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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. RELATED WORK: REMIX, PARTICIPATORY CULTURE, AND INFORMATION LITERACY
  5. SETTING AND METHODOLOGY
  6. FINDINGS
  7. IMPLICATIONS AND DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. REFERENCES

In today's media-rich world, youths are not merely consumers, but also active creators of information. Digital tools allow authors to more easily remix and copy previous works. These new media practices have brought issues of appropriation, copyright, privacy, information behavior, and information literacy to the forefront. In this paper, we present a case study of a hybrid online and offline community of middle school students designed to help them develop identities as scientists through storytelling. The case illuminates the complex issues of appropriation and remix that arise when youths create, share, copy, and adapt their peers' media artifacts. Our analysis then highlights how youths, who are evolving as information literate individuals, identify with (a) attitudes towards information appropriation, (b) strategies of remix, and (c) the underlying values that motivate their ideas about remix practices.


INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. RELATED WORK: REMIX, PARTICIPATORY CULTURE, AND INFORMATION LITERACY
  5. SETTING AND METHODOLOGY
  6. FINDINGS
  7. IMPLICATIONS AND DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. REFERENCES

Online communities, social media sites, and Internet applications provide new ways for individuals to interact with information. One practice, termed remixing, has emerged in both research and popular discussion. To remix means to take existing artifacts (e.g., media, cultural, etc.), and combine or manipulate them to create new, derivative works (Knobel & Lankshear, 2008). Over time, remix practices have taken various forms. Past artifacts inspire many works in writing, movies, and popular culture. However, information in digital form lowers the barriers for individuals to copy, modify, and recreate works. These affordances have led to rapid expansion of remix culture with examples such as videos on YouTube, Internet memes, and fan-fiction (Lessig, 2008).

The dominant narrative surrounding youths as digital natives suggests that youths are avid technology users and the underlying values of remix culture are now a part of their everyday life (Jenkins, 2006; Palfrey & Gasser, 2008; Prensky, 2001). However, the idea of youths as digital natives is problematic and numerous examples exist that show how youths exhibit widely varying information literacy and technology skills (Bennett, Maton, & Kervin, 2008; Foss et al., 2012).

We work from the assumption that youths do not inherently enact or support remix practices merely because they grow up with technology. Rather, remix is an information behavior and literacy skill that is learned over time. This stance attunes us to appreciate the diverse attitudes, strategies, and values of youths towards remix.

The following study explores how youths identify with ideas of remix culture. The study examines three exploratory research questions:

  • 1.
    What attitudes do these youths express towards remix practices?
  • 2.
    What strategies do these youths suggest to facilitate remix behavior with their peers?
  • 3.
    What underlying values motivate these attitudes and strategies?

Our context is an after-school program of inner city, middle school youths. They come from four middle schools in a large, urban city in the eastern United States. The research team is collaborating with school librarians in all four schools to run an after-school program focused on science storytelling. In addition, the research project is focused on creating an online community (social media site) for these youths to share, remix, and publish stories about science that help them to develop identities as scientists and engineers (sci-dentity.org).

The case study in this paper describes an emerging community of young media creators that is in an early stage. The youths in this study have not already “bought in” to the ethos of remix culture. Thus, we are able to shed light on the diverse attitudes and competing values youths have about remix behavior. This study contributes new understanding of how youths, who are evolving as information literate individuals, identify with remix practices. Their responses also illuminate how complex values such as ownership, social recognition, and wealth play into this new form of information behavior.

The research will help inform the next iterative design of the online community for this after-school program, and shed light on how values surrounding remix can inform the design of other online communities. Our case study also informs the design of youth services in a variety of settings (e.g., libraries, classrooms, etc.) that seek to incorporate new media literacy skills for developing learners. We challenge the dominant narrative that youths are natural remixers and illuminate how attitudes and practices surrounding this new information behavior might be developed and cultivated in youth populations.

RELATED WORK: REMIX, PARTICIPATORY CULTURE, AND INFORMATION LITERACY

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. RELATED WORK: REMIX, PARTICIPATORY CULTURE, AND INFORMATION LITERACY
  5. SETTING AND METHODOLOGY
  6. FINDINGS
  7. IMPLICATIONS AND DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. REFERENCES

As individuals increasingly use media and technology in everyday life, their interaction with information also evolves. One information behavior that has garnered increasing attention is the practice of remix. Digital forms of information make it easier to copy, adapt, and manipulate media artifacts. Similarly, diverse cultural practices have emerged around these affordances.

