'A Write Australia Policy: Can Australian culture remain distinctive in a digital world?'

The Australian Society of Authors' Colin Simpson Lecture for 2002, Saturday 23 March , Sydney

Dr Terry Cutler, Chairman Australia Council

I feel honoured and privileged to be asked to deliver this year's Colin Simpson Lecture for the Australian Society of Authors [1]. This lecture commemorates the lasting contribution that Colin Simpson made to Australia's goodly company of writers, most notably through his campaign to establish a public lending right in Australia.

I also feel very humble, as I am no artist: no crafter of a fine sentence nor teller of significant tales. During the week, Peter Goldsworthy, the Chairman of the Australia Council's Literature Board, sent me a copy of his collected essays Navel Gazing: essays, half truths and mystery flights, published in 1998. From this gesture I infer he gives me liberty to indulge in my own navel gazing about literature and the importance of the magic of language and communication - the core things that make us human, or at least the fit companions of monkeys. Those of you who have not read Peter's essays will not get the irony of this reference.

An appropriate sub-title for my remarks would be "Where worlds collide". As someone who is definitively not your peer in the field of literature, I thought I could best interest you in some musings about the interplay between the world of information and communications technology, which is my background, and the world of the arts in general and of literature in particular. What follows are musings, some thinking aloud, rather than definitive pronouncements. In this line of thought I discover more questions than firm predictions. This lecture, therefore, is a pastiche of the science fiction treatment of cultural theory developed in the book and film, Fahrenheit 451.

In my technology world we love laws and scientific propositions. The classic law for information technology is Moore's law, which states that the amount of information storable on a given amount of silicon will double every year. First proposed by Gordon Moore in 1964, this law has stood the test of time and experience. The information and the words we can process, store, and re-use is increasing exponentially. The second classic law in information technology is Metcalfe's law of network effects: "The value of a network goes up as a square of the number of users". This law probably applies as well to writers, and their earnings. That is, the economic value of a writer goes up as a square of the number of their readers. It is the same with Microsoft software. In my world we call this the demand side economies of scale.

In the world of information technology I have been noteworthy for only one law: Cutler's First Law is that the efficacy of public policy in the information economy is inverse to the gap between dog years (Internet time), and the sum of fog years (government decision time) and cog years (bureaucratic time). In other words, the framework for Government policy-making suits periods of stability, not rapid change.

Since my transmogrification into the world of the arts I have quickly laid claim to several new laws:

A couple of months ago I used my regular column in Business Review Weekly to propound my personal checklist of the key forces shaping the 21st century. What, I muse, do these forces mean for the arts, and for literature and writers in particular? The occasion of this lecture seems an ideal opportunity to explore this collision between my discrete worlds of technology and of the arts.

In thinking about the emerging global information economy, or knowledge economy, I argue we are currently at a break point, a point of discontinuity in many of the structures and frameworks which shape our economy and the community. Shaping the 21st century landscape is a world-wide web of forces. My working checklist consists of the following eight key forces:

  1. Globalisation
  2. The collapse of the Second World
  3. Digital technology
  4. Industrial restructuring
  5. Labour market restructuring
  6. Multiple citizenships
  7. The internationalisation of economic regulation
  8. New value drivers in industry and country competitiveness.

It is not so much each individual trend that matters; it is their interconnection and the linkages that make the difference - the social ecosystem, to adopt a biological metaphor. It is important for us to grasp the nature of these interdependencies and their impact in changing the frameworks within which we live and work - in other words, to understand the context of innovation and of social change. In describing these forces for change I want to explore, very tentatively, their implications for the world of the arts and of literature.


There have been many waves of globalisation throughout history. What is different today is the scope and the intensity of what is happening. We are seeing new levels of global interdependency being embedded through new trades, particularly in skills and knowledge, the trades in services and people and ideas, and now through the emergence of global electronic commerce.

