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Experts and Citizens Discuss ‘Free Culture’ in Quito, Ecuador

Different participants and more than 20 speakers met for two days at the Second International Congress on Free Culture in Quito, Ecuador to talk about free culture and its relationship with education and different forms of cultural expression.

As a Unesco newsletter explains [es], from its office in Quito, the idea of the event –organized by Flacso [es], Unesco [es], and Radialistas [es] – was to create “a space for the debate and exchange of experiences regarding universal access to knowledge, artistic and cultural creation, the administration of culture, the use of free and open technology, collective production, open access to scientific work, the use of alternative licenses, new teaching models, and the benefits for the people”.

Among the speakers were: Cristóbal Cobo, from the University of Oxford (England); Jorge Gemetto and Mariana Fossatti, from Ártica Centro Cultural 2.0 [es] (Ártica Cultural Center 2.0) (Uruguay); Jorge David García, from the Colectivo Ruido 13 [es] (Mexico); Leonardo Foletto, from the Casa de Cultura Digital (House of Digital Culture) [pt] (Brazil); Fernando Ariel López, from the Red de Bibliotecas Virtuales CLACSO [es] (Network of Virtual Libraries CLACSO) (Argentina); Valeria Betancourt, from APC [es] (Association for the Progress of Communication) (Ecuador); Carlos Correa, from Creative Commons [es] (Ecuador), and the Colectivo Hacktivistas (Hacktivists Collective), among others.

This is the promotional video for the congress that Radialistas [es] shared on YouTube [es]:

The event began with various expectations on the morning of Thursday, May 30, 2013. After the official words of inauguration from representatives of the organizing institutions, it was time for the first conference: “Public Administration of Culture in the Digital Era” [es]. It was led by Jorge Gemetto and Mariana Fossatti from Ártica Cultural Center 2.0, a Uruguayan organization working to give actors in the cultural sector tools to develop themselves in the setting of the new digital culture.

In a post [es] on Ártica, Mariana explained her contribution:

Hablamos de las prácticas culturales en tiempos digitales, de diferentes paradigmas de políticas públicas culturales que entran en tensión y de posibles acciones de gestión pública para garantizar el acceso a la cultura a través de las nuevas tecnologías.

We talked about cultural practices in the digital age, about different paradigms of cultural public policies that come into tension, and about possible public administration actions that could be taken to guarantee the access to culture by way of the new technologies.

Three parallel panels then followed: “Intellectual Property and Free Culture”, “Free Artistic and Cultural Initiatives”, and “Culture, Design, Music, and Audiovisuals with Free Hardware and Software”, with the participation of different speakers for each panel. After the midday break, there were three discussions, also parallel: “Artistic Project in Copyleft”, “Art and Crowdfunding”, and “New Business Models and Abilities and their Relationship with Free Culture”.

The first day closed with the conference “Creation and Cultural Diffusion in the era of ICT” [es], led by Leonardo Foletto from the House of Digital Culture in Brazil. It focused on projects and workshops related to cultural journalism, digital culture, copyleft, digital activism, blogs and digital theater. In an interview published later by the Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio, Leonardo declares:

Hoy, el autor no es más un genio con una gran idea que se queda sentado solito en su cuarto. Internet nos muestra que las ideas surgen a partir de otras ideas. El autor de hoy es más un compilador. Los DJ o los músicos que combinan varias cosas para hacer otras cosas son autores increíbles porque muestran el proceso por el cual atraviesan. Ahora Internet muestra ese proceso de creación.
Today, authors are no longer geniuses with great ideas who sit alone in their rooms. The Internet shows us that ideas come about from other ideas. Today's author is more of a compiler. The DJs or musicians who combine various things to make other things are incredible authors because they show the process that they go through. Now the Internet shows that creative process.

The complete program of the first day can be found on the event's webpage [es], and a compilation of tweets can be seen on a Storify [es] made by Francisca de la Torre [es].

Congreso Cultura Libre

On Friday, May 31, the second day began with two conferences. The first was “Constructing the Country from Just and Supportive Knowledge” led by Augusto Espinosa, the Minister of Education of Ecuador. The second: “Why is it Important for Education to be Open?” [es], was led by Cristóbal Cobo, an Associate Researcher at the Internet Institute of the University of Oxford, where he coordinates studies on education, innovation, learning, and the future of the Internet.

