Attribution vs Credit

“Computers cannot give credit” — Automated systems can be designed to automatically create attribution for remixed works, but in a study of participants in a large remix community, the value of automatic attribution was much less than the credit given manually by humans.

People crave getting credit for their own creative work and get upset when they see derivatives of it used by others without giving credit to the authors. A research study of youth in the Scratch community (html) experimented with adding automatic attribution when works were remixed; however the users reactions were that automatic attribution were much less authentic than ones created individually by users.

Credit vs attribution in scratch interface
Credit vs attribution in scratch interface

Scratch (website) is an open online tool developed at MIT designed to give children creative experiences creating small games and interactive tools that also teaches them principles of computer programming via a graphical interface. (Wikipedia).

As of November 2015, there are over 11,000,000 projects shared on the Scratch site– it’s design explicitly embeds the idea of remix in that everything posted there is open to be remixed by another user. This is also adopted more recently in the approach of Mozilla’s WebMaker tools (mozilla)

Remixing in Scratch is not only technically possible, it is something that the administrators of the website encourage and try to foster as a way for people to learn from others and collaborate. On every project page, the Scratch website displays a hyperlink with the text “Some rights reserved” that points to a child-friendly interpretation of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license under which all Scratch projects are licensed.1 Even the name Scratch is a reference to hip hop DJs’ practice of mixing records. A large portion of all projects shared on the Scratch website (28%) are remixes of other projects.

That said, remixing is not universally unproblematic in Scratch. Previous quantitative analysis of the the Scratch community showed that Scratch participants react both positively and negatively to the remixing of their projects and found that of those users who viewed a remix of their project, about one-fifth left positive comments while the same proportion of users accused the remixer of plagiarism. This ambivalent reaction to remixing is echoed, and given additional texture, in the comments and complaints left by users on the Scratch website and sent to Scratch administrators.

The study involved interviewing Scratch community members about their reactions to seeing derivatives of their own works with both automatic attribution and individual credit either given as credits inside a remixed Scratch project or in the notes attached to an item’s web page in Scratch.

But in trying to help users by attributing automatically, Scratch’s designers misunderstood the way that attribution as a social mechanism worked for Scratch’s users. Our fundamental insight is that while both attribution and credit may be important, they are distinct concepts and that credit is, socially, worth more. A system can attribute the work of a user but credit, which is seen as much more important by users and which has a greater effect on user behavior, cannot be done automatically. Computers can attribute. Crediting, however, takes a human.

Computers can’t Give Credit: How Automatic Attribution Falls Short in an Online Remixing Community Andres Monroy-Hernandez, Benjamin Mako Hill, Jazmin Gonzalez-Rivero, and danah boyd 2011 (abstract) (PDF)

Attribution vs Credit

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