Humanists struggle to understand information as a commodity

Submitted by AnnaKh on Tue, 12/05/2000 - 03:54

A Penny For Your Thoughts: A Humanists Struggle to Understand Information as a Commodity is a paper by University of Alberta LIS student Geoffrey Harder. I like it. The title is self-explanatory, but if you want more information before you check it out, here is the intro:Theories of information evolve in relation to the context of their culture and environment. An individual\'s ideas, once shared, become information for someone else. The
value of information is dependent on one particular concept. Information is of value when controlled by one group and desired by another. This understated reality is a
reflection of the current debate surrounding intellectual property rights and the Internet. Traditionally, libraries have been the crusaders of information as a social good.
In general, tax-based libraries fight tooth-and-nail to defend the principle of equal and unrestricted access of information for all. One could even go so far as to argue
this is a founding principle of the public library. Indeed, it was recorded that Asinius Pollio (76BC-AD5), the librarian of the first public library, \"made the talents of
men the common property of all\" (McGarry 111). But what factors govern the right to buy, sell or freely-trade information? The advent of the electronic age has forced
librarians, among many other groups, to re-examine what the value of information is and who has the right to access to it.

The mandate of libraries as providers of free information has been challenged by the increasing shift towards understanding information as a commodity. This paper
will examine the literature, both library and information-related, which has been written on this evolution. Factors considered will be: the value and nature of
information, the political and economic influences on information as a commodity, the perception of information as a social good, and the implications of shifting
perspectives for libraries. Having examined the literature, it will become clear that libraries must advocate the social good of information and resist the temptation to
commercialize it. Technology is not the culprit. Rather, it is the profit-oriented culture that has developed parallel to it, which is to blame.