Learning, Authenticity & Online Policy Primers

This year I’ve been enjoying designing and implementing a series of new assignments and assessment techniques with students in our Internet Studies programmes.  One of the most challenging things about working in Internet Studies is trying to make assignments authentic – which basically means doing assignments which can end up being meaningful and, ideally, viewable by the world-at-large on the Internet.  One assignment that has worked particularly well and I thought worth sharing is from the unit Online Politics and Power, which looks at power in various guises and instances online. 

One of the most interesting ways power is deployed online is through those infamous Terms of Use and Terms of Service which 95% of people never read, but always agree to, when signing up for a new service.  So, I thought it’d be useful to ask students to really interrogate the Terms of Service of some online tools and platforms.  More to the point, I wanted this to be a useful assignment beyond the confines of a university unit.  So, I asked students to find a way to communicate the core elements of some Terms of Use in a way that would be accessible to the general public, hence an Online Policy Primer.  (If you’re interested the assignment outline and requirements are online here.)

I have to say, I was blown away by how good the Primers are, and how, ultimately, useful they are, too.  Also, while we did discuss the Creative Commons, I didn’t stipulate that students had to use a CC license, but I was delighted that many chose to do so.  Of those that did, I’d like to share three stand-out examples. 

The first, by Paula (@MXYZ_), takes a close look at Flickr’s Terms of Service and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attributions Share-Alike license [CC BY SA]:

The second, by Simon (@whoisimon) explores the Terms of Service for Slideshare and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike license [CC BY NC SA]:

And the third, and final, policy primer I wanted to highlight is by Chea Hwey Yea, looking at Twitter’s Terms of Service and is also licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike license [CC BY NC SA]:

These are just three examples of the many, many wonderful primers students created; while not everyone used a Creative Commons license, three more Primer’s worth highlighting are a machinima presentation exploring Second Life’s Terms of Service created by Rhys Moult,  Renee Bird’s close look at the Terms of Use for the Multiplayer Online Game Evony, and Veronica Fry’s analysis of YouTube’s Terms of Service.

As you can see, these students have a lot to be proud of and have, in many cases, created Primers which are likely to be useful well beyond the confines of the unit!

[Cross-posted from Tama Leaver dot Net]

A Very CC Year …

As it’s the Creative Commons movement celebrates a birthday this week, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on my year in CC terms, as well as showing off some very impressive CC-licensed work by my honours students.  It has already been a pretty big year in Creative Commons terms for me and the students I teach; in the first semester my Digital Media class experimented with Creative Commons licenses on a lot of their output, including many of their Student News reports and almost all of their outstanding Digital Media Projects; I’ve also enjoyed being part of an education panel at the Building an Australasian Commons conference in July, as well as presenting on my talk ‘Building Open Education Resources from the Bottom Up’ at the Open Education Resources Free Seminar today in Brisbane in September.

As the year’s drawing to a close, I’m delighted to highlight one last effort, this time from the honours students in my iGeneration: Digital Communication and Participatory Culture course.  The course, as in past years, has been a collaborative effort between the students and myself; I’ve provided the framing narrative and opening and closing weeks, while the students, in consultation, have written the central seminars in the course.  Moreover, all course content from the seminars to the curriculum, from the students’ audio podcasts to their amazing remix videos, has been released under a Creative Commons license as both an exemplar of their fine work and an Open Educational Resource which, hopefully, will be something other teachers, students and creative citizens can draw upon for their own purposes. Moreover, given that I first ran iGeneration in 2005, this year’s students already built upon the work of that first cohort, learning from their peers and, hopefully, sharing so future peers can build on this work, too.

