They Won’t Write The Songs

And they won’t design the products. Or author the books. Or develop significant new ideas. Not when the culture in which they’re living thinks it’s okay to copy. And that’s the cultural issue/problem being reported over on the BBC today (Link) and it’s something about which I’ve also expressed concern. From the short report:

Many of the new generation of students raised on the internet see nothing wrong with copying other people’s work, says Professor Sally Brown.

If I had to guess I’d say we’ll have a creativity peek in the short term as artists/musicians/writers/designers use the tools now available to them to do some interesting things. But after that, if there’s no change in the Copy Culture, I expect a long slide into Boring. So stock up on exciting, innovative stuff now.

4 thoughts on “They Won’t Write The Songs

  1. As an “educator” I got to feeling all culpable after reading your post. But I got to thinking about “copy & paste” culture as sampling, like in hip-hop. Is copying a source without citing it a way of dissing the source? Is citing like giving props to it? I wonder if it has come to that — if we really do (or if Gen-Y does?) have such a cavalier attitude toward other people’s creative work.

  2. I’m sensitive to the fact that it’s in our nature to copy what we like and re-use it; to “sample”. As a designer, I’m aware that if we see something we like we’ll either consciously or unconsciously draw from that source. But there’s a fine line between “influence” and “copy”. And there are issues of intent that are often associated when the line gets especially thin and blurry.

    What concerns me the most here is Intent. They’re not sampling the way a hip hop artist samples and manipulates to create their own content; or the way a designer sees a form or solution and integrates it into their work. They instead seem to behave like end-users; as if they’re consumers. They don’t seem to care what they’re doing or even why it is they’re supposed to be doing it in the first place.

    This is a much bigger issue than just intellectual property law. This goes to people not even wanting to think for themselves and express their own ideas in their own voice; instead appropriating what they find and too casually using someone else’s words and ideas as their own. I can hear one of them now: “That sounds good… close enough… I haven’t really thought about it but that’s okay”. It’s lazy. And it’s dangerous. If they don’t care enough to think for themselves, there will always be someone else to do it for them.

  3. I think we have to talk about specifics — plagiarism in a term paper (or in a novel) is a bad. Sampling in music is a good. Sampling, with props given for the sample, is the heart of research, and, as a friend pointed out on my blog post ( a long-standing and necessary tradition in all arts, of course.

    The funny thing about plagiarism is that it doesn’t fit with in with people’s notion of theiving yet. But in an information economy, isn’t that bound to change? Especially if, as you say, there will always be someone else to think for those who do lift ideas?

    It reminds me of pollination — if people just shuffle ideas and info around without critical evaluation and synthesis and evaluation, then they’re kind of like a wild bird, just moving pollen to a new place — almost accidently, but certainly without much consciousness about the process or content. I guess I’m talking about this with at least two metaphors now.

  4. The funny thing about plagiarism is that it doesn’t fit with in with people’s notion of theiving yet.

    Which is why I’m not talking specifics. I believe that people in general need a better understanding of why we have IP laws and how they do, in fact, benefit us. I’m not talking the pathetic stuff we have on the books now. I’m talking the general concept behind IP. The problem is that everyone talks specifics – most especially citing a) examples of corporate corruption or b) examples of opensource success – when those obscure the overriding idea.

    It’s when I zoom out a bit further that I start to see the kinds of issues I mention; the bigger societal issues about what’s happening. I could take your pollination example and apply it to real issues – like voting for laws (on things like the Patriot Act or amendments to define marriage in some way or another). If people are only mindlessly copying text into their essays the way they consume mp3’s, who’s to say they’ll give issues put before them any more thought. There’s a problem here that goes beyond the specifics and much of it afaic is in your own words: “shuffle ideas and info around without critical evaluation and synthesis and evaluation.”

    Ideas, laws, social systems and similar things should not be put into the same dime store grab bag as consumable product. But I think that’s largely what’s going on here; everything is a consumable. If you don’t like it, return it. Don’t have the cash, “get the credit YOU DESERVE”. We’re brainwashing ourselves!

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