Open Education Week: Interview with Subhashish Panigrahi

Posted by Noopur Raval at Mar 14, 2014 09:00 AM |
Noopur Raval interviewed Subhashish Panigrahi from the Centre for Internet and Society's Access to Knowledge team about sharing information resources and attribution in academia.
Open Education Week: Interview with Subhashish Panigrahi

Subhashish Panigrahi. Photo credit: Biswarup Ganguly (under CC-A 3.0 license)

Subhashish Panigrahi works as a Programme Officer for Community and Program Support, Access To Knowledge (A2K) for Centre for Internet and Society. Supported by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation, the Access to Knowledge program promotes participation in Indian language Wikipedia projects. As a part of his role, Subhashish interacts with school and university students from different parts of India regularly. In this interview, he reflects on how students are aware (or not) of attribution.

Read the original published on Commons Machinery website here.

What is the general trend around sharing information resources and attribution among students and teachers?
It is funny to know most students I have spoken to rely on photocopied notes provided by their teachers and try to keep the writing style and sentence structure same as the notes. They don’t know that copying answers or quotes amounts to plagiarism. It is the same for many teachers who teach them to keep the beauty of the author’s writing without modifying it. Also, when I visit universities and interact with professors and students, most consider Google and Wikipedia their best friends, primarily for the quick access to information and imagery. I get a lot of questions about the proper procedure of inserting images that appear in Google search in Wikipedia entries. Many student projects are focused on getting the best pictures available on the internet which means they may download copyrighted images (with watermarks) and modify them. With music and video, it is even worse.

Does the current situation become problematic when you encourage students to contribute to Wikipedia?
It often does. For instance, when we initiated the India Education Program (IEP), as a part of Wikipedia Education Program (WEP),  to include editing Wikipedia articles as part of academic curricula. Started in 2011 as a pilot program in the city of Pune, IEP engaged with over 1000 students on English Wikipedia. But the lack of education about copyright violation, and a habit of copying notes from books and other sources affected the program outcome. Many articles were copied from books and internet portals without even paraphrasing, which is completely against Wikipedia policies.

What could be the possible reasons for the lack of basic awareness about how to share information among these students?
Self-taught knowledge about the Internet and the idea of the Internet as a place with few restrictions could be a few of the reasons for these problems. Frequently, social media platforms do not have barriers to downloading and sharing content produced by people in your network. With mobile devices, all incoming content is downloaded and stored on your phone. Often, people crop incoming images or modify them and share them in small networks. Although they do it in good faith, information keeps getting reused very rapidly without any credits or metadata.For a new media educator like me, it is easy to explain why and how to contribute to Open Knowledge projects like Wikipedia…but attribution, and why appropriate attribution is crucial to information sharing, are very difficult things to teach. Most students feel like it is not really important to attribute correctly as long as you are not using it for profit or with bad intentions.

How do you deal with it individually and as a part of the A2K team?

It is crucial for educators, academics and everyone else to include education about Copyright and Copyleft in their syllabus so that students and faculty alike can know how not to violate copyright. At the same time, I think schools and universities are a great place to educate students about Open Access journals and the entire culture of knowledge producing/sharing beyond commercial gains.I often cite the example of one of my pictures that got featured in many international magazines and newspapers including The Conservation magazine and The Huffington post, which would not have happened if I hadn’t let the copyright go. I tell students that the biggest perk of contributing works in Creative Commons licenses is having a wide audience, especially young people. People release published information in free licensing when they hear about the opportunity to get enormously popular.

Similarly, BBC and Al-Jazeera have set great examples of mass donating imagery and video footage under CC. In one of our recent collaborations at the A2K program, the Goa University, on our request, changed terms of their licenses for a Konkani language Encyclopedia to Creative Commons license that has brought many volunteers to digitize and enrich the Konkani Wikipedia.