Thursday, September 15, 2005

Critical Evaluation Exercise

THE CREATIVE COMMONS BLOG: 'REBUILDING FREE CULTURE'.[1]


As new technologies rapidly continue to develop, digital communication theorists have come to perceive a shifting divide between the products of 'personal media' and 'big media,'[2] which has thrown the implications of traditional copyright laws into confusion. Readily available media software now gives former consumers the ability to copy, borrow, manipulate and build upon 'big media' products and take them into new narrative spheres in which the original creators do not have agency. This transferral of power has raised questions about the scope of intellectual property law in cyberspace, with commentators such as Lawrence Lessig viewing the larger entertainment industries as championing a body of increasingly protective laws which serve to 'lock down culture and control creativity.' [3] In the midst of what has been perceived as a 'culture war,'[4] Lessig and others identified a need for "balance, compromise and moderation"[5] and in 2001 a US-based, non-profit corporation[6] called Creative Commons was founded on this premise. The mandate of the Creative Commons organisation is "to build a layer of reasonable, flexible copyright in the face of increasingly restrictive default rules."[7]
By evaluating the organisation's blog through the lens of this mission statement, taking into account the interactive nature of the blog structure itself as well as its content, we can attempt to evaluate the way the Creative Commons blog[8] can be situated into debates surrounding participatory culture and digital communication.
Blogs can be thought of as dynamic web pages which are being continually updated by either a single author or group of authors. They contain written text, pictures and links to other blogs, web sites and places of interest in cyberspace. A blog (which is a shortening of the term 'web log') is generally presided over by the person who created it, often the primary author.[9] In terms of understanding the relevance of blogs to the ever-changing realm of participatory culture, digital media theorist Henry Jenkins identifies a positive influence arising in the form of blog-users:
"At a time when many dot coms have failed, blogging is on the rise. We're in a lull between waves of commercialization in digital media, and bloggers are seizing the moment, potentially increasing cultural diversity and lowering barriers to cultural participation."[10]
By incorporating this type of interactive site into their organisation, Creative Commons are implicitly reinforcing an advocacy of knowledge-sharing in cyberspace.[11]
The postings on the blog pertain to examples of culture and technology that exist under Creative Commons licensing as well as providing the methodology behind it. The contributors provide a mix of instructional and promotional material as well as immediate updates on developments within this sphere. As an example of the blog's structure, the July 2005[12] posts are made up of twelve entries by three main authors. The authors themselves may change but this pattern of a small number of trained staff producing many articles recurs throughout the archives. As one of the main criticisms of information accessed via the internet often relates to the reliability and original source of the material in question, the ability to access the name of the author and follow links to professional profiles of some of them makes this blog distinctive. Unlike many blogs, it is intended for public consumption and promotes accountability, if not consistent interactivity.
Housed at Stanford University, this organisation produces an instance of digital communication that is bound by academic aspirations, yet must also balance these standards with the level of content accessibility required to spread the word about Creative Commons licensing effectively. Lawrence Lessig, as a member of its Board of Directors, outlines:
"Our aim is to build a movement of consumers and producers of content (…) who help build the public domain and, by their work, demonstrate the importance of the public domain to other creativity."[13]
In terms of how the content and authorship structure of the Creative Commons blog operates in this context, it provides information on how 'Some Rights Reserved' licensing sits as a balancing force between the two extremes of hyper-protective 'All Rights Reserved' clauses and the rather unrealistic 'No Rights Reserved' practices.[14] It does this in an immediate way that uses the potential of new technology: incorporating academic accountability with an accessible use of language that would not be tenable in published print form. The content acts to promote free access to and reasonable use of creative products and relies on links to guide readers to these objects, so they can be viewed alongside the written article. The immediacy and interconnectedness between the content and what it points to are unique to digital media, as is the component of this particular blog which allows the user the ability to access information on Creative Commons jurisdiction and media products that are tailored to his or her specific nationality.
In Darknet, commentator J.D Lasica states that, in the digital media revolution
"The future of movies, music, television, computer games and the Internet are all on the line in the clash between the irresistible force of technological innovation and the immovable object of the entertainment media powers."[15]
If the position of the Creative Commons blog can be interpreted as attempting to provide a moderate middle ground in this clash through creating a new concept of intellectual property protection, the contribution it makes is through showing how this idea can be applied in practice. The organisation has adopted a free-access blog, which makes available the tools for protecting creative work without locking it down. It promotes the growing possibilities of participatory culture through its advertisement of free-access technologies and media products that can be engaged with in a manner which empowers digital media users. The frontlines in the battles of 'big media' and 'personal media' are always shifting and the immediacy of the blog form allows for the Creative Commons staff who maintain it to actively point out new developments. Perhaps taking up the idea that the best way to lead is through example, the blog provides a massive array of links to digital media items which, through the adoption of Creative Commons licensing, become a positive demonstration of the potential fluidity and beneficial exchange of information in an age where copyright laws are becoming increasingly extreme. The growing success of the US-based movement is apparent in the way twenty-three countries have now taken up the project in bodies known as 'iCommons.'[16] As old copyright laws continue to groan under the strain of being stretched, prodded and poked into directions they were never conceived to cover, media commentators like Lasica declare, "we need new rules for the digital age."[17] The Creative Commons blog provides a touchstone for that which the movement advocates: the democratisation of participatory culture through the provision of easy-to-use intellectual property practices which empower digital media users to freely exchange information, while retaining ownership of their creations.



