Friday, April 22, 2011

knowledge may be power, but OWNING information doesn't make you smarter

Human society was shaped by sharing! If we hadn't shared shelter, food, care for the young, companionship, etc. society as we know it would not exist today.
If you're old enough you should remember when the internet was just ramping up and everyone was talking up the new paradigm. We were once again part of a "global village" where people in every corner of the globe could share information, ideas, money, etc, etc. Offices would become paperless, communication would become instantaneous and life would look more like an episode of the Jetsons or Star Trek.
Unfortunately the term eCommerce came into being very very shortly after terms like email, world wide web and online, so commodity trading online is as much a part of this new paradigm as instant messaging and file sharing.
You don't need to be homeless to see that sharing in society has well and truly stopped. This leads me to believe that something (else) is fundamentally wrong in the world. In fact, something has been going wrong for a long long time. Ownership is surely the most consuming concept in society today. Money, debt, homelessness, foreclosure, the GFC, oil, wars, and most everything else in the news every day is concerned at some level with ownership.
Far from bringing us together, the Internet has spawned the commodification of information and knowledge. Sure, it's not a totally new concept. We can go back to the invention of the printing press, or the hoarding of literacy, but as far as scale is concerned, the Internet seems infinite. Digital copies of anything that can be digitised can be distributed online, and the medium doesn't know how to differentiate between legally appropriated material and the other kind.
I'm a bit of an anarchist at heart, but rather than promote bittorrents and other types of file sharing that is both within and outside of the law, I want to rant just a little more about Creative Commons licensing. Creative Commons licensing allows the creator, artist, writer, inventor, producer, director etc. to maintain control over their created works in a way that suits them. They may, for example, choose to publish a book through a big publishing house, so that the physical book itself falls under normal copyright and other protections, however they may choose to make the ebook version available free of charge to anyone who wants it. This is exactly what Cory Doctorow has done. Surprisingly enough, his books are actually good and are largely concerned with copyright, living as a community and other pinko hippy feel good stuff like that. He's an anarchistic dreamer who manages to live the dream and make money. Nice!
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