Creative Commons: Choice and Trust

There has been a discussion going on in HUMlab for a while now about what form of digital rights registration would suit us best. It seems that everyone agrees that a Creative Commons license of some sort would help us protect the information we offer online (as video streams, written texts, images and audio) but at the same time encourage its distribution and use/s. I have a strong interest in copyright law, intellectual property and artist’s rights. So over the last few weeks I have been looking around for possible models for a HUMlab Creative Commons license.

The MIT Open Courseware site is, in my opinion, a excellent example of online educational resource archiving. The design of the website is not visually stunning, rather very functional but the content is amazing. One can access whole courses and large amounts of course texts from the site, all for free (they do ask for donations). MIT choose an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 commons deed for their courseware. This provides for non-commercial use, requiring attribution and the assigning the same form of license to any derivative works. One thing that has concerned me with assigning a license for the HUMlab materials is that we are ‘keepers’ so to speak of the words and work of those many guests who come to HUMlab and present seminars and so on. For this reason we need to be able to be reasonably certain that the materials we are making available remain in the public domain, as they do when they originate in a public university such as HUMlab is part of. I think the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license does this, and in some detail if one is to read the full text.

However, there are many things to think about in regards to the licensing of creative works and this is where the Creative Commons License Generator can be handy. The software program allows the prospective licensee to choose the balance between the four main principles behind a Creative Commons License; Share, Remix, Non-commercial and Share alike. Not all elements have to be in a license, perhaps remix would not be allowed. To not allow remixing is something that has been nagging away at me in regards to the HUMlab material, simply because many of the ‘authors’ of the works we carry are not permanent in the lab and are often internationally recognised in their field. Perhaps some of them do not want to find their words or image being remixed into a totally different context?

In 2006 the British Council published Unbounded Freedom: A Guide to Creative Commons Thinking for Cultural Organisations by Rosemary Bechler.  Looking at the traditions of copyright, Bechler makes a solid case for the effectiveness of Creative Commons in fostering knowledge dispersion and creativity. In the section 2 of Bechler’s short book it states:

“[..]there is one strand in cultural commons thinking that makes it easier for cultural organisations to embark on more mutual relationships of trust with huge new publics: it is accustomed to recognising the value of giving – giving respect, giving trust. As Onora O’Neill, 2002 Reith lecturer on ‘A Question of Trust’ said at a recent Counterpoint conference: ‘You can’t build trust. There are only three things you can do with trust: give it, earn it and fritter it away.” (P42)

I hope when we decide what sort of Creative Commons License will be attached to HUMlab material it will be a part of the earning and giving of trust to the many who benefit from such a public resource.

Young people and the internet

There is an article in Friday’s Dagens Nyheter about online behavior and young people (in Swedish). Elza Dunkels, Umeå University, and Patrik Hernwall, Södertörn University College, were interviewed for the article, and they both represent a nuanced, non-moralistic stance in relation to these matters. And, of course, both Elza and Patrik are HUMlab friends. HUMlab itself was featured in a substantial article in Västerbottenskuriren about a week ago. Unfortunately it is not available online (although a few photos are available from here).

The Working Life of Links

I know there are potentially unlimited uses for del.icio.us. A link brings a change and a change brings potential. I am waiting to see a del.icio.us hypertext, or an ARG that includes a del.icio.us RSS feed. Anything is possible. I also realize after reflecting on my last post about del.icio.us that my own collection of links is very far from exemplary. I will however plough on and perhaps stimulate some discussion around what I think is quite interesting; what can one do with a bunch of del.icio.us links?

I am a researcher here at HUMlab. I spend a lot of time reading and searching. I organize the online material I find useful in my del.icio.us links. Many of the subjects I am interested in have little directly to do with my official thesis topic but I think they are important. I toss them together, arranged somewhat like I described in my previous post. I also teach and in teaching I have found del.icio.us to be useful as a way of filtering information for students and making accessible for them. Take for example my links on The Waste Land by T. S Eliot. There are only ten of them. This is a manageable amount for a lecture or a week or two of course work on, for example, The Waste Land: Collage, Hypertext and the Nodes of Meaning. I could refer to examples from the del.icio.us links or use them as a resource for the students to continue working through set papers or group work outside class time. With a del.icio.us I can send a student to or answer an inquiry with a preserved record of my own online inquiry in the area. My links can also benefit from contact with others working in the area, whether in the classroom or online.One topic that is very much about my research is digital story telling. I use a few tags to cover this area of knowledge; DigitalText, InteractiveFiction, Cybertext, and DigitalDiscourse mainly. However if I had known how one can organize a tag feed. An example of this is digitalstorytelling, a popular tag coordinated by such people as Phil Shapiro:

If you’d like to keep track of low-cost and no-cost tools for creating media, two places to follow are http://unmediated.org/ and http://del.icio.us/tag/unmediated. Submit your own media creations to del.icio.us, and we can continue learning from each other. Tag your creation: digitalstorytelling (without the space) and/or usergroups computertraining. One of the best ways of keeping track of your favorite del.icio.us tags is to subscribe to those tags using Bloglines (RSS aggregator/reader) or Squeet (email alert service for rss feeds.). For example, I use Bloglines to subscribe to the digitalstorytelling tag at del.icio.us http://del.icio.us/tag/digitalstorytelling

From http://www.archive.org/details/multimediastorytelling

The amount of information that can flow in your direction from this network tagging is very great. Looking at the list for items tagged with digitalstorytelling, it is a river of information powered by a large network of contributors.

