As the open access debate creeps into journal articles, having been a hot topic for a number of years now, we begin to see how scholarship likes to make things more complex and perhaps more confusing than need be. One big confusion is the way anthropologists are interpreting “open access publishing” and the “open access movement” in new ways.
“Open access publishing” refers to making published material freely accessible on the internet. It was not meant to refer to making “any information” freely accessible on the internet. It is about taking things that would normally require payment to access, and to removing that barrier.
The point here is that there have always been ethical issues involved in creating and disseminating ideas – and these issues are not new to the Open Access movement – they tie in to publishing in general.
Ethical discussions as to what information should be shared are at the heart of anthropology, but I think we should be careful not to overly complicate the term “Open Access”. Ie: one question is “should it be published at all”, while the other asks “now that I want to share it, how can I make sure the people I want to read it see it”.
Does information want to be free? (and who pioneered this phrase?) -> Yes, because in the sense used in the open access movement the information has been shared openly already, but is restricted by a price-barrier which results in no one reading it.
Does this refer to all information? Hell no. It never did! Should we admit we are making very little progress in our thesis on a blog where ones supervisor can read it? Probably not! The open access movement is not asking people to share every secret. It is trying to make the stuff we decide to share more accessible.
Check out Peter Suber’s “open access overview” page:
Open access is not synonymous with universal access.
- Even after OA has been achieved, at least four kinds of access barrier might remain in place:
- Filtering and censorship barriers. Many schools, employers, and governments want to limit what you can see.
- Language barriers. Most online literature is in English, or just one language, and machine translation is very weak.
- Handicap access barriers. Most web sites are not yet as accessible to handicapped users as they should be.
- Connectivity barriers. The digital divide keeps billions of people, including millions of serious scholars, offline.
- Even if we want to remove these four additional barriers (and most of us do), there’s no reason to hold off using the term “open access” until we’ve succeeded. Removing price and permission barriers is a significant plateau worth recognizing with a special name.” http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm
What anthropologists can add is that along with schools, governments, and employers, there are numerous individual and cultural reasons for maintaining access barriers to information.
[universal != open]