Class reflection #4

22 07 2008

In class yesterday we discussed Kenneth Himma’s evaluation of freeing information. Terry, Ross and Mark all made thought-provoking arguments about Himma’s article that boiled down to debating the statement: “Information should be free.”

I didn’t realize those four words could be so dissected! We broke down the definitions and potential definitions for “information,” “should,” and “free” individually. The latter two words caused significant debate. I disagreed with Mark’s original thought that “should” was an ambigious term in the statement. To Ross’ point, I think the use of “should” was purposeful — to allow people to choose to free information, rather than free information by force.

We then moved onto discussing the definition of “free,” and this went several different directions as well. I concluded that information can be free, but its physical form may not be. That is, a theory may be free as it stands as someone’s thought, but it may have an associated cost when it is printed.

But how does free information affect content creators who would otherwise benefit financially from copywritten materials?

Benkler identifies “romantic” content creation as when people labor for the pure desire to create. However, Benkler also points out how much creation today is due to government and private funding and also identifies the “romantic maximizer” — the producer labors creatively “but in expectation of royalties, rather than immortality, beauty, or truth.”

My tangent to the discussion was how money really changes the frequency of creation. People who create in a romantic sense do so at their leisure and as they are inspired or motivated. However, when people are paid (i.e. medical researchers) to create then the inspiration and motivation is expedited by that payment and pressure to justify the compensation.

I do think information wants to be free. As Terry points out, we, as human beings, desire to share and gain knowledge, so we are naturally inclined to share information. However, we are also inclined to compete, and where these conflicting interests intersect is where we weigh-in philosophy and differ.

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One response

23 07 2008
kegill

I agree almost 100% with the ‘information wants to be free’ observation. I still have reservations about “should” … and this discussion is really a tip-of-the-iceberg one because we are so early in this disruption.

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