welfare

Creative Commons at the Society for Economic Research on Copyright Issues Congress

Tal Niv, August 2nd, 2011

Last month, CC participated in the yearly SERCI congress, which took place in Bilbao, Spain. SERCI is the Society for Economic Research on Copyright Issues. The SERCI congress is therefore intended to allow researchers to discuss their ongoing work with their peers and to further academic alliances between them for the benefit of future research enterprises. We were only able to participate following a rigorous process in which our research outputs were refereed.

Just to give you an idea of the people we were fortunate to meet at SERCI and how interesting and critically important their research is, attending was Nancy Gallini (University of British Colombia), who was discussing antitrust implications of copyright bundles, such as the ones arguably created by collecting societies. Participating was also Michael Yuan (Roger Williams University) who was discussing a paper he wrote along with Koji Domon (Waseda University) presenting their research comparing between copyright systems of “Indefinitely Renewable Copyright” and the current system. Christian Handke (Erasmus University of Rotterdam) spoke about Copyright and its “Effects on Different Types of Innovation”, and Jin-Hyuk Kim (the University of Cambridge) was discussing his work on copyright levies. These participants were just part of a very long list of prominent researchers from all over the world, and the person orchestrating it all was Richard Watt from the University of Canterbury.

As you can probably tell from the titles of the papers, we were delighted to find at the congress academics highly involved in research directly intended to impact global, international and national copyright policy! That, as well as the quality of their input, is why they have the ear of policy makers and this is why they are right up our alley!

So to serve as an example for how high the level of involvement of these academics in policy-making circles reaches, at SERCI we met economists who work for governmental authorities such as Benjamin Mitra-Kahn (UK Intellectual Property Office), Dimiter Gantchev (WIPO) and Raphael Solomon (Copyright Board of Canada). Benjamin was speaking about the Hargreaves report, which is a review of Intellectual Property and Growth, initiated in November 2010 by England’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, conducted by Prof. Ian Hargreaves. And Dimiter Gantchev was discussing the recent discussions ongoing in WIPO about global copyright registries.

I believe I can objectively report that the level of interest from participants in Creative Commons was very high. And our own topic for discussion can be essentially described as ourselves: Our presentation was about our ongoing project about CC’s economic contribution (see especially first, fourth and fifth posts about the project, and of course, the paper itself). Several good results came from our participation:

First, we were able to arouse a lot of interest among this global community of researchers, and boy, did we cherish the attention! For instance, people were asking how CC is impacting the copyright environment that applies to its different communities, how exactly the process of applying the license works, how CC analyzes its users’ incentives, etc.

Everybody who was there now knows what we do and how important we are in the space of spurring the operation of our different communities (through enhanced sharing and transactional benefits). Obviously, this newly acquired knowledge about CC is bound to be shared with researchers in the respective institutions of the participants, thus percolating through the community of scholars and increasing our renown, as an organization and as a platform.

The critically important implication of all this is that when these scholars are voicing their opinions in policy-making circles, it is highly probable that they will now be offering CC as potential solution for different problems that hinder the activity within our target communities, of creators, scientists, educators, governments, NGOs, individual data contributors, etc.

Second, we were able to receive substantial advice on the project we came in to present. For instance, we discussed with the other participants the decisions we have made to look at our contribution in different CC communities separately and only then at cross-influences, our understanding of our user incentives and our ability to substantially reduce transaction costs, as well as our suggested formulation of how the sharing and collaboration we promote benefits welfare and individuals.

Third, we struck bonds with some new studious friends – and CC now has more colleagues within the research community. This means that we can count on collaborations for CC-oriented research, which we are conducting, and also that we can expect others to initiate and conduct independent research on CC themes.

To make a long story short, SERCI has been what was expected and more, and we are already looking forward to implementing what we’ve learned, to start our cooperation with the scholars we met and to make plans for our next such event!

Note: The SERCI Congress program which is linked to is not updated. We are told by SERCI that it will be, to include the names of all the participants in the coming days.

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CC’s Contribution to Welfare, Field-by-Field: The Separate Contribution to Art

Tal Niv, December 9th, 2010

Last time on the CC blog I was sharing my thoughts about the evaluation of CC’s contribution to Collaboration and Sharing. There was a part there in which I was making the point that it is an impact which is distinctly challenging for estimation. Well, my full hearted belief that that analysis is, in fact, the pinnacle of prospective hardships can explain why when I first came to engage with CC’s contribution to the field of art, I was feeling lighthearted. After all, most of the characteristics which made sharing and collaboration such a tough domain to gauge, are not properties of art. So, I can begin by reporting that it was definitely light-minded to be lighthearted; the contribution to art is a completely independent pandora’s box.

I hope at least this last point will be rendered clearer by reading this post, but my aim here is actually to describe my initial attempts to tackle this distinct quandary. Like with my former posts, by unabashedly exposing my very modest attempts, we, here at CC, are hoping to elicit a response and to engage you all in this important project.

Down to Business: CC’s Contribution to Art

Note #1
Art encompasses activities that are traditionally divided into distinct genres. However, online creation has challenged the boundaries of those genres as it has provided an environment which made it easy for creators to put their creative efforts into works that cannot be conveniently categorized under one genre or even two, but rather reflect a hodgepodge of genres. Sometimes these acts of creativity coalesce into new genres, and sometimes they remain unique instances. The measurement of the contribution of CC needs to take account of all of these cases, and cannot be content with estimating the contribution to each traditional genre.