I also thought I’d take this opportunity to showcase some of the specific media projects created this year.  The first is a really impressive podcast by Kiri Falls which looked at the Babelswarm art installation in Second Life

Babelswarm MP3

[Full Sources & Exegesis] [CC BY NC SA]
Kiri’s final project for the unit, this time a remix video, takes quite literally the idea that creativity builds upon the past, with this enjoyable video which mashes together a plenitude of videos and photographs …

[Full Sources & Exegesis] [CC BY NC SA]

The second remix project I wanted to showcase is by Alex Pond; Alex has created a short but very poignant  video which takes issue with the monolith that is copyright law, but celebrates the freedoms which are shared via the Creative Commons …

[Full Sources & Exegesis] [CC BY NC SA]

The final remix I wanted to highlight is a bit different.  This one, by Chris Ardley, includes art and music from creators who’ve explicitly given Chris permission to re-use their work and share it under a CC license.  This animation, created in Flash, explores remix more metaphorically, and tells a tale of worldly creation …

[Full Sources & Exegesis] [CC BY NC SA]

I think all of these projects are quite impressive, and I was delighted at how seriously this year’s students took the idea of remix and how many of them embraced everything that the Creative Commons has to offer, as well as giving back something of their own.  I’ve also finally written iGeneration up as an educational example in the CC Case Studies Wiki, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while!

So, Happy 6th Birthday to the Creative Commons! In the next six years, I hope you’ll consider sharing work under a CC license if you haven’t already, but a shared culture can help us all be a lot more creative.  I know my students have benefitted from the generosity of the Creative Commons, and have, in turn, added a few quite impressive ideas and artefacts back in the creative stream.

[Cross-posted from Tama Leaver dot Net]

AFACT vs iiNet (and convincing Australia’s teenagers they’re pirates)


As most people in Australia would now be aware, one of the most important developments in terms of civil rights and the Australian internet has now gone before the courts as a consortium, led by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) is suing ISP iiNet for refusing to cut off customers for alleged (not proven!) copyright infringement in terms of bittorent media downloads. From the Age:

The Australian film and television industry has launched a major legal action against one of Australia’s largest internet service providers for allegedly allowing its users to download pirated movies and TV shows. The action against iiNet was filed in the Federal Court today by Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Disney and the Seven Network. Mark White, iiNet’s chief operating officer, said the company did not support piracy in any form but it could not disconnect customers just because the movie industry claimed they engaged in illegal downloading. Adrianne Pecotic, executive director of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), said the action followed a five-month investigation by the industry.

There are also arguments made that peer to peer networks should simply be blocked (although that argument hasn’t been in quit those terms just yet in this case) but that serves as a good opportunity to remember that p2p and, yes, even bittorent, are not intrinsically for distribution of ‘pirated’ media; there are plenty of things, including feature films, being distributed via peer to peer networks which are entirely legal!

One thing this case should, hopefully, achieve, is to test the extent to which recently imported ‘safe harbour’ provisions actually stand up in an Australian court:

"This is a very important test case for the internet industry in Australia," said Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association. "It will test the effect of the safe harbour provisions that were introduced with the US free trade agreement, which provides immunity for ISPs in certain circumstances such as transmission, hosting, caching and referencing activities."

However, as this article from Michael Sainsbury and Fran Foo in Australian IT notes, the lawsuit seems to stand on pretty thin legal grounds (disclaimer: I ain’t no lawyer!):

iiNet managing director Michael Malone said when it received AFACT’s complaints, they were forwarded to the Police. "But AFACT refused to talk to the Police," Mr Malone said. Ms Pecotic brushed aside Mr Malone’s explanation, saying: "The law is clear and iiNet knows that. They cannot pass the buck … it is their responsibility." "There were many things that iiNet could have done and at the very least, issue a warning to the customers involved but they did nothing," she said. Unlike a number of other major jurisdictions such as the United States and Britain, Australia does not have blanket agreement between content companies and broadband providers about file swapping. An Optus spokesperson said that under Australian law there are remedies available to copyright holders, including taking action directly against those alleged to be infringing rights. "It is unfortunate that the rights holders are targeting an ISP because under Australian law, internet service providers may generally be considered conduits which provide carriage services, and as such are not responsible for copyright infringements carried out by customers using their internet services,” the spokesperson said. This position is reflected in sections 39 (B) and 112 (E) of the Copyright Act 1968 (Com), and in the safe harbours set out in Division 2AA, which were introduced protect ISPs from being onerously required to enforce intellectual property rights where they are merely providing carriage services.

