Free Bitflows

In early June 2004 a digital culture event was be held in Vienna to examine the theories and practices for making new cultures of access viable.

The problem is clear, but not the solution. As some means of production are becoming as cheap as to be practically freely accessible (last year's computer equipment, software, basic Internet access), a new question confronts independent cultural producers: "how can we organize access to cultural works to match the new freedom of production?"

The Internet came with a promise that 'everybody can be a publisher'. Although not everybody wants to be a publisher, those who actually do, find it very hard to make it work. As it turns out, this promise is only true in an extremely limited, technical sense. While, yes, I can set up a website, or put my song on Kazaa, but what next? The problem becomes not so much technical as social- there is lots of sharing, but little in terms of making a living. Money remains squarely in the hands of the old industry.

The issue of distribution is not just an economic question. It's also a political one. At stake is the "semiotic democracy", that is the ability of the largest number of people to create and share culture freely, and it is about making sure that in the context of overabundance and heavy-hitting marketing machines, new, independent content can still find its audience. In short, the question is how do innovative production and distribution come together to support each other. Free Software seems to have found a way to do just that, but what about the rest of cultural production?