The Purpose of Copyright

I assume I’m not the only person making this connection, but it’s interesting how successful the entertainment industry (and anyone with an intellectual-property axe to grind)  has been in making this rhetoric commonly accepted:

Ludvig Werner, the boss of IFPI’s local Swedish chapter, had a somewhat different perspective: The Pirate Bay is about keeping money out of creators’ hands and putting it into Pirate Bay pockets. “Copyright exists to ensure that everyone in the creative world—from the artist to the record label, from the independent film producer to the TV programme maker—can choose how their creations are distributed and get fairly rewarded for their work,” he said in a statement. [from the trial against the Pirate Bay in Sweden]

And this is from the United States’ Constitution—though obviously (I hope) not in force in Sweden:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Not that I agree with the Pirate Bay’s methodologies, but as I’ve written before, this isn’t the first time that copyright rhetoric has been manipulated… all the way back to the 19th century.


Existential Charters

I just finished reading a New York Times editorial “ Is the Supreme Court About to Kill Off the Exclusionary Rule?” that ended with this line:

“Nothing can destroy a government more quickly,” the [Federal Supreme Court noted in Mapp v. Ohio], “than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.”

I also just finished reading Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (which you can download free under Creative Commons).


18-25: moving from Becoming to Being

I got to talking to one of my favorite coffee shop girls at my favorite coffee shop today.  She’s 23 and just graduated from College and living with her younger sister, 21, and we were talking about differences in age.  In my day job I spend a lot of time interacting with people in the 18 - 25 year range—and though I just left range a few months ago myself—also spend a lot of time with those ages in my personal time as well.

The 18-25 age range isn’t so much generationally awkward—though you might hear otherwise—as externally/socially awkward.  In the social service sector, there is at least an order of magnitude decrease in support service spending for individuals once they reach 18. Even in our infantilized American society, there is a marked difference in how people are treated once they reach adulthood.  It’s surprising that, despite the near-general view that our Education system and family/social support networks (learning towards one or the other depending on your politics) do not prepare young people do be adults_,_ that they are still expected to act like them—whatever adulthood means for you, that is.

Off the soapbox…

In my AmeriCorps*VISTA orientation, I give a presentation—a charismatic lecture—that I’ve developed entitled** Advocate for Yourself**. (I am most proud of myself that it does not once include the word “Professionalism”, other than in derogatory aside.) The presentation is geared towards incoming VISTA members, who’s next 12 months of highs and lows is pretty well mapped out.  Because I can’t guarantee that narrow track of experience for you, dear reader, I’ll do my best for the setup here:

The difficulties of the 18-25 year old range have to do with what I call moving from Becoming to Being.  As a young person, most of your energy is put towards becoming a functioning member of society.  But once you get there, well, you’re there—and while it’s liberating, it’s a lot harder to maintain… mostly because it’s so liberating.

Things that used to be provided you must now seek out:

  • Cuing: There aren’t as many people who will tell you when you’re doing something wrong, or help you do the correct thing.  It’s simply no longer anyone’s job; a job usually coinciding with Mandated Reporter.  You’re less likely for someone to tell you “get a job”, “you’re eating what?” or “you should have a doctor look at that”. Even regarding social norms, you’re more likely to be fired, dumped, or not have your calls returned than be confronted about them.  And as time goes on, you’re less likely to have a diverse social network—social networks, unlike your high school, are self-selecting—who can clue you in. At least maybe until your own kids reach maturity—though at this point you’ll probably be living in such an echo chamber that you’ll think it’s them who need adjusting.

  • Paths: You have to make your own.  When I went to school, there was one path: college.  After that (and if not that) it all got a little fuzzy. And if you didn’t go to college—or were never planning on it— this struck you a whole lot earlier.  There isn’t anyone setting goals for you anymore: it’s up to you to figure out where you want to go, and how you want to get there.  There are a lot less options for filling in the blanks in personal and professional development too.  Compare the number of Adult Ed classes that are available to the number of Youth Extracurriculars—it’s depressing.

  • Reinvention:

Remember ever starting your first day at a new school? Planning what you’d wear, the stories you’d tell, the new persona you’d create so they’d think you’re cooler than you were before.  Not so easy anymore; it doesn’t come on a regular schedule of every 3-5 years.  There is a whole lot more baggage you’re carrying around that makes it that much harder to form as clean a slate as possible. That makes it a lot harder to put some distance between your boneheadedness then and your (slightly-) less boneheadness now.

