Collaboration and Ownership

Collaboration

Some rights reserved by Flickr user oscarberg

“Collaboration refers to partnerships of various sizes and durations that bring individuals together around teaching, research, or scholarly projects; intellectual problems; or questions of shared interest, with the objective of producing an end product, such as a new pedagogical approach, a digital archive, or some other deliverable. Such collaborations may involve formal methods as well as informal approaches, such as play or “tinkering”’ (McGrath 2).

Collaboration can take on many different forms/shapes.  For example, collaboration can just as easily come in the form of sharing ideas that result in individual outputs (as is the case here) as it can come in the form of working together to result in one collective output (as is the case here).

Ownership

Some rights reserved by Flickr user Images_of_Money


Not as easily defined.

“…there is no such thing as a private language. Rather, language – and hence mind, and hence ‘I’, and hence ‘knowledge’ – is public: in the ways that Gee (1992) speaks of ‘the social mind’. With Freire (1974/2007: 124), it shares the view that ‘it is the “we think” which establishes the “I think” and not the contrary’. It is within and through shared practice that meanings – significance – ideas, categories, evidence, tools, tests, techniques, and all the other things that constitute knowledge come into being” (Lankshear and Knobel 218).

This is problematic because there are types of collaboration that exists in realms where standards thoughts about ownership are challenges.  This is particularly evident when you take into consideration “covers” suchs as these by Youtube artists emilyharder and pomplamoose:

(What is interesting to note is that by recording many cover versions of popular songs, Youtube artists pomplamoose actually gained enough notoriety that Hyundai asked them to be a part of their ad campaigns back in 2010 — SF Weekly).

“…various forms of cultural, social, and economic values are collectively produced by users en mass, via their consumption, evaluation, and entrepreneurial activities. Consumer co-creation is fundamental to YouTube’s [and most new media platforms] value proposition as well as to its disruptive influence on established media business models… For YouTube [and most new media platforms], participatory culture is not a gimmick or a sideshow; it is absolutely core business” (Burgess and Green 5 – 6).

Another realm in which ownership is questioned is in the realm of remix.  Kirby Ferguson has an amazing, free video series called Everything is a Remix, in which he breaks down almost every aspect of how ownership and remix interact.  Here’s the first part:

CC – Peter McCarthy

Beyond the these contested areas of ownership exists an emerging trend in regards to collaboration and ownership that is beginning to accumulate an enormous amount of critical, theorhetical, and scholarly debates: the realm of open source.

In this video by Youtube user directrod, open source is explained briefly:

“…collaboration by difference is the open-source and open-access principle upon which the Internet and the World Wide Web were originally created and by which they continued to be governed. It is based on the idea that productive collaboration requires not just a lot of participation by many different kinds of people but a form of collaboration that is as open, unstructured, and flexible as possible, in its design, principles, and motivation… this form of crowdsourced collaboration is based on the idea that if you allow people to contribute in as many different ways as they want, offering points of view as distinctive as possible, the whole outcome is more innovative, stronger, better, and more ambitious than if you start with a goal or mission and then structure each contribution as a deliberate step toward fulfillment of that goal” (Davidson 192).

Open source is a philosophical approach to working with a project that embraces collboration to the absolute fullest.  Those who embrace this approach believe that crowdsourcing, an ultimate form of collaboration that invites collaboration from people who aren’t members of the initial team, results in the best possible outcome.  Essentially, open source compounds on the old adage that “two heads are better than one” in an exponential manner.

“…because web architecture now provides a sophisticated participatory medium that is widely used for purposes of sharing, it can support multiple modes of learning…” (Lankshear and Knobel 216)

This connects to Henry Jenkin’s idea of collaborative learning, specifically in that “everyone is going to know some things, and what each member knows is available to the group as needed” (from Henry Jenkins on Collaborative Learning).  Because the group is limitless in that the need to specifically seek out someone with a particular talent is relieved from the group members; instead, the idea is that the person–or people–with the needed talent will seek out the group and provide his/her/their expertise.

“Research from different disciplines work collaboratively on shared “themes” or “challenges” that require multiple methods and inventions of new shared methods and language” (Gee 63).

One of the major problems that exists now, especially in reference to collaboration, ownership, and open source philosophy is the debate about intellectual property.

The heart of the debate is that intellectual property (IP) exists in a way that is said to be at the heart (or spirit) of copyright laws, that anything created by someone’s mind should be protected by law for the sole use as they see fit of said creation.  This is problematic because of the difficulties in proving ownership of completely intangible concepts / ideas, and because of this difficulty the debate rages on. (On a side note: it is interesting to me that the concept of intellectual property came up in last night’s presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, with Romney making claims that China was “stealing the United States’ intellectual property,” and I know that this is one of the recurring themes of debate among many in politics/punditry.)

