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“The Economist” Article about Open Access Journals

Hello Everyone!

Here is an interesting article I read in the economist, all about state funded research and open access journals. A short, but good read!

Posted in After Class Discussion, Examples, Motivations.


When I was listening to the recording for the class I missed the other week I heard you all say you didn’t really know much about Pathways.  Well you’ve got to educate yourself about it because it’s a really big bad deal!  To help you with your education you can see this pathways information packet I put together.  I recommend you download the pdf because it looks prettier than the site.

Let me know if you want to talk about this some more.

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Copyright and Creativity in the news: Free Universal Construction Kit

Artist and hacker Golan Levin and his former student Shawn Sims have produced a set of toy blocks that connect incompatible toy block systems to each other, e.g. allowing you to make an object that uses both Legos and K’nex. Levin is quoted in this Forbes article:

One blog called it the “ultimate nerd dad triumph.” But as the proj­ect’s unprintable acronym implies, Levin and Sims are out to raise hackles—particularly those of intellectual property lawyers. “This isn’t a product. It’s a provocation,” says Levin. “We should be free to invent without having to worry about infringement, royalties, going to jail or being sued and bullied by large industries. We don’t want to see what happened in music and film play out in the area of shapes.”

In what ways is this project similar or different to the questions we were engaging with in discussion this week?

Posted in Motivations.

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Your Intermediary Is Your Destiny

According to Lohmann, anyone involved in the use of content to create content needs to view the legal departments of online hosting platforms as bouncers rather than doormen.    Bouncers provide participants access to a space based on a mutual understanding of good conduct; they essentially modify and regulate behavior.  Doormen act more like gatekeepers by restricting access to a space based on a rigid set of rules.  Benson’s metaphor is actually quite apropos in helping us comprehend the user experience on sites similar to YouTube.  (You can get in and have a good time, just don’t act crazy). Like bouncers, YouTube only intercedes when someone complains. The DMCA “safe harbors” act allows YouTube to post content without the strict liability that offline production companies face.   These intermediaries obey a “notice and takedown” system that affords owners of original material the right to monitor the use of their content.

These different rules for online intermediaries have engendered a new set of opportunities for users to find and build an online audience. As long as creators do not make intermediaries financially liable for their content, they are free to create for targeted audiences. The author still encourages creators of online content to apprise themselves of the legalities in using uncleared copyrighted material by considering whether the use might be excused under exception and finding out how its owner has dealt with the use of copyright material in the past.

Lohmann’s article helps to alleviate the angst that users may feel about remixing copyrighted material.  I however wonder if the idea of working with the system because we can’t beat the system undergirds his admonitions.


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More about badges…

Just came across this article about how some organizations are using Mozilla Badges.

Thought this was apropos given last week’s conversation.

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Giving Things Away is Hard Work

Mandiberg argues that giving things away is hard work. We’re familiar at this point with the kinds of immaterial open-source projects that are “given away” and generally have a specific legal framework for their dissemination. The argument here is that while using/rewriting code involves only access to a keyboard and mouse and/or coding language, material objects’ reproduction involves someone actually purchasing tools and equipment to reproduce an idea. Mandiberg gives a number of examples of how difficult it can be to disseminate DIY design projects. In the case of a Bright Idea Shade — a project offered to Urban Outfitters — copyright fears impeded adoption. However, in the case of a book written on a Wiki, providing a legal framework upfront gave the publisher ample time to secure the proper clearance for production and dissemination. Finally a “retroreflective” bike DIY project is successfully adopted by a local vinyl supplier and achieves some success. Given that each of these projects appeals to some putative social good, I wonder weather DIY projects that are free require this stipulation… In reference, to Mandiberg’s cousin’s remark, she may have elicited a different reaction had this project contained no perceived social good.

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“It’s easy when you skip the intermediary”

While doing the readings for this week,  I couldn’t help but keep coming back to one of the first videos that was released by Creative Commons – “It’s easy when you skip the intermediary”. Though not dealing with the idea of an “intermediary” in the same way as Von Lohmann, I think it is definitely worth a watch, especially since Creative Commons has featured so prominently in our readings this week.


Posted in After Class Discussion, Examples, Motivations.

