Thoughts on the April 2nd meeting
I wanted to provide an account of our meetup yesterday concerning the indie games in libraries initiative. Thanks to tagsters Kalervo and Michael as well as Valérie Rioux, whom is new to TAG (she is an innovation & games librarian expert) for your insight, ideas and interest in the indie games in libraries initiative!
Results of our discussions
We started the meeting by exploring some ideas on the blackboard (see attached image). During the conversation, we all added components to it, making is (essentially) the product of our collaborative exchange. (Minutes in pictoral form are so much more poetic!)
The initial idea behind the structure of the image was to use a legal/cybernetic/librarianship conceptual framework (partly of my own design) to organize our ideas (data points) for the project. In this structure, we posit “objects” of law (in this case, “games” as copyrightable works, but also the metadata about them) as well as “subjects” of law (indies and their studios, libraries and the people who work there as well as patrons and possible organisations such as games club – notice how there is a dual structure, looking at “physical” persons and “moral” persons – in keeping with how the law looks at society). Then, “vectors” are “ways” to link objects and subjects, through technology, institutional arrangements and other such means. (Are we having fun yet?)
Of course, our conversation was a mix of many threads. We discussed what we had learned from previous iterations of the project, most notably the grand we received in 2015 from the Knight Foundation. We also covered a lot of ground in terms of other topics, here are some of the things that have stuck in my mind, taking from the vector “stack” from the left-hand bottom quadrant:
– Selecting games: how can games scholars contribute to selecting games within the library context? Why can’t libraries just harvest “free” games posted on various platforms? (hint: libraries have to respect contracts and free doesn’t imply consent) Do the interest of indies and libraries intersect in a meaningful way? Should we target academic libraries instead of the public/school library sector? How can selecting games support indie studios and long-term preservation?
– Certification: Pros & cons of online “streaming” platform vs. physical console. Technical specifications to communicate to indies for inclusion on the platform (as a dealbreaker for consideration for acquisition).
– Contextualize: How can games be linked to other elements within a library’s collection? Home use or in-library use. Gaming experience of playing within library context.
(and many more ideas)
One of the threads I wanted to discuss with the group was funding. I’ve spent too much time writing grant applications to finance the development of this project and not enough time “actually advancing” it. So, maybe it is time to consider how we could launch a commercial venture to make this happen instead of tweaking the project to whatever funding opportunity pops up on our radar… Needless to say, we had some great conversations on this thread.
The group discussed the idea that a for-profit venture may be negatively perceived by the indie community. We identified a thriving non-profit ecosystem, both on the indie side (MRGS, Hand Eye society, TAG & other research groups…) as well as the library side (cities, school boards and the like are all state entities and libraries band together in not-for profit associations to deal with ebook licensing). A for-profit venture would allow for commercialization (e.g. licensing) of games in libraries in a nimble and direct fashion. In fact, it could complement the existing not-for profit ecosystem particularly should these non-profits become shareholders in the enterprise. It could also provide for employment opportunities to project participants. (see the top-middle quadrant of the image for the “dual headed” monster illustrating non-profit – NP – organisations holding shares in an incorporated – INC – venture).
I have to admit that I have created a company named Junto Media ™ a few months ago to test these ideas. You see, I research institutional arrangements (contracts, licences and the like) and a company almost becomes a necessary research object. Also, the concept of “profit” is necessary in working with economic rights vested in copyrights but which need to enable a community of not-profit organisations (commons). Profit is certainly the elephant in the copyright room…
Now, I registered Junto Media ™ as offering “other publishing services” within the government’s classification of enterprises. Publishing is what games (and software) companies do, I we can use this structure to test both publishing games as well as licensing them to libraries as a platform (like a bookstore would). Right now, I’ve managed to generate a tiny amount of revenue from the licensing of certain copyrighted works I’m creating for clients – I am willing to put this revenue on the table to support the Indie Games in Libraries project! I also would like to build a “bridge” between TAG and other Not-for-profit organisations and the broader “moral person” ecosystem.
In that sense, this project, as a reflexive internal exercise, also exists in the “commercialization” space within universities. I am wholeheartedly committed to explore this space in an open, transparent, fair and playful manner. In addition to profit, we also discussed concepts as revenue, jobs, community, sharing and redistribution. Of all the things I would never claim to be, I can assert that I tinker with legal code for the betterment of society. Junto Media is the “program” I am hacking on the neoliberal operating system of society, linked to TAG’s API…
I’m hoping the group would help me figure out the “what” and “how” of it all. And help me share the wealth of properly structured institutional arrangements… I hope I won’t be the sole shareholder for long….
In terms of next steps, we are meeting again on Tuesday April 16th at 10am in TAG. Here are my action items:
– connect “team” members by email and collate documentation on a shared drive
– write up the minutes of the meeting (DONE!)
– start thinking how to synthesize all of this information to explain what the project entails…