Credit for info-goods

NOTE HXA7241 2012-09-16T09:56Z

Info-goods should include proper credit/acknowledgement should they not? Maybe that default intention is archaic and narrow, and it is now generally better to decouple description and associate it by hash.

Including normal kinds of credit/acknowledgement in an info-good is not a very sensible way to use information. This is because of two features of credit.

Credit is really a network property/feature. Nothing is really ‘created’ by a single creator, there is no special start or end point for information. ‘Creation’ is really a pedigree/family-tree: an extended region of the network. To enquire of the ‘creator’ is really a simplified convention of a more general kind of query.

And credit is a kind of metadata and so suffers from its problems: it can lie, or be wrong, or be absent. The solution is to focus away from the credit, and primarily on the subjects of the metadata, the info-goods themselves, and particularly in this case their relation to others

So this suggests that the better form is not to include credit, but to decouple credit from info-good. Have all info-goods go about unadorned, simply as they are. And when you want to know a provenance, get a (fuzzy) hash of the thing and put it into some index/search and find out various open-ended things about it. If a cartoon has a similar drawing style as another previous one, or a piece of music quotes another, those influences and contributions are just as noteworthy as the ostensible notion of ‘the creator’ and can just as easily be shown. These are wider network-relational features of the goods that embedded credit cannot give but decoupled credit/information can.

There are already some inchoate examples of this when viewed from this perspective: musicbrainz, wikipedia, web-search all provide various post hoc distributed info (especially musicbrainz, which uses the CD disc-ID hash) – you have a thing, then you look-up more about it elsewhere.

So this approach of decoupling description and associating by hash is not unknown, but perhaps needs to be more consciously pursued as the right basic way.