radical open access in Kelty, Bodo & Allen 2018
the publishers most probably realized that in the
long run the copyright-based exclusivity model is unsustainable. The copyright wars
of the last two decades taught them that law cannot put an end to piracy. As the
Sci-Hub case demonstrates, you can win all you want in a New York court, but this
has little real-world effect as long as the conditions that attract the users to the
shadow libraries remain.
Exclusivity-based publishing business models are under assault from other sides as
well. Mandated open access in the US and in the EU means that there is a quickly
growing body of new research for the access of which publishers cannot charge
money anymore. LibGen and Sci-Hub make it harder to charge for the back catalogue.
Their sheer existence teaches millions on what uncurtailed open access really is, and
makes it easier for university libraries to negotiate with publishers, as they don’t have
to worry about their patrons being left without any access at all.
The good news is that radical open access may well be happening. It is a less and less
radical idea to have things freely accessible. One has to be less and less radical to
achieve the openness that has been long overdue. Maybe it is not yet obvious today
and the victory is not yet universal, maybe it’ll take some extra years, maybe it won’t
ever be evenly distributed, but it is obvious that this genie, these millions of books on
everything from malaria treatments to critical theory, cannot be erased, and open
access will not be undone, and the future will be free of access barriers.
We Are Not Winning at All
But did we really win? If publishers are happy to let go of access control and copyright,
it means that they’ve found something that is even more profitable than selling
back to us academics the content that we have produced. And this more profitable
something is of course data. Did you notice where all the investment in academic
publishing went in the last decade? Did you notice SSRN, Mendeley, Academia.edu,
d faculty; on institutions, departments, and programs. They produce data
on the performance, on the success and the failure of the whole domain of research
and education. This is the data that is being privatized, enclosed, packaged, and sold
back to us.
Drip, drip, drop, its only nostalgia. My heart is light, as I don’t have to worry about
gutting the library. Soon it won’t matter at all.
Taylorism reached academia. In the name of efficiency, austerity, and transparency,
our daily activities are measured, profiled, packaged, and sold to the highest bidder.
But in this process of quantification, knowledge on ourselves is lost for us, unless we
pay. We still have some patchy datasets on what we do, on who we are, we still have
this blurred reflection in the data-mirrors that we still do control. But this path of
self-enlightenment is quickly waning as less and less data sources about us are freely
available to us.
Who is downloading books and articles? Everyone. Radical open access? We won,
if you like.
I strongly believe that information on the self is the foundation
of self-determination. We need to have data on how we operate,
on what we do in order to know who we are. This is what is being
privatized away from the academic community, this is being
taken away from us.
Radical open access. Not of content, but of the data about
ourselves. This is the next challenge. We will digitize every page,
by hand if we must, that process cannot be stopped anymore.
No outside power can stop it and take that from us. Drip, drip,
drop, this is what I console myself with, as another handful of
books land among the waste.
But the data we lose now will not be so easy to reclaim.
My goal in this paper is to tell the story
of a grass-roots project called Data
that I helped to co-found shortly after,
and in response to, the Trump e
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