Lessig, “the copy” as meaningless, and some thoughts about CC licenses

I can’t help but post about Lessig this week, as his chapter in the Social Media Reader was probably the most inspiring of all the readings for me, mainly because Lessig did what he always does – he challenges his audience to care, and he challenges his audience to act. I found his discussion of the meaning of a “copy” very compelling; I agree with him, that at the present time, the concept of a “copy” is meaningless, especially to this next generation of digital natives. What is meaningful, according to Lessig, and I would agree, is the use of that copy. And this gets to the one misconception that Lessig actively attempts to set right – the misconception that his desire for a “free culture” means the abolition of copyright. Lessig makes clear over and over again (in this article, and in his other writing) that his idea of a “Free Culture” is essentially bringing balance back to a copyright system that has become extremely restrictive. As he states on page 11:

“…copyright law needs to focus on professional work being copied without being remixed….Amateurs making remixes need to have free use, not fair use; they need to be exempted from the law of copyright.…I am arguing in favor of deregulating a significant space of culture and focusing regulation where the regulators can convince us that it will be doing some good.”

And for Lessig, the deregulating of a significant cultural space will allow for this next generation to “cite” cultural products (as is already happening) without being criminalized. To frame the use of cultural products in the remix and hybrid culture Lessig describes as a way of “writing” is really interesting to me – and I think in general, Lessig is ahead of his time in viewing the hybrid and remix media culture as a way this next generation “writes” about the world they live in and the culture they are actively apart of. I feel as though the “remix culture as terrorism” idea Lessig presents as the opposition to the hybrid culture he advocates is a knee jerk reaction to lucrative business models of the past being threatened by new technology, and refusing to adapt. Such a viewpoint also doesn’t put much stock into the agency of the “digital native” or the “music terrorist”. This stand point assumes that the music terrorist is not actively thinking about what they are consuming and using, but just stubbornly running the music industry into the ground…and I think what Lessig is really getting at is that perhaps societies values have changed….rival goods only have value when there is risk of scarcity, and when there is demand… non-rival goods do not suffer from scarcity…which will definitely lead to a shift in how society values those goods.  And maybe the ability to remix, reuse, transform, comment on, and actively participate in the transforming of culture is of value to a generation where the idea of “pay per copy” is becoming more and more ludicrous.

Lessig also challenges the reader to support creative commons, because he wants people to understand that creative commons is an opt-in system. Creators need to opt-in in order to release certain rights, and it is all about the freedom for the creator to choose what rights they give away, and what rights they retain. And this is where I thought Fred Benenson’s article about Creative Commons licensing tied in really well – and really brought some extra clout to Lessig’s idea that Creative Commons is about the creator’s choice. Having been fairly involved, aware, and observant of CC culture for a while now, I have witnessed and personally experienced that same sentiment among many CC advocates that cultural products should be treated like computer code, where “as free as possible” is the only “real” or “legit” way to use a CC license. But I appreciated how Benenson pointed out that works of art are different than tools…as a musician, this rings very true for me. A variety of license is the only way that a variety of creators turning out a variety of products all within different, unique circumstances can find a license combination that suites their specific scenario. And in the case study Benenson provides, it is clear that by failing to take into consideration the more personal, “non-fungible” aspects of a work of art, the suggestion of what some believe to be “the best” CC license scheme may be getting in the way the work being CC licensed in any way….a case of “free culture utopia” being an enemy of “one more small step in the right direction”.



Posted in Motivations.

Lateral Journal Update

So, last week I posted about Lateral, the Cultural Studies Association Journal, and some of the things they had done in the past with “lateral labs” which was an experimental platform.  Well, just in time for the annual conference they launched the first issue of the journal that built into it all the experimental parts from the lab.  So check it out. You can listen to people talking about the journal by clicking the play button. It’s organized into four threads, which are four of the boxes you can click on and then there is a sort of moving tag cloud and an collaborators box.  If you click on the threads you can see how each piece takes a slightly different form. For example, this piece, by my advisor Patricia Clough, is more a a straight forward text but it is dynamic in that excerpts of the texts referenced are available by clicking them and so they appear in the margins. In other pieces this is how you can see the footnotes.  Other threads are more art based and there is even a game. This piece is about movement and so the technology embedded in it moves in a way that flows with the piece (try clicking on the menu to see what I mean). There is also a peer review process so that pieces can “count” for the contributors who need them to count towards things like tenure, but there is still an aspect of curation involved, rather than a strict editing process.  Also, there will be an archive of each issue, but there will also be opportunities to build on past pieces, add comments and modify in various ways that gives it more of a dynamism while still maintaining certain academic boundaries.  I think a lot of discussion over a number of years went into this and they seem to have got a lot of issues we raised in class figured out.  One thing I raised was that there should be a more straightforward search feature for people who are not just browsing but looking for a specific piece.   I would love to hear your comments especially since I am on the board of CSA now and can bring some of these concerns to them.  Also, spread the word about the journal and the site.  It’s only been up for a few days but already has hundreds of hits internationally.

Posted in After Class Discussion, Assignment, Examples.

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Tom Boellstorff and the “Cloud”

Here is the link to Tom Boellstorff’s article on “Cloud Computing”:

Posted in Reading.

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