Courtroom Influence in the Classroom

Leave a comment

“The Knowledge Game was not created overnight.  Rather it evolved, its nature and complexity [have been] refined by many legal hands over the generations…”pg 51 Information Feudalism by Peter Drahos / John Braithwaite

When considering the above, its certainly easy to offer the obvious cheap joke — Are you wondering who wrote the Book on (not love) but Education?  And then a rousing choir of lawyers would emphatically shout back … We Did!  But I’m going to argue we’re better than that.  While international legal systems have ruled on everything from approved reading lists to mandatory professor credentials, at the same time such regulations and stipulations have also mainstreamed education standards into an applicable, organized structure.  Whether the structure is fair, fully optimized, or culturally flexible are just a few deeper issues lying beyond the idea that the legal system correlates both directly and indirectly to the education system.

Drahos and Braithwaite comments offer that the whole idea surrounding courtroom parlay between Defendant and Prosecutor over intellectual property ownership indicatively leads to creating the ever-evolving Knowledge Game.  We’ve referenced a War of Words, Reporting from the Trenches, but the strategic operation to outwit the court room and prove idea ownership stands to be another matter entirely.  There are many rules, players, argument facets, protocols, and tactics at one’s disposal but even when these measures are carried out to the letter of the law – one can still loose case that their original claim fails and award will be redistributed according to the jury’s conclusions.  So when education models begin to move toward an open content exchange – what must those familiar with the Knowledge Game practice of old now do?  Adapt?  Yes but with caution – because there are still some rules that will always apply.

Consider University Press Systems – an area immersed head deep in the morphing ‘print to digital’ transition and the oncoming consequences.  When professors develop manuscripts and opt to issue a digital-only version of their work – can the accredited educational publishing houses defend their role and revenue process and rights to work with certain esteemed professors even though the work doesn’t even belong to them in the first place?

Beyond this, law school systems are also transitioning and seeing precedent change faster than ever before, now that evidence records include digital transcripts such as text messaging, tweets, Facebook posts, blog comments, and YouTube reactions.  Any ownership clarity prior to the floodgates pouring information into the open public domain now stands dilute, stagnant and complex within the ever increasing social communities the mass populous defers to regarding conversation.  Device production cost that sustains this context will also further decrease, spreading the quandary further, vastly beyond the academic sphere.  Indeed, legal minds will declare rulings and their effects will spread beyond the parties standing before the Judge in session, teachers, students, educational administrators must make a habit to understand governing legal ramifications and how their profession stands to both suffer and benefit from the case of Digital Intellectual ownership vs. Analogue claims.




The Problem with Ownership

Leave a comment

The core trouble with intellectual property discussed in both the documentary Rip: A Remix Manifesto and the book Information Feudalism is assumption that ideas can be owned. Intellectual property ideas must have a sole proprietor, otherwise, the profit could not be funneled so directly. As Drahos and Braithwaite suggest, “knowledge is not only power. It is also the source of profits in modern global markets.” (39) Large corporations rely on intellectual property revenue so they have lobbied aggressively for laws that respect and enforce their intellectual property. They have also launched campaigns to “reeducate” the public on the seriousness of intellectual property in the digital age. These campaigns attempt to persuade through “romantic notions of individual authorship and inventorship,” (16) but ultimately fall flat when carried to their absurd, but ultimate conclusions. For example, searching out and prosecuting a few downloaders of copyrighted material out of the millions that download things everyday.

In order for ideas to be profitable for corporations or individuals, ideas must be owned. This ownership truncates the history of inspiration that came before it. The fervor to patent ideas, lest they prove to be profitable in the future stifles innovations that could be taking place now. In his book Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson outlines the environmental conditions most suited for innovation. Not surprisingly, the easy exchange of ideas is a key factor.
By asserted that ideas, hunches, and inklings can be owned, we are creating an anemic environment for innovation. Education is (or at least should be) designed to breed innovation because new ideas are the driving force of our economy. However, intellectual property walls erect barriers rather than build bridges to new ideas. If we continue to patent hunches, we may find, as Brett Gaylor suggests in his film, the cure for cancer is hidden behind patents.

