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Blogger Book Club: Dude, Where’s Your Laptop?

A lot of Remix rests on questions of access (“Not necessarily free access. Access.” p. 46)–access to content and then the freedom to use and alter that content.

Related to that, then, one item that kept nagging at me as I read Lessig’s book is how fast we’re approaching a basic literacy that requires computer literacy. And that means not just that you can Google and send an email, but that you can edit media with real fluency and that you are comfortable organizing and processing a large portion of your life through your computer. Or at least a committed and powerful group of people will be focused there, creating and consuming the culture that results. It’s exciting in its massive potential to rouse people from their couches and get them thinking and expressing, but isn’t there a danger that goes unmentioned for all those (and I suspect this could become an even greater issue in the short term as families look to cut expenses) without computers and internet access in their homes? How will that widen the gap between socio-economic groups? Will technology provide lower-cost options quickly enough and public schools be able to keep up for this to be something of a non-issue?

On the other side of that access coin is the issue of higher education. There was a father in the book who noted that his son was having trouble getting into graphic design school until he was able to demonstrate the impressive media-editing knowledge he already possessed by showing administrators his anime music videos. (Page 77, for those playing along at home.) How long then before the importance of traditional higher education as opposed to other forms of training shifts as well, opening career doors to a different group of people who were perhaps previously shut out?


  1. On higher education: I would guess that institutions of higher education will change their curriculum and methods to meet any shift rather than let themselves become obsolete. (At least those institutions whose endowments aren’t sufficiently large to regard the market for students with amusement.) The question would then be how that affects the universities’ collective role as at least this country’s de facto research and development department—including, as a research category, the arts.

  2. This great observation leads to another important, and totally under-addressed point (unaddressed by a lot of the technology-centric copyright critics and thus often left to copyright expansionists to take on). Many of the critics manage to be critical of copyright without necessarily criticizing anything about the material social order .. or maybe a better way to put it is that their critiques could be met without really altering the material social order, and with no major changes expected except in pretty vague “marketplace of ideas” sorts of ways.
    This is one of my difficulties with the whole “digital natives” argument as well. Both Lessig and Palfrey (and lots of Berkman center peoples)’s arguments focus on “our kids” growing up and not being understood by the powers that be due to the kids’ close relationship with technology. That lack of understanding could lead to “our kids” facing difficulties in school or society. But the difficulties “our kids” face usually are not put in any context of the difficulties anybody else faces in school or society, except that they use the same kinds of rights/civil liberties arguments to highlight the injustice “our kids” face… I asked Palfrey whether the copyright changes he wants made on behalf of digital natives would have any implications for any other people who have historically faced difficulty in higher education, and he basically said he hadn’t thought about it. sigh.
    (just found your blog, btw.. so I should say I’m generally wayyyy over on the critical (c) side, especially being a dj and all)

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