For example, in today's media landscape, an individual with access to technology can create videos on YouTube that “mashup” various video and music sources. A person with basic photo editing skills can contribute a “lolcat” to online forums dedicated to the distribution and remixing of these media artifacts (lolcats are images of cats accompanied by humorous captions). Young authors can participate in fan-fiction sites where new works of fiction are created that build from popular stories (e.g., Star Wars, Twilight, etc.).

Scholars observe that these practices are enabled by access to new technology and are more than trivial hobbies. These modes of interaction with digital information constitute significant cultural, social, technological, and learning behaviors (Ito et al., 2010; Lessig, 2008; Shirky, 2011). Youths are growing up in what Jenkins (2006) terms a participatory culture, where new literacy skills are needed such as the ability to create, share, and modify new ideas and media artifacts. However, remix practices introduce deep controversies related to copyright, appropriation, and social norms.

The predominant discussion surrounding remix often focuses on the legal and economic ramifications of adapting an author's work (e.g., copyright law). When digital tools challenge classical notions of authorship and attribution, there are great ramifications to information policy, copyright, and global economies (Lessig, 2008). Here, the primary concern is developing laws and economic systems in ways that align with emerging remix culture.

Educators and library professionals are concerned with the information literacy issues related to remix (e.g., Jaeger, 2011; Johnson et al., 2011; Knobel & Lankshear, 2008). The definition of information literacy skills has become more complex with the widespread use of newer technologies and the emergence of new digital cultural practices. For example, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) recently released more comprehensive information literacy standards for K-12 instruction – the Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action (AASL, 2009). One of the underlying beliefs in the new standards is that “Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught” (p. 11). Of particular interest, among the four new standards presented in the Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action is Standard 3 – “Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society” (p. 29).

This educational standard offers guidelines on ethical use of information resources, including clear grade-level benchmarks on understanding plagiarism, appropriation, citation style and acceptable use of technology (AASL, 2009). Librarians teach these concepts by incorporating information literacy instruction to the content curriculum of various grade levels and subjects. The Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action further details the responsibilities that children and youths must adhere to when they work with print and digital content. Children and youths discover and use ethical and legal guidelines in gathering and using information, which includes following copyright guidelines in generating products and differentiating clearly between information gathered from sources, original thinking, and conclusions. Although the actual word remix is never used in the AASL Standards, the above instructional guidelines are an effort to address this prevalent information behavior.

There are also a growing number of studies around remix behaviors, in the areas of online communities, social computing, and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Previous studies have explored how an online video sharing site's (Jumpcut) interface, community norms, and economic system influenced users' conceptions of authorship (Diakopoulos, Luther, Medynskiy, & Essa, 2007). Cheliotis and Yew (2009) used social network analysis to examine the structure of remix behaviors in a music-remixing site (ccMixter). Recent studies have considered youth perceptions of plagiarism and attribution in the Scratch online community (Hill et al., 2010; Monroy-Hernandez, Hill, Gonzalez-Rivero, & boyd, 2011).

These studies illuminate the complexities of facilitating remix culture. For example, introducing external motivations such as public competitions might increase the number of participants in an online community, but these participants do not become dedicated members in the remix community (Cheliotis & Yew, 2009). Studies also find that young people appreciate attribution (or getting credit) when it comes from a human being, compared to when it is automatically given by the online platform (Monroy-Hernandez et al., 2011). These early findings provide intriguing design considerations for online communities.

We observe that these different treatments of remix issues (from legal scholars, educators, and technology researchers) share several characteristics. First, most of the perspectives on remix behavior come from adults applying their attitudes and values on policy, education, or technology. In this study, we are keenly interested in building from young people's perspectives and values towards remix.

A focus on youths contributes to the research literature that links developmental issues to technology and information behavior. For example, Friedman (1997) found that high school students voiced fairly permissive views towards copying computer software. The role of technology in making digital information easier to copy and distribute, and in distancing author from the work, influences young people to be more permissive of copying practices. Recent studies have also found that children as young as 5 years old develop concepts such as having ideas and voice negative reactions to copying (Olson & Shaw, 2011). In this study, we observe how middle school students conceptualize the complex issues surrounding remix practices in an online community.

