Week 10 – Summary

I cannot remember reading as much as I have in any other ten-week period. My idea to take ED 633 Research and Writing and CSE 619 Big Thinkers in the same term was not very wise. However, I also believe this has proved to be a pretty successful challenge for me and an opportunity to both learn about intellectual property and strengthen my writing skills.

The authors we have read provided with different approaches to the topic at hand, and they all share the necessity to revise the actual terms of the copyright law. The special nature of intellectual creations has not been taken fully into consideration and, for what it matters, the limits have been established as if they were physical property. As a result, the control copyright holders can have over their creations step into the medium and creates a tax on creativity. Even Robert Levine (2011), the author who defended the rights of the content industry over those on the general population to access to information and culture, agreed in the need of some reforms.

In my opinion, each author has made an effort to provide alternatives to solve or at least palliate the undesired consequences that intellectual property and the Internet era have brought. An oversimplification of their proposals are going back to the previous opt-in/renewable system (Lessig, 2008, p. 262), protecting the public domain of culture and information as if it were a natural environment (Boyle, 2008, p. 230), involve the providers of Internet connections in establishing a blanket license to compensate the profit losses from free riders (Levine, 2011, p. 234), learn and divulge our rights to exercise fair use (Aufderheide & Jaszi, 2011, p. 154), and explore the networked information economy based on shared and non-market relations as a viable system of production that can coexist with the market-based economy (Benkler, 2006, p. 463).

As an educator, I can make use of each of these alternatives to introduce different economic concepts and discuss them with my students. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I particularly liked the approach from Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi (2011) because they promote self-education and the exercise of fair use as a fundamental right to contribute to the global culture.

I cannot foresee what will happen in the future with intellectual copyright but what I know is the traditional media industries need to adapt to this new scenario or they risk to disappear. We are no longer citizens that consume content: we also produce it. Massively. Last week I enjoyed a brief YouTube video from PBS Off Book, posted in June 6, 2013, where they specifically address this subject with the analysis of YouTube as a tool that has revolutionized entertainment.

And I would like to end with an example of the absurdity that can emerge from intellectual property taken to the extreme. We have recently know that a new coronavirus was first spotted last year in Saudi Arabia by Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki, who decided to alert health authorities and send samples for further analysis to Erasmus MC, a laboratory in Rotterdam (Denmark).  This laboratory finally required the cooperation from a Canadian facility by sending them samples too. What we recently found out is that Dr. Zaki was fired for giving away the samples, and the Canadian facility spent more time trying to obtain authorization from the Dutch laboratory than researching due to a pending patent the latter had over the coronavirus. Fortunately, the coronavirus had not spread but it has the potential to do so. In the meantime, a threat to global health came not only from the virus itself but also derived from intellectual property issues. Judge it for yourself in this link to the article from CBS News, posted in May 19, 2013:

Saudi coronavirus work stymied at Canadian lab

Thank you all for this opportunity and for your comments on my previous posts. I wish you all good luck in the finals and a great summer.

 

References

Aufderheide, P., & Jaszi, P. (2011). Reclaiming Fair Use. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Boyle, J. (2008). The Public Domain. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

CBC News (May 19, 2013). Saudi coronavirus work stymied at Canadian lab. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2013/05/17/coronavirus-tracking.html

Lessig, L (2008). Remix. New York: The Penguin Press.

Levine, R. (2011). Free Ride. New York: Anchor Books.

PBS Off Book (June 6, 2013). Are YouTubers Revolutionizing Entertainment? [Video file]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3-YxxqSN5c

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Week 7 – About “Fair Use” by Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi

In my last post about Free Ride by Robert Levine (2011), I ended up encouraging the use of education as a possible solution to reduce the spoil caused by piracy on content protected by intellectual property rights.  Imagine my surprise when I read Fair Use, by Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi, a manual that promotes both self-education and exercise of fair use rights. It has been a very pleasant reading mainly due to the educational encouragement that the work exudes. Once again, I will try to focus on three aspects that caught my eye: fair use in an international context, the individuality of each case in fair use, and the necessary distance one should take from the “politics of the victim” (about fair use or any other matter.)

