|Jefferson compared scholarly learning to the lighting of a flame|
But what particularly struck me is how appropriate the DPLA is for the time in which we find ourselves. This is a time when we see the Internet threatened with censorship and restrictions, when information is sealed behind publisher paywalls, when those vested interests try to pretend that digital objects are the same as physical objects. This is a time of conflict between the philosophies of closedness and openness.
|The DPLA site went dark on January 18th to protest SOPA|
Professor Darnton has been a great advocate of openness in information and research. He began his lecture by summarising the serials crisis in which the price of scholarly journals has risen a grotesquely exploitative rate – often four times the rate of inflation resulting in publishers (especially the ‘Big Three’) reaping 20-40% profit margins. He’s written about this before in his Three Jeremiads article for the New York Review of Books and in The Case for Books. It is a monopoly on information which Professor Darnton has done his best to combat by encouraging Open Access, open digital projects, and influencing the ‘Harvard Model’ which has increased the compliance rate of Harvard academics depositing their material in the university’s Open Access repository from 4% to 50%.
And so the DPLA struck me as an appropriate project for this time. The DPLA represents openness; it represents the idea of knowledge as a public good; it represents intellectual freedom. As such a high-profile and ambitious endeavour, the DPLA seems like a marshalling of the troops of open access. It is a massive effort to resist the publishers and media barons who fight against the drive towards openness in media distribution and digital distribution. It’s a way to tell these controlling influences – Pullman’s “greedy ghost of market fundamentalism” – that we won’t let them take away our intellectual freedom in the name of profit. And I hope it succeeds.