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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.

One Response to “Investigating CC’s Welfare Impact: Quantity, Quality and Variability Measures”

  1. Fernando Perini says:

    very interesting discussion. what happened after that? has this agenda evolved? I cannot find more detailed studies…