Creative and copyright industries are the United States' biggest exports. In Australia, a recent study by the Allen Consulting Group [2] has shown that, in 1999/2000, creative industries contributed $19.2 billion in industry gross product, or 3.3% of gross national product, increasing at an average annual growth rate of 5.7%. 3.8% of the workforce are directly employed in the creative copyright industries. Unfortunately we continue to be a net importer of content and copyright. Australia's trade deficit in the creative industries and intellectual property is growing. The creative industries are becoming, therefore, an increasingly controversial issue in world trade negotiations.

The production and printing of books is a globalised industry, in the hands of a shrinking pool of global publishers. Successful writers are global properties, jetting from one festival to another. The hazards and opportunities for independent local publishing have been chronicled, painfully, by Hilary McPhee, one of my distinguished predecessors at the Australia Council.

Some, optimistically, see a counter-force to globalisation in the possibility for self-publishing over the Internet. I suspect that this will be, at best, a niche opportunity. Markets typically coalesce around market organisers who aggregate demand, also known as publishers or programmers, and this occurs as much in cyberspace and pay television today as in the old world of the mechanical printing press.

In today's global economy and marketplace the reality is that Australia remains a small, shrinking, and geographically isolated participant. During the 1990s there were many pronouncements about the death of distance and the creation of a global playing field which would be location independent. This new world would be delivered by telecommunications and the Internet. These pronouncements were a cruel hoax, because cyberspace does not eliminate the real, physical world, and its constraints and its joys. Whatever technology does, human beings - including writers and readers - remain very much flesh and blood (for the time being at least!).

Market share, for writers and publishers, is now a complex game. In the distant past, isolation and insularity probably worked for Australian authors. When, in preparation for this lecture, I rediscovered my copies of A. G. Stevens' short lived literary magazine, The Bookfellow, published in 1899, I found that in the five years after its first publication in 1894 Ethel Turner's Seven Little Australians had sold 30,000 copies. Adjusted for population, these sales would have represented more than 150,000 copies today, a pot boiler!

In 1899 the Bookfellow could not make a profit at a print run of 2500. Today the threshold for an Australia Council grant for a literary magazine remains a modest 500 subscribers - a tiny share of a global market, or even of a local market. This underlines the reality that, within a global economy, Australia remains a small market. Its smallness and isolation is reinforced by the immutable facts of its demography. The bulk of a huge island continent's population is concentrated in a small south-eastern pocket. In demographic and power terms, there are two Australia's: SCAM Australia comprising the Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne axis, and non-SCAM Australia, the rest of the continent. (I first used this model of two Australia's to describe the realities of the structure of the telecommunications industry, distinguishing between the dynamics of high density and low density markets). This is a re-profiling of the old distinction between the city and the bush. Does it follow then that SCAM based stories and literature speak to the audience of a global village, whilst non-SCAM writing speaks in a more provincial dialect? The export success of indigenous art suggests that the reality may be more complex.

As a teenager, I remarked a huge difference between the contemporary internationalism of Frank Moorhouse's Futility And other Animals and the, to me, dated insularity of Such is Life and Henry Lawson. It is instructive that we still discuss the advent of the Great Australian Novel, whilst failing to truly celebrate the success of Australian novelists like Patrick White and David Malouf on the international stage. In sport, we are happy, even anxious, to calibrate ourselves against international benchmarks. We felt shamed when we returned from the Montreal Olympics with no gold medals. At the Sydney Olympics we gloried in capturing a global market share of 5.31% of gold medals. In the arts, including literature, we maintain a cultural cringe, and shrink from international benchmarks. We run literary prizes restricted to local content, occasionally even disqualifying local authors for being insufficiently Australian in content, as when Frank Moorhouse was disqualified from a Miles Franklin Award in 1994. By contrast, the rich Dublin IMPAC literary prize is open to all international comers, and was first won by David Malouf. The Nobel Prize for scientific and creative excellence has always been the global Olympics for intellectual excellence.

The counter argument revolves around arguments for cultural diversity, against the threat of global homogenisation, of a McDonald's culture. I shall address this issue in discussing my second global trend, the end of the Second World order and the triumphal celebration of internationalism.

