Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Intellectual Property, Long Story Short; The Scholarly Kitchen, May 9, 2017

Karin Wulf, The Scholarly Kitchen; Intellectual Property, Long Story Short

"Siva Vaidhyanathan is a professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia, and the author of books including Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry). Amazon helpfully reminded me that I bought the latter just shortly after it was published in 2011, thereby underscoring one of its broader points. Googlization wasn’t about, as one review asked, whether Google “turned evil,” but about the impact of information aggregation and dissemination organized by algorithms designed for market rather than knowledge development. Awareness about the business models driving services we have welcomed into our daily practices has been a key part of recent discussions in scholarly communications, though I sometimes wonder whether we have fully digested the import of this insight or if it’s still a lump in the middle of the python. Debates about the character of search engines, analysis of scholarly research through citation and other metrics, and for-profit networks such as Academia.edu are all part of a growing comprehension that the structures around us were not built for the uses to which we put them; we search for information online, and as we do so those search engines are compiling a lot more information about us.

Vaidhyanathan has now written a book with the premise that understanding the basics, and by extension, some of the subtleties involved in how intellectual property law and practice has evolved, really matters. It’s clearly part of his larger interest in revealing, if not as dramatically as Neo taking the red pill to reveal The Matrix, the structures to which we’ve become so accustomed and the contours of which are now so indistinct that even resistance to them can be misdirected. Vaidhyanathan has chosen to (or rather, was encouraged by an editor) write this in a slightly unusual format, the Oxford University Press Very Short Introductions (VSI) series. Launched in 1995, the series of now over 500 titles offers “concise and original” treatment of a vast array of topics."

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