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Posts tagged Ypsilanti

How Intellectual Protectionism promotes the progress of science and the useful arts

… by using the force of law to try to prevent Georgia State University students from accessing works of science and the useful arts unless they pay $50–$100 a pop to go through an academic publishing racket for obscure books with little resale value.

(Via Roderick Long @ Austro-Athenian Empire 2008-05-21.)

Please note that in the real world, outside the fever-dreams of academic publishers, sharing books and articles is an essential part of the life of a research university. Besides lending the book itself, every department has a copy machine, and every professor uses it, quite often, to run off paper copies of articles or chapters that they give away to their students. I have a file box with easily several thousand pages worth of xeroxed articles that I accumulated over the course of my college career. Or, if the professor doesn’t have the book herself, or doesn’t want to put the xeroxes on her tab with the department, every University library has self-serve xerox machines and a book-reserve system, where the professor can ensure that a copy of the book is always available for students to share with each other, and to xerox the relevant sections out of if they want to take it back to read on their own time. And all this is available even though professors could have forced each and every student to go down and pay for the $50-$100 anthology at the University bookstore.

Are these godless commies and lying, thieving mutualists that infest the Academy stealing from poor, innocent academic publishers by passing around xeroxes? No; all it is is that they aren’t insane, and they are aware that supporting some particular academic publisher’s business model is not their students’ responsibility.

Yet as soon as the University eliminates the paper medium, and facilitates exactly the same thing through an non-commercial, internal University course pack website — which does nothing at all more than what the xerox packets did, except that it delivers the information to pixels on a monitor instead of toner on a page — the publishers’ racket can run to court, throw up its arms, and start hollering Computers! Internet!, send their lawyers to try to shake down have a discussion with the University administration for new tribute to their monopoly business model, and then, failing that, utterly uncontroversial decades-old practices of sharing knowledge among colleagues and students suddenly become a legal case raising core issues like the future of the business model for academic publishers, while even the most absurd protectionist arguments are dutifully repeated by legal flacks on behalf of sustaining the racket. (Thus: It’s difficult to argue that this is a truly noncommercial use [even though Georgia State receives no money from students for the course packs]. Georgia State may be a nonprofit institution, but its students pay a lot of money for course materials, and would presumably pay money for the materials being provided to them by the university.)

A few years ago, when I was living in Ypsilanti, I sat in on a seminar over at the University of Michigan on Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein. There were a few textbooks to buy at the University bookstore (most of which I already owned), but a lot of the reading consisted of articles collected into a xeroxed course pack of anthologized articles. To get the course pack you went down to this copy shop in downtown Ann Arbor where the professor had left the master copy for the course pack. You paid Excel a fixed fee for the course pack; they took down the folder with the masters from the shelf, and then escorted you to a self-service copy machine where you had to mash the Copy button in order to make the copies yourself. Then you gave the copied sheets back to them at the counter, where they would take the copies you made back and bind them for you.

The reason that you, personally, had to push the copy button is because xeroxing articles out of books for the purposes of a class is legally speaking, completely non-controversial, but if you paid exactly the same amount of money, and the copy shop did exactly the same thing, except that an employee mashed that Copy button at your behest instead of making you do it yourself, the elimination of that minor inconvenience to the student would instantly convert the transaction from non-commercial to commercial copying, and thus expose the copy shop to a crippling lawsuit, as actually happened to Michigan Document Services in Ann Arbor back in 1992.

So, to be fair, I suppose you can credit the Intellectual Protectionists with fostering knowledge and innovation in one respect: by relentlessly attacking any sharing practice that they can get away with attacking, and exploiting any technological change in order to chip away and obliterate as much of traditional fair use protections as they can manage, have produced an absurd dynamic in which basically identical transactions are treated as radically different from one another, in courts of law, such that, in order to avoid lawsuits, academics, libraries, and copy shops have been forced to invent all kinds of creative new ways of splitting hairs and engaging in the most ridiculous sorts of casuistry just to keep on doing what teachers normally do, while covering themselves from the threat of a ruinous lawsuit.

Thanks, Intellectual Protectionism!

Oh, and by the way.