Back to my research, I am presently finishing off a Table of Contents for the thesis I have largely yet to write. The chapters are all planned around specific subject areas. Since I began working on my thesis I had been using tags generally on del.icio.us to collect information. The one specific tag I used for the thesis was Corpus, dealing with the 6 texts that comprise my corpus. It has served me well but I plan now to break it up into 5 new tags, one for each chapter of the thesis. I intend to use these tags as files for sources and threads to do with topics discussed in each chapter.

Finally there is advertising. There are many people who watch the links of others. If you can give a link an interesting description and it is picked up by others it will climb up the popular links page. This is network presence that may return greatly. I add sites to my del.icio.us just because they belong to a friend or I think other people should see them, they enter into the del.icio.us matrix and who knows where they may end up. A recent internet contact told me he gets a good amount of traffic to his website from del.icio.us, where they download his self published poetry and novels.

Anne Balsamo in HUMlab

I fetched Anne Balsamo, tomorrow’s seminar speaker, at the airport today. I am most delighted to have Anne visit, and although it is a short visit, I think it will be very rewarding. I almost met Anne at University of Southern California in 2005, but that meeting never materialized (although I did visit her institute). I was fortunate enough to meet her in Irvine in 2006, and now she is here. Some of you might know Anne’s work through her book Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. She has an impressively interesting and varied background which includes working at Stanford Humanities Lab, Stanford University, and Georgia Tech. She co-founded the Onomy Labs in 2002, and worked at Xerox PARC as a principal scientist earlier.

Tomorrow she will talk about “Designing Culture: A work of the technological imagination” which is also the title of her new book (almost finished). I am really looking forward to Anne’s talk. The talk will be live streamed (link will be posted on this blog tomorrow).

In passing, I would also like to recommend one of Anne Balsamo’s less known articles:

Balsamo, Anne. 2000. “Engineering Cultural Studies: The postdisciplinary adventures of mindplayers, fools, and others”. In Reid, Roddey and Sharon Traweek (eds.), Doing Science + Culture, 259-274. Routledge: New York.

Well worth reading!

digital humanities tools

I am in the process of writing a section on tools for the digital humanities, and I enjoy the complexity of this issue. Basicallly I am trying to find a way of categorizing and thinking about different kinds of tools used in the humanities information and technology. One of my interests is distinguishing between standard and analogue-based tools and tools that encourage critical exploration and interpretation. I use some of Löwgren’s and Stolterman’s discussion of digital artifact qualities. Their work has a strong design perspective. They list qualities in categories such as motivation, immediate experience of interacting with a digital artifact and the user´s creation of meaning in relation to a digital artifact. After Matt Ratto’s seminar (realmedia stream) on emistemic committments I am also trying to think about tools in this context (reading Karin Knorr Cetina among others). I will look at three or four examples of more ‘innovative’ tools used in different disciplines. One example is the TAPoR project at McMaster University.

I find the materiality of tool interfaces very important and not something that can be easily seperated from the functionality of the tool. A good, responsive and conceptually interesting interface that incorporates relavant materials and addresses interesting issues can change the way we think about what we study. I think we will see many more light-weight, web-distributed, modular and very ‘physical’ tools in the digital humanities in the future. I just tried Picnic out which fulfills all these criteria although it is not a digital humanities tools primarily. Picnic is a relatively simple graphics editing program that is web-based. Quite impressive and very accessable. It has a nice feeling to it.

Mixed interests

Since I came to HUMlab about a half a year ago a lot has happened in my working (and private) life. In the beginning I wasn’t sure of what to do at HUMlab, and I wasn’t sure of what HUMlab actually were all about. Coming from the History of ideas, I had a vague idea that HUMlab were dealing with the fuzzy area between technology and humanities. And now my working life lies in that confusing area.

I’m currently working with a proposal aiming for EU’s 7th framework programme, developing an identity service for museums, archives and libraries, based on the CIDOC-CRM model. It’s a very technical project where HUMlab will coordinate the project and also provide the project with a humanistic approach and humanistic competences.

However, this week I was offered, through the professor in Museology, to participate in a conference dealing with the CIDOC-CRM model. The day after I received an invitation to the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC) and a session about “religious transformations since the 1960s”. Yesterday I was asked to give a lecture on the course “Church and revivalism in Skellefteå” (a town north of Umeå), and that was only a few hours after talking to the museum here in the town about future collaborations between the museum and HUMlab.

This week has been exceptional, but I can’t imagine so many environments where it is possible to combine such a variety of interests – and I like it.