Reading over those, I didn’t mean for them to be so depressing (and caricatured), but it’s something to be mindful of and work against: putting yourself out there, setting personal and professional goals (and revisiting them from time to time), keeping yourself as fluid as possible (as much as Wealth Bondage allows), and having a good mentor, therapist and/org priest with whom you can talk stuff through.


The (false) metaphor of the tube for communication

I love posting from The Tree of Knowledge.  This is what they have to say about tubes (emphasis mine):

Our discussion has led us to conclude that, biologically, there is no “transmitted information” in communication.  Communication takes place each time there is behaivioral coupling in a realm of structural coupling.

This conclusion is surprising only if we insist on not questioning the latest metaphor for communication which has become popular with the so-called communication media.  According to this metaphor of the tube, communication is something generated at a certain point.  It is carried by a conduit (or tube) and is delivered to the receiver at the other end.  hence, there is a something that is communicated, and what is communicated is an integral part of that which travels in the tube.  Thus, we usually speak of the “information” contained in a picture, an object or, more evidently, the printed word.

According to our analysis, this metaphor is basically false. It presupposes a unity that is not determined structurally, where interactions are instructive, as though what happens to a system in an interaction is not determined by the perturbing agent and not by its structural dynamics.  It is evident, however, in daily life, that such is not the case with communication: each person says what he says or hears what he hears according to his own structural determination;** saying does not ensure listening. From the perspective of an observer, there is always ambiguity in a communicative interaction. The phenomenon of communication depends on not what is transmitted, but on what happens to the person who receives it.** And this is a very different matter from “transmitting information.”

So that’s all a bit of a mouthful, but its an important aspect of communication—it’s not the creation or production of something_, it’s the making of an _affect or_ inducing an action_ upon someone.

The ambiguity of language is something that Bakhtin has touched on (and I have posted before):

[Bakhtin explores] the idea that language is indeed ambiguous, but whereas deconstruction would highlight this ambiguity as the inability of words to convey precise meaning, Bakhtin welcomes this vagueness of language as a means by which to create meaning dialogically.

This is a very positive and optimistic statement of embracing dialogue as the means to overcoming the biological and structural limits of our individualism.  And which, you can probably assume, I strongly agree with.


Mission and Promise: there is a difference

I was forwarded this from Angelina, who apparently read it on the side of her Starbucks cup (emphasis mine):

“There is a subtle difference between a mission and a promise. A mission is something you strive to accomplish – a promise is something you are compelled to keep. One is individual, the other is shared. When a mission and a promise are one and the same . . . that’s when mountains are moved and races are won.”

Hala Moddelmog, Pres. and CEO, Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The last sentence is mostly pablum, but from yesterday’s post about dialogue and creating a shared community, I think it’s important to think about not only what your own committment is, but also the expectations you are committing to with others.  In other words, a mission is a statement, a promise is a contract.


Online Fundraising: please do it right

Of all things, tonight in my Institute for Nonprofit Management and Leadership class we were talking about Online Fundraising. I got a little frustrated since (a) I couldn’t get a word in and (b) they were really making a muck of it. What I was hearing was a confusion of the indicators of successful online fundraising with the methodology for creating successful online fundraising; saying things like “have a taste-maker blogger promote it” and “get people to post it on their friend’s Facebook wall”. To take a line from Joe Breiteneicher’s Quest: they were identifying with the money, not the purpose. So allow me some catharsis…

Online fundraising is no different than offline fundraising—heck, people of my generation don’t even recognize that there is a difference between on- and offline. What people want when they give is no different no matter where they give or where they are. The only difference is efficiency. Everything you can do online, you can do off-, except the reason you didn’t do it before was that it was so inefficient that no one expected you to. And now that the online sphere makes it so cheap and easy (well, if you’re doing it right), people demand it.

So what are people demanding: Community. Donors want to be linked with clients, linked with providers, linked with other organizations through you. If they don’t, it’s because they don’t realize yet that they can be—just like Britain didn’t have good food because no one demanded it because no one supplied it because no one demanded it (yes, that’s Krugman). I’m not saying that everyone will be an A-type personality—a healthy community is diverse both in participants and modes of participation—but people want the opportunity for participation.

So how do you build a successful community? What do people really want that will lead to a healthy community? I’ll just quote my notes from a conference session I attended called What Freud and Buddha Understood (and We’re Forgetting) about Online Outreach:

  • Need 1: To be SEEN and HEARD
  • Need 2: To be CONNECTED to someone or something
  • Need 3: To be part of something GREATER THAN THEMSELVES
  • Need 4: To have HOPE for the future
  • Need 5: The security of TRUST
  • Need 6: To be of SERVICE
  • Need 7: To want HAPPINESS for self and others

When you build a campaign—whether on- or offline— that includes these components, it has the best chance of being successful. This will cause the taste-makers to stop staring at their navels and the Facebook crowd to stop poking eachother (or throwing sheep)—and start talking about you. And possibly create something else that you didn’t realize would happen in the first place… that will bring in the money.

