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This post is provided by Konstantin Hondros, post-doctoral researcher at University of Duisburg-Essen in the DFG-funded research project “Organizing Creativity under Regulatory Uncertainty: Alternative Approaches to Intellectual Property”.

Though “alternative” (both as an adjective and a noun) has widespread meaning in contemporary society, it is not generally clear, what constitutes and conveys something to be (an) “alternative”. This blogpost’s goal is to offer a more nuanced understanding of the concept and ask how this can guide the use of “alternative” as an analytical lens. To begin with, I give an etymological account, then I look at “alternatives” in philosophy and its significance for epistemology, finally, I describe how social sciences make use of “alternative” in an evaluative manner. While from a philosophical perspective, “alternative” is rather a logical operator, in the social sciences “alternative” evaluates institutions, practices, or beliefs. This evaluative use can be either positive and empowering, ambivalent and skeptical, or even negative and destabilizing. I argue that it is this umbrella-term’s multi-facetted and evaluative nature that makes it analytically fruitful for social sciences.

I thus develop the concept of alternative mainly for practical reasons. Our recently kicked-off DFG-funded project Organizing Creativity under Regulatory Uncertainty: Alternative Approaches to Intellectual Property pursues “alternatives” empirically. We take a closer look at how creative processes unfold when intellectual property (IP) is approached “alternatively” and what obstacles and uncertainties these processes encounter. We compare alternatives to the IP-regulations copyright and patent law with case studies from the music economy and the pharmaceutical industries. Differentiating “ alternatives” will inform our methodological and analytical proceeding as it will give as clearer picture of what we are actually dealing with empirically.

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This post is provided by Jasmin Schmitz, Research Assistant at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg / Centre for Global Cooperation Research

When the then novel Covid-19-virus broke out in December 2019, it soon spread globally posing a challenge to health governance all across the globe. Internal containment measures were put in place to domestically stop the virus through lockdown or social distancing; internationally borders were closed, and travel restrictions were put in place to stop the ongoing spread at the borders. When first news broke that vaccine-trials were showing promising results, this seemed like the salvation from ever increasing new infections. Already during the first wave of Covid outbreaks trends of nation-focused policies could be observed. While there are certainly cases of cross-border cooperation, they tend to remain the exception. The WHO tried to install a global distribution mechanism through COVAX yet the initiative did not succeed in gaining global influence; Vaccine nationalism became is predominant mode of governance. The access to the shot has become highly dependent on where one lives. The inequality in access to vaccines has sparked discussion surrounding intellectual property as well as the involvement of public financing in the developmental stage of the pharmaceutical. So, more than half a year since the roll-out of the immunization campaign started, it is time to take a look at the distribution of vaccines globally and why they should not be viewed as the sole solution to the pandemic.

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Cover “Music Practices Across Borders”

Connecting migration studies and the theory of valuation, the collection edited by Glaucia Peres da Silva and Konstantin Hondros (both from University of Duisburg-Essen) offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of transnational music practices. Conceiving music as a practice not confined to audibility, the interdisciplinary contributions reveal how music emerges in concrete situations through people, objects, techniques, meanings, and emotions in different parts of the world and during different historic periods. Values are thereby created and shared, and creative processes are evaluated in terms of diversity, space and exchange.

The book presents cases of contemporary, popular and traditional music, festivals and trade fairs, albums and band projects, shedding light on the tensions between the transfer, reconstruction and creation of music in different contexts. Since the editors were able to publish the anthology open access – thanks to the university library of the University Duisburg-Essen – the book “Music practices across borders” as a full-text PDF.

Guest blogger Rolf Künnemann reports on new directions for cross-border governance and the challenge of realising Extraterritorial Obligations (ETOs) for human rights.

ETOs_wordcloud

Human rights and states’ obligations are two sides of the same coin. While states are based on their territories, many of their human rights obligations go beyond borders. These “extraterritorial obligations” are increasingly recognised as essential for human rights to provide the foundations of an international people-based political and legal order.

The ETO movement argues that a focus on human rights beyond borders is key to effectively addressing burning issues like the globalized destruction of ecosystems and the climate, the depletion of resources to the detriment of future generations, the dysfunctional international financie and trade system, the oppression of rural communities, ethnocide, the impunity of transnational corporations, and the human rights accountability of intergovernmental organisations. Read the rest of this entry »

In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

For a few hours today, Uber users could view their passenger rating thanks to a how-to posted by Aaron Landy. Uber gives both passengers and drivers ratings, probably by averaging the post-ride ratings each gets, and they affect whether riders can get picked up and whether drivers keep their jobs.

UberlogoPassenger ratings like these raise two kinds of concerns: first, that opaque and inaccessible metrics don’t allow for recourse or even explanation; and second that driver ratings aren’t very consistent or reliable raw material for those metrics.

You hear stories from people who missed a pickup because of buggy notifications, for example, and those people all of a sudden just can’t catch a cab. Any kind of technical error can skew the ratings, but because they’re invisible they’re also treated as infallible.