Incidentally, in case you are interested, the academic publishers currently suing Georgia State University to try and force their students back into the academic publishing racket are Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publications. The publisher that went after Michigan Document Services in 1992 was Princeton University Press. Wouldn’t it be interesting–a funny sort of coincidence, you know, one of those weird things that just happens in life when you were least expecting it–if bloggers committed to free minds and free culture just happened to start posting large quotes (of about 10-15 pages) from Cambridge, OUP, Princeton, and Sage books on their public, Google-searchable websites, under principles of fair use? All strictly for the non-commercial purpose of educating interested readers, of course. Wouldn’t it be interesting if it turned out that there was so much interest in talking about the topics covered in one of Cambridge’s, OUP’s, Princeton’s or Sage’s books that the whole book ended up getting posted, by a crazy series of coincidences, in protected bits and pieces on different websites, at the same time that those publishers are trying salvage their broken business model by mounting this massive screwjob on identifiable targets like innocent students at Georgia State?

The funny thing is, I was just thinking the other day that my readers here might enjoy learning some ordinary language philosophy, which might be illuminated by appropriate fair-use quotations from Stanley Cavell’s Must we mean what we say? (Cambridge University Press, 1976/2002), and some ancient moral philosophy, for which an absolutely essential source of appropriate fair-use quotations is Terence Irwin’s masterful study on Plato’s Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1995), and also some feminist political theory, which obviously demands taking a look at some key passages from Susan Moller Okin’s Women in Western Political Thought (Princeton, 1979). If you have a blog yourself, maybe you might find that your readers would be interested in discussing other key passages from those same books. Who knows? Or perhaps they’d be interested in discussions that other fine books from Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton and Sage happen to touch on.

I’m just sayin’.

Feel free to let me know what books you’re talking about with your readers about in the comments.

Fat Tuesday Lazy Linking

Around the web in the past couple weeks. Part of the news that’s fit to link…

  • In honor of Carnival, let’s start with a couple of Carnivals. The Ninth Carnival of Feminists is up at Mind the Gap! and Philosophers’ Carnival #26 is up at Hesperus/Phosphorus. I happen to have a submission featured in each; but if you’re here you’ve probably already read them. Fortunately, like all good Carnivals, they contain multitudes. Prepare to fill out exactly one zillion tabs with excellent reading material.

  • Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2006-02-21): Spooner on Rent does his best to sort out just what Lysander Spooner’s views on land ownership and rent are. The evidence suggests that Spooner was more like Murray Rothbard and less like Benjamin Tucker on this one. Interesting mainly as a historical and exegetical question (Spooner didn’t dwell on the issue, so it’s not like a treasure trove is being discovered; and the fact that Spooner thought something hardly makes it so). But, Roderick adds, to the extent that there’s any polemical payoff I suppose it’s this: those anarcho-socialists who grant the title of anarchist to Tucker and Spooner but deny it to Rothbard and other so-called anarcho-capitalists on the grounds inter alia of the latter’s disagreement with Tucker about land will find their position at least somewhat harder to maintain to the extent that the distance between the saved Spooner and the damned anarcho-capitalists is narrowed. Read the whole thing.

  • ginmar, A View from A Broad (2006-01-30): It doesn’t matter what you think we said…: You ever dealt with somebody who uses the word pussy in front of you–I’m speaking as a woman, here–as a synonym for cowardly, disgusting, vile–and then gets up in your face when you call them on it? Well, uh, I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t intend it like that.Not thinking is no longer proof of innocence. What it just means is that you don’t give enough of a fuck to think about it. (Boldface added.) Read the whole thing.

  • Media Matters (2006-02-14): If It’s Sunday, It’s Conservative: An analysis of the Sunday talk show guests on ABC, CBS, and NBC, 1997 – 2005: In fact, as this study reveals, conservative voices significantly outnumber progressive voices on the Sunday talk shows. Media Matters for America conducted a content analysis of ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press, classifying each one of the nearly 7,000 guest appearances during President Bill Clinton’s second term, President George W. Bush’s first term, and the year 2005 as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral. The conclusion is clear: Republicans and conservatives have been offered more opportunities to appear on the Sunday shows – in some cases, dramatically so. The Right had an especially pronounced advantage when you screened out government flunkies and just looked at journalists. Read the whole thing.

  • Natalie Bennett, Philobiblon (2006-02-19): The baby choice, not the baby gap: Well I wanted many things when I was 21 – although I didn’t want children – and I don’t now want many of the same things. I didn’t want many of the same things when I was 25 or 30. At 21 you are still chiefly the product of your conditioning and upbringing – you are only just starting to grow up and construct yourself as an independent individual. No doubt many of those women later changed their minds, or decided that while a baby might be nice, it wasn’t their top priority. Also, no doubt, when they asked those early twenties women the question, they were thinking of having a baby as something that would happen in the far distant future – it is not a serious practical prospect. With, as I’ve reported before, 30 per cent plus of women in Scotland chosing not to have babies, when are the researchers (and the newspaper editors) going to recognise that this is a valid, sensible, entirely normal choice? Sometimes the demographic hand-wringers try to coerce you; other times they just try to hector you and generally treat you like an idiot. In either case, they’re acting like a bunch of bullies and need to drop it already. Anyway, read the whole thing.

