Saturday, February 10, 2007

From the News Rack

Cut and paste culture has even reached print periodicals this month. In The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin writes in "Google's Moon Shot" about the search engine's quest to digitize millions of volumes and yet only offer snippets of copyrighted works to users and thus avoid infringement. Toobin makes the interesting claim, however, that it is precisely Google's involvement in litigation and the implication that all parties will eventually reach a fiscal settlement that will make Google able ultimately to dominate the field of electronic access to book content. I also was pleased to see Toobin acknowledge a phenomenon that I have observed in doing research on national digital libraries: that access to digital versions of paper texts often increases traffic in the physical space of the archive as well. The synergistic character of this interchange is important, since a logic of substitution is often emphasized by both proponents and opponents of digitization plans. Of course, I part ways with Toobin on a number of issues: I think he gives short shrift to tricky metadata issues, he doesn't deal with the sometimes onerous restrictions in the legal agreements for participating libraries, he overlooks the proprietary software involved, and he doesn't take the idea of the European model of public support for information infrastructure very seriously. These are all objections, of course, raised by Siva Vaidhyanathan in his article on "A Risky Gamble with Google."

Speaking of my fellow blogger Vaidhyanathan, he is mentioned in another article that you might find in your local doctor's office, "The Ecstasy of Influence" in this month's Harper's. This piece by Jonathan Lethem is a clever interweaving of borrowed texts about borrowing from a list of Free Culture advocates that includes Vaidhyanathan, Lawrence Lessig, Henry Jenkins, and others not even mentioned on the Virtualpolitik blogroll. It's an homage to Walter Benjamin's Arcades project that creates a landscape of quotations for the reader, while also inviting decoding activities for the puzzle solvers faced with the page.



Post a Comment

<< Home