Academia as a Commons

David Bollier has been the Croxton Lecturer at Amherst College for the past semester, teaching a course, “The Rise of the Commons.” Below are remarks that he delivered at the Robert Frost Library on April 26, 2010.

I realize that any mention of digital technologies and copyright law can induce a certain mental stupor among many people. The topic is rife with many complicated legal and technical issues. But I believe that we commoners have too much at stake to leave copyright law to the lawyers and the Internet to the techies.

The very mission and identity of academia is implicated in the future of digital technologies, the Internet and copyright law. At stake is the ability of colleges and universities to act as inter-generational stewards of knowledge; to assure that their own scholarly output is freely accessible and usable; to curate knowledge in better ways and to disseminate it as broadly as possible; and to foster innovative research and learning.

The growing sophistication of the digital commons can be seen in its expanding political ambitions, collaboratvie innovations and stylish new forms of advocacy. Below, three examples of highly original commons-based projects that really rock.

Critical Commons is a new nonprofit advocacy coalition for “fair and critical participation in media culture.” Its self-stated goal is “to build open, informed communities around media-based teaching, learning and creativity, both inside and outside of formal educational environments.” The “tag cloud” for the site suggests the lit-crit predilections of the site’s hosts. Among the key words are “Deleuze,” “narrative structure,” “transverberation,” “ideological analysis,” “gender,” “VR “ [virtual reality”] and “TV.” [Deleuze was an influential French philosopher.]

Celebrating the Academic Commons

October 19 to 23, marked the first international Open Access Week, a time for university campuses to learn about the various ways of accessing and sharing academic research more freely.

On more than 100 campuses, students and faculty heard talks about copyright issues for instructors, open access journal publishing, graduate student publishing, finding copyright-free images, and using open educational resources in the classroom.

Last year, 120 campuses in 27 countries marked Open Access Day, which was apparently so successful that organizers decided to turn the event into a week-long teach-in and celebration.

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