Landing : Athabascau University

TLSTN: Week 1

I’ve joined the Teaching & Learning in Social  & Tech Networks course to learn about network learning theory, and to help inform my teaching and research. I’m writing a new course for MAIS: Black Atlantic Literatures and Cultures, which has a beta site in the Landing (currently closed, while in process). And I’m researching issues in intellectual property, cultural adaptation, and technology studies that I hope this course can critically inform: right now I’m drafting a paper for Congress about the peculiar synergies between science fiction and social media in articulating the "copyfight" over intellectual property (IP) regulation -- a fight with implications as ominous for AU as the Landing's potential for the institution is enormous.

Take Dr Siemens' reflection in his post about connectivism that "much of what is unique [to connectivism] is the particular combination and integration of ideas that reflect the broader societal and information-based trends" (¶3). This sounds to me a lot like the tenet of Gaylor and Lessig's remix manifesto: "culture always builds on the past." (A Brazilian music producer in the film defines creativity as "mixing two things that haven't been mixed before.") But as that manifesto also states, "our future is becoming less free," under the increasing pressure of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, the Google Books settlement, and several other state and corporate-led efforts to hyper-regulate intellectual property, efforts with inordinate potential to determine not just how culture and media will be distributed and consumed, but the very character of the Internet itself -- making the copyfight as urgent for scholars, students, and consumers as it is for DJs or DIY mash-up artists.

Much of this won't be news to people at a place like AU; neither will the emergence of alternative IP regulations like Creative Commons licensing. It’s in the context of the regulatory challenges facing the Internet and its emerging alternatives that I think social media have potential to amplify the critical role of academics as public intellectuals -- and, perhaps, to rewrite the rules of popular culture. If, as James Boyle notes, most of the twentieth century’s media history has been consigned to useless obscurity by copyright term extensions, the new century's open-access productions (like Cory Doctorow's first novel) may be re-defining popular culture in part by the very principle of open access itself (more eyeballs can mean more popularity). And far more obscure backwaters of the 2.0 Intertubes routinely dredge up popular phenomena both ephemeral and durable. Which is where social media come in: as tools for satisfying not just users’ desire to produce, comment, and share, but also users' desire to make a public history, of which social media can be an important first drafting. As a commentator on Dr Siemens' aforementioned post writes:

Connectivism then could be seen as an advocacy for the publishing of informal and early thinking. This is an attractive idea to me though many might feel threatened by it. (Should junior faculty who have not yet earned tenure keep a blog about their research?) (Arvan)

I've hemmed and hawed about the parenthetical question myself, and so far my noncommittal answer is: I think so. I mean I've been keeping such a blog, for a couple years now. And one of my course-related projects is to make my Congress paper about science fiction and social media more reflexive (and reflective), by blogging it. Not that I expect many if any comments, but it's a worthwhile experiment, as the form and content of this week's readings suggest.


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