MacArthur Foundation

CC Talks With: Elspeth Revere of the MacArthur Foundation

Allison Domicone, October 29th, 2010

Elspeth Revere
Elspeth Revere,
MacArthur Foundation
/ CC BY

Elspeth Revere is the Vice President in charge of Media, Culture and Special Initiatives at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The MacArthur Foundation has generously supported CC since our founding in 2002. Join MacArthur and help keep CC going strong by making a donation today.

Can you give us some background on the MacArthur Foundation?

MacArthur is one of the nation’s largest independent foundations. The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

With assets over $5 billion, MacArthur will award approximately $230 million in grants this year. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media.

The Foundation was established in 1978.  Last year, it made 600 grants for a total of $230 million.

What is your role there?

I am Vice President in charge of Media, Culture and Special Initiatives.  We have three ongoing areas of work. The first is in public interest media, where we support public radio, documentary films, deep and analytical news programs, and investigative reporting. The second is support to over 200 arts and culture organizations in our home city, Chicago.  The third is institutional support to help strengthen nonprofit organizations that are key to the Foundation’s grantmaking fields so that they will exist and be effective over the long term.  In addition, we conduct a changing set of special grantmaking initiatives that are intended to be short-term and responsive to a particular problem or opportunity.

The MacArthur Foundation is a private foundation (not a corporate sponsor) that supports Creative Commons – what was the motivation behind this generous giving? What is it about CC that you find important?

In about 1999, MacArthur began exploring the question of how the digital revolution would impact society and the issues that the Foundation cared about and what a Foundation like MacArthur could do to help people understand and shape this phenomenon for the overall good.  We held a series of consultations and some of the people who later became founders of Creative Commons, including Larry Lessig and Jamie Boyle, talked to us about both the promise of technology to unlock information and make it widely and easily available, and the concern that digital tools could also be used to limit the public availability of information.  They, and others, helped us to understand that copyright laws, originally intended to regulate industry, were increasingly regulating consumers and their behavior — and this was even before blogging, podcasts, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and all the other sharing tools that we now rely on.

In 2002, MacArthur began a six year funding initiative on Intellectual Property and the Long-Term Protection of the Public Domain.  Our first grant to Creative Commons was made that year.  It was an exemplary organization for us to support because we were looking for new models of thinking about intellectual property in a digital age.  All told, we have made 4 grants totaling $3.15 million to support its work.  And Creative Commons has become a successful tool for sharing information in the arts, sciences, governance, and education throughout the world.

What is the link between the MacArthur Foundation and CC? Do you use our tools in your work? Or are our tools more applicable to your grantees?

MacArthur policy calls for openness in research and freedom of access to data. We encourage our grantees to explore opportunities to use existing and emerging Internet distribution models and when appropriate open access journals, Creative Commons licenses or other mechanisms that result in broad access for the interested field and public. While we do not insist that grantees use Creative Commons licenses, we do suggest their use when appropriate and practical.

What do you see as CC’s role in the broader digital ecosystem? How does CC enable the MacArthur Foundation and its grantees to better innovate in that space?

Creative Commons has made all of us more aware of information sharing — how and why we use the information of others and when and how we will let others use what we create.  It has provided the tools to allow us to share what we make both easily and widely if we want to do so. It has enabled communities to form around the world to work on common interests ranging from music and governance. And it has demonstrated that these communities can solve legal, technical and practical problems together.

Help make sure Creative Commons can continue to develop and steward tools that are crucial to sharing information in the arts, sciences, governance, and education throughout the world. Make a donation today.

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2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition

Jane Park, December 17th, 2009

HASTAC’s third annual Digital Media and Learning Competition launched yesterday, an initiative supported by the MacArthur Foundation. Last year‘s theme was participatory learning, and CC Learn was awarded a grant for Student Journalism 2.0—a pilot initiative “engaging high school students in understanding the legal and technical issues intrinsic to new and evolving journalistic practices.” The pilot, by the way, is in full swing, and we are entering our second semester after the holidays. Check out sj.creativecommons.org for updates.

This year’s DMLC theme is “Competition is Reimagining Learning and there are two types of awards: 21st Century Learning Lab Designers and Game Changers.” From the announcement,

“Aligned with National Lab Day as part of the White House’s Educate to Innovate Initiative, the 21st Century Learning Lab Designer awards will range from $30,000-$200,000. Awards will be made for learning environments and digital media-based experiences that allow young people to grapple with social challenges through activities based on the social nature, contexts, and ideas of science, technology, engineering and math.”

For more or to apply, see dmlcompetition.net. The winning products and/or programs in the 21st Century Learning Lab Designers category will be licensed CC BY-NC-SA or be available as Open Source.

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The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age

Jane Park, June 26th, 2009

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) announced a new report called, “The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age,” now available at MIT Press. The report is in response to our changing times, and addresses what traditional educational institutions must know to keep up. From the announcement,

“Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg in an abridged version of their book-in-progress, The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, argue that traditional institutions must adapt or risk a growing mismatch between how they teach and how this new generation learns. Forms and models of learning have evolved quickly and in fundamentally new directions. Yet how we teach, where we teach, who teaches, and who administers and serves have changed only around the edges. This report was made possible by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in connection with its grant making initiative on Digital Media and Learning.”