  • Andy the Slack Bastard (2006-02-18): Burn-A-Flag-For-Lenin Week!: Andy has sort of an ongoing hilarious documentary on the weird, wild world of Marxist-Leninist splinter sects. It’s kind of like a form of neo-surrealist theatre in which the actors don’t realize that they’re part of a show. The latest? Confronted with a recent and continuing downturn in membership, the youth wing of the neo-Trotskyist Democratic Socialist Perspective appears to have hit upon a brand new (sic) idea to try and reverse the trend (or at least make a few dollars): selling flag-burning kits to University students. Commodification of dissent in the name of Communist dictatorship? The power is yours Australia! Read the whole thing.

  • Lab Kat (2006-02-20): The barefoot and pregnant crowd, Part III takes notice of Ypsilanti’s finest, Tom Monaghan. Now he’s planning to build his own city. No, not on rock and roll; on the mercy of Our Lady. I’m all for this clown building his own city. Get all the religious right nutjobs in the country to move there, away from those of us who don’t buy their dogmatic horseshit. Let them go play in their La-La Land while the rest of us live in the real world. Read the whole thing.

  • Meghan Sapp, Women’s eNews (2006-02-20): Fight to End Mutilation Hits Gritty Juncture looks at the hard work to come in the struggle against female genital mutilation in Africa: moving from international sentiments and governmental resolutions to actual change on the ground. Amid the surge in activities and reports, campaigners against the practice find themselves at a critical juncture. For nearly three years, they have been focused on persuading African Union leaders to ratify the Maputo Protocol. But now that is done, application of the anti-FGM provision at the national and local levels becomes the gritty political challenge. Of the 28 countries where genital mutilation is practiced, 14 countries have passed anti-FGM laws. But only Burkina Faso, Ghana and Kenya actively uphold those laws, according to the London-based Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development. Countries faced international pressure to ratify the Maputo Protocol, but within their own societies they face the opposition of many traditional ruling classes to cultural change. Read the whole thing.

  • Kieran Healy, Crooked Timber (2006-02-11): The Papers Continue Fatuous looks on aghast as Andrew Sullivan happily reprints e-mails from his ever-present Anonymous Liberal Reader explicitly pondering genocide against Muslims in Europe. Here’s the word from Betty Bleedheart: I’m honestly starting to suspect that, before this is over, European nations are going to have exactly four choices in dealing with their entire Moslem populations–for elementary safety’s sake: (1) Capitulate totally to them and become a Moslem continent. (2) Intern all of them. (3) Deport all of them. (4) Throw all of them into the sea. Kieran adds: It’s a hollow joke that Sullivan’s blog is graced by a tag-line taken from Orwell–and one about not being able to see what’s in front of your face, at that. … I certainly hope European countries are not about to capitulate to demands from some radical muslims that civil society be brought to an end for the sake of the prophet’s honor. … Nor, I take it, are they about to round up and dump all of them (for any value of them) into the sea. And if some countries have started down one or other of those roads, it certainly isn’t because some clerical thugs are so awesomely powerful that they are in a position to destroy the institutions of western democracy. You’ll have to look elsewhere to find people with the leverage to do real damage there. Read the whole thing.

  • tiffany at BlackFeminism.org (2006-02-20): SXSW Collective Brainstorming: Are you a gay blogger or a blogger who is gay? and Tensions between being speaking for yourself or for a group looks at identity blogging and asks some hard questions for those who do (or don’t) care to do it. Read the whole thing.

  • Marjorie Rosen, Los Angeles Times (2006-02-19): The lady vanishes — yet again takes an all-too-uncritical but sometimes interesting look at the declining prospects for women in the Hollywood star system. One of the better moments: The studios are nothing if not practical, suggests Michael Seitzman, the screenwriter of North Country. Hollywood would give a role to my dog if it would bring in an audience. The real question is not Why isn’t Hollywood creating roles for women? It’s Why aren’t audiences going to see them? Men aren’t interested in seeing movies about women anymore, but from the response to movies like In Her Shoes, it appears that women aren’t, either. But there may be a perception problem here. Could it be that because Hollywood produces so few movies featuring women’s stories, each one is held up to cold, hard and — dare I say it? — unfair scrutiny? Read the whole thing.

