There’s something powerful that occurs when people shift from being content consumers to content creators in the public sphere. Suddenly you’re the creator of intellectual property, you’re a digital citizen, and you have a responsibility and an accountability.
I recently had a discussion with a classmate regarding the requirement to upload Creative Commons content to WikiMedia spaces. He expressed frustration over the perception that any media uploaded to the public space of the internet is in public domain and should be freely usable. I realized that this general misconception prevails when people are primarily content-consumers rather than content-producers; that is they don’t yet understand the issues and foibles of web-presence. I pointed out that in order to be a digital citizen and professional, I’m required and expected to post representations of my work (particularly as a designer) online. I post them on my own website that I pay for and manage myself. Search engines index the contents of my website and then ‘served up’ the material to the world. We have no control over this process (logically material can’t be seen if its not indexed) however, that doesn’t mean I’ve given anyone permission to use my work as their own, to modify it, or to make money off of it.
I decided to turn the tables and brought up the idea that in future he would be required to post papers, images/presentations, graphics even perhaps photos taken online, and that once one is a content-creator, s/he may feel very differently when this material shows up in some other person’s portfolio or website. While I freely contribute creative commons photography, line-art and other materials, I reserve the right to keep ownership over some of my materials. The way the web is loosely governed, it’s up to citizens not to infringe upon other people’s work.
Having students participate in blogs and other public means of online communication is particularly useful to help them make this shift from being content-consumers to content-producers. It also brings with it a better understanding of the many issues that surround digital participation, literacy and citizenship. I was fairly amazed at the mature types of responses given by students with regards to the usefulness of educational blogging in general:
Image source: Lolez Deniel. (2009). Cat vs fish. [Image file]. Retrieved from Flickr under CC by 2.0.