Thursday, 20 November 2008

Ahoy, Me Hearties! Pirate Philosophy by Gary Hall

Open Access publishing is not all that scary

Yesterday, Film Studies For Free's author attended a very stimulating talk on a subject dear to this blog's heart: Open Access publishing in the Humanities.

Tireless proponent and exponent of radical Open Access Professor Gary Hall gave his lecture -- 'Pirate Philosophy' -- as part of the Research in Progress Seminar Series at the School of Media and Film at the University of Sussex, a talk he had also delivered at his own institution, Coventry University. The Sussex event was chaired by Caroline Bassett, whose own writing on digital media is well worth checking out: click HERE for an online Open Access article by her on Web 2.0 and read about her new book, The Arc and the Machine: Narrative and New Media (complete with its discussion of Gus Van Sant's film Elephant) HERE.

A description of the earlier version of Gary Hall's talk, available online, reads as follows (with the odd hyperlink added, as usual, by FSFF):

This Lecture presented a series of performative media projects or ‘media gifts’. Operating at the intersection of art, media and philosophy, these projects – which include an open access archive and a ‘liquid book’ – are gifts in that they are part of the ‘academic gift economy’ which circulates research for free rather than as market commodities. They are performative in that they are instances of media that produce the things of which they speak and are engaged primarily through their performance.

The media gift that this Lecture focussed on was ‘Pirate Philosophy’. This project investigated some of the implications of internet pirate philosophy for the arts and humanities, particularly the latter’s ideas of authorship, the book, the academic journal, scholarly publishing, intellectual property, copyright law, content creation and cultural production. ‘Pirate Philosophy’ explores such ideas both philosophically and legally through the creation of an actual ‘pirate’ text.

Hall's lecture richly explored all sorts of different models for Open Access as well as, very engagingly, the current relevance to these matters of the work of a variety of cultural theorists (most prominently Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Zygmunt Bauman, and the gift-economics of Marcel Mauss -- 'gifts are never free', but instead often give rise to reciprocal exchange).

The question session at the end of the seminar showed that many of those attending were, in part, inspired by Hall's call to piracy/self-piracy, but were residually anxious in the ways that academics employed (or working towards being employed) by the current system so often are about the challenges to conventional systems of academic, and other, authorship that Web 2.0 has raised, and that Web 3.0 will take even further. Hall's tactical refusal to assuage those anxieties was well met by this attendee, though. A little pirate heartiness will indeed be necessary if the lockdown culture of Western Academia is truly to change. (But that's easy for this blogger to say...)

All these debates are closely connected to ones about the spreadability of digital moving image materials as well as text-based ones. Interested FSFF readers should also check out Gary Hall's website together with Culture Machine, the online journal he co-founded and edits, which will have an upcoming issue on Pirate Philosophy. You should also visit and support CSeARCH, the pioneering Humanities online-archive he co-founded in 1999. Hall's latest book Digitize This Book! The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now is a highly compelling read, but you can get some sense of his detailed arguments from the following online conference proceedings piece: 'The Politics and Ethics of Electronic Archiving'; and from the following interview: ‘OA in the Humanities Badlands’.

If you've got as far as this point in this post, ye verily deserve today's final, 'piratical' gift: a video of Hall's lecture as given at Coventry University on September 29, 2008:

Film Studies For Free's author promises to return to the fascinating questions about authorship, online and otherwise, raised by Hall's work in a future post for her research blog Directing Cinema.

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