James Hilton — “Scholarship in the digital age: opportunities and challenges”

Dr. James Hilton http://www.virginia.edu/vpcio/bio.html
Vice President and Chief Information Officer, University of Virginia
“Scholarship in the digital age: opportunities and challenges”
Keynote for ALCTS 2007 Midwinter Symposium: “Definitely digital: an exploration of the future of knowledge on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of ALCTS”
Jan. 19, 2007

>> Assumptions
A healthy publishing environment is the medium through which we collaborate across time and place and is as necessary to scholarship as air is to life. Inherent tensions between publishers and libraries. Often universities are seen as not caring about publishing world. We absolutely have a stake. Scholarship can’t exist in absence of publishing.

If it’s not online, it won’t be read – though it won’t necessarily be read online.

If this were a pregnancy we would be in the third trimester: urgency; pain; hope; fear; inevitability; and some question about who the parents are.

Two framings of the future:
1. New dawn: beautiful sunrise, new opportunity
2. Perfect storm: the end of everything we know
Wants us to play in this space. The disruptive influences of technology in libraries and some of the opportunities that come from this disruption

>> “Disruptive” forces
1. The emergence of the “pure property” view of ideas
2. Technology and unbundling
3. Shift from “producer push” to “demand pull”
4. The arrival of “ubiquitous access”

>> 1. The emergence of the pure property view of ideas
Preaching to the choir.
Single largest threat to scholarship and innovation.
Jefferson: “If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_8_8s12.html
Property is not like an automobile. If you steal my auto, I can’t get home. If you steal my idea, I still have it – it’s not lessened.
Originally, copyright was scheme to promote sharing. How society progresses.

Where is Mr. Jefferson in the DMCA?

The evolution of patents. “genius” preferred but not necessary
– Obviousness is assumed
– Funding model for the patent office creates incentives to approve patent applications (patent office is funded off the fees for granting patents)
– Defensive patent strategies as a rational response the IP arms race. E.g. IBM hires MBA students to think of ideas to patent. Patent war chest. We’re infringing you? Well I bet we have something of yours in our stockpile of patents, let’s call it even.

Method of doing business patents. Used to have a real product, a widget, a thing. But now: Amazon owns one-click buying. All sites using this pay Amazon a licensing fee. Priceline owns a patent on reverse auctions. Blackboard’s e-learning patent http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2006/08/blackboard_elearning_patent.html

The problem is not that we have insufficient property protection or insufficient respect for those protections. Contrary to what industries say, we recognize that we need IP, you want to reward people, give them incentive to share, that’s a good thing. The problem is that we are deploying new protections at an accelerating pace and that we will all soon be paralyzed by the plethora of IP fences thrown up around ever smaller pieces of property.

Somebody needs to help the university think about ownership, technology, e-reserves. How to approach these with consistency. How to prepare students and professors from thinking job number one is how to protect IP. That is bad!

Class notes. Who owns contents. Varsity.com controversy.

Students ask professors to sign nondisclosure statements. To protect them from profs stealing their ideas for their class projects.

Who owns the right to publish? Chemistry journal shelves article after the author’s former mentor raises objection. Faculty and student were to co-author, then had a disagreement, student tried to publish alone but faculty said no that’s my data.

Who owns product of collaboration? Who owns copyright to student-created works? Legal counsel answer: I don’t know that depends let’s talk more about this. (their response to everything)

For better or worse the future of ideas is being defined by the entertainment industry.

The new agenda: http://www.rhymeswithorange.com/home.php?date=20000123

>> 2. Technology and unbundling

Think of banking. All that used to be bundled. You went in, went to tellers. Along comes ATMs, internet banking. Now, pay fee for talking to a human, the bundled representative of the whole thing.

“mass” media. Old days: ABC, NBC or CBS. That was it. That’s what you watched, what they showed when they showed it. Now cable, Internet – unbundled – you choose what and when.

Publishing – days of Gutenberg – editing to distribution all bundled in the publisher. Now personal computer and internet – everybody can be a publisher

Unbundling content. Technology tends to unbundle bundled endeavors. Education is a very bundled endeavor.

Music. Edison’s waxed disks, then EPs LPs 45s 8-tracks cassettes cds. None of those technological changes caused music industry to think about how they bundle content. Music industry thinks in terms of an album of songs, b/c they can’t predict which song will drive sales.

Unbundling – scholarship 2.0
Traditional models of authorship in the academy = a polite and agreed upon fiction. Under copyright law, every student under the prof, the prof’s thesis advisor – all potentially authors. But law says “product of lone author.” But now, it takes a village to support authorship.

