Review: Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property

I reviewed the book, Access to Knowledge in the Age of Intellectual Property from Zone Books/MIT Press (2010). It appears here in the Teachers College Record. The review is below:

Access to Knowledge in the Age on Intellectual Property is a collection of over 30 essays by an international body of scholars, lawyers, and activists, detailing the “access to knowledge” movement, or “A2K” for short. A2K is an emerging movement most succinctly described as a reaction to the global expansion of intellectual property law. Adherents to the movement detail the deleterious effects such expansion has had individual ability to access information and build knowledge, especially in the developing world. Such expansion is not only a problem for education, but also for human health. Because many medications are protected by intellectual property law, such as those for treating HIV/AIDS, access to those medicines has become prohibitively expensive for much of the developing world. It is not the cost of manufacturing the drug, but rather the idea of the drug (owned largely by western pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, Bristol-Meyer Squibb, among others) where most of the cost lies.

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Digital Libraries, with a touch of Sci-Fi and Architecture

I am looking forward to this Spring’s course, Digital Libraries. It is considerably changed from the last time I taught it. One of the new aspects of digital libraries that we will be considering are the spatial dimensions, which has been prompted in large part by the growth of mobile technology that brings digital collections to physical space (e.g., using historical photograph collections in real space). Not unsurprisingly, the integration of informational and physical spaces is of interest to architects. vinge.jpg To further explore this area, we will be collaborating with Prof. Carla Leitao course Architecture and Information Spaces, which she teaches in Pratt’s Graduate Architecture program. Together, we will be reading Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End, a work of science fiction that depicts the world is 2025. I am looking forward to this exploration.

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Oral History Digital Archives

video.jpgI am pleased to announce that my class this semester, Projects in Digital Archives, is working with the Lesbian Herstory Archive to create a digital archive. In this class, we will consider all aspects of digital archive creation, from digitization, to content management systems, to user experience, to digital preservation. In pursuing this project, we are making use of the learning theory known as Constructionism, which places students in the role of designers and emphasizes creating physical artifacts in a social environment (Papert, 1980, 1991; Kafai, 2006). More information on the Lesbian Herstory Archive can be found in this video that was produced by PBS In the Life.

Kafai, Y. B. (2006) Constructionism. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Papert, S. (1980) Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (New York: Basic Books).

Papert, S. (1991). Situating constructionism. In I. Harel & S. Papert (Eds.), Constructionism (pp. 1-11). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Fall 2010 Classes @ Pratt

pratt_sm.jpgI am teaching my three favorite classes this semester. Take one, take them all! Click the course title to view the syllabus.

Projects in Digital Archives
This course provides an opportunity for students to learn how to create a digital archive, and practice the implementation of such a digital archive with a partner library. Additionally, students have the opportunity to exercise their creativity in the design of a tool, program, or project that makes use of digital archives for educational or social purposes.

Social Media
The rise of the networked information environment, currently highlighted by such descriptors as Social Media and Web 2.0, and popularized by such web properties as Facebook and Twitter, will continue to profoundly influence the ways in which humans share information. Such technologies support the use, production, and circulation of knowledge in a peer-to-peer networked arrangement. This arrangement shares some aspects with other forms of communications but is most remarkable in its discontinuity from these earlier forms (for example, the hierarchical communication structure widely used in our lifetimes). This new structural arrangement, which will undoubtedly persist alongside other arrangements, has implications for information organizations and professionals, and goes far beyond, “should my library be Twittering?” Rather, the question this course will be guided by is: how might information organizations and professionals leverage the networked information environment to advance longstanding professional values, such as a commitment to democracy, community building, and individual efficacy and fulfillment. In effort to advance these values, students will engage in a collaborative design project that attempts to take advantage of this new arrangement.

Library Use and Instruction
Education in libraries has focused extensively on: 1) bibliographic instruction (e.g., teaching patrons how to use the library resources), as well as 2) information literacy (e.g., teaching skills needed to evaluate and use information). This course will consider teaching and learning in these areas, but also ask student to think creatively and critically about new areas where teaching and learning could be applied. Essential questions include: 1) how can we make libraries more educational?, and 2) what methods are best used to achieve this goal? Students will engage in a design project to build a tool, service or curriculum to help libraries facilitate knowledge construction in twenty-first century communities.