The collapse of the Second World

The second key global trend is the progressive impact from the collapse of the Second World order. When I grew up we divided the world into two: the pink bits representing the footprint of the British Empire, and the rest. After the Second World War it became a three way split between a First World of industrialised market economies, the socialist Second World, and a contested and undeveloped Third World.

The pivotal development in our recent history is China's entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Now Russia is lobbying to join the WTO. This represents a massive shift towards the integration and internationalisation of the global economy, to an extent that we have never seen before in history.

The political commentator Francis Fukuyama heralded this era as "the end of ideology". He was wrong. Two factors prove his obituary premature.

First, Fukuyama's pronouncement was quickly displaced by Huntingdon's thesis about the new clash of civilisations; the West against Islam and Confucianism. After September 11 this has been restated as the defence of "civilisation" against a terrorist "axis of evil".

Secondly, I personally concluded he was wrong when I began exploring the possible meanings of global electronic commerce, and the promise of "borderless" markets. It is true that electronic commerce transforms and reshapes markets radically. It is patently not true that markets are borderless. The truth is that the nature of borders changes. The Internet and electronic commerce has, and will, put increasing pressure on traditional constructs of geographically defined borders or regional territories. But no markets are without borders. The trick in the 21st Century is to discern the new boundary markers of trade and commerce, and of intellectual exchange. I argue that these new markers will increasingly be around religion, language, and customs. In other words, around the cultural demarcation of markets. This has been evident in the global demographics of broadcasting and screen-based production; it has been insufficiently examined in other areas of the arts and in cultural policy generally.

Two interesting and inter-related questions arise in this context. What do the pressures arising from trade and global economic integration mean for the arts and cultural pluralism? And what do these pressures mean for multiculturism and national identity within a society like Australia?

The last book I have read, and therefore the one I will tend to quote most today, is Margaret Atwood's delightful explorations of her vocation as a writer [3]. It is absolutely the best book I have read by a writer on their vocation. As a colonial Canadian, Atwood talks about the liberating ideas of her contemporaries Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan on her perspective as a writer:

It was Frye who made a revolutionary statement - revolutionary not just for Canada but for any society, especially any colonial society: "... the centre of reality is wherever one happens to be, and its circumference is whatever one's imagination can make sense of" (So you didn't have to be from London or Paris or New York after all!) Just down the road at an adjacent college was Marshall McLuhan; he published the Gutenberg Galaxy in 1960, causing another stir, this time about the media and their effects on perception, and the possible obsolescence of the written word. (So writers in London and Paris and New York were in just as much trouble as us provincials!) [4]

When we talk about the virtual communities created by the Internet, and these are very real today, we talk about communities built around special communities of interest denominated by factors of affiliation other than geography and place.

This takes us to the vexed area of Babel and the future of language, or rather the future of diversity of language and related meaning. For a while, towards the end of the 20th Century, people predicted that the Internet would finally enshrine English as the language of multicultural exchange. What happened was that the Internet rapidly became multi-lingual, reflecting the power of local content and relevant cultural context.

Nonetheless, increasingly globalisation does suggest that English will either become the second language of necessity, or that technologies for automatic language translation will make the issue irrelevant, except for the arts. In literature, the ultimate celebration of language as meaning, translation has always been seen as problematic or as a special art in its own right. The conflict here is the challenge between the message and the medium that is central to all the debates about new media, and especially about digital media.

Language matters as a medium for meaning. As George Orwell put it:

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the greatest degree possible [5].

What does globalisation mean for an increasingly multicultural society like Australia. The meaning and nature of multicultural arts, and its relation to concepts of cultural pluralism, will be an immensely important debate throughout the 21st Century. Australia of necessity will be at the eye of this intellectual cyclone. It is a new cultural frontier at which we find ourselves - in unexplored territory, without maps nor proven instruments to chart a course.

