Last Friday, Adam Hyde pressed the big green “go” button for flossmanuals.net: a place to read, write, and remix free manuals for free software. The Netherlands Media Art Institute provided the place and time as part of the opening of the Video Vortex exhibition (they call it their response to Web 2.0). Part of the exhibition is a workshop space for projects, available for a week, and flossmanuals.net is the first one there. Adam also announced a good Board of Advisors that’s just established, and a grant from the Digital Pioneers fund.
What’s the link between art, free software and free manuals? Many art schools still teach new media based on proprietary software. But as an autonomous artist, you’re basically forced to hand in your tools upon graduation: the educational licenses on your software expire, and you usually don’t have the money to buy an official license.
So you either continue to work with “illegal software” (kein software ist illegal?) or you have to rebuild your studio with open source and free software, and learn to work with the new tools.
Programmers are working on the software, but it’s often hard to make it work. On the other hand, many artists make (part of) their living by teaching, and so the ones involved in the software development are already used to explaining things to newbies. And they’re keen to introduce these tools into the art schools they teach at, so that you can graduate there with a toolbox you can continue working with.
flossmanuals.net is offering a place to jointly write the manuals. And to remix that content in whatever way suits your needs: pick and choose the chapters you need. And, for instance, integrate it in your own website through AJAX: always up to date.
It will be interesting to see if the remixed manuals become available on the site too. And to place the remixed manuals next to toolboxes on Social Source Commons: just download your “Toolbox in a Box” including manuals. Stephany Hankey of Tactical Tech and their NGO-in-a-Box is on the Board of Advisors, and they’re experimenting with it in the Citizen Journalism Toolkit.
I also learned that the Netherlands Media Art Institute is walking the talk, and has moved to open source IT themselves (you can read the Dutch description at Toltech’s website). Nice!