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Indigenous Domain: Pilgrim, Permaculture and Perl

intelligent agent 06.02
Indigenous Domain:
Pilgrims, Permaculture and Perl
Joline Blais
There are two ways to conceive of the Commons. Either
it functions within a larger regime of property and capi-
tal, or it functions as leverage against it. In Free Culture,
Larry Lessig champions the Internet as an "innovation
commons" where creative individuals can remix cultural
artifacts to produce new knowledge, culture, and civil
disobedience. This commons functions as a kind of
anonymous resource in which individuals can freely take
materials without permission, ethical responsibilities or
social contract. No payment or gift is required, no rela-
tionship is established, and no genealogy is produced.
While this commons creates a kind of "cultural reserva-
tion" that might protect artists from the rapacity of corpo-
rate greed – as Indian reservations were supposed to
protect Native Americans from the rapacity of settlers –
in the long run, like its colonial predecessor, it may end
up as an exception that proves the rule of property.
Since the Creative Commons licenses are meant to
mesh with existing commercial and copyright regimes,
they ultimately risk re-inscribing a colonial view of cul-
ture, one that offers no radical critique of the market and
its effects on human culture and nature. These limita-
tions are most apparent when intellectual property laws
are imposed on cultural production outside the US,
especially in the case of indigenous and peasant pro-
duction. Unfortunately, as Christen claims, "The rhetoric
of freedom – free of restrictions – replays the structure
of enclosure, open for some closed for others." [1] The
variety of forms of authorship, collaboration, and
resource sharing across cultures provides a formidable
challenge for this culturally specific definition of creativi-
ty and value.
Despite the cultural limitations of the Creative Commons
concept, the gesture of claiming this creative ground
during a pernicious corporate resource grab has at least
two beneficial effects: first, it alerts us to this newest
round of enclosure by the forces of capital; and second,
it provides a training ground for experimenting with alter-
nate practices. It is unclear whether these two will be
sufficient to propel this work beyond colonial regimes of
property. For the forces of enclosure are neither new,
nor are they contained. Both historically and globally,
they siphon natural and human resources into the
machine of capital that is so effective at producing
wealth for the few and poverty for the masses of
Parallel movements in indigenous culture, permaculture,
and digital culture claim a far more radical ground, and
suggest an alternative to the intellectual property regime
at the base of colonial cultures. And indeed recent
research on the forgotten forest provisions of the Magna
Carta suggests that the reclaiming of the commons may
well require a reversal of the nearly thousand-year histo-
ry of colonization. If the Forest Charter provisions could
reverse 200 years of Norman appropriation of Anglo
forests and return them to the commoners, then per-
haps these movements can help their respective groups
reclaim their own digital and physical commons, or at
least the right to engage with cultural artifacts and natu-
ral resources in their own culturally specific ways.
The intertwining of these three cultural responses to the
Intellectual Property regimes is complex, but we might
begin tracing their development by telling a story about
pumpkins. First is the Native American pumpkin, one of
the first New World foods brought to Europe, and sym-
bol of a supposed Thanksgiving harvest celebrated by
Pilgrims and Native Americans. Behind the myth is a
history of two related but disparate commons, both at
risk in the narrative of progress unleashed in North
America – the commons of the Native Americans who
saved the Pilgrims by teaching them how to survive in
the Northeast, and the dwindling commons in Britain
whose defenders were rioting against the enclosures
enacted by their own Puritan elite. One of the Native
American commons was the free sharing of information
about planting, navigation, fishing, medicine and local
dangers that Tisquantum, a Patuxet Indian, taught the
Pilgrims during his year living with them. This commons
also included the land gift of Tisquantum's former Native
village of Patuxet to the Pilgrims who renamed it
While this sharing of information and land ensured the
Pilgrims' survival in the New World, it proved insufficient
for a people who believed they had been sent to subdue
the heathen and spread god's kingdom over the satanic
savages in the wilderness. The natural and customary
rules that would suggest a return of gifts or resources
The variety of forms of authorship,
collaboration, and resource shar-
ing across cultures provides a for-
midable challenge for this cultural-
ly specific definition of creativity
and value.
from the Pilgrims to the Natives never occurred. By
1636, under pressure of an exploding settler population,
the Pilgrims triggered King Phillip's war with the mas-
sacre of 600 Narragansett villagers, a war which was to
be the bloodiest in New England history, a war that
eroded the New World commons as effectively as
Cromwell's purge of Levellers from the New Model Army
eradicated the British commons. [2]
During the settler land-grab in the Americas, a similar
land grab was occurring in England in the centuries old
battle for the control of the forest commons, a right
guaranteed by the Magna Carta. Resisters of enclosure,
the Blacks and Levellers were described as "rough and
savage in their Dispositions." In Peter Linebaugh's
analysis of the links between race, slavery and the com-
mons, he notes that these Commoners were considered
to be a "sordid race" and "compared to the Indian, to the
savage, to the buccaneer, and to the Arab." [3]
During the 17th and 18th century, both sets of common-
ers with a survival stake in the lands they shared would
lose their ground. In both cases, lands were enclosed
and privatized, and in the US, citizenship and thus free-
dom for the settlers would be tied to the ownership of
this stolen land.
A reincarnation of the Thanksgiving pumpkin might be
found in the permaculture pumpkin patch: a plant guild
composed of corn, squashes or pumpkins, and beans.
While Northeast Native Americans were early practition-
ers of sustainable forms of agriculture that included the
Three Sisters plant guild, some settler cultures, eventu-
ally transformed by the lands they occupied, began to
recognize the benefits of these practices. Drawing on
both indigenous knowledge and long-term and close
observation of nature, Australians Bill Mollison and
David Holmgren devised intensive, but sustainable
methods of agriculture, social organization, and self-
government that became the permaculture movement.
Based on systems thinking and on replicating patterns
found in nature, permaculture stresses interdependent
relationships, like those found among companion plants,
plant guilds, plant communities, local ecosystems, eco-
tones and bioregions – moving from local to regional.
Figure 1. Examples of the "three sisters" guild; the close-up shows
Hookers heirloom corn, Edamame butterbeans, and delicata squash-
plants. Photos by the author.
In the Three Sisters guild.corn, squash (including pump-
kins), and beans grow together in a synergistic and
mutually beneficial system. [Fig. 1] The beans feed the
corn with much needed nitrogen, the corn provides a
structure for the beans to climb, and the squash with its
lush, prickled foliage acts as a natural mulch and pest
inhibitor, keeping insects, slugs, and raccoons from eat-
ing the ripened corn. Each member of the guild both
gives and takes something from the community, and in
the end the soil itself is nourished rather than depleted
as it is in single-yield, industrial monoculture. Guilds,
plant communities, food forests, herb spirals, water and
energy catchment – most of the methods popularized in
permaculture can be found in peasant and indigenous
communities, which have forged complex relations to
the ecosystems around them – relations that have
ensured survival over ten of thousands of years. Placed
beside the provisions of the forest charter, which pro-
vides for sustainable uses of the forest by local people –
for herbage, pannage, eyries etc. – they look very famil-
iar. [4]
Compare the integrated management of permaculture
with article 12 of the forest charter of the Magna Carta:
"Henceforth every freeman, in his wood or on his land
that he has in the forest, may with impunity make a mill,
fish-preserve, pond, marl-pit, ditch, or arable in cultivat-
intelligent agent 06.02
ed land outside coverts, provided that no injury is there-
by given to any neighbour." Two principles stand out
here: 1) usage produces no injury, neither to the forest,
nor to the neighbor – there is clearly a complex web of
relations here that ties neighbors to forest resources; 2)
usage is local, and its effects are related to a neighbor.
