Obstacles to Digital Argument
The obstacles to assigning digital arguments are technical, legal and economic in nature. The ability to index, host and manipulate large video files render this pedagogy challenging. While cloud computing is becoming widespread, the basic architecture of the cloud is still not amenable to large video files. As John Seely Brown notes, graphics processing units (GPU's) "blew up" cloud architecture, leaving programmers scrambling for new ways to handle the wide data passes necessary to process video files. Moving large video files around a network for classroom use is not an easy task. Further, when one uses found footage from various sources, the files tend to be of varying quality. They must be prepared and compressed before they can be edited with ease and this often requires professional level tools and a certain expertise that is not yet widespread.
While many universities have left the job of housing their video content to YouTube, Vimeo and other for-profit companies, there is little assurance of continuous service and control of the content. The content also becomes subject to third party enforcement of copyright law whose implementation often bears little resemblance to the tenets of the doctrine of fair use. As such, free expression is often limited. Indeed, copyright policy has not kept pace with technological innovation and often supports corporate players; further, the confusion around issues of fair use and copyright render many faculty unwilling to take chances in their classes and digital literacy suffers.
These obstacles, however, are vital for academics to confront and solve, for the evolution of these technologies has incredible impact on the production of knowledge. In IML340 we piloted several new tools and platforms. For instance we began using ReelSurfer, an indexing and clipping tool that allows one to search huge reels of footage by keyword, as well as by the dialogue of a segment; ReelSurfer marries the transcript to the video file. We also experimented with sites for housing video, eventually eschewing YouTube in favor of the Internet Archive, supported as it is by the Library of Congress. We focus on citation practices and on using only the portion of any media file that is needed to make one's point, much the way that one does with citations in a research paper and all projects must include academically appropriate citations.
Finally, tools such as this one, Scalar, represent huge strides in the ability to express digital argument. This platform not only allows one to stream video from the Internet Archive, it is linked to Critical Commons, a media advocacy site which emphasizes fair use. Moreover, since Scalar is as friendly to text as it is to media, it does not sacrifice print literacy for media literacy, and allows expression among all available semiotic resources.
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