On another front, that of economics, the collapse of the Second World order focuses our mind on the nature of territorial markets, the basis for traditional arrangements for media licensing and distribution. This is the debate about parallel importing and territorial zoning for book distribution, music, videos and computer software. In essence this an argument about the commoditisation of intellectual property, and the valuation of creativity, which I will attempt to address under a later heading.

In an era of borderless dialogue and the World Wide Web, the meaning of the "local" needs exploring anew. Do we define ourselves by our sense of place or by some strange combination of time, longitude and latitude? How do light, landscape, the fusion of multicultural voices, and isolation fuel our creative imagination? In 1899 the Bulletin's A. G. Stevens asked himself the question why so many people in the bush resorted to poetry:

We are really becoming an astonishing race of rhymers - especially in the Bush. In the cities there are more distractions of thought and occupation; but in the vast interior, away from the cities, you seem rarely to meet men who have not at some time or other written doggerel verse.... There may be a peculiar stimulus in the climate. But probably the chief cause is the dominance in Australia of Space and Time... So [the bush rhymester] writes because the creation-act reassures him of his strength; and he rhymes because prose is too pale and too tame to tell his passions [6].

Les Murray's poem A Brief History [7] reminds us that we still have a problem about our national identity, as Australia grows and changes.

Our one culture paints Dreamings, each a beautiful claim. Far more numerous are the unspeakable Whites, the only cause of all earthly plights, immigrant natives without immigrant rights. Unmixed with these are Ethnics, absolved of all blame. .... Australians are like most who won't read this poem or any, since literature turned on them and bodiless jargons without reverie scorn their loves as illusion and biology, compared with bloody History, the opposite of home.

In a profound sense all of us struggle to hold a sense of identity, that centre of reality in wherever one happens to be, to echo Frye. The arts are, in erstwhile Adelaide Festival director Peter Sellar's wonderful phrase, "windows into realities under construction". An increasingly important source of Australian inspiration comes from Indigenous and multicultural arts. For example, the gift to the world from our Indigenous art has been the interplay between the celebration of cultural heritage and the engagement with the foreign and new, combining "new media" with cultural heritage to produce art that represents the radical colonisation of new spaces at the intersection of the familiar and foreign, and of old and new media. Thus, for example, landscape installation art has been reinterpreted as a genre of "dot" paintings on canvas, while artists like Kathleen Pettyarre "translate" the meanings of landscape for non-Indigenous understanding.

I believe an important part of our "images of who we are" is that sense of diversity and pluralism which underpins our federalist construct of national identity, and which is now underpinned itself by the role of our arts in all their rich diversity. This is a profoundly democratic instinct.

The focus on a distinctive Australian voice in the arts should, however, never be allowed to become a celebration of parochialism nor an apologia for insularity. Throughout history, cultures and civilisation have been enriched and inspired by exchange and discovery within a wider world, that melting pot of cosmopolitanism in which traditions collide and create new possibilities and new understandings of self.

Digital technology - writing as code and readers as code-breakers

A third key global force is the radical discontinuities introduced by digital technology and the emergence of the digital economy. Information and communications technology continues to develop and will become even more pervasive in its impact. There is much more to come, particularly in the area of biotechnology, which will profoundly affect the ways we organise economic activity and our communal life.

In my world of digital technology, everything is reducible to software code. I think we often forget the basic point that all language and writing is code, and that writing is a relatively new technology; printing is even newer. As Margaret Atwood remind us:

Talking is very old, writing is not. Most people learn to talk when they are infants, but many people never learn to read. Reading is decoding, and in order to do it you have to learn a purely arbitrary set of markings, an abstract formula. [8]

Digital coding merely compounds the issues around code creation, code storage, code distribution, and code re-usage [9]. To me Atwood's distinction between talking and code, also known as writing, is important as we debate the future of text in a digital world. Code encrypts conversations, voices. Text is coded talk.

