“Information wants to be free”–Bill Caraher
Universities in the Digital Age are weird places, and not just because of FB-stalking old professors, professors getting themselves into trouble because of FB, largely irrelevant online professor rating schemes, or the vast potential that online platforms like Academia.edu hold for the circulation of iconoclastic, multimodal research.
In a recent kerfuffle over what Brett Ommen aptly described as “getting in a fight over who cares best about places and things nobody cares about in the first place,” at some point Bill weighed in with the above quote about information and freedom. Not our freedom with information, but that information should perhaps circulate, and widely. After all, in the Digital Age how on earth does one stop this? Put another way, would you rather be more Metallica or, as one commenter over here puts it, more Sex Pistols about the matter.
In that spirit, I started taking my internet presence public back in June. I’ve been slowly making videos from my research available for free for over two years over at tsikbalichmaya.org, and truth be told I’d maintained a web presence in some form since grad school. The big change is in who owns the server space the site is hosted on, as in I do. Intellectual Property (IP) currently exists in a grey area in the relationship between researchers/professors and their employers, and it should be stated that the initial decision to host my research on a private site was driven, in part, by an administrator’s querying Joel Jonientz and I how much we’d charge for access given that the propsed site would be hosted on university servers. The question, of course, implies that “nothing” is not the correct answer.
Owning my own site allows me (and countless others) to sidestep these issues for the moment while using the IP we produce in a free exchange of ideas, methodologies, and data with others in the field (careful not to get into trouble with FB and Twitter, of course). I’m putting my syllabi and assignments out there precisely to further such exchanges in the hopes of dialoguing with others in ways that will in the end make me a better professor. Lord knows, the amazing people who’ve provided me with syllabi and materials when I’ve requested them deserve copious amounts of credit (or blame?) for the teacher I am today. Maybe I’ll encourage a little online intellectual piracy on the side (oh, no!), and maybe someone will outright steal a section of a syllabus or two (who’d ever do that?!). The Internets facilitate the preconditions of precisely such choices, and rather than be scared of others stealing my work or of having it posted forcefully in some weird fashion, I’d much rather do it my way.