Eating the Bishop

Leave a comment

In the film “RIP: A Remix Manifesto”, filmmaker Brett Gaylor relayed a story of the first Catholic bishops’ arrival to Brazil, and their subsequent death at the hands of cannibalistic devotees. The natives were so in awe of the human representation of their new faith that they literally ate him in order to be closer to that which he represented. An allegory of something being taken apart in order to make something new.

And with that, Gaylor begins to wrap up his “manifesto” in defense of the modern remix culture, a culture that takes bits and pieces of what came before to develop something new and fresh. Throughout the film, different angles of the debate over theft, intellectual property, morality, and music are examined in a somewhat entertaining but always relevant way.

RIP begins with a profile on Girl Talk, a “mashup artist” who employs a laptop as an instrument, taking snippets of songs written and recorded by other artists and mashing them together to create new songs, or at least vastly rearranged old songs. The very appearance of Girl Talk raises numerous questions of copyright legality and theft vs. creativity. Is Girl Talk an artist or is he guilty of capitalizing on other people’s work without paying what’s due to others?

Of course, Gaylor is favor of the remix culture and against any legal means by which freedom of expression and creativity are limited. He begins his defense by tracing “borrowed” music back to the blues and follows the line through the british invasion, all the while artists were taking elements of songs and reusing them in their own songs. Blues artists like Son House and Muddy Waters took from each other to make their own blues as ideas flowed through their circles. At no time did one bluesman threaten to sue another. The music example turned more interesting when The Rolling Stones, no strangers to “borrowing” from their blues-singing forefathers, decided to sue The Verve for sampling an adaptation of one of their songs in their massive hit “Bittersweet Symphony”. They took 100% of the profits, showing their dedication to copyright laws and intellectual property were stronger than their dedication to their craft.

Throughout, Gaylor laid out his manifesto which follows:

1) Culture always builds on the past

2) The powers of the past will always try to control the future

3) The future becomes less free

4) To build free societies, you must limit the control of the past

That last point is the most important, and Gaylor spends the last portion of the film urging caution in lawmaking.

Ultimately, laws are not only meant to reflect some shared, agreed-upon morality, but they can also be used to create or adjust boundaries to reflect the wishes of the majority. Like a dictionary, which isn’t so much an authority of language and usage as a reflection and record of it, laws can and should be adjusted to reflect the wishes of and changes in a culture. Copyright laws should be written in a way that not only protects proper intellectual property owners, but also fosters creativity and freedom.

Leave a comment

RIP A Remix Manifesto documents the changing theme of copyright infringement in the new era craze of remixing and mash-up. Above all the arguments discussed in the film, and above the historical implications found throughout Information Feudalism, exist the most important words spoken by Brazil’s former Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil:

“Sharing is the nature of creation.”

The latter half of the documentary, RIP A Remix Manifesto, focuses on the work of Walt Disney. A giant in the media industry, Disney keeps its creations and ideas under tight control and goes after anyone who shows signs of “stealing” their material. But it became very interesting when we learned that Mr. Disney himself fashioned his films like Cinderella and Snow White after old, pre-existing tales of the same characters. He just gave them color, a voice and that Disney magic stuff, and the rest is history. Even Mickey Mouse’ early existence as Steamboat Willie stemmed from the existing character of a similar name, Steamboat Bill Jr, played by Buster Keaton. Sharing = Creation

Evidence exists that as we have grown and evolved, we have built on what was present in the past and used it in our now. Sound mixing is just one of the many examples of this. But how does this affect the most prized establishment in our country, education? As children, we learn to be creative from what we have already observed. We see Britney Spears dance on TV and the next thing you know, we’re in our living rooms taking some of her dance steps and mixing them with whatever moves us and BAM! creative dancing. Imitation, which also encompasses the notion of sharing, is often done in the classroom setting. When investors and media moguls take away the bits and pieces that have made up our culture, the ability to progress and evolve becomes halted.

The matter regarding copyrighted material has proved to be an overly complicated one that officials dealing with it don’t even want to get into. It appears that they just settle with what they have always done and end it there. The argument that was made regarding artists like Girl Talk was that they (mixers) are not being creative; they are using someone else’s creativity and work and calling it their own. Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, is making an effort to educate the world about the very idea that we create by sharing, and when we don’t, we are literally halting our ability to discover new and even beneficial devices. Kids in an art class told to create their own monster’s out of Play-Dough, could be sued because Disney and Pixar came out with a film called Monsters Inc. in 2001 and recreating a monster treads on their film characters. Laws could become this absurd if a common agreement isn’t reached.

