Public and Private

In a grassland, the wind never stops blowing. Either it’s a dry wind falling off the mountains after dropping its ocean water on the other side, or it’s a valley wind scurried up by the heat of the sun striking first one slope then another as the earth turns in space. This is a planet of air. Here’s some old technology that converts one earth, the earth of the air, into another, the earth of the ground, but which is so familiar it isn’t called technology anymore…

Decorative Windmill and Concrete Goddess, Okanagan Landing

Two technologies of the spirit, turned by technological change into objects of art, yet still capable of doing their jobs with pizzaz.

 Neither Roman goddesses nor the self-assembled water pump mills of the American West are high tech anymore. They have been used so much over time that the ingenuity and social energy they hold is a part of general social wealth. They belong to everybody. This is simple technology, which can be banged together in a garage or hammered out of a rock. Newer inventions, such as high-tech, high-efficiency windmills, belong to their creators with a little help from their lawyerly friends. These creators are often large corporations, who have taken common technology and converted it into protected, patented forms. It’s like patenting open source seed. What was public has become private. Here’s another example of this process in action…

Newspaper Pickup Box, Vernon

This particular technology mines community wealth by delivering small amounts of feel-good news between large amounts of paid advertising, as a means to deliver a thick wad of commercial advertising flyers three times weekly. The scheme earns its profit by charging advertisers access to its readers, yet escapes its social costs, because the recycling of the tons of newsprint it uses weekly is paid for by the homeowners in the city. The scheme works because it looks and acts like a real newspaper.

Whatever that is, it isn’t either social or free. Compare this rogue knitterly street art in Sierre, Switzerland….

Keeping Your Neighbour’s Downspout Warm

Whatever it is, it is social, and free.

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