[Air-L] Aaron's memorial - Air-L Digest, Vol 102, Issue 12
aoir.z3z at danah.org
Tue Jan 15 07:23:57 PST 2013
Don't get me wrong - this whole thing is bittersweet. Aaron was a friend of mine and I'm having a hard time coming to terms with his death. But I'm also grateful that people are taking up some of his fights. I feel like academics have been far too complacent about how their speech/knowledge has been manipulated and controlled for broader interests. The tenure track process, rather than creating a timeline where people could feel freedom, has made certain that cohort after cohort of intellects turn into sheep - bitter as hell and unable to fight for fear of being slaughtered before they reach the supposed promise land. Countless scholars bow down to the publishers for fear that non-compliance might mean that they aren't published and that might mean a black mark on their CV which might mean they don't get a chance at the promised land. I get it. I get how the subtle forms of power operate within academia that produce this. And I also get that I've refused to play by the rules and I've had great success that's not necessarily reproducible by other people.
Aaron thought universities were a sham and that professors had stopped being intellectuals. We used to fight about how there was more to a university setting than the classroom, but I could never convince him of this. He felt he could learn more and be more stimulated on his own than wasting his time dealing with an institution focused on its circular interests than truly advancing knowledge. He was brilliant. He knew how to ask questions and get at the crux of an issue like few people I've ever known.
Aaron was first and foremost an activist. But he was also an intellectual. And he believed that locking down knowledge was corrupt and corrupting. He wanted to free the world's information so that prodigious individuals around the world could do what he had done - voraciously consume ideas and learn outside of an institution corrupted by money, status games, and non-intellectual interests. Aaron was for more radical than I am. He respected my small steps to making all of my intellectual production publicly available and constantly fighting for OA, but he thought that they were not enough. He wanted to see true systemic change. And he was willing to create stunts to provoke that.
I'm grateful to see any act of activism focused on making knowledge more accessible. I'm glad people are taking the time to learn about these issues and think about their knowledge production. And I do hope that this sparks more people to make changes in their practices. But the thing that I'd ask everyone in academia to reflect on in light of Aaron's death is your role in reproducing the status quo. What are your stakes? What do you believe in? How are you going to fight to do what's right? What are you willing to lose? Cuz the biggest tribute I can imagine is seeing academics rise up and collectively challenge the status quo across a whole host of issues, especially at this time when the politics of universities are in a complete state of disarray. Actually, truly organize. But maybe that's a pipe dream.
On Jan 15, 2013, at 8:54 AM, Jessica Richman wrote:
> As one of the people who helped spark the #pdftribute movement, I'm a bit chagrined to hear that. I didn't know Aaron's thoughts on the PDF format, but they make total sense. Of course he wouldn't like a proprietary, non-machine-readable format! Right.
> Well, now that we've started this thing, I hope this does in fact move the cause of open academic scholarship forward. People have been working on this for a long time, and some people have been extra conscientious about contracts (which is very important), but maybe this will provide the spark that will cause many people to come together to make this happen.
> I know we all have way too many projects, but if you're interested in being a part of this in any way, we'd love to have your help and thoughts (and maybe we can make sure the archive is HTML instead of PDF!)
> On 15 January 2013 05:15, danah boyd <aoir.z3z at danah.org> wrote:
> Forgive me for laughing, but there's a huge irony in all of this. Aaron hated PDF. It is a commercial proprietary format that cannot be easily parsed by bots. If your goal is to honor Aaron, don't just make your work human readable; make it machine readable by using a text-based markup language. Think: HMTL.
> To the broader issues, you'd be amazed at how often you can negotiate copyright with publishers if you try. Not all. Sage is particularly unpleasant. But I've worked hard to keep copyright whenever possible and have succeeded more often than I expected. It's also possible to negotiate alternative licensing agreements with publishers or agreements that have expiration dates where they revert to you. You just need to be proactive about this. But if you look in many of your contracts, you'll see that there's a three year expiration. Some even have an allowance for reposting on websites owned by your employer as the default. Read the legal forms you sign when it comes to your work.
> No matter what, if you're a scholar, make a darn website that lists all of your publications. Make it easy for search engines to find you and your work, even if you can't put the article itself online. If you aren't just publishing for the social capital and status games of academia, you have a responsibility to try to make it easier for the public (including the machine public) to know about your work. Getting the articles out there is important but we all know there are institutional bullies that prevent this from being easy. But you can still do a lot to make your work broadly accessible by making it easily findable both for curious humans and machines. This isn't perfect, but it's a better machine-readable organization scheme than just linking to articles on Twitter under an ephemeral hashtag.
