Remixing the nature of authorship

This is one of a series of blog posts that will appear here in the coming weeks, reflecting on aspects of the 2016 manifesto for teaching online. This post originally appeared at http://www.james858499.net/start/the-remixing-of-digital-authorship


 

One of the most attention-grabbing propositions within the original 2011 Manifesto was that digital environments offered new ways of constructing and sharing academic knowledge and content. Text was being toppled, we were told, and there were many ways of getting it right.

It was perhaps with these ideas in mind that I was invited to prepare a short video to support the dissemination of the Manifesto. I responded with a rolling montage of images where the text of each Manifesto statement sat juxtaposed against a photograph and sound. I revisited and revised the video in 2013 with a closer attention to how visual and aural content better align with the messages that I felt the Manifesto text was trying to convey.

Four years down the line it has been fascinating to contribute towards the most recent reinvention of the wider Manifesto. With an eye and ear to my own research (which investigates the potential for multimodal assessment within digital environments) I’m glad that the idea of scholarly remixing features prominently – loudly! – in this new Manifesto.

Remixing digital content redefines authorship
One of the things that I like about the Manifesto is its intention to provoke discussion rather than dictate a set of hard-and-fast rules: we are encouraged to approach and interpret the statements in our own way. Here then is my own take on the ‘Remixing’ statement.
The increasingly varied amount of digitally-mediated content enables us to construct knowledge in new and exciting ways. At the same time we have access to a growing array of devices and other technologies that allow us to convey or re-shape what we draw from this growing body of digital content. The output that emerges calls for us to reflect on what we understand by ‘authorship’ and ‘composition’ of scholarly work. To
illustrate my point in a very basic way I’ve created this (very basic) animation (turn volume up now).


So, thinking about my intepretation of the ‘Remixing’ statement in the manifesto: the digital content that I drew on features audio taken from two web-hosted video clips. First we have a short excerpt from a seminar discussion on the subject of the ‘digital city’ featuring the voice of Mathias Fuchs from Leuphana University. The fact that Fuchs discusses Second Life, one of the teaching spaces used within the MSc in Digital Education (from where the Manifesto for Teaching Online originated), is apt. This is followed by a similar short oral fragment featuring Kathleen Fitzpatrick, taken from a lecture she delivered on the subject of digital authorship, at Duke University. And then repeat 4 times. The music track is ‘Scratched’ by Etienne De Crecy. Listen carefully and you’ll also hear the sound of needle static, previously downloaded from a sound effects archive and unearthed from my iTunes library. Meanwhile the digital devices and technologies that I used to put the animation together included my computer, an iPhone for the lazy recording of sound from the video clips, and software in the form of PowerPoint, Photoshop and SoundStudio.

Perhaps more interesting than the animation itself is the questions that it asks about the way that the scholarly remix problematises conventional understandings of composition and authorship. For instance, how much of the animation is really my work? If there’s any merit in the animation, how much of it is attributable to the technology? Is it ethical for me to have taken Mathias Fuchs’ voice out of context? How would Kathleen Fitzpatrick feel about my manipulation of her voice with extra reverb? How do we ‘read meaning from text’ when it is only one part of multimodal orchestration of content? And, as Fitzpatrick points out herself (2011), how does this type of ‘mash up’ sit alongside institutional guidelines surrounding plagiarism?

In the discussion-provoking spirit of the Manifesto for Teaching Online I won’t attempt to answer these questions, however with an anxious eye towards the uncertainty surrounding plagiarism, I will include a reference list.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s