[5] Under this provision there would be no drilling for oil
in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, because the bene-
fits go to non-local agents who have no care or relation-
ship to the land, and furthermore the damage affects
both natural and human neighbors. Thus the Forest
Charter refers to customary usage – which predates
nobility, legal system, and governments – customs
which reflect both ethical and community concerns,
though already diluted from the complex forms of inter-
dependence found in the New World. Permaculture
communities seek to rebuild these, or similar, sustain-
able customary practices in a modern context. They
depend on local solutions rather than centralized, global
bureaucracies – whether political or economic – for
meeting human needs. And they may very well be the
mammals that survive the dinosaurs of industry and
The indigenous and permaculture communities have
curious allies in the digital community. The digital "patch
pumpkin," a token of trust and a method of self-govern-
ment found in the digital commons of open source soft-
ware, may be an emergent form of these evolutionarily
learned human impulses. How does a "patch pumpkin"
resemble its metaphoric siblings? Most notably, the
patch pumpkin helps establish social, political, and eco-
nomic protocols for collaborative work. Perl program-
mers do this by passing around the "patch pumpkin."
Whoever has the pumpkin is in charge of managing the
workflow. As the story goes, the name originated in the
Perl community with Chip Salzenberg and co-worker
David Cory. At one of David Cory's previous jobs, many
systems relied on a tape drive for backup. "But instead
of some high-tech exclusion software, they used a low-
tech method to prevent multiple simultaneous backups:
a stuffed pumpkin. No one was allowed to make back-
ups unless they had the 'backup pumpkin.'" [6] During
one Perl work session Chip asked, "Who has the patch
pumpkin?" And, as "patching" is the term used for con-
trolling workflow in Perl – i.e. making a patch, testing a
patch, incorporating a patch; a patch being a module of
code – the name stuck.
What is worth noting about this patch pumpkin is that it
is a low-tech solution for developing trust among a
group of programmers, that it initially depended on face-
to-face meetings and physical distribution of a stuffed
pumpkin to establish a trust metric, and that responsibili-
ty passed around the group, ensuring a kind of working
democracy. All of this was operating in a gift economy in
which programmers contributed to and benefited from a
common project, from which they developed a sense of
both community and identity. This emerging digital com-
mons builds meaningful relationships around non-coer-
cive work in a context of self-government, all conspicu-
ously absent from the nature of paid work in our culture.
Against this model, paid work begins to look like the
wage-slavery described by the YES MEN in their anti-
globalization campaigns, a slavery that became neces-
sary during the enclosure of the commons in Europe
and North America, an enclosure that continues to be
forced on indigenous and peasant people around the
world in the name of progress and free trade. [7]
So we have three kinds of pumpkins, each suggesting
to us movements towards reclaiming the commons, not
as an endangered preserve in a regime of property, but
as complex economic, social, and political alternatives
to that regime. These complex networks of relationships,
resources, and practices are designed to perpetuate fer-
tility and abundance in the communities that form them.
The Eden that Europeans described when they reached
North America was not a wilderness, but a well-man-
aged resource, a complex combination of nature and
culture, ecology and economy, a system so subtle and
effective that it eluded the settlers who saw only natural
wealth free for the taking. The result of this land grab in
North America is that only 2% of the land is now wild, its
major rivers are polluted, its lakes have caught fire, and
its forests are dying from the top down. The tragedy of
this commons was that it never really was a commons
after colonization, but was surrendered to plunder, priva-
tization, and exploitation in the name of Manifest
Destiny and progress. [8]
To return to a tribal commons, both for contemporary
land management and its digital counterpart will demand
reevaluating some of the so-called freedoms of the colo-
nial commons. Consumerism has taught us that free
culture is detachable: I can download, consume, and
remix a Creative Commons-licensed MP3 without ever
contacting its author. Free culture is also presumed to
be disposable: I can drag that MP3 to the trash when
I'm done with it – and do the same with my laptop once
I upgrade to a better one. Detachment and disposability
depend on disinterest: in place of entertainment monop-
olies like Sony and Time Warner, free culture proposes
a "free market of ideas" where a democratic process
selects which cultural artifacts gain support and endure
– with the side effect, of course, that all artifacts that
don't garner acclaim pass into oblivion.
But free culture's tropes of detachment, disposability,
and disinterest are not the only possible foundation for
an alternative to monopolistic cultural production.
Indigenous culture, permaculture, and digital culture
offer three different and powerful dynamics: catchment,
circles, and care.
Indigenous Culture
The following examples from Native practices can help
intelligent agent 06.02 communitydomain.blais.indigenousdomain.04
us move beyond the commons as a free resource pool
to a social practice in which creativity and kinship are
Catchment in Papua New Guinea
The term catchment derives from permaculture, where
we will see it has a specific meaning. In an indigenous
context, however, catchment is a useful antithesis for
the economic detachment required for a globalized mar-
ket. The production of Malanggan cloth in Papua New
Guinea follows a logic of ownership that entangles
rather than detaching its object from the context of its
making. To produce a new design, an artist must "pur-
chase" an already existing design, by viewing this
design in a public showing. After this brief showing, the
artist must hold the design element in memory until a
compelling experience triggers a significant revision of
the original. But in order to realize the new vision the
"owner" of the element must find a carver or weaver to
realize it, since people do not "materialize their own
images." [9] The new image (both original and derivative
at the same time) emerges as a collaboration among a
number of sources – the original owner, the new owner,
the fabricator, and ultimately the owner in the next gen-
eration who will similarly modify it.
This kind of multiple ownership creates a legal night-
mare for IP law. But among the craftspeople of Papua
New Guinea, it produces a dense network of relation-
ships, as well as serving as a metaphor for cultural
preservation and loss at each generation. The
Malanggan, a distributed object, produces identities dis-
persed across time and space. This means that the cre-
ativity lies not in the object, but in the technologies of
distribution, which create genealogies similar to those
produced in The Pool, an online environment which fos-
ters artistic collaboration by encouraging and tracing tra-
jectories of creation. [10] Malanggan unites the synchro-
nous collaboration of image holder and maker, as well
as the asynchronous collaboration of past, present and
future images. As Leach observes, ownership in these
conditions connects people rather than separating them
as it does in the West. And these connections are criti-
cal to the "preservation of the social conditions of cre-
ativity itself." [11]
Circles in the Plains
In I Become Part of It, Joseph Epes Brown, an anthro-
pologist who lived and worked with Lakota Medicine
Man, Black Elk, describes the practices that character-
ize tribal life in many parts of North America, practices
that help us understand the confusion between
Tisquantum's generosity and the Pilgrims' rapacity in the
face of common resources. [12] In tribal life, art is not
separated from craft, but permeates all of life. The value
of art, then, cannot precipitate into an art object that can
be sold or placed in a museum, but rather its value lies
in the entire activity of production and distribution. The
aid and land given to the Pilgrims was a way to build
alliances and share knowledge, not an exchange of
commodities. Similarly, to make a basket, a Native
woman gathering grasses prays and makes offerings for
the resources she takes; when she moistens the grass
with her lips, she also "gives her life breath" [13], and
these sacred dimensions create relationships linking her
to the place and time of gathering, the grasses, and the
person to whom she will give the basket. The making of
the basket establishes kinship bonds that weave the
natural and cultural world together. In these examples,
nature is not a resource to be exploited for creative or
commercial uses, but a set of material relationships that
sustains sacred and material life.