> On Jan 14, 2013, at 5:38 PM, Burcu Bakioglu wrote:
> > Hi all,
> > I have to say, this incident came as a big shock to me as it did for all of
> > us. And I appreciate and support the tribute, don't get me wrong. But
> > couple of concerns come to my mind as we're dumping all of our research
> > online. And I'd like to discuss this instead of sitting quietly in the
> > corner:
> > 1) I know this is a very emotional time for all of us, but when you are
> > putting your published articles online, do you have the rights to it? I
> > mean, clearly, any publisher who goes after any of the researchers amidst
> > the heated debate led by Lawrence Lessig and other activists right now
> > would be insane. Media would attack them like vultures, but still, I wonder
> > if we are putting ourselves at risk. What happens when the dust settles?
> > Now, we may not care about this at all since apparently Aaron didn't. And
> > maybe that is the appropriate attitude. After all we are engaging in civil
> > disobedience, right? But this is worth discussing. If you are a known
> > researcher, surely you can weather the consequences, but the up-and-coming
> > ones are at a higher risk.
> > 2) Secondly, are we doing this merely as a gesture or so that the academic
> > community at large and the entire world could benefit from this? From what
> > I gather, Aaron would have preferred the latter. If so, looking at the
> > pdftribute site, it is nearly impossible to retrieve the articles relevant
> > to one's own research unless you know the twitter handles. Internet was of
> > no use until it was organized and this repository would be no use to any of
> > us until it is indexed. Now maybe the site owner has plans to incorporate
> > this, I dunno. At the bottom of the site, it says that s/he is not
> > responsible for the quality of content and that s/he will look into it
> > later. I don't know what that might mean... Or maybe this is set up just as
> > a gesture/protest and we don't care about what happens afterwords. In which
> > case, it is rather short sighted of us, but that's OK... Point has been
> > made.
> > I myself am planning on dedicating the current article that I am writing
> > (on piracy no less) to him... and signed a petition or two. And am
> > seriously considering taking Alex's suggestion and publishing in
> > open-access journals as much as I can. But would like to hear your thoughts
> > on these issues...
> > BsB
> > On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 4:09 PM, Jessica Richman
> > <jessica.richman at gmail.com>wrote:
> >> Thanks, Denice. Much appreciated, and hope it will do some good.
> >> On 14 January 2013 22:08, Denice Szafran <szafran at geneseo.edu> wrote:
> >>> I posted links to all my online material right after it went out on
> >>> Twitter. It seems to be a fitting tribute, and I encourage everyone to do
> >>> the same. #pdftribute
> >>> Denice Szafran
> >>> On 1/13/2013 6:01 PM, air-l-request at listserv.aoir.**org<
> >> air-l-request at listserv.aoir.org>wrote:
> >>>> On Sun, Jan 13, 2013 at 3:58 AM, Jessica Richman
> >>>> <jessica.richman at gmail.com>**wrote:
> >>>>> Please tweet #pdftribute and post your papers online in tribute to
> >> Aaron
> >>>>>> Swartz, who committed suicide yesterday, after being hounded by
> >>>>> prosecutors
> >>>>>> in the US.
> >>> --
> >>> Denice Szafran, Ph.D.
> >>> Visiting Lecturer and Coordinator of the Linguistics Minor
> >>> Anthropology Department
> >>> 13F Sturges, 1 College Circle, Geneseo, NY 14454
> >>> 585-245-5174
> >>> ______________________________**_________________
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> >> --
> >> Twitter @venturejessica http://bit.ly/OfIYHS
> >> _______________________________________________
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> > --
> > Thanks,
> > Burcu S. Bakioglu, Ph.D.
> > Postdoctoral Fellow in New Media
> > Lawrence University
> > http://www.palefirer.com
> > http://palefirer.com/blog/
> > _______________________________________________
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> "you don't have to like me for who i am /
> but we'll see what you're made of /
> by what you make of me" -- ani
> Twitter @venturejessica http://bit.ly/OfIYHS
"you don't have to like me for who i am /
but we'll see what you're made of /
by what you make of me" -- ani
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