As an ending thought, think about why churches are so successful with fundraising. They link purpose with practice with people—and do such a good job that you may not realize when you are serving the church, serving the community or when they are serving you. If a church can do that because of a shared moral calling, think about what you can do with a shared ethical and social calling. Think about it!


Self, Language and Consciousness

The Tree of Knowledge is a goldmine of concepts and ideas.  The most interesting parts are at the end—in discussions of society, communications and language.

What biology shows us is that the uniqueness of being human lies exclusively in a social structural coupling that occurs through languaging, generating (a) the regularities proper to the human social dynamics, for example, individual identity and self-consciousness, and (b) the recursive social dynamics that entails a reflection enabling us to see that as human beings we have only the world which we create with others—whether we like them or not.

What I like most is the circular nature of the self-conception of individuals being tied to their use of language; the strength and ability of that language is tied to the richness and diversity of their interactions with others; those interactions are communication—strongly defined as activities triggering a change in the recipient; that change affects the individual’s own self-conception and consciousness.  It’s a little heady, so I made up a graphic:

Self, Language and Communication

All of the components are core to our human reality.  And, recursively, we cannot describe this reality without them.

On the practical side, I think the tidyness in which language and communication are linked and allowed to dynamically affect one another is astounding. Language—not just as words, but as a means of communicating and affecting change in others—is a continuous development.  Our individual ability to language is a function of the richness of our interactions with others, continuously enriching itself as we add new experience to it, and use it to create descriptions of descriptions (and so forth) of those experiences.  And, that the effectiveness of our language is the measure of our ability to communicate—effecting change—with others.

This calls to mind (well, it does for me) the thoughts of the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin who advanced the idea of the dialogic within literature, stating things along the lines that “a dialogic work carries on a continual dialogue with other works of literature and other authors. It does not merely answer, correct, silence, or extend a previous work, but informs and is continually informed by the previous work.” Expanding this:

For Bakhtin, all language - indeed, all thought - appeared dialogic. This means that everything anybody ever says always exists in response to things that have been said before and in anticipation of things that will be said in response. We never, in other words, speak in a vacuum. As a result, all language (and the ideas which language contains and communicates) is dynamic, relational and engaged in a process of endless redescriptions of the world. [from Wikipedia, though you can read much more advanced dissertation on Bakhtin]

The unbroken linearity of consciousness is interesting enough. Once we have experienced something, we cannot go back and un-experience it.  I have participated in many conversations of “What album do you wish you could listen to for the first time again?” (for me it’s The Clash, The Clash). Jorge Luis Borges explores it within the short story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”:

Those who have insinuated that Menard devoted his life to writing a contemporary Quixote besmirch his illustirous memory.  Pierre Menard did not want to compose annother Quixote, which surely is easy enough—he wanted to compose the Quixote.  Nor, surely, need one be obliged to note that his goal was never a mechanical transcription of the original; he had no intention of copying it. His admirable ambition was to produce a number of pages which coincided—word for word and line for line—with those of Miguel de Cervantes.


The Ethics of Awareness

I just finished reading The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. I posted upon the book earlier, but I wanted to paste in the conclusion, which I think presents an interesting closure to their introductory thesis: “doing is knowing, and all knowing is doing”—a thesis the authors make a compelling case for.

The knowledge of knowledge compels. It compels us to adopt an attitude of permanent vigilance against the temptation of certainty. It compels us to recognize that certainty is not a proof of truth. It compels us to realize that the world everyone sees is not the world but a world which we bring forth with others. It compels us to see that the world will be different only if we live differently. It compels us because, when we know that we know, we cannot deny to ourselves or to others that we know.

That is why everything we said in this book, through our knowledge of our knowledge, implies an ethics that we cannot evade, an ethics that has its reference point in the awareness of the biological and social structure of human beings, an ethics that springs from human reflection and puts human reflection right at the core as a constitutive social phenomenon. If we know that our world is necessarily the world we bring forth with others, every time we are in conflict with another human being with whom we want to remain in coexistence, we cannot affirm what for us is certain (an absolute truth) because that would negate the other person. If we want to coexist with the other person, we must see that his certainty—however undesirable it may seem to us—is as legitimate and valid as our own because, like our own, that certainty expresses his conservation of structural coupling in a domain of existence—however undesirable it may seem to us. Hence, the only possibility for coexistence is to opt for a broader perspective, a domain of existence in which both parties fit in bringing forth of a common world. A conflict is always a mutual negation. It can never be solved in the domain where it takes place if the disputants are “certain.” A conflict can go away only if we move to another domain where coexistence takes place. The knowledge of this knowledge constitutes the social imperative for a human-centered ethics.