Brown points to the Lakota tipi as a microcosm of the
world, for example, with the fire in the center represent-
ing Wakan Tanka, the Great Mysterious. Hanging in a
museum, without the central fire drawing the gaze of the
children while the elders tell stories, the tipi becomes an
inert object. [14] Similarly, in "It's Where You Put Your
Eyes," Sam Gill talks about the power of masks coming
from the inside view, the view the wearer has when he
dons the mask and sees the faces of those who behold
it. [15] He quotes the Navajo Emory Sekaquaptewa per-
forming as a kachina: "the use of the mask in the kachi-
na ceremony has more than just an aesthetic purpose
[…] when he [the performer] dons the mask he loses his
identity and actually becomes what he is represent-
ing…the audience becomes his personal self. He tries
to express to himself his own conceptions about the
spiritual ideals that he sees in the kachina." [16] And in
doing so he does not represent the spiritual world, but
rather he becomes the spirit he is seeking. [17] Thus,
once a mask is placed in a museum, so viewers can
appreciate its "aesthetic" qualities, it has lost its real cul-
tural power.[18] The "executable power" of this art
requires participation and interaction, just as digital
forms do. [19]
What is interesting to note is that while Native concep-
tions of the sacred embrace all of Creation, the articula-
tion of spiritual life is very specific and local, based
closely on the particularities of the seasons, the flora
and fauna, and the geography of their homelands. So
the power of cultural practices is contextual and local,
rather than universal. Not being universal, they are hard
to commodify and dispose of in a system of abstract
and equal exchange value.
Leach describes an interesting example of these local
practices in his discussion of the "purchase" of the
tunes, words, and carvings of a Tambaran spirit in
Papua New Guinea: "One aspect of Tambaran is a male
musical cult with secret ritual paraphernalia. The tunes
and designs […] have a named owner. Yet this owner-
ship does not give the right of disposal. They are not
'property,' yet they are transacted." [20] In Papua New
Guinea, the transaction of a Tambaran spirit requires
elaborate rituals, including contact between the "pur-
chasers" and ten of the Tambaran owners, and offerings
of a pig, cooked and distributed by the sellers in a public
intelligent agent 06.02
recognition of the transfer of the spirit.
Payment, however, does not give the new owners com-
plete rights to do anything they want, as is the case with
purchase of goods or lands in much of the developed
world. Once purchased, the new "owners" must main-
tain respect and honor for the spirit, including following
elaborate rules for its development within the new con-
text and ensuring its propagation to future generations.
[21] Furthermore, what differentiates this "purchase"
from a commodity purchase is that there is no object to
own. Rather what has been purchased is a particular
kind of relationship with specific spirits, that is, the right
to practice a kind of sacred ritual that recognizes prior
relations between that spirit and a particular community.
This is very different from disposability.
The notion that creation entails responsibility, that cre-
ators may not be entirely free to "dispose" of their inven-
tions however they like – is anathema to our society's
rabid obsession with turning every conceivable scientific
discovery into a cash cow. The right to turn culture into
cash derives from John Locke's view that cultural value
accrues to natural resources when they are manipulated
by the labor of the maker. The artist's labor becomes the
mark of authorship and guarantor of ownership. In this
view, Nature in itself has no value until it is used, devel-
oped, commodified, or put through the mill of human
labor and industrialization. Its value, then, becomes an
abstract sale value – how much profit it can bring the
maker. In a "free market" where natural resources are
free for the taking or available to the highest bidder,
clean water, clean air, forests, beaches, wetlands, and
arctic refuges exist outside a cultural or even natural
network of relationships, can be modified or manipulated
at the owner's discretion, because in themselves, they
add nothing to the GNP. In such an economy, Nature is
merely a resource, and has no inherent economic value.
Following New Zealand MP Marilyn Waring's analysis of
free market economics, the destruction accompanying
the Exxon Valdez oil spill is terrific for GNP, so is prosti-
tution of ten-year old girls in Thailand; whereas the
Arctic National Wildlife refuge is worth nothing until com-
promised in the process of oil extraction [22], and the
pristine Passamaquoddy bay in Northern Maine is worth
more to the local community if its natural resources are
compromised for the processing of Liquefied Natural
Gas. [23]
By contrast to the disposability inherent in capital
accounting methods, Brown claims that reciprocity "per-
meates so many aspects of North American cultures."
[24] He defines reciprocity as a "process wherein if you
receive or take away you must always give back." This
view conceives of time and life as permeated by circles,
of processes that repeat and return. "Everything comes
back upon itself." Providing inspiration for the permacul-
turists that would follow, Native people were close
observers of nature, which is where they perceived
these living cycles, "the birds build their nests in circular
form, foxes have their dens in circles, the wind in its
greatest power moves in a circle." [25]
Compare this to the linear view of history that places
"Man" at the center, and views the changes attendant
upon expanding colonization and globalization as
"progress." In the developed world, despite Ptolemy’s
confirmation that the world is a sphere, and Galileo's
proofs that the earth revolves around the sun, econo-
mists still boldly claim that The World is Flat [26], and
that the universe revolves around humans, who are the
pinnacle of a linear evolution. Without these ideological
supports, the notion of property would collapse, and the
appropriation of Native culture and natural resources
that drive globalization would lose their main ideological
foundations. Without these foundations, the destruction
of nature, and the enslavement and exploitation of
human beings would appear as the abomination that it
is in Native eyes. And when the machine of globalization
is prevented from consuming what is left of the natural
and cultural resources of the world, then the unsustain-
able systems that this intensive feeding supports will
collapse under their own weight, and new more equi-
table and sustainable systems will replace them – a
view that resonates in Native Culture, Permaculture,
and Digital Culture. [27]
Care among the Pintupi
In Papua New Guinea, as in many tribal societies, cul-
tural production – what some descriptions of open
source refer to as "gift-giving" – is "an action performed
within the context of reciprocity and expectations of
return – status, rights, or more gifts." [28] It is not altru-
ism – which is motivated at some level by ego – that
produces these complex structures, but rather a kind of
enlightened self-interest, one that recognizes the self as
part of many, larger networks upon which the self
depends for its livelihood. The similarities between col-
laborative production in tribal societies and in the digital
economy are not trivial. Though the former measures its
age in millennia and the latter in decades, "both are
based on the self-interested participation of individuals
and communities linked by a complex web of rights and
obligations." [29] In both, cultural production can be
viewed as the formation of kinship patterns (with people,
natural world, land, resources, fellow programmers) that
are economically viable. What their example suggests is
that if you have the right kind of kinship-family, commu-
nity, and land – you do not need a job. In fact, if you
extend these kinship structures far enough, as Native
Americans did, and as McLuhan predicted would hap-
pen with electronic media, you no longer need the
nation. [30]
IP regimes have notoriously failed indigenous peoples
trying to preserve and practice their cultural life in the
context of colonization and globalization. [31] Partly this
is because these regimes offer only simple alternatives
of closed proprietary models, or open libertarian models.