For hacking read code-breaking. For copyright violation read software piracy. For plagiarism read re-authoring or "open code software". For media regulation read proprietary systems (or the metaphoric "walled gardens"). For peer-to-peer networking, aka Napster, read book lending and photocopying. For censorship read "trusted systems" or Internet filters. For hypertext read footnotes, bibliographies and literary criticism. I hope it is immediately apparent that authors and the Australian Society of Authors cannot afford to ignore the digital revolution.

Industrial restructuring - and the business of making books

Industrial and firm restructuring looms large in the worldwide web of forces reshaping the 21st Century. The underlying point here is that the nature of the firm or the law (lore?) of inter-personal exchanges as a way of organising market activity has always revolved around the nature and the quantum of transaction costs, the economics of exchanges. Transactions, of course, are fundamentally affected by communications networking and information processing power, which is at the heart of the digital revolution.

The digital revolution profoundly changes the business system of writing and publishing, across publishing, printing, editing, libraries, distribution, sales. Digital rights management affects what revenues and what taxes can be collected, and how. Phenomena like Amazon.com create more perfect markets - or more informed markets, or more accessible markets - for information and for literature. Systems for digital rights management, the new codification of copyright, offers more control over, and protection for, copyright than ever before. Online publishing creates the electronic book, and notebook, and the e-zine; automated production processes enable the "just in time" manufacturing of a printed book, on demand; contract, user-controlled manufacturing allows the creation of the customised, individually specified personal edition. Online libraries become a virtual backlist. As with all other industries, the business of book making is in for a major make-over.

Thinking about the business of the digital book making reminds us that the creative arts are about more than economic transactions. Margeret Atwood reminisces:

I can still hear the sneer in the tone of the Parisian intellectual who asked me. "Is it true you write the bestsellers?" "Not on purpose," I replied somewhat coyly. Also somewhat defensively, for I knew these equations as well as he did, and was thoroughly acquainted with both kinds of snobbery: that which ascribes value to a book because it makes lots of money, and that which ascribes value to a book because it doesn't. [10]

She goes on to remind us that the arts involve a gift, and writing the gracious act of giving.

...the part of any poem or novel that makes it a work of art doesn't derive its value from the realm of market exchange. It comes from the realm of gift, which has altogether different modes of operating. A gift is not weighted and measured, nor can it be bought. It can't be expected or demanded; rather it is granted, or else not. In theological terms it's a grace, proceeding from the fullness of being [11].

In a thoughtful essay, Frank Moorhouse has explored the nature of the different transactions involved in the act of making a gift. Moorhouse summarises these transactions as:

The invitation (by the community to the novitiate artist) to present: the obligation (of the community) to receive or reject: the obligation (of the community) once the act of reception occurs, to reward [12].

Systems of rewards outside the economic transactions of the marketplace, whether public or private patronage, or legislated rights to benefits such as a public lending right, have always underpinned the idea, the very possibility, of being an artist.

Labour market restructuring - the artist as a knowledge worker

The flipside of micro-economic restructuring is labour market restructuring. In the early 1990s Robert Reich, who went on to become the Labor Secretary under President Clinton, described the restructuring of labour markets within an information economy. He drew attention to the growing divergence between the location-specific employment of routine production workers and personal service workers on the one hand, and on the other, the new elite knowledge workers who are globally mobile and footloose.

Over the past decade a quiet revolution has been going on in the area of corporate governance and the nature of the corporation. The cultural shifts associated with the democratisation of stockmarkets, the new primacy of intellectual capital, and the emergence of stock options and employee participation in the ownership of firms all starts to change the fundamentals about careers, employment and the nature of labour in organised economic activity.

The industrial revolution was very much about the specialisation of function. The information revolution is very much about the function of special people, knowledge workers - or in Robert Reich's richer term: symbolic analysts. People who can connect their left and right brains. As Richard Rosecrance has argued in the United States, if services and intellectual property are the focus of future economies (rather than manufacturing and land values), then creativity and innovation are core assets, and education is the essential founding investment in that future.

