Bookmarked Sp’ákw’us: ways of seeing
As part of the course, we are invited to articulate takeaways and giveaways, naming the gifts received and how we will offer gifts as a result. This cycle of reciprocity is essential.

Juxtaposing takeaways and giveaways, as Chris Corrigan relates here, strikes me as such a strong and beautiful shorthand to use in the future. I’m currently doing a program with new colleagues about networking, where I’ve said networking is to learn things, and to share and give things, so that people can see you and think of you when you may be of value to them in addressing some need.

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Y taking in an enormous BLM themed work

The local museum Kunsthal Kade for the past 6 months had an exhibit of some 150 works by almost 50 African American artists spanning from the 1920’s Harlem Renaissance to today, titled TELL ME YOUR STORY. 100 years of storytelling in African American art.

Beautiful, compelling, and sometimes confronting works. All the more so given the renewed civil rights struggle in the USA in the past months.

The 1920’s/30’s gouaches by Aaron Douglas (1899-1979) I found very beautiful.

The collages by Romare Bearden (1911-1988) jumped out at me. Apparently he created them in 1960’s and 70’s while listening to jazz and blues, “My hands sing the blues.

The Kitchen Table series by Carrie Mae Weems I thought striking photography. Her 1990’s round red images from From here I saw what happened and I cried tells of so much pain, dehumanisation, cruelty, slavery, and injustice, tying it to the faces of individual humans, looking them into their eyes.

20200822_120702E looking at Carrie Mae Weem’s work

In the section on the civil rights struggle in the 1960’s the last few minutes of author James Baldwin‘s conversation from “The Negro and the American Promise” was shown on video.

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The powerful fragment shown in the exhibit comes from the end of that video, and started with a statement that, while not the key message, rings as personally true for me since my mid-twenties “I can’t be a pessimist, because I’m alive. […] So I’m forced to be an optimist.

20200822_114050…Why storytelling matters.

Bookmarked A simple plan for repairing our society: we need new human rights, and this is how we get them. by an authoran author
It’s very hard to get adults to reason properly about the human rights of other adults, because we always tend to say “well, their conditions are their fault.” Lot of black people wind up in jail? “That’s either bad policing, or bad behavior, or both” says the adult analysis. “Lot of black children are getting substandard educations” well, this is clearly not their fault. You can say their parents are responsible, and basically abandon these kids to the mercy of their environment, whatever random spot they were born in, or you can say “the children have fundamental rights as children and these rights require us to act on their behalf as a society” and, for example, really seriously invest in and fix education. You see what I’m saying? We can get leverage on issues like race in America by using the human rights of children, free from moral responsibility for their fates, as a universal standard by which to measure our obligations. The same kind of logic applies to the environment: “is this commons being handed over to the children, its future owners, intact, or is it being degraded in a manner that violates their rights.” That gets you concepts like natural parks protection from fracking etc. very nicely. In short, making the rights of children fully explicit, and enshrining them in our legal systems may be the shortest path forwards to creating a world in which we, as adults, are also protected. But the children first: none of this is their fault, and they should be protected as best we can. And a rights framework for children, something simple, reasonably universal, clear and easy to work with is certainly possible. We can do this.

Long winded, but the point is in order to stop us externalising the destructive costs of our societies towards the future, to make that future the litmus test of everything. In the form of benchmarking everything on how it impedes or improves the rights and lives of children, putting their human rights as the key stone of every decision.

A public sector client announced last week that working from home will be their default until September 1st for certain, and maybe until January 1st. I can imagine why, there is no real way to house their 1600 staff under distancing guidelines, and the staff restaurant (that usually caters to some 1200 people in 90 minutes each day) has no real way of accomodating people for lunch in meaningful numbers. Three similar organisations in a different part of the country announced they would keep working from home until January.

