This interview is part of an exclusive series is doing with the CulturaDigital.Br festival in Rio. is CulturaDigital.Br’s media partner.

As the festival of digital culture ramps up, Director Rodrigo Savazoni (that’s him in the orange shirt at the front of the photo) takes the community behind the scenes.

First, how do you define digital culture?

One way is historical: digital culture has come up with a way to turn knowledge into digits. It is the offspring of (1) microcomputing – since computers ceased to be huge calculation machines and became part of day-to-day activities – and (2) interconnected networks. It also comes from certain ways of producing and acting that already existed and then started to challenge the traditional center of our lives: collaboration, sharing, horizontalness, recombining, do-it-yourself and so forth.

The festival is part of a dialogue about new cultural policies for the 21st Century… what started this dialogue in Brazil?

Indeed, we do want to think about public policies for the 21st century, across many dimensions.

There was a very significant moment in Brazil when singer and songwriter Gilberto Gil, a digital culture enthusiast, was named Minister of Culture. While other countries sought to clog up the transformation brought about by the digital revolution with restrictive legislation, here in Brazil we started to envisage solutions that enrich this transformation. No wonder we have a law on a framework for digital rights currently on its way through the National Congress, and have made a lot of progress on the copyright debate.

The rise of Dilma Rousseff to the presidency disrupted this process. The bright side is that citizens are now organized and fighting to proceed with the improvements. We cannot step back. This year, I launched a short movie about this, Remixofagia.

How did the festival come about?

It started as a forum for discussions between government and citizens. In 2011, the Ministry took a new direction, but we didn’t. We spent the entire year mobilising supporters and partners so we could carry on.

We knew the movement we are part of was widely accepted and we made important alliances, such as the Rio de Janeiro State Government, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and companies like Petrobras and Vale. We are also working with the cultural networks that effectively get things going. Deep down, that’s what matters: to articulate society’s living forces internationally.

What are the themes of the festival?

It’s very pluralistic. One focus is on Experimental Labs — about structuring creativity and productivity in a non-commercial way. We believe our country needs to invest in such spaces and promote this kind of dissident initiatives.

Apart from that, cartography and mapping-related topics are also coming through, connecting the internet to real life, daily movements, and cities.

Another area is the occupations and revolutions coming out of the use of new technologies; most of the festival’s participants are willing to debate, understand, and promote them.

The agenda also includes discussions concerning sharing, P2P technologies, and the confrontation of restrictive digital laws like the ones imposed by Sinde-Zapatero in Spain, Sarkozy in France (HADOPI), and now SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the US.

How does the festival interact with the international scene?

Digital culture is a global phenomenon. The festival is an open sharing space for Brazilians and people from around the world. In our open calls, for instance, we received entries from the five continents, which is amazing. We want to work more and more on the construction of this huge global nation. And the internet is a great means to do that.

So you have keynote speakers from all corners of the globe — Michel Bauwens, Philippe Aigrain, Hugues Sweeney, Paulo Coelho, Yochai Benkler, Kenneth Goldsmith

They are players who make important contributions in terms of values and ideas that are central to the progress of freedom and to build an effectively democratic society. A nice thing to do is to stay connected and watch them on the live stream.

How were they chosen?

Some of them were chosen from the open call. Others were people we already wanted to have at past editions, like Kenny, who has done an amazing job with UbuWeb. Benkler, for example, is a genius; his book The Wealth of Networks is brilliant. I’m now reading his new title, The Penguin and the Leviathan, and I’m sure he can make an impact by showing the big players a couple of things they need to hear about our world, which is increasingly different from before.

Tell us about a few of the projects going on in the Experimental Labs and elsewhere.

The best idea is to take a look at our schedule — we have a lot of information in English. I find it hard to choose only one or two projects, because there are just so many interesting things going on. I would just recommend you check out the sky of words using electro-kites.

You had an open call for the projects …

It was a very nice process. During the month of September, we received more than 350 applications from the entire world, coming from all continents. Each and every one of them was analyzed. A team of curators, comprising well-known Brazilian names in this area, selected what could be included. It is a three-day festival — we are already thinking about expanding it next year — and we unfortunately don’t have resources to include everyone. Many good projects were left out of our selection, projects I would love to see around here. For those who were not selected and happen to be reading this interview, I would really like to thank you for your participation and also say that we need to work together more closely.

Is there a common message behind them… how do they interlink?

We are living the age of hybrids, aren’t we? Our challenges today do not occupy a single area of knowledge. We need to interconnect our visions and dreams in order to make the world a better place to live. If there is one common element in everything we are doing and articulating, I would say it’s that none of us is idle, there is a great movement starting to take shape. At least I hope so.

You had an open call for poster designs, too…

This is an ongoing process. It first started with an idea I shared with the art guys. Among designers, there is still a very strong feeling about ‘property’ — the whole thing of being a ‘creator’. That is not a wrong thought, but there are other ways to produce, and we wanted to give some of them a try in this context. The results are quite nice: we are receiving many posters and it is very enriching to see so many different perspectives on the same subject.

The festival is free and open to everyone – so how is it funded?

It is a free event, on the streets, at the Guanabara Bay, one the world’s most beautiful places, and also at Cinelândia. In Brazil, we have tax incentives for companies that fund cultural projects; the festival was approved by both the federal laws and those of the state of Rio de Janeiro. This way, we managed to get support from some big companies, especially Petrobras, but also Vale. We also counted on the support of non-profit organizations, like the Ford Foundation, the Mozilla Foundation, the Telefonica Foundation and the CGI (the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee). We’ve done exchanges with public institutions, like the National Teaching and Research Network (RNP), and Proderj, a data processing company from Rio de Janeiro. Actually, we are still looking for some additional resources in order to achieve everything the way we planned.

How can people who can’t be there in person take part?

We’ve got extensive collaborative coverage on the website, but I also recommend you follow the #culturadigitalbr hashtag, because I’m sure a lot of spontaneously produced content will also show up. The lectures and experiences will be broadcast live on our site.

The festival is under way in Rio de Janeiro until December 4th.

Photo credit: Festival CulturaDigital.Br (Flickr).

Liz Wilson
Liz Wilson writes copy in the Marketing Communications team at Orange Switzerland and used to edit this blog. She likes talking about content, copywriting and social media on her personal blog.

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