Following up on yesterday’s post about Cory Doctorow and the perplexing problem of copyright is Ubiquitous Learning (upcoming from University of Illinois Press) Jack Brighton, a prof at UIIC and one of the contributors to the book, writes:
Just a century ago most Americans celebrated their arts and cultural heritage by actively participating in them. Before we had access to mass-produced news and entertainment, we made our own. People told family stories and shared what news they had, made more dear by its scarcity. Families made music together, and the influx of musical traditions and instruments fueled an American folk music culture that lead to Jazz, Blues, and their offspring. “Everyone was encouraged to take part, both men and women, from practiced musicians to visitors and children, and in the nineteenth-century home the quality might at times be excellent,” writes music historian Tim Brookes. “Yet in a sense that was not the point…it was an active, participatory tradition as opposed to the passive listening to radio and recordings.”
He goes on:
Is it any great surprise then that in a moment when folk practices are in digital renaissance, many of the same mass media stories, images, and sounds are being reclaimed and remade on YouTube, Boing Boing, Ourmedia.org, and blogs everywhere? The content currency of the emerging online media commons highlights the power and cultural resonance of twentieth century mass media industries, but there is a fundamental difference: we are reclaiming our own voices, and making the stories our own.
Henry Jenkins denotes a time when the new mass media made possible by broadcasting quite naturally tapped the deep roots of American folk culture:
“Initially, the emerging entertainment industry made its peace with folk practices, seeing the availability of grassroots singers and musicians as a potential talent pool, incorporating community sing-a-longs into film exhibition practices, and broadcasting amateur-hour talent competitions. The new industrialized arts required huge investments and thus demanded a mass audience. The commercial entertainment industry set standards of technical perfection and professional accomplishment few grassroots performers could match. The commercial industries developed powerful infrastructures that ensured that their messages reached everyone in America who wasn’t living under a rock. Increasingly, the commercial culture generated the stories, images, and sounds that mattered most to the public.”