Note #2
New genres as novel types of artistic endeavors have an independent value of their own which ought to be noted and measured separately. There are several reasons for this:

    1. The evaluation of the novelty of these new works is altogether different than that of works of traditional genres.
    2. These works usually involve different types of creators than traditional works (e.g., on the lay-professional scale) and therefore represent a different type of contribution to art.
    3. Passive consumers and future contributors would necessarily have a different interaction with new types of works than traditional ones, which means that their perspective requires a distinct analysis.
    4. The contribution of these enterprises to other value fields of CC (e.g., to Collaboration and Sharing) are different and should be distinguished and measured properly considering this difference.
    5. From a pragmatic perspective, the estimation of new artistic enterprises obviously requires new metrics.
    6. Lastly, and most importantly, CC is very plausibly contributing in a very distinct way to new enterprises as opposed to existing ones. For example, because those new works are created in a much more of a copyright limbo, CC’s ability to contribute specifically to their effective production and consumption as well as more broadly to the way that the enterprise is framed as part of the IP realm is unique.

Note #3
Now having said all that, the contribution of art to welfare is in itself very hard to estimate, even before delving into the effective measurement of sub-genres. As a result, not many economists have tried to come up with analytical frameworks that would gauge art and its contribution. In fact, there persists a form of prima facie acceptance that art is dually valuable, for the outputs it produces, and as a human enterprise. The trouble with evaluation has to do with both: not all of art’s outputs are market outputs, and even when they are, they usually emblem non-monetary value in addition to their monetary one, and the abstract contribution of “art as human enterprise” is an even tougher cookie.

However, although CC is likewise resigned that art is valuable, for the purpose of its value analysis it must subscribe itself to some theoretical framework that analyzes the contribution of art. Absent such a framework, it will be impossible to assess any form of incremental contribution. As for the possible models that could potentially be applied, some writers have analyzed the quality of artistic products as strongly hinged in the question of how innovative they are. In other words, a valuable or a good artwork is one which is avant-garde in terms of technique or artistic expression. (Check out David W. Galenson’s Analyzing Artistic Innovation). From a slightly different perspective, some ascribe an artwork’s contribution to the extent by which it promotes innovation in other fields. The basis of the latter is that art is unique in cultivating creativity, originality and inventiveness (for example, Xavier Castañer and Lorenzo Campos’s The Determinants of Artistic Innovation: Bringing in the Role of Organizations, 26 Journal of Cultural Economics 29-52 (2002)).

Note #4
If we are ready to accept this last paradigm, then that will allow us to rely on the extension to the contribution of CC to art of the full breadth of theories which analyze the capacity of innovation to enhance welfare, or the value of innovation in art.

Yet, putting aside the multiple benefits to accepting these paradigms, there are several difficulties which have to do with the imperfect correspondence of these frameworks to art. To demonstrate, not even the underlying Schmpeterian concept of creative destruction applies to art, as art tends to incorporate all prior expression within it as it evolves. Therefore, any analysis which discusses the contribution of art in innovation terms would require substantial theoretical accommodation.

Note #5
The innovation paradigms of the second category (the ones considering the contribution to art as in itself a contributor to innovation) mind less the level or nature of the artistic outputs themselves, and mostly emphasize the very existence of novel outputs as inherently beneficial. In other words, they would still need to be complemented with other theories recognizing the direct importance of the artistic enterprise.

This is why in addition to developing novelty measures and to understanding how CC contributes institutionally to innovation, the project continues under the assumption that all else being equal, having more art is better, having more art contributors is better, having more consumption of art is better, having better art is better and extended quality in creativity and consumption is better. This assumption plays out alongside the presumption that more art variability is better which is a parameter directly related to innovation in art. Therefore, CC sets out to measure its impact on those values as to provide the necessary fodder for the analysis of its contribution. Examples follow.

The Evaluation Itself

Quantity Parameters

Quantity includes all the measures that are based on counting. Among which are the following:

    1. Tracking the number of CC artworks that are being produced. Obviously, our work would not end once coming up with this number, because an analysis would have to ensue which may be extremely complicated. This is because it isn’t necessary that all other things being equal, more artworks is invariably a welfare improvement; for example, because more clamor which more art might produce may mean less welfare (note that this pertains only to the detriments of overcrowding and not to other claims that touch upon quality which needs to be accounted for too).

    Well, the only thing I can say about that is that it is these moments which make me grateful for taking this one step at a time.

    2. The number of CC artists. Again, like with the case of the number of works, this datum does not reveal the entire story: An example for a claim which would be influential in the analysis is that artistic production is optimal when it is the single realm of a thin stratum of artists (the benefits of the alternatives). Now since CC operates under the contrary conviction that more engagement in artistic pursuits and thus tries to increase it without discretion, it needs to prove that the outcome it promotes is superior in terms of the contribution to welfare.

The latter claim suggests that this parameter should be divided up by profile of the artist. To the extent that this is possible it would be beneficial to distinguish between the added number of lay and expert CC artists, between heavy and light contributors, between additions of CC artists who create just CC works and those that use different legal frameworks other than CC.

    3. The number of new types of CC artworks that are being generated.
    4. The use of assisstive applications for CC works: (1) art editing applications (Technique) (2) art distribution applications (Distribution) (3) search applications (for CC art) (4) Curation activity, exhibition (CC work).
    => Obviously, for the purposes of allowing an analysis which would consider CC’s dynamic contribution it is necessary to be gathering data with respect to temporal trends as well.

Internal & external quality parameters

Internal measures:

    1. The progression of the technique being employed in CC works, per each art genre, and for each function, like the creation of the new contribution and for the fusing together of existing artistic resources for the new creation.
    2. The progression of the inherent quality of the artistic expression of CC works. This is a very complex attribute to measure, because it requires the perspective of time, or at least the ability to estimate the overall cultural weight of the work, which in turn requires multi-term adjustment.

External measures:

    1. Value as a resource/use availability: The progress in the outward impression which is being created by the artwork divided by (1) Lay artist impression, and (2) Expert artist impression. This quality measure has to do with the ability of others to extract benefits from the artwork and can be estimated using the proxy of use: the extent to which the work is used as a resource for other works.
    2. Consumption readiness/ease of access. This parameter is set to measure the accessibility of the work for passive consumption. This again requires analysis that would tie this data back to the measure of quality: it is impossible, for example, that degraded art or lower quality art is in general more accessible than art of better quality.