  • moiv, media girl (2006-02-21): If You Can’t Get EC at St. Elsewhere, Call Boston Legal, meanwhile, catches us up on the wit and wisdom of Catholic League president William Donahue, who informs us that the real problem is that Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It’s not a secret, okay? And I’m not afraid to say it. … Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost. Oh it gets better — Donahue’s keeping files, you see. Big fat ones. Read the whole thing.

  • The Guardian NewsBlog (2006-02-20) reports that the occupation may soon be over, troops drawn down, and genuine independence at hand after a tricky political process … in Kosovo. Black Looks (2006-02-19) reports on the violence leading up to putatively open elections in Uganda. (All in the name of counter-terrorism, of course.) Ryan W. McMacken, LewRockwell.com Blog (2006-02-21) finds that red-blooded Iranians aren’t above some good old Liberty Cabbage idiocy.

  • The Guardian NewsBlog (2006-02-21): Milton Keynes: Shia inspiration watches the End of History rising over the ruins of Najaf, with a bit of help from the military-industrial complex. Come watch as the mauling of a holy city by the Warfare State is followed up with the worst that coercive, centralized Urban Renewal has to offer. For those who want to return to the glory days of Soviet-era architecture in Warsaw, I suppose. Read the whole thing.

  • rabble at Anarchogeek (2006-02-22): On the futility of creative commons suggests that the increasingly ubiquitous Creative Commons stickers and tags are useless, because they cater too much to the whims of publishers and don’t take a principled stand in favor of freedom. Looking through the guide, i realize that it’s not possible simply to replace the CC with something else. The problem is not that there aren’t good licenses, rather that the cultural war over ideas is being lost. We need a concept like GPL compatible or maybe even the less radical OSI compliant. I think that this may miss the point of what CC’s out to do in the first place, but it’s an interesting debate. Read the whole thing.

  • Jill, feministe (2006-02-20): Categorizing Race in the Bookstore reflects on the assets and liabilities of the African-American Interest (Women’s Studies, GLBT) bookshelves at your friendly neighborhood bookstore. Ghettoization? Useful classification? Both? Neither? Read the whole thing.

  • Discourse.net (2006-02-25): Florida Cops Intimidate Would-be Complainants picks out an amazing transcript of an attempt to get an official complaint form from the pigs. Via Boing-boing, a link to this absolutely amazing piece of investigative reporting: Police Station Intimidation–Parts 1 and 2 in which CBS4 News found that, in police departments across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, large and small, it was virtually impossible to walk in the door, and walk out with a complaint form. … The TV station that broke the story reports that Remarkably, of 38 different police stations tested around South Florida, all but three had no police complaint forms yet it nonetheless felt obligated to introduce its report by saying that Most police officers are a credit to the badge, serving the community and the people who pay their salary, getting criminals off the street, making the community safer for everyone. Guess none of those guys happen to work the front desk, eh? Read the whole thing.

  • Echidne of the Snakes (2006-02-18): Virgins Matter More reports on how a man in Italy got a reduction in his sentence for raping his 14 year old stepdaughter because she wasn’t a virgin at the time she was raped. Because, you see, being forced to have sex against your will isn’t so bad if you’ve had sex already. The supreme court, apparently quoting from an amicus brief filed by Humbert Humbert, mused that the victim’s personality, from a sexual point of view, is much more developed than what would be normally expected of a girl of her age. Read the whole thing. But only on an empty stomach.

  • Laurelin in the Rain (2006-02-21): The Patriarchy Phrasebook: Occasionally (actually make that all the damn time), we rad fems find ourselves visited by Ambassadors from Planet Patriarchia, who speak in a language that is hard to understand, mostly because it’s less of a language and more of a code consisting of standard statements and arrogant presumptions. But never fear, for I am here with my dictionary of Commonly Used Phrases of Patriarchal Lackeys. These phrases are found variously in patriarchal literature, common conversation, newspapers, TV programmes, blog comments and shouted slogans when you’re minding your own frickin’ business. Read the whole thing.

One Word: Plastics

Minor updates for clarity.

So, it’s official. I’m a Bachelor.

Saturday I graduated from Auburn University, with a B.A. in Philosophy (with a Computer Science minor tacked on for good measure). After the past few years of wandering the halls of learning (or, at least, the halls of Haley Center), I finally have to figure out a new gig. Usually at this point, someone makes some remark or another about leaving the bubble of the academy and being thrown out into the terrible freedom of the real world. You won’t hear it from me, though, for a couple of reasons.

First, I’ve been inhabiting the real world all along. I mean this in the truistic sense–Auburn University campus is no more illusory and no less material than the rest of the world–but I mean it in a deeper sense too. When people talk about school as not being part of the real world, they seem to have one of two things in mind (or, more likely, both). On the one hand, there is a particular picture of what academics do and how it relates to the world. The idea is that you’re dealing with the fabric of reality only when you’re in the midst of an active, practical life–that academics aren’t worldly wise enough to hack it in such a life–that the world of the academy doesn’t (and can’t) deal in experiential reality, because its whole purpose is to think rather than to do. On the other hand, there is a particular attitude towards school: it’s not part of the real world because it bears no deep relationship to what you intend to do with your life. At best, it’s a preparatory means, valuable purely instrumentally–it’s something that you do in order to get into a socio-economic position where you can strike off and do whatever it is that constitutes your real life–a career, a family, or what have you. At worst, it’s merely a holding pen where you wait around until you’re ready to go off the parental dole and get started on the real part of your life. The second picture is usually a direct result of the first. Going to school isn’t part of the real part of your life because the real part of your life consists of doing things, not of thinking about them.

I don’t want to deny that the second picture is an accurate empirical theory about how most people think of college in this day and age. But I think it is a pernicious picture if it is taken as a guide for how ought to spend your school years; those who act on a picture like that have basically been wasting their time and money for the past 4 years. It’s by no means necessary (however often it may be actual) for school to be cut off from the serious part of your life; such a dichotomy rests, I think, on a notion of the academic life that is completely false.

What I mean is this: in most other civilized times, we would hardly feel any need to defend the validity of the vita contemplativa, or the value of the way I’ve spent the past four years–learning and wrestling with important problems, for the sake of nothing except thought itself and knowledge of the truth. That is no small part of what I want to do with my life and to contribute to the world. The relationship between doing and thinking isn’t antagonism, or parasitism. Humans are rational animals; the very essence of how we live our lives is that we put thought into action, that thinking and doing are (for us) two sides of one coin. (Doing without thinking, in any literal and sustained sense, is a form of madness–indeed, a form of inhumanity.) So while I’m done being an undergraduate, my life for the past four years hasn’t been mere preparation for what is to follow. I’ve been doing what I want to do all along.

And I intend to keep on doing what I have been doing. But I’m out of school for the next year, and being a freelance academic doesn’t pay very well. So, I will be looking for a job, and working on graduate school applications for the academic year after the upcoming one. (If graduate school doesn’t work out, I might have to become a monk.)

In the meantime, however, I am on vacation. Right now I am reporting from Berea, Kentucky, where I’m visiting my old friend S. with the rest of my gang of friends from high school. S. pulls us into these fascinating conversations about sustainability and renewable energy and culture; we wander around the campus as if it were a swampy May night in Auburn again.

From there, it is a mere 12 hours by Greyhound bus to Detroit, where I will meet with my sweetheart. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to this–to the theological inside jokes, to talking again about philosophy and movies and the Middle Ages; to just having quiet time together to spend with absolutely nothing else eating time away. We’re heading out on a trans-continental road trip out to California, where the plan is (I think) to sit on the beach, C and talk and read and do as close to absolutely nothing as possible for a few days–then to meander around a few sites in Monterey and San Fransisco. My hope is that I won’t be heading back home until early June.

In any case, the plan from there is: (1) summer work, (2) break, (3) move, and (4) fall work. (1) will consist in serving as a T.A. in Philosophy of Mind for Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (except I won’t actually be at JHU; I’ll be at a program site in Loudonville, New York). After that I am moving to Ypsilanti, MI, and looking around to find out in what (4) will consist. Wish me luck!

Posting will be sporadic, but I fear that you are more than used to that already, gentle reader. I’ll try and drop a line from time to time, though, and when I get back some changes and updates the the site are in the works.

Ciao!

I’m back (I think)

No, in case you were wondering, I did not kill myself after the November 5 elections, nor have I been expelled under Patriot Act II, nor gone off to Iraq as a human shield. I have simply been taken away from the life of the weblog for quite a while because I’ve been trying to get out of school alive. I’m graduating from Auburn University on May 10, with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and a minor in Computer Science. After that, I will be taking part of the summer off, hopefully finding gainful employment for a while, and then moving up to Ypsilanti, Michigan, where I will be living and working and applying for graduate schools over the next year.

Anyway, the point of this post is to say that school is about done, and I am (I think) in a position where I can get back to updating my web page on a quasi-regular basis. So, please feel free to drop in from time to time. I hope I will have some stuff online again to interest you.

-C

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