On the smaller screen front, TV Tonight notes that Channel 7 is part of the group attacking iiNet, although reading the comments on the TV Tonight post, this action seems to have focused even more people’s feeling that they are downloading television shows because local networks simply aren’t providing the goods in a timely or consistent fashion!

iiNet’s own response seems the most sensible part of this whole debacle:

iiNet’s Managing Director Michael Malone said iiNet does not in any way support or encourage breaches of the law, including infringement of copyright. “In reality, iiNet has been leading the industry in making content available legally through our Media Lounge, including agreements with iTunes, ABC iView, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Cruizin’, Macquarie Digital TV, NASA Television, Barclays Premier League football, Drift Racing 2007 and classic highlights of golf’s four Majors,” Mr Malone said. Mr Malone said iiNet had not breached any laws and had repeatedly passed on copyright holders’ complaints to law enforcement agencies for investigation. He said iiNet had advised the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) that their complaints had been forwarded to law enforcement agencies and that they should follow the matter up with them. iiNet’s Customer Relations Agreement clearly spells out that customers must comply with the law and that our service must not be used “to commit an offence or to infringe another person’s rights”. “iiNet cannot disconnect a customer’s phone line based on an allegation. The alleged offence needs to be pursued by the police and proven in courts. iiNet would then be able to disconnect the service as it had been proven that the customer had breached our Customer Relations Agreement,” Mr Malone said.

Relying on the idea that customers are innocent until proven guilty?  Whatever is iiNet thinking?

At the same time this lawsuit was announced, AFACT released the following ‘resource’ – Nothing beats the real thing! How copyright, creativity and citizenship shape our society (subtitle: Film Piracy – Your Actions Can Make a Difference) – which has been mailed on DVD and hardcopy to every secondary school in Australia. The ‘resource’ is structured around addressing film piracy; the ‘civics lessons’ here are, at best, tailored to a very specific commercial aim and, at worst, an advertising campaign trying to make relevant copyright laws which have long since been dismissed as out of touch by the most teenagers.  More to the point, a genuine civics lesson on copyright would spend considerable time discussing fair dealing, the public domain and the Creative Commons (and other copyleft licenses) as a channel for personal and political creativity and expression (to be fair, both of these things are mentioned in the ‘resource’, but a single paragraph hardly does the Creative Commons justice, especially when it spend half the time emphasising that CC licenses are complex: “There are lots of different types of ‘Creative Commons’ licences, so make sure you always read the terms and conditions of these before applying them to your work or using material licensed under such a licence.”). How central is film piracy to these civics lessons?  The lesson structure:


Is the ‘resource’ balanced?  I’ll leave you take a look for yourself (6Mb PDF), but I’ve never read an educational resource before which feels the need to include this disclaimer (p. 4.):

The resource is not a propaganda exercise. It does make clear to students that there are harmful consequences from film piracy, but it does so through educationally valid processes. It is an educational approach that allows students to face a significant civics and citizenship issue: their role in a society where many of them and their peers are breaking the law.

All I can say is I’d be really, really disappointed if this was the only resource secondary school teachers were provided when integrating lessons which combine copyright, creativity and civics in the classroom.

[Photo: ‘ars electronica linz 2008’ by Mike from Zurich CC BY (Edited)] [Cross-posted]

Update: Kim Weatherall has a detailed legal (and possibly more balanced) look at the case here. [Via Peter Black]

Stop Internet Censorship in Australia!