Second, many previous studies of remix behavior consider already mature online communities that often focus on adult-aged members. A few examples of youth-oriented online sites exist, but mostly focus on the programming community surrounding Scratch (Hill et al., 2010; Monroy-Hernandez et al., 2011). Our project offers a unique situation where we are developing an online community for youths around science storytelling. This online community is new, and currently under development.

We take advantage of this context to examine, early on in the development of the online community; the attitudes and values around remix behavior of youths. We are able to highlight how youths, who have not already “bought in” to remix practices, develop ideas around this information behavior. We also demonstrate how youths can play a pivotal and active role in designing online communities and social media platforms for themselves and their peers, much in the spirit of participatory design methods used in HCI (e.g., Druin, 1999).

Third, much research of remix behavior examines other individuals appropriating other works. There are few studies that examine how original creators react to the remix of their own work. In this study, we show how youths exhibit very different responses to remix when considering others' work versus their own. We find that the emotions, standards, and criteria for remix behavior become higher when these youths must consider that their own creative work is open for appropriation. Thus, while many previous studies of remix communities focus on group or community level dynamics (e.g., its social network structure or community norms), we highlight how aspects of one's self (and one's work) play a deep role in views toward remix.

Finally, previous studies have illuminated the complex issues embedded within remix communities and behavior (e.g., Diakopoulos et al., 2007; Friedman, 1997). Notions such as author, plagiarism, copying, attribution and others are fluid and problematic in our evolving digital and information-rich world. However, few studies have systematically mapped out the underlying values that might motivate youths' emerging thoughts about remix.

In this study, we build upon past work in the information field regarding values in information behavior. Values play an important role in shaping human behavior and attitudes (Cheng, Fleischmann, Wang, Ishita, & Oard, 2012; Fleischmann & Wallace, 2010; Koepfler & Fleischmann, 2012; Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 2007). Specifically, values help to shape information behavior, as defining characteristics of individuals and communities that influence what they need to know and how they find it (Burnett, Besant, & Chatman, 2001; Fleischmann, 2007, 2010; Friedman & Nathan, 2010; Jaeger & Fleischmann, 2007). The role of values in determining attitudes toward and behaviors related to remixing is an important but understudied topic. In this study, we seek to expand our understanding of the important formative role that values play in shaping attitudes toward and behaviors related to remixing.

SETTING AND METHODOLOGY

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. RELATED WORK: REMIX, PARTICIPATORY CULTURE, AND INFORMATION LITERACY
  5. SETTING AND METHODOLOGY
  6. FINDINGS
  7. IMPLICATIONS AND DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. REFERENCES

This study is embedded within a larger research initiative that seeks to help young, under-represented youths identify with ideas in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The research team is working with school librarians in four public middle schools, located within a large urban city in the United States. Approximately 57 students participated in the afterschool program. We obtained demographic information on 39 of these students who completed surveys given by the researchers in the first implementation of the project. In this sample of students, 17 (43.6%) are male and 22 (56.4%) are female. In terms of ethnicity, 22 (56.4%) self-identify as African American, 3 (7.6%) as Latino/Hispanic, 4 (10.2%) as White, 4 (10.2%) as Multiracial, 5 (12.8%) as “Other,” and 1 (2.6%) did not respond.

The school system did not share information regarding individual students' academic achievement or socioeconomic status. However, approximately 64% of students in the schools (as a whole) were eligible for free and reduced meals (FARMS), which is an indicator for low socio-economic backgrounds. In addition, 3 of the 4 schools are restructuring due to missing targets for Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) in the district, Thus, this research program directly works with under-represented youths in high needs public schools.

The librarians and research team are running an after-school program for youths that engage them in science-inspired storytelling (e.g., science fiction, popular science, graphic novels, videos, etc.). Students participate voluntarily and were selected with input from their teachers, librarians and principals with a few additional students asking to participate as their friends became more involved. In addition, the research team is designing an online social media platform for these youths to share and remix their stories. Our goals are to explore how libraries, science-infused media and participation with media literacy practices can help youths identify and develop interests in STEM as future academic and career paths (Subramaniam, Ahn, Fleischmann, & Druin, 2012).

Our overall approach uses a design based research (DBR) paradigm frequently used in the learning sciences (Collins, Joseph, & Bielaczyc, 2004). In DBR, researchers actively work with educators to design and implement learning programs and technology. The researchers collect rich data (using qualitative and quantitative strategies) that help illuminate the factors of pedagogy and technology that may play a role in the students' learning process. The methodology is design-based, because data collection and insights are continually worked back into the design of the learning program and technology. The process is iterative, and the goals are to (a) develop a deeper understanding of a learning phenomena, and (b) iteratively refine and develop new curriculum and technologies.

