Sunday, January 29, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N5); Fixing Copyright, UK Education & History, Girlsand Science + More

Long article in The Nation this week about reforming copyright and makes deep reference to Bill Patry's How to Fix Copyright. The author of the article Caleb Cain is not convinced of the arguments Patry, who is lead council for Google and widely seen as an expert on copyright issues, makes and he makes his opinion know very early on:
The non sequitur I’m objecting to here is a small one. Unfortunately it’s representative; Patry’s reasoning is slipshod throughout the book, and more than once he tells the reader what to think instead of taking the trouble to convince him. Nor are these the only signs that the book may have been hurriedly—or just poorly—written. Patry often repeats himself. Though he seems to wish to address a broad audience, he uses legal terms of art such as “de minimis” and “worldwide exhaustion” without explaining them, and the later chapters sprint faster and faster through vagaries of international copyright law that are more and more complex. His priorities seem unsorted; he devotes a whole chapter to discrediting a 1995 article that consists only of notes in outline form and that by his own admission seems to have been little read. Nonetheless, if only because of Patry’s connection to Google, the ideas in his book will be taken seriously.
* * *
Patry believes that copyright laws have failed, and for evidence of the failure he begins by pointing to conflicts. Creators of copyrighted work have tussled with the distributors to whom they sell it. Record labels, for example, have been found guilty of withholding payments to musicians, and Patry recounts that in his capacity as a writer, he was recently forced against his will to sign away valuable rights in negotiations with a powerful online publisher. Creators have also been quarreling with their audiences, especially about pricing and access. Patry cites a recent dispute over Amazon’s Kindle: Amazon enabled the device to read books aloud in a mechanized voice, and the Authors Guild protested that the function would cut into sales of audio books. Amazon backed down—a matter for regret, in Patry’s opinion.
This article is mostly a review of the book rather than an argument with Patry's point(s) of view. Read the whole thing in The Nation.

UK Education Secretary Michael Gove argues that schools should teach children about kings, queens and wars. He's offering a quack remedy to a misdiagnosed complaint (New Statesman):
How about teaching narrative rather than analysis, then? It is wrong, David Starkey has asserted, that history in the schools has modelled itself on university research. What we need, he declares, is to give children "a sense of change and development over time . . . The skills-based teaching of history is a catastrophe." But what sells in the bookshops or what succeeds on TV is not necessarily what should be taught in schools. Teaching is a profession with its own skills and techniques, different from those needed to present a television programme (as Starkey's performance on the reality TV show Jamie's Dream School dramatically indicated). Physics, biology and every other subject in schools is taught along lines that reflect research in the universities. One wouldn't expect physics teachers to ignore Stephen Hawking's ideas about black holes, or biology teachers to keep quiet about the discovery of DNA. So what makes history so different? Chemistry devotes a large amount of time to transmitting skills to students; why shouldn't history?
The narrative that the critics want shoved down pupils' throats in schools - as they sit in rows silently learning lists of kings and queens - is essentially what's been called the "Whig theory of history"; that is, telling a story of British history over a long period of time, stressing the development of parliamentary democracy in a narrative that culminates in a present viewed in self-congratulatory terms.
This theory was exploded by professional historians more than half a century ago, under the influence of the classic tract The Whig Interpretation of History by the conservative historian Herbert Butterfield. Yet it still has strong support in the media. The Daily Telegraph and the right-wing think tank Civitas even campaigned to get H E Marshall's patriotic textbook Our Island Story put on the National Curriculum. Dating from the Edwardian era, this book, with its stories of how the British brought freedom and justice to the Maoris of New Zealand and many other lucky peoples across the world, has rightly been described as "imperialist propaganda masquerading as history". In what other academic subject would people seriously advocate a return to a state of knowledge as it was a hundred years ago?
Steering Girls to Science and Technology (MediaShift):
One thing research consistently shows is the impact that one-on-one relationships and role models can have in influencing kids. And that's one of the defined goals of the Techbridge program. To that end, Ebony and her peers get to work once a week with Esosa Ozigbo, who comes from a similar background as many of the girls in the program -- single-parent home, struggling financially, parents who never graduated from high school. But Ozigbo, a Stanford graduate with a science degree, is living proof that there's a way out -- and it might just be in a field like science or math. "I definitely know that growing up, it would have been great to have someone like that come in and talk to me," Ozigbo said.
Ozigbo leads Techbridge field trips, taking girls to companies like Google and Yahoo for site visits so they see for themselves the possibility of a life that's different than what they've lived so far. "I took some girls to San Francisco -- they had never been on the other side of the bay," she said. "It's just about seeing what's out there and seeing if it's in your grasp and saying, 'This is what I have to do, this is what I can do.' I think that makes the world of a difference."
From the Twitter this week:

Serving police officer among four men arrested in London and Essex as part of Operation Elveden

Casio has unveiled smartphone prototypes able to exchange data using light. Some have labelled this system Li-Fi

Amazon's Hit Man - With Bow Tie

Locked in the Ivory Tower: Why JSTOR Imprisons Academic Research

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