Within the labour market for knowledge workers there is a new premium on creative aptitudes, not perishable expertise. Knowledge workers, like artists, have to keep re-inventing themselves. This shift from specialised knowledge to developing creative aptitudes for life-long learning and intellectual growth is clearly not reflected in our current educational systems. Educational reform is urgent to equip us for the 21st Century. One of the Australia Council's biggest challenges is how to create a real shift in what happens on the ground in education, through how we argue the case for an increased emphasis on the arts in education.

A further challenge is how we value and support the vocation of the artist in order to underpin a prosperous knowledge-based society and to nurture the cultural richness which is becoming an increasingly important factor in country competition for elite knowledge workers.

Multiple citizenships - and the democracy of writers

Notions about an individual's affiliation to the state and of the meaning of citizenship have both mutated and evolved over the centuries. Once citizenship was firmly tied to property, to place. With the industrial revolution and urbanisation, democratic rights shifted to people. These posed few problems when people and place were conterminous, and they were when tribal diasporas were restricted to stateless minority groups like Jews and gypsies. In the early stages of the industrial revolution, most population shifts occurred within countries, mostly associated with urbanisation. In later stages, cross-border migration increased. Two features characterised 20th Century population movements; outside of forced relocations, migration implied permanent resettlement in a new place, and it often occurred formally or informally with group movements.

What is different today with globally mobile knowledge workers is that global migrations are temporary and not rooted to particular locations. They are also based around individual career and lifestyle choices, not around traditional communities. Governments themselves create special rules to facilitate the entry of desired skilled workers. Small nations like Australia find they have a growing pool of expatriates as a global diaspora, a network of international connections and influence. Traditionally expatriates, like Rupert Murdoch, confronted binary choices: be an Australian citizen or be an American citizen. In the 21st Century I predict that multiple citizenships will become the norm for elite knowledge workers, and that there will be significant changes to electoral practice to reflect increased mobility. All of this mirrors the phenomenon of virtual communities, online enabled special interests groups.

For the arts all this increases the salience of the debates about national cultural identity, and threats to the integrity of Indigenous heritage and customary artistic expression (and the threat of tourist boomerangs made in China, or didgeridoos from Indonesia). The benefit of this trend is that it reinforces the role of culture, beliefs, and language in providing the glue that binds national communities together and the tools, whether the printed page, digital screens or venues, for dialogue across cultures and for cross-cultural learning. In my experience I find that one of the biggest barriers to cross-border trade and commerce is the cultural poverty and insensitivity of business people. Cultural exchange, from the translating of Australian writing to touring, foreign studio residencies, and an increased focus on the arts in management schools, is inextricably tied to the way we engage with the global village on a full and satisfying basis.

The internationalisation of economic and business regulation

This trend relates to the progressive internationalisation of the key frameworks for the governance of economic activity. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the OECD spearhead a growing proliferation of international, inter-government or supra-government global organisations, all defining key parameters to business functions and, by extension, to our civic polity. This is irreversible and it has happened without a lot of governments and a lot of people really being aware of the actual extent of the transfer and the alienation of effective control.

It has led to increasingly complex power-sharing arrangements at the international level between governments, businesses and non-government organisations. And raises the question as to what levers of influence national governments can exercise. The degrees of freedom are contracting and national governments are likely to focus increasingly on the competitiveness of factor inputs - in economic jargon the supply of resources into productive activity - and areas of market failure within a global environment. Hence the debate over "cultural exclusions" to trade agreements.

This trend matters for the arts, because issues of copyright, intellectual property protection and enforcement, and protocols on moral rights and heritage values will increasingly be determined by international agencies and conventions. The WTO and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) increasingly will shape the environment for artists around the world. The issue is whether issues of culture and the arts will be taken seriously in such forums, or be relegated to being second-order issues. The issue is whether notions of public good and of a public commons of a creative expression and opus can prevail over the economic imperatives for the privatisation of cultural value and the commodification of creativity. The debate over intellectual property protection and copyright goes to the heart of this matter. New value drivers in industry and country competitiveness.

