CC Talks With
Back in March, we were so excited about the new Physics Flexbook aligned to Virginia’s state standards that we had to catch up with the foundation that helped to make it possible. The obvious choice was Neeru Khosla, co-founder of the CK-12 Foundation, “a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide.” The Flexbook is their web-based platform for open textbooks (openly licensed via CC BY-SA) which maximizes and enhances collaboration across district, county, and state lines. In fact, their use is not even limited by country, since CC licenses are global and non-exclusive. Anyone can collaborate, improve, and iterate without having to ask. “The good thing about that is we don’t have to tell people what they can do or cannot do. The power of the system is that it is useable under any condition. All you have to do is use it.”
As promised in last week’s post on The Commons Video, here’s an interview with David Bollier, author of Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own, which we said in January “will likely establish itself as a definitive guide for those seeking to understand and discover the key players and concepts in the digital commons. From the beginnings of the Free Software Movement, to Wikipedia’s Inception, to Lessig founding Creative Commons at Harvard Law School, Bollier thoughtfully examines the principles and circumstances that helped nurture our digital commons from idea to (meta)physical reality.”
Read on for an explanation of how Bollier became interested in digital commons movement, how he sees the its long term impact shaping up, and much in between.
You’ve been involved in efforts to understand and evangelize the broad concept of “the commons” for a long time, including as an editor of onthecommons.org. What first got you interested in the commons, and when was that?
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I worked for Ralph Nader and a number of Washington public-interest advocacy groups. Far from being the reviled figure that he became following the 2000 election, Nader was revered among progressives for his sophistication in politicizing and developing dozens of issues. These were generally taboo or “boring” topics that were utterly off the national agenda – topics that had not even crystallized as “issues,” such as auto safety, clean air and clean water, open government and congressional reform, not to mention countless niche issues like mobile home safety, nutritional labeling and whistleblower protection. (For more, see the DVD, “An Unreasonable Man.”)
I attended a 1980 conference that Nader convened that affected me a great deal. It was entitled, “Controlling What We Own,” and it dealt with the many resources that the American people nominally or even legally own, but which we do not control or reap benefits from. Nader groups were involved in most of these issues.No Comments »
Over the past year, the University of Michigan Library has shown itself to be particularly sensible in regards to open content licensing, the public domain, and issues of copyright in the digital age. The U-M Library has integrated public domain book machines, adopted CC licensing for their content, and independently had their Copyright Specialist, Molly Kleinman, articulate the importance of proper attribution in using CC licenses. We recently caught up with Molly to learn more about these efforts – primarily how they came to be and the results they have yielded – as well as discuss CC’s place in educational institutions at large and how CC and Fair Use interact in the academic sphere.
What is your role at the University of Michigan Library? How does the University Library interact with the rest of the University?
I’m the University Library’s copyright specialist. I provide copyright and publishing assistance for faculty, students, researchers, staff, and librarians throughout the University of Michigan, and occasionally to the community at large. I handle questions on both sides of the copyright universe: people come to me as users of copyrighted works and also as creators with concerns about their own rights. At a university just about everybody is both a user and a creator, so I think it’s important to promote a balanced perspective on copyright. A big part of my job is teaching workshops and providing one-on-one consultations about copyright and scholarly publishing basics. I work with librarians all over campus to raise awareness about topics like fair use, Open Access, and author rights. I also support a number of the Library’s activities, including our institutional repository Deep Blue, the Scholarly Publishing Office, and Special Collections exhibits. People always ask if I’m an attorney… I’m not. I’m a librarian by training, and have a background in publishing. A law degree is useful when dealing with copyright, and it’s certainly necessary when you’re providing legal advice, but in many other situations it’s not essential. Copyright is messy and confusing and it makes a lot of people nervous and scared. Approaching these issues as a librarian allows me to explain things in “human readable” language instead of legalese. My goal is to demystify the law and empower students and faculty to advocate for their rights as both users and creators.
The Global Lives Project is a project that aims to “record 24 hours in the lives of ten people that roughly represent the diversity our planet’s population.” Accomplishing this via a volunteer-network dispersed through out the globe, GLP aggregates video for these subjects based on a unique spreadsheet approach to understand global demographics. All of the work produced by GLP is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, a decision explained in the following interview with Global Lives founder David Evan Harris. Read on to learn more about the project, how CC licenses are being used, and how to get involved yourself as a volunteer/contributor.
Give us a bit of background on the Global Lives project. How did you begin? What is your mission?
Global Lives’ mission is to reshape how people around the world perceive cultures, nations and people outside their communities by collaboratively building a video library of human life experience. The content of our video library “lives” online and is regularly presented to the public in unique open-source video installations and screenings. Our shoots so far have taken place in Malawi, Brazil, Japan, China, Indonesia and the US, and we’ve shown our work publicly in most of those countries and a few others.