[32] Neither addresses the nuances of indigenous cul-
intelligent agent 06.02 communitydomain.blais.indigenousdomain.06
tural production, where information does not necessarily
want to be free, but where it may require care. Myers
describes such a dynamic among the Australian Pintupi
whose words for property, walytja and yapunta, describe
types of relationship that resemble family ties more than
commodity rights. [33] Walytja signifies relative, whereas
yapunta signifies an orphan, one who is not cared for.
Similarly, someone who ‘steals' the cultural artifact of
another kin group in Papua New Guinea is assumed to
be signaling a desire to be included in the kinship group
from which he is stealing, and thus through elaborate rit-
ual is brought into the fold. [34] These examples sug-
gest that cultural practice may depend not on owner-
ship, authorship and its attendant rights, but on kinship,
belonging, and the rituals of inclusion – all hallmarks of
The aim of permaculture is simple: create wealth without
doing damage. [35] In order to accomplish this, perma-
culture envisions nature as a complex network in which
humans collaborate with other life forms – much as
plants in a guild cooperate – to produce harmonious and
sustainable energy systems. The approach is glocal:
emergent bottom-up local solutions produced through
trial and observation and cognizant of larger, global
forces, both natural and cultural. By stimulating interde-
pendence locally, permaculture moves away from cen-
tralized models of production and consumption that
require massive energy input, institutions and technolo-
gy to manage. By reversing current centralizing and
globalizing trends and practices, humans can halt the
resource destruction that produces financial capital and
move toward resource creation in the form of natural
and human capital.
Catchment in the Sand
Catchment, nature's method of wealth accumulation and
energy storage is permaculture's alternative to capital.
Where capital is centralized accumulation that resists
redistribution, catchment is a system for accumulating a
critical mass of a needed resource, like water or soil
minerals, in order to trigger self-organizing system, i.e.
life forms, that then spread over the landscape. Some
natural examples of catchment include the sun, plant
carbohydrates, bodies of water, geothermal energy, and
plate tectonics. [Fig. 2]
How does catchment work? Since the "driving force
behind all natural systems" is energy [36], catchment
focuses on ways to capture naturally occurring flows of
energy in such a way as to maximize the yield over time
and space. As we know, entropy is the natural tendency
to disorder, but it is balance by an opposing tendency
toward self-organization – or what we call life. This kind
of self-organization happens "whenever energy flows
are sufficient to generate storages." [37] Even small
storages of energy can trigger an explosion of life.
Figure 2. Three stages of catchment, as demonstrated by views of the
Nahal Zin keyline in Israel's mountainous northern Negev Desert,
which drains into the Dead Sea. Photos courtesy of Hydrology,
University of Freiburg, Germany.
Like capital, catchment proceeds via an initial concen-
tration of resources. How those two systems distribute
resources in the long run, however, is very different. In
capital, positions initially favored with power and wealth
continue to aggrandize the latter through reinvestment
of profit, and over time the rich only get richer relative to
the poor. While capitalist's apologists claim that the ele-
vation of the rich eventually raises the standard of living
for all, history demonstrates that the gap between rich
and poor only steepens with time.
intelligent agent 06.02communitydomain.blais.indigenousdomain.07
If the metaphor of capitalism is building a pyramid on
the desert, the metaphor of catchment is growing a for-
est from the desert. In his film Planting in Drylands [38],
Bill Mollison shows a small rolling device that forms tiny
divots over the desert floor. These small depressions in
an otherwise flat surface collect dew and stray seed, so
that over a surprisingly short amount of time, small
sprouts shoot up, which in turn are able to collect more
dew and hold more water in the soil. Under the right
conditions, this positive feedback loop can actually turn
a desert path to a living one with minimal human inter-
vention – not even the need to sow seeds. Whether the
result is a grassland or forest, the terrain moves from a
handful of green spots to a terrain so evenly covered
with life that it is no longer possible to find the spots
where the wealth was initially concentrated. Nature is
the original Leveller. In contrast, capital's initial concen-
trations of "green" are conspicuous – just look for the
mansions and sports cars that herald a tycoon at the top
of his pyramid.
Unlike capital, whose increase is measured only in
financial terms, catchment wealth is measured in terms
of real wealth. It replaces short-term, centralized profit,
with "long-term asset building for the benefit of future
generations." [39] The real wealth assets here refer to
soil fertility, seed saving, reforestation, keyline water
harvesting, and carbon, water and nutrient storage in
the landscape. Natural capital like water, living soil,
trees, and seed help insure low-energy sustainability
because they are 1) self-maintaining; 2) have low depre-
ciation rate; 3) are easily tapped with simple technology;
and 4) resist monopolization, theft and violence. So in
addition to long-term real wealth accumulation, catch-
ment also produces long-term security, first by eliminat-
ing the need for energy-based resource wars like the
current Iraq war, and second, by building local stores of
wealth that are distributed across the landscape and
locked in ecosystems and thus hard to steal without
mobilization of armies against the local community –
which unfortunately is the pattern of current enclosure in
the developing world.
While catchment in nature and in permaculture has
clear payoffs, there are more pressing reasons to adopt
this technique in place of the dominant capital model of
wealth creation. Under current free market economics,
"we have been living by consuming global capital in a
reckless manner that would send any business bank-
rupt." [40] The results are resource wars; destruction of
independent, sustainable lifestyles and replacement with
dependent pauperization; destruction of ecosystems
worldwide; global warming; and collapsing political
structures that erode the very freedoms upon which they
are based.
Circles on the Farm
If the poetry of Native cultures lies in circles and cycles,
the poetry of permaculture lies in feedback loops. In
nature negative feedback mechanisms, like predators,
natural disasters and parasites have the effect of keep-
ing populations healthy and their numbers under control.
They also discourage unsustainable behaviors. Positive
feedback loops are the kind we saw in guilds and plant
communities where synergies develop between species
in particular microclimates. In a massively centralized
economy, where basic needs are produced far from
where they are consumed, it is very difficult for people
to note the effects of the systems that sustain them.
When a river is polluted, few people hold up their news-
papers as the culprit, when ground waters are contami-
nated no one holds up the dinner plate laded with pesti-
cide-produced produce. In the local ecosystems of per-
maculture, it is much easier to identify negative feed-
back and to make adjustments. When the family dog
dies an early and unnatural death, the farmer may re-
evaluate the heavy use of pesticides on his crops.
Taking responsibility for the state of the world is, for per-
maculturists, the first step toward empowerment and
One of the ways of responding to feedback is to take
personal responsibility for the choices we make that
lead to effects we don't like in the world. There a num-
ber of ways permaculture encourages personal respon-
sibility. Not only does exercising responsibility often
replace despair with hope, it supports many permacul-
ture values. Like a blocked Internet packet,
Permaculture does not resist the source of blockage,
but rather, routes around it. While the rest of the culture
is busy working long hours to pay for consumer goods,
permaculturists shorten their work hours and consume
less. Because they organize as small groups and com-
munities, they can respond to change much faster than
large institutions, governments or markets; and so they
are far more effective at initiating social change. "There
is little point in spending your life trying to persuade
other people that they are wrong. If there is a better way
of doing things, and you know what it is, the do it. If it is
really better […] other people will try it too." [41] This
argument may sound like some of the utopian rhetoric
of early adopters of the Internet and its virtual communi-
ties. However, unlike immigrants who abandoned "meat-
space" for a better world in cyberspace, permacultural-
ists seek not to abandon this planet but to embrace it,
not to hide from a society they cannot support but to
model a more sustainable paradigm for it.
