Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Free culture for a free society

On January 31, 2011, there was an unusual meeting at the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, Kerala. The participants were a group of young people, some of them activists of the Free Software movement in Kerala, people who were contributing to free software or to localising free software in Malayalam. Some were interested in animation, and one or two of them had experience in 3D animation. What brought this group together was a project that had been launched a few months earlier. The project was to create a 3D animation movie as a community effort using Blender and other free software. 

Blender is a piece of software for 3D modelling, animation and non-linear editing. Proprietary software to begin with, when the company found the going tough it was taken over by a group that included its developers and users who liked the software. They released it under the GNU General Public Licence, which made it free software that anyone could download and use. 

The Blender Foundation that was created to maintain the software subsequently got animators together to create three short animation films -- Elephant's Dream, Big Buck Bunny,and Sintel -- that are available for anyone to download. 

While the objective of the Blender Foundation was to demonstrate the software’s capabilities, the objective of the young enthusiasts who got together in Calicut (now known as Kozhikode) was to show that cultural products like films can be created by a community and distributed freely -- something that’s contrary to the existing paradigm of culture being viewed as an industry and a means to making profit. The project is called ‘Chamba’, following the practice started by the Blender Foundation of naming their free movie projects after fruits. It was started at the suggestion of a young veteran of free software, Praveen, who also gave it its name. Details of the project can be found at

Readers may wonder about the purpose of such an exercise. Creating a movie involves a lot of effort by a number of people, expertise, and monetary investment. If the product is distributed free, how will the money be recovered? And with little chance of the money being recovered, who is going to invest in the first place?
It’s understandable for people to consider the idea wildly Utopian. But such ideas are a sign of the changing times. We are in an age when products that used to be made by companies in pursuit of profit are increasingly being created by groups of individuals for the fun of it. Free Software and Wikipedia are very good examples.

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

No comments: