roots’ of ‘arts and culture’ in our regions. Pardon the over use of inverted commas but the language is so taken for granted and over used – they are needed.

The result of this preference for arts-specialist funding over local authority (ie non art-form specific community based funding) is to raise the status and the scope of many of our National Portfolio Organisations who are and always have been chiefly arts organisations to ‘arts organisations with service level agreements’ on behalf of local authorities who have little or no function or funding left for arts and culture.

In light of these developments, where you decide to put your ‘arts and culture’ offer in our two lists seems less problematic: It sounds like it’s being (like it or not) farmed out to the Arts Council – so we’ll bung it in the ‘Out-sourced’ category. Except the Arts Council is hardly a risk taking, innovative private sector led organisation. It’s basically entirely reliant on public money. But you have to fund arts if you want quality arts provision don’t you? And isn’t that what the Arts Council does? So, whats the problem..?

Well, the problem is the Arts Council has no grass roots. it’s a very large tree, with a wide drip-line, under which there are many many febrile roots reaching out to the widest tips of its branches, but nothing else grows underneath it. There is no lawn of interconnected grass roots which will grow as one whilst being independent and ‘diverse’. If you cut the tree down, it will not grow back, as grass roots do. But you might get some interesting grasses developing….

So what’s #culturebanking and what does it have to do with all this……?