03 July 2007

Blizzards and Beauty: An Ode to Open Access

Peter Suber has long been recognised as the official chronicler of the open access movement; now, with the publication of this paean, it seems he's become its bard as well:

I've heard physicists refer to the prospect of room-temperature superconductivity as a "gift of nature". Unfortunately, it's not quite within reach. But the non-rivalrous property of digital information is a gift of nature that we've already grasped and put to work. We only have to stand back a moment to appreciate it. To our ancestors, the prospect of recording knowledge in precise language, symbols, sounds, or images without reducing the record to a rivalrous object would have been magical or miraculous. But we do it every day now and it's losing its magic.

The danger is not that we already take it for granted but that might stop short and fail to take full advantage of it. The point is not to marvel at its potential but to seize the opportunities it creates. It can transform knowledge-sharing if we let it.

We take advantage of this gift when we post information online and permit free access and unrestricted use for every user with an internet connection. But if we charge for access, enforce exclusion, create artificial scarcity, or prohibit essential uses, then we treat the non-rivalrous digital file like a rivalrous physical object, dismiss the opportunity, and spurn the gift.

More, Peter, more.

No comments: