Henk Oosterling – An eastern view on Copy Paste Culture

Last week I wrote for TEDxAmsterdam a column about the need for re-evaluating the value and role of copying in contemporary creative culture. Now, I would like to draw attention to some interesting fresh ideas from the Rotterdam philosopher Henk Oosterling.

In his talk ‘Honourable Copyright’ on the Copy/Culture symposium of Premsela,  he looked at copyculture from an unexpected perspective: a division between western and eastern mentality. In China, copying is part and parcel of manufactural culture: Chinese design culture is more about forms than brands. And in Japan, the concept of imitation is even idealized: copying is honouring the master. Oosterling searches the explanation for this different mindset in the western individuality versus the eastern collectivity.

Although he totally agrees with the freedom the individual paradigm of the West offers, Oosterling believes we can learn something important from the eastern mindset. For this lesson, he draws a parallel between the collective paradigm and Nicolas Bourriads writings on relational aesthetics.

Like Steven Johnson, mentioned in the TED-column, Oosterling does not believe in an authentic, individual idea. He states that creativity is between people, in co-creations, instead of in individuals. The focus shifts from the individual to the in-between, or in Oosterlings words: from esse to inter-esse. As attention tranfers from designers interiority to the product, we enter the domain of relational aesthetics. In this domain, ownership becomes ambiguous. Once a product is released, it is no longer the designer’s.  Hence, the funny quote of Oosterling: ‘Every product is a datingwebsite’. Seen from this relational aesthetics point of view, Oosterling states, copyright is no longer an issue.




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