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Re: <nettime> some more nuanced thoughts on SWARTZ
Marco Ricci on Tue, 26 Jul 2011 04:20:59 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> some more nuanced thoughts on SWARTZ


sorry David Golumbia, but.. ehm.. do you get any money from JSTOR if one of
your articles is being purchased?
If yes, well that weakens my point, by i think it will make sense anyway.
However, i really don't think a researcher gets anything from JSTOR. As far
as I know, he doesn't even get money from a paper edition academic journal
which publishes his articles and sells them to the public for mostly
illogically high prices. (I won't enter here the discussion about the
barriers that such publications present on "the other side", that is to the
access to publication and academic recognition). If, as i reckon, no
researcher gets a cent from Jstor for his articles, why do you associate
retribution for your work with payment to Jstor?

Public universities and research institutions, by definition, are financed
by taxes paid by every citizen, and especially by the students of that
university. What does a citizen who is not affiliated to any university get
from the money he pays in education taxes? If u work in a public
institution, your work should be paid by the state (=the public), and it
should be available to the public. More generally, there is a general
agreement that some very basic services should be granted to everybody;
certain institutions exist (or should exists) for the public good, and not
for profit; i consider access to information a very basic human need, almost
as necessary as access to water.

I did take an economy class, but economy still isn't some kind of religion
with god-given golden rules, even if it is often regarded as such, and you
seem to firmly believe in what your preacher told you in Econ 101: "if all
labor is forced to be free, there can be no labor and NOONE CAN LIVE!!!" And
are you completely sure that "this is the model of labor propagated here"?
If so, i think you really missed a lot of the discussion about free
information and different possibilities of sustaining cultural production.
Never heard of arXiv.org? Do you think that such free, academic-level
archives are destroying academic culture? I think they are fastening the
spread of new research and information and stimulating the creation of new
one.

The actual western economy is an historically and culturally situated
system, born and grown up during a specific time in a specific cultural area
of the world, it is limited by its own cultural and historical affiliation,
and is now failing to adapt itself to radical changes in culture and
society; with time, such big systems usually become self absorbed, weighed
and hindered by their own internal dynamics. Those so become more important
than fitness to the larger, more dynamical and less regulated systems (=
society) they are supposed to serve.

One must be extremely stubborn to think that our own western economy system
is the only one capable of sustaining a society and its culture, or the best
one in doing this; in fact, i think that system is flawed and corrupted, and
it is based on many biased assumptions rather than on absolute laws and
principles. In Econ 101 (or, at least, in its Italian version) they still
speak about the "invisible hand" of the market: let everyone act in his own
egoistic interest, and the common good will magically follow. That principle
is now partly surpassed, but it has long been at the heart of western
economy; even if it's pretty much an absurdity, it was chosen among other
possible theories because it fitted to the most powerful interests.
Copyright was born in times culturally very, very different from our own,
when physical production and distribution of information was still a time
absorbing and energy consuming activity. It has been thought mostly to avoid
third parties making money from selling other people's work, and none of
those "libertarian Randites" who believe that information should be free
would back the idea that anyone should be allowed to make money from other
people's work. Freedom from copyright is about using others' work to grow
intellectually and possibly to produce new culture; it isn't about making
money.

Intellectual property isn't the only way to sustain a flourishing cultural
production, if it does that at all; rather, it is weighing it down and
limiting its vitality (some copyright-free african countries with a huge and
vital cultural industry are an overused example). It is just the only model
we are used to; creativity and hence cultural production is a basic feature
of humanity, and it will not die out because it is not "protected" by a
system existing mostly to feed a few capitalists around the world. Sorry to
use a second rather banal example, but I download loads of mp3s, and i
illegally re-use loads of samples in my own musical production, which is, of
course, copyright-free. But i still love to buy my favourites on vinyl; many
of them. I get most of the information i need for my research from (legally
or illegally) free sources, i am deeply, extremely thankful to
aaaaarg.organd gigapedia (now
library.nu), i consider them the heroes of our times, and when i think about
the amount of information freely available to anyone willing to use it, when
i think that i can now learn almost any topic at an academic level, spending
only my own time and energy, i feel moved and excited, i feel like knowledge
and wisdom are becoming less elitarian, like people can finally open their
minds (if they are willing to or not, is another question). BUT, i still
love to buy loads of books.

