Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Luminarium = Illumination

Anniina Jokinen responded to my note of thanks sent a few days ago for her site, Luminarium, which started out as one page with Medieval Lit links and has expanded over the past decade into Renaissance, Restoration, and later 17c world and British literary texts and cultural connections. (The image here is from the website, a handsome polyptych.) A handsome resource too which I now recommend to students, and to you. Her comments sum up well the battle we on the Net do, as much as do the hordes who fought censorship of the DVD copy protection code last week, to keep open access to knowledge. After all, were we not told by John Perry Barlow, EFF, Bruce Sterling, GNU, Slashdot, and all those visionaries of the same "decade ago how "information wants to be free"? I mentioned this issue last week in my Technology, Culture, and Society course in defending the use by students, judiciously and not entirely to the exclusion of other sources, of Wikipedia. One young man raised his eyebrows. When I asked him why, he answered it was refreshing to hear my point-of-view that we should all "give back to the web unless one day we wake up and find it a portal that we need a credit card to enter."

Here's the gist from Aniina's reply that sums up her and my credo well.
Hi John,

Thank you for your kind words. As someone outside traditional academia myself now, I know intimately how hard it is to do independent research. Everyone wants you to join and sign away your name, your credit card, or your first-born child. If we want to foster interest in the past giants on whose shoulders we all stand, how can we make it so difficult to gain access to their works? It has long pissed me off, to put it frankly, and I'll keep doing all I can to make sure that works that are all of our literary and intellectual heritage, regardless of national origin, language, or financial or academic status, remain free for all.

Thanks also for the links, and the blog buzz!


(I had written earlier--slightly revised here:)
As an independent scholar (I teach but at an introductory level at a technical college, so I am not the tenure-track professor awash in foundation grants and rarified leisure) with research interests in both medieval and Irish literary culture, I wanted to drop you a line of thanks. You are right in your Letter from the Editor—those of us outside traditional academia lacking access to vast databases and proprietary knowledge controlled by universities and consortia welcome the effort you have put into this “labor of love” over, well, going on eleven years. Thanks, and best wishes. I will link your site to my webliography for my Intro to Lit students. (I also mentioned it on my blog today.)

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