First, I was able to learn more from an aspect of the US copyright law that I have not been very familiar with until this term, given that in my home country we do not have such thing as fair use. To the best of my knowledge, the authors are right when they refer to similar international practices in non-Anglo European countries to use copyrighted material (Chapter 10, pp. 149-151.) I can assure you that a high school teacher in Spain is safe using copyrighted content in the classroom, as long as there is noncommercial intention and citations are provided. It is easy to understand how a different worldwide legislation about intellectual property rights can bring a headache to copyright holders and lawmakers (Chapter 10, p. 152) and to people who travel or move abroad. A similar concern was shared by Levine in Free Ride when he suggests to establish common copyright rules for digital content on the Internet (Levine, 2011, p. 247), although Aufderheide and Jaszi would rather advocate for educated citizens in their rights as best solution (Chapter 10, p. 154.)

As I mentioned, their passion for education is patent throughout their work and is especially notable when they insist in the need to analyze each case of fair use individually with a set of three questions: purpose, proportionality, and relevance in the field (Chapter 2, p. 24). This brings me to the second topic I wanted to comment on. Fair Use contains several references to perform a reflective study of each situation where fair use is claimed to do creative work from copyrighted resources (Chapter 2, p. 24; Chapter 5, p. 78; or Chapter 10, p.136.) There is even a whole section where answers are given (Appendix E, pp. 177-185) to an excellent collection of particular cases offered along the reading in the “Fair Use: You Be the Judge” text boxes. And all of them require the same individual approach because generalizations, although necessary to grasp the big picture, are useless without reflection as they also demonstrate with the “Myth and Realities about Fair Use” section (Appendix E, pp. 173-176). This is possibly one of our most difficult missions as educators: teach our students to be reflective thinkers, and this topic of intellectual property rights is a great opportunity to practice with our students.

Finally, another excellent source for a teachable moment comes with their commentary about the politics of the victim and the risks they represent (Chapter 4, p. 68-69) Today is very frequent to find, especially in politics and journalism, examples of people who try to capitalize on a victims cause and label anything against it as wrong (Chapter 4, p. 69). The authors show the early opinions of Lawrence Lessig for his “all or nothing” position in free culture (Chapter 4, p. 65) to illustrate the black-hat vs. white-hat paradigm in fair use, although they admit he has moved lately to a more moderated position. Our young students are usually very emotional and this kind of manipulations can be very effective. Therefore, here we have a further educational opportunity to discuss with them these situations that lead to “A is good, B is bad” when a more particular analysis might guide us to a more balanced opinion, like happened with Lessig after 2010 (Chapter 4, p.66.)

I would like to conclude expressing my reinforced commitment with education as a driving force to overcome difficulties. Issues like dealing with intellectual property rights and fair use require creative solutions and knowledgeable users, which is something new generations will have to face. Their success will depend on their previous, present, and future education.

 

PS: Yesterday, I run into an idea Nintendo came up with to profit from remixers who post videos in YouTube. We were discussing this on our last post about Free Ride by Robert Levine. The article was published yesterday, May 16, 2013, by BBC News with the title “Nintendo to profit from user videos posted to YouTube” (no author provided):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22552756

 

References:

Aufderheide, P., & Jaszi, P. (2011). Reclaiming Fair Use. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

BBC News (May 16, 2013). Nintendo to profit from user videos posted to YouTube. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22552756

Levine, R. (2011). Free Ride. New York: Anchor Books.

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Week 5 – About “Free Ride” by Robert Levine

Before reading Robert Levine (2011), I was already seeing the controversy coming in the title: Free Ride. The character of the “free rider” is well known in economics  when it comes to study public goods and services (Screpanti & Zamagni, 2005): there are always people who consume or make use of a public good or service and not paying for it. It is not easy to deal with “free riders”. Basically, we can (a) cancel the supply, with the consequently prejudice to the majority of “non-free riders”; (b) do nothing about it, which usually encourages others to become “free riders” too; or (c) try to reduce or eliminate the number of “free riders”. It is obvious that the preferred solution should fall into the last category, but each possible strategy here (and there are many) presents its pros and cons. Otherwise, issues like the intellectual property copyright will not be a matter of discussion.

