Alternative Spring Break, Washington DC
So I says to myself, I says, I’m just farting around on the internet, what else could I be doing? Then I thinks to myself, I thinks, I could update my blog!
I just got back from Washington DC last week. Let me tell you had a fantastic time and I networked the shit out of the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress. They had me starting something of an outreach program for them. Obviously I couldn’t get a whole lot done in the span on an entire week, and I’m not certain that the final report I gave them was exactly what they were looking for, but I think my time was very well spent and both parties left happy. Up until now the Copyright Office has not been the most transparent department of the legislature; the previous Register of Copyrights was not a transparent fellow and thus wanted to keep copyright going-ons locked away to the public. He has since retired and in the interim the Office was hoping to get a leg up on an outreach program, so when the new Register was appointed an outreach program would already be developing and they would find it easier to like this idea.
I interviewed a number of people around the Office (some who had themselves graduated with an MLIS from U of I) and got their thoughts and feeling about outreach in general. I also asked them about how they got their jobs and the best way to break into the government library/information sector.
After interviewing a number of people it became very obvious to me that there was a really simply, cost effective solution to their problem: social media. But it would prove hard to convince the same group of people whose hands had to be held as a new video conferencing software was demonstrated for the office that social media and technology were the answer to their prayers. One of the lawyers found it outrageous that the Library of Congress (main branch) had created a Twitter and Facebook account—“How unprofessional!!”
After being surrounded week on end by hopeful, bright eyed, young information professionals with full confidence in the powers of technology to change the world especially in terms of information retrieval and access, it was a real eye-opener to realize that so many people still do not understand how technology works and are therefore terrified of its potential. I would be too.
After the week was through and I had written my most convincing argument for social media, my supervisor/host/boss told me that they would be there in a year so send him my resume and keep in touch. Very promising.
If I get nothing else from the experience, I realized very clearly there are so many jobs for library and information professionals in the DC area that pay really well. Intelligence is, like, a big deal there? I have a feeling I’ll be finding my first job here. However, who knows!
Graffiti and Copyright (and Libraries?)
So I thought I’d crowd-source my idea for a paper this semester to generate some thoughts, ideas, brilliance, anger, love, etc. from you guys (if you care, have time, are at all interested).
I watched that new Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop last week and my mind was instantly reeling with ideas about how graffiti artists make money, do they even care to make money, and their heavy reliance on fair use in their art. I became so enthralled with these ideas that I went to the library, checked out a bunch of books on graffiti, and stayed up way too late reading them. Fucking fascinating. It just so happened that while thus enthralled in these ideas, this article, popped up on my Google Reader. How perfect.
Questions/Thoughts I have:
- Graffiti artists rely heavily on (copyrighted) pop culture images to criticize and build artwork upon. I think doing so is extremely important to the cultivation of ideas, discourse and general shaking shit up.
- Since what they create isn’t for any profit (until it enters the gallery), it’s really hard to say if they remain within their rights of fair use. But they could give two shits since they aren’t doing it for the money (right?).
- It’s unbelievable to me that these artists are willing to spend a lot of money and risk some pretty good jail time for the sake of pure art expression without (much) recognition or any compensation.
- Which brings me to—How is their art work copyrighted?? It’s an expression of art/information in a fixed/tangible medium so therefore it is copyrighted. But it’s not on their property. And it was created illegally. If someone was to take pictures of their work, put them together in a book and sell it, that would be copyright infringement, would it not? But who was the compiler of the book supposed to go to to seek permission to publish these images, since assumably these artists are trying to stay somewhat on the DL and would be virtually imposible to contact? Would the artist have cared at all in the first place?
- But these photographs are capturing something extremely transient—artwork with a very very short shelf-life (maybe a week), so I find the preservation and dissemination of this artwork via photographs to be important for the sake of the cultural archives. Yet without artists permission, all the archives legally can do is sit on these pictures.
This has my mind going in absolute circles and I feel like I can’t really get a hold on any of it. Pheeeww…
I’m really loving a lot of Banksy art though, especially his stuff on surveillance. Graffiti seems like the perfect medium to express the dangers and alternatively the ridiculousness of surveillance in society.
From “Banksy: Wall and Piece”:
“Policemen and security guards wear hats with a peak that comes down low over their eyes for psychological reasons. Apparently eyebrows are very expressive and by covering them up you appear a lot more authoritative. The upside is this means it’s harder for cops to see anything more than six foot off the ground and makes painting rooftops and bridges a lot easier.”
“Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It belongs to you. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.”
“The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.”
Banksy? San Francisco, July, 2010.