As outlined in an article from Electronic Frontiers Australia, the Australian Federal Government’s proposed mandatory internet filtering system in Australia is bad news indeed (via Sky):

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) today expressed alarm at the news that the Government’s “Clean Feed” Internet censorship plan will not allow Australian adults to opt-out. The filter, which will be mandatory for all Australians, was initially touted as a “cyber-safety” measure for homes with children. However, recent comments by experts have revealed the existence of a second, secret black list, that would apply even to homes that managed to opt out of the child-safe filtering scheme. “The news for Australian Internet users just keeps getting worse,” said EFA spokesperson Colin Jacobs. “We have legitimate concerns with the creeping scope of this unprecedented interference in our communications infrastructure. It’s starting to look like nothing less than a comprehensive program of real-time Internet censorship.” … Most worrying of all is the ever-increasing scope of the filtering scheme. “The definition of inappropriate material has never been well defined,” said Jacobs. “With Government-mandated software monitoring each Internet connection, we expect the scope to expand further as time goes by. How will the Government resist pressure by Family First or other special interest groups to permanently block material considered by some to be harmful?” [via Sky]

Thankfully the protests are coming in loud and clear. From the No Internet Censorship for Australia page, here are the six main reasons why “filtering” (ie censoring) the Australian internet en masse is a bad idea:

  • Most Australians don’t want the filter. Support for this overly broad policy is virtually non-existent, even from child-protection organisations. A recent survey shows that 51.5% of Australian net user strongly oppose the plan, while only 2.9% strongly support it.6
  • One size doesn’t fit all. A single filter list can’t deliver results that are appropriate for all parents, teens and children, with no way to modify the filter for your household.
  • The protection for children is minor at best, an illusion at worst. The filter does nothing to protect children from real threats like cyber-bullying, online sexual predators, viruses, or the theft of personal information. It may provide a false sense of security to parents, reducing effective monitoring of their children’s online activities.
  • The money is better spent elsewhere. The filter will cost tens of millions of dollars to attempt. Yet the Government’s own studies admit education is more effective than filtering in protecting children, and that "content risks" are less dangerous than other risks.7
  • No other democracy has such a scheme. Comparable systems in Europe only filter a handful of illegal sites, and then only to prevent accidental access. 8
  • Those that want filtering already have it. The Government already offers filtering software to any home that requests it, free of charge.

Darren Pauli also has a good article in Computerworld about why internet censorship in Australia is a bad move [via]:

Australians will be unable to opt-out of the government’s pending Internet content filtering scheme, and will instead be placed on a watered-down blacklist, experts say. Under the government’s $125.8 million Plan for Cyber-Safety, users can switch between two blacklists which block content inappropriate for children, and a separate list which blocks illegal material. Pundits say consumers have been lulled into believing the opt-out proviso would remove content filtering altogether. … A spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the filters will be mandatory for all Australians. … Internet Service Providers (ISPs) contacted by Computerworld say blanket content filtering will cripple Internet speeds because the technology is not up to scratch. Online libertarians claim the blacklists could be expanded to censor material such as euthanasia, drugs and protest.

And for me, as I watch my 8-day old son sleeping in his pram next to me, I’m certain I want his early experiences of the internet to be ones with his parents.  We’ll help him make informed choices about what to see, and we’ll help him learn the critical skills to evaluate and understand the information out there – good and bad.  We won’t try and tell him everything he needs to know is inside this safe, filtered, contained black box or walled off internet, because if we start down that path where would it really end?  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of things I hope my son doesn’t see during his childhood, but I want to help him choose to avoid certain things, I don’t want him living in a country that takes those choices away even from his parents!

Pew Videogames Study Shatters Myths About Teens and Gamers!


The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released a very significant survey which really challenges many popular preconceptions and myths about videogames and the impact of game play on young people.  One of the most important findings is that any stereotype of the typical video game player seems pretty much useless, because almost all American teens, in all their diversity, play videogames:

  • Fully 97% of teens ages 12-17 play computer, web, portable, or console games.
  • 50% of teens played games “yesterday.”
  • 86% of teens play on a console like the Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii.
  • 73% play games on a desktop or a laptop computer.
  • 60% use a portable gaming device like a Sony PlayStation Portable, a Nintendo DS, or a Game Boy.
  • 48% use a cell phone or handheld organizer to play games.
  • 99% of boys and 94% of girls play video games.