Quality measurement, extra challenges

Don’t tell me you thought that was it? Up until this point I’ve been calmly suggesting quality measures, without offering a clue as to how to create the actual quality scale for each. So how to begin measuring quality in art? Well, thankfully we are not the first to have to approach this question. Cultural economists have dealt with this issue, particularly in relation to the question of the proper government subsidy for non-market goods such as cultural products many times are. (See, for e.g., Eric Thompson’s et al. Valuing the Arts: A Contingent Valuation Approach, 26 Journal of Cultural Economics, and Douglas S. Noonan’s Contingent Valuation and Cultural Resources: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Literature, 27 Journal of Cultural Economics 159-176 (2003)).

What these scholars offered was to go from household to household, and use a method called Contingent Valuation in order to assess the extent to which people in general value a particular cultural service. The Contingent valuation method (CVM) employs survey methods to gather stated preference information, and through those it derives a translation into a monetary value with is called the WTP – the willingness to pay.

So these scholars begin with price, as an arguably satisfactory proxy for quality of an art product when there is a market for it. Yet when exploring CC’s predominant fields of activity we see almost no outputs with a dollar value. Therefore, although CC can safely rely on CVM as an established technique in cultural economics, it remains debatable whether CVM can capture the full value generated from cultural goods, and within it, from art: For one, art is classed as an experiential or addictive good, for which demand is cumulative, and hence dynamically unstable, whereas in WTP, people are being asked to evaluate it even if they do not consume it at all, as though it was a commodity like a street lamp. A solution for that might be to turn to expert appraisal. And indeed, when we shall come to the stage where we start going into detail with these metrics, we expect to rely on parameters used by experts to perform appraisals for different forms of art.

Two, there is a very strong claim that art has intrinsic value, as a public good, that is unappraisable by the individual by way of potential consumption estimation. (David Throsby thus differentiates between economic and cultural value, see in David Throsby’s Determining the Value of Cultural Goods: How Much (or How Little) Does Contingent Valuation Tell Us?, 27 Journal of Cultural Economics 275-285 (2003)).

This issue cannot be solved using traditional economic tools, which may mean these should be abandoned. Instead, we ought to identify measurable characteristics of cultural goods which give rise to their cultural value. For example, “their aesthetic properties, their spiritual significance, their role as purveyors of symbolic meaning, their historic importance, their significance in influencing artistic trends, their authenticity, their integrity, their uniqueness,” and so on. This is partly why in order to correctly quantify the contribution to welfare in all its facets, we must content ourselves, at least to some extent with simplified measures that pertain to quantity of production, to engagement and to the richness of the field as we are beginning to do here. This, in addition to those parts of the artistic enterprise which can be economically evaluated using such methods as CVM.

CC Art Variability Measures, Internal, External

    1. (direct measures) Novelty level, conceptual and experimental separately measured, of CC works. (1) for each new genre (2) within every existing genre.
    2. (indirect measures) The number of new relevant applications which are used for CC works: (1) art editing applications (Technique) (2) art distribution applications (Distribution) (3) search applications (for CC art) (4) Curation activity, exhibition (CC work).

Control Measures (confounders)

In order to be able to measure the pure impact of CC, it is necessary to be able to be able to clear out influences unrelated to CC that may muddy our measures. The following are metrics directed for this purpose:

    1. Changes in the production of non-CC art. This parameter will be used to gauge changes in artistic activity which can reflect on CC art too but have nothing to do with any activity led by CC. While collecting this data it is important to separate between non-CC art which is licensed under open framework and between non-CC art relying on proprietary frameworks. This is because part of the growth of comparable frameworks might be attributable to CC’s activity under the 3rd pillar of contribution which might further complicate the analysis.
    2. Extension of consumption of non-CC art. The aim here is to clean the CC impact with respect to consumption.
    3. Art markets expansion
    4. Extension in the number of general artists. (measuring unrelated entrance to the specific labor market)
    5. Evolution in general technical platforms for art creation, distribution, consumption.
    6. Government grants for art (non CC – easy separation: government will usually define the license to be used)

That’s all folks.

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CC’s Contribution to Welfare, Field-by-Field: The Separate Contribution to Collaboration & Sharing

Tal Niv, November 17th, 2010

You have probably already noticed that through this series of posts we are proceeding along a trend from general high-level questions to the more practical ones of measurement and evaluation. So, it shouldn’t surprise you that our next nuts-and-bolts step is to start touring the different fields in which CC is active and analyzing its separate contribution to each.

Keep in mind, though, the one caveat, that even once we are done with the field-by-field exploration we would still need to think of the “overflow” contribution of CC. In other words, we would still have to measure its multidisciplinary contribution – i.e., the contribution that is made to more than one field at once and the contribution which fashions new fields.

In part, prophesying the future estimation “overflow” contribution is the reason why I decided to begin this run by describing our preliminary thoughts about CC’s contribution to collaboration and sharing. Now because this is so obvious, I probably don’t need to mention this, but I am: “Collaboration and sharing is not your traditional field of operation and so it might have been infinitely easier to begin with art or one of its sub-genres, or even with OER, basic science, or traditional instances of user-generated-content.” This is because the former are considered true-to-life fields of human enterprise, and as such have (some) ready-made measures for evaluation. Collaboration and sharing, on the other hand, are considered as methods of operation and not as fields in and of themselves. This means that as a method, their independent contribution to welfare is almost never considered. And so, not only is there nobody to learn from when it comes to the evaluation of CC’s enhancement of sharing and collaboration, but the merits of this contribution is almost never acknowledged, not even in the abstract way in which we have been accustomed to, considering CC’s contribution.

Still, abstractly, we all understand that collaboration and sharing have considerable independent benefits! This is why its encouragement is a CC goal.

