Facebook is dangerous. I should know that by now. But I forgot for one brief moment on the night before last.
I responded to a thread between a group of ‘friends’. I probably never should have commented. I knew I had a differing point of view than most of the people in the group. But I figured I was among friends. Besides I wasn’t claiming to be right. I was just making it known that it was possible to have a differing opinion on a subject that’s very, very difficult to define.
Well, I didn’t like how it went down after that. So I quit the group. As a skinny gay boy I spent enough time watching bullies to know that once they decide who is a friend and who is not, there is very little hope the rest of the group will be reasonable. Yes, it’s very high school (and I mean my quitting as well) but it’s also human nature.
So I’ve decided to say here what they wouldn’t let me say there.
What is the nature of the web? Who owns the content we produce and place on the web? I would say the creator of that content unequivocally. But the truest thing about anything as certain as unequivocability is– you just never know.
So, I have to admit in my deepest darkest soul, I don’t believe anyone can own the web. Nor do I believe they should. It’s the nature of the beast. And as my ‘friends’ have proven, it is a beast.
The web is not like a book or a painting. You can’t hold it in your hand, keep it in a library or hang it on the wall in some hallowed institution. It’s constantly evolving and changing. Even the content that lives there morphs continually– it’s not finite. It’s more like a rolling stone. So at what point does it no longer solely belong to its creator? At what point does it become public domaine?
I believe that the magic of the web must be a bit like the magic of raising children. We create content. We have an idea of what it is, and what it should mean. We nurture it, mold it and hold it precious in our own home. My blog is like a home to me, I expect to control and cater it completely as my own. But like a precious child my content also lives in a great big world. A scary, dangerous world. Should you not have children because there is unspeakable evil? Should I not create content because something bad might happen to it? Should I lock the door and never let it leave my sight– never allowing it to reach its full potential? I don’t know, these are questions to be answered by the individual. I can’t tell you what to do. So I’ll tend to my own however I see fit.
But what has this to do with recipes?
To me recipes are the ultimate form of shared art. They have a creator who had an original intention. But a recipe is not a poem. Its structure is far more fluid. Especially because recipes are designed to be shared, only to become owned by a whole slew of anonymous cooks from here until (hopefully) eternity.
I loved my Aunt Pat’s sugar cookies. But I am not naive enough to believe that they were ‘her’ sugar cookies. My Aunt made me sugar cookies as an expression of her love for me. I don’t know where she got the recipe, and I don’t care. In fact I hope the creator of that recipe saw the fulfillment of his or her hopes for that recipe when those sugar cookies created a bond of love between my Aunt and me.
The web is a throughly modern invention. But in fact it’s just the latest incarnation of something more innate in human behavior. It’s a device for sharing ourselves with other human beings. Whether that is through commerce, soul searching, politics or recipes. The web allows people to express themselves by connecting to other people.
But not everyone is an artist or a creator. Some people consume art. They look at that painting on the wall and are touched by it. It defines something about themselves that they could not articulate on their own. So they metaphorically ‘steal’ that painting. It becomes part of how they see themselves and how they express themselves to others– even if they don’t know it. The painting may still hang on the wall. But a large chunk has been taken away on some metaphysical level. I’ll bet that was the artist’s intention.
But the web has changed the rules. Now some morphed version of that art can physically be moved to a new location. It can be altered. It can become a part of someone else’s life– without its creator’s permission. Though I would argue that you gave tacit permission the moment you placed in on the web. Again (right or wrong) its the nature of the beast.
Still, it’s recipes my ‘friends’ felt so passionate about. So how do I feel about recipes on the web? Well, I see the web as the proverbial back fence. I like to see recipes get passed back and forth over that back fence. So I expect (maybe even hope) that my recipes will be among them. Sure I’d like credit. It’s the right thing to do. But credit is not why I feel compelled to put my recipes on the web. Because just like Laura Petrie’s avocado dip, Millie might start considering that recipe her own. She might even proudly share it with another neighbor along her own back fence. I’m not saying it’s right. That recipe belongs to Laura (or as the episode turns out, does it really?). Still I can’t help thinking that Laura, though initially angered, helped fulfill the promise of that dip.
I write a blog. I put proprietary content on it. I’d like to hold onto it in its pristine, precious form. But I can’t. It’s just not possible. So instead I do the best I can. I try to teach my recipes right from wrong. I give them as good a start in this world as I can. Then I set them free. GREG
PS I set these words free as well. Please cut, paste and share as you see fit. But in a perfect world, I’d prefer it if you asked me first.