I’m here at the Students for Free Culture NYC Conference. Here are some of the speakers’ big ideas.
90~% of university students in Brazil have household incomes under $2800 a month, and a year of textbooks can cost them over $2000. People just can’t afford books, so they photocopy them. The publishers are pushing back, but Ortellado makes the argument that the publishers are benefiting off of public dollars and therefore should permit greater access. Most of the textbooks are written by professors working at public universities, and the publishing companies don’t pay any tax (under a free speech justification). Oretllado makes the case this is a public subsidy both in content and in production, and therefore the publishers’ desire for profit is outweighed by the public need for access to materials and education.
The big idea: knowledge doesn’t fit a supply demand curve. Knowledge pricing set is arbitrary, supply is infinite, reproduction costs are near zero. Universities should put their materials online for free, for everyone. Why would a university want to put their material online for free? Open courseware doesn’t compete with the educational experience, and therefore are separate products that don’t cannibalize. “Transparency earns respect and trust.” Improves teaching: professors that put their materials online and are videotaped tend to produce better and more recent information.
Random aside: MIT Professor Lewin’s open courseware photo is hilarious.
Wow, Open Michigan courseware is fantastic. Want to make your open courseware like theirs? They have tutorials. The tutorials look maybe a bit intimidating though. My take? Don’t sweat the details, just dig in and get started. Ask professors if you can put a course online, set up a video camera. Go wild.
Reputation: professors (and artists) can improve their reputation with freely available content. (My question: journals currently establish reputation, how do you convince professors that the number of people visiting their paper online is the same as being published in Nature?
Fashion is a “limited intellectual property rights” atmosphere, like jokes or rules of games, or smells of perfumes, or chef specials. How do creative people feel about not owning their works?
What is it that makes an item authentic?
Best quote: “You can’t sue the vast shadow economy of China.”
Susan Crawford internet czar
The Big Idea: The Choice of One among ISPs is endangering our bits! Wireless can’t compete with wired. (Shannon’s Law) 60% of the country has no competition with cable.
The Internet is like the train system: a public good that needs to be regulated.
There has to be a business model, and some of the time government intervention is needed to allow new transport systems to fight off old transport systems.