And to break it down a little, hand-wavingly: As methods for creation, collaboration and sharing tie new ties and promote communities by making firmer existing ones, they expand creation, and groups of creators, they allow creation to evolve based on optimal reliance on the shared creativity of the group, and consumers to freely intake those works, in increasing numbers and in greater capacity. To summarize, those are methods that clearly extend the accumulated value of the single works by manifolds. One way to think of the extended contribution of these methods is by thinking of them as an energizing force that promotes creativity as a whole, by empowering each work created through a collaborative process, allowing it to contribute in a way that goes far beyond its direct value.

End of hymn to collaboration and sharing.

Ok, so I hope you agree that referring to sharing and collaboration as a separate area is not merely the right thing to do because they are an independent realm of contribution, but also that it is the practical thing to do for the purposes of gauging CC’s contribution: As mentioned in the second paragraph of this post, CC’s activity creates innovative enterprises across fields and as time goes by, even generates novel ones. If we don’t recognize the energy that allows that to happen – collaboration & sharing, we will have no way of accounting for this budding activity in our evaluation. After all, these processes are in different stages, and they do not yet have sound gauges to estimate their contribution, even once they fully materialize. On the other hand, if we recognize that sharing and collaboration is a method with its own measures, assessing its effectiveness in different circumstances, then at least we shall have a way of referring to this obviously beneficial activity. In other words, measuring the expansion of collaborative energy is key to our ability to foresee and measure completely new creative enterprises, which cannot be accounted for by looking at the trends that the different fields are undergoing.

So now when we are all convinced, I am going to try and get to it.

For the sake of maintaining order, I will repeat what we are trying to do: Under the collaboration & sharing rubric, what is evaluated is the extent to which CC promotes creative communities and collaborative social capacity. Of course, one constant concern while considering the proper metrics, is to be careful of double-counting: Since social collaboration is pertinent to each field, the value that stems from collaborative energy should be separated from the specific contribution to individual cases of creativity. An important across-the-board distinction is between vertical and horizontal collaboration, which has to do with time and intention: Horizontal collaboration means to refer to mutual, close to concurrent creation of the work, while the participants in the creative act are all intending to create a joint output. Vertical collaboration, on the other hand, are cases where the collaboration amounts in the reliance on creative resources that have been produced in separate processes for the creation of a new work. The importance of distinguishing between the two modes is that they are expected to create different types of works, involve different types of collaborators and to generate different amounts of collaborative energy. This all means that they differ in their contribution.

Collaboration & sharing, and they are enhanced by CC’s 3 pillars of contribution

Tool-by-tool, use-by-use, or the transactional contributions:

  1. Vertical contribution: (a) from the perspective of the original creator: the availability and choice of CC tools facilitate downstream uses and grant the creator with necessary certainty with respect to future uses (b) from the perspective of downstream creators and users: the tools allow the produced work to itself be used as a resource very simply and in a way that can be relied upon.
  2. Horizontal contribution is assisted by reliance on tools that coordinate the usage according to active participants’ expectations.

The operation of CC as an institution:

  1. Reassures collaborating actors that the licenses which are being relied upon are interoperable and that efforts of extended interoperability and standardization will be ongoing.
  2. Reassures collaborating actors that the license choice will be continuously supported and will only gain traction (:Stability).
  3. Stabilizes, guarantees, and clarifies the licenses’ legal meaning and ensures that all actors’ (a) Reliance interests are protected and that (b) Expectation interests are protected.
  4. Stabilizes, guarantees, and clarifies the licenses’ social meaning (for partaking actors and future actors) and ensures that all actors’ (a) reliance interests are protected and that (b) their expectation interests are protected and that (C) their reputational interests are promoted.
  5. Reassures collaborating actors of the existence and proliferation of the CC supporting tools. For example, the search tools for CC works.
  6. Allows for collaboration to happen between actors of distinct geographical locations and across jurisdictions.

The 3rd pillar’s direct contribution to collaboration:

  1. CC weighs in on the normative discussion to highlight the merit of sharing and collaborative enterprises and their importance to the general welfare, countering contrary efforts by other institutions.
  2. Just for the record: the vast positive externalities which the 3rd pillar produces do not allude us. Evidently, the benefits that are produced here are carried over to every activity pertaining to collaboration. Figuring out how to discern the value ultimately induced by CC alone is a challenge which awaits us.

Measuring the Contribution to Collaboration – Quality, Quantity, Variability

As argued earlier, the general importance of social collaboration is found in its ability to charge the existing fields of creative activity with the required energy that would ensure that their measures of quality, quantity and variability improve.

When it comes to quantity, more collaboration is translated into the following: (1) more participants in single creative processes (2) more simultaneous cooperation in a single creative process, and (3) more intake of shared works. From the internal quality perspective, enhanced collaboration means that the cultivation of the creative spark emitted by each collaborator is rendered more efficacious. From the external quality perspective, a collaborative work created in an environment, which appreciates collaboration, will be more useful to the consumers of the work because they will see it as a potential resource. And when it comes to the potential contribution to variability, that translates into new collaborative efforts across fields, within fields and likewise completely novel activities and field-generative ones.

Proposed Measures (including confounders)

So now I am about to propose a set of metrics, aimed towards measuring CC’s contribution to collaboration under the three pillars, and by quantity, quality and variability. Whatever you do with it, don’t treat this list as exhaustive. I am merely trying to demonstrate our general direction, and to maybe instigate some reaction (for example, from YOU):

  1. Number of CC’d collaborative projects of all types. (account for cross-field cooperation)
  2. Number of entities involved in each CC’d collaborative project (a) Separately: People, organizations, groups (b) Numbers, percentages
  3. Type of collaborators involved in each CC’d collaborative project: (a) Lay/professional, (b) Professional: By type, Numbers, Involvement level (size), Geography distribution (real location of contributors, of users),
  4. Level of cooperation or the depth and breadth of the tree-like infrastructure – i.e. measure the number of reuses or reincarnations of a given CC resource.
  5. Newness level, on a scale of newness of the CC’d enterprise
  6. Consumption of each CC’d work: passive use (a) Accessibility measures (b) Consumption levels
  7. Efficiency increase in the use of the CC’d work (productive use: use as a resource)
  8. New collaborative applications; addition of new auxiliary tools for CC’d collaboration (and increased use thereof)
  9. New collaborative enterprises identification tools; search tools, etc. (and increased use thereof)

The breakdown by CC tool is a refinement which isn’t mentioned but is clearly relevant to each.