In our DBR work, we partner with four urban middle school libraries, cohorts of 8-14 students and the associated school librarian. The after school sessions are planned in cooperation with the school librarian to expose students to some form of STEM infused media ranging from informational videos to science fiction young adult literature. The youths write short stories that incorporate scientific ideas into their narratives. After school sessions have ranged from an examination of utopias and dystopia and comparing different representations of the future, to explorations of technologies that allow meteorologists to get close to tornados.

Students can use a variety of digital tools to create their stories, and also publish their stories in an online community (sci-dentity.org). They can write in text, import stories from other tools such as the iOS application StoryKit, and image files that could depict pictures with captions or comics. We also encourage them to read and comment on other students' contributions. Finally, efforts were made from the outset to develop community norms around posting and commenting that were positive.

The social media platform (sci-dentity.org) was built using Drupal, an open source content management system that is highly popular for web applications. The social platform leveraged existing extensions to Drupal known as modules, as well as custom software to bridge several technologies. In the first iteration of the site, several features are salient for understanding this case. Through the inclusion of a module that supports “points,” students earned points by writing stories and commenting on other stories. Students could earn points for themselves through their participation, and also accrue these points for their school.

In order to encourage the remixing of ideas between authors, we added functionality through the use of standard Drupal modules that enabled authors to “clone” existing stories. Cloning a story allowed the new author to make changes to the story and save it as his or her own. This functionality was chosen over other paradigms, such as wikis, because the original story, as well as the remixed story, would be visible in the story library.

The structure of the Sci-dentity site allowed students to “clone” a story for remixing and receive full points for the clone, without technically requiring changes. We observed that some students in one school discovered this feature and began to clone the work of students from other schools, vastly increasing their points and their school's points. Within a span of a week, we observed 38 cloned stories appear in the site. One student whose work was cloned became very upset that his work was being copied in this way, and approached his librarian and a member of the research team with his concerns.

There was a unique conundrum in this interaction within the learning community. Explicit copying was happening with the site's clone feature, and one's interpretation of this behavior might be inherently negative given traditional assumptions about ownership and plagiarism. However, we also noted that the students who were using the cloning function were not technically doing anything wrong. We did not have explicit discussion about the cloning feature with the students, nor had there been any discussion of issues such as attribution. The students who engaged in cloning were maximizing their points using what was at the time a legitimate feature on the site (the feature has since been disabled as we conducted this study and are in the process of redesigning the remix process).

We used this controversial experience as a moment to engage the students in (a) a discussion and learning opportunity about remix, and (b) a design discussion about how they would want to redesign their online community to better reflect their attitudes and values towards remix culture. These sessions form the basis of the present study.

Data Collection

We conducted four design sessions (one at each participating school) with the students to examine three exploratory research questions:

  • 1.
    What attitudes do these youths express towards remix practices?
  • 2.
    What strategies do these youths suggest to facilitate remix behavior with their peers?
  • 3.
    What underlying values motivate these attitudes and strategies?
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Figure 1. A group discussion with middle school, youth participants

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Each session began with a discussion of the Sci-dentity site's cloning function, followed by a brief presentation about remix culture that focused on how popular music is often re-appropriated from past works. The research team then led group discussions with the students that asked them (a) How do you feel about other people “remixing” your work? (b) If someone “remixes” your work, what would you want as a result? And (c) What should we call this function in our Sci-dentity site? (Figure 1)

We video recorded the qualitative responses of 33 middle school students across the four schools. In addition, the team led the children in a design activity where students were provided sticky notes and prompted to respond to the focus group questions with their ideas. As students wrote their responses, we collected and organized the notes on large sheets of paper according to the question and common themes (Figure 2). Their responses formed the foundation for the group discussion.

Data Analysis

Utilizing DBR as a framework and adopting the approaches of grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), the first three authors used open coding and selective coding techniques to analyze the transcripts from all the focus group sessions. Research team members compared their coding to ensure consistency and reliability. Memos were kept of coding decisions to establish an audit trail. The memos were consulted to ensure that consistency had been maintained throughout the process, and the emergent themes were combined in queries to identify specific passages in the transcripts for analysis and interpretation of the three concepts of interest described in detail below. Once all three coders agreed that values were invoked within the data, the Schwartz (1994) Value Survey, a three-level inventory containing 56 basic human values organized into ten value types and two underlying value dimensions, was used to code values, following a procedure developed by the third author in previous studies (e.g., Cheng et al., 2012; Fleischmann & Wallace, 2010; Fleischmann, Wallace, & Grimes, 2011).

