Monday, November 13, 2006

Campus recapitulation

Well, a lot has changed in my life since I last updated. I decided recently that a degree in Computer Science is really not going to take me where I'm willing to go and so I dropped my courses. I'm pretty sure I'll never return to university.

After being mentally destroyed by my 3rd year of Computer Science at Carleton University, I took a year off and did some travelling out in Eastern Canada. It was nice to move around, but I had some complications living with others that led me to return to Ottawa 2 summers ago to work and prepare to return to my studies. I thought that If I studied part time and worked part time, I wouldn't be so overwhelmed and I could do more of the work where my heart was, in the community around university.

I was especially interested in returning to Carleton because it would give me a reason to work with the Garden Spot again. As well, I felt compelled to promote Free Software on campus. This interested transformed into the opportunity to start a Free Culture chapter when I found out about it through reading the book Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity last Fall.

One of the problems I'm faced with now that I don't have the legitimacy of being a student is that I've made a comitment to start a chapter of Free Culture on campus at Carleton University. I feel that if I withdraw all energy from the project it will die because others haven't expressed too much intersted in taking initiative for the direction of the group. In retrospect, I realize that it was unwise to try to start a group on my own considering that I have little experience organizing people. I really need the support of at least a couple other people who are willing to take partial responsability for the group.

Even though I may divert energy away from making Free Culture Carleton a group that continues past my stay at Carleton, I still am willing to make a minimal amount of effort to keep the group somewhat alive this year. I promised that Free Culture Carleton would produce a DVDROM of Creative Commons media, and so I'll be making sure that happens. As well, I think Free Culture Carleton should do a movie night at the end of January and that's not too hard to make happen, so I'll see that through.

Feeling discouraged at the lack of awareness and interest in things relating to Free Culture at Carleton University, when Andy Kaplan-Myrth shared his interest in creating a national umbrella, Free Culture Canada, I felt compelled to get involved so I've been doing some promotional work with Free Culture Canada and building the web page as well as creating a local chapter here. This involvement makes it even more difficult to exit the academy with grace.

One thinh that has always irked me about the Free Culture movement is that it is a "student movement". I feel quite alienated amongst the student population, and find it hard to speak to them as an activist. In general, I find that most students quite apathetic even when it comes to things that impact their ability to entertain themselves and learn freely. Even the ones who do care find themselves too overwhelmed with work to do anything else effectively. It doesn't end there; as soon as students graduate and fall into their full-time careers and do nothing more than talk about their values every once in a while.

My interest in Free Culture stems from the fact that I am a self-directed student more than a participant in any given "discipline". The Free flow of information over the internet greatly facilitates self-directed learning. I feel that university has failed to thoroughly train me in many key technical areas computing, (i.e. Linux, C++, PHP, python) and I have been left to figure them out on my own. I have learned far more outside university than I have inside the walls, and the knowledge I acquired were towards a particular end. Unfortunately, I know of no institution that provides mentorship in pursuing self-directed learning at a post-secondary level.

Thus, instead of talking with students, I would much rather be talking to the creators out there. By this, I don't mean the academic community because that realm of discourse is one that is inaccessible to most. Instead I mean the popularizers of knowledge and culture. They are the ones who hold a stake in this new knowledge economy and they are going to be the ones who get peoples attention. I would much rather raise Free Culture awareness amongst these people because I feel they are more likely to put the knowledge into practice.

As well, I will to be a creator myself and to lead by example. Building Free Software, publishing media freely, and sharing this freedom with the people closes to me will allow me to entertain the possibility of a Freely sharing society. Eventually I'll prove that you can be paid to play Freely.

I also hope to be a voice in copyright and intellectual property reform in Canada. Although economic and political reform aren't as appealing to me as the sort of "direct action" I refered to above, I still feel they are worthy of my attention.

Until my activist/creative intentions feed me, I will be seeking some other paid work to compliment my teaching/playing job. It would be nice to get paid to play with food once again; I love chopping and serving so I think a catering job would be right up my alley.

Lastly, I will be crafting up a disappearing act for my student loan. The fear of paying it off is one of the things that led me to go running back to the academy, but I realize that there are lots of opportunities out there for me to make money doing something I love that don't require a degree.

I am a life-long student, I never dropped out, I only rose out. Now it's time to grow !

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