Care for the River
As David Holmgren, one of the founders explains, "It's
the conversations you have with your neighbor over the
garden fence which saves the world, and if you want to
know what the news is, go outside and look." [42] In
principle these sentiments sound very much like those
of Free Software guru Richard Stallman, who claims
"globalization is a very inefficient way of raising living
standards of people overseas" and that a much better
economic system would decentralize power and
resources. [43] Holmgren situates this practice not in
altruism but in clear-sighted common interest. And he
intelligent agent 06.02 communitydomain.blais.indigenousdomain.08
refers to the historical record to confirm that caring for
the self required caring for land and natural resources.
In his view, permaculture "asks you to see yourself as
one with the universe, and to measure its wonder for
your mutual benefit. You and the rest of creation have
the same interest at heart – survival – so you should
look after each other." This invitation to care for self,
family, community and neighbors in the widest possible
sense – as we see in Native culture – reinserts humans
into the Web of Life.
Like nature, permaculture rarely centralizes wealth
because of the amount of poverty created in its wake. In
nature a river might meander back and forth across a
Figure 3. Top: A simulated catchment network generated by TOPAZ
(Topographic Parameterization Software), produced cooperatively by
the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture,
USA; and the Department of Geography, University of
Saskatchewan, Canada.
Bottom: The Web of Trust of the New York Linux Users Group, as dia-
grammed by the sig2dot Keyring Graph Generator. Image courtesy NY
Linux Users Group.
landscape bringing water to huge tracts of forest or
arable lands. Likewise, permaculture constructs small-
scale swales and keyline irrigation, to control small
amounts of water flow over larger areas, leaving just
enough wealth in each area to trigger healthy plant
growth, which in turn spills over to unirrigated areas.
Such modest, gravity-fed irrigation system could be
found in Ladakh, in the high Himalayas before the area
was developed. In Ladakh, such catchment of water irri-
gated entire arid areas with limited mountain runoff,
using elaborate sharing schemes across households to
produce rich and abundant crops and clean drinking
water. After development – fed by an ideology that trusts
to a disinterested "invisible hand" instead of the com-
mon interest of local villagers – the water became pol-
luted, and staple crops were imported once local agri-
culture and ways of life were displaced by wage labor
and the media and material attractions of capital. [44]
Digital Culture
"Changes in the way we think, especially the emer-
gence of design thinking, are more fundamental to the
information economy than the hardware and software
we use." [45] Although this is a permaculture principle, it
intelligent agent 06.02
might apply to the free and open software movement
and the development of online communities; these are
practice grounds for the kind of community development
that permaculture activists seek. If Internet spaces func-
tion like practice grounds, it is because these areas are
not fully colonized economically, legally or politically,
though the colonial paradigm still influences our limited
understanding of the digital commons. [46] For perma-
culture, the landscape is the textbook [47]; so to with
digital culture though the landscape is virtual and made
up of networks of human communication. What can this
textbook teach us about human community, about ways
to manage resources that move beyond the private /
public dichotomy and into complex emergent social pat-
terns that are sustainable?
Many critics of closed, hierarchic institutions have
recently turned toward the open software movement for
an alternative model. While these critics applaud the
sharing and openness of these seemingly global com-
munities of software developers, they rarely look beyond
the virtual veneer to analyze the specific mechanisms
behind their success. Coders of open software are often
more tribal than global. [48] The "free culture" model
notwithstanding, a coder cannot simply refactor a mod-
ule of the GNU/Linux kernel without the permission of
other trusted developers. While open software commu-
nities do not resort to the command-and-control hierar-
chies of corporate and military structures, they do exer-
cise a form of management, but one with surprising res-
onances to the forms of entanglement found in indige-
nous and permaculture communities.
Catchment in Webs of Trust
Local trust (or lack thereof) is easy to establish when
members share an ecosystem or physical community.
But how do you build a community in a virtual space
where members have no prior relationship?
Furthermore, how do you communicate with co-workers
or family and friends in a way that is secure from sniffing
software like FBI's Carnivore?
While Certification Authorities like Verisign have
emerged as third-party guarantors of net identity, many
open software programmers prefer to roll their own iden-
tity via public key encryption, which can operate via
peer-to-peer networks rather than a centralized struc-
ture. PGP ("Pretty Good Privacy") is one of the most
popular systems for verifying network identity among
groups of people who will be working together. PGP ver-
ification begins with face-to-face contact at key signing
parties [49], gatherings of people who verify each
other's identity by checking ID cards, faces, and anec-
dotal evidence ("This is my husband, Jim"). Once identi-
ties are confirmed face to face, users sign each other's
public keys, effectively hinging one developer's credibili-
ty on that of another developer – more catchment than
detachment. [Fig. 3]
As if to echo Holmgren's belittlement of hardware and
software, computers are forbidden at such meetings
because they could compromise security. [50] If people
used a computer to sign keys at the party, it would be
hard to tell if the machine was compromised, or set up
to capture the PGP information, or even infect it with a
virus. It's interesting that key signers seem more con-
cerned about exchanging computer viruses than biologi-
cal ones, despite all the hand shaking and card swap-
ping; for this "virtual community," physical intimacy is not
a liability but a sign of their interdependence and a pre-
requisite of the mutual trust they need to do their work.
When key signers stand in a line to receive each other's
identity written on a piece of paper, it is a ritualistic echo
of the Powhiri ceremony by which the Maori greet new-
comers, standing opposite each other in a line and
touching foreheads so as to receive each other's breath
in the hongi greeting.
Circles of Credibility
The more signings a public key gets – the more
attached it becomes to other public keys – the more
trusted it becomes. When the party is over, when identi-
ty is confirmed, people sign each other's public keys,
thereby increasing their credibility. When an encrypted
email message arrives in an email box – signed by one
very credible public key, or three fairly trusted public
keys – then the receiver can be almost certainly the
message was sent by the person who claims to have
sent it. The receiver can then use her private key to
decrypt the message. Ironically this makes digital signa-
tures more trustworthy than paper ones, which are easi-
ly forged. Paper signatures on treaties are useful for
colonial powers, because they seem to command trust,
but in the end, as repeated Native American experience
confirms, these paper signatures are not worth the
paper they were written on, certainly nowhere near the
power face-to-face trust originally had in Native commu-
The best way to develop and expand webs of trust for
secure communication over the Internet is to hold as
many key-signing parties as possible. Frequent meet-
ings ensure that the web of trust is "deep and tightly
interlinked," thus making it harder to crack. PGP pro-
tects the parties involved in a communication as well as
ensuring the integrity of the software produced. Though
used extensively by open software developers to check
out software modules and/or sign off on approved mod-
ules, PGP guarantees can also safeguard the passing
of any kind of information among users in a web of trust.
The more people use encryption, the less information
can be sniffed by government or corporate software,
and the more thoughtful they become about the kind of
information they casually distribute via any technology.
[51] Practicing PGP is a constant reminder that "not all
information wants to be free."
