Remixing Scholarly Research

  Kirby Ferguson is a quirky New York-based filmmaker with an interesting idea. He wanted to show copying was often part of the creative process by providing popular examples of remixed content. The research and examples from different types of media have been aggregated into an extremely well done, short video series titled Everything Is a Remix. Since I’ve blogged about plagiarism and Open Access in the past, a few people recommended the series to me and it got me thinking about scholarly research in a new and different way. In the first of the (very soon to be) four videos, he jumps in with recognizable audio examples from Led Zeppelin in the 60’s to Sugar Hill in the 70’s. Sugar Hill’s early example of “sampling” a base line from Chic’s “Goodtimes” has been remixed dozens of times since then. Kirby suggests that remix techniques (collecting material, combining, transforming, and distributing) are the same ones used in any other creative process. In effect, he argues, everything is a remix.

This was an eye opening perspective for me.

I immediately drew several correlations between Kirby’s premise and what I have been seeing and speaking about over the last few years. The SSRN eLibrary provides simple, easy, Open Access to scholarly research in a way that wasn’t previously possible. And, this new level of access allows researchers to remix different perspectives from different disciplines into new innovative research.

My simple definition of innovation is

the ability to create new things by being exposed to broader and deeper set of existing things.

One of the core ideas behind SSRN is that scholarly research relies on previous research to identify new problems, develop solutions to problems, or empirically test those solutions. We created CiteReader and continue to update it so that readers can easily go backwards and forwards through the scholarly literature. We provide tomorrow’s research today so that it can be used to create new, innovative research faster.

Larry Lessig, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard Law School Professor and former SSRN Editor, discusses remix from another perspective in his TED talk about copyright laws choking creativity and finding a balance. His concern is limiting creativity and innovation by constraining how content can be used. The question of whether remixing content is part of the creative process or stealing someone else’s work is a very interesting topic that we will continue to explore in the future, but I think Carl Sagan probably summed it up best:

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

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