21 February 2006

A Question of Value

Although not quite in the same class as Open Access News in terms of signal-to-noise ratio, Slashdot does have its uses, not least as raw entertainment (it's also quite useful for a bit of blog boosting, too....). And sometimes it throws up something that is pure gold.

A case in point tonight, with a link to a story by James Boyle in today's FT. Since that story will more likely than not sink irrevocably into the limbo of subscriber-only content, I won't even bother wasting angled brackets and Href= on it. Happily, though - and this, perhaps, is the real value of Slashdot - one of the comments linked to a much fuller version of the article's underlying arguments that is freely available on Boyle's rich if horribly-designed Website (frames, in the 21st century: can you believe it?)

The item is called, intriguingly, "A Politics of Intellectual Property: Environmentalism For the Net?" Here's a short excerpt from the opening section:

The theme of cyberpunk is that the information age means the homologisation of all forms of information -- whether genetic, electronic, or demographic. I grew up believing that genes had to do with biology, petri dishes and cells and that computers had to do with punch cards and magnetic disks. It would be hard to imagine two more disparate fields. In contrast cyberpunk sees only one issue ~ code ~ expressed in binary digits or the C's,G's, A's and T's on a gene map.

This should give a hint of just how spot-on the whole piece is.

I won't attempt to summarise the whole thing here - partly because I've not digested it fully myself, and it seems too important to vitiate with my own ham-fisted approximations, and partly because Boyle's essay is, in any case, precisely the length it needs to be for a deep analysis of a complicated domain. You might read it now, or wait until I come up with some vaguely coherent thoughts in due course: this, I most certainly will do, since the issues it touches on are central to much of what I am writing about here.

You have been warned.

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