What is the shelf life of SPAM™ and how is this related to digital profiles, remixing and copyright? As I try to catch up on the last 3 weeks of course 2 I will try to answer the latter while leaving the former answer to the suspensive conclusion like the classic Twilight Episode “To Serve Man”. (would you like SPAM™ with that?)
After reading the Week 1 articles of “Positive Digital Footprints” by William M. Ferriter and “Calculate Your Digital Footprint” by Sarah Perez I decided to see how my digital footprint has changed over time. I have been using Google since it was introduced in 1998 (A fact that I looked up by googling Google to find this Wikipedia post. A nice example of a recursive algorithm ) In 1998 I had just come back from a teaching job at Colegio Nueva Granda (CNG) in Bogota where I met my wife and where my son was born. When I googled myself in 1998, I remember seeing links to my involvement as a teacher intern with Lockheed Aerospace for the Industry Initiatives for Science and Mathematics Education (IISME) program in the SF Bay Area during 1994.
Now when I google my name and IISME no links show up. Google also does not find any links concerning my name and CNG. In some ways the short shelf life of links that came up in Google searches on myself 14 years ago is comforting. If there was any embarrassing links associated with my name when Google searches were made in 1998 they have also surely disappeared by now. The shelf life of my digital footprint is more like the unidentified leftover in the picture below than a can of SPAM™ (yes I will get to the answer eventually…)
The SPAM™ robot pictured at the top of this post also reminded me how remixing is a critical component of my robotics course and the school FIRST Tech Challenge team. I have yet to see a student use a can of SPAM™ in their robot design but I have seen them many times use an idea they have seen off the internet and modify it for use in their own robot. The team robot is being rebuilt for the FIRST World Championships in 1 week and now includes a ball conveyor as pictured below.
The basic ball conveyor design was shared in the spirit of Gracious Professionalism™ and Coopertition™ (similar to the ideas the Creative Commons License is based on) by many FIRST Tech Challenge teams in YouTube videos like the clip shared by FTC Team 4054. After watching a variety of FIRST Tech Challenge team videos on YouTube it is easy to see how robot design ideas are not just copied but remixed and mashed up with other ideas the teams have generated on their own. The Internet acts as a catalyst to this exchange of ideas and hopefully the media corporations will fail in their efforts to use SOPA , PIPA, and ACTA to shutdown the sharing of ideas on the Internet.
Which leads me to my final thoughts on SPAM™ (the food, not unwanted email!) As every devoted Monty Python fan knows the trademarked food is featured in a fan favorite skit from a Series 2 episode and is actually part of the title for the play adaptation of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail which is entitled SPAMALOT. (in another post I will share how the film can be use to teach the concept of syllogism in a math classroom) It turns out that the current owners of the trademark, Hornel Foods, actually approved of how the comedic group mashed up their trademarked food product for the use in a variety of commercial entertainment products. (You can actually play a Flash game based on SPAMALOT at the SPAM™ website here. Scroll up the tower to find it!) When the software company Antilles Landscapes Investments in 1995 started to sell their SpamBuster™ program Hornel Foods did an about face and decided to sue for trademark infringement in a UK court instead. Luckily common sense in the UK judicial system is more prevalent than in the US tort system and the judge basically threw the case out. (see the decision here as a pdf) The judge realized that Monty Python’s skit was probably increasing sales of SPAM™ whereas buyers of SpamBuster™ were probably not running out to buy Hornel Foods’ product. It all came down to money and corporations will do anything including crippling the internet in order to decrease competition and increase profits. (as is pointed out by Kirby Ferguson in “Everything is a Remix: Part 4″ and by Clay Shirky in this TED video.)
So what is the shelf life of SPAM™ ? Hornel Foods’ says a can will last “indefinitely”. Lets hope sharing on the internet lasts as long!