Thursday, September 13, 2012

What is culture?

What is culture?  From the Oracle:

Culture (Latin: cultura, lit. "cultivation") is a modern concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator, Cicero: "cultura animi". The term "culture" appeared first in its current sense in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, to connote a process of cultivation or improvement, as in agriculture or horticulture. In the 19th century, the term developed to refer first to the betterment or refinement of the individual, especially through education, and then to the fulfillment of national aspirations or ideals. In the mid-19th century, some scientists used the term "culture" to refer to a universal human capacity. For the German nonpositivist sociologist Georg Simmel, culture referred to "the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history".

I rather like the "universal human capacity" angle.  I think of the internet as the utlimate (so far) enabler of human capacity.  The question we are asking these days is, should this capacity only ever be directly monetized, or should the exchange of information be free?

In the first model, the human capacity that is paid for is a one way street.  That is, the "artist" (meaning person who calls himself an artist) receives money, every time, every time somebody looks at (downloads) their art.  The person receiving the art is not considered a beneficiary, but only a consumer.

Because who benefits from art?  Should the artist be the only person who benefits?

If you insist on a per-download fee, what you are in effect saying is that art should be rationed.  It's too precious and amazing to just give away.

But the end result is clear--less art for you. Less culture for you.  You must pay for your culture.  You must pay cash money for your human capacity.

How often in your life has your human capacity been increased by spending money?

The other alternative is that art is exchanged freely between all artists--everyone is an artist.

Which way do you think is better?


  1. I don't think it's fair to express it as a binary choice.

    I am an artist. I give my work away for free on the internet almost every day.

    I expect to make money from my work from people who like it enough that they want to support it (or me. By supporting me, they support my ability to create more art).

    You cannot copy authenticity, either. I am hoping that it is a basic human desire to own something "authentic". So, there may be a million copies of one of my images floating around, but there will only ever be one that I signed for you.

  2. I think the binary choice I represent is between forced compensation, and voluntary.

    Or at least that's what I intended. I take full responsibility for any poorly expressed thoughts. :-)