Differentiation of the product could be one of the keys to copyright-free
cultural production: if what u need is the pure, bare information, you can
have it for free and be free of reusing it as you like; if u want it in a
nice, durable and enjoyable package, you can pay money for it, and still be
free to reuse it, to let it stimulate your own creativity, let it fuel new
culture in an exponentially growing circle.

Even if such and other strategies wouldn't be enough to sustain the actual
cultural industry, and if its incomes would be seriously compromised by such
new practices, i think that from the fall of such cultural industry (partly
including the academia) only goodness could rise. For humans, to produce
culture is as natural as feeding and shitting, it is an unstoppable need,
and it would adapt to any new situation which could arise from the
evolution, or the fall, of the actual system. However, my main concern
aren't the incomes of the cultural or any other industry, but rather the
vitality of human knowledge: if to see further, you should sit on the
shoulders of giants, then the stairs to reach them should be open to
everybody: many eyes looking far can see more then a few, paying, privileged
eyes. Or only "relevant eyes" should be allowed to peep on the great
picture?

Actually, what u said about the "relevant research community" sounds very
scary to me: who decides who's "relevant" and who's not? People not
recognized by the academia (another highly closed and limiting system)
shoudn't have the chance to build up their own culture, their own point of
view? Should they be denied access to the highest levels of culture, because
they are not officially recognized? Or because they do not have enough
money? Or because they come from a place where the money needed to purchase
a single article on Jstor can feed their family for a month? Again, based on
which principles would you distinguish "relevant" researchers from
"irrelevant" researchers? What i know for sure, is that i belong to the
second group, that i do not care a penny to be officially recognized, but i
deeply care about having access to knowledge, as much of it as my brain can
assimilate.

I do not publish in any academic journal, but i consider myself a
researcher, and the only means i have are free online resources, mostly
illegal or illegally used; only 20 years ago, i could never have reached the
levels of knowledge i desired in any of the fields i am interested in. To do
research at such levels as i am, i should have been affiliated with some
major world-famous institution, and even my crappy, illogically expensive
italian public university couldn't offer what i can now find for free in the
web. No, my respectable university, one of the oldest in the world, publicly
financed but still costing more than 1500? an year, didn't grant me access
to Jstor or any other significant online archive. When doing academic
research on art and technology, i had to download most of Leonardo's issues
from Jstor using the password from a friend in a german university. Since i
now have some money, i subscribed to the paper version, because i love to
have those beautiful magazines in my shelf. However, free ("illegal") access
to Jstor saved my researching ass while i was still studying and had zero
$$$.

Well i gave even too much space to over-discussed general issues, quoting
banal points which you could and should have read about from a thousand
different sources, and i hope this didn't cover up my main point: if you are
a researcher working for a public (or private) institution, which supposedly
grants you a regular monthly income, why do you associate your own wealth
with that of institutions such as Jstor (with all due respect to Jstor,
which is a great resource, and one i would be willing to pay for, if my
financial status would allow it..)? And if free access to information must
be granted to the most part of relevant researchers, why researchers
considered irrelevant by official institutions shouldn't have the same
rights? Should i really bring up examples of "officially irrelevant" people
who changed the history of their own field, or is a general statement of
equality of rights enough?

Best,
a

2011/7/25 t byfield <tbyfield {AT} panix.com>

> OK, guys, it's safe -- he's gone. Finally, we can stop pretending to be
> ~4000 international leftoids and really let our freak flags fly. Let me
> tell you, I'm *totally* excited! After thirteen years of co-moderating
> this list, Felix and I can finally change its stupid name. I mean, WTF
> does "nettime" mean anyway?!
>
> From now on, the list address is:
>
>     hardcorerandite-l {AT} kein.org
 <...>


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