Tag Archives: lawrence lessig

Teaching Remix

14 Jul

from Brent Staples in the New York Times:

If we look closely at plagiarism as practiced by youngsters, we can see that they have a different relationship to the printed word than did the generations before them. When many young people think of writing, they don’t think of fashioning original sentences into a sustained thought. They think of making something like a collage of found passages and ideas from the Internet.

They become like rap musicians who construct what they describe as new works by “sampling” (which is to say, cutting and pasting) beats and refrains from the works of others.

The editorial raises issues dear to our heart here at Imaginary Boundaries. We agree that something needs to be done about the plagiarism and cutting and pasting that is common in college and high school classrooms. As shown in Part III of the If I Was a Master Thief Series, the burden is on teachers to come up with better, more innovative, plagiarism-proof assignments instead of relying on the old standbys (which are often just copies of textbook or other teachers’ assignments themselves, all based upon the same old readings from the same old anthologies, or, if the teacher is more innovative, cut and paste remixes of such assignments). And we agree with Jason Johnson who was quoted in that piece that some of these remix skills students exhibit are useful and can be incorporated into teaching methods and in assignment reinvention.

Here is Lawrence Lessig on the value of remix as a skill and as a prompt for learning (which we wrote about for an upcoming article in Montague Street):

It takes extraordinary knowledge about a culture to remix it well. The artist or student training to do it well learns far more about his past than one committed to this (in my view hopelessly naïve) view about “original creativity.” And perhaps more important, the audience is constantly looking for more as the audience reads what the remixer has written. Knowing that the song is a mix that could draw upon all that went before, each second is an invitation to understand the links that were drawn––their meaning, the reason they were included. The form makes demands on the audience; they return the demands in kind.

Lessig shows that remix is far more complex than mere copying and can be a tremendous tool for learning that requires a high level of innovation from teachers and from students. First, we need to stop bemoaning the fact that things just aren’t the way they used to be. Then we can take advantage of these new and exciting opportunities for teaching and learning. Yes, a high incidence of cheating is a kind of canary in the coal mine, but people may be misreading the warnings. In our view, if there is a lot of plagiarism and cheating in the classroom, then it’s the teaching that deserves higher scrutiny. It’s possible to make cheating rare to nearly impossible, and there are many teachers who have accomplished this not with detection software or surveillance, but through innovative teaching methods and with creative assignment design.

Full editorial: “Cutting and Pasting: A Senior Thesis by (Insert Name)”

Johanna Blakley: Lessons from fashion’s free culture

25 May

The culture of copying: “What is the kind of ownership model in a digital world that’s gonna lead to the most innovation?”

from the talk:

The Virtues of Copying

Democratization of Fashion

Faster Establishment of Global Trends

Induced Obsolescence

Acceleration in Creative Innovation

For more, see readytoshare.org

This has been a big issue on Imaginary Boundaries, starting with Bob Dylan and plagiarism plus related posts.

After the jump, Lawrence Lessig on “laws that choke creativity”:

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If I Was a Master Thief, Perhaps I’d Rob Them (part II)

23 May

dylan-fairey-warhol-obama

(In Part I, instances of plagiarism in Bob Dylan’s most recent works were discussed, plus the common practice of appropriation in the blues, folk, and jazz traditions, along with findings of similar thefts in the literary tradition.)

To Live Outside the Law, You Must Be Honest

Jonathan Lethem’s study of Bob Dylan’s appropriations, “The Ecstasy of Influence” (a play on Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence), includes the subtitle “A Plagiarism.” Turns out, the article is a string of thefts lovingly tied together to show the crucial role of borrowing in creativity. Lawrence Lessig, one of those appropriated heavily in the article, told Washington Post writer Bob Thomson the piece is “beautifully crafted” and it “teaches more about the importance of what I call ‘remix’ than any other work I’ve read.” (Citing Lethem’s piece, however, is a Dylanesque experience, as you will see. Think of any quotes from him here as something more akin to a wink.)

Appropriately, the first section of Lethem’s piece is called Love and Theft (no quotation marks this time), acknowledging that the title comes from Dylan by way of Eric Lott’s “study of minstrelsy” and that Lott’s own use of the title “is a riff on Leslie Fielder’s Love and Death in the American Novel.”  Lethem uses such examples to show that “Appropriation has always played a key role in Dylan’s music.” Most importantly, he says, “Dylan’s originality and his appropriations are as one.”

And he doesn’t stop there. “The same might be said of all art,” he claims.

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If I Was a Master Thief, Perhaps I’d Rob Them: Bob Dylan, Plagiarism, Freshman Composition, and the “Cult of Originality”

21 May

They’re Planting Stories in the Press

After spending many years among the has-beens, a once renowned performer releases a series of well-received albums. Before long, amid the new rave reviews, reports surface that some lines from these new albums have been stolen from an obscure nineteenth century poet, a Japanese gangster novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, old films, and a number of blues songs. Talk of plagiarism emerges. The guy may have written some strikingly original songs back in the day, people say, but now, clearly, the well has run dry. Sadly, he must rely on the work of others to produce much of anything.

Yet to others, this is no surprise.

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