What creates value in the emerging industrial landscape of the 21st Century?

One of the problems is that we are struggling to find useful ways to quantify or calibrate the new drivers as we move increasingly from tangible to intangible assets. Identifying and understanding the new value drivers is essential in preparing ourselves for the shock of the new.

The basic question is who owns - and therefore controls - ideas, artistic and creative product, and inventions? What is the balance between public rights and private interests? Who benefits from the creative act: the creator, the middleman, or the user? Who decides how the balance should be struck? These are tough questions, but ones that we cannot ignore because they are the matter of current debates about the parallel importation of books, droit de suite, moral rights, and the copyright of digital materials. The stakes here are high, as the economic importance of the trade in ideas and content grows. Will Microsoft or the author of a children's book receive equal attention in these debates?

The Australia Council currently has no formal position on parallel importation or global copyright issues. Whether or not it should is another question. What must be acknowledged, nonetheless, is that these are not simple matters to determine.

Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford University, has emerged as a learned advocate of informed public debate about the emerging issues within intellectual property law. Lessig points out that:

...something fundamental has changed: the role that [software] code plays in the protection of intellectual property has changed. Code can, and increasingly will, displace law as the primary defence of intellectual property in cyberspace. Private fences, not public law...

We are not entering a time when copyright is more threatened than it is in real space. We are instead entering a time when copyright is more effectively protected than at any time since Gutenberg... In such an age - in a time when the protections are being perfected - the real question for law is not, how can law aid that protection? but rather, is the protection too great? ... The problem will centre not on copy-right but on copy-duty - the duty of owners of protected property to make that property accessible [13].

What Lessig highlights is the way that digital information architectures, the structures of the technology, themselves begin to establish a framework of access and of rights independently of any legislative framework or public policy. A topical example is the way film companies have worked to ensure that usage rules and controls are "hardwired" into the software of DVD disks and equipment. This is the antithesis of initial philosophy of the Internet, described by Lessig in the following terms:

The digital world is closer to the world of ideas than to the world of things. We, in cyberspace, that is, have built a world that is close to the world of ideas that nature (in Jefferson's words) created: stuff in cyberspace can "freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition", because we have (at least initially) built cyberspace such that content is "like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement, or exclusive appropriation"[14].

Lawrence Lessig cites the amazingly lucid Judge Alez Kozinski of the Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States on the division between public good and private rights in the matter of intellectual property.

Overprotecting intellectual property is as harmful as underprotecting it. Creativity is impossible without a rich public domain [15].

Another law professor, Peter Jaszi, describes three ways in which the traditional balancing of these competing interests is being undermined in the digital era: through the "pseudo-copyright" of data protection systems; through the "paracopyright" of technology locks to data content; and through the "metacopyright" of contractual rights surrender [16].

The issue is how to get the balance right. I think the only way forward is to start from an attempt to formulate and flesh out a set of basic principles with which to assess approaches to "regulating" the trade in ideas and content. Principles about the rights of creators (APRA in the music industry has probably done this best so far); principles about the rights of users; principles about our public and citizens' rights to "the commons of information as public good". I think the only approach is to look at a framework for all content, and then to ask what makes any particular area of the arts different or special, not vice versa.

The unchanging

Let me end on an upbeat note about the impact of cyberspace on our understanding on the market for books - that is, readers. One of the profound implications of electronic commerce and online communications is the potential to shift from the mass marketing of push technology to personalised, one to one, marketing. In an interactive environment, marketing communications can become more of a dialogue between seller and buyer, or between writer and reader.

What does not change in a digital world is the motivation of the artist: the offering of a gift, the impulse to explore meaning and reach out for understanding, the impulse to the "creation act" in the words of A. G. Stevens. What does not change is the enduring question of to whom am I offering this gift; for whom am I writing? For Margaret Atwood the answer fluctuates between her Brown Owl from her girl guide days, and God.