Care for Kin and Beyond
Beyond creating security, PGP parties also generate
intelligent agent 06.02 communitydomain.blais.indigenousdomain.10
real local political communities since they involve face-
to-face meetings by people who often share political and
ethical concerns including civil liberties, the future of
cryptography, and Internet regulation – all attempts to
prevent the enclosure of emerging digital commons. In
the digital as well as real worlds these are basic free-
doms that generate passionate support. Furthermore,
holding PGP parties allows a local area to configure its
servers and technology to run PGP, making it available
for others to use. Building this infrastructure across the
Internet through local webs of trust creates a communi-
cation system that looks less like a global net and more
like strongly linked local nodes with ties to other local
nodes. This is not a global village, but a tribal web.
This new kind of kinship may seem abstract to those
who haven't been to a key signing, but its emergence is
easy to see in diagrams of webs of trust. Applications
such as, a PGP key ring graph generator, can
produce a graph of all of the signature relationships in a
GPG/PGP key ring, including the network developed at
PGP party. "Graphing the web of trust in your local area
as you build it can help motivate people to participate as
well as giving everyone a clear sense of what's being
accomplished as things progress." [52] The correlation
of visual diagrams with the establishment of kinship pat-
terns sounds remarkably like the protocols in Papua
New Guinea for Malanggan. The idea that creativity and
cultural production depend on and are correlated with
the social safety net of kinship groups is a digital recu-
peration of an indigenous wisdom about social wealth.
While peer-to-peer culture is relatively new by compari-
son to indigenous cultures, these "natives of cyber-
space" [53] may be able to re-imagine a lost common
heritage more readily than those of us still burdened by
the tropes of print and visual culture.
In fact, geeks – for all their obsession with protocol, syn-
tax and patches – can demonstrate a sophisticated
grasp of current political dangers and issues when they
care about them. Because our culture is increasingly
mediated through lines of code, programmers are in a
privileged position to watch the effects of such media-
tion on the consuming public – so we can hope that as
their awareness grows, programmers will expand their
concerns beyond bugs in the latest Debian distribution
to include broader issues like child prostitution or defor-
Curiously, a humorous allusion to a political mission sur-
faces in the middle of "Notes on handling the Perl Patch
Pumpkin," which explains protocol for contributing a
patch to a development team. Near the end of this
online document is a section called "How to Save the
World." While the instructions are prosaic – "You should
definitely announce your patch on the perl5-porters list,"
"You should make it quite clear that a subversion is not
a production release" [54] – the humorous linking of par-
ticipation of the production of a shared resource with the
saving of the world is far from naïve. In fact it is a wake-
up call from the cultural propaganda that proclaims that,
in Stallman's words, "sharing with your neighbor is the
moral equivalent of attacking a ship." [55] Of course if
we recall that many pirate ships were precisely dispos-
sessed people such as peasants and African slaves tak-
ing back a commons that had been "criminalized" [56],
then piracy itself appears as a commoner's logical
response to enclosure of land and body. [57]
While it may not be surprising that programmers are
concerned with the securing of "individual liberties" that
once motivated piracy, it is interesting to see key signing
parties dwell on a discussion of "sovereignty," [58] an
issue that grounds Native political struggles. Used by
Native Americans, sovereignty signifies their right to
enter into treaties with other nations, and to be recog-
nized and respected with full rights accruing to nations.
The US government takes pains to associate national
security and cryptography, regulating the latter's export.
But neither Native tribes nor key signers are ultimately
interested in national sovereignty so much as individual
and tribal sovereignty. [59] This concern is echoed in
David Berry's summary of "Libre" culture – a sort of
Creative Commons with an ethical slant: "Political strug-
gle will no doubt be oriented towards the nation state
[…] but it cannot remain there alone […] Creativity is at
once too small and too large. Political action and the
struggle for true democracy will have to be aimed simul-
taneously at local and global levels." [60]
Berry goes on to propose a "treaty obligation" to prevent
"the commodification of human DNA and life itself. Or a
UN protectorate to defend the sanctity of ideas and con-
cepts. We might picture something akin to Bruno
Latour's 'Parliament of Things,' a space where not just
the human is represented, but all of life has a defender,
all of life has a voice." Of course, this kind of community
voice – one that speaks for all living things – already
exists among indigenous peoples. When the UN estab-
lished the Geneva Convention on human rights after
World War II, the Six Nations and the Lakota suggested
they were leaving something out:
There is a hue and cry for human rights – human
rights, they said, for all people. And the indigenous
people said: What are the rights of the natural
world? Where is the seat for the buffalo or the
eagle? Who is representing them here in this
forum? Who is speaking for the waters of the earth?
Who is speaking for the trees and the forests? [61]
The parallels in understanding between the Libre
Society and Native culture, the acknowledgement of a
Web of Life to which we all belong, points to an eco-
nomic and political practice that moves beyond the limit-
ed freedoms established by the commons, either tradi-
tional or digital. While we may yearn for a long-lost com-
intelligent agent 06.02
mons where humans were landkeepers, where they
cared for all living things, what we need now must move
beyond the logic of common/enclosed, of free/private.
For in today's context, any commons is only respite from
a larger cultural model of property, theft, enclosure, and
loss of political liberty for all humans and exploitation of
all life. To move beyond human rights toward the rights
of all living things, what Leach calls "common rights"
[62], we need the commons to become the rule of
human culture rather than the exception. That human
beings in Native culture, Permaculture and digital culture
are trying to protect and reclaim some common ground,
some space for remembering and reinventing sustain-
able cultures, is a message of hope in otherwise dismal
[1] K. Christen, "Gone Digital: Aboriginal Remix and the
Cultural Commons," International Journal of Cultural
Property 12 (2005), pp. 315-345.
[2] Levellers, whose power base was in the New Model
Army, upheld common rights, until their leaders were
executed and their followers cashiered by the
Grandees. "The Grandees were represented by Henry
Ireton (son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell), Oliver Cromwell,
and some others. Each party put forward a pamphlet to
lay out their position. The Levellers' pamphlet, written by
civilians, was entitled Agreement of the People. The
Grandees' pamphlet, endorsed by the General Council
of the Army, was written by Henry Ireton, and entitled
The Heads of the Proposals. It put forward a constitu-
tional manifesto which included the preservation of
property rights and maintenance of the privileges of the
[3] P. Linebaugh, "Charters of Liberty in Black Face and
White face: Race, Slavery and the Commons," Mute
accessed May 18, 2006, p. 4.
[4] See Forest Charter at:
[5] Gentry and Clergy are prohibited in the forest char-
ter, since they are not local, both because a number
came from France with the Normans, and also because
others did not live in close proximity of the forests. "17.
Now these liberties with regard to the forest we have
granted to all, saving to the archbishops, bishops,
abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, and other persons
both ecclesiastical and lay, [also] to the Templars and
the Hospitallers, the liberties and free customs in forests
and outside them, in warrens and in other things, that
they earlier had. Moreover, all these aforesaid liberties
and customs, which we have granted to be observed, in
so far as concerns us, toward our men, all persons of
our kingdom, both clergy and laity, shall, in so far as
concerns them, observe toward their men."