Levine carries out a documented analysis of the “free rider” problem in the media industries whose revenues and survival have been deeply affected by piracy (or “free riders”) since the Internet appeared in scene (Introduction p. 6.) In this post, I will comment first on his overview of the evolution of the media industry; secondly, and as a result of this evolution, I will refer to a very important point he makes regarding the technology titans that have emerged since then; and lastly, I will conclude highlighting the, in my opinion, unobserved consequences of his proposed solutions to fight against piracy or, in other words, measures lying on the last category mentioned in the previous paragraph.

The first class I took at the MSEd program was CSE 689 Emerging Information Technologies with Dr. Mary Bucy, where we had the opportunity to confirm how every dramatic change in technology has usually terrified the controllers of the “old” tech. Quite frequently, those who criticize the changes produced by the new technology are well established on the use of an earlier one, and the foundations of controversy are related to what social group benefits from the new technology –economically speaking in most of the cases– and what social group is menaced by it. All these ideas came to me when Levine goes over the changes media industries have suffered (Introduction, pp.1-3) and their loss of profits since Internet era arrived. Multitude of money figures from market values and potential losses are provided in the industries of music (Chapter 2, p.37), newspapers (Chapter 4, pp.111-112), TV series (Chapter 5, p.153), publishing (Chapter 6, p.161), and movie pictures (Chapter 7, p.173.) Levine is right to point out that piracy is hurting these businesses. In fact, the previous authors we have read in the previous weeks, Lessig (2008) and Boyle (2008), both favor the idea of copyright as a fair reward, ergo piracy should not be tolerated. I also believe a great deal of blame can be put on piracy; however, it is surprising for me to see how Levine acknowledges the change of paradigm in the delivery of content through the Internet (Chapter 2, pp. 49-51) but does not stress the lack of foresight in some of these business models to confront the mentioned change of paradigm. Today we are witnessing how traditional companies are still changing their business models to make money in this new online economy, which is the real issue Free Rider is about, in my opinion. For instance, The Washington Post joined last March the list of newspapers that charge for content:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-18/business/37806172_1_paywall-digital-products-web-site

The turmoil in the media industries and the evolution of content distribution turned into a breeding ground for many technology-related companies to emerge and profit from piracy and the free content available in the Web.

In fact, the second idea I would like to comment is precisely Levine’s analysis of the new legal and powerful technology-based companies that have appeared since the Internet arrived. I have to admit it is my favorite part from Free Ride. He cites Michael Wolf stating how companies like Google represent the free and open movement but at the same time “controls almost completely the openness” (Chapter 10, p. 244). Google, Facebook (Chapter 3, p. 104), and Amazon (Chapter 6, p. 169) and their subsidiaries (like Flickr or YouTube) are examples of companies that are concentrating enormous power in the sharing and distribution of free content (Chapter 10, p.253). Levine exposes his concerns which are shared with advocates of free speech and privacy, like The Electronic Frontier Foundation (Chapter 3, p.81). I do not blame these companies for their business models: we live in a capitalist economy which rewards those who offer goods and services demanded by the consumers. Nonetheless, I find really wise in Levine to point out that the concentration of power gathered by these companies are turning them in near-monopolies, like happened with Microsoft in the PC business (Chapter 10, p. 244). Therefore, an eye should be kept on them to prevent the potential abuses that can occur. As a matter of fact, there has been news that exemplifies well these concerns. An analysis by William F. Barker in The Nation newspaper from Jan. 23, 2013, about the algorithm used by Google to rank the news, can serve as an example:

http://www.thenation.com/article/172378/googles-monopoly-news

And last but not least, allow me to analyze briefly some of the consequences of a couple of Levine’s proposed solutions to fight against piracy: enforcement (Chapter 9, p.236) and establish a “blanket” license (Chapter 9, p.234). Both can be considered discouraging measures and both are double-edge solutions. The problem I see with enforcement is that requires to fuel funds to control and prevent piracy, and my guess is it will be publicly funded by a whole to benefit a fraction of for-profit industries. Besides, it will create a “police” state Web-like vs. “pro-piracy organized” groups, and some of the regulations will have the rest of users as hostages (see my last post about the CISPA law.) On the other hand, a “blanket” license, i.e. a fee added to the Internet service cost, will alter the nature of the public good or service (here, free culture) and, what is more important for many, can imply that a majority must pay again for the misconduct of a few. As I mentioned above, the solutions are not simple. My personal bet would be to educate, especially the youngest, in responsible online practices. As a teacher, I strongly believe in the power of education to embed values of respect in everything we share and enjoy as society. It will take longer to implement than the measures proposed by Levine but it will pay off in the long-term. Unfortunately, I know companies must respond to shareholders in the short-term.

I would like to end pointing out the difference of focus between Levine and the previous authors, Lessig and Boyle. While the former agrees with them in the coexistence of free and copyrighted content and the need of a more flexible copyright system (Chapter 10, p. 247), his analysis is centered on the economic losses of the traditional media industries due to piracy.  Lessig and Boyle placed their focus on the cultural losses instead. It is hard to find common ground if their priorities, although both legitimate, are different. It is easy to know what Levine is up to from his initial quotation in the book, the art. 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948):

“Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author”

True, but Levine (purposefully?) only quotes the second part of the art. 27. The first one states:

“Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”

Nobody said this would be easy to fit together.

References:

Barker, W. F. (2013, January 23). Google’s Monopoly on the News. The Nation. Retrieved from: http://www.thenation.com/article/172378/googles-monopoly-news

Boyle, J. (2008). The Public Domain. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Lessig, L (2008). Remix. New York: The Penguin Press.

Levine, R. (2011). Free Ride. New York: Anchor Books.

Mufson, S. (2013, March 18). The Washington Post to Charge Frequent Users of its Web Site. The Washington Post. Retrieved from: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-18/business/37806172_1_paywall-digital-products-web-site

Screpanti, E., & Zamagni, S. (2005). An Outline of the History of Economic Thought. New York: Oxford University Press.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Art. 27. Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

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Week 3 – About “The Public Domain” by James Boyle.

It is hard for me to draw a perfect line between the thoughts of James Boyle (2008) in The Public Domain after having read Remix by Lawrence Lessig (2008). They both belong to a movement of scholars who is not against the intellectual copyright system itself (on the contrary) but demands a revision of the actual laws regulating them. Nevertheless, I will try to hone in on the three points I believe are differential in Boyle’s approach.

I would start by saying that Boyle makes a strong defense of his arguments based on the nature of copyright laws, their history, the concepts contained on them, and their purpose. He admits from the beginning the complexity of dealing with intellectual property rights (Preface, p.xiv.). As a consequence, many people consider them equivalent to those over physical property but Boyle insists on the opposite throughout his book: intellectual property is not the same as physical property because their nature is different (Chapter 1, p.7; Chapter 2, p.21; Chapter 5, p.85; Chapter 9, p.205; and Chapter 10, p.236.) Once this statement is clarified, he explains how the first time intellectual property rights were discussed in the 19th century; those who granted their existence also convened in the need to weigh their advantages and disadvantages to serve social “will and convenience”, given they are “state-created monopolies” (Chapter 2, p.23). Today, copyright industries and their lobbyists do not leave room for any criticism of the system even when the “founding fathers” did (Chapter 4, p.59). This is the first idea which, in my opinion, constitutes the core of his argument. From an economic point of view, it is clear for me that intellectual property shares the features of non-rival and/or non-excludable goods (Chapter 1, p.3), typical characteristics of public goods. Therefore, every single economist will agree that they cannot “behave” in markets like physical goods. I have not got the opportunity to review The Wealth of the Networks by Yochai Benkler (2006), but I am pretty sure I will have the chance to discuss further this point soon.