The Global Lives Project all got started in 2002, during my third year in college, when I was lucky enough to spend eight months living and studying international development in Tanzania, India, the Philippines and the UK as part of the International Honors Program. For the majority of these eight months, I lived with host families. I stayed in a bamboo house in the Philippines, a squatter settlement in Mexico City, and a rural village in northern India, among other places. While I learned a ton during the year about the politics, economics, history and ecology of these countries, the part of the experience that stuck with me the most was sharing the experience of daily life with the families and individuals from these countries.
Today, I can’t read a newspaper article about rice without thinking of my host mother Violeta in Barangay Daja and her rice paddy and water buffalo. The experience forever changed the way I understand people from other cultures and nations and my own role in the world. And I wanted to bring that experience to people who didn’t have the same opportunities to travel abroad as I did. So I came up with the idea of Global Lives. What I didn’t expect was that so many other people would find the idea to be so interesting, and that it would resonate so well with people from all over the planet.
Deproduction is a Denver-based video production company that has a variety of media incarnations, from Public Access TV aggregate Denver Open Media to civic pixel, an open-source web development group. All the material produced for DOM is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, making it freely sharable and remixable as long as the creators are properly attributed, reproductions are noncommercial in intent, and any derivative works are shared under the same license. The project has been so successful that the team behind it recently received a Knight NewsChallenge Grant to reproduce their system at Public Access TV stations around the U.S. We caught up with Tony Shawcross, Executive Director at Deproduction, to learn more about their operation, how they are using CC licenses at DOM, and why Public Access TV is important.
Can you give our readers some background on Deproduction? How did you get started, who is involved, and what do you do?
The early history is summarized in a great Apogee Magazine Article from 2004, back when we were still a 2-person organization. In the 5 years since, the organization grew from collaborations with a handful of local nonprofits, including Free Speech TV, Little Voice Productions, Just Media, and the Pan African Arts Society. We had been producing videos for nonprofit partners, and began expanding our media education programs through work with local schools and an office in the PS1 Charter School. In 2005, Denver’s City Council shut down the City’s Public Access TV Station and issued an RFP from organizations who had a plan for making Public Access TV work with no operating support from the city or Comcast.
We responded, borrowing from the models of Wikipedia, Current TV, and others to develop online systems that could enable our community members to manage the station. Where most Public Access TV stations have staff devoted to content ingest, metadata entry, quality-control, equipment reservations, class registrations, broadcast scheduling and so-on, our tools enable the community to complete all those tasks with minimal staff involvement. Furthermore, our approach to studio productions, editing and even training work to reduce the workload on our staff and maximize the cooperation and support of our members.
One of the most exciting sub-movements within open education is the current revolution regarding the evolution of textbooks. Old-fashioned publishers would often (and still do) rack up prices to hundreds of dollars per textbook, but this business model is rapidly changing to favor vastly cheaper educational resources based on more open licensing policies. One driver is that the information in textbooks becomes outdated the minute it comes out in print, to the point that what is being taught in schools is often inaccurate. Open textbooks better represent the dynamic nature of information because they are themselves dynamic. They can be manufactured collaboratively over the internet, are digital and thereby easily editable, and are openly licensed so that anyone can update the information in the future. The premise is that you should never have to throw out old content — only improve upon it.
At the COSL Open Education Conference this year, Susan Dean, along with others, presented on Sustainability Models for Community College Open Textbooks. Her presentation was based on her own path towards open textbook publishing. She and Dr. Barbara Illowsky developed, over a number of years, the textbook Collaborative Statistics. Today, it is freely available for access and derivation via CC BY on the Connexions platform, but for Susan and Barbara, obtaining the rights to the book and cementing a publisher and platform were far from easy.
Below are Susan’s and Barbara’s take on the path they chose. I was lucky enough to catch up to them via email and ask a few questions — about themselves, Collaborative Statistics, and open textbooks in general.
Can you say a few words about yourselves and your background in education? What drew you to academia in the first place? As an academic, how have your conceptions of education evolved?
I earned a secondary teaching credential to teach high school math and art and taught high school for the next four years. I went back to school in computer science and worked for Honeywell and Hewlett-Packard and then was hired by De Anza College to teach math at the same time as I was working on a master’s degree in applied math at Santa Clara University.
I grew up poor but always did well in school and received a lot of attention from teachers, several of whom were outstanding. I have always found math along with marine biology highly interesting and would tutor other students in both subjects in high school and found it fun. I also tutored students, including blind and deaf students, in college. These factors combined to make me want to teach.
I have become a “hands-on” teacher in math. Students, especially developmental students, learn best by “doing” and by working in groups. I believe in having students use technology to help them learn.
I tutored in college and really enjoyed it. I did not plan on becoming an instructor, though. In graduate school, I had a teaching scholarship and found that I loved teaching. I loved helping students; I loved when they were successful, especially after a hard struggle to learn.
