Tag Archive: cultural environmentalism

Thinking through media ecologies

On e²mc we’re thinking through the various meanings of “media ecology.”

The first, chronologically, is the medium theory of Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, and others — sometimes called the Toronto School of communication theory. Neil Postman’s “New York school” can be considered a more critical and pessimistic adjunct to this tradition.

As a second tradition I’ve lumped together View full article »

Thanks to Mediacology for sharing this presentation on “Green Culture” by Lawrence Lessig from the recent Green Festival in Seattle. Lessig is the guru of the creative commons movement, and his talk, on what he calls “cultural environmentalism,” is really on media ecology, i.e. the “ecology” of cultural production and creativity, and especially on the differences between the “read-only culture” of contemporary copyright law and the “read-write” and “remix” cultures that an open and democratic public sphere should be making possible today. But since he’s talking to an audience of environmentalists, he makes some pointed references to global warming and the (non-existent) state of regulatory law surrounding it, as compared to the draconian regulations surrounding copyright. (Although he’s a bit grumpy about it, I love the clip of the “cheat offsetters” who, like carbon offsetters, are developing an emerging market in trading the right to cheat on one’s spouse.)

The lecture, if we can call it that, is a brilliant example of Lessig’s famous (infamous?) Power Point presentation style (which I’ve tried emulating occasionally, and which is a hell of a lot of work — we need better software for it), and is one of the most entertaining lectures I’ve ever sat through. Interestingly, Lessig posits Aldous Huxley (who I’ve discussed a couple of times here before) and John Philip Sousa, of all people, as predecessors of the cultural commons. But where Sousa had defended “young people” getting together “singing the songs of their day” against the consumerist media culture that was rising in his time, Lessig defends on-line remixers, Anime music video makers, and others — he shows us some excellent and entertaining examples of all of these — against the vested interests constraining cultural creativity today.

The increasing cross-breeding between environmentalism (of the old, new, and open varieties) and the free culture/open source movement is, to my mind, one of the points of light on the horizon — a harbinger, I hope, of the “liberation ecology” that would bring cultural, media, democracy, and ecology activists into sync in issues and struggles around the world.