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Figure 2. Sticky notes from a participatory design activity to elicit ideas for redesigning sci-dentity.org

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FINDINGS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. RELATED WORK: REMIX, PARTICIPATORY CULTURE, AND INFORMATION LITERACY
  5. SETTING AND METHODOLOGY
  6. FINDINGS
  7. IMPLICATIONS AND DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. REFERENCES

The student responses to our design sessions elicited many responses that shed light on their understanding of what remix behavior is and the strategies they would like to see enacted in their online community. As we explored this data, three themes emerged that helped shed light on the complex issues surrounding remix behavior: youth attitudes toward remix, conditions for remix behavior, and the underlying values that motivated these responses.

Youth Attitudes Towards Remix

From our analysis, it was evident that the students' attitudes were varied, with substantiations of positive, negative and conditional attitudes towards remix.

Positive attitudes towards remixing revolved around the premise that another person is using the youth's ideas and stories – thus, implying that the original idea (before it was remixed) was excellent and served as an inspiration. Among the students that demonstrated positive attitudes, they felt honored that their work was being remixed, and felt that their peers are accepting their work as being worthy to be remixed. For example, one of the participants of the focus group shared, “I would actually like it [someone remixing my story]. I would like it because people think my story is good”. Being honored by the act of people remixing his/her story, a student stated, “I would feel happy because someone remixed my story. It makes me feel that I inspired the person.”

There were several negative stances towards remixing – where remixing was perceived as an act of stealing one's idea or ignoring the origins of an idea. In addition, the act of remixing was equated to plagiarizing and was found to be totally unacceptable. As a result, some students felt revengeful, and indicated in the focus group that the remixers should be banned from the site or punished. Remixing was viewed by some as a “cheating” act, as reflected by this student, “It was all my hard work and nobody gave me credit.” Students who felt strongly against remixing also believed that they owned their ideas and stories, and should be in control of their stories and its variations.

The conditional attitude was the most prevalent among the students who participated in the focus group sessions. These are youths who were accepting of remix practices, including remixing their own stories, but within well-defined terms and conditions. The conditions for allowing remix of their work are described in detail in the next section.

Conditions for Remix Behavior

The students in this study voiced nuanced viewpoints for how remix practices should occur. In our data analysis we saw four themes emerge as conditions of remix: imagination, credit, permission, and identity.

Imagination as a Requirement

The students who participated in our design sessions clearly understood and identified with remix practices when talking about popular music. One student defined remix versus copying, observing that “remix is kind of doing the same thing, but in your own way, but when you copy, it is the exact same thing”. Her peers made clear references to remix in their experiences with music, “I think of hip hop or to make it in your own ways … Everything we hear in the radio is a remix”.

When talking about remix of other people's work (e.g., popular music), the students were fairly accepting. One student asserted, “People copy Whitney Houston all the time these days” and another young person from a different school also referenced the late pop star, “… it's an original when you add your own beat and you add your own style. like they say that Whitney Houston never wrote her own songs, she like took songs from other people, so that's like what remix is, she like mixed up her own music”.

Often, remix of music was openly accepted with low barriers for the remix's contribution to the original work. One participant stated, “You don't have to change it that much, you know? I mean but you have to put it to your own. add your own thing”. The previous statement highlights how these youths developed fairly permissive views about remix, as long as the new author brings some sort of personal imagination to the work.

However, when we asked the students about others using their own work, their standards for an acceptable remix were much higher. One participant asked us, “Well, what if they change it a lot and it really sucks?” and another asserted that “I want it [the remix] to be better than the first one [the original work]”. The students often voiced that remix of their work was only ok if there was some clear new contribution, “Remixing is okay when you ADD another perspective or add more”. We observed a fairly permissive view towards remix when the youths thought about others' work (e.g., popular music). However when bringing the experience to their own work, they voiced very strong feelings and opinions about conditions for remix.

Ways to Give and Receive Credit

The most common condition for allowing remix of one's own work was receiving some form of credit. Many of the students suggested giving points on the site to the original author, “If my work is remixed I think I should get 5 points”. In addition, they suggested that the site automatically designate and label remixed work. A remixed story might say, “inspired by [the original author]” or as one youth suggested, “Put next to the story – I did this story with help”.

