The Matrix metaphor ended up working well with the underlying content, even though the story-line took awhile to develop. In addition, the narrative does seem to be more engaging than plant growth or the water cycle would have been. If we had focused on one interactive screen, perhaps the growth metaphor would have been more appropriate. Something along those lines may have worked well for the final database screen if we had developed it further.
Our final project would work pretty well for publication on a site that publishes multimedia works, or somewhere similar. I’m going to pitch it to the metaLAB @ Harvard and S3NSATE to see if they believe it can be polished up for publication. Further development may include footnotes or mouse-overs which explain some of the visual symbolism that would only be obvious to techies and/or lawyers. In addition, it would be nice to have some way to include legal references and footnotes to explain a bit more to those who are interested in the scholarship behind the story.
It was interesting to engage others in the metaphor and story-line development process, and with visualization concepts in general, to get feedback and input. Translating an abstract or scholarly concept into a narrative form seems to appeal to something basic in people, and it’s often insightful to receive contributions.
Overall the class was very engaging and helped us learn how to present substantive information in new and innovative ways.
With everything polished up, we presented our final product in class on May 18th. You can view our presentation here:
(BE SURE TO CLICK THE OCTAGONAL BUTTONS ON THE “CHOOSE YOUR PROGRAM” PAGE)
And if you’re interested in seeing some of the other students’ presentations, check out the MIT Systems Visualization site here:
It took awhile to try to get the storyline down, and the narrative flow. Wanted to make it somewhat interactive, to involve the reader more and try to get them to participate. Wanted to keep the “Neo” character as blank as possible so readers can project their own image onto him, but trying to develop copyright/cyberlaw reference points for some of the other characters, like Agent Smith and the Oracle.
So, Morpheus got based on Cory Doctorow (a la XKCD, suggested by my boyfriend, Albert, who’s been a great source for nerd culture :-). Just finished putting together a Richard Stallman “Oracle”. Stallman has a saintly alter-ego “St. iGNUcius”. Can’t quite figure out whether he looks better with or without a beard (it seems like he’s kinda creepy with the beard, though, to be fair, Stallman can come across as kinda creepy anyways). Stallman was an early programmer/hacker at MIT who pretty much founded the open source movement, and has been considered “visionary”.
While it makes sense to make the agents some sort of movie industry execs or lawyers, it took awhile to think who the archetypal “Mr. Smith” bad guy would be for a parody of the record industry. Distributor? Producer? A parody of a person or an archetype? Finally decided to give Agent Smith Mickey Mouse ears to reference the role Disney has played in extending copyright laws and cracking down on small actors/remixers who use their stuff. The Sonny Bono Term Extension Act was even dubbed the “Mickey Mouse Act”, which extended protection to the author’s life PLUS 70 years.
After discussing where to go with our narrative and visual metaphor, we came to the conclusion that plant growth and the water cycle didn’t make the most engaging storyline, so we decided to parody The Matrix to comment on the ridiculousness of current copyright laws and legal strategies. It highlights the irony that Hollywood still releases so many “Little Guy Against Big Odds/Big Industry” movies when their litigation strategies are anything but above board. Plus, the whole movie is centered against hackers operating in a virtual space, which makes a good parallel to what’s happening on the internet.
After the narrative, we’re putting in a catalog of recent articles that highlight the ways copyright is hindering innovation rather than fostering it. For example: a film student who had cleared all the rights to do an iRobot play was bullied into pulling it by the lawyers for the studio which decided to release iRobot, and who admitted that he was legally in the clear but that they would just file law suits until he had nothing left. (This Is Why I Oppose the MPAA)
Or the DMCA takedowns which get spammed at anything without any consideration of fair use, and the platforms that are incentivized to adopt overly conservative (read: chilling effect) stances in an attempt to avoid the issue. Along with possibly criminal penalties the DMCA assigns to those who circumvent DRM measures or tell other people how to, including white-hat security analysts and academics.
Anyway, here are some xkcd comics I based Morpheus on. Cory Doctorow is an activist for liberalizing copyright laws, or “Champion for an Open Internet.” Figured the symbolism would make a fitting parallel.
(Thought I’d include this post from my blog arttechlaw.com as it summarizes the legal side of the message I’m trying to communicate in our visualization)
In the United States, protection for intellectual property originates in the Constitution, which grants Congress the power ”[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
The government only has the power to grant copyright protection so long as it incentivizes further creative production. As the reasoning goes, copyright law promotes a net gain in creative output if the intellectual property rights incentivize more creative work than they inhibit by locking down creative capital in exclusive rights.
Feist established that creativity was an essential component forcopyright protection and also clarified that economic concerns of developers were distinct from the policy concerns of the Framers when establishingcopyright. Bridgeman further clarified that “creative spark” … is the sine qua non of originality” and so even if technical skill and effort were evident in the reproductions this effort did not rise to the level of protectable creative expenditure. Not only must some creativity be present, but creative aspects, after having all non-copyrightable elements filtered out, must be compared to the original work to determine the amount of copying in proportion to the whole.
Congress had attempted to clarify the creativity requirement by changing the 1909 Copyright Act’s reference to “all the writings of an author” to “original works of authorship.” The requirement of originality was established in the 1800s with such landmark decisions as the Trade-Mark Cases (requiring originality for a writing to be entitled to protection) and Burrows-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony (affordingcopyright protection only to the “original intellectual conceptions of the author”). The Court weighed author’s incentives for creative production against the need for a sufficiently free flow of information in order to promote the advancement of useful knowledge. In addition, if copyright too easily attached to expression which overlapped or was derived from prior art with little or no modification, the competing interests would have a chilling effect on creative innovation.
Technological developments and the ease with which information flows over the Internet has enabled the free exchange of ideas and allowed culture to flourish. Yet, at the same time, the law is now being used to restrict the distribution of copyrighted works. While publication, distribution, and subsequent copying used to be constrained by the inherent limitations of physical media – quality quickly degrades with subsequent copies, and there is at least some cost to the infringer when they acquire the blank tapes or paper and copying facilities – now copyright law used used more to limit access and prevent artists from using past works as source material, or even a direct source of inspiration.
It isn’t about money, it’s about art. If economic protection incentivizes more innovation, awesome. If it is killing more creativity than it protects, well, then, it’s unconstitutional.
Post #2 in Copyright 500 Series – Copyright Law in 500 Words or Less (from arttechlaw.com)
Our system will be represented visually through a web site, focusing on the visual metaphor and providing an interactive narrative with explanatory text.
Target audience - webizens, especially creative professionals and amateur artists/authors/writers etc.
Publications - metaLAB @ Harvard, Sensate, Communication Arts, or Z-Net (talk to Tad Crawford).