Shifting the cultural paradigm from what to get to what to give

“A free culture is one where all members are free to participate in its transmission and evolution, without artificial limits on who can participate or in what way.”  ( students for free culture)

We are not Gandhis.  We cannot be; we are intoxicated by 55 years of complex military-industrial indoctrination. Nevertheless, some of Gandhi’s teachings can be applied within the framework of the new types of networks springing up all over the world and indeed, in my view, are necessary if there is to be sustainability for the individuals acting within these networks as well as for the collective whole.  For instance, the ideas of Self Rule, Self Determination, Self Control, Choice not Domination, Mutual Service, Courtesy and Industry.

We live in a time when the individual warrior-martyr no longer has an effect on the policies that shape our world, rather the individual has been replaced by the collective in affecting change – not the communist model of the imposed, and subsequently controlled, collective, but the often formless, voluntary, self determined collective; not ruled or dominated by any regime, by any fashion, by any specific ideology – a collective of free and open networks currently developing on a global scale. It is these networks that are leading the way towards a new paradigm in not just how we think but how we DO. Re-defining what it is we get when we engage in the act of sharing.

Though there is a wealth of such networks and communities, (fortunately there are so many that they cannot all be included in this context; however, please see the additional recommended references list for a partial sampling), I have focused this article on a specific global network called SHARE (

According to the New York City node’s description, on a basic level, SHARE (founded in 2001 by Barry Manalog, geoffGDAM and Newclueless) “is an open jam, not just for digirati, but for all new culture lovers. Participants bring their portable equipment, plug into our system, improvise on each others’ signal and perform live audio and video. We furnish the amplification and projection…providing an open forum, in real life, for data exchange and media performance.”

For my „on the field“ investigating, I spent quite a bit of time picking the brains of the participants of SHARE. This free and open audio and video jam is one of a plethora of currently recurring „happenings“ but it is unique in a couple of ways. 
Firstly, there is no stage area so the recurring jam consists of people sitting around the room playing with their laptops and or whatever other technical gear they choose to bring with them. In other words, you never really know who is doing what unless you poke your head behind their screen to spy their programs. I use the word spy very ironically, given the fact that the vibe around SHARE is one of openness: open-source; open information in general. Everyone seems eager to share whatever information there is to be had, and there is plenty. Another unique aspect to it is the fact that, at least in New York City, it takes place on a Sunday night, normally the time and day reserved for the masses to rest. This in itself places this event in the underground arena, but what makes it a truly revolutionary event is its openness and connection to digital arts movements and events throughout the world. Some weeks there are visitors that perform individual live sets and they come from all corners of the globe.

The freedom to collaborate and participate on a voluntary basis. “Patrons are encouraged to show and exchange ideas freely, giving each other feedback, catalyzing development of techniques and philosophies in new media.”

All you need to do to play at SHARE is to let them know you’d like to, and when you’ll be in town. That’s it. No screening process, no voting on whether this one is good and that one is bad, no politics and no hierarchy involved.  The nature of the structure (or lack of one) of these events points to a consistent movement towards more freedom and less control or “oppression”. The only two aspects of a SHARE event that are not negotiable is that they are always free and open.

“…The current financial crisis has shown the severe limits of some previous models…” CHARTER FOR INNOVATION, CREATIVITY AND ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE Citizens’ and artists’ Human Rights in the digital age.

Though SHARE nodes have in the past applied for and received travel grants for attending festivals and events outside of their home bases, for the most part they run on a purely volunteer basis and depend on generosity. Since SHARE events are always free and open to all, there is no income besides an occasional percentage from the bar, depending on the host space and bar intake. Otherwise everything is contributed by individuals or friendly organizations, which donate time, space and resources.

“Share is the place to: preview that video project you’re working on, learn about new software developments, sing a new pop song you’ve written, join an open jam of digital artists, form an impromptu collaboration, hear how your new songs sound on a big system, meet co-conspirators for art projects, spin some mp3s…or relax and have a Sunday drink with interesting people.”

At SHARE there is no policing, everyone is responsible for him or her self.  When someone needs assistance there is always someone else who can provide it; however, while everyone is expected to be aware of each other, no one is expected to tell others how to behave.  Rarely has there been an incident when someone needs to be told that their behavior is unacceptable; in those instances when someone’s behavior has somehow caused discomfort to others, the person is usually encouraged to just relax and listen and if not able then perhaps to return another time.

“Digital technology has bridged the gap, allowing ideas and knowledge to flow. It has done away with many of the geographic and technological barriers to sharing. It has provided new educational tools and stimulated new possibilities for forms of social, economic and political organization. This revolution is comparable to the far reaching changes brought about as a result of the printing press…”

At SHARE,  “in addition to enabling file servers and a number of peer2peer A/V apps to be easily utilized by multiple users, the wireless connection has, coupled with the Natural Sphere broadband connection, given SHARE the ability to have an interactive online presence, capable of collaboration with global partners”.

(Morality & Ethics/Justice)
“…the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love…he or she must combine a passionate spirit with a cold intelligence and make painful decisions without flinching…one must have a large dose of humanity, a large dose of a sense of justice and truth in order to avoid dogmatic extremes…so that this love of living humanity is transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.” Guevara, Che, Global Justice: Liberation and Socialism, Ocean Press, Melbourne, 2002

If you have a group of individuals all working to transcend their own boundaries within a community of like-minded individuals, also working to transcend their own boundaries, then a common vision begins to slowly take shape, increasing the resolution of the revolution (sorry, couldn’t help myself). 

So, is there an ideology in the digital underground today? Yes and no. There seems to be no consistent group view, but there does seem to be a very definite unifying energy focused on the idea of freedom; freedom from established legal and political constraints, free exchange of ideas, free participation and contribution, and the freedom to be oneself within the group as one struggles to become free of one’s own bullshit.

In closing, to quote Gandhi: “Cease to fear one another” making your intent the “renunciation of the fruits of one’s action…” Only then can you embody the paradigm of giving, opening up the possibility getting much more than you actually bargained for.

(This article builds upon an earlier paper entitled: “Is It A One Or Is It A Zero: Ideology In The Digital Underground” which can be accessed for free online at:

Author bio:
Elsa Vieira (a.k.a. MonkeyFish) – Film/Video/Live Visual Processing
Elsa divides her time and work between New York, Lisbon and Prague. Currently, as MonkeyFish, she is exploring multiple modes of visual communication, primarily through digital video and live visual processing, using coded language, movement and sound, and how they affect and are affected by the nervous system. In addition to her own work, Elsa is deeply involved in bringing digital and intermedia art to the global community as part of her vision for RogueWaves, a company she founded in 2002, the goal of which is the furthering and evolution of counter-current, revolutionary ideas around the world through artistic experimentation and/or collaboration.  Sometime in the summer of 2010, Elsa plans to host the second edition of SHARE Media Cirkus in Prague as part of her vision for RogueWaves.

-MAHATMA – Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948