This week seemed impossibly full of interesting, with not enough time to process.Â Wait, who am I kidding, I never feel there’s enough time to process, but this week more so than usual.Â So a quick roundup to remind myself to keep thinking about these things:
I made a vow last year to reduce my conference travel.Â It seemed prudent to cut back on expenses in this tough budget climate, but more than that, all the conferences began to run together in my mind, all the sessions sounding the same, the airports and hotel rooms one big blur.Â From time to time I’ve felt sad to miss seeing good netfriends, at SLCC09 especially, but it also felt good to take a step back and not be so darned harried.Â Until this past week, when so many people I admire gathered at EDUCAUSE 2009, and for the first time I felt a tinge of real regret.Â Because it sounds like maybe this year’s EDUCAUSE breathed a bit of fresh air into the room.
Fortunately, I was able to follow at least some of what was happening through the ever fascinating tweets of EDUCAUSE attendees, and the conference organizers (bless them) streamed many sessions on the web, so those of us who couldn’t attend don’t get too terribly left behind.Â I haven’t watched all the sessions, but two in particular that I want to keep thinking about:
Point/Counterpoint:Â Disrespectful and Time-Wasting, or Engaged and Transformative
The Mile High Twitter Debate (Gardner Campbell and Bruce Maas)
I first met Gardner Campbell (@gardnercambell) through an NMC Summer Conference several years ago (another conference I was sad to miss this year) and I’ve been a faithful reader of his blog Gardner Writes ever since.Â His passion for teaching, and for exploring the use of technology in teaching in meaningful ways, has been illuminating.Â He’s the kind of faculty member I want to learn from and collaborate with, and he’s always been unbelievably approachable for such a rock star.Â ;)Â Â So when I heard he was taking the pro-Twitter position in a Point/Counterpoint session, it seemed like a must-see and I wasn’t disappointed.
From now on, when administrators and faculty ask me what the point of Twitter is, I’m not even going to discuss it, I’ll just send them a link to this video.Â If they aren’t convinced after that, there’s no hope.
Thanks to Gardner and Bruce Mass for a great debate and a terrific resource we can share with others.
It’s About Time:Â Getting Our Values Around Copyright Right
The other “must-watch” video from the conference is really a must-watch for more than just educators.Â Netizens everywhere need to be thinking about this issue, especially in light of the ACTA treaty negotiations that were leaked this week (see the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s take, ReadWriteWeb, Wired, and more – universal sentiment is “BAD – VERY BAD”).Â I’m beyond outraged about ACTA and hope to make a separate post on that topic soon.
In any case, Lessig delivered a powerful talk about copyright that I hope you’ll take the time to review.Â You won’t be sorry you did.
On Copyright, Intellectual Property Rights, & the Rule of Law in Virtual Worlds
These issues, of copyright and intellectual property, are not abstract for many Second Life users.Â Indeed, I often imagine that these Second Life content creators (the ones who make the virtual clothes, hair, buildings, cars, etc. that you can buy in Second Life or on the web) are likely some of the very people who downloaded pirated music, software, or movies without a second thought in earlier times, but now the tables are turned after experiencing what it is like to create something from your own imagination, market it, sell it, and have it stolen out from under them.Â (Reminder to self, experience is truly the best teacher. )
I refer to the great angst and gnashing of teeth over content theft in virtual worlds.Â Linden Lab responded to the lawsuit filed by SexGen bed maker this week, a group of content creators staged a 48 hour period of creating nothing to protest content theft, Ben Duranske urged everyone to register their copyright with the US government, and the very controversial Emerald Viewer team filed a DMCA notice to Google about the much vilified Neilife viewer.
