So if you’ve read this site for awhile you know that Lawrence Lessig is one of the people I really admire, not only for his brain but for what he’s doing with it. His latest screencast on Google Book Search is definitely worth the look, and anyone who is trying to understand the significance of this Read/Write Web thing we’re mucking around in needs to read this piece in the Financial Times. It’s pegged on the animated music video phenomenon and how (guess what?) there are now attempts to rein it in. But it’s also about the amazing potential of what we have here and the threats to it. A few excerpts:
AMVs are just part of a growing and important “Read-Write” internet-a world in which content is bought, but not simply to be consumed. Blogs, photo journals and sites such as Wikipedia and MySpace signal an extraordinary hunger in our culture for something beyond consumption. According to a recent Pew study, almost 60 per cent of US teenagers have created and shared content on the internet. That number will only grow next year. As it does, these creators will increasingly demand freedom to create, or more precisely, re-create, using as inputs the culture that they buy. In a sense, this re-creativity of the Read-Write internet is nothing new. Since the beginning of human society, individuals have remixed the culture around them, sharing with their friends the product of these remixes.
We’ve all got to understand this and take every opportunity to let people know what this means. Lessig writes that we’re on the precipice of an era where an amazing explosion of culture could take place as long as it’s not co-opted by those in power politically or financially:
It is hard for those of us from the couch potato generation to understand why the creativity of the Read-Write internet is important. But if you focus on something that we are likely to understand – market value – then the Read-Write internet, indeed, has a great deal to recommend it. The computers, bandwidth, software and storage media needed to enable an efficient Read-Only internet are but a fraction of the technology needed to support the Read-Write internet. The potential for growth with the Read-Write internet is extraordinary, if only the law were to allow it.
And if you don’t think this is important to our kids, listen up:
But to those building the Read-Write internet, economics is not what matters. Nor is it what matters to their parents. After a talk in which I presented some AMV work, a father said to me: “I don’t think you really realise just how important this is. My kid couldn’t get into college till we sent them his AMVs. Now he’s a freshman at a university he never dreamed he could attend.” The father was right. We do not realise how significant the Read-Write internet could be. Nor can I even begin to imagine how policymakers could be made to see the harm that perfecting the Read-Only internet will have for this more vibrant and valuable alternative.
There is much to get our heads around, but if we don’t recognize the urgency of this particular issue right now, there may not be too much left to think about in a few years.