Learning From Aaron Swartz: Content Must Not Be The End Game For Knowledge
from the serious-stuff dept
In the wake of the suicide of Aaron Swartz, there have been many fine tributes to the man and his work. Another growing class of posts that have flowed from this unhappy event are people reflecting on the important lessons he taught them. Here, for instance, is Jeff Jarvis recounting his journey from a fairly traditional position on copyright to one that recognized how the Internet had reshaped that landscape.
Ten years ago, Jarvis appended this “mock copyright notice” to his blog posts:
It’s mine, I tell you, mine! All mine! You can’t have it because it’s mine! You can read it (please); you can quote it (thanks); but I still own it because its mine! I own it and you don’t. Nya-nya-nya. So there. COPYRIGHT … by Jeff Jarvis.
But gradually, under the influence of key thinkers in this area, he came to see things differently:
Lessig and company have taught me that content’s value can lie in what it spawns and inspires. Locked away, unseen, unused, not discussed, not linked, it might as well not exist.
And Aaron Swartz has taught me that content must not be the end game for knowledge. Why does knowledge become an article in a journal — or that which fills a book or a publication — except for people to use it? And only when they use it does content become the tool it should be. Not using knowledge is an offense to it. If it cannot fly free beyond the confines of content, knowledge cannot reach its full value through collaboration, correction, inspiration, and use.
The tension between knowledge and content is no mere abstraction. As well as lying behind some of the most problematic sections of SOPA, ACTA and TPP, and the larger war on digital sharing they are part of, it was almost certainly a contributory factor in the death of Aaron Swartz too.