[7] Some theorists claim that the major conflict of our
time is not between "democracy” and "terror," but
between civilized cultures and indigenous cultures, the
latter holding all the evolutionary knowledge needed to
live sustainable in each of the areas they inhabit. See
"Traditional Culture Strikes Back,"
[8] The Dawes Act 1887, which turned communally held
Native American land into private property, ostensibly to
speed assimilation and help Natives become self-suffi-
cient, had disastrous effects leading to massive loss of
land and culture: "some sixty million acres (240,000
km) of treaty land (almost half) were opened to settle-
ment by non-Indians. The Act had one of the most sub-
stantial impacts on Natives, most significantly affecting
Native gender roles. This Act broke up the reservation
lands into privately owned parcels of property [given to
men]. In this way, the legislators hoped to complete the
assimilation process by deteriorating the communal life-
style of the Native societies and impose values of
strengthening the nuclear family and values of economic
dependency strictly within this small household.
Legislators' opinions of communal living saw the extend-
ed family as "needy" since the Indigenous ideas of
wealth contrasted and disagreed with Western ideas of
wealth. Indigenous people valued generosity and
received status by being generous. Western values form
around individual wealth and surplus and status is
gained from these same values. The kin-network, which
was the base of economic and social reproduction in
Indigenous societies, split and the reservation became a
checkerboard pattern… The Act forced Native people
onto small tracts of land distant from their kin relations.
Traditionally, in most Indigenous societies, women were
the agriculturists while the men were the hunters and
warriors. The Allotment policy depleted the land base,
ending hunting as a means of subsistence. According to
Victorian ideals, the men were forced into the fields to
take on the woman's role and the women were domesti-
cated. This Act imposed a patrilineal nuclear household
onto many traditional matrilineal Native societies. Native
gender roles and relations quickly changed with this pol-
icy since communal living shaped the social order of
Native communities. Women were no longer the care-
takers of the land and they were no longer valued in the
public political sphere." See: and One might com-
pare this modern enclosure with the enclosures in
Europe in the previous centuries.
[9] M. Strathern, "Imagined Collectivities and Multiple
Authorship" in R. A. Ghosh (ed.), CODE: Collaborative
Ownership in the Digital Economy (The MIT Press:
Cambridge, MA, 2005), p. 18.
intelligent agent 06.02 communitydomain.blais.indigenousdomain.12
[10] See:
[11] J. Leach, "Modes of Creativity and the Register of
Ownership" in R. A. Ghosh (ed.), CODE: Collaborative
Ownership in the Digital Economy (The MIT Press:
Cambridge, MA, 2005), p. 37.
[12] J.E. Brown, "Becoming Part of It" in D. M. Dooling,
P. Jordan-Smith (eds.), I Become Part of It: Sacred
Dimensions in Native American Life (Parabola: New
York, 2002).
[13] Ibid., p. 15.
[14] Ibid., p. 20.
[15] S. Gill, "It's Where You Put Your Eyes" in D. M.
Dooling, P. Jordan-Smith (eds.), I Become Part of It:
Sacred Dimensions in Native American Life (Parabola:
New York, 2002).
[16] Ibid., p. 83.
[17] Compare this to Leach's (2005) description of how
creativity produces both children and spirits: "creativity,
understood as the regeneration of people and places
through the work of family groups…Children, like spirit
designs, are generated in the specific productive part-
nerships of kin groups."
[18] Ibid., [15].
[19] See Blais & Ippolito, At The Edge of Art, for a
description of executable art, art which has an effect in
the material world:
[20] Ibid. [11], p. 33.
[21] Ibid., [9], p. 20.
[22] M. Waring, If Women Counted: A New Feminist
Economics (Harper Collins: New York, NY 1990).
[23] See and
Ntulankeyutmonen Nkihtaqmikon (We take care of the
[24] Ibid. [12], p. 12.
[25] Ibid., p. 12.
[26] T. L. Friedman, The World is Flat, (Farrar, Straus
and Giroux: New York, NY, 2005)
[27] gkisedtanamoogk, "Miingignoti-Keteaoag:
Decolonizing Justice and Sovereignty" (1997),
D. Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles & Pathways
Beyond Sustainability (Holmgren Design Services:
Hepburn, Australia, 2002).
Richard Stallman, "Copyright and Globalization in the
Age of Computer Networks" in R. A. Ghosh (ed.),
CODE: Collaborative Ownership in the Digital Economy
(The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, 2005).
[28] R. A. Ghosh (ed.), CODE: Collaborative Ownership
in the Digital Economy (The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA,
2005), p. 7.
[29] Ibid., p. 7.
[30] See Stallman: "The centralization and economy of
scale introduced by the printing press and similar tech-
nologies is going away." And McLuhan (1962): "What
we have called 'nations' in recent centuries did not, and
could not, precede the advent of Gutenberg technology
anymore than they can survive the advent of electric cir-
cuitry with its power of totally involving all people in all
other people."
[31] B. Boateng, “Square Pegs in Round Holes? Cultural
Production, Intellectual Property Frameworks, and
Discourses of Power,” in R. A. Ghosh (ed.), CODE:
Collaborative Ownership in the Digital Economy (The
MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, 2005), pp. 61-74; A.
Seeger, “Who Got Left Out of the Property Grab Again:
Oral Traditions, Indigenous Rights, and Valuable Old
Knowledge,” in R. A. Ghosh (ed.), CODE: Collaborative
Ownership in the Digital Economy (The MIT Press:
Cambridge, MA, 2005), pp. 75-84; K. Warren, and J.
Jackson, (Eds.) Indigenous Movements, Self-
Representation, and the State in Latin America. (Univ. of
Texas Press: Austin, TX 2002).
[32] GPL offers an interesting mix of these two, not
entirely successful from an indigenous perspective, but
certainly effective as anti-enclosure device. Discussion
of the complex ways GPL thwarts colonial paradigms of
property is beyond the scope of this paper.
[33] F. Myers, "Some Properties of Culture and
Persons," in R. A. Ghosh (ed.), CODE: Collaborative
Ownership in the Digital Economy (The MIT Press:
Cambridge, MA, 2005), pp. 45-60.
[34] Ibid. [11], p. 34.
[35] G. Bell, The Permaculture Way (Chelsea Green:
While River Junction, VT, 1992), p. 17.
[36] D. Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles & Pathways
Beyond Sustainability (Holmgren Design Services:
Hepburn, Australia, 2002), p. 27.
[37] Ibid., p. 15.
[38] More on Mollison's film at
Permaculture co-founder (with Mollison) David
Holmgren's own rhetoric occasionally falls back on the
intelligent agent 06.02communitydomain.blais.indigenousdomain.13
pyramid metaphor, but other discussions suggest he
believes the strength of permaculture lies precisely in its
potential for offering a non-hierarchic ontology.
[39] Ibid., p. 51.
[40] Ibid., p. 27.
[41] Ibid. [35], p. 212.
[42] Ibid. [36].
[43] Richard Stallman, "Copyright and Globalization in
the Age of Computer Networks" in R. A. Ghosh (ed.),
CODE: Collaborative Ownership in the Digital Economy
(The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, 2005), p. 331.
[44] H. Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures: Learning from
Ladakh (Sierra Club Books: San Francisco, CA, 1992).
[45] Ibid. [36], p. 14.
[46] See Blais, "In the Presence of the Sacred:
Indigenous Alternatives to Colonized Cyberspace," forth-
coming in M. Stewart and P. Wilson (eds.), Indigenous
Media (Duke University Press: Durham, NC 2006).
