Shepard Fairey, I clearly remember the first time I saw your iconic “Andre the Giant has a Posse” sticker. Oh, and please see the last lines of this post.
I went to high school in the midwestern cultural hub commonly known as Ann Arbor, Michigan and have nothing but the fondest memories of that place. My girlfriend’s family had a farm on a dirt road about 30-40 minutes west of town, and when we weren’t recklessly driving the tractor about their property we were hanging around the halfpipe her little brother had built into the loft of their barn. Her brother was and still is an epically cool guy. I clearly remember seeing the Andre the Giant has a Posse sticker in his possession around 1991, not knowing what to make of it, but instantly thinking “this is rad”.
17 years later (um, right now) Shepard Fairey is being sued by the Associated Press after getting the same “this is rad” reaction from a decidedly larger audience than the early 90s skater crew. In case you’ve been living in a hole or under a rock, his Obama “Hope” poster is pretty much the iconic image of 2008, but the AP claims Fairey owes them “damages” since it is an interpretation of an AP photo. This evening the media remix dream-team assembled at New York Public Library to weigh in on the currently confused state of copyright law vs. artistry. Lawrence Lessig has got Fairey’s back in this nonsensical (IMHO) battle with the AP, and tonight he delivered commentary very similar to what he says in the TED talk below. Steven Johnson, author of the Invention of Air spoke as well and served as moderator.
I love that this conversation happened in a public library, but I wish that we had gotten to discuss the library as an institution that must support and encourage creativity, new media literacy, and remix culture as part of our service delivery. Public libraries have traditionally provided access to static information content. Books. Magazines. Films. DVDs. Engaging and learning from media is no longer a passive activity, and our public libraries, facilitators and champions of recreational learning, need to adjust to that.
There are some public libraries out there with ample funding, talented staff, and a risk-taking attitude that are addressing media literacy with their services. As an example of people doing things right, have a look (try not to drool) at the Creation Station at the Darien Library (CT).
Here’s what you are looking at:
- Mac Powerbook (MS Office, Audacity and has all Mac apps)
- Flip Cam
- Edirol voice recorder (rechargeable unit, no batteries)
- Sony CyberShot
- Flip tri-pod (works with both the cameras)
Darien Library’s Creation Station has no loan permissions and is (for now) only used in the building. Kids call, email or come by to use it, and it is also used in library programs.
The question for you, my readers: is the Creation Station a frill, something that should only be offered as a bonus, add-on, special service in some public libraries, or is this kind of toolset an integral part of what libraries should be doing to address the new media literacy needs of our kids? You already know what I think. So why is this Creation Station just being offered to kids? If my library had a fleet of creation stations, they’d be packed with twenty and thirty-somethings from open to close. Is this service as important as I think it is, and how can we make this jump from being 20th century book repositories to vital hubs of participatory culture and knowledge sharing?
Finally, Shepard Fairey: Thanks for the talk. I want you to make a poster for my library. I work at Brooklyn Public Library. I’m easy to find. Help spread the good word- public libraries support remix culture.