Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

So is Sharing Really Caring?

According to our readings this week, no. At least that was the impression I got from the “Crowdforcing” article. Sharing sounds more like an abomination than anything, when it’s shown in the light David Golumbia provides. (And no, sir, I do not believe you’ve “suggest[ed] the shape of a problem” so much as attacked the idea of digital sharing with a blunt force object, but that’s beside the point.) Though I found Golumbia’s wordiness and excessive efforts to sound intelligent rather exhausting, he made some valid points that should be taken into consideration when it comes to online “sharing.”

The whole idea of “crowdforcing” is frankly unnerving, especially when it comes to personal information. The Facebook example he used stood out in particular to me, because I’ve heard of people taking pictures from Facebook and posting them to their own profiles. Not only is the tagging system for photos basically in every user’s hands, but since we only have real control over our own profiles, it’d be hard to stop someone from sharing photos or other information we wouldn’t want shared otherwise. I remember a news story once that kind of goes in tandem with this issue; some creepy dude got caught taking pictures of someone else’s young daughter off the mother’s Facebook, and he pretended the little girl was his, reposting the pictures and adding comments as if he was her father. That might be a bit beyond Golumbia’s idea of “crowdforcing”, but it still exemplifies what sharing things online makes possible for strangers to do to personal data.

The fact that “crowdforcing” can cause gain for some and harm for others ties into the reading about copyright issues as well. Having a kind of “crowdforcing” mentality creates a false assumption that if, say, an artist were to post a drawing on their personal blog, someone else could pluck up that drawing and repost it without the artist’s permission. I’ve seen that kind of thing happen all the time, and what makes it sad is that the reposters tend to get popularity for simply posting the work that isn’t theirs, while the original artist doesn’t get the credit they deserve. Though online artists don’t always have “official” copyright on their work, it’s still violating them to steal their art and use it as if its creator didn’t matter. I know the “fair use” policy crops up in a lot of places online, particularly Youtube, and while I think it’s fair enough to use art or other media if the intent isn’t to make a profit, getting permission from the creator is still important. I can only imagine how big of a punch in the gut it would be to see your own artwork on someone else’s website, getting five times as much attention as the original should have.

So in the long and the short of it, I suppose sharing is caring so long as whoever’s stuff you’re sharing knows about it. And agrees to it. In as explicit phrasing as possible. It’s the same concept as “borrowing” something when you’re actually just stealing it because you thought it was pretty and never wanted to give it back in the first place. Sharing ideas and media online can help spread enthusiasm, get discussions going, and just improve communities in general. But don’t slap the creator of that video or show or album in the face by erasing them from existence. Give credit where credit is due.

1 Comment

  1. I agree with your post, and I think it is really important to realize that there is always a downside to sharing. Whether it is plagiarism and gaining some kind of profit (whether it’s money or popularity), sharing does have a consequence. Now, with the addition of Golumbia’s perspective on sharing, we can see that there are even more consequences than you at first realize. I think crowdforcing is a bigger issue than some people realize, and it affects more than just one person. But I also think that crowdforcing doesn’t happen as often as Golumbia seems to think, and thus does not make sharing an entirely bad thing. Sharing has its down-sides, and it’s plus-sides, but, when you really think about it, doesn’t everything? I think, more than anything, it’s important to just acknowledge both the negatives and positives of sharing.

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