Issue 16 | January 2024

Welcome to the new year, and the January 2024 edition of The Miaaw Monthly which (as usual) tells you what you might expect this month, and provides a few pointers to things you might like to explore.

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The final podcast for 2023 arrives today at the usual time, wherever you are.

In today’s podcast, the 11th episode of Friday Number 5, we conclude our dive into the historic backwaters of Miaaw with a repeat of Episode 28, Structures of Feeling. Owen Kelly and Sophie Hope dig out their copies of Marxism & Literature and discuss the cultural theory that Raymond Williams develops there.


Every Friday a podcast appears at approximately 12:34 UTC. Sometimes we get so eager that they appear an hour or two early to allow for any lag across the internet. Mostly they arrive on time. With that in mind, here are the podcasts that will drop in January.

Friday January 5: Meanwhile in an Abandoned Warehouse | Episode 69

Did we succeed or fail in 2023? What could this question possibly mean? Do we have any way of measuring our progress, or lack of progress? Do we need one?

By way of addressing this, Owen Kelly suggests three approaches that we might usefully adopt in the coming year, and (spoiler alert) none of them involving wearing Fitbits or throwing things, unless you want to start throwing Fitbits.

Friday January 12: Ways of Listening | Episode 3

You may have noticed that last month’s promised episode disappeared and got replaced with another. This happened because we take permissions and rights issues very seriously and an unfortunate timetabling problem meant we could not clear everything in time. Our planned second episode will hopefully appear soon.

In the meanwhile, in what we always intended as the third episode of Ways of Listening, Sam Metz talks to Hannah Kemp-Welch about listening beyond the aural, sharing examples from their work with non-verbal participants. Sam Metz looks for ways of working that don’t privilege vision or verbal interactions, and describes a listening practice that extends through the body.

Friday January 19: A Culture of Possibility | Episode 36

In Culture of Possibility #36 – the podcast’s third anniversary — Arlene Goldbard and Owen Kelly talk about cultural work and spirituality. They ask what spiritual practice can bring to our work? They discuss how ideas and stories from sacred texts can infuse and inform work for cultural democracy.

Friday January 26: Common Practice | Episode 31

Brendan Jackson explains about the 18 month long process to create a new digital library for the Jubilee Arts Archive 1974 – 94, from original materials held in the collections of Sandwell Archives. He also looks at what the team intends to do next, now that they have celebrated their public launch and the finale of the project.


All our podcasts are available from, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Overcast, RadioPublic, Soundcloud, Spotify, and Stitcher.

You can also listen to them at the website where you will find additional links, notes, and references accompanying each episode. You will also find a full archive of all the previous podcasts there.


The Internet Archive, Copyright and AI

We heard recently from the people at ICAF who told us that “On Monday November 6 the Internet Archive joined thousands of others in submitting comments to the US Copyright Office as part of its study on Copyright and Artificial Intelligence.

Our high level view is that copyright law has been adapting to disruptive technologies since its earliest days and our existing copyright law is adequate to meet the disruptions of today. In particular, copyright’s flexible fair use provision deals well with the fact-specific nature of new technologies, and has already addressed earlier innovations in machine learning and text-and-data mining. So while Generative AI presents a host of policy challenges that may prompt different kinds of legislative reform, we do not see that new copyright laws are needed to respond to Generative AI today.
Our comments are guided by three core principles.

First, regulation of Artificial Intelligence should be considered holistically–not solely through the isolated lens of copyright law. As explained in the Library Copyright Alliance Principles for Artificial Intelligence and Copyright, “AI has the potential to disrupt many professions, not just individual creators. The response to this disruption (e.g., support for worker retraining through institutions such as community colleges and public libraries) should be developed on an economy-wide basis, and copyright law should not be treated as a means for addressing these broader societal challenges.” Going down a typical copyright path of creating new rights and licensing markets could, for AI, serve to worsen social problems like inequality, surveillance and monopolistic behavior of Big Tech and Big Media.

Second, any new copyright regulation of AI should not negatively impact the public’s right and ability to access information, knowledge, and culture. A primary purpose of copyright is to expand access to knowledge. See Authors Guild v. Google, 804 F.3d 202, 212 (2d Cir. 2015) (“Thus, while authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public, whose access to knowledge copyright seeks to advance…”). Proposals to amend the Copyright Act to address AI should be evaluated by the impact such new regulations would have on the public’s access to information, knowledge, and culture. In cases where proposals would have the effect of reducing public access, they should be rejected or balanced out with appropriate exceptions and limitations.

