Ben’s post on the Google book project mentioned a fundamental tenet of the Institute: the network is the environment for the future of reading and writing, and that’s why we care about network-related issues. While the goal of the network isn’t reducable to a single purpose, if you could say it was any one thing it would be: sharing. It’s why Tim Berners-Lee created it in the first place—to share scientific research. It’s why people put their lives on blogs, their photos on flickr, their movies on YouTube. And it is why the people who want to sell things are so anxious about putting their goods online. The bottom line is this: the ‘net is about sharing, that’s what it’s for.
Time magazine had an article in the March 20th issue on open-source and innovation-at-the-edges (by Lev Grossman). Those aren’t new ideas around office, but when I saw the phrase the “authorship of innovation is shifting from the Few to the Many” I realized that, for the larger public, they are still slightly foreign, that the distant intellectual altruism of the Enlightenment is being recast as the open-source movement, and that the notion of an intellectual commons is being rejuvenated in the public consciousness. True, Grossman puts out the idea of shared innovation as a curiosity—it’s a testament to the momentum of our contemporary notions of copyright that the cultural environment is antagonistic to giving away ideas—but I applaud any injection of the open-source ideal into the mainstream. Especially ideas like this:
Admittedly, it’s counterintuitive: until now the value of a piece of intellectual property has been defined by how few people possess it. In the future the value will be defined by how many people possess it.
I hope the article will seed the public mind with intimations of a world where the benefits of intellectual openness and sharing are assumed, rather than challenged.
Raising the public consciousness around issues of openness and sharing is one of the goals of the Institute. We’re happy to have help from a magazine with Time’s circulation, but most of all, I’m happy that the article is turning public attention in the direction of an open network, shared content, and a rich digital commons.