Nor is there one dominant gaming type or genre:

The five most popular games among American teens are Guitar Hero, Halo 3, Madden NFL, Solitaire, and Dance Dance Revolution. These games include rhythm games (Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution), puzzle/card games (Solitaire), and sports games.

Likewise, rather than being isolating, gaming is actually a primarily social experience for many teens:

For most teens, gaming is a social activity and a major component of their overall social experience. Teens play games in a variety of ways, including with others in person, with others online, and by themselves. Although most teens play games by themselves at least occasionally, just one-quarter (24%) of teens only play games alone, and the remaining three-quarters of teens play games with others at least some of the time.

  • 65% of game-playing teens play with other people who are in the room with them.
  • 27% play games with people who they connect with through the internet.
  • 82% play games alone, although 71% of this group also plays with others.

It was also reassuring that most parents monitor what sort of games their kids play, at least in the earlier years, and most parents did not find any correlation between videogames and anti-social or violent behaviour in teens:

  • 90% of parents say they always or sometimes know what games their children play.
  • 72% say they always or sometimes check the ratings before their children are allowed to play a game.
  • 46% of parents say they always or sometimes stop their kids from playing a game.
  • 31% of parents say they always or sometimes play games with their children.
  • 62% of parents of gamers say video games have no effect on their child one way or the other.
  • 19% of parents of gamers say video games have a positive influence on their child.
  • 13% of parents of gamers say video games have a negative influence on their child.
  • 5% of parents of gamers say gaming has some negative influence/some positive influence, but it depends on the game.

One of the other major findings was that games tended to be played socially (ie with others) more than in isolation, and that gaming communities tended to make teens socially and politically active! If you’re in any way interested, I’d encourage you to look at the report yourself (PDF link); it’s already getting decent media coverage. Meanwhile, the BBC also reports that a huge study of EverQuest II players discovered that they were neither obese nor was their Body Mass Index (BMI) any higher than the norm (actually, it was a little lower).

[Photo: ‘I … Will Help … My Friends’ by _mpd_, CC BY NC SA.]
[Cross-posted from Tama Leaver dot Net.]

Presidential Presentation Zen


Those who’ve heard my thoughts on presentations in general (most are bad … including most of mine), you’ll also know I think Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen (the blog and the book) is the most insightful guide to contemporary presentation design currently available.  Thus, I was fascinated by Garr’s take on the differences between Barack Obama and John McCain’s national convention speeches and the graphic elements which accompanied them.  The short version: Obama presents like a deity, while McCain bombed in visual terms.  In terms of teaching presentation, though, Garr did mock-ups of how McCain’s talk would have looked in different styles which really get you thinking.  Here’s the difference between an MBA and Steve Jobs presenting so you can see what I mean (and why this would be useful when trying to get others to think through presentation in visual terms):



[Images all from Presentation Zen.]
[Cross-posted from Tama Leaver dot Net.]

Student Digital Media Project Showcase

After getting off to a decent start with my blogging about student creativity this year, I seem to have fallen a little behind.  I’ve had this post in draft form for ages, waiting for some insightful commentary to spring forth from my uncooperative brain, but alas, none has emerged so I thought I’d just showcase a few outstanding examples from my Digital Media (Comm2203) unit last semester and let them speak for themselves! While the first Student News assignment in this unit asked students to make a relatively traditional television news-style story (the best of which were screened on local tv), the final project was rather different as it was designed to provoke some hard thinking about digital media more broadly both in form and content.  The outline for the final projects stated:

The Digital Media Project is designed to explore the affordances of digital video and media in an online context. Working in teams (the same as your Student News Project team), students will produce a 3-minute short digital video piece which critically explores an idea, concept or area which was discussed in or, or directly provoked by, the ‘Convergence & Transmedia Storytelling’ or ‘Citizen Journalism and Participatory Culture’ lectures, readings and seminars.

This project emphasizes (a) research in the area of digital media, (b) clarity in communicating and sharing a research-informed perspective or argument about part of the digital media landscape; (c) taking an innovative approach to creating digital media; and (d) technical proficiency in creating digital media.

