Category Archives: Pedagogy

IRELAND AT THE OSCARS. Does Ireland’s investment in film pay off?

DH6010 Humanities and New Technologies: Tools and Methodologies

Curated Digital Narrative 


Lucia Brunetti

Aisling Christie

Julie Dalton

Paul Maher


Does Ireland’s investment in film pay off?


 The Irish and Oscar

The Academy Awards capture the public’s interest year after year with the glittering award show featuring tonnes of celebrities all on their best behaviour. Winning or even being nominated is an honour that generally goes to American films, as only 20% of Best Picture winners have been non-American films. So when Ireland gets some recognition, it’s always exciting for Irish film fans and the Irish press, and of course, Ireland Inc.

The Best Picture contenders usually get an Irish release in the winter months prior to the February ceremony, a rich time to be a cinema-goer. The Oscars are a benchmark for filmmaking, despite its bias towards English language productions and the Academy voters’ nervousness around anything different. Biopics and epic dramas usually fare best. Musicals, horrors and popular summer blockbusters – make that anything ‘genre’ – rarely win in the big categories, that is, Best Picture, Best Director or Best Actor/Actress in a leading or supporting role.

In compiling the data for this chart, we realised it’s almost impossible to be objective about someone’s Irishness. We claim the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis because his father was born in Ireland, he holds dual citizenship and resides in Wicklow. But can we claim him when he wins an Academy Award for his portrayal of Lincoln, a film that has no connection to Ireland? Probably not, but we’ll try anyway.

Irishness comes in many forms. Irish parent? Dual citizenship? Big fan of Connemara like Peter O’Toole? Emigrated with parents at age two? It’s a state of mind, not a legal claim. Brenda Fricker: “When you are lying drunk at the airport you’re Irish. When you win an Oscar you’re British.”

We can get even more regionalistic about Irish actors: see the Rubberbandits on ‘Limerick’s own’ Ruth Negga. And what about Michael Fassbender? Is he German or Irish – or even more important in some places – a Kerryman or not? Why not both?

In researching the Irish people involved in Hollywood, some lesser-known but interesting characters crop up. Cedric Gibbons is an outlier on our graph, as the studio was contractually obliged to credit him as Art Director in each film that MGM made until his retirement 1956. He won a total of 11 Oscars, with 38 nominations. He is credited on about 1500 films, but his actual hands-on art direction may have been about 150 films (still a high number). He designed the Oscar statuette and was one of the founding members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

An Irishman held the honour of receiving both a Nobel prize for literature and an Academy Award, up until 2016, when Bob Dylan caught up with George Bernard Shaw.

Film in Ireland

Many film and animation studios in Ireland have come and gone over the years. Is this an indicator that Ireland’s film industry cannot stand on its own two feet? Does the industry need consistent government-backed policies of investment and support to survive? We wanted to chart the performance of Irish films which got the AMPAS voters’ attention against the public funding of the Irish film sector and commercial incentives provided for investment by the Irish Government such as Section 481. Questions we also asked were does this investment provide growth for the industry in Ireland, and does this have any impact on the future commercial viability of the future of film production here? We also examined current gender balance within the industry, asking how well represented are women in the film industry in Ireland.

From 2008 to 2016, Irish government investment in film has fallen, due to the economic recession and the austerity measures being brought in in 2008. In the period 2009 – 2016, Irish talent took home four Oscars. In the previous 8 years 2000 – 2008, we won five (these wins include honorary Oscars for Maureen O’Hara and Peter O’Toole). And we can possibly take away the Daniel Day-Lewis wins as neither of those films (There Will Be blood, Lincoln) were Irish produced/funded.

1 – Source: IFB Annual Snapshot 2016

However, we did receive a lot more nominations in the period 2009 – 2016, 20 nominations despite the recession, compared with just nine nominations in the period 2000-2008. This can be read as a sign that our film industry has stabilised and matured.

Does funding lead to international success? We look to the primary fund-awarding body in the country – the Irish Film Board – for some answers. Their funding is divided into two categories: development and production. Below, we examined data from the Irish Film Board’s 2016 Annual Report.

2 – Source: IFB Annual Snapshot 2016

The success rate of acquiring funding is measured by the ‘strike rate’ i.e. the number of projects applying for funding compared to those that received the funding. On average, applications to the Irish Film Board for development funding have a strike rate of 31%. Production funding strike rates are higher than the figures for development funding, likely due to lower numbers applying for production funding because of limited matching resources or perhaps the project has stalled.

3 – Source: IFB Annual Snapshot 2016

It is likely due to their limited resources that the IFB is cautious when awarding funds. Development projects which are beyond the first draft stage are more likely to get funding. Interestingly, documentaries in development did not receive funding 66% of the time whereas every animation production that applied to IFB received funding. Animation projects are most likely to get funding, probably due to a sustained growth in the popularity of Irish animated television series and films, and the reliability of already established animation studios in Ireland since 1999.