The next two ideas I will comment are derived from his core argument. One has to do with the implications for society of establishing control over intellectual property. The author is convinced that such control will bring along “control over the medium of transmission.” (Chapter 9, p.205), which I believe steps dangerously into fundamental liberties. Given the different nature of intellectual property, when the use of copyrighted material is forbidden, it also implies the process itself of creation (from that copyrighted material) is also prohibited. Here is where the copyright law turns its original goal “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts […]” (US Const., art. I, sec. 8, clause 8) into the opposite.

At this point, let me share a YouTube video creation by CGPGrey from 2011 which exemplifies this point with the copyrighted material of Walt Disney Co (see min. 03:15+):

And last, I find very inspiring Boyle’s proposal to revert this situation. He suggests creating a cultural environment movement to preserve the public domain (Chapter 10, p.247) based on the same schema of the environmental movement. As I mentioned, companies and lawmakers are very hostile to discuss any revision of the copyright laws, fearing they will lose money. We know the same happened when some people started talking about protecting the environment: the eyes were placed in the short-term, not in the long-term because markets do not internalize the negative effects of production in the environment. It is important to spread the word in a similar way, and explain how the different nature of intellectual property makes the copyright laws impact negatively on the development of the “commons of the mind.”

Each one of us is entitled to their own beliefs and ideas but we need to be aware that sometimes certain laws go further in their regulation of a certain matter: the regulation itself can have decisive consequences in our lives, transcending that mere matter. This week we have witnessed how another controversial law, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) has been passed in the US House of Representatives. And I believe it is controversial because, even when is designed to allow the US government to obtain private data from companies to investigate cyber-threats, I also see how it can make a pool of private data from both hackers and legal users. Some of the cultural environment movement has already protested, like The Electronic Frontier Foundation. And if you see the point Boyle made in his book, you may also find some wisdom in their words:

U.S. House of Representatives Shamefully Passes CISPA; Internet Freedom Advocates Prepare for a Battle in the Senate

References

Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Boyle, J. (2008). The Public Domain. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

CGPGrey (2011, August 23). Copyright: Forever Less One Day. [Video file]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk862BbjWx4

Lessig, L (2008). Remix. New York: The Penguin Press.

Maas, D. & Jaycox, M. M. (2013, April 18). U.S. House of Representatives Shamefully Passes CISPA; Internet Freedom Advocates Prepare for a Battle in the Senate. The Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/04/us-house-representatives-shamefully-passes-cispa-internet-freedom-advocates

Samuelson, P. A., & Nordhaus, W. D. (1985). Economics. New York: McGraw-Hill.

U.S. Constitution. Art. I, Sec. 8, Clause 8.

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Week 1 – About “Remix”, by Lawrence Lessig

I have learned quite a lot with Remix about the situation of copyright here in the US and I agree with the author, Lawrence Lessig, in his goal: the urge for a revision of both legislation and society conceptions about copyright.

Being from Spain, most of our “national” experience with copyright cannot be compared with cases like Ms. Lenz’s (Introduction, pp.1-3). We have the same “70-year after the author´s death” rule that gives exclusive rights to the copyright holders but the law makes an important exemption: copying is always permitted for individual and non-commercial uses. Nevertheless, I will not center my analysis on the differences in legislation between US and Europe (it would be certainly interesting but I am not an expert in law); instead I will address three main ideas developed in Remix which I believe really help to understand why Lessig pursues the mentioned goal.

