Cultural Hotspots - Brazilian open-source and copyleft

"A new paradigm for the new times is needed and in order to do that we need to take a step back, break the concepts to reconstruct a new one. We, the people from the Third World, in this sense, are ahead of the others, as we are already back there, all we need is to move forward". With these words, Claudio Prado, the digital policy coordinator of the brazilian ministry of culture, opened the night, where, oddly, ideas from the tropic country were highlighted as examples for democratic development for the First World countries, United Kingdom in particular.

Although the ideas raised during the night at the brazilian bar Guanabara look revolutionary, a celebration of the potential creativity of the subjectivity of collective production, they weren't presented as an utopia but as a concrete project, already alive in many remote areas of Brazil. When we see the history of Claudio Padro, a self declared hippie, we can understand a little bit how he constructs his not very orthodox ideas. Former musical producer of historical brazilian bands such as Mutantes and Novos Baianos, he also organized major festivals at Wight, Glastonbury and Aguas Claras. Now he works exclusively for the Brazilian Ministry of Culture. Among other major projects, he has already produced alternative licensing agreements for cultural content, the creative commons, and is now working on the cultural hotspots, a program intended to spread digital culture and technical knowledge throughout Brazil.

The cultural hotspot, a program with a budget of R$ 37 millions (£ 9.2 millions), is about democratization, permitting ideas of different places, from rich to poor cities, be exchanged. "The main goal is to plant seeds" says Claudio. A hotspot is established with a broadband connection, infrastructure made with recycled equipments and, most of all, technical workshops of open-source software, allowing anyone to digitalize their creativity. The workshops aim to create independency, leaving on the hands of each community the ownership of their individual process, decentralizing the system. Technology has always been a tool for social inclusion, but here the main objective is not only to make possible the incorporation of labor to the market, but to give people voice, power over their expression, to give them citizenship.

In the workshops, young hackers teach even younger kids how to edit movies, compose music, program and much more. One of the things that makes this new legion of technological warriors is the openness to each culture they encounter. "They are not the only ones that learn. In each group, I learn something different, from music to planting vegetables" says Alexandre Freire, a computer scientist that left his job in a major company to follow Claudio Prado's visions. "We don't want people to think the computer and the network as that box in front of them; the point is communication, interaction and expression. That is why we sometimes encourage the kids to paint the box, or open it an assemble something else, even if is just to create a sculpture of circuits and light."

Everything is based on open-source software. The spirit in the hotspot is the very basic concept of hacking: solving problems collectively and sharing information. Of course It would be very difficult to implement so many hotspots if paid programs where used. Moreover, the sustainability of the created structure wouldn't last. But the money isn't the issue here, what moves everything in the direction of open-source is the concept of mutual creation and freedom. Everything can be created and recreated. From north to south (and yes, Brazil is a huge country), the communities share their production: problems, concepts and accomplishments. On the other hand, licensing possibilities are thought as well, so people can choose in which direction to go and, most important, are correctly credited.

Recycling was another point raised during the lecture. During the questions bit of the event, someone asked about the US$100 laptop. "Ok, I would love if every kid in Brazil had a computer, I am a computer scientist, I would be able to teach everyone. But what would happen five years from now? We would have hundreds of million obsolete computers. What would we do with it?" responded Alexandre. In respect to that issue, the program is focused on recycling old machines they receive as donations. This way people in the hotspot learn how to make good use of a so-called useless equipment.

After the technical exposure of the cultural hotspots, came the highlight of the night, what everyone was expecting, Gilberto Gil. Minister of Culture of president Lula's government, Gil was the name responsable for the success of the venue, not only because of the importance of his role in the brazilian government, but because of his history as a musician. Gil is one of the most popular and important character of brazilian music, not to say one of the most popular around the world. His history is connected to brazilian contemporary history, traced from the tropicalist movements of the 60s/70s, the critics about the military dictatorship, the democratization process during the 80s and the globalization of the brazilian culture. This history is what makes so symbolic his presence in the government.

"We are not here to compete, we are here to share". Gil's charisma cannot be denied, he is a communicator above all, and knows what to say to get everyone's sympathy. Claudio Prado was pointed by him to be the Digital Policy Coordinator, for that reason, the minister declared not having much to add to what had been exposed. He used the time to reinforce the cultural strength and warmth in the relationships brazilian people have, pointing that maybe those are the reasons for the great success the hotspots are having. Such success that already some First World countries, such as United States, are requesting hotspots to be installed in some cities.

With his nees on the floor, getting as close as we could to the audience, Gil talked also about copyleft. One of the first brazilian artists to have music licensed copyleft (only a few; we can say with no doubt that he still makes a lot of money with his work, but that is not the subject of this article), Gil said that no longer could the music or any other industry rely on old ways of making business; a new model had to be created as the new technological (r)evolution required different platforms. In a lecture Gil gave at the University of Sao Paulo, this late august, he had already stated that in the digital world, the reproduction, recycling of ideas and licensing agreements built a very distorted scenario but, at the same time, fed new cycles of creativity. Moreover, it is within culture that we can find strategic elements to understand the mobility of society, so we can requalify relationships and create new utopias. Culture here not only as artistic expressions but also as a group of expressions and symbols of society; culture that build citizens and move the economy.

The event would have a special closuer, not only a celebration of the news ideas being discussed but also a gift for everyone who was there. Gil, armed with his voice and a single guitar, sang three sambas, one of the truly brazilian cultural expression, the result of the melting pot colonization the country had. And to finish the night with more seeds planted, Gil again made use of his power as a communicator, selecting a special song to end it all. WIth the words of one of the most important and influential british artists, John Lenon, coming out of his mouth, Gil persuated everyone to "imagine".

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