The students also grappled with nuanced variants of credit giving. One novel suggestion was allowing remixers to offer to pay the original author for the right to remix:

I think that that should be an option to be up there that they make the person pay points to remix it because it might be if they think the person has a really good idea and they really want to remix it maybe they will pay the person you know points, because if you have a really good idea you should be paid points in order to use it.

Similarly, another student asked, “what if you can type in the number of points you want?” suggesting that original story writers could set a personal value that remixers could then decide to pay if the idea was good enough to use.

Other students also highlighted how credit need not come in the form of external goods (such as points or money). Many of the students wanted social and relational credit such as a thank you, “I want people to say that my work is nice and say thank you” or “A note via email saying thanks”. Another student wanted the remixer to merely explain why they wanted to use their original work, “Tell me why they remix my story” or provide simple acknowledgement, “I want a shout-out in the [remixed] story”.

These suggestions from the students who participated in focus groups illuminate how credit giving in an online community can go beyond mere assigning of points or automatic attribution. One might design an online community to promote citations to original authors or automatic site points for remixed work. Conversely, shifting the responsibility to the remixer to pay the original author or decide whether losing site points is worth the effort, compel intriguing questions about design and learning. And finally, promoting internal motivation (e.g., thank-yous, personal explanations, and shout outs) over external incentives (e.g., site points and public attribution) offers new paths for the design of online community. What different messages might these various strategies convey to users about remix? What values are promoted in these technical affordances? And what would youths learn from the different strategies?

Giving and Receiving Permission

Our students also offered nuanced perspectives on giving and receiving permission to remix their work. Many of the students agreed that others should ask someone for permission to remix their work. For example, one young person suggested that users of the online community be notified when others wanted to remix their work:

When you click my profile, so like a recent messages or whatever, you could either approve or disprove permission to edit one of your stories and they need to tell you what they want to add to your story. So you can add like an ask permission from the author feature on the thing.

Other participants foresaw issues with an asynchronous process of giving permission, “I think that it is a good idea [asking for permission], but it is not really functional because what if the person, you ask them, and they don't really get back to you until like two months later”. Thus, we observed these students grappling with the tensions between the ethical need for permission to use someone's information, with the goals of creative work (e.g., the danger of a permission process being an obstacle to story writing on the site).

Finally, one student suggested a button where an author of the story could allow remix or not: “… like you have a button that says yes people can remix it, not like people have to send a message, just a button that says yes people can remix or no people can't remix”. Such strategies underscore how these youths are developing ideas about appropriation and attribution. The students' suggestions also foreshadow strategies that they may experience in later years. For example, the Creative Commons License allows content creators to set legal terms for the copying, sharing, and modifying of one's work; much in the same spirit as “a button that says yes people can remix or no people can't remix.” Working from a youth perspective allows one to recognize the underlying mechanisms for sharing, credit, and permission, and design these functions in ways that align with the perspective of youths.

The Role of Identity in Remix Behavior

The students' responses also illuminated the role of personal and social identity in remix practices. As noted earlier, one of the main criteria for allowing remix was imagination. An element of this condition was the requirement that the remixer put something of themselves into the work, or to make it their own. For these youths, the criteria for a remixed work being worthy, was that the new author successfully inserted their point of view as to make a previous artifact different and unique.

The students were also very prescient to identify how social identity plays a role in a system of remix, credit, and permission exchange. One student worried about how issues such as school-based loyalties might affect their online community:

I remember what I was going to say, if we start this permission thing, people are going to start saying, if you are from my school, sure you can remix it, but if your from [another school], and I go to where ever, I am going say no because I don't want you to get as many points as my school

Other participants highlighted how adolescent relationships and drama around teenage friendships play a role in remix practices. Thus, we observed several design suggestions from the youths to allow for anonymity during the process of asking for permission or obtaining the rights to remix in the online community. For example:

I am going to add on to my ask permissions from the author thing. You should be able to send a message, but then it won't show who asked you, so that then you don't know if it is your best friend or if it is someone who just got on the program that day.

These responses highlight the importance of personal and social dynamics when thinking about remix culture.

Underlying Values that Motivate Responses to Remix

Students invoked twelve values in their responses, including three values each within the value types benevolence and achievement, two values within the value type power, and one value each within the value types universalism, self-direction, security, and conformity. This section provides examples of how student responses invoked each of these twelve basic human values (Schwartz, 1994).

