That there were two articles written by different first authors of the same last name this week, both of whom described issues related to property, ownership, and sharing, seemed to add a new layer of complexity to the issues at hand. How can one prove ownership of property if one cannot prove to be themselves and no one else?
In any case, the two articles demonstrated different aspects of collaboration and openness with respect to the distribution and use of digital property. A. Hyde et al. (2012) provide an overview of what constitutes sharing and collaboration of intellectual property. Drawing a distinction between sharing and collaboration, the authors suggest that to share content involves treating it as a social object that can be directly linked to author, whereas in collaboration, the direct linkage between author and the content produced is less clearly observed. In the case of Wikipedia, all edits are preserved but the final written article as it appears could consist of multiple edits. Though Wikipedia articles are in some ways culturally constructed, there are safeguards against the falsification of information, as noted by the Colbert Report incident. How might having a distributed network of authors affect the product of a collaboration, and is the accuracy of the information source any more or less questionable than a piece written a solitary author?
A. Hyde et al. (2012) continue by outlining criteria of questions for a successful collaboration. Included are questions or intentions, goals, self-governance, coordination mechanisms, knowledge transfer, identity, scale, network topology, accessibility, and equality. The question or network topology stuck out as an important issue, yet one that I had not considered before as an aspect of collaboration. In the case of Wikipedia, contributions appear to be individually connected, unless there is a conflict with two editors working at the same time. In any given collaboration, is it possible to sketch out a model of the roles and tasks of the individuals or entities involved? Is it always feasible to do so?
Whereas the A. Hyde et al. (2012) discuss the process of collaboration, L. Hyde focus proprietary aspects of collaboration, specifically the “commons.” In contrast to views that place the idea of a commons outside the realm of physical property, L. Hyde speculates that the commons is in fact property, and by definition, “a right to action.” Later, he elaborates by stating that “a commons is a kind of property in which more than one person has rights,” (p. 27) suggesting that a commons may be inclusive of larger units of contributors. The word “commons” itself apparently has been derived from proprietary feudal systems, where such a thing would ultimately be under the ownership of nobility and in order to be used by others, they would have to contribute certain goods or resources in exchange. In this case, a commons was typically a piece of land jointly used by multiple individuals for agrarian purposes. These types of systems strictly controlled the use of the commons as well as any product reaped from it. According to the author, a modern commons is a “kind of property in which more than one person has a right of action.” (p. 43) As “commoners,” how should they view their contributions? Can one reasonably expect to have sole ownership of property once its been submitted to a commons?
This week, we again consider the issue of ownership of intellectual property. A Hyde et al. (2012) prompts us to consider the complexities of collaboration, and to think about ways to structure successful collaborations, while L. Hyde describes the evolution of the modern commons as a property with collective ownership. As teachers and academics, in what ways can we effectively structure collaboration and sharing of knowledge in a commons? What recommendations would you have for students and peers to form constructive models of knowledge generation and sharing?
Lewis Hyde (2010). Common As Air: Revolution, Art and Ownership. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, p. 23-38.
Adam Hyde, et. al. (2012). What Is Collaboration Anyway? In Mandiberg (Ed.), The Social Media Reader, 53-67.