Participation, Compensation, and Conciliation: A Mash-Up Dilemma

Mirko Schafer’s “Participation Inside” brings up some intriguing issues relating to web 2.0.  In the section devoted to discussing the increasing presence of user-driven activities tied to proprietary platforms, Schafer focuses on the Star Wars fan community and its creations on Lucasfilm’s websites.  While the fact that the commercial enterprise facilitates fan creation of Star Wars–related materials through the use of mash-up editors, animation apps, and other web-based tools seems like a great way to involve fans and add value to the web site and its community, the penchant for the corporate entity to claim any and all financial benefits that might accrue from the work of the fans seems somewhat less friendly.  But is it?  After all, the fan got to play with the web tools for free. Nevertheless, I can certainly see reason for user’s consternation if something he or she created on the corporate website went viral and generated a lot of revenue for the corporation while the user got nothing.  On the other hand, this dynamic seems like the flip side of what Schafer discusses in the first half of the article: P2P file-sharing of copyrighted materials.  On one side, we have someone’s intellectual property and its incidental profit and on the other, we have the desire to use the technological tools available to play and share information.  I think balance needs to be found in both sides.  The current models are flawed and do not offer such equilibrium.  How can producers of cultural artifacts and consumers of them be fair to one another, and even more so, when the two activities overlap?  It remains to be seen how these issues will be worked out, but I would imagine that users will not likely put up for long with doing work that profits a corporation without some compensation.  Everybody has to feel like they are getting a fair shake, or why participate at all?  The information wants to be free, but everything else costs.

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