The Free Audio and Video Event last Saturday at the Trinity Centre in Bristol was an intriguing day. There was a lot of stuff packed into the schedule and the subject matter varied quite considerably – not surprising given the scope of the event.
Frankly, some of the stuff went a bit over my head, but there was plenty there of interest and the day was a good opportunity to meet people and get ideas going. I was particularly interested by James Wallbank’s talk on the Access Space project in Sheffield, which is inspiring other people to start up similar projects across the UK. Access Space is a free media lab built using recycled hardware and Free software like Linux and run with a strong emphasis on collaboration: people can walk in and use the facilities for free but must be prepared to pitch in and help other users when they can. He talked of the success they’ve had getting young people interested and involved and it sounded like they have a lot to offer similar projects in terms of ideas and experience.
There was loads more. Tom Chance of Remix Reading gave an interesting talk which focused on the practical aspects of remixing creative commons licensed culture and pointed out the need for a large pool of material licensed under the same terms to avoid incompatibilities caused by license proliferation. A chap from Plugincinema gave a talk on open source film-making and it’s interfaces with open source software and internet culture. There was a presentation by Michael Sparks from the BBC on their open source Kamaelia project for large-scale media delivery – although I missed part of this talk and so should really go and read up on it some more.
Later the emphasis switched from theory to practice and there were performances and demonstrations of various kinds. One chap played long ambient techno tracks composed using free software while he surfed the web with his laptop display projected onto the screen behind him. We couldn’t quite work out whether this was some kind of postmodern performace or whether he was just randomly surfing around while he waited to introduce the next track. Quite a few people drifted over to the Bristol Wireless LTSP installation on one side of the hall, which really deserves a post all of its own, so watch this space.
All in all an interesting day, although I’d expected a few more people and it seemed that most attendees were already aware of Free/Open Source software and creative culture – “geeks talking to geeks” as someone put it to me at one point. In my limited experience this is a major sticking point when it comes to advocacy – it’s easy to reach people who’re already interested, but far more difficult to get beyond them and attract people who may not have thought about this way of doing things before.