A central finding was that “Universities must recognize this new way of learning and adapt or risk becoming obsolete. The university model of teaching and learning relies on a hierarchy of expertise, disciplinary divides, restricted admission to those considered worthy, and a focused, solitary area of expertise. However, with participatory learning and digital media, these conventional modes of authority break down.”

Not coincidentally, one of the ten principles for redesigning learning institutions was open source education: “Traditional learning environments convey knowledge via overwhelmingly copyright-protected publications. Networked learning, contrastingly, is an “open source” culture that seeks to share openly and freely in both creating and distributing knowledge and products.”

The report is available in PDF via CC BY-NC-ND.

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Student Journalism 2.0

Jane Park, April 16th, 2009

Never has it become more plainly evident that the old model of news reporting—reporting via professional print media to the people—is crumbling, as one by one newspapers across the country shut down. We can lament these long-standing institutions, wax poetic for the “good old days”, or we can actually do something about it.

The solution is not to throw money at the problem, because money doesn’t force people to read what they don’t want to. The solution is to engage actively with the new forms of media out there, and to explore why the web and “new” media are replacing print news. Where does it all start, and what are the advantages of web journalism?

The MacArthur Foundation in partnership with HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) has awarded $2 million to nineteen projects spanning the globe and innovations in digital media and learning. One of these projects is Student Journalism 2.0, spearheaded by ccLearn. From the competition website,

“For journalism students, the digital age requires more than hands-on reporting, writing, and publication of stories. Students must also embrace the capabilities of the Internet for virtual collaboration, viral dissemination, and feedback loops that inform and deepen original stories. All of these web-based opportunities depend on knowledge and proactive application of open content licensing, such as with Creative Commons, and appropriate metatags and technical formats. Student Journalism 2.0 engages high school students in understanding legal and technical issues intrinsic to new journalistic practices. The lessons learned during this pilot project will be documented in anticipation of a national-scale, follow-up project.”

ccLearn’s Executive Director, Ahrash Bissell, is currently accepting the grant in Chicago at the awards ceremony and the projects showcase of last year’s Digital Media and Learning Competition winners. The event runs through tomorrow, and you can read the full press release here.

We wrote the proposal sometime last year, got enmeshed in the daily grind of other projects and work, and forgot about it. Spring brought fantastic news, and we would like to give our greatest thanks to the MacArthur Foundation, HASTAC, and everyone else involved in making this possible. We will keep you posted as the project develops. For now, you can read the original project proposal at the ccLearn site, licensed CC BY, of course.

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Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education

Jane Park, November 11th, 2008

Today, the Center for Social Media at AU released a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy in Education—a guide for educators and students to the use of copyrighted materials in the classroom. This guide is aimed at clearing up many of the urban myths surrounding copyright, as many educators mistakenly believe that the use of copyrighted photographs in the classroom is illegal, when in fact, fair use allows such uses without teachers even having to obtain permissions.

From last week’s press release

“A variety of content and media is now available online, but fear and misinformation have kept teachers and students from using this valuable material, including portions of films, TV coverage, photos, songs, articles, and audio, in the classroom.

Now, thanks to a coordinated effort by the media literacy community, supported by experts at American University and Temple University, teachers and students have a step-by-step guide that simplifies the legalities of using copyrighted materials in an academic setting…

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education outlines five principles, each with limitations:

Educators can, under some circumstances:

      1. Make copies of newspaper articles, TV shows, and other copyrighted works, and use them and keep them for educational use.

      2. Create curriculum materials and scholarship with copyrighted materials embedded.

      3. Share, sell and distribute curriculum materials with copyrighted materials embedded.

Learners can, under some circumstances:

      4. Use copyrighted works in creating new material

      5. Distribute their works digitally if they meet the transformativeness standard.”

A great video accompanies the guide, if you want a quick and entertaining primer on the issues the code addresses.

This project was funded by one of our own long-term supporters, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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2nd Annual Digital Media and Learning Competition

Jane Park, August 28th, 2008

Last week, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, long-time supporter of CC, announced the second annual Digital Media and Learning Competition. The 2008 competition is a collaborative result of the MacArthur Foundation, the University of California, Irvine, Duke University, and HASTAC, a virtual and voluntary network of educators and innovators committed to improving learning via technology. The competition accompanies the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Initiative, a $50 million, five-year initiative that was launched in 2006 to “help determine how digital technologies are changing the way people, especially young people, learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life.”

This year’s competition theme is “Participatory Learning,” which focuses on the collaborative aspect of learning by exploring different and new models in digital media. This may include “major adaptations of existing models of gaming, world building, social networking or other virtual environments; or the development of entirely new programs.” The emphasis, however, is on “a strong commitment to making possible new ways of valuable participatory learning, as opposed to simply creating new content.”

$2 million will be awarded in sum over two categories: “Innovation in Participatory Learning” and “Young Innovator.” The latter’s focus is the same, but the targeted group is 18-25 year old persons who are willing to “think boldly about what comes next in participatory learning and to contribute to making it happen.”

The winning products and/or programs will be licensed CC BY-NC-SA or be available as Open Source. For more details, see the MacArthur Foundation’s August 18th press release and the competition guidelines.

For examples of winning projects, see last year’s winners in Innovation and Knowledge-Networking.

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