The original iPod patent in “an exhibition showing the intellectual property (IP) behind Steve Jobs’ innovations” – Some rights reserved – Flickr user US Mission Geneva

In this video, Youtube user AdamVSTheManRT “explains how the very concept of “intellectual property” is a fiction, a scam. And it flies in the face of real property rights. But that won’t stop the government from imposing a twisted morality of stifling innovation on you to make you feel bad for copying things that big corporations don’t want you to copy.”

To step away and summarize the ideas of collaboration and ownership, we leave you with this: collaboration is the use of intellectual sharing, be it through the creation of one or many outputs, with the intention of delivering a final product that is superior to what an individual would be able to create based on his or her own unique skillset through the diversification of skills pooled together in said teamwork.  Ownership is a contentious issue that involves assigning one person or group of persons who is responsible for dictating what can and cannot be done with the output resulting from individual or collaborated work, and there is a great chasm between the two philosophical ‘poles’ of ownership (open source vs. complete copyright/IP control).

An article that disccuses these concepts well is “Authoring Wikis: Rethinking Authorship Through Digital Collaboration” from Radical Teacher, and the annotation follows:

Weingarten, Karen, and Corey Frost. “Authoring Wikis: Rethinking Authorship Through Digital Collaboration.” Radical Teacher 90 (2011): 47-57. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.

In “Authoring Wikis: Rethinking Authorship Through Digital Collaboration” Weingarten and Frost, two writing instructors from the City University of New York (CUNY), make a multifaceted argument calling for new methods of writing pedagogy based on “the open-source collaborative nature of wikis [one of many new media platforms]”, which they contend make “ideal tool[s] for teaching alternative constructions of authorship that emphasize collective acts of composition” (48).  Framed around two sections: “The Problem with Individual Authorship” and “Digital Writing for the Authorless Classroom”, Weingarten and Frost extend the concepts of collaborative ownership within writing by describing their use of wikis in their writing instruction as well as analyzing their uses of wikis according to the challenges raised by students, colleagues and themselves (especially as they relate to the concept of authorship).

In the first section, Weingarten and Frost point out the problematic nature of authorship by referring to the process of composition as an inherently social practice, where writers depend on “discourse communities”.  They contrast this with students’ writing practices in academic settings, where “plagiarism” is widespread. The reasons for students committing plagiarism, they contend, are because students fail “to recognize the importance of certain disciplinary conventions” (49) and ironically they “fail to recognize how essential communal knowledge and collaborative work is to the academic enterprise” (49). In contrast to an academic writing ecology based upon “single authorship”, where plagiarism flourishes, the writing ecology of a wiki resituates the author function; “the author function is shifted to an abstract realm, relieved of its immediacy and intimidating nature” (51). Weingarten and Frost suggest that “it shifts the focus from authorship to the actual work of writing, and the most important question becomes, “What is the most efficient [and effective] way to create the text and to verify its quality/accuracy?”’ (51). Based on these premises they conclude that writing teachers and student writers need to stop “insisting on single authorship, but… [instead] let go of their attachment to authorship” (52), as it traditionally understood, and embrace an understanding of texts that views writing as the collaborative practice it is.

In the second section, Weingarten and Frost extend this point by challenging traditional ways in which people have thought about hierarchal pedagogical practices, as they relate to writing instruction;  they, argue “for a pedagogy that encourages students to “borrow, build, and remix ideas” as a way of participating in processes that demonstrate how new knowledge is created from existing knowledge” (52).  With digital, open source platforms like wikis, Weingarten and Frost  explain there is “a shift from one-way communication – author to audience – towards modes of communication that make meaning within a network of audiences who participate in a collective experience of signification” (53).  This type of experience “propagates an open-source model, which is sure to have a seismic effect on how information is produced…[and] it will also influence all the ways we represent our lives and ourselves. As open-source platforms – premised on collaboration become more prevalent, the nature of writing is changing” (56).  This change, they maintain begs for new, “more democratically-composed” writing practices and instruction.  Thus, the notion of digital writing ruptures the traditional perception of the writer as an individual, and resituates him/her as part of a collaborative network of composers.

Works Cited / Bibliography

Burgess, Jean Elizabeth, and Joshua Benjamin Green.YouTube, Online Video and Participatory Culture. Malden: Polity Press, 2010. Print.

Davidson, Cathy N. Now you see it, how the brain science of attention will transform the way we live, work, and learn. New York, NY: Viking, 2011. Print.

DeVoss D. N., E. Eidman-Aadahl, and T. Hicks. National Writing Project.  Because digital writing matters, improving  student writing in online and multimedia environments. 1st ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.

Friedlander, Amy. (2009). Asking questions and building a research agenda for digital scholarship. In Working Together or Apart: Promoting the Next Generation ofDigital Scholarship (6). Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources.

Gee, J. P. Language and learning in the digital age. Oxon, Canada: Routlage, 2010. Print

Lankshear, Colin, and Michele Knobel. “Social learning, ‘push’ and ‘pull’, and building platforms for collaborative learning.” New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning. . 3rd ed. New York: Open University Press, 2011. 210-230. Print.

Manion, Chistopher E., and Richard ‘Dickie’ Selfe. “Sharing An Assessment Ecology: Digital Media, Wikis, and The Social Work of Knowledge.” Technical Communication Quarterly 21.1 (2012): 24 -45. MLA. International Bibliography. Web. 13 Oct. 2012

McGrath, Laura, ed. Collaborative Approaches to the Digital in English Studies. 1st. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2011. 2. Web. <http://ccdigitalpress.org/cad/index2.html>.

Peck, Wayne, Linda Flower, and Lorraine Higgins. “Community literacy.” Cushman, Ellen, Eugene  Kintgen, et al. “Literacy, A Critical Sourcebook. 1st ed. Boston: Bedford/st Martins, 2001. Print.

Weingarten, Karen, and Corey Frost. “Authoring Wikis: Rethinking Authorship Through Digital Collaboration.” Radical Teacher 90 (2011): 47-57. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.

3 comments

  1. laurenmdavis

    I had fun reading, or rather exploring, your post. I’m going to response in two separate categories. First form: I really liked that you incorporated various modes of communication throughout your blog. You images seemed to play off the ideas of ownership in the material sense and the idea of intellectual property. While I wasn’t sure if I should watch the videos with sound in our silent, independent work environment, based on what I saw, they seemed like interesting ways to provide information about elements of copyright law and solid examples of remixing and covering. I liked that you only had small sections of writing, sense I know that it something I often struggle with and we did struggle with in this project. Everything was arranged logically in a way that is effective and adds to the meaning of the textual aspects.

    Ok. Now for the content. I found it very interesting that you attacked your two terms collectively instead of approaching them as two individual concepts. It really highlighted the ways they overlapped and connected. In class we’ve talked a lot about the effects of collaboration on authorship, but I had not considered fully the legal implications. Not to mention, I had no idea that you could copyright ideas without any tangible product attached.

    I was a little confused by the quote by Lankshear and Knobel. If you could clarify that quote, specifically the ideas about how we make knowledge and how it relates to collaboration.

    Great job guys!

    • laurenmdavis

      Ok, So I thought I could go back and edit my response but I can’t so I will respond to me…
      I found this quote: “…collaboration by difference is the open-source and open-access principle upon which the Internet and the World Wide Web were originally created and by which they continued to be governed. It is based on the idea that productive collaboration requires not just a lot of participation by many different kinds of people but a form of collaboration that is as open, unstructured, and flexible as possible, in its design, principles, and motivation… this form of crowdsourced collaboration is based on the idea that if you allow people to contribute in as many different ways as they want, offering points of view as distinctive as possible, the whole outcome is more innovative, stronger, better, and more ambitious than if you start with a goal or mission and then structure each contribution as a deliberate step toward fulfillment of that goal” (Davidson 192). It is always interesting to explore the way that collaboration is a major part of writing individual works. I think there is also power in accepting all people’s contributions as adding something useful and valuable to the conversation is certainly a shift from the traditional understanding of “expertise” and the institutional control of access and participation that we talked about in our definition. There is definitely a lot of overlap with your concepts and ours, especially because participatory culture not only allows for collaboration, but helps create guidelines for the ways we create digital texts and the subjects we address (a major discussion in the Youtube book! Love that you used that!!!)

      Our article on access and archiving would also relate nicely to your topic!

  2. Sara Almalik

    Guys,
    I think you did an amazing job with your concept project. Collaboration and Ownership is a very very big a subject. We find ourselves in our daily life questioning the rights of ownership you said “there are types of collaboration that exists in realms where standards thoughts about ownership are challenges” especially in our world where things are constantly evolving. Especially the covers in youtube.
    I would like to say that I like the use of your images and videos. They are very useful and I think the video that explains how the very concept of “intellectual property” work makes very powerful points making us question the idea of copyrights and I wonder how this will be in the future? Will we see the copyright and ownership more controlled in the next generations.

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