In a bulletin on the Congress's official page, Clara Robayo comments [es] that Cristóbal Cobo's conference focused on three fundamental ideas: creation, distribution and consumption. Clara adds:

Afirmó que la creación es una competencia fundamental del siglo 21. Resaltó la importancia de la creación colectiva, así dijo que hay herramientas tecnológicas que nos permiten pasar del individuo a [la] comunidad. [...] Cristobal Cobo terminó su intervención con la frese: “necesitamos menos copyright y más right to copy porque el conocimiento abierto [es el] combustible del siglo XXI. ”

He affirmed that creation is a fundamental ability of the 21st century. He emphasized the importance of collective creation, saying that there are technological tools that allow us to go from the individual to [the] community. [...] Cristobal Cobo ended his contribution with the phrase: “we need less copyright and more right to copy because open knowledge [is the] fuel of the 21st century. ”

Cristóbal Cobo himself later wrote [es] on his blog that he loved hearing a Minister of Education talk about human development, scientific research, and the encouragement of innovation, and he added:

la adopción de estrategias de acceso abierto no son otra cosa que aceleradores de transferencia de conocimiento que generan condiciones más propicias para favorecer innovación entre diferentes sectores productivos. Sin duda que la educación formal y el aprendizaje en general han de jugar un papel clave en esta apuesta.

the adoption of open access strategies are nothing but accelerators for the transfer of knowledge that create more favorable conditions to help innovation among different productive sectors. Without a doubt, formal education and learning in general must play a key role in this bet.

After these conferences there was a session of three parallel panels: “Libraries and Archives: Open Access”, “New Teaching Models”, and “Free Software and Education”, and three other discussions, again parallel: “Free Access to Scientific Information”, Movement of Universities to Free Software”, and “Early Education with the New Teaching Methods”.

The event closed with a panel discussion, including Daniel Vázquez from ALABS, Antonio Pardo from the Hacktivist Collective, Carlos Correa from Creative Commons EC who is also an activist with #LoxaEsMás: Hackeando la Democracia [es] (Loja is More, Hacking Democracy), and Valeria Betancourt from the Association for the Progress of Communication (APC). On another bulletin on the official page of the Congress, they summarize [es] each participation briefly.

Valeria Betancourt underlined the importance of free culture along with free Internet:

afirmó que en la actualidad hay un déficit de la participación de la sociedad civil. Ejemplificó que ya hay intentos de criminalización de la libertad de expresión en Internet a través de legislaciones, utilizó como ejemplos el TPP. Ésta puede ser mucha más peligrosa que la SOPA, PIPA y ACTA. Son leyes poco proporcionales. Resaltó la importancia de modelos activos de participación de la ciudadanía.

she affirmed that currently there is a lack of civil society participation. She showed that there are attempts to criminalize the freedom of expression on the Internet through legislation. She used as an example the TPP. It could be much more dangerous than SOPA, PIPA and ACTA. They are not very proportional laws. She emphasized the importance of active models of citizen participation.

Daniel Vázquez gave the context of the Spanish situation and initiatives like the Hackmeetings [es]:

Personas que se reúnen para discutir de software, hardware y política. Empiezan a crear “hacklabs”. Todo esto hace que se generen movimientos como el 15m. Ésto ilustró la importancia de las nuevas tecnologías en las decisiones políticas, pues permiten romper los monopolios. Aparecen nuevos actores como ciudadanos que se reúnen puntualmente para ejecutar acciones

People who get together to discuss software, hardware and politics. They begin to create “hacklabs”. All of this leads to movements like the 15-M being created. This illustrated the importance of the new technologies in political decisions, since they allow the monopolies to be broken. New actors appear, such as citizens who get together occasionally to carry out actions

Carlos Correa talked about his initiative Loxa es más [es] (Loja is more):

[la] iniciativa reunió a un grupo de personas para que participen activamente con actitud proactiva en la construcción de una nueva ciudad. Habló de la importancia de la veeduría ciudadana, pues las autoridades le deben cuentas a la quienes le dieron su voto. Afirmó que la agenda política debe venir de los ciudadanos. Resaltó que el activismo no debe quedarse sólo de las redes sociales, sino salir a las calles.

[the] initiative brought together a group of people so they could actively participate with a proactive attitude in the construction of a new city. It talked about the importance of the citizen watchdog, since the authorities owe things to those who gave them their vote. It affirmed that the political agenda should come from the citizens. It underlined that activism should not stay only on social networks, but it should also go out into the streets.

Antonio Pardo explained that the Hacktivists Collective works with topics of anonymity, online neutrality, and digital rights:

Pues [las redes sociales] son lugares en donde se comparte contenido que después nos lo roban. Entra información que no sale. Redes libres con Software Libre en cambio promueven todo lo contrario, se envían mensajes entre servidores y no dentro de sólo uno. En el debate resaltó la importancia de protocolos libres y redes libres.

Well [social networks] are places where content is shared that they then rob from us. Information enters that does not leave. Free networks with Free Software, on the other hand, promote just the opposite: messages are sent between servers, not just inside of only one. In the debate, the importance of free protocols and free networks was emphasized.

The complete agenda of the second day is available on the the official webpage of the Congress [es]. Also, on the same page you can find videos [es] of the event conferences and some interviews [es] with the speakers.

The comments on Twitter can still be found under the tag #congresocl.

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