Speaking at City University London for OA Week
Ernesto Priego has invited me to speak at City University in London on Thursday the 22nd October as part of Open Access Week. I wanted to pull together a bunch of the thinking I’ve been doing recently around Open Knowledge in general and how we can get there from here. This is deliberately a bit on the provocative side so do come along to argue! There is no charge but please register for the talk.
The Limits of “Open”: Why knowledge is not a public good and what to do about it
A strong argument could be made that efforts to adopt and require Open Access and Open Data in the 21st Century research enterprise is really only a return to the 17th Century values that underpinned the development of modern scholarship. But if that’s true why does it seem so hard? Is it that those values have been lost, sacrificed to the need to make a limited case for why scholarship matters? Or is something more fundamentally wrong with our community?
Drawing on strands of work from economics, cultural studies, politics and management I will argue that to achieve the goals of Open Knowledge we need to recognise that they are unattainable. That knowledge is not, and never can be, a true public good. If instead we accept that knowledge is by its nature exclusive, and therefore better seen as a club good, we can ask a more productive question.
How is it, or can it be, in the interests of communities to invest in making their knowledge less exclusive and more public? What do they get in return? By placing (or re-placing) the interests of communities at the centre we can understand, and cut through, the apparent dilemma that “information wants to be free” but that it also “wants to be expensive”. By understanding the limits on open open knowledge we can push them, so that, in the limit, they are as close to open as they can be.