First, he draws the picture of a paradox from the very beginning (Preface, p. xviii): the technological advances have influenced our culture in a way that encourages us to share and create but copyright laws (as they are today in the US and several other countries) empower the holders of exclusive rights to suffocate those practices for easily 100 years or more. Today, digital technology enable people to express their creativity in ways impossible to imagine a few years ago. Unfortunately, most of these opportunities of communication and ways to show creativity infringe the copyright laws. Yesterday, I bumped into a PBSoffbook video in YouTube that specifically illustrates how the image editing software Photoshop encourages communication and serves as a medium for social statements (see min. 3:22+)

As a result, comes the second idea, that is, the rise of the read and write (RW) culture opposed to the traditional read only (RO) one. The latter is devoted to the protection of its creators’ rights, is professionalized, follows a hierarchy and seeks profit from its activities whereas the former promotes sharing, democratic access, involves the audience in participation, and emphasizes collective value (Chapter 5, pp. 84-86, 106-107). In my opinion, given that each culture has polarized values nobody should be surprised to see that coexistence is complicated; and when disputes are solved, one must be favored against the other. Lessig defends the need of both cultures but fears that the actual copyright laws inherited and unaltered from an analog era (Chapter 3, p.37) entitle with excessive power the RO culture and can compromise the potential growth of the RW one.

The third and last idea explains of how a hybrid culture has flourished in the Internet as a middle path or neutral ground between RO and RW. The Internet has proved to be an excellent medium for each culture to develop activities: commercial economies based on RO culture (Chapter 6, pp.122-128), sharing economies based on RW culture (Chapter 6, p.155), and hybrid economies that combine features from both of them. There are obvious aspects still to be developed to support the development of hybrid culture and its economies but the author considers there are enough elements of success to make it worth to consider.

As I see it, hybrids are common in many areas and prove that coexistence is not only a suitable solution but sometimes the natural step of evolution. This kind of middle ground sometimes appear when there are two polarized social structures or ideologies and no one can triumph over the other because both have assets to defend. Examples can be found in economics, like the neoclassical synthesis model which tried to find a halfway between the Keynesian model and the monetarists, or in politics, like the so-called “Third Way” position. It occurs to me that there are even more hybrid examples in the academia: sciences and knowledge are evolving faster thanks to interdisciplinary field (or hybrids) developments (e.g. biochemistry, sociolinguistics, geopolitics, educational technology, etc.). In our field, there are examples of coexistence between those two worlds too. A very recent one was provided by Katie Stroud in a Google Hangout with Dr. Zobel: when asked about how to put a foot in the job market of instructional designers she pointed out the coexistence of formal and informal relationships (see min. 5:10+):

I would like to end with a couple of reflections based on economics:

a) Copyright laws allow monopolies and these structures must be defended when the good they provide (reward the author for his/her effort) is greater than the costs for the majority. I agree with Lessig that the “whole life of an author plus 70 years” is an excessive amount of time because most of the works generate revenue in the first years after which the copyright blockage prevails (Chapter 9, p.262). This is not an efficient solution especially if we add the legal costs involved to defend those protected works.

b) In addition, the Laffer curve of taxation predicts when taxes rates are so high that people perceive them as abusive, fiscal evasion increases rapidly. And vice versa, if taxes rates are low, they can bring underground activities and stimulate economic growth. Here we find how copyright is holding a far too high tax on citizens and if we do not correct it, RW culture will grow hidden. Lessig’s main concern in Remix is to avoid the criminalization of our youngest generations who are already taking part on the RW culture (Chapter 10, p.284). The hybrid, active changes in copyright laws and social attitudes have the potential to bring more proportionality, equality, participation and business opportunities (Conclusion, p.293.)

P.S.: I will keep it shorter next time.

References

Laffer, A. (2004, June 1). The Laffer Curve: Past, Present and Future. The Heritage Foundation. No. 1765. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2004/06/the-laffer-curve-past-present-and-future

Lessig, L (2008). Remix. New York: The Penguin Press.

PBSoffbook (2013, April 11). Is Photoshop Remixing the World? [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egnB3teYiPQ

Samuelson, P. A., & Nordhaus, W. D. (1985). Economics. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Zobel, G. (2013, April 10). Katie Stroud Interview (pre-broadcast removed). [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_xgkKHxDbU

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First words

Hi there!

This my opening post to CSE 619 Big Thinkers class. Being a ELL, this is going to be a great test for me: lots of reading and lots of writing.

I am convinced that we will learn a great deal from the selected readings and from each other too.

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