Pragmatic problem: reviewed tenure & promotion. Rule: can’t have reference letters from co-authors. Problematic, start looking at vita, it’s a boutique discipline, produced two papers w/ 120 authors. Current models broken apart and reconfigured

Unbundled b/c of what youth are bringing to it. We are digital immigrants. For us, internet like a big library. About taking back. Not for kids – they’re on internet b/c they’re publishing, they call it expression. Myspace, Facebook, Xanga, Flickr, bulletin boards.

Scholarship. Unbundling cost and price. Music labels’ agonies over song pricing. How should articles/monographs be priced? Should that have anything to do with cost? Should the cost be bundled with distribution pricing?

Every 18 months, every time agreements w/ apple come up, music labels want to explore a new pricing model. Apple say 99 cents per song period. Music labels want to charge more for popular songs. Contrary to every other industry – volume equals cheaper. Labels want $2.50 for popular song – so label can recoup cost of whole album.

University – can’t unbundle price. Teaching large lecture class allows enables the teaching of small seminar classes. But prof could do online version of that lecture class. How will university handle this?

In a world of scholarly publishing, how do we think of unbundling in units of scholarship – articles? Monographs? Paragraphs? Old publishing models: you pay for the thing that comes in the mail.

>> 3. “Producer push” vs “demand pull”

Good old days: techies were the creators and the audience. Technology is for the technologists. Goal was build it and they will come

Along comes internet, desktop computing. I want what I want when I want it. I don’t want you figuring how to solve my problems for me.

Diff between mass marketing, e.g. a billboard, vs. search, e.g. tagging what you’ve already demanded

In universities, lecture vs. exploration, e.g. collaborative curriculum, student goes in the direction they’re pulled, not in direction professor pushes them

Libraries and the long tail
Libraries are vast repositories of content. Quick synopsis of the long tail: conventional wisdom was 80% of profits come from 20% of products. A skewed normal distribution. But Wired article and now book:
demand asymptotes somewhere above zero. Global audience. Amazon – 50% of profit comes from below 20% of top products.

Least frequently played song in the catalog? Someone plays it at least once.

Making of America digital collection. Hits to website. Print on demand option. Once printed, item can be listed for sale on Amazon. The most pop title is Beekeeping, published in 1862. Selling five books a week. Comparable to some university press runs.

>> 4. Arrival of ubiquitous access.
What will it mean for university and libraries when people have access to anything they want any time anywhere? Prediction: not pay per view. Will be subscription based, advertising funded, licensed, whatever – user will experience it like it’s free.

Google mass digitization. Transformative implications. The power of indexing. Broad, efficient, democratization of access to public domain works.
Project as driver for:
rationalizing IP issues
creation of cooperative “universal” library
freeing up resources for related issues (e.g. institutional repositories, scholarly communication)
exacerbating paradox of ‘library as place’ and by extension, university as place

Do we get it? No. We don’t get it as libraries, as institutions. Traditionally: university = gated access. Now, not about access – what services will the university provide?

>> Opportunity:
We’re living in a world of abundance. Infrastructure costs. E.g. storage system. Expensive to build; then use it or don’t use it, it’s the same price. Bandwidth, storage, computer cycles – infrastructure – abundance. We haven’t figured out how to manage this abundance.

Opportunity: the curious responses of presses and their universities. Was flabbergasted by negative response of university presses and the university to Google project. Sort of understood on part of presses, but not on part of university. Wanted to call provost: shouldn’t someone tell us they work for us?

University presses are code blue. Toast. Slow death. Committed to a business model that relies upon sales to libraries. Libraries are under pressure to buy electronic not print. University presses and the trajectory of the status quo. Why isn’t someone in press doing an all-in bet?

Cost centers of publishing
Research/create – write – review, edit – copyedit/format/production – deliver – market – distribute – curate/archive/retrieval.
Publisher looks at: middle steps are where they absorb cost
But university: bears full cost, almost all steps
Why haven’t university been bolder with their presses? University subsidizes them. But the point that subsidy is trivial in comparison to overall cost of investment in scholarly communication.

Rice University [Rice University Press reborn as nation’s first fully digital academic press
http://media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=8654 ]

Opportunity: the virtual geography of libraries
Library should be at the center of helping navigate disruption caused by technology. Leading.
Virtual geography of libraries. In digital world, libraries occupy interesting spaces.
Opportunity to drive close alliance between library and IT in support of teaching and research. Library has put a lot of resource into administrative costs. Important but not strategic. Risk irrelevance. Libraries are in center, opportunity to build relationships w/ IT, faculty, students. Channel expression, creativity, desire to be heard.

Physical and psychological geography of libraries. Geographic physical center. Challenge is to make sure libraries stay in the cultural center.

>> Coda:
Libraries have the opportunity to reduce costs and take control of scholarly publishing and to do so in way that preserves the culture of sharing and mitigate against the culture of ownership.

Blogger: Jen Wolfe

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