Culture vs Institutions: Who Pays for Change?

Tim Klapdor, Heart | Soul | Machine, Sept 18, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

When we pose a dichotomy like "culture versus institutions" most people will say "well it's both". But my point was that institutions are not necessary for openness. There's no middle ground between 'necessary' and 'not necessary'. You have to choose. Tim Klapdor takes an approach to this issue based on the question of cost. "The idea of asking who pays, and maybe more importantly – who should pay – is no less valid." But if there are costs, I think, you begin to tilt the balance in favour of needing institutions. That's why it's such a good business strategy to ensure that openness creates costs. Thus we see Berkeley forced by the Department of Justice to remove their open content from the web.

Where there are institutions, where there are costs, we begin to produce inequities. That's why openness needs to join that set of things that belongs to culture. What sort of things? Think of what we all own and what costs each of us nothing - our language, our music, our ways of preparing food, our dances, our stories, our history and geography, our religion and philosophy. These belong to no one. We can pass these to each other free of charge. That doesn't mean you can't make money off any of them - in fact they're all big business. But it means you don't have to. And that's the status our learning resources should have. That's the status our science should have. Our academic literature. Our ideas and algorithms. Freely created. Freely shared. 

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