I wonder how this may shift modes of working over time, now that centralised working is replaced by distributed working. When will public sector organisations realise they now have eyes and ears on the ground everywhere in their area, and put that to good use? In our experience not ‘going outside’ for real stories and feedback from directly involved people often reduces the quality of choices and decisions made, as observations get replaced by assumptions. This is true for any type of larger organisation I think, but now we all of a sudden have turned them into a distributed network.

If you’re in a larger organisation working from home, do you have a notion of where all your people are, and is that geographical spread a potential instrument in your work?

The Britsh Museum is chock full of fascinating artefacts, even if the sourcing of some of those artefacts means their ownership of them is disputed. While that sourcing happened in different times perhaps (which doesn’t mean our current perspective can’t be different), in these times echoes of that can be heard in the form of digital appropriation.

Earlier this week the British Museum announced they had revamped their website. Part of the revamp is providing more and better digital images of artefacts. Digitising artefacts well is a lot of work and effort, and making them available to the public is very laudable. Especially as the British Museum says, since we’re now only capable of visiting from home.

Director Hartwig Fischer in the museum’s communication is quoted saying

We hope that these important objects can provide inspiration, reflection or even just quiet moments of distraction during this difficult time

Inspiration, cool. Let’s do. Jason Kottke wrote about it and posted some beautiful images.
I went to the BM’s site as well and browsed. Then I came across this artefact:

Screenshot of the British Museum showing a 1725 etching, with copyright claim

I didn’t know the British Museum had a print of the water gates in my hometown!

Then I noticed an oddity: a ‘(c) Trustees of the British Museum’ statement on it. I have the image (remixed with a Mondriaan painting, by E after my idea) on my wall. This as the etching by A. Rademaker is also in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, and they too have digitised their collection and made it available. At the Rijksmuseum that image however is public domain.

The British Museum also allows downloading images. For ‘my’ image at least that download is of distinctly lower resolution than the Rijksmuseum download (the BM’s download is 365Kb, the Rijks’ 2.8MB). Here you see them side by side, BM on the left, Rijks on the right.

‘high-ish’ res BM image on the left, higher res Rijks image on the right

Moving on from inspiration to reflection then, as per the director’s words: What’s up with that copyright claim? The etching itself, being from the 18th century, is clearly in the public domain. Are they saying making a photo of an artefact is creating a new copyright? As Cory Doctorow also noted, that is a wild claim to make. Making a photo of an artefact to show just that artefact is not considered a creative act, and thus not protected under copyright rules, in the UK (PDF) and the EU.

The actual licensing terms attached by the British Museum to a downloaded image are Creative Commons BY NC SA, meaning only non-commercial use is allowed, if the results are shared under the same conditions and the British Museum is mentioned as the source. This is not an open license. It means that Jason Kottke who, inspired as hoped by the BM’s director, put images on his site is in breach of this license, as he also sollicits membership payments through his blog. Appropriate would be a CC0 license, or public domain mark. Claiming copyright on an image that actually is in the public domain because its subject matter is in the public domain on the other hand is digital appropriation.

A second question is why would the British Museum do this? A clue is the information shown when you want to download an image:

BM allows download for non-commercial use, but for commercial use requires a request

The distinction between commercial and non-commercial forms of use, I suspect, may have something to do with the effort of digitisation. Digitisation is generally very costly. Museums fall under the EU PSI Directive on the re-use of public information. In that Directive a possibility exists to temporarily make the exploitation of digitised material exclusive to a certain party as reward for help with the digitisation. Under this exemption tech companies can enter into agreements with museums and libraries to digitise their collections and have a handful of years before the results become generally available to the public. The fact that the BM publishes some images for the general public, at lower quality, is another potential clue. It’s my speculation, but it may mean that the BM tries to provide at least some publicly available material, while the exclusive exploitation rights for whoever is paying for the digitisation still exist. In other countries we’ve seen that material isn’t published until those rights expire, and it would indeed be a useful step to find a way of providing at least some access.

