Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


For over a year now, I've been taking photographs of people and posting them on Flickr with the "freesouls" tag. I thought it was my duty to free the souls of my friends for projects like Wikipedia and other free content projects. I blogged about this earlier. The word "freesouls" was actually a Lawrence Lessig idea.

At Wikimania in 2007 in Taiwan, I met Sophie Chiang who was the founder and editor of a super-cool art magazine and Christopher Adams, who was a writer. It was really beautiful. Having been struggling with printing myself at the time and considering the business models of CC books, I suggested to Christopher the idea of doing a CC photography book.

He liked the idea and as we noodled on it a bit, we decided it would be the most simple if we used my photographs to make a sort of proof-of-concept book and then invite other photographers to do something similar later.

As we worked on this project, we became more and more ambitious. Luckily, Christopher is also quite a hacker and we were able to use Socialtext, Flickr and Google Docs to efficiently manage the book editing process. Christopher even wrote a python script using the Flickr API to manage the images and categories for the book.

Christopher's designers are nearly done and we are getting ready to organize the final proof reading and plan printing.

The book includes essays from Lawrence Lessig, Howard Rheingold, Yochai Benkler, Isaac Mao, Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Liang and Marko Ahtisaari.

Here is an excerpt from Lessig's forward to the book:

Joi Ito has been at the center of critical movements to make technology, and creative freedom, available widely. He loves his profession, and he does it well. Mornings for him do not begin with the regret of who he couldn't be.

But his success in these fields has also given him an understanding of the people in these fields. In the twenty-some years of his work, he has come to know the people of these industries (both commercial and non-profit) well. They are his friends (Ito has no enemies). He engages them as a friend, always concerned and giving, never short or impatient. He understands them by learning to see them in a certain way. He engages them with the love of friendship by learning to see them in the most beautiful, or distinctive way, possible.

Digital technologies have now given us a way to see just how Joi sees the world. By lowering the cost of access and practice, the technologies have allowed Ito to become an accomplished amateur photographer. But 'accomplished' in this context means that he has learned how to capture the person he sees. And unlike the professional photographer, who ordinarily has 10 minutes to come to 'know' the person he photographs, Ito has had his whole professional career. He knows the people in this book. He has come to see them in their most beautiful, or extraordinary light, and he has perfected an ability to capture what he sees, and share it with all of us.


We are going to release the book in 3 editions: a boxed set, a limited and numbered edition and a general release. One or all of these will be available on Amazon starting in the fall. We're also going to be releasing pieces of the book online over a period of time in various formats and forms. We are also working on trying to make the whole process as carbon-neutral as possible.

We're planning on only making 50 boxed sets so if you're interested in getting one, please email chris at as soon as possible.

Finally, we would love to have a few volunteers to proofread the book. Also email Christopher if you're interested in helping.

If you're interested in being notified when the book comes out, please sign up on the page.

Although we're not done yet... Thanks to Christopher and his team, my assistants lead by Mika who had to deal with all of the model releases, Pat for help with the SF photo shoot, the people who contributed essays and all of the subjects who helped make this book much more free by signing model release forms.

Apologies to all of my important friend who don't appear in the book. We chose a limited number of images based on their quality and a lot of people who should appear in the book don't. I think we're going to have to do another addition. Apologies to people who didn't get their favorite version or image in the book. I let the Christopher and the designers make the final call on the choice of images in order to allow them to have more control of the tone of the design.

Of course, the book as well as the images will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license with model release from the subjects.

I hope you enjoy the book when it comes out. I'll keep you all posted on the final stages on my blog.


oh hellz yeah. what a great project!

Wow. Really looking forward to it. Thank You.

Congratulations. I can't wait to see how it all comes out.

This is amazing and inspiring!

Congratulations! I am really looking forward to it, too.
I would be the last person to make it on the book especially because every time I see Joi is right before I get haircut ;-) , but I really feel honored having that tag on your flickr! :-)
Oh, BTW. my freesould ID is 771765154
(i.e. )

I'd like to know if you consider this freesouls tagging a personal project or is anybody free to contribute on Flickr using the same principles?

I think "freesouls" is a beautiful word. I hope it gets used more, and well!

Thanks, Joi! I'm a huge fan of your work!

Everyone should feel free to use the freesouls tags on any portraits that are CC licensed. ;-)

Congrats! Looking forward to seeing it. :)

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