I’m in Vancouver this week at the annual Access conference for libraries. It is always a good opportunity to learn more about libraries and technology, but this year’s program organizers have done a particularly great job, with several sessions on openness — including open data, open standards, open source, and open access — all topics that fit in well with this week’s ECI 831 lecture. The slides from my own pre-conference presentation on selecting and evaluating open source software are available on Slideshare. I added Slide 7 (on the use of social media to find out more about open source and to connect with others with similar interests) late on Tuesday night after class, based on our discussions that evening!
The opening keynote of the Access conference this morning, “From Access to Interactivity” by Jon Beasley-Murray, was particularly interesting, as it brought some political economy into the discussion of libraries, technology, and openness, and provided an important connection between pre-industrial enclosures (which saw the privatization of common agricultural land) with modern-day digital enclosures — where capital takes the products of common production (such as our uploaded photos, videos, etc., as well as our taxpayer-funded university research output) and monetize them for private profit — either through the addition of advertising (e.g., YouTube) or via high journal subscription prices to university libraries (where the taxpayers get to purchase the content they themselves funded). In his talk, Dr. Beasley-Murray made reference to the brilliant David Harvey (a hero since my days as a geography student), including his concept of the “accumulation by dispossession” — where private wealth is amassed not through capital growth but through the appropriation of the products of the commons (more here too). I’ve been involved in the open source and open access movements for several years now, but I really appreciated Dr. Beasley-Murray’s historical contextualization of this issue. It reminded me of not only of the importance of building connections with other people to bring about more openness, but also of the need to maintain our connections with the past. Openness isn’t new at all, in fact, but actually goes back a very long time indeed.