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[liberationtech] Tragic News: Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Julian Oliver julian at julianoliver.com
Sun Jan 13 05:22:46 PST 2013


..on Sat, Jan 12, 2013 at 10:18:23PM +0000, Gabe Gossett wrote:
> While I sympathize with the open access spirit of this thread, and have no
> intention to detract from the eulogizing of Aaron Swartz, I think that in all
> fairness a few things should be pointed out.
> 
> JSTOR is not a journal publisher. This is an important distinction since it
> means that JSTOR's terms are, at least in part, influenced by the journal
> publishers. It also means that it will not always be clear whether or not an
> article you publish will end up in JSTOR unless you make sure that you are
> publishing in a fully open access (OA) journal (which is the route I would
> recommend for anyone concerned with information equity). A directory of OA
> journals can be found here http://www.doaj.org
> 
> Also, as a librarian, I have found JSTOR to be one of the least problematic of
> the academic content providers. This is probably due to the fact that they are
> non-profit, distribute little in the way of current content (where the profit
> margins are higher), allow for perpetual access to back runs that are bought,
> and was established as a way to expand access to journal content in academia.
> If there was an effective business model to allow for total open access I
> would not be surprised if JSTOR would be one of the content aggregators most
> open to such a model.
> 
> The real bad guys in the academic publishing world are for-profits like
> Elsevier, which was the target of a recent boycott:
> http://thecostofknowledge.com

For sure there are worse. A librarian cited to be Wiley, Taylor and Francis as
being awful to deal with. Open Access is a great initiative (especially for the
taxpayer that invested in the research!).  Let's hope it's not taken down with
the Research Works Act. 

In my experience however, as someone working entirely independently of a
university, I find myself up against a JSTOR paywall far more often than any
other.  Quite often research into the authors produces a publicly funded
university behind the paper. Perhaps this was why Aaron chose JSTOR over others
- they are so often what comes between the public and their own desire for
learning.

Here's an article in The Atlantic written by a woman in response to her
experience with JSTOR. While researching autism - her son has it - she is met by
a paywall:

    'Locked in the Ivory Tower: Why JSTOR Imprisons Academic Research'

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/01/locked-in-the-ivory-tower-why-jstor-imprisons-academic-research/251649/    

My experience is akin to a commenter at the base of that article:

"If the public isn't interested, who are the people trying to read those 150
million JSTOR articles a year? I can tell you who they are. People like me and
the person who wrote the article. I graduated from an Ivy League university and
don't work in academia. I read widely and often want to follow up on some
subject I am reading about. I write and want to research a subject I am writing
about. I have relatives who have problems or interests and try to help them. You
gravely underestimate the ability of a non-academic, with a real reason for
researching a subject or interest in it, to acquire expertise. Do you think
academics write Wikipedia?"

Cheers,

Julian

> On Jan 12, 2013, at 10:53 AM, "Julian Oliver" <julian at julianoliver.com<mailto:julian at julianoliver.com>> wrote:
> 
> ..on Sat, Jan 12, 2013 at 01:03:52PM -0500, Shava Nerad wrote:
> Irony:
> http://mobile.theverge.com/2013/1/9/3857628/jstor-opens-up-limited-free-access-to-its-digital-library
> 
> This is JSTOR going 'freeware' rather than Free Software. In the programming
> domain it's comparable to source code that is technically open for reading yet
> disallows modification or redistribution. Aaron would've been just as pissed
> about this.
> 
> On their site they say 'A New Chapter Begins'. There's the irony.
> 
> We should all stop supporting knowledge mafia like JSTOR by discouraging our
> peers to publish there. It's bad enough that publicly funded universities push
> their knowledge output to a private business interest.
> 
> A great way to channel any despair from Aaron's death is to encourage peers to
> publish openly.
> 
> Cheers,
> 
> Julian
> 
> On Jan 12, 2013 3:36 AM, "Yosem Companys" <companys at stanford.edu<mailto:companys at stanford.edu>> wrote:
> 
> This is a tragic loss and a terrible blow to the liberationtech community.
> 
> Yosem
> 
> 
> 
> http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N61/swartz.html
> 
> Aaron Swartz commits suicide
> 
> Web Update
> 
> By Anne Cai
> NEWS EDITOR; UPDATED AT 2:15 A.M. 1/12/13
> 
> Computer activist Aaron H. Swartz committed suicide in New York City
> yesterday, Jan. 11, according to his uncle, Michael Wolf, in a comment
> to The Tech. Swartz was 26.
> 
> “The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is,
> regrettably, true,” confirmed Swartz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of
> Kecker and Van Nest, in an email to The Tech.
> 
> Swartz was indicted in July 2011 by a federal grand jury for allegedly
> mass downloading documents from the JSTOR online journal archive with
> the intent to distribute them. He subsequently moved to Brooklyn, New
> York, where he then worked for Avaaz Foundation, a nonprofit “global
> web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making
> everywhere.” Swartz appeared in court on Sept. 24, 2012 and pleaded
> not guilty.
> 
> The accomplished Swartz co-authored the now widely-used RSS 1.0
> specification at age 14, was one of the three co-owners of the popular
> social news site Reddit, and completed a fellowship at Harvard’s
> Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption. In 2010, he founded
> DemandProgress.org<http://DemandProgress.org>, a “campaign against the Internet censorship bills
> SOPA/PIPA.”
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> Julian Oliver
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> http://criticalengineering.org
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-- 
Julian Oliver
http://julianoliver.com
http://criticalengineering.org



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