The Digital Artisans Manifesto

The Present Moment

6. Freedom today is now often just the choice between commodities rather the ability to determine our own lives. Over the past two hundred years, the factory system has dramatically increased our material wealth at the cost of removing all meaningful participation in work. Even poorer members of European societies can now live better than the kings and aristocrats of earlier times. However the joys of consumerism are usually constrained by the boredom of most jobs.

7. Since 1968, the desire for increased monetary rewards has increasingly been supplemented by demands for increased autonomy at work. In the European Union and elsewhere, neo-liberals have tried to recuperate these aspirations through their policies of marketisation and privatisation. If we are talented workers in the 'cutting-edge' industries like hypermedia and computing, we are promised the possibility of becoming hip and rich entrepreneurs by the Californian ideologues. They want to recruit us as members of the 'virtual class' which seeks to dominate the hypermedia and computing industries.

8. Yet these neo-liberal panaceas provide no real solutions. Free market policies don't just brutalise our societies and ignore environmental degradation. Above all, they cannot remove alienation within the workplace. Under neo- liberalism, individuals are only allowed to exercise their own autonomy in deal-making rather than through making things. We cannot express ourselves directly by constructing useful and beautiful virtual artifacts.

9. For those of us who want to be truly creative in hypermedia and computing, the only practical solution is to become digital artisans. The rapid spread of personal computing and now the Net are the technological expressions of this desire for autonomous work. Escaping from the petty controls of the shopfloor and the office, we can rediscover the individual independence enjoyed by craftspeople during proto-industrialism. We rejoice in the privilege of becoming digital artisans.

10. We create virtual artifacts for money and for fun. We work both in the money-commodity economy and in the gift economy of the Net. When we take a contract, we are happy to earn enough to pay for our necessities and luxuries through our labours as digital artisans. At the same time, we also enjoy exercising our abilities for our own amusement and for the wider community. Whether working for money or for fun, we always take pride in our craft skills. We take pleasure in pushing the cultural and technical limits as far forward as possible. We are the pioneers of the modern.

11. The revival of artisanship is not a return to a low-tech and impoverished past. Skilled workers are best able to assert their autonomy precisely within the most technologically advanced industries. The new artisans are better educated and can earn much more money. In earlier stages of modernity, factory labourers symbolised of the promise of industrialism. Today, as digital artisans, we now express the emancipatory potential of the information age. We are the promise of history.

12. We not only admire the individualism of our artisan forebears, but also we will learn from their sociability. We are not petit-bourgeois egoists. We live within the highly collective institutions of the market and the state. For many people, autonomy over their working lives has often also involved accepting the insecurity of short- term contracts and the withdrawal of welfare provisions. We can only mitigate these problems through our own collective action. As digital artisans, we need to come together to promote our common interests.

13. We believe that digital artisans within this continent now need to form their own craft organisation. In early modernity, artisans enhanced their individual autonomy by organising themselves into trade associations. We proclaim that the collective expression of our trade will be: the European Digital Artisans Network (EDAN).

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