Conventional wisdom asserts: “Information wants to be free.”
Information, however, is inanimate and without a trace of consciousness. So maybe we wish it to have a “want.” Or maybe we like inventing bumper-sticker slogans.
Is it true that you get what you pay for?
And, if it is, what do you “get” when “it” is free of any cost?
In higher education, MOOCs are the acronym-du-jour. (MOOC: Massive Open Online Course.) College-level courses taught online and, at present, without cost to those enrolled.
Note: those enrolled also do not (currently) receive college credit for the MOOC courses in which they enroll.
MOOCs, the claim goes, are free education analogous to public education. However, school taxes pay for public education.
One “futurist” claims that, currently, MOOCs are the “test drive” that large universities will later begin charging $89 a piece. As with the “test” assertion, how that cost figure was determined goes unstated.
Then, with black helicopters hovering, the assertion continues, once the large universities have monopolized the education marketplace and driven out smaller players, the fee will be implemented.
“Open Source” is the term associated with information freely available and without cost to the public.
But, as with MOOCs, Open Source journals, are not without cost. While the information (the college course or the article) may indeed be without cost to you as a student or reader, someone has paid.
Someone paid for the MOOC’s or journal’s software, maintenance, development, production, and distribution. Maybe not you. But someone paid.
One notes that “Futurist,” like “public intellectual” is a self-applied and self-certified descriptor. Talk about ego and a sense of self-importance!
But, if information really does “want” to be free, one must ask: who pays for information’s discovery, its articulation, its documentation, and its dissemination?
The slogan sounds very democratic. Very egalitarian and idealistic. And we like those attributes.
But, and let’s tell the truth here, the creation and distribution of anything has never been without cost.
I’m still waiting for someone to give me a great Frans Wildenhain pot. Hasn’t happened yet. But I’m patient. (Not.)