Special Exhibitions At Berlin's DMY International Design Festival

Jun 8, 2011

Collaboration is a hot topic in Design.

Design conferences everywhere are asking, "Where should the audience end and the presenters begin?"

Berlin's DMY International Design Festival was no exception. Held in the former Airport Tempelhof, the large pre-World War II hangar was open, flat, lined with long windows and very inviting.

Many presenters at the main exhibition encouraged participation. Brainstorming booths, makeshift workstations and interactive designs were everywhere. One project, the Berlin Naruheso World Newspaper took on the challenge of producing a real time newspaper.

According to the organizers, our newspapers react and reshape in every moment, much like a city. Their workroom displayed the weekend's many issues in various states: articles missing, pictures cut and handwritten additions.

In addition to an exhibition, DMY held a keynote symposium called "Copy/Culture."

Aram Sinnreich, a professor at Rutgers University, presented his latest research, "Emerging Attitudes about Art, Technology and Appropriation." Sinnreich began by citing a lawyer who tracked a typical day and found himself guilty of thousands of dollars in copyright violations and years in jail. Evidence, Sinnreich contends, that our copyright laws are archaic. Sinnreich's research showed not only were respondents unaware of copyright law, they were also undecided where copying, legally-speaking or not, begins.

Recently, production as well as consumption, has become more accessible. Music or video mashups are increasingly common, from the well-known artist Girl Talk to the relatively unknown user. In his research, Sinnreich found that participants familiar with mashups were more likely to see them as original pieces. Whether they should be subject to copyright laws, however, respondents were undecided. As it stands, most of these "underground" mashups are technically illegal. But how many blog or twitter subscribers does a copyright violation make?

Sinnreich says that, though copyright laws continue to develop, many of them have little to no realistic hold in our society. They come from the perspective of protecting creativity and placing value on arts, design and innovation. But as openness appears to increase innovation, does closing disincentivize creativity? And if innovation is less protected, which let's face it, downloading a free song is simple and someday with a nifty 3D printer, copying a design is not unimaginable; how do we provide any data protection? If we continue to place value on these creations, how will creators be paid?

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