Saturday, March 17, 2012


One of the major advancements of openness was the printing press. Pervious to this, books could take months or years to make one copy. This made books extremely expensive and therefore unattainable for the common person. While printing was relatively slow to begin with one of the first books to be printed, the bible, had a serious effect on the society of the day.  Religion was the first to feel the enormous effects of printing. Before, the preacher was the only one with the bible and was likely the only one who could read. Suddenly, however, people could get their own copy and had a reason to read. The fight for openness began. People began questioning the teachings of individual churches and began to come up with their own interpretations. This led to people like Martin Luther and William Tindale to speak out about the way the church was being run which opened the door for the protestant reformation.
In the 16th and 17th centuries openness was again revolutionized by printing. With the widespread use of the printing press, suddenly the education spread as fast as books could. This was a time where new inventions and new thoughts crept into society and science began to take foot. We are currently going through a similar process but at an infinitely faster rate. With the development of the internet the open movement began, causing us to reflect back and realize that the buildup to this age wasn’t simply the advancement of the computer, but a traceable change in in history of how our society thinks about knowledge.  
One of the uses of the printing press during this time period was scientific papers. Before these existed there was a serious problem in the scientific community. Scientists have a resource, their knowledge and findings. This resource was extremely precious and often hard to come by. Obviously, they would have wanted to protect their findings so no one could steal them and claim them as their own. Because of this fear, everything was closed.
Following the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century (most of this occurred in between 1660 and 1793), a group of scientists got together and formed some official scientific societies. Some were government-sponsored (like the Royal Society of London, still around today) and some were private, but they were all organized for what was essentially open science for the time. They knew a problem existed and they needed a solution. These groups gave scientists an environment to share their ideas without fear and gave them a way to be paid. This movement towards openness, however, has ironically become the main source of frustration to its proponents today. Due to changes in technology and expectations, a movement for openness created a closed system.
Today, there is a movement against these scientific papers. In this digital world these papers and journals are seen as slowing the speed of information, just as copying a book by hand used to be seen as the inefficient process. Now there are web sites where you can learn about thousands of topics for free. Some examples are:
These sites and many others are dedicated to bringing a new ability to learn to everyone around the world for free. Just as the printing press brought learning to the masses, knowledge no longer has to be for those who go to college. It is incredible what has been done but it must be done with caution. The sites listed are open to users but not at all open to publishers. This is important because while everyone can and should be a consumer of knowledge, producers should have limitations. There is a balance which must be found. This is a topic which has been and will be debated. According to history, having an open society will make us better off. We just have to be careful what we consume and create.
            As an example, the book Reinventing discovery goes over the complexities of open sourcing. Although there are many different examples of open sourcing, two that most people are familiar with are Linux and Wikipedia. These open projects have truly innovated ways of being open. Like with the advent of the printing press, this new way of creating an open society has placed expectations which society now lives with. These processes of innovations must come with any development in spreading information and openness. Someone had to think of creating everything from parchment and pen to the internet itself and everything in between. As we look through history there is always some major invention or innovation which causes or help produce and spread knowledge. The irony is, that these changes have made things which were once viewed as be best was to be open, like scientific papers, an enemy to openness.  

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