Educating the future at an early age about what is acceptable and what isn’t is a start. Selling an album that uses the work of another artist, without their consent is illegal. Creating doesn’t have to be illegal and I believe there to be a happy medium that can be reached to please all parties.

By. Sarah Crowe

If you give TJ a Moose Skeleton & Library…

Leave a comment

Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

“Like Aristotle, Jefferson had created a great personal library, cataloged it, and then donated it as the foundation for a budding national library.  And just as Aristotle’s own library catalog, coupled with his writings on natural classification, would reverberate long after his passing, Jefferson exerted a similar influence on the intellectual underpinings of the United States of America.  He rarely receives the credit he deserves as a forefather of information science.” pg 164 ; Glut by Alex Wright

Thomas Jefferson ranks high – at least in the Top 10 – when it comes to industry leaders who I dearly admire.  We share a certain intimate appreciation for pursuing knowledge, answering to a higher calling which stands to benefit the greater good, and more importantly why it’s imperative to leave one’s ‘learning’ camp site better than they found it.

Courtesy of Amazon.com

That said – Alex Wright’s essay entitled ‘The Moose That Roared’ appropriately fits into the larger themes carried through his collective work all published in a compiled manuscript called Glut:Mastering Information through the Ages.  Wright argues that when given rabid curiosity, a 6,500+ library, and decaying Moose Skeleton– Jefferson’s efforts to find order amongst endless data significantly transcended what’s dubbed as a standard ‘thirst for knowledge’.  On a larger context, it’s logical to concur that the insatiable need to both consume and organize  data/information which students, professionals, and general society now all appear to harbor intrinsically relates directly back to Jefferson’s taxidermy years.

Courtesy 4.bp.blogspot.com

It’s quite fortunate then that as Jefferson’s gluttonous hunger for expanding education and information systematically to the masses has now become our collective gluttonous nature — that technological advancements have and continue to surpass performance expectations.  Devices such as mobile phones, tablets/iPads, eReaders, etc all exist to quench a need that stems from the fact that endless amounts of information seep into our daily experiences and engage the human senses.

We’re overwhelmed by our inherited gluttony but instead of curbing our participation, it’s more natural to yield and face consequence.  By forgoing the option to limit how much data/information receives attention – the question then becomes a matter of how and with what tools/training does one manage to stay afloat amidst the boundless data sea we’ve deemed necessary?

Courtesy of Ancestorbridge.com

Exit the Doubting Thomas / Enter the Educational Institution; and it’s exemplary cast of characters which include but are not limited to the: SuperIntendent, the Principal, the Student, the Internet, the mobile phone, the computer, the tablet, software programs and so on.  Naturally, as pattern change occurs with regard to how individual  consumes data conversely means that knowledge institutions (i.e. school systems)  must also begin to administer new learning methods in order to stay course.

Moreover to achieve ongoing success with this endeavor, fans of Jefferson’s track record might insist that it’s paramount to place an intense emphasis on facets such as quality/credibility standards, dedication to research, and encouraging open perspective.  Pairing such focus alongside digital innovation stands to offer today’s student an omnipresent, culturally aware learning environment.

The Miscellaneous Inbox

Leave a comment

David Weinberger goes to great lengths in his book, Everything Is Miscellaneous, to give various histories of how people have organized things. He covers everything from elements to books and photos to wedding dresses to show the great lengths we have gone through to force order onto the world(s) around us.

Weinberger tells us of three distinct orders of order that apply to whatever one happens to be organizing. The first order is organizing things themselves (plates on a shelf, spoons in a drawer), and the second is to create some file system to record how those things are organized (a card catalog in a library). The third order exists solely as a result of our digital culture. Now that we’re dealing with computer files and bits, information is not only easier to organize, but easier to find due to metadata and search functions.

While Weinberger gives the example of Flickr vs. a massive repository for physical photographs, I think a better example is the email inbox. As we’ve transitioned more into a digital world, many of the applications we use daily continue to reference their physical ancestors in name and in practice. In Microsoft Outlook, for example, we’re allowed to organize our email into a heiarchical folder structure to help make sure that our email is filed properly and easily retrievable at a moment’s notice. Surely this is an improvement on the old fashioned way of doing things where actual sheets of paper could get misplaced. With electronic mail, we simply create a rule and the digital mail gets sorted automatically into the digital folder. All I need to do is remember which digital folder to look in when I need that email again. The Future is Now!

