The Maine Media-Arts Project

In my professoinal capacity, I spend most of my time talking with public and private sector executives about how they can use open source software to save millions (potentially billions) of dollars while replacing brittle and broken proprietary software with code that actually works. And I talk about how the values of the open source community promote the very innovation that their organizations and economies so desparately strive to achieve. But I am just as excited about the creativity and self-expression that open source can inspire, especially when it helps those who would otherwise have no voice to find, develop, and then use that voice.

I am constantly on the lookout for projects that can serve as the basis for community creativity and the democratization of content. This morning my search for “open source media suite” led me to the Maine Media-Arts Project. From their website:

The Maine Media-Arts Project (MEMAP) is a volunteer organization whose primary mission is to educate Maine students in the Media-Arts through free in-school workshops, instructed by business world professionals. MEMAP’s secondary mission is to help build new-media and technology based career opportunities for Maine graduates within the state of Maine.

Which sounds absolutely fantastic, until one reads a bit further (my bold):

“The Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) is the largest educational technology project in the history of Maine and perhaps the world. Maine stands as the first state to embark upon a plan to eliminate the digital divide by providing a laptop to each and every 7th and 8th grade student and teacher. The vision behind MLTI is very simple: to provide the tools and training necessary to ensure that Maine’s students become the most technologically savvy students in the world.” -Maine Learning Technology Initiative Web Site

The Maine State Legislature recently cut funding for the MLTI program. Schools must now rely on local support to help fulfill their technological needs. While schools may be able to find funding for basic equipment, funding for career related, media-arts instruction is almost nonexistent. The Maine Media-Arts Project is available to Maine educators to support that need.

I wish that the OSI had the resources to turn around and support the Maine Media-Arts Project directly, but the fact is, we are doing our own fundraising to fill much-needed staff positions. Nevertheless, I hope that this mention encourages you to look at their website, consider their mission and capabilities, and perhaps make the choice to support their effort. And, if you are feeling extraordinarily generous, support the OSI while you are at it.

The open source revolution is reaching well beyond the realm of developers and technical computer users. Our progress reminds me of this quotation by John Qunicy Adams:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

It is thrilling to me that the code I wrote 20 years ago to support the mission of DARPA is now reaching the intellectual generation who can focus on painting, poetry, music, and architecture. Now is not the time to abandon that progress!