The Perils of Paywalls

One of the most annoying things I have come across online is the tendency for some scientific and academic journals to percolate their content through paywalls. When this is done with journalistic news content, it is usually not difficult to find equivalent content freely available elsewhere. When this is done with academic reference or technical information, this limits the audience to those with readily available disposable wealth or those for whom academic tenure provides a VIP pass to the executive suite of the cloistered cognoscenti.

Stored information is a form of delayed communication. Stored academic information which is hidden behind paywalls commits recorded intellectual discovery to a proprietary tomb, curtailing its ability to inspire and generate further research and discovery. Creativity and innovation in intellectual and technological endeavour requires fully unshackled and freely available information resources for researchers and technicians to work independently and to create collaborative environments conducive to further discovery. Sequestering information behind paywalls in bunkers which require non-trivial effort or financial resources to uncover has a cascading effect upon collective human intellectual endeavour and acts as a limiting factor for future scientific and technological progress.

Privileging access to human discovery in these ways is likely to stunt the growth of technological and academic knowledge. This in turn will have an effect, through feedback loops, of privileging the development and production of information which is expected to be filtered or hidden and this in turn generates an evolving stratified ecosystem of information poor, information wealthy and an overall restricted collective capacity for innovation and discovery. Corporate intellectual property is one thing, collective human technological and social development is another; I do not know if there can ever be a successful compromise between these two alienated (and alienating) epistemic geographies.

In a Post-Truth world, placing a price on truth inversely places a premium on what is freely available and what is freely available is very often very far from the truth.


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