The theme for this month in the LMD Blog is "Books & Authors." I’m a non-book-reading-librarian and — yes — we’re a rare breed. So, when a book captures me enough to actually read it, it’s big news! While in Seattle, I had the good fortune to hear Chris Carlsson speak at Elliott Bay Book Co. Carlsson spoke about his latest book, Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners are Inventing the Future Today! mmm…pirate programmers (e.g., those writing open source software) and vacant lot gardeners in the same book? I was intrigued and am now halfway through the book.
The product description says (in Amazon):
As capitalism continues to corral every square inch of the globe
into its logic of money and markets, new practices are emerging through
which people are taking back their time and technological know-how. In
small, under-the-radar ways, they are making life better right now,
simultaneously building the foundation-technically and socially-for a
genuine movement of liberation from market life.
uncovers the resistance of a slowly recomposing working class in
America. Rarely defining themselves by what they do for a living,
people from all walks of life are doing incredible amounts of labor in
their "non-work" time, creating immediate practical improvements in
daily life. The social networks they create, and the practical
experience of cooperating outside of economic regulation, become a
breeding ground for new strategies to confront the commodification to
which capitalism reduces us all.
As I heard him speak about people using their non-work time to create "community property" (my words) that benefit many people, I immediately thought of the work people are doing in Second Life to create places, products and services that are available to everyone. In Second Life, people feel free to share what they know, as well as their skills, to build what is needed and valued. (For some, that is a stark contrast to what they do in their real jobs.)
As an association, many of us give of our time and talents to create what others need. In some cases, we create what is needed ourselves because no one else will do it for us. And we do these creations for the good of the community (the association). In this regard, we are part of a larger do-it-yourself movement, which is most visible in home improvement stores, but is perhaps most effective in more community-based projects such as cooperatively developing software, creating community-based libraries outside of the normal bureaucracy, and developing ways for people to share resources (e.g., community gardens).
Carlsson does — I think — a thorough job documenting the history of this movement (or movements). He provides both a macro and micro view of what has and is occurring. More importantly, he allows us to see that some of the rogue stuff we do (e.g., creating unsanctioned library services in places where none had existed before) is more important than we might think.
BTW I’d like to thank Continental Airlines for canceling my one flight, so that I had to stay in Seattle longer than expected. That allowed me to hear Chris Carlsson. Funny how things work out!