So that is who the writer writes for: for the reader. For the reader who is not Them, but You. For the Dear Reader. For the ideal reader, who exists on a continuum somewhere between Brown Owl and God. And this ideal reader may prove to be anyone at all, any one at all - because the act of reading is just as singular - always - as the act of writing [17].

My starting point in this paper was to examine what my checklist of global forces shaping the 21st Century might imply for the arts and the vocation of authors. I close this examination by concluding that the status and vitality of the arts may well be the determining factor in whether this century of the global information economy is remembered for good or bad. In addressing the question I posed I have been surprised at how central the arts become in our responses to these challenges of the 21st Century. If we want to be anywhere in the global Information Economy, we must turn ourselves into a creative country. That is why institutions like the Australia Council are an essential element in a national innovation strategy. And the arts are an essential component of any information and communications technology industry development plan.

Says and Hearsays

A. G. Stevens

We are really becoming an astonishing race of rhymers - especially in the Bush. In the cities there are more distractions of thought and occupation ; but in the vast interior, away from the cities, you seem rarely to meet men who have not at some time or other written doggerel verse. The women have the same itch, but not to the same degree. Exactly what causes the phenomenon is uncertain. As regards younger rhymesters, our system of free education has something to do with it. There may be a peculiar stimulus in the climate. But probably the chief cause is the dominance in Australia of Space and Time. The Universe presses very closely upon a solitary or semi-solitary dweller in the Bush. He loses pride of humanity in the sense that he is but an atom on the grand scale of Nature moving grandly about him. Sometimes the bush is an ecstasy and an inspiration. Its denizens thrill to mornings whose bland airs seem faint with fragrance; are bound fast in the beauty of nights whose moons are miracles, whose stars burn so large and low you think to touch them. And sometimes the Bush is a desolation and a despair. The man watching his flocks when the sky is brass and the earth is iron sees hundreds of animals dying daily, sees hated crows circling to their feast; and impotently curses. One turn of the wheel and the drought gives place to a deluge which often sweeps away the remnants of the ruin that the drought has left. Human forces seem puny in face of the Bush; they are extinguished where the Bush joins hands with her terrible sister the Desert. Physical revolt is hopeless, yet a man instinctively revolts against the submergence of individuality. So he writes because the creation-act reassures him of his strength; and he rhymes because prose is too pale and too tame to tell his passions.

The Bookfellow, no 4. 29 April 1899

  1. This paper is an elaboration of my speaking notes for this lecture.
  2. The Allen Consulting Group, The Economic Contribution of Australia's Copyright Industries, Report prepared for the Australian Copyright Council and the Centre for Copyright Studies, 2001
  3. Margaret Atwood, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing, Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  4. ibid, p. 23
  5. I am indebted to Gail Cork from the Literature Board for this reference.
  6. The Bookfellow, No 4, 29 April 1899. Because it is so interesting, I append this brief essay in full at the end of this paper. In Stevens' view, men are more affected by this urge than women!
  7. Les Murray, Subhuman Redneck Poems, Duffy & Snellgrove Sydney, 1996
  8. Margaret Atwood, op cit, p. 46
  9. See R. Buckeridge and T. Cutler, Commerce in Content: Building Australia's International Future in Interactive Multimedia Markets, Department of Industry, Science and Technology, Canberra 1994. I am grateful to Hilary McPhee for reminding me that "there are still huge imponderables - and will probably always be. ie no research really tells us how we read or how we write - how the imagination works, in other words".
  10. Margaret Atwood, op cit, p. 69
  11. ibid, p. 69
  12. Frank Moorhouse, "The Gift Relationship in the Arts", nd
  13. Lawrence Lessig, Code, and other laws of cyberspace, Basic Books, NY, 1999, p.126f
  14. Lawrence Lessig, The future of ideas: the fate of the commons in a connected world, Random House NY, 2001, p. 116
  15. For Kozinski's exposition of these issues see Lessig, ibid, p. 203f.
  16. Siva Vaidhyanathan, Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity, NY University Press 2001, p. 183
  17. Atwood, op cit, p. 151. 10