About 15 years ago, I became interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning. I researched pedagogy and andragogy (the theory of adult learning). Since completing my PhD, I have continued to study the learning process.
I now understand education to be much more of a life time process, than I had previously thought, as well as effective instruction to be much more constructivist than how most educators teach.
In your opinion, what are the important ways in which community and four year colleges differ — in terms of degrees granted, student populations, educational needs and challenges…?
Community colleges are for students who want a particular certificate (usually for a job), who want an AA or AS, who want to transfer to a four year school or who are interested in particular subjects. Four year colleges, for the most part, are for students who want a four year degree. Four year colleges typically have “academic” majors. Many students would not go to college if there were no community colleges. Among a myriad of services, community colleges provide developmental help in English and math if students need it (and about 80% who come to the community colleges do), provide transfer programs, offer counseling that not only gives students advisory help for classes and programs but provides personal guidance as well, offer excellent financial advice for those students who need financial help and are cheaper than four year colleges.
Community colleges enroll almost half of all undergraduate students in the U.S. As a result, a good many community colleges are extremely diverse in student populations (De Anza College is a very good example) and the preparedness of the students is wider than at a UC or CSU or private college or university.
How do you envision Collaborative Statistics being used in the classroom?
Collaborative Statistics has been used in the classroom for about 15 years. The book is intended to complement an elementary course in statistics that is collaborative and practical. Students work in groups to apply what they have learned to complete data driven labs and projects. The book was written to accommodate this mode of classroom activity. It was also written with English as a second language (ESL) students in mind and has been used successfully over the years with many ESL students.
From what I understood from your presentation (Susan) at COSL OpenEd ’08, writing Collaborative Statistics was far from the hardest part. The book was originally published with a commercial publisher under all rights reserved copyright. What triggered the need to open up these rights?
We acquired the rights back from the publisher so that we could lower the cost of the book. We had found that too many of our students struggled to pay for their books especially as the price of books went up (the cost increase has been dramatic over the years). So, when we had the chance to open up the rights to the book and make it free online, we were ready to do it.
Can you tell us a bit about the process you had to go through to convert to an open license? What were the steps you took? What were the roughest bumps in the road?
Martha Kanter, Chancellor of the Foofthill-De Anza Community College District, is very interested in open educational resources. She is acquainted with Bob Maxfield of the non-profit Maxfield Foundation (associated with Rice University). She recommended our book to Bob Maxfield who in turn made the book available to the Connexions Project of Rice University. Since we had control of the book (we published it), it was our decision to acquire an open license. The roughest bumps involved the amount of time it took to find the right organization for our book.
If you could give a piece of advice to other textbook authors and/or teachers who wish to publish their work openly, what would it be?
Do it! Think of the many students and faculty who could benefit from your work.
Why did you choose CC BY, as opposed to one of the more restrictive licenses?
We chose the license that Connexions requested for the least restrictions. Plus, the least restrictive license allows for the most freedom of improvement of a product.
What would you say to someone who was worried about commercial uses of their work?
Choose an organization like Connexions to publish on the Web. Connexions allows and encourages users to collaboratively develop, freely share and quickly publish content on the Web. Anyone who uses any part of someone else’s content can modify the content but must give attribution to the authors of the content.
Open textbooks are certainly taking off in a big way these days, what with Connexions, Flatworld Knowledge, CK12 Foundation’s Flexbooks, and the recent bill signed into law enabling California Community Colleges to establish OER pilot programs. What do you think specifically about this bill — AB 2261? Will you be involved with the execution of this bill, considering your ties with De Anza Community College? If not, how do you see the program working?
We are highly in favor of AB 2261. We are not involved with the execution of the bill. Article 2 of AB 2261 lays out a plan for the program including a possible lead community college to coordinate the planning and development of the pilot program. Especially important is Article 2 part (c) (3) which deals with developing “a community college professional development course that introduces faculty, staff, and college course developers to the concept, creation, content, and production methodologies that enable OER to be offered to students in community college classes.”
Lastly, what is the future of open textbooks? What would you say we have to change in order for open education to be maximally effective?
Open textbooks are here to stay! Connexions has much improved our book with what they have done on the cnx.org site. They have broken down the content into modules that can be linked together and arranged in different ways. We are sure that the other organizations that are involved in open educational resources have done something similar. There has to be some kind of massive ad campaign (similar to what California did with the big propositions in the recent November 2008 election but keep it honest) that shows the great benefits of open educational resources. The ad must target everyone but especially faculty to show them the great educational possibilities that exist, the fact that the resources are easy to use and the fact that the resources are free.8 Comments »
Lucky Dragons, an experimental music/art group based in Los Angeles, is the moniker given to “any recorded or performed or installed or packaged or shared pieces made by Luke Fischbeck, Sarah Rara, and any sometimes collaborator.” Blending an organic approach to electronic music with a background in the arts, everything Lucky Dragons produces is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, allowing others to share what they have made as well as rework it (much of their music is available for free download on their website). We recently caught up with the duo to learn more about their music and motivation to use CC. We also touched upon their experience participating in the Into Infinity project, their associated projects Sumi Ink Club/Glaciers of Nice, and what their plans are for the future.
