Web technology literally connects us to the world. It allows numerous people to connect and ultimately collaborate on everything from political debate to creative design.  This network of individuals evolves into what is called a “collaboration creation community” or where a huge number of people mutually collaborate to create contents on the web (Hamasaki, Takeda, Hope & Nishimura, 2009).  According to Hamasaki et al. (2009) this collaboration is typically done by users in multiple locations and who often do not know each other. Information sharing projects like Wikis (think Wikipedia) allow for users to generate and enhance the content that was there before them or to start a project and invite others to contribute and, according to Lamb (2004) is ego-less, time-less and never finished.

Axel Bruns, of the Media & Communication Creative Industries Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology describes the phenomenon of Produsage, where simultaneous production and usage of content exists between multiple users (Burns, 2009). He indicates that produsage can be described through four key characteristics:

  • A shift from dedicated individuals and teams as producers to a broader-based, distributed generation of content by a wide community of participants;
  • fluid movement of producers between roles as leaders, participants, and users of content-such producers may have backgrounds ranging from professional to amateur.
  • artifacts generated are no longer products in a traditional sense: they are always unfinished and continually under development-such development is evolutionary, iterative, and palimpsestic.
  • produsage is based on permissive regimes of engagement which are based on merit more than ownership:they frequently employ copyright systems which acknowledge authorship and prohibit unauthorized commercial use, yet enable continuing collaboration on further content improvement.

While this all may make perfect sense in the world of wikis what happens when peer production escalates the content into a recognizable worldwide phenomenon like Hatsune Miku?

Image Courtesy Google ImagesHatsune Miku is the mascot image of the vocaloid synthesizing software, Vocaloid2. If you trace the labyrinth of creators of Miku, you will find (I think) that the software was created by Yamaha, Miku’s voice is Japanese actress Saki Fujita, the graphic artist who created her image was Kei Gar0. Miku was created by Crypton Future Media using Yamaha’s software by Hiroyuki Itoh who is dubbed the “father” of Hatsune Miku. Confused yet? Add to this that Miku has been animated thousands of times using freeware software called MikuMikuDance, a freeware program created by Yu Higuchi and the plot surrounding who has had their hands in the creation of this multimedia diva certainly thickens.

Using what is considered a “shared content policy”, users tap into the creation of those before them and help to bring Hatsune Miku to life. A  youtube search will bring up more than 29,000 results. Nico Nico Douga, the Japanese equivalent of youtube (a video sharing site) had in May of 2008 more than 36,000 Hatsune Miku tagged videos (Hamasaki, Takeda, Hope & Nishimura, 2009).

According to Hamasaki and his peers, they found the following types of creative activity related to Hatsune Miku:

  • Songwriting (Amateur songwriters eager to promote their songs. Using a vocaloid eliminates the cost associated with production with professional singers.)
  • Song creation (Contributors ‘compete’ with one another to tune Miku to create pleasant sounding songs for singing).
  • Illustration (Anime fans create scenes and facial expressions and versions of the character).
  • Editing (Creators collect existing media and produce summaries or collections).

So does anyone truly have a claim to Hatsune Miku? One could argue that without the technology by Yamaha (which her clothes and color represent) Miku would not exist. Another could charge that the 3D animation is from Garo is what made her ‘real’…and still others could challenge that it is the freeware MikuMikuDance that cascaded her to the status where Hakune Miku is today. According to Japanese copyright law, the rights to the music created by the software (Vocaloid or otherwise) is the property of the creator. Hakune Miku is licensed to Crypton Future Media but is able to be animated without consent through the freeware. Therefore, as long as the user is not creating offensive or questionable material, anyone with the software and some time could use Hatsune Miku to market their productions. Pretty cool, eh?

Here’s where I get philosophical for a minute. Why can’t we, as consumers of Hatsune Miku in whatever form she comes to us in (as an academic assignment or as a pop star) simply accept that she is the product of a collective group of creative individuals? Does someone always have to get credit? I suppose this is a little polly-anna to believe that, gasp, someone could not be out to make a buck. Or are they? Toyota, Nintendo and others have certainly capitalized on Miku’s success. And ultimately, I suppose the name Hatsune Miku is now worth quite a bit. I am sure that Garo got paid for his design…Fujita got paid for her voice. How Higuchi makes his money is not my business…but his software has basically allowed for the marketing of Hatsune Miku for free. So, if anyone wants to point the proverbial finger at the person potentially responsible for this intellectual property conundrum…point it at Yu Higuchi. Without him, the fans wouldn’t have had the ability to mass create Hatsune Miku into the star that she is. I blame him. Otherwise, I think its pretty interesting that there are few individuals (in comparison to the THOUSANDS who have participated) who are claiming rights to Miku’s success. Maybe just being a part of the phenomenon is enough…

References:

Bruns, A. 2007. “Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation,” Proceedings of the 6th ACM
SIGCHI Conference on Creativity and Cognition, Washington, DC, June 13-15.

Hamasaki, M. et al. “Network Analysis of Massively CollaborativeCreation of Multimedia Contents: Case Study of Hatsune Miku Videoson Nico Nico Douga,” Proc. uxTV’ 08, pp.165–168, 2008.

Hamasaki, M., Takeda, H., Hope, T., Nishimura, T., 2009. Network analysis of an emergent massively collaborative creation community. Proceedings of the Third International ICWSM Conference, 222{225.

Lamb, B. (2006).  “Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not,” EDUCAUSE Review, Vol. 39, No.5, September/October 2004, pp. 36–48,<http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0452.asp&gt; (accessed Cctober 6, 2011).

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