On the Road

Tonight in class the topic was Creative Commons, but, really, it was an opportunity to talk about copyright, public domain, fair use, and the whole CC movement. I had asked everyone to consider the question “Why are we talking about copyright in a class about digital identity and citizenship?”

The answers I got were focused primarily on the utility of understanding how to find materials to remix and the way in which it mirrors some of what we’ve been talking about wrt to open education. There were some good observations. We then spent about an hour going through the various concepts and pulling apart the ways in which copyright is butting up against technology and digital culture, in general. I love classes where we talk about these issues. For a long time I shied away from have conversations about copyright with faculty and students. I didn’t feel like I had any good answers for them: Yes. Copyright is broken. No. There are no easy answers. Um. I’m not sure what to tell you what to do.

But when I started teaching ds106 last spring I realized I needed to be willing to wade into this territory more fully. It was really this post by Melanie McBride that helped me find the road I wanted to take into the topic last spring. I stopped approaching the topic as one in which I needed to have all the answers and instead considered what I thought my students needed to really understand about copyright and, more importantly, the choices they were making WRT to copyright. This angle always leads to really fruitful and rich conversations. It’s a way to uncover all kinds of tacit assumptions we make about intellectual property. Ultimately, I try to explain to them that I don’t see my role as telling them what they must or must not do. Because, frankly, the answers aren’t nearly as clean or clear as anyone would like to make us think they are. More importantly, I want them to understand the issues as clearly as possible and to make choices that are informed by what they know. I advocate strenuously for use Creative Commons and public domain work, and I try to model that as much as possible.

I’m not sure that my approach is perfect, but I feel like we manage to have really challenging and meaningful conversations as opposed to a lot of FUD.

As I’ve been doing so far in the class, I wanted to come up with an exploratory assignment that would encourage them to delve a little more deeply into the topic. I had a couple of ideas, but nothing that really seemed perfect. So I took to Twitter, and got this suggestion from Joe:

I started by searching on Flickr for “copy” (and turning on the CC option). I found an image I loved:

Some rights reserved by Explorer Björn on Flickr

But, alas, I discovered too late that I hadn’t checked off the search option to find images that I can make derivatives of, so I had to keep looking.

Then I came across this image

Some rights reserved by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

It’s a shot of a passage from the original manuscript of On the Road. There’s so much here to love. First, there’s the backstory to the manuscript. Kerouac wrote the book in three weeks on a continuous 120-foot scroll of paper. (Although he actually drafted and worked on parts of the text in other formats for several years before we wrote the actual book.) That fact in and of itself is awesome.

I have a particular affinity for the book because in eighth grade I wrote a book report about it. (God, I wish I still had that report.) I came from a family where basically I was allowed to read anything I could get my hands on. When I announced I wanted to read On the Road for a book report by amazing parents didn’t bat an eye. I can only imagine what my teacher thought when I turned it in.

But the icing on the cake to finding this image was reading the story by the person who posted it. Take a moment and go read it now. I honestly can’t believe how it ties into our conversation in class today. Seriously. Go read it.

So now, I set off to manipulate the image. I decided not to power up Photoshop but to stick to free tools that I could find on the web (that my students can also use!), so I powered up Aviary. (Which one student will be doing an intro to next week, btw)

I decided I wanted to add some other elements to the photo, and a couple of CC Flickr image searches turned up just what I was looking for. I imported them in, cropped and placed them, and exported the result:

Click for Larger Version

It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a start. I’m curious to see what other transformations others can add. Tomorrow morning, I’ll send it along to the next victim and get the ball rolling.

Image Credits:

Jack Kerouac (#2) by devinish on Flickr


Walt Disney Time Magazine Cover by tollieschmidt on Flickr

Cary Sherman, RIAA President by deepsignal on Flickr

Rupert Murdoch – World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009 by World Economic Forum on Flickr