So far so good. But, even a comprehensive list of these metrics will not be the end of our troubles, because we need to control for non-CC affects on collaboration (confounders). For example, parameters like the general IP environment, legal and social, and the activity of other actors like ones that are operating in the same space as CC, should be carefully discerned. The way to go about it would be to use metrics that will gauge external influence and will thus control for impacts external to CC. So there is an initial list:

  1. Collaborative projects based on other platforms – across disciplines
  2. Creative projects that are not collaborative – across disciplines
  3. IP Lawsuits based on authorship claims
  4. Legal regime changes that pertain to collaboration
  5. Technical platforms for collaboration (dynamic changes)
  6. (other) Legal platforms for collaboration (dynamic changes)
  7. Government grants for collaborative enterprises (easy separation: government will usually define the license to be used)
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Investigating CC’s Welfare Impact: Quantity, Quality and Variability Measures

Tal Niv, November 1st, 2010

CC has recently started thinking more rigorously about its contribution to the world. See the first, second and third posts in this series for an introduction.

In my former post I spent quite a few words trying to explain where I believe CC should and shouldn’t venture looking for the proper metrics that will efficaciously represent its contribution to welfare. The bottom line was that what seems like the ultimate decision is to look to the direct contribution of CC to Quality, Quantity and Variability measures. I now intend to elaborate a little on this approach.

The first thing that is important to mention is that Quantity, Quality and Variability ought to be measured across the different fields in which CC operates, for example, in art, in OER, in UGC. Second, that QQ&V should be measured under the different value pillars (transactional, institutional, norm) and third, as they pertain to both productive and consumptive use. By productive use, I mean the sense by which CC complements the quality, the quantity and the variability of active, creative, collaborative endeavors and by consumptive use I refer to the sense in which CC promotes passive use of existing creative enterprises, by expanding access to them and by increasing the efficiency of consumption.

The contribution to Quantity is probably the easiest to explain. It means just one thing by way of method: counting; how many new works are being created thanks to CC’s activity? (productive), how many additional passive uses are there? (consumptive) and how many distinct new creators, collaborators and consumers are added? These can then be naturally specified by pillar of contribution (again: transactional, institutional, norm), by field of activity, across fields, by use type and by user type.

Quality has both an internal and an external meaning: By internal quality of a work we mean to refer to the works’ level of excellence in terms of its own field, which in itself is a complex measure that judges the value of the work itself. The external quality measure refers to the level of contribution of the work to the promotion of a collaborative environment and is therefore tied to both the productive process of the its creation and to its consumptive uses. In terms of purely consumptive uses, quality refers to the advantage which consumers are able to extract from the work itself.

The variability parameter is set to measure internal and external novelty as it is induced by CC. Internal variability means the creation of new types of works within a field, whereas external variability pertains to the dynamics of the creation of new fields of activity. The aspect of variability is very much related to the innovation literature that often analyzes the status and dynamics of growth in terms of the accumulation of new products.

But our job doesn’t end here, because it is not just changes that CC induces in the measure of quality, quantity and variability that ought to be calculated; in fact, crucial to the value assessment is the consideration of change rate. Since the rapidity of value accumulation is in itself a substantial aspect of the contribution level.

Now, the next immediate step ought to be defining metrics, per field, for each of these three attributes, quantity, quality and variability. But, as we’ve become accustomed to, there are still several complications that need to be dealt with:

  1. CC is operating in numerous fields. In order to be optimally effective, it must rely on cost/benefit analysis which will suggest to it how to best divide its own resources.
  2. CC is a comprehensive framework which creates value spillover effects across fields.
  3. CC’s fields of operation are not clear-cut fields in the sense that some works are hard to categorize. For example, basic science and OER are far from being distinct fields and of course, user generated content comes in all “flavors”. And since CC sets itself to promote these interdisciplinary collaborations they are essential and weighty parts of the value it creates.
  4. Often, CC’s contribution will be in creating altogether new fields of activity. It is important not to lose track of those by putting too much emphasis on inter-field benefits.

Now it seems to me that the pitfalls introduced by #2-#4 may be bridged by considering the contribution to collaboration, or to the mode of creation and consumption that is more heavily based on sharing. Or at least that’s the belief I choose to stick to. Firmly. Yet, when it comes to pitfall #1, that one really seems to require the second order estimation of the contribution to welfare of the actual field, or a predefined preference ordering which relies on other underpinnings. At any rate, it transgresses the scope of the estimation project.

So, for example, we can think of the contribution to collaboration using these attributes: When it comes to quantity, effective will be more participants in each CC’d creative enterprise, in comparison to non-CC’d enterprises, as well as more distribution of the CC’d work when it comes to the consumptive measures. From the internal quality perspective, what is judged is the level of the cooperation according to the promotion of the creative spark through the shared mode of creation. From the external quality perspective, a high-quality collaborative work would be replicated more than others, and create collaborative energy which will carry over to other enterprises. When it comes to the potential contribution to variability, what is judged is the extent to which more types of collaborative efforts are being fashioned, both within and across fields.

CC’s contribution to art can serve us as yet another example. If we think in quantity terms, we can measure the number of new CC creations, the number of new CC artists, the number of new types of artists, and the extent of distribution of CC creations, from the perspective of consumptive use. When it comes to quality, the level of the relative internal excellence of the CC’d artwork can be measured, as well as its external impact on other creative sites. Quality measures for consumption will encompass its effectiveness, in terms of the impression that it is capable of making on consumers. Variability, in art, will be set to measure the relative innovativeness of the CC artistic enterprises, both within existing genres and in the cultivation of new ones.