For the value type benevolence (Schwartz, 1994), students invoked the values responsible, helpful, and loyal. For example, in response to the question, “How do you feel about other people ‘remixing’ your work?” one student explained, “They must ask me first,” invoking the value responsible as the student calls on peers to act responsibly by asking for permission in advance. In response to the same question, another student stated, “I would feel happy because someone remixed my story. It makes me feel that I inspired the person,” illustrating the value helpful because the student clearly values the ability to help inspire new stories. Finally, in response to the question, “If your work is remixed, what do you want?” one student explained that priority would be given to students from the same school, stating that if a student from another school asked for permission to remix, “I am going to say no, because I don't want you to get as many points as my school,” demonstrating the value of loyal, in this case to the school.

For the value type achievement (Schwartz, 1994), students invoked the values influential, successful, and capable. For example, in response to the question, “How do you feel about other people ‘remixing’ your work?” one student stated, “I would feel happy because someone remixed my story. It makes me feel that I inspired the person,” which connects to the value influential by showing how the student values their ability to exert influence through inspiring new stories. In response to the same question, another student commented, “I feel like awesome because my story is a hit,” which relates to the value successful, since the student clearly values the success of the story. Finally, yet another student noted, “I would actually like it. I would like it because people think my story is good,” which connects to the value capable because the use of the story by other students helps to demonstrate the capabilities of the student as a thinker and writer.

For the value type power (Schwartz, 1994), students invoked the values wealth and social recognition. In response to the question, “So what would you want?” about what students would want in return for allowing their story to be remixed, one student replied, “money,” directly alluding to the value wealth, which other students also did literally (in terms of money) and figuratively (in terms of Sci-dentity points). In response to the question, “How do you feel about other people ‘remixing’ your work?” another student commented, “I feel happy because they admire my work,” which connects to the value of social recognition by illustrating that the student values recognition from peers.

For the value type universalism (Schwartz, 1994), students invoked the value broad-minded. For example, in response to the question, “What do we think about remixing and fan-fiction?” one student stated, “I think it's OK for people to remix or fan-fiction” demonstrating the student adopts a broad-minded perspective. For the value type self-direction (Schwartz, 1994), students invoked the value creativity. For example, in response to the question, “How much do you need to change for something to be an original?” one student noted, “You have to add your own thing” indicating that creativity is a critical component of remix. For the value type security, students invoked the value social order. For example, in response to the question, “What do we think about remixing and fan-fiction?” one student replied, “I think they should [be] sued and burned at the stake” demonstrating the value that the student places on law and order. Finally, for the value type conformity, students invoked the value politeness. For example, in response to the question, “If someone ‘remixes’ your work, what do you want as a result?” one student stated, “At least say thank you or something” indicating that the student values courtesy on the part of other students in providing a customary acknowledgment of the influence of the story.

IMPLICATIONS AND DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. RELATED WORK: REMIX, PARTICIPATORY CULTURE, AND INFORMATION LITERACY
  5. SETTING AND METHODOLOGY
  6. FINDINGS
  7. IMPLICATIONS AND DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. REFERENCES

This study illuminates how youths are beginning to identify with and develop deep ideas about remix as an information behavior. Prior research has found that children as young as 5 years old have concepts such as ownership of ideas and copying (Olson & Shaw, 2011). This study reveals how youths develop nuanced ideas about remix culture.

Our findings highlight multiple dimensions of remix: attitudes, values, and conditions. At one level, our youth participants exhibited mixed attitudes towards remix ranging from total acceptance (positive) to total rejection (negative) of remix behavior. These extremes were motivated by very diverse underlying values. For example, positive attitudes towards remix related to values such as wanting feelings of achievement, self-efficacy (feeling capable), social recognition, being influential, and accumulating wealth (in the case of sci-dentity.org, gaining points).

Such findings provide insights towards the design of social media platforms that might promote these values. Simple examples of social recognition (e.g., the like button in Facebook) or external motivators such as accruing points on a site are prevalent in social computing platforms that promote participatory information behavior. However, the youth participants in this study also spoke to the deep desire to feel a sense of achievement, of inspiring others, feeling capable, showing gratitude, and connecting personally with other individuals via remix practices. The design possibilities to promote these deeper social values are complex and intriguing possibilities for future research.

