Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Five-Paragraph Essay

I am growing to really hate TED talks, even ones with my personal academic superhero Lawrence Lessig in them. All I need to do is hear that sparkly magic music and see the BMW logo spinning toward me to feel my anti-corporate defenses going up.

Lessig describes this TED talk as "three stories on the way to one argument" about the relationship between user-generated content and commerce. In other words, it is a somewhat scrambled five-paragraph essay with examples drawn from 1) John Philip Sousa's comments on "infernal machines" for recording, 2) Lord Blackstone on celestial trespass, and 3) the BMI challenge that cracked the ASCAP cartel in 1941.

I give Lessig points for his central claim that "read-write culture" was supplanted by "read-only culture" during the twentieth century and that user-generated content provides a possible historical corrective for in present re-mix era, even if delaying his thesis until after his case studies may not make the most sense for the attention-deficit digital video audience just as an editor of an academic essay would ask for the argument up-front. Unfortunately, I had already seen his three examples of funny re-mixes months if not years ago, so the anime version of the Mahna Mahna song, Jesus Will Survive, and Blair/Bush "Endless Love" didn't even make me chuckle mirthlessly.

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