Lawrence Lessig, prolific author, Harvard law professor, and Creative Commons founder, opened the 2012 Center for Intellectual Property (CIP) Symposium Wednesday, June 6, 2012 in Baltimore with a powerful keynote he entitled the “Scholar’s Obligation.”
A note on technique: Lessig used presentation software in an interesting way. He did not read the slides; he used slides to punctuate and emphasize what he was saying. He often did this by displaying the keyword of what he was saying or displaying exactly the words he was saying at key moments interspersed with interesting visuals. The effect was riveting. I bring this up because in moving away from bullet points and thinking about visual impact it had not occurred to me to use words on slides in this way, even though I’ve noticed it is done on TV ads all the time now. Now, on to the content of the keynote-
Lawrence Lessig described a privileged world in which scholars live, financed by institutions to which they belong, but within which even some scholars’ efforts to promote openness is corrupted by a government where the money of special interests overpowers a republic of representative democracy. If we want ultimate influence over our own spheres of life – that is, if we want individual votes to really count as if our opinions mattered – this fundamental moneyed corruption, now seeping into every aspect of the nation’s life, must be remedied. In short, Lessig delivered a message way beyond what I expected.
For scholars in research institutions information is free. Free to them. The less prestigious the institution to which a scholar belongs, the slightly less freely complete the information readily at hand. The structure by which scholarly information is distributed and the economics of that distribution drive this availability. To make this point clear, Lessig illustrated how much it might cost unaffiliated citizen John Q Public to quickly retrieve a dozen research articles from a typical Google Scholar search. The cost for online access would be hundreds of dollars. Some articles were inaccessible. Many, sensibly, feel this is not right.
Online is everywhere. The mobile era has begun in earnest. Morgan Stanley research indicates home PC use may have crested at 33 hours per week in 2008. Weekly PC use is down to 26 hours now as we all spend more time on our smartphones at the kitchen table, on the sofa, sitting on the porch, out at the park, and even in bed. And the influence of tablets on behavior has yet to be really felt.
The venerable New York Times seems to have uncovered a very successful campaign that bolstered JC Penney’s Google results for searches on “cocktail dresses,” “bedding,” and the like by using unsanctioned “black hat” optimization. Corrective “manual” action by Google’s spam cop quickly dampened these results. The author, David Segal, goes on to explain the traffic value of being top search result, ferrets out a web publisher paid to host links for that purpose and interviews a search optimizer who manages surreptitious campaigns to skew results in favor of his clients. It’s all done by attempting to build link structures that Google measures – the who cites whom phenomenon upon which even scholarly rankings are built. The search optimizer differentiates between influencing commercial searches on Google for say, a suit, and more important and less skewed information searches on, say, a cancer condition. Nonetheless, the sum effect seems to roil and muddy the clarity of Google’s vaunted methods to assure the integrity of search impartiality. Enough so that the Times wondered aloud about links between Penney’s advertising expenditures with Google and search placement, even as it conveyed Google’s strong denials of any possibility that this might be the case.
Interesting online Washington Post Campus Overload piece about social media at Boston University (BU). Note especially this comment by BU’s Jenny Mackintosh: “What is the most important lesson you have learned on Twitter? Listen, listen, listen. …talking about yourself less …Our followers …want to hear about what’s going on both on campus and in Boston, and they want to know that we’re listening as well.”
BU’s Admissions Facebook worth a look for the changing flavor of doing business – http://www.facebook.com/buadmissions. Forget email.
Successful algorithms crave data and in creating them “they” cannot learn enough about us-
“As CEO Eric Schmidt explained last May  “We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don’t know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google’s expansion.” He said that Google wants to be able to answer when users ask, for example, “the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?'” from Google: Search and Data Seizure written by Jeffrey Chester in The Nation, October 15, 2007, (http://www.thenation.com/article/google-search-and-data-seizure). Info about the author is at http://www.alternet.org/authors/468/ and a link to the article text retitled Will Google’s Greed Ruin the Internet? is at http://www.alternet.org/story/6421/will_google%27s_greed_ruin_the_internet/ . Jeffrey Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy
Ejournals, reviews, preprints and working papers, encyclopedias and dictionaries, bibliographies, data, blogs, discussion forums, and professional and scholarly hubs – that’s what Ithaka found when the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) asked them to look into the state of digital scholarship. Read the 49 page report, Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication online at http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/current-models-report.pdf, review the scholarly resources here and read a summary news release here. (This is a repost of a 2009 blog entry I originally wrote elsewhere.)
“PubMed Central Deposit and Author Rights,” an ARL publication available online (http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/grillot-pubmed.pdf), reviews a dozen varying publisher attempts to comply with the mandate that authors submit published NIH funded research to PubMed Central within one year. (This is a repost from a Jan. 28, 2009 blog entry I originally wrote elsewhere.)
Jonathan Band’s How Fair Use Prevailed in the Harry Potter Case, an ARL/ALA sponsored publication (http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/harrypotterrev2.pdf), argues that the court supported fair use and the creation of reference works pointing to the work of others. The case, Band points out, failed only on the author’s excessive use of material already written by J. K. Rowling and not on any other fair use point, which the court explicitly supported, as summarized in this 13 October 2008 news release. (This is a repost from a Jan. 28, 2009 blog entry I originally wrote elsewhere.)
“Extremely complex:” that’s Google’s settlement with publishers about scanning copyrighted books. It’s worth studying to learn what opportunities libraries have according to the Association of Research Libraries’ Jonathan Band in A Guide for the Perplexed: Libraries and the Google Library Project Settlement, available online at http://www.arl.org/pp/ppcopyright/google/. Lots of other links there, too, to further muddy the mind. (This is a repost from a Jan. 28, 2009 blog entry I wrote elsewhere.)
The current intellectual property environment is hindering the ability of universities to access material in and teach at the leading edges of disciplines. Copyright and other protections were developed to help society prosper, not just commercialize intellectual property. The academic community needs to address the current imbalance says Peter McPherson, President of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) in an Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Bimonthly Report article, On Ensuring that Intellectual Property Public Policy Promotes Progress. (This is a repost from a Jan. 28, 2009 blog entry I wrote elsewhere.)