N. Gonçalves, M.P. Figueiredo

School of Education, Polytechnic Institute of Viseu (PORTUGAL)
OpenLab ESEV is a project of the School of Education of the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu (ESEV), Portugal, that aims to promote, foster and support the use of Free/Libre Software (Stallman, 2010) and Open Source Software (Perens, 1999), Open Educational Resources (UNESCO, 2012), Free Culture (Lessig, 2004), Free file formats and more flexible copyright licenses for creative and educational purposes in the ESEV's domains of activity (education, arts, media). Most of the OpenLab ESEV activities are related to the teacher education and arts and multimedia programs, with a special focus on the later.

In this paper, the project and some activities are presented, starting with its origins and its conceptual framework. The presented overview is intended as background for the examination of the use of Free/Libre Software and Free Culture in educational settings, specially at the higher education level, and for creative purposes as “Free art and a free culture, is of vital importance for a free society” (Myers, 2008, p. 311) and “Issues surrounding copyright and free access are among the most divisive and most important of the digital age, bringing into the open questions about the nature of knowledge, of content, of society, identity and democracy" (Downes, 2011, p. 6). The purpose is to further the discussion about Free/Libre Software and Free Culture as ethical and valid choices that stand for the digital commons, an ecosystem based on the free exchange of ideas and creativity, on freedom and sharing, offering and expressing a choice outside overly-restrictive traditional copyright and established or more conventional methodologies of production based on proprietary software.

Going beyond the desire to promote informed choices as the motivating challenge that emerged from an environment characterized by the lack of knowledge of the existing Free/Libre alternatives and by work habits exclusively built around proprietary software, the authors share the view that “The decision to work with free software is also an ethical decision, the expression of a desire to live in a world organised in a different way, where the artificial barriers that benefit only a few are eliminated” (Soler, 2008, p.16). In the context of the arts and multimedia, also means realizing that “Free software (...) brings with it powerful new production methods and vibrant communities, which challenge artists to change the ways things of all kinds are made” (Griffiths, 2008, p. 248), and that “the workflow in f/loss is not pre-determined for the artist (...) and opens a world of possibilities and creativity” (Kenlon, 2011, p. 42).

The several activities developed with students and professionals generated pipelines and workflows implemented for different creative purposes, software packages used for different tasks, choices for file formats and copyright licenses. Finished and ongoing multimedia and arts projects will be presented as real case scenarios. Finally, the authors will share some recommendations and share future directions that might be of interest to artists, educators and media producers concerned with these issues and interested in exploring these landscapes.