[47] Ibid. [36], p. 15.
[48] Margaretha Haughwout, "A Reflecting and/or
Refracting Pool: When a Community Becomes
Autonomous Online," First Monday 11, no. 4 (April
2006), Retrieved April 27, 2006 from http://www.first-
[49] See:
[50] Computers are a problem at PGP meetings
because "binary replacement or system modifications
are very easy ways to compromise PGP systems." See:
[51] This is especially true when that information is a
matter of life and death, as it was when Patrick Ball,
open-source programmer-cum-human-rights activist,
was gathering evidence for the war-crimes trial of ex-
Yugoslavia's leader Slobodan Milosevic. His statistics
proved that killings and refugee flows in Kosovo were
independent of military activity by NATO or the Kosovo
Liberation Army but tied directly to Serb attacks. While
the information he needed might have been sent by
email, there were obvious security risks for all involved.
The evidence based on interviews, government records,
and testimony by Albanian border guards was often pro-
vided by face-to-face-contact with people who passed
on the information in the form of tapes, disks, or other
media. This verification of information through human
contact, whether crime data on a diskette or a patch
pumpkin on a string, suggests that true security
depends on human relationships, regardless of the
sophistication of our military technology. It is not the
database that saves lives, but the human network
through which the data passes on its way to the data-
base. Patrick Ball's "sneakernet” not only provided infor-
mation under more secure conditions, but it also afford-
ed the kind of face-to-face verification upon which PGP
security is based.
[52] Advice from the GPG key signing party "How To"
page at
[53] J.P. Barlow, "Art after virtual reality," paper present-
ed at a meeting at the Guggenheim Museum Soho,
New York, October 27, 1993.
[55] Ibid. [43], p. 325.
[56] Waltham Black Act of 1722 effectively criminalized
the commons.
[57] Ibid. [3]. Linebaugh claims that "the crisis of the
commons began as a financial crisis which itself arose
from slaving, and that piracy was "multiracial and it was
against the slave trade […] Sixty of Blackbeard's crew of
one hundred were black."
[58] "GPG keysigning Party HOW TO," http://www.crypt-
[59] "The idea of the nation in contemporary Latin
America is based on the negation of indigenous cul-
tures." [My translation from the Spanish] Rudolfo
Stavenhagen in A. Ramos, "Cutting Through State and
Class" in K. Warren and J. Jackson (eds.), Indigenous
Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin
America (University of Texas Press: Austin, TX, 2002).
[60] D. Berry & G. Moss (2006), http://www.freesoft-
[61] O. Lyons, "Our Mother Earth" in D. M. Dooling, P.
Jordan-Smith (eds.), I Become Part of It: Sacred
Dimensions in Native American Life (Parabola: New
York, 2002), pp. 273-4.
[62] Ibid. [11].
intelligent agent 06.02 communitydomain.blais.indigenousdomain.14
This chapter focuses on unofficial preservation practices and why they are sometimes more effective than professional enterprises. It suggests how well distributed memory works in indigenous practices. The chapter explains why it works equally well in digital practices, with particular attention to emulation and crowdsourcing, and the preservation paradigm known as variable media. Of course there are downsides to trusting amateur preservationists to do the job of professionals. The chapter focuses on three of these concerns here: the loss of artistic integrity, the loss of material context, and the clash of amateur and professional cultures. The third concern sometimes raised about proliferative preservation is not about the work being preserved but about the folks doing the preserving. The chapter concludes with the challenges of such proliferative preservation to conventional notions of cultural heritage.
Throughout Latin America, indigenous peoples are responding to state violence and pro-democracy social movements by asserting their rights to a greater measure of cultural autonomy and self-determination. This volume's rich case studies of movements in Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil weigh the degree of success achieved by indigenous leaders in influencing national agendas when governments display highly ambivalent attitudes about strengthening ethnic diversity. The contributors to this volume are leading anthropologists and indigenous activists from the United States and Latin America. They address the double binds of indigenous organizing and "working within the system" as well as the flexibility of political tactics used to achieve cultural goals outside the scope of state politics. The contributors answer questions about who speaks for indigenous communities, how indigenous movements relate to the popular left, and how conflicts between the national indigenous leadership and local communities play out in specific cultural and political contexts. The volume sheds new light on the realities of asymmetrical power relations and on the ways in which indigenous communities and their representatives employ Western constructions of subjectivity, alterity, and authentic versus counterfeit identity, as well as how they manipulate bureaucratic structures, international organizations, and the mass media to advance goals that involve distinctive visions of an indigenous future.
The Pool is an online project developed by faculty and students in the New Media Program at the University of Maine that aims to facilitate the sharing of skills and ideas among its users. Still in the development phase, while performing the "release early, release often′" ethic of open source software development, The Pool's sources are mostly limited to a steady stream of students from the New Media Program. That The Pool to date, is limited to geographically local, and contextually specific use might engender answerable questions about the nature of evolving collaborative systems. This study explores where local context influences Pool development dramatically and where it appears to make little difference by focusing on three main themes: 1) collaboration; 2) student attitudes and strategies of resistance to The Pool; and, 3) licensing trends in The Pool. One of the most interesting aspects of the study shows that as a project develops, users tend to lessen the controls of attribution, and non-commerciality, while increasing the controls of no-transformations and no-combinations. This phenomenon reveals a surprising, anti-intuitive shift in emphasis during the creative process.
It's Where You Put Your Eyes
  • S Gill
S. Gill, "It's Where You Put Your Eyes" in D. M. Dooling, P. Jordan-Smith (eds.), I Become Part of It: Sacred Dimensions in Native American Life (Parabola: New York, 2002).
The World is Flat [27] gkisedtanamoogkMiingignoti-Keteaoag: Decolonizing Justice and Sovereignty
  • T L Friedmanfarrar
  • Giroux Straus
T. L. Friedman, The World is Flat, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, NY, 2005) [27] gkisedtanamoogk, "Miingignoti-Keteaoag: Decolonizing Justice and Sovereignty" (1997), D. Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability (Holmgren Design Services: Hepburn, Australia, 2002).
Copyright and Globalization in the Age of Computer Networks
  • Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman, "Copyright and Globalization in the Age of Computer Networks" in R. A. Ghosh (ed.), CODE: Collaborative Ownership in the Digital Economy (The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, 2005).
Who Got Left Out of the Property Grab Again: Oral Traditions, Indigenous Rights, and Valuable Old Knowledge CODE: Collaborative Ownership in the Digital Economy
  • Seeger
Seeger, " Who Got Left Out of the Property Grab Again: Oral Traditions, Indigenous Rights, and Valuable Old Knowledge, " in R. A. Ghosh (ed.), CODE: Collaborative Ownership in the Digital Economy (The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA, 2005), pp. 75-84; K. Warren, and J. Jackson, (Eds.) Indigenous Movements, Self- Representation, and the State in Latin America. (Univ. of Texas Press: Austin, TX 2002).
In the Presence of the Sacred: Indigenous Alternatives to Colonized Cyberspace
  • See Blais
See Blais, "In the Presence of the Sacred: Indigenous Alternatives to Colonized Cyberspace," forthcoming in M. Stewart and P. Wilson (eds.), Indigenous Media (Duke University Press: Durham, NC 2006).