Identity Ramblings

I was reading an old favourite of mine last night (A Home at the End of the World – Michael Cunningham) and was struck by a list at the back of the book which listed all of the poems and songs quoted in the book, cited the copyright owner and expressed that permission had been granted for their use. I’m no expert on copyright, but I assume that this was done to prevent claims that the book was commercially benefiting from someone else’s rights. It seems slightly over the top for the snippets of lyrics and lines that were used in the book, but it did get me thinking some rambling thoughts about identity.

Cunningham’s books are all about how the culture we live in affects our identity – particularly music, films and the influence of friends – and also how we reject the identity of our parents by rejected their cultural references. As such, the lyrics and poems cited are as much a part of the identity of the protagonists as the creator of the work. There is an implied sense of joint ownership here, which has very little to do with the transactional world of rights management.

I think the way in which we use social media has allowed us to find new ways of expressing this sense of joint ownership and how it links to how we express our identity. The ‘like’ button on Facebook is a very crude example of this, but it builds up a very rich net of who we are through our cultural references.

We have also perhaps become more relaxed about copyright within this social media, without the intent of law breaking or denying anyone’s rights. It is almost expected that when referencing a film or tv clip, it will be available on youtube and easy to link to a blog piece – as I have often done. Different rights holders take different approaches to this from take down demands to the acceptance of the fact that this usage provides new opportunities. By allowing people to link to a clip, by expressing their ‘like’ for this and by allowing that clip to become part of the identity of the author, potential new audiences are opened up for the original work.

This touches on a whole bunch of areas that are of interest to JISC but that I’m not directly involved in – the importance of Creative Commons, linked data, open access, open educational resources.

I’m thinking of spending some time looking at sense of identity within these spaces, the context of ownership within social media, how identity flows through these resources and what we can learn about this to support programmes across JISC. I’ll probably start with looking at the concept of a static resource with metadata within a repository such as Jorum and then look at the more nebulous life of the resource as it is repurposed but also reconceptualised in terms of relationship to individuals as we clatter our digital footprints all over it. I guess I’m interested in how we gain the most benefit from this digital story as our resource becomes more promiscuous outside the contained information of the repository. I’d be interested in your thoughts….

One thought on “Identity Ramblings

  1. Leo Lyons

    I write alternating between two hats – as a member of the Logins for Life project team here at Kent and as a once and future freelance photographer who sees his unattributed work all over the internet.

    The internet and the ease of digitisation, has changed everything for everyone – including, maybe especially, photographers. And it is a double-edged sword. There is always for me a frisson of pride at seeing my (photographic) work on-line but it is accompanied by an annoyance if it is not credited. Which it usually isn’t. I suppose the major change is that publishers in the pre-Internet age knew the rules – you had to get permission – and pay – to publish and you were going to be very easily tracked down and held to account if you didn’t. Not that the world was free from copyright abuse back then either. It’s just easier now and ther are more people doing it.

    I suspect that for a very large percentage of bloggers, website creators, facebookers etc the concept that you ought to get permission to use somebody’s work does not exist. I am not sure that this is a good thing. But then I would say that wouldn’t I?

    It is true that dissemination of your work by allowing its use does open up potential new audiences – but this is of little benefit to the originator if it is unaccredited.

    I struggle with this subject a lot. I love the idea of Open Source but does that make me a hypocrite for getting peeved at unauthorised use of my work? After all someone has spent time coding that stuff – shouldn’t they get rewarded if other people use it – especially for commercial purposes. And for ‘commecial puprose’ is maybe the rub. I generally don’t mind people using my photographs for personal, non-profit sites – though a credit is still nice, but when I find a commercial site using them I am firing off an email to them before you can say ‘cut and paste’ Desist and take down seems to help no-one but a credit and a few beer tokens usually put things right. In my experience the bigger the company the less likely you are to get a reasonable response.

    Adding a link, or clicking the Facebook Like button is an activity akin to wearing your favourite band’s t-shirt or badge. A combination of ‘I have found something really good and perhaps you would enjoy it too’ and ‘Hey look how cool I am to be liking this stuff’ and it often isn’t a vote for the copyright owner – more for the subject of the work. If someone adds a photo of a musician I have photographed to their website they are not usually trying to say – ‘I love this photographer’s work’.

    It’s complicated. Anyway I have rambled enough. Interesting article.

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