Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Re: [dpla-discussion] Anyone thinking about journal articles?

Posting to dpla-discussion

On 29/08/2012 08:20, Tom Moritz wrote:
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My "politics"?
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When discussing new models, it is very important not to label them too quickly in a way that may be political. It then puts entire fields essentially "out of bounds". Let me explain: the traditional model for creating, storing, distributing, retailing, etc. has broken down and something new must be tried. While the costs are more or less unchanged for creating the original of a so-called "intellectual creative work", the costs of creating copies of this original, storing and distributing those copies, is approaching zero, therefore other models become necessary. The "copy" has lost much of its value, but the original has not. Because of this, many jobs based on the former model can simply disappear or change radically, as we are seeing today.

Right now, we are talking more or less about books, articles, films, maps, and other materials that can be replicated in two dimensions, but I suspect that precisely the same thing will happen as 3D printing improves. Imagine if a car part you need could be "printed" out in five minutes from a remote file, just like the Espresso book machine does with a book. Or a chair. Or a coat. What effects would this have on society? Think of the disruption to all the people and businesses affected, from warehouses to transportation companies to retail businesses. What would something like this do to the traditional "markets"? Could such a future have much in common at all with what we know as a traditional "market"? This could very easily become the next great revolution in society. Therefore, I believe what we see happening in the 2D world now may be a foreshadowing of what will happen in the 3D world in the next century or so, but there will be much greater consequences to the 3D world than what we are seeing now in the 2D world.

Labeling possible solutions as "communist" or "capitalist" may prove to be totally anachronistic in the coming environment, while it puts much discussion "out of bounds". As a personal example of this, several (many?) years ago, I studied as a graduate student in the Soviet Union, back in a town known as Leningrad at the time. A doctor I had met wanted to emigrate to the west but had questions he demanded that I answer. I was not a medical student and got worried, but then he showed me what he said he couldn't tolerate in his country.

He took out the brand new medical dictionary, opened it to some incredible technical word I didn't know in Russian or English, and he said, "Don't look at the word. Look at the definition." The definition was (something like) "A bourgeois concept." He told me that he couldn't stand this because here was an entire field that was off limits to any research or discussion, and he wanted to know if this happened in the west. I said that no, that did not happen, although you may have to defend your ideas from entire onslaughts of attacks of people who may seriously disagree with you.

In the Soviet Union, you could have "bourgeois science" or "bourgeois linguistics". I would hate to think that today we could have "capitalist digitization" or "communist metadata". That is not a profitable path. There is a need to seek out and find models that work or do not work for our different communities, and that (I hope) retain some of the values of traditional librarianship.

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