Wow, a question today from a Google Hangout with Chris Lott’s class keeps grinding away at my brain. He invited me as a guest to his class from the University of Alaska Fairbanks ED F654 : “Digital Citizenship” & Intellectual Property. This was an interesting mix of students from all over Alaska and beyond; thanks Erin, D’Arcy, Linnea, Noelle, Philip, Tatiana, and Valerie for listening and asking.

Chris asked me to talk about how sharing has been good for me (my free form association goes to Garett Morris’ SNL character Chico Escuela), why embrace openness, DS 106, and some on my new Creative Commons project. But as he promised, it was a free form conversation.

This post is not a summary, but since it was a hangout on air, there is an archive

No, this post is about a question that Linnea put into the chat:

Do you feel you own what you share?

Since I had talked much about my own bloggings, I told them that the question was hard and deserved a blog post. Now they are holding me to that

I talked some in circles in the hangout, and even on sitting with it longer, I am baffled somewhat how to answer. There is a lot to unpack – the very idea of “ownership” Or do we really even own ideas?), and why we would even fuss about ownership might suggest an attachment of monetary value to the shared thing. Or is it really about wanting to get credit? Can we get credit without staking ownership?

Frankly the idea of owning ideas, even digital media, has little meaning to me. Yes, I may invest time in making, writing, but knowing how remixed everything is, how could I ever claim something shred sprung from the center of my forehead?

So things I share, ideas I write about, I don’t feel I can, or even want to use the idea of “ownership” like containment, like laying claim. I may make a claim if my moment with that thing when I blog about it, but if it is shared, what place does any notion of “owning” have?

My primary things shared are digital photos on flickr more than 50,000 since 2004. Talking about a digital object takes you into the copyright example of why loaning / selling a purchased physical book does not violate the law because no new copy has been made.

A friend and colleague, photographer Jonathan Worth makes a great distinction between the printed photograph as an artifact versus its representation as a digital image.

We need to think about the idea of the image as being active. Our main challenge is to redefine the medium and understand that we are going through the second paradigm shift for photography as the image breaks away from the artifact (the first paradigm shift occurred when photography broke away from painting). We must recognize that there is a difference between a printed photography, which is an artifact, and digital screen-based photograph, which is an image comprised of ones and zeroes. “The artifact is fixed in time and it looks backwards; it has a provenance,” says Worth. “The digital image is unhitched from time and space and it looks out. Artifacts and images are widely different and students need to understand why. If students aren’t engaged in that dialogue, then they are ill-equipped to deal with the the contemporary photography world.”

from Photography 4.0: A Teaching Guide for the 21st Century: Educators Share Thoughts and Assignments By Michelle Bogre

Ownership is for artifacts, and the stuff I shared digitally is totally “unhitched from time and space”.

For me, then, the idea of ownership of what I share does not work. That makes it even easier to share.

And Chris’s students are definitely well engaged in this dialogue, thanks for having me visit.

Top / Featured Image: I looked among my own flickr images for something to use for this post; one was a metal street cover from Richmond labeled DOMINION, another one from a long ago of an avatar of me in Second Life looking over empty land (I thought I could play with the idea of owning virtual land).

But I went back to the Google Image Search (with settings set to licensed for re-use) on ownership and this image of mechanical child figure playing with blocks jumped right out of the page. Why? I don’t know. It’s a screen shot from the Creative Commons licensed short film Benefits of Co-operative Economy and Co-ownership Networks and the supporting site

I only watched the intro, but the exploration into ideas of co-ownership might be interesting to the class I spoke to. Here’s the video:

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Love this! And it goes right along with my own thought processes on sharing and digital “ownership.” So sorry that I missed out on the class talk! But as you stated, sometimes technology fails us and my internet was not doing it’s job that morning. Thank you for sharing the talk so that I didn’t lose out completely. 🙂

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