Steven Harnad suggests that institutions could mandate self-archiving to get researchers to comply, as opposed to voluntary policies that have proven ineffective. The ineffectiveness of voluntary policies is backed up by my own research where very few professors were aware of the legalities behind it, many arguing it would not be legal due to copyright, even though the American Anthropological Association and the SSHRC both claim support of it.
That they are not aware, and not making their students aware, show how these voluntary mechanisms for achieving self-archiving are not working.
This pushes me to support self-archiving mandates.
But let’s integrate the discussions I’ve been having with Max, an anthropologist who has spent a lot of time with politically marginalized groups. He asserts he is a “reformed open access advocate”, who while having founded an open access journal KACIKE, has since developed concern over the way the accessibility of the internet leverages existing power relationships even more. Access on the internet is not equal, not only due to government support of particular media monopolies – but also in the way programs can be developed to harvest information.
Open Access works to balance out unequal distribution – by giving those without access, access. But once everyone has access, there are other ways for inequality to present itself. In order to compile all the information, it requires massive man power – as is found among thousands of Chinese citizens working as internet censors. Open Access makes it easy for these censors to filter information, to find names, places, targets, etc. By posting an article about Falong Gong on a blog, or in an Open Access journal, programs developed in part by companies like Google can scan through the information and “harvest” it. Posts on such topics are automatically tagged and saved away for a human to scan through later.
So what kinds of information are people harvesting? The U.S. military has offices setup where soldiers can earn “distance drilling credit” by gathering data online from “open source” sources. Since the information was all open source, I wish I could tell you what they harvest, but they take “open source” info, and turn it into an inaccessible, but “unclassified” database. (also see here.)
The Chinese government has intelligence/censoring staff working full time, and they have in effect created a very different internet than the one we can access here. They, like the U.S. government, make sure they can “sniff” through the most traffic possible online, so they force telecom companies to make sure there are “choke” points on the internet where all information flows through. This lets them setup powerful monitoring tools..
The point here is, that state and corporate powers are colluding to control and observe peoples internet use. Companies need to track transactions, just as much as some states need to track citizens. These technologies are extremely powerful, but only available to dominant groups.
Enter Open Access. We share everything online, but who benefits the most? The academics, and interest groups, we might expect to read anthropology articles? Or, in being so open, are companies like Google and state powers benefiting more?
Google scans through every single email I send, and receive, using a computer program that looks for advertising key words. They don’t actually read it, but they created the technology to do so, and now governments are getting into the game too.
So back to Falong Gong. Do I really want the information making its way into corporate/state databases? Because with Open Access, it will. With “closed-access” it probably will too, but not as quickly or easily – and those accessing it will have to know about it, select it, and go through it – as opposed to information being flagged or blocked automagically.
For anthropologists, the concern over “what should be shared” in a publication is nothing new and there are massive debates as to how one can ethically go about doing and publishing research. And since I’m dealing with OA, I’m not even talking about researchers who collude even more directly with military powers.
To mandate self-archiving would remove a “gray” area that currently exists for material no one can identify as “safe” or “dangerous” to share. Since the concerns over what kinds of research are proper haven’t yet been worked out, then I agree, mandates might be too extreme. At the same time, I’d rather research methods and topics be developed – that address the kinds of content that are damaging.
I stand by the idea scholarship is meant to be shared. So I’m excited to see what Max’s upcoming presentation, “Useless Anthropology”: Strategies for Dealing with the Militarization of the Academy” turns out.
[another angle against mandated self-archiving, is the need for culturally appropriate rules for dissemination – as argued by Kimberly Christen and demonstrated on the Mukurtu Archive project website. There are collaborations between communities and academia that develop into interesting research, but that demand other forms of publication. Mandated self-archiving universalizes the properness of “being open”, which has been shown to cause conflicts, and perhaps unnecessarily limits the kinds of publication that can be developed out of research.]
[and this doesn't mean we can't have self-archiving mandates, that allow for exceptions!]