Plagiarism

Art 2008-08-08 01:47

Plagiarism is a serious accusation. We’re taught this from an early age - copying an encyclopedia entry for your report on Zimbabwe, for example, is about as grave a crime as a 3rd grader can commit. Cultural episodes like the Milli Vanilli scandal reinforce this at an adult level: that using some part of someone else’s creative work in your own is so vile an act that it might drive someone to suicide.

But like many seemingly black-and-white moral issues, advances in technology reveal gray areas. An age of highly fluid and editable media has produced the phenomenon of the creative remix. Where is the line drawn between creative remixing and plagiarism?

Is Weezer’s video, which is mostly made up of footage from various YouTube videos, a creative remix or plagiarism? How about all those Google Maps mashups, most of which get all their content from Google Maps? What about a DJ, who usually plays nearly 100% music written by other people?

One of my recent posts was copied in its entirety and reposted to what appears to be some sort of accounting-oriented linkspam site. They do provide a link back to the original article, though my name appears nowhere on the page. Is this plagiarism? By most conventional definitions, I’d say yes.

But I’m not upset. My personal feeling is that plagiarism is not the big deal that most people make out of it. I’ve had my creative material copied without being asked my permission or being given attribution on the resulting work a few times in the past, usually music. For some reason it just doesn’t bother me. If anything, I feel flattered that they find my work worthy of copying.

But, there is always a moment of disorientation and slight discomfort when I stumble across it. It’s like looking at a distorted image that looks strangely familiar, and moments later realizing that it is your own face being reflected back from a funhouse mirror. I can see how some, in that moment, might escalate that feeling into hurt, betrayal, and anger.

Fear Engine

Art 2008-03-15 01:50

I just love this passage:

“From my black throne, I will lash together a machine of bone and blood, and fueled by my hatred for you this fear engine will bore a hole between this world and that one.

When it begins, you will hear the sound of children screaming - as though from a great distance. A smoking orb of nothing will grow above your bed, and from it will emerge a thousand starving crows. As I slip through the widening maw in my new form, you will catch only a glimpse of my radiance before you are incinerated. Then, as tears of bubbling pitch stream down my face, my dark work will begin.

I will open one of my six mouths, and I will sing the song that ends the Earth.”

I’d like to attribute this to some gothic novelist, but in fact it’s the talented pen of Jerry Holkins, who never ceases to amaze me with his artful wordcraft.

Steampunk

Art 2007-09-08 12:47

Steampunk is something of a rising genre of fictional works. Or perhaps it’s better called an aesthetic, one that shows up in many fictional works. It combines the edgy, bad-ass, rough-and-tumble feel of cyberpunk with the fantastical feel of conventional high fantasy, all set in a world which typically feels like the early Industrial revolution.
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Elephant’s Dream

Culture, Art 2006-06-10 05:06

Elephant’s Dream is an impressive 3D short. It was created entirely using open source tools (primarily Blender and Gimp - the very same tools I used to create the cover for my last album). It’s released under the Creative Commons license, which means you can share it with your friends or even modify it - completely free from hassle by the MPAA.

What really astonishes me about this film is the quality of its imagery. I would say that the graphics in this are better than Pixar movies from just a few years back.

My Burning Man Project History

Burning Man, Art 2006-05-25 10:00

Defining Artistic Value

Philosophy, Art 2005-05-11 04:07

What is art? Most people define art the say same way they define pornography - “I know it when I see it.” The dictionary definition is “works produced by the conscious use of skill and creative imagination” - which tells us how it is made, but what it actually is.

First, let’s separate art into two categories: functional (e.g. architecture, graphic design, or software engineering) and pure art (e.g. painting, sculpture, or music). Items in the former category have practical purposes, which can be defined in an objective fashion. So let’s ignore that category; or at least, ignore the practical aspects of the category. A building has a functional purpose, but its aesthetic represents its pure artistic value.

Considering pure art, then, my definition is thus:

Art is an attempt by an artist to convey a concept or emotion in a non-direct fashion to an audience.

Normally, humans communicate their thoughts to each other via words, sometimes supplemented by facial expressions and gestures. This direct route of communication works well for most purposes, but not all. There are many thoughts and feelings which cannot effectively be conveyed by describing them directly. Or, perhaps they can be described, but the audience will gain only an intellectual understanding. The audience’s understanding would be much more personal and poignant if they actually feel it themselves. I can tell you “I’m angry” and you will know what I mean; but it is a more powerful thing if I create a piece of art which makes you feel angry yourself.
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