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[liberationtech] <nettime> Response to "Academe Is Complicit" essay

Shava Nerad shava23 at
Wed Jan 23 08:40:14 PST 2013

For those interested, Cushing's site is (one i) -- he
misspells it in his sig -- I suspect that's not an attempt to withhold his
work from the public! ;)


On Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 7:55 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at> wrote:

> ----- Forwarded message from Lincoln Cushing <lcushing at> -----
> From: Lincoln Cushing <lcushing at>
> Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2013 21:04:03 -0800
> To: nettime-l at
> Subject: <nettime> Response to "Academe Is Complicit" essay
> Nettime colleagues:
> I was forwarded Timothy Burke's provocative piece through the
> Progressive Librarians Guild (I've been a member for over ten years).
> I'm replying with an adaptation of something I wrote following
> another essay examining Aaron Swartz's death. While Mr. Swartz's
> death was tragic, his persecution by the US Attorney General's office
> heavyhanded, and many of the information liberation positions he
> espoused noble, I was struck by the criticism in Burke's essay leveled
> at JSTOR.
> JSTOR has become a veritable punching bag of the "Free Culture
> Movement." Noted professor Larry Lessig takes a whack at them in
> his video lecture appropriately titled "What's wrong with JSTOR":
> <
> or.html>
> In it, he bushwhacks a scholar for explaining her empty office
> bookshelves by saying that "Everything I needed is on the Internet
> now." Lessig's meanspirited point was that from the academic's
> perspective - namely working at an institution with well-endowed
> electronic journal site licenses - she was both privileged and
> correct. Alas, for the rest of us poor slobs in the real world her
> statement isn't true. Evil content aggregators like JSTOR have gobbled
> up all the good stuff.
> But wait - Lessig's argument only works within the narrow definition
> of online access.
> I'm certainly no fan of JSTOR. I, like all of you, have stumbled
> across tasty citations to works on Google, only to be zapped with the
> unwelcome news that I'd have to pay to see it. But JSTOR does provide
> a service. Their arrangements are not exclusive. You want to go to
> your local university library and scan an article from 1975? Go ahead,
> the free JSTOR citation tells you exactly what to look for. Sure, the
> original research may well have been paid for by public funds, but
> that does not mean that somehow it should magically appear for free on
> the Web. There are real costs to doing this work, and unless The State
> is willing to do it (and I would argue they should), corporations will
> step in. Public domain does not mean free access, just the potential
> for it.
> I'm sure there are other aspects of JSTOR that are problematic
> (apparently their executives each made over $250,000 in 2009, but
> I'm not paying their salary). I am hopeful that examinations of the
> circumstances surrounding the Swartz tragedy can lead to discussing
> and developing a clearer analysis of the real problems facing our
> field. For example, I see the insidious expansion of photo aggregators
> like Corbis and Getty One being much more dangerous than JSTOR. Those
> folks are truly buying up our culture, and it scares me. Burke raises
> the complicity of academe in the privatization of knowledge. I ask -
> what have any of us actually done to make information available to the
> public?
> Much of my own work as an activist archivist involves digitization
> of analog content and sharing it with the world. I shoot posters,
> which is not easy, and I've built and paid for a custom studio for
> doing that. I've helped mount thousands of social justice poster
> images on the Web. But I don't post high-resolution images. I, and
> the institutions I work with, feel that those images deserve some
> protection from corporate appropriation without compensation. Thanks
> you, Creative Commons. By withholding free access to the ultimate
> goody, the 60 megabyte image file, am I a traitor to the "Free Culture
> Movement"? I certainly hope not.
> Yours for democratic knowledge,
> Lincoln Cushing
> Documents for the Public
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> ----- End forwarded message -----
> --
> Eugen* Leitl <a href="">leitl</a>
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Shava Nerad
shava23 at
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