This study also raises interesting issues of participation versus privacy, especially among this vulnerable population. For example, students emphasized the need to provide mechanisms for credit to acknowledge the contributions of their work toward other students' stories. However, using such a feature also raises an inherent issue of privacy. Participation in a remix community requires individuals to create accounts, make their online activities traceable, and make their online identities visible to others (e.g. their profiles and usernames). From a values perspective, there are underlying concerns that researchers may only consider the perspectives of a self-selecting population who value participation over privacy.

Our experience with this youth sample suggests that this concern did not apply in this study. For example, the original design of the online community favored participation over privacy, but when students were given options to enact values of privacy, they chose not to do so. Students were initially assigned IDs that combined the first letter of their first name with their last name, and encouraged to share and remix stories freely. Although students were explicitly given the option of changing their ID and creating anonymous profiles on the site, none of the students opted to do so. Interestingly, privacy did not come up in any of the focus group sessions. However, it is important to note that the focus was on students themselves rather than other stakeholders, such as parents and teachers, who might have different views about privacy.

In the next iteration of our research, we will incorporate these ideas into a redesign of our online community (sci-dentity.org). In particular, we plan to use personal profiles to better communicate the history and collection of stories that students create, and their sense of self, while respecting the importance of privacy. We will also explore how these features of social media platforms can be used to promote feelings of achievement and capability.

The richest findings came from the youths' ideas about conditions for remix. They developed concepts such as (a) imagination as a requirement for remix, (b) methods for credit, (c) ways of giving and receiving permission, and (d) the role of social and personal identity. Their ideas were prescient and uncannily mirror adult discussions about remix practices. Adult conversations are rife with debate about the artistic and legal ownership of remixed work. For example, artist Shepard Fairey's remix of an Associated Press photograph of President Obama resulted in the iconic “Hope” poster in the 2008 election. The legal conflict revolved around issues of copyright (Itzkoff, 2009).

However, our youths suggest evolving criteria for talking about remix, ownership, attribution, and other new literacy issues. The youths in our study suggest that standards of imagination and personal artistic expression underlie our concerns about remix. They offer new ways to conceptualize the importance of giving credit, and not just in monetary forms that dominate adult concerns. Finally, the youths were particularly insightful when thinking about the complex issues (group loyalties, relational dynamics) involved in giving permission to use one's work. Their insights are mirrored in current movements, such as the use of Creative Commons Licenses. However, these youths also illuminate the deeper human elements that are important when designing systems that facilitate remix.

In the next phase of our DBR work, we will work from these insights and redesign the remix process in our own site (sci-dentity.org) to incorporate the youth participants' suggestions. For example, we plan to experiment with ways to designate stories as remixable, methods to obtain credit, and functions that might promote more personal messages between individuals when asking for remix permissions (as many of our youth comments centered on receiving personal connection, an explanation, or a thank you).

Finally, this study demonstrates new possible strategies for educators and youth service providers when teaching youths about remix behavior. It is easy for educators, librarians, and other information professionals to focus narrowly on themes such as “it is wrong to plagiarize” or “you must cite sources properly”. These issues remain important for young people's media literacy education. However, this study highlights how new information behaviors such as remix provide opportunities for educators to engage youths in conversations about ownership, conditions for remix, requirements for citation and attribution, and the human elements of this information practice.

This study opens up the possibilities of new approaches to information literacy instruction in K-12 environments that align with digital media practices among youths. These conversations may come alive and be most effective, when youths are engaged in their own media creation, and can experience these issues first-hand (just as our students did in this case study). This study demonstrates how educators might create positive learning experiences in school and libraries, by allowing youths to create their own media, participate in new online communities, and have opportunities to reflect and even redesign their own systems of participatory learning.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. RELATED WORK: REMIX, PARTICIPATORY CULTURE, AND INFORMATION LITERACY
  5. SETTING AND METHODOLOGY
  6. FINDINGS
  7. IMPLICATIONS AND DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. REFERENCES

We thank the school librarians and students who played an integral role in the project. We also thank Sara Allen, Jessica Garman, Sereena Hamm, Lisa Hedge, Pam Hosimer, Jinyoung Kim, Laura Miller, and Alexandra Moses for their help in this research. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1124176. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. RELATED WORK: REMIX, PARTICIPATORY CULTURE, AND INFORMATION LITERACY
  5. SETTING AND METHODOLOGY
  6. FINDINGS
  7. IMPLICATIONS AND DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. REFERENCES
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