While I have been so engaged in saving my web sites, I haven’t had enough time to delve very deeply into the ideas that have continued to be grown by thinkers out on the Net. Two of these big ideas combine with some news that I culled from my aggregator this morning.
First, the Rip & Mix Culture. Literacy in the 20th century meant being able to read the text that somebody handed to you. We were consumers of information. However, today, because of the new networked digital information environment and increasing access to digital processing tools, we are beginning to shop in the information environment, picking pieces of information here and there, and then mixing them in a way that is personally pleasing and useful.
This Rip & Mix mentality is not new. In the three-stoplight mill town that I grew up in, teenagers spent time, ripping parts out of their cars, and mixing new parts in in order to create the loudest, fasted, and most audacious looking vehicle on the streets. It was a do-it-yourself way of looking at our environment that has extended into the digital domain.
My son, just after Christmas, came to me wanting to buy a device that would allow him to connect his video game system to his laptop computer. He told me how much it would cost and I tried to talk him out of it, given that he already had his game system connected to a 32 inch TV and he only had that much money left. Youngsters often want to spend all of their money on something that they think they really need, only to learn afterward that it hasn’t dramatically enhanced their lives. Then they become very hard to live with. He talked me into it, though, and that night I watched him playing Halo II with his computer on his lap, and that big TV sitting blank.
The next morning, my son set his computer on the breakfast table in front of me, and said, “Watch this.” I can’t clearly describe what I saw, except to explain that he had been playing the game not as a competing player, but as a movie director, instructing his friends (also in the the game environment via the Internet) to perform digital acrobatics on the set of the game. He was actually playing the game through iMovie, and was capturing the video as a DV file. Then he laid some music under the video file, and cut and mixed the video to align with the music.
Rip & Mix! The point here is not Rip & Mix, though, but the fact that it is illegal. Copyright law, as it has recently evolved under the unprecedented influence of the motion picture and recording industries, prohibits this sort of do-it-yourself personalizing of content, even though we have been teaching students for decades how to rip and mix text in the reports and essays that they write.
Now I am not going to spend a lot of time on this issue. There are much smarter people than me who are very clearly articulating the problem. Listen to one of the audio files of Larry Lesseg’s address, or Dan Gilmore.
I do want to point out that three members of the U.S. Congress (one democrat and two republicans) have just introduced an amendment to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) that would allow more fair use of copyrighted materials for students, teachers, scientists, and librarians. This is something that educators need to be paying attention to. The proposed act can be found at the following URL: