Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Additional Thoughts on Remixing

One of the posts at the site led to the mediaatschool site and the entry Open content, and, is everything a remix. 

At this site there are three parts to a video series produced by Kirby Ferguson titled Everything is a Remix,  I found the three videos interesting in explaining remixing as part of the journey of learning and creating.  The videos used illustrations from music and movies to show how remixing is the frequent strategy used by artists in these creative genres.  The third video added the creation of the personal computer and how Apple transformed and combined ideas from Xerox to create the first truly functional personal computer. 

I was really impressed by the thoughts expressed in part three on the three elements of creativity.  The three elements of creativity that Ferguson identified are:
  1. Copying (emulation) – learning your domain and how it “ticks.”  Grounding ourselves in the fundamentals of the domain. 
  2. Transforming – working within the domain to make improvements.  It is taking existing ideas and tinkering with them.  This is time consuming but eventually may produce a breakthrough. 
  3. Combining – By connecting ideas together great leaps can be made.  Some examples include:
a.      The Gutenberg Printing Press (1440 A.D.) used ideas that existed before
                                                    i.     Moveable type (1040 A.D.)
                                                   ii.     Screw press (1 A.D.)
                                                  iii.     Ink (180 B.C.)
                                                  iv.     Paper (1800 B.C.)
b.      Henry Ford - Mass Market Production of Automobiles (1908)
                                                    i.     Assembly line (1867)
                                                   ii.     Interchangeable parts (1801)
                                                  iii.     Automobile (1885)

The ideas that are expressed in this third video ring true.  There is an epilogue where Ferguson asks if these inventors, credited with such creative advances had not pursued these inventions, would they have happened?  He answers that it is amazing how many things were proposed or invented by more than one man or woman at the same time.  Some of these ideas/inventions he mentioned were the step forward in mathematics that resulted in calculus, the invention of the light bulb, and the patent for the telephone.  All of these great creative advances were being worked on and "discovered" by more than one scientist or inventor at the time they were proposed or patented.

When you consider the points that Dr. Wiley has made that all knowledge is free and nonrivalrous then you can see how restricting access can disrupt these processes of creation and invention.  If any of those whose work these great inventors combined or added to were to have pursued financial damages for the transformation and combining of their ideas, then it may have made the new invention financially unsustainable, or at least delayed the new invention until the patent or copyright had expired.

We see today that many inventions and patents are licensed to manufacturers and producers in order to bring that product to market for the benefit of the community.  If those license fees are to high, then the market to consume that product will be greatly reduced.  However, if the fees are minimal and the cost of production marginal, then the invention can be of great benefit to a much larger segment of the population.

I think this is readily apparent in the textbook marketplace right now.  The only reason that there is such support for the open text movement is because the publishers and authors lost sight of the nonrivalrous nature of the content and greedily overcharged what they perceived to be a captured market.  This greed and short-term focus led them to gradually price the product far beyond the cost of production and distribution and incentivized an entire movement to cut them out of the market altogether.

I particularly liked the quote from Henry Ford in part three of the series.  He said:

I invented nothing new.
I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work.  Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed.
So it is with every new thing.  Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready, and then it is inevitable.
To teach that a comparatively few men are responsible for the greatest forward steps of mankind is the worst sort of nonsense.
Henry Ford

1 comment:

  1. Darin, you didn't go the final leg and point out hie connection explicitly, so I will:

    Copying - Reusing
    Transforming – Revising
    Combining - Remixing

    Also, Ford's comments that "Had I worked fifty or ten or even five years before, I would have failed" are more important today than ever before as the rate of invention and innovation accelerates. As we work to combine the very latest and greatest, which come faster and faster, into even newer and better. C.f. recent championing of interdisciplinary research by NSF and other agencies.