And I could go on and on to CC open education enterprises, to the CC’d basic science enterprises as well as to distinct cases of CC’d user generated content, but the point is probably clear by now. The basic idea is that these measurements are all the output we need, because having calculated them, we ought to be able to go on to scrutinizing CC’s contribution on any desired level. For example, once we know how art is affected by CC, through the measures of quantity, quality and variability, anybody could translate that into how art’s contribution to welfare is boasted.

Does that all make sense to you? Let us know, we’ll appreciate it.

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Investigating CC’s welfare impact, the second step

Tal Niv, October 21st, 2010

CC has recently started thinking more rigorously about its contribution to the world. See the first and introductory posts in this series.

After I found what I believe to be a satisfactory formulation for what CC actually does, which divides the CC enterprise into three planes, transactional, institutional, and normative, as I described to you in the former post — another concern began to harass me in the shower, (and I mean this very literally).

This time the quandary had to do with the abundance of fields and activities which CC supports: CC operates to contribute to a wide variety of human endeavors. Part of its contribution can be classified under widely acknowledged topical fields, another part under budding fields, and yet another, which is slightly different than the other two, as a contribution to specific modes of creation.

In the first group I include art on all its types, basic science and open education. Among the second group I count user-generated-content enterprises, such as online commenting, blogging and contribution to knowledge bases like Wikipedia. The third group hovers the other two, since it pertains to the direct contribution to the method. In a nutshell, it refers to the welfare contribution of the improvement and suffusion of the new type of collaboration which is marked by the following attributes: (1) it involves many different individuals, usually a flexible group of people that changes dynamically with contributors leaving it and joining it (2) their product is thus highly flexible, transforming through time (3) the individual contributions are performed at different moments in time, and (4) the contribution can vary in size, from infinitesimally tiny to extremely extensive. Through the facilitation of this new type of collaboration, different interacting communities are being created, which in itself can be counted as a sphere of contribution.

So what’s the problem?

Clearly what one has to do in order to evaluate the contribution of each of these, is to scrutinize each in order to derive the proper metrics for quantification. But on closer inspection of the issue you necessarily come to realize that all of these fields of contribution have some unquantifiable quality which makes metrics-identification slightly complicated. Yes… unlucky me, CC has handpicked a set of fields that are quite resistant to measurement, each for its own reason:

Art. Nobody really wants to quantify art. Art in utilitarian terms… not very palatable, you have to admit. Thinking in pecuniary terms might imply that the contribution of art is merely its price, and would undermine the value of the very engagement in art, as well as the value of works which have not had the good fortune of being auctioned or sold.

Basic science is likewise a “tough cookie” for measurement. Not least because thinking just in terms of end products fails to account for the advantages of the learning process and some of the outputs of basic science are extremely hard to predict.

Open education… oh well, difficult to quantify in its own stead. How can one begin to account for the contribution that extended access has? That active over passive consumption of material has in terms of effectiveness of the learning and teaching process? And how does one discount the cost of degraded outputs which are invariably part of the contribution of educational material which has not undergone the same rigorous screening process that commerciality putatively mandates that it undergo?

Harder still, what’s the value of a collaborative encyclopedia? Is it that aggregation of the separate contributions, in many cases almost negligible? What is the contribution of a post that is published in the open? Of comments to these posts? Again, these are the same problems, overburdened by extrinsic costs that must be accounted for too.

All of these enterprises have a basic attribute which I considered as a separate issue and that is the contribution which ensues directly from increased collaboration. And how the (#*&(@&!# does one begin to analyze the beneficial impact that increased collaboration, cooperation and flexible creative communities has?

So, because hyperventilating in the shower is dangerous, I reminded myself that it cannot be that I am the first person who is attempting to tread this road. Except collaboration. I am pretty sure that I haven’t seen any separate consideration of the direct value of collaboration. So as an aside, let me just explain why I am resigned that it is quite necessary to think of collaboration as a separate matter: First, because there are new topical fields created by virtue of these new modes of interaction and these we will fail to consider, analyzing from a strictly topical angle. Second, collaboration itself has positive impact that goes much further than the benefits to the actual activity, creating immense positive externalities to an abundance of distinct enterprises that follow it.

To get back to what I was saying before, I did find out that I wasn’t the first one to try to find a similar path. So I’ll just describe the very first ideas I drew from other researchers.

The first one I choose to denominate as the devil’s advocate approach, which is basically: Don’t even try. Don’t try to measure; It’s all good; Its art; it’s science; it’s learning; its collaboration; these are fantastic things. And measuring will just downgrade the general awe with which everybody considers these human activities. I was tempted, but thought I’d better think of something else.

So my first real attempt to stand on the shoulders of giants was to think in terms of strict macroeconomic gauges. After all, this is the natural direction for the measurement of the contribution of any enterprise to welfare. Also, so many before us have chosen this path: The US copyright industries, for example, have come up with their report (Look, for example, for Stephen E. Siwek’s Copyright Industries in the U.S. Economy: The 2006 Report, prepared for the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), Nov 2006) after WIPO produced its Guide on Surveying the Economic Contribution of the Copyright-Based Industries, and after many different countries produced such similar reports. This has likewise been the method employed for the preparation of the US fair-use industries report, analyzing the fair-use industries contribution to the revenue, value added, employment, productivity and exports.

So why don’t I believe that this is the solution for CC? Well, I have both general and practical reasons:

As for the general incongruence –

First, most of the macroeconomic measures are nation-centric, while CC is a global enterprise which sets to advance global welfare. Pure aggregation of the macroeconomic contributions of CC to each country is not a solution because it can’t show us whether CC manages its goal to obtain global optimization.