Quoting the conclusion here doesn’t do it justice since this comes proceeding 9 closely interlinked chapters, but I think the authors make a powerful statement.

But, to follow up, I’ve been wanting to throw the following quote into a post for quite sometime. The quote is from Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age and, as the book takes place in the future, is ostensibly a statement of our current times:

“You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices. It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of a climate, where you are not allowed to criticize others—after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds is there for criticism?

“Now, this lead to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticize others’ shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all vices. For, you see, even if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticize another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour—you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another. Virtually all political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to ferreting out of hypocrisy.”

I want to add this quote because I think it throws into sharp relief the emphasized statement in the first quote: “every time we are in conflict with another human being with whom we want to remain in coexistence”. The ethical statement makes the case that all viewpoints are personally valid, but need not be embraced let alone tolerated inter-personally nor socially_—nor geo-politically, if you want to go there. Though there is—as the case is strongly made in the Tree of Knowledge—an expansion of self, and thus knowledge, and thus realm of action, in that _understanding of others. Which is important indeed.

(Also regarding that last quote: I also really dislike it when people whine about hypocrisy.)


Tips for researching and applying to nonprofit jobs

I have a guest post up today at Entry Level Living on understanding and negotiating your non-profit salary. It’s targeted towards people who already have a nonprofit job and are looking to increase their piece of the pie. The last piece of advice from the article is stay mobile. If you’re looking for a new nonprofit job, here are some tips:

If you didn’t do due diligence the first time, you should definitely fully research the place you’re interested in. Once again, knowing how to read a Form 990 is immensely valuable (and you can search them for free here and here—though the latter requires free registration).

  • Looking at the upper-level salaries, what’s the maximum you could ever make?
  • Did the organization take a loss last year? Looking at a couple years, are they growing or contracting?
  • How is the organization making their money? That’s what they really care about—not necessarily their published priorities.
  • Do they pay a lot of money to contractors? What internal competencies is the organization lacking?
  • Look at their asset statement. Does the organization have the equipment you need to do the work efficiently (e.g. modern computers)?

Any number of these could generate questions to ask during the interview, or grist for the question “How did you prepare for this interview?”

Some Non-990 advice:

  • Know yourself. Make an honest assessment of what kind of management you need to flourish, and be ready to answer the question “What kind of supervision do you work best under?” Do you want to figure things out for yourself or be told how to do it? Do you do better with routine or having different activities every day? Even if this is your first job, try to think of a teacher or professor that worked with you in a way you liked.

  • Spend time on your cover letter. For-profit hirers flip to the resume to look for experience; nonprofit hirers read the cover letter with an eye for heart. Make it a passionate statement for why you do what you want to do. It’s not the body of the letter that counts, it’s the soul.

  • Salary ranges are not hiring ranges The published upper limit is most likely the maximum you will ever make in that position. Don’t expect to successfully negotiate for the higher amount.

  • What did you used to make. If you’re asked about your salary expectations (and you really shouldn’t be if it’s an entry level job—both of you should know you’ll be making next to nothing), instead talk about your salary history. What have you earned in the past (and what benefits have you received)? Be clear that your aware you may be taking a pay cut, but make up for it by stressing your alignment with their mission and services.

  • Use the hiring process as a guide. I know many people who say “I should have known when they hired me…” If the job description is poorly written, you have trouble getting direct answers to questions, or you feel parts of the hiring process take place in bad faith, take that as a warning of what it’s like to work there. Do they model the type of behavior you expect and respect?

And most importantly, stay positive and open minded. Right now it’s tough for everyone to find a job. Don’t get caught on a narrow path. A nonprofit career is not the only way to do good.


Notes on silence

My roommate (a teacher) left open this week’s Newsweek with a movie review of the French film, The Class, that began with this quote, tattooed on one of the students and dubiously attributed to the Qu’ran:

If your words are less important than silence, keep quiet.

Which sounds suspiciously similar to the Buddhist quote:

Do not speak—unless it improves on silence

Trying to google through Christian quotations, I found little in the way of direct quotations, though lots of interpretation.

As a contemporary quote, I like Cloud Cult’s “The Deaf Girls Song”, off of The Meaning of 8:

Did you hear about the deaf girl The one whose song’s gone number one Three minutes of silence on the radio It’s the best damn gift for everyone