[Humanist] 25.227 freedom

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Aug 11 00:47:45 CEST 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 227.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 9 Aug 2011 17:44:43 -0400
        From: David Golumbia <dgolumbia at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.224 digital curation? freedom?
        In-Reply-To: <20110809204751.53F8D1A5014 at woodward.joyent.us>

Hi Willard,

As I've long droned on to anyone who will listen (few will), Brand was
actually making a very smart observation that is not at all the one
promoters of the slogan seem to think. To whit (from the very Wikipedia page
you cite):

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable.
> The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the
> other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out
> is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting
> against each other. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_wants_to_be_free#cite_note-clarke-3 

This is correct, of course. Its reconfiguration into a mysterious
techno-determinative statement of metaphysical purpose strikes me as very
telling. Furthermore its extrication from this context allows "free" to
sound like the Stallman-esque "free as in freedom," when it is clear Brand
means money--the non-Stallmanesque "free as in free beer." These are not the
same, but you wouldn't want to talk about that too much in public.

Yes, you can easily get into arguments with free-info maniacs (who even have
an offensive name for themselves based on an outdated term for the
developmentally disabled which I will omit here) where, by citing the
original statement made by the brilliant man who said it, one can be accused
of betraying the cause, having no idea how computers work, being "opposed"
to open source, and of many of the other evils of the world.

Along these lines in particular, the British rioters (so unlike some recent
European anti-austerity rioters) remind me of a recent "hero of freedom"
(named Swartz) whom we are told we must champion for having the sterling
bravery to violate the rules of his own doctoral institution, of JSTOR, of
the written law, of agreed-upon social policies, of his own repeated word,
and of respectful civil behavior, in his effort to prove that academic
research should be absolutely free (to translate: has no value whatsoever)
and that publishers should have no power to control the interfaces of their
(non-profit!) products, a position for which I can find no responsible
justification. That is not freedom as I understand it; it is, on the
contrary, destruction.


On Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 4:47 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>  (19)
>        Subject: freedom?
> --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2011 06:44:21 +1000
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: freedom?
> "Information wants to be free" (attributed to Stuart Brand, for which
> see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_wants_to_be_free).
> Really? What is this (personified) information that we want to be
> running about unrestrained? Consider not only the use of Blackberry
> Messenger in the London riots but also the posting of misinformation,
> such as a photo of a burning building supposedly in London but actually
> in China, in order to create more mischief. (Or consider my saying this
> without proper documentation that it has even happened.) What is our
> role, then, in bringing critical discussion of what we mean by "free" to
> the deployment of our technologies? What role does cultural analysis and
> critique have among our kind?
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's
> College London; Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western
> Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org);
> Editor, Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/);
> www.mccarty.org.uk/

David Golumbia
dgolumbia at gmail.com

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