deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
deborah ([personal profile] deborah) wrote2007-06-27 10:23

jcdl 5: John Willinsky (second keynote)

In the last few years, all of the conferences I have been to have had rather fabulous keynote speakers. I don't recall this being the case in the past. Maybe it's just that I'm really interested in libraries, information, and changing technology, and there are some great speakers in that field.

(Though would be nice to have some female or nonwhite keynote speakers every once in a great while. I mean, Brewster Kahle is my Internet boyfriend, and only somebody crazy would skip a Jonathan Zittrain talk, but still. Just once in a great while. Somebody not white and/or male?)

John Willinsky. "Sorting and Classifying the Open Access issues for Digital Libraries: Issues Technical, Economic, Philosophical, and Principled"

Open access is not about money. It's about ethics and knowledge. (This reminds me of Stallman's famous "as in speech, not as in beer" line, and the general principle is the same, I assume.) Openess fights against guild mentality in the academy. Openess offers knowledge for ameteurs, for outsiders. Willinsky is an outsider in the field of digital libraries (ed professor), and he says our job (as computer scientists, as librarians, and his digital librarians) is to deliever openness to him.

When he set out to create an open access journal tool, the basic principle was the idea that he could reduce the cost of transmitting scholarly information. But he shortly discover the corollary principles, based on the fact that fundamentally knowledge is not about the market economy:

  • Open source software should be good at instructing others to learn the process.

  • The software should improve workflow.

  • Who is using the tool who had never had access to this functionality before? He's met some Grade 8 girls running a peer reviewed journal using his tool.

  • How does the tool invite a larger community to participate?

  • The tool needs to change the focus of its users: if the editor doesn't need to do infrastructural administrivia because the tool takes care of it, can the editor nurture authors with all that freed time?.

  • An open system should nurture authors, and help disseminate knowledge.

  • Can we improve the integrity of the process of scholarly information transmission? (Via improved record keeping)



When we build new information environments, we need to bring the context with us, and we can't do that in current closed environments. Right now readers are required to bring their own context. We need the ability to connect scholarly work to a larger public arena, to news stories, to curricula. It needs to establish cross-context. We can't open access without providing a context larger than the scholarly domain. As an example, a news story which doesn't have access to open information can't provide access to the scholarly articles on which it is basing its assumptions. The scholarly article can't provide access to the data set, nor can it provide access to the scholarship in its literature review. We are in an age of hyperlinks that point to locations behind passwords and firewalls.

Why does this require open access? Because if we can't show the scholarship to the public, then the scholarship is not part of their context, not part of the context of policymakers and voters and citizens. (He discovered that policy makers in Ottawa don't have access to closed scholarship without physically going to the library. They write policy based on what they can find online in 20 minutes. Before the web they just called professors and got the 30-second report from their favorite faculty member.)

Changing the role of the library from not just an aggregator, a negotiater with vendors, and certainly not as just a coffeeshop/bookstore, but

  • an integral part in the production of knowledge

  • hosting journals

  • contributing to technical development


(Except that libraries don't have necessarily the technical infrastructure to keep up high-availability resources.)

The New Big Deal is when libraries pool their resources to form and support journals, instead of just negotiating least-vile contracts with Elsevier. cf. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy which was funded by a call for funds to philosophy departments.

Irrational exuberance? The journal economy is irrational but not exuberant. There is no conection between quality and price. The field is in disarray, and we need to provide alternative economic models.

He gave a nice little eulogy for Richard Rorty: "The United States lost its greatest living philosopher". Rorty, Willinsky said, worked in the pragmatic tradition to break the guild, championing not philosophers but poets, novelists. His focus was on creating increasingly useful metaphors. Those who do so will change the world.

Closed access to information to antithetical to science, and we need a new metaphor to talk about this.

Willinsky says that this is an epistemological question about quality of knowledge: Open Data. We need to share and curate and make interoperable our data. How does data contribute to the quality of knowledge. Popper's notion of falsifiability: science's only claim to legitimacy is whether it can be falsified. If we open science we weaken the critiques, we improve our research's claims to verifiabilty. (We need a series of arguments. For example, we should argue to our IRBs and our Ethics boards that it's unethical to lock up data.)


  • Right to know: science is a Basic Human Right

  • Right to participate: Biggest success of OA is in the developing world despite technological nightmares

  • Academic freedom: a journal free of advertising, of professional associations, of censorship



The Patent Office is looking at open review. The US Government has been crowdsourcing review of intelligence photos. There's a rising public perception of a right to know.

As an educator, Willinsky said: "I have to do everything in my power to let the light in, and then I have to stand back". Open information, open access to data, context will inherently fight disinformation.