Freedom for Scholarship in the Internet Age examines distortion in the current scholarly communication system and alternatives, focusing on the potential of open access. High profits for a select few scholarly journal publishers in the area of science, technology, and medicine contrast with other portions of the scholarly publishing system such as university presses that are struggling to survive. Two major societal trends, commercialization and irrational rationalization, are explored as factors in the development of distortion in the system, as are potential alternatives, including the commons, state subsidy, DIY publishing, and publishing cooperatives. Original research presented or summarized includes the quarterly series The Dramatic Growth of Open Access, an empirical study of economic possibilities for transition to open access, interviews with scholarly monograph publishers, and an investigation into the potential for transition to open access in the field of communication. The similarities and differences between open access and various Creative Commons licenses are mapped and analyzed. The conclusion features a set of recommendations for open access. Carefully transitioning the primary economic support for scholarly publishing (academic library budgets) from subscriptions to open access is seen as central to a successful transition. Open access changes the form of the commodity with respect to commercial publication, from the scholarly work per se to the publishing service; a major improvement that overcomes the trend towards enclosure of information, but not necessarily the dominance of the commercial sector. A multi-faceted approach is recommended as optimal to overcome potential vulnerabilities of any single approach to open access. The open access movement is advised to be aware of the less understood societal trend of irrational (or instrumental) rationality, a trend that open access initiatives are just as vulnerable to as subscriptions or purchase-based systems. The remedy for irrational rationality recommended is a systemic or holistic approach. It is recommended that open access be considered part of a potential for broader societal transformation, based on the Internet’s capacity to function as an enabler of many to many communication that could form the basis of either a strong democracy or a decentralized socialism.
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Thesis advisor: Gruneau, Richard
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