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Monday
Nov172008

Provocative statements from Remix

I am happily reading Lawrence Lessig's newest book, Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. I'm about a quarter of the way through it (Location 1271 on my Kindle to be exact), generously "clipping" as I go along. Here are a few of Lessig's many statements that challenged me:

Now I worry about the effect this war [on copyright piracy] is having upon our kids. What is this war doing to them? Whom is it making them? How is it changing how they think about normal, right-thinking behavior?

What does it mean to a society when a whole generation is raised as criminals?

Even the good become pirates in a world where the rules seem absurd.

The freedom to quote, and to build upon, the words of others is taken for granted by everyone who writes.

Whether justified or not, the norms governing these forms of expression [music and video] are far more restrictive than the norms governing text.

But what happens when writing with film (or music, or images, or every other form of “professional speech” from the twentieth century) becomes as democratic as writing with text?

Text is today’s Latin. It is through text that we elites communicate (look at you, reading this book). For the masses, however, most information is gathered through other forms of media: TV, film, music, and music video. These forms of “writing” are the vernacular of today. They are the kinds of "writing" that matters most to most.

This last comment looks like pretty good ammo for my "post-literate society" observations!

As always, these sorts of statements are best read in context. Pirate it, steal it, buy it, borrow it, or check it out from your library. What options!

 

Monday
Nov172008

Fair use scenario - Miguel and the DVD

In a continuing series of scenarios that explore educational fair use issues. You comments are most welcome.

Miguel, a high school civics instructor, wants to use a short portion of the movie The Candidate to spur discussion on election reform in his class. To embed the the clip into his slide show, he will need to "crack" the copy protection scheme on the commercial DVD.

  1. What is the copyrighted material? Who owns it?
  2. Does the use of the work fall under fair use guidelines? Is the use transformational in nature? Can this be considered "educational" use?
  3. Which takes precedence - The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 that "makes it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures" or the Educational Fair Use Guidelines?
  4. What is your level of comfort in helping create such a product? Are there any changes or limits you might like to see that would make you more comfortable with this project?

Your level of comfort with this use of copyrighted materials: High 5 4 3 2 1 Low

Thanks to Miguel Guhlin at Around the Corner for the idea for this scenario.

Sunday
Nov162008

Books that sing and dance

Unintended consequences are outcomes that are not (or not limited to) what the actor intended in a particular situation. The unintended results may be foreseen or unforeseen, but they should be the logical or likely results of the action. Wikipedia

I enjoyed the (well-run) panel "Digital Books for Children: Blessing, Bane or Both?" led by professor Ann Carlson Weeks (International Children's Digital Library) at the School Library Journal Leadership Summit yesterday. Along with Ann, the panel included these e-book vendors:

OK, no insult intended, but each of the commercial panelists showed us some pretty similar products: books that have been digitized and made accessible online on a subscription basis. Many of these books have been taught to sing and dance through clever programming and design, creating materials that are meant to be "played" more than read.

These products have much to recommend them and great potential. Such collections may well give more children greater access to more quality literature. Books that are more interactive in nature may well attract and engage reluctant readers. Stories that read themselves aloud may well be a boon to struggling readers. This is a market (as much or more targeted to the classroom/reading teacher as the school librarian) that will mature and expand. Get used to it.

But of course I can find the dark clouds around every silver lining. Two intriguing questions were raised during the discussion:

  1. Why do we need print collections and school libraries (and librarians) with online collections like these? Used in conjunction with the new NetBooks coming on the market, access to quality children's literature can be from anywhere. (I've looked at this question before a couple times 1, 2.) This discussion made Joyce Valenza's assertion in the following session that "libraries can no longer be places to get things, but must become places to do things" very powerful indeed.
  2. The second question, I think, may be even more interesting. Does experiencing literature in highly interactive, multimedia formats actually lead to more reading? Or does it simply create a desire for more multimedia experiences? If the print book is vanilla ice cream, the electronic book that sings and dances is the whole hot fudge sundae with cherry and whipped cream. Who's going to want the plain vanilla anymore?

    I certainly don't think it is intentional, but these e-books seem another step down the path leading toward a post-literate society. (The postliterate are those who can read, but chose to meet their primary information and recreational needs through audio, video, graphics and gaming.) How ironic that products designed to develop reading may instead doom it.

Be warned: it's the unintended consequences that'll get ya every time.