[1] LESSIG, L. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York, 2004. http://www.free-culture.cc/freeculture.pdf ("Afterward") p. 282.
[2] LASICA, J.D. Darknet Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. 2005. Darknet mini-book: http://www.darknet.com/2005/05/darknet_miniboo.html
[3] LESSIG, L. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York, 2004.
[4] LASICA, J.D. Darknet Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. 2005. Darknet mini-book: http://www.darknet.com/2005/05/darknet_miniboo.html
[5] As stated in "'Some Rights Reserved': Building a Layer of Reasonable Copyright." From the Creative Commons website. http://creativecommons.org/about/history
[6] LESSIG, L. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. 2004. p. 283.
[7] As stated in "'Some Rights Reserved': Building a Layer of Reasonable Copyright." From the Creative Commons website. http://creativecommons.org/about/history

[8]Creative Commons Blog http://creativecommons.org/weblog/
[9] BLANCHARD, A. "Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a Sense of Community in the Julie/Julia Project." Into the Blogosphere. Ed. Smiljana Antonijevic, Laura Gurak, Laurie Johnson, Clancy Ratliff, and Jessica Reyman, 2004, http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogs_as_virtual.html
[10] JENKINS, H. "Blog This!" Technology Review.com. March, 2002. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/02/03/jenkins0302.asp?p=1
[11]A negative aspect however could lie in the inability to add comments at the present (September 2005). 'Comments will be re-enabled soon' is tagged at the bottom of each post, although looking through the archive it is clear that comments were once more frequent. For example, the post titled "Raymond vanderWoning's Photos" received five additional comments: http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/3802 August 2003
[12]GARLICK, M., LINKSVAYER, M., YERGLER, N. Creative Commons Blog, July 2005. http://creativecommons.org/weblog/archive/2005/08
[13] LESSIG, L. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. 2004. pp. 283-284.
[14] Ibid. "Afterword." p. 285.
[15] LASICA, J.D. Darknet Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. 2005. Darknet mini-book: http://www.darknet.com/2005/05/darknet_miniboo.html

[16] As noted in iCommons.AU: Creative Commons Australia http://creativecommons.org.au/about 2005.
[17] LASICA, J.D. Darknet Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. 2005. Darknet mini-book: http://www.darknet.com/2005/05/darknet_miniboo.html
REFERENCES:
BLANCHARD, A. "Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a Sense of Community in the Julie/Julia Project." Into the Blogosphere. Ed. Smiljana Antonijevic, Laura Gurak, Laurie Johnson, Clancy Ratliff, and Jessica Reyman, 2004, http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogs_as_virtual.html
GARLICK,M., LINKSVAYER,M., YERGLER,N. et al Creative Commons Blog, 2005. http://creativecommons.org/weblog/archive/2005/08

JENKINS, H. "Blog This." Technology Review.com. March, 2002. http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/02/03/jenkins0302.asp?p=1

LESSIG, L. Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York, 2004. http://www.freeculture.cc/freeculture.pdf

LASICA, J.D. Darknet Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. 2005. Darknet mini-book: http://www.darknet.com/2005/05/darknet_miniboo.html

"'Some Rights Reserved': Building a Layer of Reasonable Copyright." Creative Commons. 2005. http://creativecommons.org/about/history

iCommons.AU: Creative Commons Australia. 2005. http://creativecommons.org.au/about

2 Comments:

Blogger Tama said...

Hi Liz, Your evaluation of the Creative Commons Blog just got linked to ... in the Creative Commons blog! Nice (and just a little bit meta-referential!). :)

Fri Sep 16, 10:52:00 am 2005  
Blogger Kaori said...

In your Critical Evaluation Exercise, first of all, the introduction was really catchy in that it did not merely define the background of the Creative Commons Blog, providing information about who is behind the blog or why it is being made; the introduction had a flow or a story that gradually pulled the reader into the topic of intellectual property law in cyberspace.

In the body of the Critical Evaluation Exercise I believe you pointed out an important and interesting characteristic about the blog which is the fact that a small number of trained staff produces many articles in the blog, connecting it with the fact that one of the main criticisms of information accessed via the internet often relates to the reliability and original source of the material in question, concluding that the ability to access the name of the author and follow links to professional profiles of some of them differentiates the blog from other blogs, promoting accountability. While making basic remarks about digital media on its uniqueness, the immediacy and interconnectedness between the content and what it points to, you noticed an interesting aspect of the blog; in mentioning how the content and authorship structure of the Creative Commons blog operates in the context of demonstrating the importance of the public domain to other creativity which is defined in the aim of the blog by Lawrence Lessig, I could see you made a very fresh argument about how the blog ‘Some Rights Reserved’ licensing served its purpose as a balancing force when compared to the traditional ‘All Rights Reserved’ licensing which we often see, and the rather unrealistic ‘No Rights Reserved’ licensing.

After reading your Critical Evaluation Exercise, I was able to get a fairly good understanding of what the blog was like; I am very convinced that the Creative Commons blog provides a touchstone for that which the movement advocates: the democratization of participatory culture through the provision of easy-to-use intellectual property practices which empower digital media users to freely exchange information, while retaining ownership of their creations. Most of all, it got me interested in the blog which I had thought was boring before, when I had accessed it as a potential target of my own Critical Evaluation Exercise! Overall, with clear definition of the distinct characteristics of the Creative Commons Blog, I conclude that your exercise was very well-done; though I am supposed to be ‘critical’, I can find no aspect to criticize your exercise.

Tue Sep 27, 12:02:00 pm 2005  

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