Writing Teachers Writing New Media

Writing Teachers Writing New Media (Jerz’s CCCC 05 Notes)

“What did you guys do to earn walls?” -overheard during the (long) setup for this presentation.

Hoping to find an opportunity to continue the discussion of the intellectual property issues Lawrence Lessig raised on Thursday, I attended “Writing Teachers Writing New Media,” where three young presenters from The Ohio State University (Scott Lloyd DeWitt, Jason Palmeri, and another presenter filling in for Rita Rich — sorry, I didn’t catch his name) discussed the physical spaces in which their students created digital work, describing the ways they changed a writing lab in order to facilitate digital collaboration, and describing the resistance they encountered, as well as their successes.

I arrived a few minutes late, but the session actually didn’t get started for about another 10 minutes. The presenters wanted to have two screens going at once, one for a traditional electronic slideshow, and another to show student multimedia presentations. While it all worked out in the end, the beginning was very rocky.

The presenters spoke in glowing terms of the online archive of digital creativity their work produces, and were justifiably proud of their students’ contributions. I noticed that a few presentations gave credit to the original source of remixed material, but the presenters themselves did not address any copyright or intellectual property issues.

During the Q & A, I asked what steps they had taken in order to deal with intellectual property issues. The presenters admitted that they hadn’t been systematic about it. After learning that none of the presenters had attended Lessig’s talk, I mentioned a few of Lessig’s points, particularly his criticism of both extremes of the intellectual property debate.

A young woman sitting in front of me huffed, “Screw the motion picture industry!”

Though I presume that she had not attended Lessig’s talk either, her dismissive and naive attitude precisely illustrated what educators are up against. Lessig argued that extremism begets extremism – that the draconian efforts to control digital property spark equally extreme acts of defiance, and that neither extreme is a sensible, sustainable course of action.

When I taught Writing for the Internet last term, I let my students know that I expected them to cite all the material they took from other sources, but next time I think I might require them to use material that they scanned themselves from out-of-copyright sources, material that they can prove they’ve requested and received permission for use, or material with an appropriate creative common license.

While the “fair use” clause supports the use of copyrighted material for critical and satirical purposes, young people are so inundated by the committee-produced, financially-driven culture that dominates their televisions that perhaps it would be a good idea to encourage them to look at the creative commons, and instead of creating a work that remixes content that has been bought and paid for by Hollywood, instead remix the creative output of other people like them.