Second, macroeconomic measures do not account for non-market transactions. In other words, activities that are not directly paid for will not contribute to these measures. And yet the promotion of non-market interactions is at the core of CC’s contribution, which means that we can’t settle for measures that are not set to estimate these contributions directly.

In truth, I am not the first to note these shortcomings of macroeconomic measures. The World Bank, for example, despite being content with measuring the total wealth as the net present value of future consumption, came up with a measure for what it deems “intangible capital”. This measure is calculated as the difference between total wealth and the sum of produced and natural capital. According to the World Bank, this number “necessarily includes human capital—the sum of knowledge, skills, and know-how possessed by the population. It also includes the institutional infrastructure of the country as well as the social capital—the level of trust among people in a society and their ability to work together toward common goals.”

I realize this sounds promising. Still, I don’t think it is the answer for CC. First, because intangible capital contribution is a primary area of its contribution, which means that it requires a gauge that measures it directly and vicariously, as a complement. The second and related reason is that CC is contributing to both monetary and non-monetary interactions and the calculation of value must consider the mutual influences. My third qualm with this measure is more fundamental than practical: even when we are coming to evaluate CC’s contribution, it seems pertinent to remember that the very foundations on which CC has been established have to do with the presumption that the consumption stream cannot fully account for human and social capital or for an optimal institutional infrastructure. This means that even these measures would fail to represent the range of contribution of the CC enterprise, because they are complementing measures that do not account for all the relevant welfare dimensions.

As for the practical incongruence –

First, Macroeconomic measures are so broad and all-encompassing that it makes one wonder how she can possibly isolate the separate contribution CC has on the sum of Consumption, Investment, Government Spending and Net Exports, (and, by the way, the former reports on other enterprise do not seem to bridge this difficulty.)

Second, the norm category of contribution (3rd pillar of contribution from the previous post in this series) seems to be almost categorically at odds with macroeconomic estimation in the sense that they stand on distinct foundations: The macroeconomic set of measures is strictly utilitarian, whereas the norm pillar has both a utilitarian aspect as well as one which creates the proper environment against which utility will later be estimated.

To repeat, CC is operating in the norm space to recalibrate the creative space in a way that will induce more value from a utilitarian perspective, but it is also acting according to a set of beliefs with respect to how the fields of its operation ought to operate from a different moral perspective; in a way that is more collaborative and free. So although it is sensible to ask whether this recalibration of norms is beneficial to the aggregate welfare, it is a question, the answer to which will fail to expose the entire picture. If that makes sense.

What to do instead?

Well… good question. Any ideas?

I can only tell you where I decided to venture, and you can tell me what you think about it: I have come to notice that more often than not, CC’s contribution is fully captured by value measures which can then be translated to the more general macroeconomic sphere (if one is so inclined). In other words, I realized it is not my job, or not part of this project to look beyond CC’s direct impact, because that will do nothing to promote the efficacy, specificity, soundness or integrity of the evaluation. If anything, it might add an unnecessary level of complication and this is one circumstance in which you simply do not want to do that.

Particularly, what I suggest is to measure the incremental contribution of CC in terms of quality, quantity and variability of collaboration enterprises. All three should be measured across the different fields, under the different value categories, (transactional, institutional and normative), and as they pertain to both productive and consumptive use. What I mean by quality, quantity and variability will be described in more length in the coming posts, but what’s relevant here is that once we have these estimates for CC’s contribution, others should be able to use them to instruct their studies of wider economic measures. At least that’s the idea.

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Investigating CC’s welfare impact, the first step

Tal Niv, October 3rd, 2010

CC has recently started thinking more rigorously about its contribution to the world. See the first post in this series for an introduction.

Alright. So a few months back, on my second day at CC, I sat excitedly at a CC desk, opened a new document, and expected myself to outline a general plan for the impact project. Nothing happened. And you can trust me, I was really aching to begin, since by the second, I could see with increasingly radiant lucidity that this project could potentially pave the way for a brand new field of thought, crucially important in terms of the impacts that it can instantiate. After all, a rigorous analysis of the value contribution could expose how effective collaboration and sharing is, and how distinctly important it is to promote it. This in turn could strengthen the creative capacity of the creative communities, on their artists, scientists, educators, learners, content generators, readers through the auxiliary platforms, providing technical and legal assistance.

But I am babbling. The point is that I very much wanted to start, but that found it very difficult. The roadblock, I came to realize, was that I had an essential primary step before me, which was to offer an initial description of the CC enterprise, one which would be manageable enough for effective evaluation. CC, after all, is a varied enterprise, which operates on many levels to promote its goal of promoting the creative commons. Where the analyst really starts sweating, is the point it becomes clear to her that on each level, CC contributes to welfare in a way that must be taken into account, and that these levels are inextricably interrelated. Or in other words, the contribution on one level, promotes the contribution stemming from the others and so on and so forth.

So after carefully analyzing what CC actually does, I came up with a three-part categorization of the range of CC activities. This categorization is based on size really, and I came up with it thinking about what CC does through a contribution lens. First, I thought that every time someone uses a CC-tool, a license or a mark, a range of advantages, potential and actual, is being accrued. Then, I thought that the support of a platform of tools creates a set of advantages, potential and actual, in its own stead and on a slightly higher level. Second, I thought that CC, by its very existence as an institution is promoting a set of advantages on a more macro level, by virtue of offering institutional support. Thirdly, it seemed to me that there is a way by which CC is operating as a pure power in the even higher space of how cultural enterprises take place, trying to nurture the existing motivations to share and to collaborate into standard practices in each of the communities which it supports.

To recap, what I am offering is to think of CC as an enterprise operating on three separate spheres, each with its distinct, although definitely not independent, value contribution. The first is the contribution to transactions between actors in the creative fields, the second is the institutional contribution and the third is the contribution in the normative field.

The idea is that this can serve as the baseline for analysis, a fundamental categorization which lends itself to further sub-categorization, by field, by activity, by actor and by CC tool, but that doesn’t lose track of the way all of these tie into the one primary goal.

