Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Gilberto Gil
This photo is actually one that I took at the CC Birthday Party

I'm at Google Zeitgeist and just got a copy of the talk that Gilberto Gil gave. (Thanks Claudio!)

I wish we had such a cool, smart and articulate Minister of Culture.


Since 2003, when I took office as Minister of Culture of Brazil, we have been looking into Digital Technologies as cultural phenomena.

We, at the ministry, have insisted on the strategic role of culture in policy making. This has obliged us to change radically the way to conceive of Politics, State, Society specially in relation to digital technology.

In politics and especially in governments, radical changes are only possible at specific historical moments. Through the insertion of Culture and cultural diversity as a policy making device in the political and managerial governmental equation, we offer society the oppotunity to achieve radical change, step by step, using the day to day inputs of new industrial and social technologies, without the earth quaques of classical revolutionary action. If we look at the new digital possibilities we could easily conclude that they bring a built-in revolutionary device in them selves. Digital Culture initiatives, can play a fundamental role in shaking away the inertia of the traditional politics that has secluded society from public life, generating a vacuum of critical political thinking and even producing cynicism, especially in governmental sectors. We need to aknowledge that traditional politics is failing in advancing democracy and social development.
The conversion of the digital technologies, has created around the Internet a totally peaceful revolution. A bottom up unrest, happening everywhere, which I see as a very positive sign of the rising of a non governmental political movement that I believe to be a direct and matured result of cultural and countercultural movements of our most recent history, in their increasing power to influence public policies.

It is the rise of a peer to peer culture. Peeracy!

What I see in Brazil and in many cuntries, is that these new contemporary political movements don't come from traditional politics. They don't depend totally on representative democracy anymore. On the contrary, they operate outside the electoral system and influence it to some degree. People are more and more eager to engage in politics in a new and proactive way. It seems to me that this collective unrest that can only be met by governments if they really understand the cultural diversity issues and peer to peer actions, and it's implications in the new model of development for the 21st century.


The 21st century technologies represent a huge challenge to regulations. The revolution generated by the convergence of digital technologies obliges us to reinvent the way we do almost everything. I believe that anybody with public responsibility should look into the digital distribution of Intellectual Property as the most direct and powerful way of democratizing knowledge in the history of mankind. But instead we see almost every formal institution insisting on bluntly calling the digital distribution "Piracy".

We should rather be looking at new business's models... and into a burst of freshness in the political regulatory analysis.

The work I have witnessed with the idea and practice of Digital Culture in the Ministry shows us that it is possible to have another form of consonance, somehow radical, I would even say, a "symbiosis" of the State with the civil society.

Many corporations and governments all over the world have positioned themselves conservatively and are trying to block the advance of these digital new possibilities. Every technical revolution creates a reaction like that. Digital distribution of intellectual property, if seen from the analogical perspective, represents a threat to business, security problems and a loss of social control. These perceptions are but momentary setbacks which shall soon be resolved. However, we must be ever vigilant as digital technology, like any other technology, can be used against individuals and society's interests.
That's why I am sure we have not only to humanize, but also politicize these technologies, which means thoroughly discuss them and make them available to society and every citizen. Regulations should be there to insure freedom and open access to knowledge, not just for "business as usual" purposes.

I want to quote my friend Lawrence Lessig, a great contemporaneous thinker and activist; in his book CODE 2.0, he points out to the necessity of new forms of regulation to guarantee the new forms of freedom and human connectivity. Lessig defends the necessity of the presence of the state to guarantee that the internet survives into maturity with its radical social-innovation potential fully in place. For that (he points out) we have to discuss a new political understanding of governance. That if we want to guarantee the collective and emancipating existence of cyberspace, we need to come up with a brand new regulatory framework of thoughts otherwise these libertarian possibilities created by digital technologies will be amputated.

We have brought digital multimedia studios and access to the internet (peer to peer culture) to about 700 hundred grassroots communities all over Brazil.

Today, in Brazil we have traditional communities recording and publishing in the internet their songs or videotaping their work and culture. This burst of fresh air is unchaining new vital ideas, new innovative productions, generating a real empowerment process of an emerging creative society. This process is encouraging and inducing the formation of a network of new cultural multimedia producers in Brazil, a network which will soon be consolidated into a new generation of authors and artists.

This experience with digital technologies in the Pontos de Cultura, the Hotspots, made possible a symbolic exercise, a dialogue between socio-cultural grassroots communities with digital new concepts and contemporary languages. This very rich process begins when the communities, the new cultural producers, start networking and, by doing so, engage in a process of autonomy, free from government or any other control. The transformation starts when the kids in the communities recognize the digital technological devices as cultural performance tools, as a source of diversified references, as a platform for esthetic creation and re-symbolization of their experiences. In other words, social change starts when they understand cyberspace as a territory of their own, when they understand uploading before they ever heard of downloading when they start publishing. This is the exact moment when empowerment takes place. 
Sheer magic!
I want to invite you all to come to Brazil next year to discuss these issues. We will be joining efforts with many institutions both governmental and from civil society as well as companies to thoroughly look into the perspectives of these new digital realities.

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