In Kirby Ferguson’s video “Everything is a Remix”, he breaks down the history of copying ideas and intellectual property. I was most intrigued in this video when he said “creation requires influence”.
I have been in the situation where my idea was copied. I so distinctly remember this experience and how upset I was that someone had the audacity to steal my idea.
Here’s how the story goes:
I was in my junior year of high school taking honors English. Our teacher told us to come up with a report on a social construct in our community that we would observe over the next few weeks and then we were to report on it in class as an oral report. There would be no written paper to follow up with this assignment. My idea was to observe the effects of social media in my friend group and then to ask each of them to try and change one thing about their habits by the end. I told my friend who was in the morning block of this English class, and a few weeks later I found out that she had done the same report as me! I was going to look so stupid showing up in the afternoon block of my class reporting on something my superstrict English teacher had just heard three hours previously.
I ended up finding a way to change my report slightly, and looking back I don’t think my teacher ever gave us grades for that particular assignment. However, I felt that same sense of righteous indignation that Adrienne Lafrance describes that the artist who saw her work go up on a brick wall without her permission did. People copying your ideas is upsetting.
I remember when I was little I had heard a saying that went like this: “when people copy you, take it as a sign of flattery”. To understand this requires knowledge of the remixing issue that Ferguson delves into. Every person who has ever had an “original” thought had to have gotten their ideas from some previous notion that already existed. Nothing is original, but the key is to transform it into something of your own.
image source: https://vrtifacts.com/remix/