Using Cultural Artifacts as Words

Back in January I took part in the first few weeks of a University of Alaska MOOC about Digital Citizenship. Here are some of my thoughts on the experience http://www.jasonohler.com/wordpressii/

I forget what prompted me to write this. Perhaps we were talking about multi media literacy or the place of copyrighted material. The argument I make is more or less taken wholesale from Downes talk ‘Speaking in LOLcats’.

One way to think about digital resources is as words. A youtube clip is a word, a soundcloud clip is a word, an instance of a meme is a word, an article you link to is a word. You get the gist. We have a web of resources that can be linked to directly. Increasingly people will use these resources as a means to communicate. Take ,for example, this classic meme below  which “is an expression and reaction image often used to show disgust or disappointment with others” [from ‘know your meme’]. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/i-dont-want-to-live-on-this-planet-anymore
People often use this in place of a written comment. It’s a shared cultural reference point, with it’s own affordances and connotations.
If you accept this conception of digital resources as words, and acknowledge that many of these resources are copyrighted, you get into a very muddled grey area. At what point does a legitimate claim to copyright become a suppression of free speech. We have fair use rights, but at the moment these are not being respected. Internet users have taken many resources and imbued them with cultural significance where previously there was none. This is particularly true with memes and many youtube clips but we can expect the use of digital resources as words become ever more sophisticated. When I think of digital citizenship I think of issues like this. How do we protect our freedom to speech in a world where our words are copyrighted? And where will educators stand in this debate? Below is a link to a slideshare, by Downes, which elaborates on the idea. It’s slightly difficult to follow without the audio but you get the gist (i didn’t search for the audio but it might be out there.)
http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/open-education-projects-and-potential

 

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