Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory
Over the course of this and last semester, we have been collaborating
on a group web-based collaborative research project at the
intersection of law and culture -- specifically, the domain
of international intellectual property covered by copyright.
The collaborative is made up of nine advanced undergraduates
from the arts, humanities, and social sciences, three graduate
research assistants from Law and Social Sciences and a Professor
from the English department The goal of the collaborative
was to give the undergraduates an opportunity to participate
in basic research and to interact within a collaboratory environment.
The output of the collaborative is a group web site that expands
the initial research of Professor Woodmansee in her article
"Beyond Authorship: Imagining Rights in Traditional Culture
and Bio-knowledge" (www.globalauthorship.com).
During the fall semester, Professor Woodmansee led a research
session with the three graduate research assistants where
the material was selected for the spring syllabus. This initial
phase allowed the research assistants to obtain a solid background
in both Professor Woodmansee's research and Intellectual Property
Law. From this research a working syllabus was created for
the undergraduate students who would enroll in the Interdisciplinary
Research Collaboratory during the spring semester.
The Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory was broken down
into two parts: the background phase and the research phase.
In the background phase students read professor Woodmansee's
and her co-collaborator Peter Jaszi's articles on the history
of the author-function and how it has affected Intellectual
property law both in the United States and Internationally.
The students also read intellectual property law and relevant
cases, and research surrounding history of the book and its
relationship with the new age of Technology. This phase lasted
7 weeks. During this phase students wrote two papers in order
to ground their absorption of the research. The papers were
each worth 10% of their grade. Participation in the discussion
sessions was also worth 10% of their grade. This phase of
the class was worth a total of 30% of their overall grades.
During the research phase students were divided into three
groups based on their research interests. These groups included:
historical research, case study and example research, and
international legislation. Each of these groups was led by
a graduate research assistant. Students were taught web development
and research skills as a group and then assigned specific
research tasks in order to expand Professor Woodmansee's original
article. Students were graded on a weekly basis; each week
was worth 15% of their grade. The end project and the teams
overall interaction with the collaborative was worth 10% of
their grades. This phase of the class was worth a total of
70% of their grades.
Class was held twice weekly (T-TH, 2:45 4:00). During the
first half of the collaborative, these sessions were used
to review the material being read by the students. During
the second phase of the collaborative these sessions were
broken down into two parts: during the first part of the class
students met as a class and overall announcements were given,
then in the second part of the class students broke into team
meetings with their graduate research assistant where each
student discussed his or her research and drafts of content
were turned in. Students also communicated on a bi-weekly
basis with their graduate research assistant and the other
members of their teams. Professor Woodmansee and the three
graduate research assistants met on a weekly basis in order
to review the students' research and turn in drafts.
The content was reviewed in a three phase process. In the
first phase the students were assigned a topic and a deadline.
They wrote and turned in an initial draft (along with relevant
URLs, graphics and other references) to their graduate research
assistant. This draft was reviewed by the graduate research
assistant and then given to Professor Woodmansee for review.
In the second phase, the papers were returned to the students
for a second draft. These drafts were turned in and reviewed
by graduate research assistants and Professor Woodmansee.
Once approved, these documents were posted on the course web
site by the webmaster.
Appendix 1: Course Description
ENGL 381, ARTH 384, ANTH 382, PSCL 381, PHIL 381, ECON 381,
HSTY 384: Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory
Over the course of this and last semester, I have been collaborating
as a Teaching Assistant with a group of advanced undergraduates
from the arts, humanities, and social sciences, two other
teaching assistants from Law and Social Sciences and Professor
Woodmansee on a group web-based collaborative research project
at the intersection of law and culture -- specifically, the
domain of international intellectual property covered by copyright.
The goal of the collaborative was to give the undergraduates
an opportunity to participate in basic research. The output
of the collaborative is a group web site that expands the
intial research of Professor Woodmansee.
Our intellectual property law evolved alongside and to a
surprising degree in conversation with Romantic aesthetic
theory. At the center of copyright is a thoroughly Romantic
conception of creative production, or "authorship,"
as an essentially solitary, individual activity resulting
in a unique original "work." Historically this notion
of creative production has functioned to marginalize or deny
the work of many creative people -- e.g., women, non-Europeans,
those working in traditional forms and genres, and individuals
engaged in group or collaborative projects, to name but a
few. Exposure of these exclusions -- the recovery of marginalized
creators and under-appreciated forms of creative production
-- has been a central occupation of literary and cultural
studies for several decades. But the same cannot be said for
the law. While the law participated in the construction of
the modern "author," it has yet to be much affected
by the "critique of authorship" that we have been
witnessing in cultural studies for several decades. The consequences
of this lag are significant, for the law of intellectual property
plays a large and growing role in determining how wealth is
distributed in the real world.
The global consequences of this lag will be the focus of
our "research collaboratory." After tracing the
emergence of the modern conception of "authorship"
in the context of the diverse forms of creative cultural production
that it tends to marginalize or deny, we will turn our attention
to the way in which this concept operates to distribute intellectual
property internationally. Working in small research teams
assisted by graduate apprentices, students will investigate
how the "author"-driven intellectual property system
enables nations of the industrial North to maintain economic
and cultural hegemony over information flows at the expense
of peoples of the resource-rich South. Our objective will
be to write collaboratively a publishable paper setting forth
alternative ways of thinking and talking about cultural production
that could provide the foundation for a more equitable legal
The course is appropriate for advanced undergraduates majoring
in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, and especially
so if they are contemplating law school. To facilitate the
"collaboratory" experiment, enrollment will be capped
at 15 students.