Third, universities, libraries, and other publicly-oriented institutions must be able to continue to ensure the public’s access to high quality, verifiable sources of news, scientific research and other information essential to their participation in our democratic society. Strong libraries and educational institutions can help mitigate some of the challenges to our information ecosystem, including those posed by AI. Libraries should be empowered to provide access to educational resources of all sorts– including the powerful Generative AI tools now being developed.

You can find out more here!

Un-herd: the Project Defy podcast

Un-herd: the Project Defy podcast

We have talked with Abhijit and Megha from Project Defy about aspects of their work in India and Africa, in several episodes. They have now launched their own podcast, which addresses questions such as “Where do modern schools come from? What does it have to do with an ‘incompetent’ army? How has our culture shaped through schooling ? Who was Fichte and why should we know about him?”

You can find all three (or four) of the episodes to date on Spotify.

They have also published their first working paper entitled working paper titled, Challenging Narrow Conceptualisations of ‘Education’ through the Nook Model in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, India, and Bangladesh. You can find that here.

And, if you have a mind to, you can follow Project Defy on Facebook.

Citizens in Power

Saad Eddine-Said and David Jubb
co-founded Citizens In Power. They have written that, “We first met and began working together in 2017 in the UK’s cultural sector. Our backgrounds are different in terms of race, class, religion, culture and politics. Despite different life experiences, we share a passion for citizen-led governance. We see it as a way to bring people together from different backgrounds and to make better decisions by listening to each other”.

This led them to begin a website, and a network called Citizens in Power.

This in turn has issued a callout to establish a national network and begun a project designed to establish aWest of England Cultural Strategy.

The website also contains a series of short essays and articles on topics such as “Rethinking Governance”.

Happy New Year, Mickey & Minnie!

We have referenced the efforts of the Disney Corporation to prevent Mickey Mouse from sliding into the public domain. However, on January 1, 2024, according to Fortune, with “several asterisks, qualification and caveats, Mickey Mouse in his earliest form will be the leader of the band of characters, films and books that will become public domain”.

The Mickey in question starred in the animated short Steamboat Willie, and looked slightly different from the more streamlined version that Disney devised fairly soon afterwards.

Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie

As we have mentioned in several podcasts, Disney have made sure that Mickey Mouse, in his current guise, also serves as a trademark which will never enter the public domain, unless they forget to keep using it. As Mary Whitfill Roeloffs pointed out in Forbes, Disney has told Associated Press that Mickey will “continue to play a leading role as a global ambassador for the Walt Disney Company.”

Repetition: pedagogues recommend it!

We repeat here the final message from last month’s newsletter, where we announced that we had abandoned Twitter and might one day soon abandon Facebook as well.

We have all reduced our participation on (what we still refer to as) Twitter over the last year, and Arlene and Owen have ramped up their activities on Mastodon, the decentralised, billionaire-free network.

Last week Arlene wrote that its seems as though currently people on Twitter ”cannot hold two truths or contradictions simultaneously. You have to pick one oppressor, who can do no right and deserves no human rights, and one oppressed, for whom every act is rationalized and justified. Here is one of several excellent recent articles on this: (I’ve got many others if you want to read more.)”

John Scalzi, the SF writer, recently posted a long essay that began:

”Elon Musk, the most unfathomably insecure and pathetic billionaire the world has ever seen, has gone mask-off antisemite, and that means that while I had already reduced my participation on the former Twitter, now I’m off it entirely. I’m keeping the account so that no one can swoop in and take a screen name that’s been associated with me for the last fifteen years, but no more posting, and no more participation.”

We feel the same.

We feel that, for us, its well past time to leave. We will continue posting on Mastodon, Facebook and other places, and we will try to increase the circulation of our newsletter. We will return to this subject in our podcasts in January as part of a larger discussion of how to move forward in a decentralised way that is congruent with our aims in producing the podcasts, working for cultural democracy, and doing the work we do.

We will need your help in moving forward in this way, and we will be asking questions and soliciting feedback in the coming months. The process starts in the first podcast of the year.

Have a good New Year and stand by!

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