Can you give our readers a bit of background on yourselves? How did you get involved with music and art? What is Lucky Dragon’s background as an artistic outfit?
Fischbeck: lucky dragons started as a “band” in the loosest form possible around eight years ago, as a way to structure our activities as a group in an easily understandable and distributable way, making recordings or books or videos or performances and putting them out into the world. for the most part, we have definitely used the existing structure of independently produced music to do this, but as this structure has been changing so much in our lifetime, we have been keen to look for new and positive paths and models, trying to contribute to a new definition of “band” that includes contexts such as public art, the gallery system, museum programming, blogs, and small-press publishing.
Rara: My entry into making music was initially through making videos and composing sound to go with a moving image until I became more and more engrossed in the production of sounds and the potential of music to bring people together in a very concrete way, forming transient communities and generating equal power-sharing situations. It’s interesting now to alternate between music and art contexts, to slip in and out of each world and to borrow from each various modes and identities. I enjoy slipping into a “band” identity that confuses authorship and opens up the project to various collaborators, even going so far as to dissolve the separation between myself and the audience during the performance. I’ve always thought of the role of the artist as more diffused and inclusive, it can include sitting on a stage and playing a modified kalimba for half an hour or it can include an everyday situation like having a conversation with a stranger. But somehow the means of distributing art in the world are not as inclusive and wide-ranging as music distribution. Music has a tradition of self-publishing and cheap distribution that I find very inspiring; it’s easy to produce something that is accessible to everyone and easily shared when operating within the form of a musical group.2 Comments »
SomeRightsReserved is the digital publishing platform for creative cooperative KithKin, a group of designers and creatives who are attempting to take a “genuine passion for inspiring people and celebrating creativity” and turn it into something tangible. Discussed earlier here, SRR are not only producing some fantastic products but are similarly experimenting with licensing in ways that challenge traditional design practices. We recently caught up with Ian Atkins, founder of KithKin/SRR, to get a better sense of how SomeRightsReserved functions as an organization, how they use CC licensing, and their plans for the future.
Can you give our readers some background on what SomeRightsReserved does? What makes you different from other design firms?
SomeRightsReserved is our digital publishing platform. It features a wide variety of ‘products’ ranging from laser cut ready design, to books and music. The group of designers behind the shop, KithKin, are primarily from a design background, but the shop is not limited by genre or discipline.
The initial thoughts that led to the development of SomeRightsReserved arouse from a desire from several of the designers to make and sell their designs and creations. In design this traditionally means a protracted period of time of development, testing, protecting your idea, and then getting made, then trying to sell it. Oh and finding the money to do so.
Now we can conceive an idea, refine it in a day and publish it the next. We publish almost anything in a digital format, whether it be rapid prototype files, which can be used to produce physical objects, to subversive pieces of viral software.
We let designers and creatives publish their products on their terms, exhibiting and touring their work offline and online.
We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Robert Kaye, “lead geek” at MusicBrainz, a community music database that “attempts to create a comprehensive music information site.” Kaye fills us in on what is happening at MusicBrainz, including extensive background on the project, how they use CC licenses, and their goal to add broader support for classical music.
Where does MusicBrainz fit in the open content ecology?
MusicBrainz plays an important role in blazing the path for open databases. We know how to play with open source and music, and we have few examples of how to work
with open structured data. We work hard to make our data useful and available to people, as we believe that Metcalfe’s law also applies to data. Thus, getting lots of people to use our data makes MusicBrainz vastly more useful and valuable. With that in mind, we want to be the de-facto standard for music metadata in the open content ecology.
Written, performed, recorded and produced entirely by Jono Bacon, the album touches a range of political and social topics, driven by a brutal, thundering style with pounding double bass drumming, grinding guitars and guttural vocals. The album was recorded in Jono’s home studio in central England and combines a range of styles. Pre-release listening sessions have resulted in comparisons to Metallica, Cannibal Corpse, Slayer, Pantera, Decapitated and Hatebreed.
Jono Bacon, the one man band behind Severed Fifth, released the inaugural album Denied by Reign today. This metal album is trying to bring the idea of Free Culture licensing to the world of metal music. We previously discussed here the announcement of the idea back in June of this year. It is a testament to Jono’s enthusiasm for this project how quickly he was able to write, record, and master this first album while also doing his full time job as Community Manager for Ubuntu.1 Comment »