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The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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1.1 Avoiding extremism

A photograph of Larry Lessig.
Figure 1 Larry Lessig

The use of technology seems to divide people into strong pro- and anti-camps or perhaps utopian and dystopian perspectives. Lessig (2007) points out that such an extremist divide is occurring with regard to intellectual property, on both sides, as the law intersects with the digital remix culture. On one side there are the copyright owners who will prosecute any misuse or, as with YouTube, enforce a takedown of any copyrighted material regardless of fair use. This is the type of response I categorised as a ‘scarcity response’ in Chapter 8 [Week 5 of this course]. But, as harmful, Lessig suggests, are the other extremists, who reject all notions of copyright and intellectual ownership. Similar extremism can be seen with the use of technology, in society in general and in education in particular. The pro-camp will make some of the more outlandish claims about the imminent revolution, the irrelevancy of higher education and the radically different net generation. The anti-technology camp will decry that it destroys social values, undermines proper scholarly practice, is always superficial and is even damaging our brains. Lessig seeks a balance between the intellectual property extremes, and a similar balance can be sought between the pro- and anti-technology camps. The remainder of this chapter will examine some of the anti-technology charges in more detail, some of which have more substance than others.