Oh, and by the way, Michael Risch at the West Virginia University College of Law makes a compelling case that the rule of law has been an abysmal failure in virtual worlds.Â From the abstract:
The article finds â€“ unsurprisingly â€“ that virtual worlds now lack many of the elements of the rule of law. Which aspects fail is more surprising, however. Provider agreements and computer software, the sources of regulation that are most often criticized as â€œanti-user,â€ provide the best theoretical hope for achieving the rule of law, even if they currently fail in practice. On the contrary, widely proposed â€œreforms,â€ such as community norms, self-regulation, and importation of real-world law face both theoretical and practical barriers to implementation of the rule of law in virtual worlds.
What are we to make of all this copyright/IP mess?Â I dunno.Â I don’t have any easy answers either.
But I have long argued that one of the greatest benefits of being involved in virtual worlds like Second Life is that you get to see some of the great issues of our time being played out in another context, a different context than the “real world” – a smaller context – and that this gives us a new perspective with which to view what’s happening in the “real world”.Â Â It’s so difficult for me to articulate this thought, I wish I could do a better job of it, but it’s the primary reason I feel like educators – no – academics and intellectuals of all stripes – should be involved in what’s happening in virtual worlds.Â This copyright issue is just one of many examples, it’s fascinating to see how it plays out in the context of a conversation at EDUCAUSE versus the context and conversations of Second Life.
On one hand, we hear Lessig imploring educators and edtech IT folks to find ways to honor the rights of content creators in ways that do not turn our kids into terrorists.Â He says, and I agree, that the creativity unleashed by mashups in the digital age cannot be stopped.Â We hear Lessig warning us that by forcing people to live a a life outside the law, we undermine the very rule of law that democracy requires.Â He urges us to help find a third way, a middle road between copyright extremists on both ends of the spectrum.
In another context, in the microcosm of virtual worlds and Second Life, we hear that the rule of law has yet to even emerge, all while we watch from the sidelines as real life courts are asked to adjudicate a potentially precedent-setting case about virtual content theft. Â We hear some virtual world content creators arguing they must have the right to back up their work, to port their work, the products and artifacts of their creativity, into whatever medium they desire, whatever grid they happen to be on.Â Â Other content creators are arguing that so long as the tools to make this backup/portability possible can also be used to steal THEIR content and creativity, these tools should NOT be available.Â Even though they already are.Â And, I think they are here to stay, no matter how much Linden Lab tries to enforce some kind of 3rd party registration for viewers.
Much to think about.Â And I wonder,Â what would the content creators who staged the 48 hour “create nothing” protest say to Lessig’s point?
I’ve run out of time to finish this post, and didn’t even get to the other big stories of the week.Â I’ll add some links to remind myself, because they all play into this conversation even if I can’t synthesize it all at the moment:
Dusan talks about the Lab being at war with itself, and humanity at war with ourselves, and with technology – what?Â I want to respond to this, I want to argue some of us ARE stopping to think about it – obsessively thinking about it even -Â but it’s just all happening so damned fast (see this post, I can’t even get a few hours to properly synthesize):
But thereâ€™s a Masonic feeling to the whole thing: weâ€™re not just individual actors contributing to the common good, weâ€™re individual actors contributing to the evolution of digital spaces that have no governing body, and weâ€™re hoping that in so doing our collective contributions will lead to a common good, without always stopping to have much of a conversation about it, although we start to get worried if it happens all over again: if Google actually turns out to BE the next Microsoft, although itâ€™s typically only the big, easy-to-spot targets that we worry about â€“ the rest of it is too granular, too innocuous, the metadata is invisible to us, itâ€™s all held in those windowless rooms.
Healthcare reform passes the House after bitter partisan vote – will it actually improve anything?Â Is this REALLY what democracy has come to in the digital age?Â Am I the only one disgusted with the sausage making mess?
A fellow from the team writing recommendations for the National Education Technology Plan comes to Second Life for feedback – did he get anything useful from the process?Â I greatly appreciated the effort of the ISTE organizers and all the speakers, and that he made the effort to reach out to cutting edge educators, but I found the process chaotic, frustrating, and unsure what the take-away was.
I’ll have to stop here.Â Too much to process this week.