OLTD 505 Week 1 Post
When I look at a video such as this one featured in Larry Lessig’s TED talk, I find it very tempting to view it as a joke, and move on. For a long time I would come across these collaged videos in my internet travels, have a laugh, and forget about it, never really thinking about exactly what was being created. But there is a lot more happening in creating these videos, and I think that the process can actually speak louder than the finished product. As Lessig relates, what we are witnessing with these mashups is the start of a new digital literacy. Students are finding a new way to express themselves, using tools that are only now widely available and affordable. It is not only the tools that are making this happen, but the emergence of communities ready to host, discuss, and support new content as it is created, and released into the world.
I like the distinction that Lessig makes between mixtapes and remixes. In the past we merely had the power to reorder the media that we consumed. Today we have the tools to reshape and repurpose that media, and redistribute our creations to the masses, which can edit them in turn. There is an endless cycle that is being played out in which media has become malleable, and one person’s finished product is another’s blank canvas. It goes without saying that attitudes towards copyright have changed a lot in the last ten years, and they will continue to change as a new generation matures having never known the days when media was merely a physical product.
Before this course, I viewed this tipping point originating with the arrival of Napster. After doing some research it is clear that, while this event may have been the straw that broke the Camel’s back, it was by no means the only instance of information being created and freely available through connected networks. The more I read, the more it seemed that Lessig’s distinction between “Free Hot Dogs” and “Free speech” could be analagous to the difference between a service such as Napster, which gives away music, to movements such as Open Access and Free Culture which advocate for access to information. A free hot dog progresses no further than a temporarily full belly. Free Speech creates an environment in which people may utilize their skills to the fullest potential.
The open access movement aims to have scholarly articles and books available to the public free of charge. Wikipedia describes the two ways this can happen:
Authors publish in an open access journal that provides immediate Open Access to all of its articles on the publisher’s website.
As the internet became available to the public in the 90s, the sharing of this information became much easier. As of 2010, it is estimated that 20% of all peer-reviewed articles are available through self archiving or open access publishing.
The Free Culture movement has been instrumental in developing licenses that allow creators to retain varying levels of ownership over their work, while still allowing them to be accessed, and in some cases modified by other individuals. Its aim is to create an environment that encourages individual creativity, while enabling creators to dictate the terms in which they share their work, and how it can be used by others.
As an educator, I am excited by the prospect of my students having access to a wealth of peer reviewed information, as well as many different tools to help them understand and synthesize this data. I am hopeful that Open Access and Free Culture movements will continue to break new ground, and influence more creators and copyright holders to rethink what restrictions they place on their works being accessed and shared.