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On Copyrighted Matters

Posted By tom On February 19, 2009 @ 4:33 pm In New Media, teaching | 4 Comments

There’s an odd tradition amongst academic writers and publishers, that essentially involves the signing away of copyright to the publisher upon publication. Which, while explaining the ‘reprinted with kind permission of whomever it might be‘ notices that appear in the acknowledgement pages of collected publications, is a little odd. Our publishers in most cases are the same academic journals who charge (as the [1] New York Review of Books pointed out earlier this month) up to ’stupid money’ (read the article if you don’t believe how much ’stupid money’ is) for access to information that has been provided for free.

Yep, free.

Be damned to giving away your copyright, now you’re telling me you’re writing for nothing?

We’re idiots, us academics. Idiocy rules. We spend the better part of a career getting where we are, then fritter it away on writing articles and handing them out to all and sundry for absolutely nothing.

There are two things that are on my mind as a result of this.

One, that handing over my copyright is a strange thing to do.

And, Two, that information wants to be free. If I’m not going to get paid to do something, then why should someone else benefit from it?

The second is possibly of more interest.

The first I don’t perceive that I have a great deal of say in, if I want to remain in education, and carry on publishing.

The second though – I might start sneaking bits of articles out on here – as I at least own this space, quite aside from the recent debacle over Facebook’s T&Cs – and see what you all think. I’ve done it before, with the PhD (which, as far as I know, I do own the copyright for) and will need to do it in future, with regard to research blogging for work. Who owns that, I’ve no idea. Probably UWE, but they won’t realise it unless I cure cancer.

So: first of all, the introduction to Hybrid Stories:

Among recent examples of long-form sf drama, there can be observed an increasing tendency extend the broadcast story across multiple narrative platforms. The web, mobile telephony and print media are commonly recombined with traditional broadcast platforms to produce a form of storytelling that interleaves online and offline experiences. This participatory creation of story, apparently ideally suited to the 21st Century, suits a technologically savvy audience. Why, though, has such multimedia storytelling found a home within sf? Is this complacency on the part of new media producers, an exploitation of the genre’s flair for world-building, or is something more significant at work with regard to the future of a transmedia story form itself?

And there the debate starts. Why sf and new media (especially ARGs), what (aside from the technology/geek/sf interface, which cannot be the whole answer, or at least cannot give us a way to resolve it) do we do about it and what does it tell us about the form itself?

Next paragraphs:

In his review of Southland Tales (Kelly Germany/US/France 2006), The Guardian’s John Patterson argues that its

ideal viewer is a kid with a laptop, an iPod, a full complement of cable/satellite TV options, a NetFlix subscription, a TiVo hard drive packed with recorded shows, a taste for online gaming within ridiculously detailed game-universes and open-ended game narratives, a demon for channel-surfing and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop-culture. In that kid’s mind – and really, in all of our minds these days – narratives are not confined to the medium they were born in; they are part of the larger collage that we all construct from the fragments of everything we watch, read, hear and surf.

Patterson carefully avoids offering any indication as to whether the future of cinema offered by Southland Tales is one in which he himself would like to live, but that future is, nevertheless, increasingly part of our present. The collage of narrative Patterson finds evident in Kelly’s multi-platform story – a film released in 2007, three antecedent chapters of which were serialised as graphic novels; a website which deepens the scenario; and a central narrative which requires familiarity with the Book of Revelations and the poetry of Robert Frost in order to be accurately ‘read’ – might seem strange to the casual viewer, but to sf film and television audiences such strategies have become increasingly common place, with the genre becoming the primary site in which to observe the emergence of the possible future form of narrative.

Any thoughts?


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[1] New York Review of Books pointed out earlier this month: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22281

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