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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