However, none of that has any relation to copyright, as the digitisation itself does not create new rights to license. It would I think better be solved by providing lower quality material as public domain material, while higher quality material is made available as part of the exclusive exploitation deal. If this is what is happening, again it’s just my assumption, using a restrictive CC license is the wrong instrument. If it has nothing to do with the digitisation process and surrounding contracts, but only to create revenue for the museum, then using Creative Commons licenses to do so is just plain wrong and digital appropriation that should be corrected.

Ever since the Dutch government uttered the words “herd immunity” after the UK gov framed it as meaning doing mostly nothing, internationally the Netherlands is mentioned in lists of countries that are supposedly taking a wait and see approach. That isn’t what’s happening of course. The country is in lock-down all but name, but as is the Dutch way it is implemented as an appeal for collaboration and solidarity (and people are indeed complying), and isn’t implemented heavy handed from the top down yet. It doesn’t mean that in the background there are no emergency decrees signed allowing the enforcement of every measure by police and even military police (it’s just that these are done on regional level, signed by the mayors in that region, so it isn’t on the radar of most people these things have been signed.) It also doesn’t mean no enforcement in practice.

One such example is Tomas Pueyo ‘Hammer and Dance’ piece. I’d have commented there, but it needed jumping to all kinds of hoops to be allowed to comment on Medium, and posting it here anyway is easier for future reference. He writes “Some countries, like France, Spain or Philippines, have since ordered heavy lockdowns. Others, like the US, UK, Switzerland or Netherlands, have dragged their feet, hesitantly venturing into social distancing measures.” “Governments around the world today, including some such as the US, the UK, Switzerland or Netherlands have so far chosen the mitigation path.

The French and Dutch measures are actually much on the same level, only with different cultural accents on the role of central authority, and from what I can see the same is true for Switzerland.

The Netherlands isn’t following a ‘mitigation strategy’ in the ‘weak tea’ meaning in the article as such, but doing much as Pueyo’s article suggests. Bring down the transmission rate, and then release and tighten the measures for the coming months to keep the transmission rate low.

Two quotes from the director of the infectious disease unit (RIVM) who is in charge from an interview (in Dutch).
Based on infection models we use, we estimate the effectiveness of interventions. If we add up the current interventions we conclude from those models that the transmission rate is reduced sufficiently. That is the most important goal.. (Dutch: “Op grond van de infectiemodellen die we hanteren, kunnen we het effect van de interventies inschatten. Als we de huidige interventies optellen, volgt uit die modellen dat de overdracht van het virus voldoende teruggaat om de verdere toename te doen afnemen. Dat is het belangrijkste doel,….”)

…That is why we must align everything, and next to interventions research their actual impacts. It could be we can reduce measures, and later need to introduce them again. It could also be we’ll introduce additional measures, it can go both ways. (Dutch: Daarom moeten we alles zorgvuldig afstemmen op elkaar en naast interventies ook onderzoek doen naar het effect daarvan. Het zou kunnen dat maatregelen versoepeld worden en later weer worden ingevoerd. Het zou ook kunnen dat er dan nog éxtra maatregelen volgen, het kan beide kanten op.”)

Actual behaviour of people will determine this mostly he adds. In short, it’s the ‘hammer and dance’ suggested in the linked article.

In conclusion, what you assume to see from further afield based on choice of words (‘herd immunity’ e.g.), headlines and your own cultural reference points, isn’t necessarily what’s happening on the ground. The same is true here inside the country, many people are making very different assumptions based on what they perceive the RIVM and government doing or not doing. Part of it is that the RIVM isn’t very pro-active in getting information and data out there to put it mildly. The interviews with its director in the past week have provided me with much more clues and understanding of what they are working on than their press communiques or their own website. I assume the director has better things to do than give interviews, so there’s room for much more pro-active disclosure and transparency, as it would free up his time at least. RIVM doesn’t have a knowledge, data or decisiveness issue, they’re clearly following every bit of available science, it has a communication and transparency issue. Key question for me is what we can do to assist RIVM in taking on their data publication and communication needs.