Remixing Academia

May 22nd, 2010 |

If it’s nearly midnight before the conference starts, does that make me a procrastinator? Ever so long ago, when I first submitted my application, I wanted to talk about the movement from paid to free content and the influence of the remix on everything from popular media (Glee adapting the fanvid; Lady Gaga promoting a 13 year old boy who sings like her) to academic spaces. To quote my application:

While Harold Bloom spoke of an anxiety of influence, we now seem to be in a state of acceptance of influence: the remix is everywhere. Fan-fiction, fan-video, fan-games and even fan-music designate that influence and wear it proudly. A vast amount of content is placed out in digital spaces with no expectation of profit–so why is it created? What can we come to understand about creators who build out of passion and don’t seek to replace their creative forefathers but to extend their creations? When paid content producers are dying, with newspapers already buried in the public eye and virtual worlds and sites existing solely on the freely created content of their contributors, what is the future for content creation? Who will be telling the stories of the next ten years and will the idea of paying for content die with this rising generation?

I’m particularly interested in how these transformations in culture will influence academic practices within and outside the classroom: projects like Hacking the Academy and open journals are at the forefront of restructuring academic publishing, but they face a number of hurdles in traditional models of authorship and authority. I find the “mass collaboration” nature of some of this work very exciting, but what do they portend for the future of the single-author manuscript and the works that are traditionally valued in the quest for tenure?

At the same time, we have students who need to become active participants in this changing economy of ideas: as Brian Croxall already mentioned in his post, the practices of online collaboration and shared production are entering the classroom and in my view are perhaps some of the most valuable and transferable skills we can impart to our students. How do we bring them into these spaces of shared content while still encouraging the formation of an original voice and perspective?

One of my own major areas of emphasis is game studies, as I teach in a program where game and simulation design is at the forefront. Some of the same ideas that are changing publishing and social media are informing a transformation there–a world controlled by the designer or “author” ┬áis too limiting, and the need of player to have input and control over his or her experience of the world is similar to the need we have for our students to be active contributors to the academic discourse taking place in newly opened venues, such as blogs, twitter and new media projects. How will the future of such academic spaces be reflected in the battles over litigation that will soon mark futuristic poster-children such as Second Life? These are the questions I’m interested in.

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