11 February 2012

Daffy Ain't Just for Ducks

Some experiences recently have made me remember this clip from Ali Baba Bunny (1957):

The greedy exclamations have not been about material wealth, but about about power over content.

I've been watching from the sidelines as a micromanager and her minions attempt to exert control over digital content. And I'm struck by how daffy the entire approach is. First and foremost, if you're a government agency, you don't really "own" anything. Public funds create public documents and media. You can claim copyright all you want, but a Creative Commons approach is far more appropriate. (And guess what, teachers? Your lesson plans may soon fall under those same guidelines.)

However, this is the lesser sin. What these people don't understand is that in the digital age, once you're created something and posted it, you no longer get to decide how people use it. I'm not talking intellectual property here. I'm talking purpose. You can make a video showing how to score an assessment item, but that piece could be used in multiple ways. Perhaps a pre-service teacher uses it for PD. Maybe a group of teachers in a school watch it to build background knowledge before scoring their own students' work. Administrators might want to watch it in the context of interpreting annual test scores. A "creator," can advise about how an item is best suited, but the "user" trumps all. And you know what? Just because you don't post it doesn't mean people won't find similar content elsewhere. You can jump up and down on Bugs Bunny all you want, he's not going away.

But more than that, they've gone Daffy. When I look at something I develop for work, I don't think "Mine!" I look at the item as something to share...something I hope educators will adapt and use and improve upon. It's not mine: It's ours. I might be the custodian, but the content is curated on behalf of everyone. It is not up to me---and should not be up to me (or any other single person)---to choose for everyone else. I don't understand the drive to control every last drop of information. But perhaps the difference is that in a room of people, I don't assume I'm the smartest. I'm there to learn and listen. The Daffy group are convinced they know it all. They're there to talk and silence everyone else.

Beyond that, this group assumes that because someone shares something with them, it means the Daffy's now get control. Um, no. Sharing means that you're invited to participate---not be Columbus. As a guest in the process, use some manners. If all you know how to do is control, not collaborate, then don't be surprised when you aren't asked to the dance anymore.

I feel that way about my blogs, too. I put things here because I want to share them. I'm not interested in making people read them the way I intended. I share my journey as you follow yours (and many of you are kind enough to share your own). After years of blogging here and working on behalf of teachers, I can tell you that it is far more humbling to share. And there are always ideas or experiences I want to keep private. We're all allowed.

In the end, I find myself wondering how people learn to shift their thinking about sharing in the digital age. How do you help people move away from seeing their (publicly-developed) content as something which should remain a virginal daddy's-girl to a healthy and active part of a community?


Martha said...

I was just involved in a very similar conversation. Thanks for sharing.

Jenny said...

First of all, I loved the clip. What a great way to start off your thinking on this topic.

The idea of the user determining purpose put me in mind of authors and their works. Smart authors (and that may be the great majority, I can't say) recognize that the reader brings to the text a lot that impacts its meaning for them. The author doesn't control how a reader takes a text. Digital works follow that same general rule. The producer can't determine who the consumer is or how they take the digital work.