Knowledge à la carte

At the library.

I love libraries, private or public. I love to browse people’s libraries, to determine something about them. Not necessarily evaluating how smart or well-read they are, but taking notes on what do they buy, what do they collect, what pattern emerges, what book seems to be read often and what seems to be overlooked.

The real fun occurs at the public library. We have a very good one, here in Miami. It has always been a place I can go kill a few hours, browsing and discovering. I spend a lot hours in the 700 (The arts) section and the records bin. Part of my jazz listening education was supplemented by records and tapes borrowed from the library. More recently, I have been borrowing DVDs from the library. They have a good number of Criterion Collection films. The library also subscribe to Film Movement, a dvd-of-the-month club for independent and foreign films. We saw Hop from that series. A very cool film about africans in Belgium fighting the immigration system with the help of an anarchist.

I met a fellow artist at the library, in the DVD section; and she said that she might suspend her Netflix rentals as the library is providing her with all the movies she needs. That would not work for us, but the library does provide us with many children movies and some films like Taxi Driver that I have been taking apart. And that is what I wanted to write about. The library being an essential place for the ‘open source’ and ‘free culture’ movements. I heard a nice argument from Lawrence Lessig, yesterday on the radio show ‘Weekend America, for the need of younger generations to stand on the shoulders of giants and for that younger generation to be able to peek at the underlining of all works to see and learn how things are put together be able to innovate, create or simply imitate. Libraries are great, because they make available materials for one’s pleasure–reading, learning, hacking, probing truths, investigating wrongs and determining self, all for ‘free’. And I am mean free, as in free beer and free speech. There is a tangential matter to discuss, that has to do with The Patriot Act and other restrictions that are being imposed on/by libraries. I’ll discuss that on another day.

The piece in Weekend America also talked about how Virgil wrote poems based on Homer’s poems. The radio show talked about this in the context of remixes and mash-ups. But there is the idea of crafting something new out of what already exists and it resides in the thinly separated region of imitation, interpretation, appropriation and plagiarism. The ‘Free Culture’ movement simply asks that authors and other corporate entities to be less litigious and allow contemporary Virgils to play with the works of contemporary Homers.

free culture t-shirt

2 Replies to “Knowledge à la carte”

  1. hey adler, this is really cool. i found my way here via kathleen’s blog, which i have been enjoying extremely a lot over the past few days. i like the idea of library=open source playground/treasure chest. hmmmm…interesting exhibition ideas there…

  2. I think the library can easily and positively shape the way the think about knowledge, culture and the ‘treasure chest’ which contains them. The trick might be to be to get people to play in the ‘open source playground’, without necessarily telling them where they are.

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