Is it still important to ask for permission when people tell you exactly how they want you to use their work?
Is it still important when your identity is entirely public?
Is it still important when your everyday life can just as easily be a topic at the water cooler as major world events?
Is it still important when the sincerest form of flattery is the embed code?
Asking for permission used to be something that was a common occurrence when you wanted to borrow ideas or resources from one another. It used to be standard operating procedure when you wanted to contact someone that you didn’t know; you had to ask someone who had their contact info to be introduced. In another time, stumbling into the limelight wasn’t a possibility for anyone with a video camera. In that sense, you used to have to ask permission of the distribution systems (public access TV, independent films, etc.) to become infamous for your content.
No longer is any of this the case. Asking for permission has gone way out of style. It is more important to disseminate information, remix work, make contact, and market yourself than it is to take the time to ask for permission. Permission itself is an outmoded construct. Permission implies a singular ownership. Permission requires one person to know things that others cannot without it. Permission is hierarchical. It is anti-flat world. It is against the commons. It is a falsehood in a world where you can “follow” anyone or where life streams aren’t questioned as being too invasive.
Or perhaps, it is all just an implied permission. Perhaps we are to the point where we are just giving each other permission for everything, where we find it is easier to share our work than it is to hide it. Perhaps permission has dissolved into the vast ocean of free content that exists. Perhaps the only people who are still fighting for permission are the ones who are trying to hold on to the remnants of intellectual property that have been usurped by other, more open outfits.
On the other hand, I hope I am not making the case for everything to be in the public domain. I am not communistic in my view of our lack of permission asking. Rather, I believe in attribution. I believe in purchase. I believe in obeying the wishes of content creators. But, I also believe that a society that does not ask for permission is one that forges a trust that should be sacrosanct. If we all understand what it means to build something together and to reach for better ways of learning, creating or working then we can collectively pull everyone out of poverty. We can collectively attain transparency. We can work together to be productive, profitable, and passionate.
If we don’t ask for permission, we must act in everyone’s interest.
We must be a plural society if we are to be this connected. I do not believe that this is too idealistic when we are no longer separated by 6 degrees of separation. When we literally can connect with anyone in the planet by 1 degree, everyone is our neighbor. And, most of the time, you don’t even have to ask your neighbors for help when you are in trouble. Help just comes.