Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cultural Shift? Plagiarism vs. Remixing

Here is an interesting story about a 17-year-old uber-author in Germany who is successful while withstanding a charge of plagiarism...but she calls it mixing.

Some background: (re)mixing has many contexts. In music, it is the mixing of sound tracts into an alternative form of the work. In literature, the most obvious meaning is that used in the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license, in which others may "remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms." A publisher of one of Yours Truly's stories used the non-commercial form of this license for their anthology.

According to this NYT story, 17-year-old German author Helene Hegemann has a staged play and a script for a theatrically distributed movie to her credit, and now a well-selling novel (5th in Spiegel's best-seller list). However, someone pointed out that pieces of her novel, sometimes page-length) were lifted with little change from other works. Naturally a controversy arose. But even an important literary prize staff has overlooked this problem with her work and are still considering it. They apparently felt that the story was new and important enough, even with the copied passages, to justify continued consideration. The author says she did not plagiarize. She mixed. This is what people do now in the world of the always-connected Internet.

Is she right? Has the standard of plagiarism irrevocably changed or shifted?

For more on this story, see the NYT article, entitled, "Author, 17, Says It's 'Mixing,' Not Plagiarism."

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Listen to the Doctorow: Internet's Transformation of Popular Media

Cory Doctorow is a Sci-Fi writer and uber-Internet citizen, as editor of BoingBoing, the number one blog on the Internet according to Technorati's top 100. Here is his take on how the Internet will affect various media, including newspapers (in big trouble), big-budget movies, music and books. Regarding newspapers, he says:
The imminent collapse of the American newspaper industry has spawned entire gazeteers' worth of high-minded handwringing about the social value of newspapers and the social harm that their disappearance will unleash. It's probably all true. I love the smudgy old devils, from the headlines to the funny pages....
Regarding books:

...First, the quantity and variety of titles carried outside of bookstores has radically declined, thanks to the rise of national big-box chain stores, who do all ordering from a centralized database....

The other problem is that we're increasingly conditioned to read short blocks of text...in radically different form than you generally find between covers. Combine this with the sheer amount of read-for-pleasure text available at one-click's distance on the Net, and even those of us who worship books find ourselves reading fewer of them....

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Emerging Job: Digital Archiving

One of the emerging job categories these days is digital archiving, professional approaches to recording permanently the seemingly infinite digital information we are creating. [Leaving century] I remember waist-high 40 MB hard drives that served a small corporation. [/] Now, I have heavily photoshopped pictures that are 30 MB. [Leaving century] And I remember when photoshop wasn't a verb. [/]

The linked NYT article isn't revealing a new idea. You can study this at any level, including a doctoral program in digital curation and archiving. Digital archiving is a serious issue for individuals and nations. Finding reliable long-term media is far from trivial, when long-term is 100+ years. To return to the photography example, DVDs once seemed like the dream media. Now, they are laughably small, and can't be relied upon for even a decade. Imagine the issues faced by a large corporation or a modern government. (On the other hand, one DVD will hold about 700,000 flash fiction stories.) Transience of information is also an issue. For example: "Before Barack Obama even finished taking the oath of office, the White House site switched over to the Obama administration’s version." Dang. I meant to copy that.

There are many who lose sleep over finding a way to preserve the entire culture. I don't find that necessary. But we do need to preserve this, the Decade of Flash Fiction.

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