However, that email system still fails where the paper system failed. If I had to find a document, I would have to remember the location and retrieve it myself. Not to mention the time it would take to organize that system to begin with. There is a very small step in between managing physical documents and traditional email. A leap needed to occur to fully embrace the freedom afforded by the digital. Enter Gmail’s insistance on search.

In a study published in late 2011, representatives of Microsoft and IBM reported that those who spend time organizing email according to folder structure are actually wasting time more time than their saving. Instead, they found that “those users who rely on tags, threaded conversations, and simply use search to find messages spend less time overall on refinding.” Furthermore, they discovered that “finding emails by searches took on average 17 seconds, versus 58 seconds finding the emails by folder. The likelihood of success – that is, finding the intended email – was no greater when it had been filed in a folder.”

As Google’s Gmail service has grown, it has depended more and more on Google’s main claim to fame – Search – as a central weapon. I no longer have to label and sort each email from my parents (although I still can using tags), I can just throw it in the figurative pile with my bills, letters from friends, etc. When I need to find the email that contained the important contact information for that meeting next week, I can search specifically for that data. To reflect the shifting attitudes towards this model, Apple and Microsoft recently updated their email applications with much more robust search features and Microsoft has even added color coding as a way of tagging by subject.

One area where the miscellaneous is still a present enemy is our contact list. As we move more into the digital realm, the tools at our disposal – and the freedoms they provide – cannot escape the reality of first and last names. Regardless of your email preferences, we’re still tied to the old formats of physical address books. We can’t just throw everyone we know into a pile and render relationships miscellaneous, which is something Google even admits with their Circles concept in Google+. Perhaps not everything is miscellaneous after all.

Knowledge and Dewey

Leave a comment

“The Dewey Decimal Classification system can’t be fixed because knowledge itself is unfixed. Knowledge is diverse, changing, imbued with the cultural values of the moment. The world is too diverse for any single classification system to work for everyone in culture at every time,” (56-7).

When Dewey created this system to file and find books he based it upon his “19th century American-Christian views according to the chapter, The Geography of Nature. He chose main subjects and numbers, so that nonfiction material would be together in the same area and shelf. How did Dewey determine what was important enough to be a main category?  Once this decision was made how was he able to assign which number(s) would go where and its importance? Dewey wanted make sure there was plenty of room for ideas to grow. His vision was that the floor plan of a library would be a map of ideas. The resulting issue is that by attempting to create a system for categorizing knowledge, libraries and society will always end up with a classification slanted by the cultural and political norms of the day; therefore limiting their usefulness for finding information in the future.

Even though decimals did offer Dewey an unlimited number of subdivisions, they also limited the number of main categories. What happens to the system when a new main idea becomes the focus of society? Knowledge does not shape itself into “ten top-level classes with ten divisions, each with ten divisions” (54). Would this system have the capacity to be upgraded to the current century? The highlighted paragraph states that it can’t be fixed due to the world being too diverse, but that’s not an acceptable answer. New books have to go somewhere. The book gives the example of a book about military music and how it sits on the shelf with military books, but it is filed under “military” and “music in the card catalogue. The catalogue is able to offer some flexibility so why not assign multiple numbers to the spine of the books?

The Dewey Decimal Classification has been through 23 major revisions, and while this may have improved some of the issues within it still doesn’t improve the overall system.  “Knowledge itself is unfixed,” (56). Knowledge will constantly keep expanding in such a way that one day it will not be able to be contained. Dewey did the world and libraries a great service by providing a technique that is universally used, but it’s impossible to account for the changing times. The Library of Congress has its own classification containing 21 main subjects and even this system is not enough.

To tie this in with K-12 education, the grades by which students are separated don’t take into account the changing student. There is the matter of students moving from grade to grade and from middle to high school without being fully prepared. It can be viewed as a stigma if a student is held back, but this can give them the time to develop the skills needed to succeed in the next grade. Should there be a complete overall of grade and school levels? Maybe this could help with the educating of students, instead of passing them through the system without gaining any knowledge. But this is a topic for another day.

Older Entries