Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, I wonder what will become of all the fan fiction works licensed by Lucasfilm. I would suspect that Disney has an even more restrictive view of what fans should be entitled to do with the works than Lucasfilm did. Anyone have any thoughts/info about the future of existing fan fiction works or the likelihood of new Star Wars fan fiction with Disney at the helm?
Zenmanenergy. Great brand name. It evokes a person at peace with his goals and willing to answer questions such as “Is it fair to say that you are effectively ‘giving the tech away’ once it’s up and running?” with a simple “Yes.” Steve Nelson rounded and runs Zenman. He admits the ideas are not that new. But he is dedicated to reducing the cost, sharing the plans, and starting an open source movement to help the solution scale and evolve fast. All he wants is a salary. The endeavor seems to run on donations for now. I hope that Google, Microsoft, et al. take note as they did with Khan Academy and fund Mr. Nelson. Assuming his plan is somewhat viable, his humility and approach to improving the offering make him another example of the open source ethic. As he explains:
I plan to give away the construction plans, videos, pictures, calculations, software for free. On top of that, if I can collect enough donations I want to help others get started by providing grants to build small solar power plants. That’s how this will really take off. I cannot create enough solar power plants to make a difference, but could 10,000 people? How about a million?
Of course the secondary benefit to helping others get started is I expect they will improve the design. This style of “open source” is how much of the software that runs the internet works. I’m mimicking that model as best I can.
And for those wondering about the legal aspects, he seems smart enough to use the IP system to control the process a la Creative Commons. That is establish rights and then the system for open use.
Dave Hoffman and Salil Mehra’s Wikitruth Through Wikiorder is fascinating paper on how Wikipedia and one type of commons works. When I saw this article “Wikipedia is editorial warzone, says study,” I thought that perhaps the legal academic work would cross over. The full paper, Dynamics of Conflicts in Wikipedia did not mention the Hoffman and Mehra paper. Maybe the sociological inquiry did not match. Maybe the other authors read the paper and did not see a way to cite it. For me, I wonder whether other fields draw across disciplines as much as law seems to do. In any event, the methods are different. The issues are related. So I perhaps both have a place for those interested in the way wikipedia manages it vast system.
Like John Cusack in Better Off Dead when all songs seem to be about what is on your mind (see below), education seems to pop up everywhere I look right now. Well, why fight it? This link is to a host of online resources (HT: Esther Wojcicki). I listen to lectures while exercising. So far Berkeley has proven the best source for excellent lectures on philosophy (try Hubert Dreyfus, Wendy Brown, and Nathan Sayre (geography)). Some of the links take more work than others. Science.gov has a wealth of government studies etc., but you must hunt for what you want. In Property, Persona, and Preservation, I draw on Richard Lanham’s work to show that the ability to parse, sort, and organize is a source of value that can be seen in professors’ syllabi and other means of focusing attention. The list above sits in an odd place. It parses and sorts an array of options for online resources. Yet, the quality of the resources (how good and how easy to use) is not that clear. I’ll take the list and do some work, but in some possible future, a tool will do more to let me know which of this excellent list is most useful to various things one may want. Maybe a directory…paging Yahoo! white courtesy telephone. Or perhaps that whole search thing will evolve to read our minds, but only in the way we want. Well if I am in dreamland, I suppose I am still in Better Off Dead and about to hear Van Halen as burgers come to life.
Costs of education need to come down. Open course materials are growing. Maybe education will indeed undergo a transformation in the next ten years. There are many things that will need to change for true education reform to take place. But better resources matter. Enter Rice University. Its OpenStax College initiative tries to address the problem of source fragmentation. In other words, resources, resources everywhere but no time to synch may be less of a problem than it has been so far. One nice touch is format flexibility: web, e-textbook, or hard copy options are available. “The first five textbooks in the series–Physics, Sociology, Biology, Concepts of Biology, and Anatomy and Physiology–have been completed, and the Physics and Sociology textbooks are up at openstaxcollege.org. The model is curious:
Using philanthropic funding, Baraniuk and the team behind OpenStax contracted professional content developers to write the books, and each book went through the industry-standard review cycle, including peer review and classroom testing. The books are scope- and sequence-compatible with traditional textbooks, and they contain all of the ancillary materials such as PowerPoint slides, test banks, and homework solutions.
So there is professional level seeding of content while also allowing for wiki-like contribution:
Each book has its own dashboard, called StaxDash. Along with displaying institutions that have adopted the book, StaxDash is also a real-time erratum tracker: Faculty who are using the books are encouraged to submit errors or problems they’ve found in the text. “There’s also the issue of pointing out aspects of the text that need to be updated,” notes Baraniuk, “for example, keeping the Sociology book up-to-date as the Arab Spring continues to evolve. People can post these issues, and our pledge is that we are going to fix any issues as close to ‘in real time’ as possible. These books will be up-to-date in a matter of hours or days instead of years.” When accessing a book through its URL on Connexions, students and faculty will always get the most up-to-date version of the book. Faculty can, however, use the “version control” feature on Connexions to lock in a particular version of the book for use throughout a semester.
If you thought that keeping up with authoritative versions of an ebook and citing it (trust me it is odd to cite to a location in a Kindle book) was messy, this new model will throw you. Then again, that is a small issue.
Group contributions for the latest on an issue and the ability to choose versions is a great idea. Law texts that could update the latest cases or a change in legislation as they happen and then be refined overtime would be wonderful. Of course teachers use other ways to reach these goals. But if crowds/commons style approaches to texts work, we may see better and less expensive versions of textbooks. How the system will mangage disputes about content and education boards’ issues with approval remains to be seen. Still, the promise of this approach should make the miasmic aspects of education boards look silly and create a press for improved ways to have quality content available for educators and most important, for students.