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Guest blogger Nina Engwicht discusses a controversial performance art project in Berlin aiming to help Syrian refugee children.

Arrival of Jewish refugee children, port of London, February 1939

(Wikimedia; CC-BY-SA-3.0-de)

“1 in 100” is the slogan of a nightly ironic talent show currently put on in Berlin by the activist performance artists of the group “Center for Political Beauty” (Zentrum für Politische Schönheit). One in a hundred Syrian children will be saved, is the promise. In order to help the German government decide which children should be rescued, the audience is requested to vote for a child they would like to see rescued from the civil war: “1 in 100! One child wins. The others can go on dying. (weitersterben).

The artists urge their audience not to make light of their responsibility, but to use their right to vote. The show’s web site (http://voting.1aus100.de/) displays pictures and videos of each child, many of them badly hurt, some of them crying, some of them starving. The video of “child number 2” shows a boy desperately crying after a bomb attack. From off-camera we hear a man, presumably his father, saying “My God. My God. My children are dead. My children are dead”, while the boy cries for his brothers and sisters. The campaign’s Facebook page presents all these candidates and informs readers about their respective chances: “Child Nr. 61 only has two votes. Call now!”
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This blog is provided by our guest blogger Kristen Hopewell. Kristen Hopewell is an Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada and has been a visitor of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in 2013.

After protracted and contentious negotiations among trade ministers in Bali last month, the WTO announced agreement on a new global trade deal.  The so-called “Bali package” is being touted as an historic achievement and a victory for the WTO.

However, such claims should be met with considerable skepticism.  In reality, the deal stuck at Bali is of limited consequence and the hype surrounding it is intended to mask the deeper failure of the Doha Round. Read the rest of this entry »

“The Baby trade is likely to continue to grow, partly it is no longer simply a response to wars and humanitarian crises. For better or worse, it now behaves much like a commodities market, with demand informing supply; and neither demand nor supply is likely to subside.” – Ethan Kapstein 2003

Since Madonna and Angelina Jolie famously adopted children from Africa, the international adoption system is under fire.  The suspicion is that the system may be driven by market forces and profit seeking, and that regulations and international conventions just camouflage (illegal) market practices and facilitate the trafficking of children.  Clearly, international adoptions are serious normative and political issues for the “sending” countries because children are normally understood as “sacred” and are loaded “with sentimental or religious meaning” (Zelizer 1985: 11). They should be protected, educated and loved.

The international dispersion of these ideas is reflected in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which has been signed by 193 countries until now, who

proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance …  [children] should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding …  in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.

Extra commercium

The idea of child protection clearly reserves them “a separate noncommercial place, extra-commercium” (Zelizer, ibid.). However, although it is prohibited, child trafficking is still a worldwide phenomenon. Usually it takes place between “Third World” countries and the industrialized western world, and it appears in different forms. Especially the practice of “child laundering” has gained high attention. Read the rest of this entry »

This guest post is provided by Milford Bateman who is a Visiting Professor of Economics at Juraj Dobrila University of Pula in Croatia and a development consultant. He recently accepted a two-month position as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Development Studies at St Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, Canada, to be taken up in late 2013.

Four of the most high-profile research teams have in recent months released papers summarising the results of multi-year projects that aimed to assess the impact of microcredit. All of these projects claim to have found some small residual value in the increasingly de-bunked concept of microcredit which, the authors quickly go on to say, suggests to them that it is too early to agree with the growing number of nay-sayers and abandon the microcredit model in favour of other local development models.  The four papers I refer to are:

Dazzling econometrics and pioneering impact methodologies aside, the most important thing these four papers all have in common is actually something else: they all go to great lengths to avoid exploring the most awkward downside issues that lie at the heart of microcredit and, to do so, they choose to deploy some faulty logic along the way. Read the rest of this entry »

On the night of the December 14, 2012, a 25 year old woman was sedated with date rape drugs in Cologne, Germany, and subsequently raped. When the police and medical authorities took her for medical checkup and evidence collection, two hospitals refused to treat her and prescribe emergency contraception.  Both hospitals were run by the Catholic Church. The doctors told the woman that emergency contraception was not in line with the worldview of their employer. Media reported that the doctors feared to lose their jobs.

The incidence was only picked up a couple of months later by the press; however it provoked harsh public criticism against the Catholic Church. The negative publicity fell on fruitful ground. Earlier in the same year there had been an intense media discourse about alleged inappropriate behavior of Catholic welfare providers. A female manager of a Catholic day care facility had been fired after the woman had divorced and moved in with a new partner.  The church argued that “not keeping faith ’til death” was incompatible with the Catholic worldview and hence the woman had to go. The press dug out similar cases where Catholic welfare providers had decided not to employ or to fire people due to their homosexuality or because they had divorced.

The German public was puzzled: how could it be that in a society  in which regular churchgoers barely make up more than 10 percent of the West and 3 percent of the East German electorate, the Church maintains such a strong normative grip on society?

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The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
September 2021
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