Everything is a remix. If you watch the series, you will know this to be true. Are there any original ideas or are all ideas sparked by something that already exists, somewhere? Science says we are all connected and if you watch this film, you might see new ways in which that is true – the arts and science bouncing off each other, creating theories and movements which mimic each other, disciplines evolving and co-existing together. Here’s the trailer to whet your appetite:
So where does that leave us? I would say in one of the most fortunate, creative, inspiring times in history. The more I read about the topics we are covering in the course the more I think the motto should be “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. It covers everything! With this in mind, fair and ethical use of ideas already “out there” comes down to knowing how to Steal Like An Artist: to be able to differentiate between good theft and bad theft:
Austin Kleon suggests that when we honor those who have created before us by studying their work in depth rather that dipping into their work for a minute, when we give credit to all those who have inspired us, when we draw inspiration for who we are and who we want to be from a wide pool of talent, when we transform ideas into something truly our own, and when we create what can genuinely be called a remix (as opposed to a rip off) we have done ourselves proud.
It should be no surprise that Austin is friends with Kirby Ferguson. The two co-presented with each other at SXSW2012. This is what an Austin/Kirby mash-up looks like via FueledByCoffee artist Craighton Berman:
The ‘takeaways’ from these notes that should be shared with students?
- Rubbish In/Rubbish Out: You are what you let into your life
- There is a ‘hierarchy’ of creativity: It is ok to start with copying as inspiration but don’t stop there and call it what it is – not your own.
- Ask yourself: Would you be ok with meeting the original creator of the work you are claiming as your own?
Here’s an example of what I consider “Good Theft” (and I may be biased because I am the artist in question!). I am a big fan of Seth Godin. Love him. When he wrote his manifesto on education, I devoured it. In it, he challenges people to do something with his ideas, so in the spirt of Dr. Seuss and mirroring the monochromatic, square book that I associate with Austin Kleon, I penned my own version of Stop Stealing Dreams and called it Imagine A School.
My list of creators that inspired this book is long, I wanted to be unique AND part of something, and while I haven’t stood in an elevator with Seth Godin, I have stood in an auditorium with him and he didn’t punch me in the face but rather gave me a standing ovation on behalf of all teachers who are trying to make a difference.
We have to teach responsible use but at the same time we have to teach awesome curation skills, expose our students to quality ideas that inspire, connect them with people who are making a noise. The more they are exposed to how to do it right and more importantly WHY they need to care about doing it right, I believe the richer we all will be.
And it can start young. My second graders are able to find images via Google search that are licensed for non-commercial reuse with modification. My fourth graders are adding links to Keynotes to reference their images. There are tools that are making it even easier for people to make the right choices – because they are being made for them. Apps like Haiku Deck and Adobe Voice use Creative Commons licensed images when you search for a photo within their app or icons from The Noun Project which are licensed for reuse. All images are then cited in the credits of the presentation and options are given for you to add your own credits if you source images from elsewhere.
Why? Why go to all this bother of citing, referencing and giving credit? Because otherwise we are devaluing ourselves and the original creators of the work and drawing everyone into a less civilised society. And we are all better than that, right?