To say just a little bit more about each:
1. transactional contribution
The transactional contribution: the fields in which CC operates are fields where many actors of many different types are operating. The ability of these actors to collaborate is, therefore, very sensitive to costs of search, of recognition and of cooperation. CC, by offering a range of legal and technical tools, is equipping these actors with legal and technical capacities to reduce these costs substantially. In some cases, the reduction is so meaningful as to permit an enterprise to take place, and in other cases, it just makes it better. Relatedly, the availability of tools and platforms might promote the introduction of new entrants to the fields, which in turn varies and augments the range of collaborative enterprises of all types. Under this proposed analysis, CC’s transational contribution ranges between micro advantages created by each usage of the tool, and a slightly higher level contribution which is instantiated through the existence of the full platform of tools.

2. institutional contribution
Many Economists have pointed out that the efficiency of modern markets is promoted by the existence of a stable and certain legal framework. CC is clearly operating within the Intellectual Property framework to enhance it, relying on its own institutional framework, in a way that facilitates the optimization of social production markets.

3. norm contribution
As an organization, which is active in the space of creation and its regulation, CC influences it by weighing in on the evolution of its norms. There is a distinct difference between this and the other two spheres of contribution; What through the lens of the other two spheres appears as an independent factor existing as the environment to which CC sets itself to contribute to, is under the third pillar the actual target that it sets out to influence.

Again, this is not to say that when it comes to value creation these categories are clear-cut. In fact, there are constant cross-influences between the spheres of operation which impacts greatly CC’s contribution under each. For example, a shift in the norm space directly influences the extent of the reliance on the CC institution in the different social markets, and the ensuing benefits that can be derived through usage of each CC tool. In addition, an institutional move increasing the certainty of the collaborative legal Intellectual Property environment increases the benefits stemming from each usage of a CC tool, and in turn facilitates a normative move in the direction of a tighter community of cultural actors inside the different fields. I could go on and on.

Still, the fact that the value areas are co-dependent does not suggest that the categorization is faulty nor that it is ineffective. Instead, interdependency is the attribute of a clear goal which is being pursued using more than one strategy. Yet importantly, there is nothing mandatory or essential about this categorization. In fact, it is just one out of numerous possible ones. What speaks in its favor is its clarity and the fact that economic analysis has developed to analyze contribution of each type, micro-transactional, transactional and institutional at least, if not the contribution of changes in the normative playing-field.

However–and this is important–this categorization may not be the most effective for value analysis. There definitely can be other categorizations, ones that may be more true to the depiction of the CC enterprise, and that may even be more prone for evaluation. In other words, if you have any thoughts, please share them with us–having us all think about this is part of the point.

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Introducing a series of posts investigating CC’s welfare impact

Tal Niv, September 24th, 2010

CC has recently started thinking more rigorously about its contribution to the world.

First, just so you’ll have a general idea about the person writing this post: I am Tal Niv, a PhD student at UC Berkeley with a background in Law, Economics and Computer Science. This post series is intended to start presenting a project I am already knee-deep into, thanks to a Google policy fellowship. Our aim with the project, as well as with the post series is not to offer conclusive analysis of CC’s impact on welfare (as the term is used by economists), but rather to start a conversation between all of us, that will start untying this complex topic, which despite its importance has been unexplored. Till now.

Everybody knows that CC is here to do good. After all, we are a nonprofit that is working diligently on its mission to promote sharing and collaboration. Yes, that’s what we are after; we have long believed that creators want to share and collaborate, and that it would be beneficial to the world if there is much more of that, which is why we are making out utmost to nurture and cultivate such distinctively positive enterprises and the motivations that fuel them.

What is also pretty clear, is that CC is breaking ground in this enterprise. Creative Commons has a hand and a foot in a range of activities that are based on openness in a multidimensional spectrum of creative fields. CC is known by artists, by scientists, by educators, as a facilitator of creative cooperation, known by consumers of knowledge and culture for extending access and quality of their inputs, by creative hobbyists and amateurs as promoter of access, of contribution, of community. Likewise, we are a prominent institution that carries considerable weight among global policy-making entities in the sphere of setting up the normative environment against which the range of creative endeavors are set.

But although our contribution is plain to the eye, or maybe because it is so crystal clear, we have never attempted to analyze it with rigor. We have never bragged in a detailed fashion nor have we been specific with respect to the immense value that we generate.

Why is that?

Well, it’s complicated. Partly it is because what I intuited in the former paragraph: Since it is so clear that we contribute, spending time on the straightforward just seems like a waste. Partly, it is because we never required this evaluation for the efficient design of our day-to-day tasks. But those are not the only reasons.

Mainly it is because conducting steadfast evaluation is a very cumbersome project: CC is heavily engaged in fields with self-explanatory benefits whose edges are fuzzy. This makes evaluation and measurement extremely tough, even for the most apt researchers.

If you are fuzzy about what I mean by “fuzzy”, just ask yourself: What is the value of art? Of basic science? Of open education? Of User Generated Content? Of collaboration itself? What is the value of free access? I don’t know of many who believe they have the answer to these questions.

And unfortunately, surpassing this challenge only rears more challenges; for CC to be able to know how much it contributes, it is not enough to understand how to evaluate the contribution of its target fields to welfare, but it must also understand its incremental contribution to the welfare enhancing capacity of those fields. And there is nothing that makes that increment any more fixed, clear-cut or lucid than the benefits of the baseline fields. To top that – my fingers are already shaking on the keyboard – it does not suffice to prove that CC incrementally advantages these enterprises, but it’s necessary to show that it does so optimally, i.e., that it is putting the resources that it has to effective use.

At any rate, tough as it is, this is the challenging task that we have undertaken now. Please help by engaging yourself with this intricate analysis, and sharing your deliberations, and if you are just here as a spectator, wish us luck!

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