Given that the first half of the unit was largely practical – many were first-time users of digital video cameras, sound equipment and non-linear editing software – I wondered if introducing conceptual material from the likes of Henry Jenkins and Axel Bruns might overwhelm students; on the contrary, I found almost everyone excelled at combining their newfound practical skills with wider issues and concepts.  All 28 projects submitted were of a high quality, and everyone who took this unit should be proud of their work, but a few really did stand out amongst the rest and are well worth highlighting here.

The first project I want to mention is ‘Citizen Journ vs Traditional Journ‘ which mimics the style of the Mac Vs PC advertisements, with a stop-motion twist, to explore the changing relationship between traditional journalists and citizen journalist:

In a similar vein but using a really different technique, ‘Something Old, Something New‘ mixes footage from a 1940s documentary on being a journalist with contemporary footage to examine exactly how far journalism has changed in the face of participatory culture:

Looking at web 2.0 culture more broadly, ‘A Blog’s Life’ is a comical look at the evolution of blogging in the style of a nature documentary:

And in a slightly more academic tone, ‘Transmedia Storytelling and Convergence’ gives a pretty good rundown of some core features of Henry Jenkins’ arguments about transmedia in the digital media landscape:

Finally, ‘Joe Bloggs Presents Web 2.0’ is a laugh out loud satire looking at the average blogger (A LANGUAGE WARNING, though: Joe Bloggs swears like an angry trooper!):

And, yes, I did have what can best be described as an awkward cameo appearance in that the adventures of Web 2.0 there – but it was worth if, if nothing else, for that outstanding end credits song! If you’re inspired so see more, 27 of the digital media projects can be found here.  Also, it’s worth mentioning that the majority of students chose to post their work under a Creative Commons license (not all, I should add, but I’m pleased enough that by the end of the course everyone knew enough to make an informed choice one way or another).

Oh and quick shout out: my partner in crime in teaching Digital Media was Christina Chau who was an excellent tutor and whose own thoughts on the unit can be read here!

[Cross-posted from Tama Leaver dot Net.]

Creative Commons Australia – 3.0 License Drafts and more…


I’ve been meaning to post about all the exciting things Creative Commons Australia have been up to since I returned from the fabulous Building an Australasian Commons national conference (and the linked Creating Value: Between Commerce and Commons international conference), but it’s taken a few weeks so first off I want to draw your attention to the Creative Commons Australia 3.0 draft licenses which have been ported to Australia, bringing CCau up to date with the global 3.0 releases.  The licenses are in draft form and open for comment now, so I’d encourage you to take a look and leave comments if any come to mind.  This version is more directly based on the CCNZ 3.0 licenses which are considerably more understandable for the layperson (ie non-lawyer, like me).  The public comment phase has been going for a while, and for comments to be addressed before the official release they need to be made by 1 August 2008 (yes, I should have mentioned this earlier, but go look now, you’ve still got a couple of weeks).

Equally exciting, a global project spearheaded by Creative Commons Australia has been released: the Creative Commons Case Studies project.  One of the biggest challenges when explaining Creative Commons licenses to other people was the lack of examples.  Sure, we can all talk about Cory Doctorow’s exemplary book licensing, but there are so many other projects out there using CC licenses to share, publicise and allow others to build upon and remix their work.  Well, the Case Studies project makes life a whole lot easier, collating a wealth of examples from across the globe when groups, bands, corporations, universities and more have used CC licenses.  Each case study features an overview, how the CC license is used, and the motivations for choosing a CC license; this structure ensures that we understand what CC licenses can achieve and the various philosophies behind their use (from philanthropic to purely promotional).  The best part, though, is that the Case Studies project is wiki-based, meaning anyone who wants to can add an example either of their own use, or of someone else’s exemplary work under CC.  I’ve got a couple of examples of past work with my students I’ll by adding soon, and I hope if you’ve been using CC licenses either in education or anywhere else, you might want to consider documenting your best examples to share with the world, too.

[Cross-posted from my main blog.]