4 – Source: Irish Nominations and Wins at the Oscars

Short Films

One thing that can be noticed from the chart is the increase in the last years of nominations in the Short Film category (with also a few winnings). Shorts are usually produced by emerging directors who want to gain some experience and create a portfolio before directing a feature film; could this be a sign of a new generation of talented directors entering the Irish film industry? However, this success in the Oscars for Irish short films did not bring about an increase in the funding by the IFB for this category; as the chart below shows the number of shorts funded in 2014 was only none against the 28 funded in 2011. This downward trend seems to reverse in 2015 with an increase in the number of funded projects (17). We can only hope that the number of short film project funded continues to increase in the future, especially as short films do not have screening revenues, relying heavily on public funding.

5 – Source: IFB Five Year Strategy

Gender and Film in Ireland

Source: Arts of Council of Ireland

The gender breakdown is interesting: female writers who applied for funding under the Irish Production Funding received it 75% of the time. The percentage of female writers is only 24% so this shows the IFB is encouraging female writers to apply for funding in Irish productions. In the category of Project Development Funding, the strike rate for female applicants was lower, suggesting that there is a smaller success rate for productions not concretely connected to Ireland. IFB’s vision for 2020 enshrines the concept of gender and diversity being promoted through its funding.


6 – Source: IFB Annual Snapshot 2016


The future of Irish Film

Below is a chart of the 2015 Oscar nominated movies with before nomination gross revenue and post nomination gross revenue. It has two movies of Irish interest, Brooklyn and Room, both of which had an exponential rise in finances post nomination. While we have no proof that the nomination affected sales of tickets for the movies, we do know that an Oscar nomination increases a film’s popularity. It also increases the amount of countries that it is released in. ‘Irish film and screen content has achieved phenomenal worldwide success, but what comes next?’ (IFB, 2016). A call to ‘seize the day’ has been issued by the IFB for those in the film industry to take maximum advantage of our successes over the last few years. The IFB sees this as a result of the long-term strategy of investment, highlighting our favourable tax incentives. The IFB believes this success is scalable and it wishes to bring Ireland to the next level in the art of filmmaking for the world stage.

7 – Sources: Box Office Mojo and

In the period 2015/2016 Irish Films grossed over $140 million at the international box office. The IFB’s vision for 2020 promotes a five year strategy which includes vision, leadership, audience building, development, nurturing, increased investment and developing partnerships, as was done with Telefilm Canada and IFB in the award-winning Room. This North American connection could be a conduit to the huge US market in a practical and logistical way, using Irish and Canadian teams to co-produce material of mutual cultural interest. This graphic shows our place on the world map.

8 – Source: Club Troppo

Ireland’s market share did not register as of 2009, and this reiterates what we already know: our population base cannot support an indigenous industry. We have to sell our films abroad for it to make economic sense. Competing in international awards allows this to happen.

We conclude that the data suggests that international recognition leads to a significant increase in a film’s financial success. Oscar nominations impact on the popularity and earnings of Irish films, despite no wins in the biggest categories in more than 25 years. The post gross figures represent worldwide financial returns, further emphasising our belief that a worldwide distribution deal on foot of an Oscar nomination drives ticket sales in all countries where the film appears.

We submit that the dataset we have provided makes a definite connection of cause and effect between the Irish Exchequer investment and tax incentives and success for Irish films on the world stage. It is, however, a long-term strategy; the fruits of which are not immediately apparent at time of investment. As the decision to fund the IFB is a political one, we feel that it should be put on a firmer footing, with long-term funding protected against future political interference. Let us hope the Irish film industry has learned from previous mistakes, as seen in the 1990s when the potential of Irish film was on the runway to success; success which never materialised. Reports at the time cited ‘misuse of tax investors’ funds almost destroyed investment in the area’ (Irish Independent, 2001). We remain cautiously optimistic for the continued success of Irish film.






1-3: Irish Film Board’s Annual Snapshot 2016. (accessed 14/03/2017).


4: Irish Nominations and Wins at the Oscars


5-6: Irish Film Board’s Five Year Strategy


7: Box Office Mojo (accessed 11/03/2017).


The Numbers (accessed 11/03/2017).


8: Club Troppo, ‘How nationalistic/cosmopolitan or just crud loving are global audiences: how large are their film industries?’ (accessed 11/03/2016)


‘Irish Film Flops Into Another Crisis’ (accessed 15/03/2017).


Image sources

Image sources

  1. Header image:
  2. Ruth Negga
  3. Brenda Fricker and Daniel Day-Lewis
  4. Arts Council

Conceptual Introduction to Digital Humanities The Page Today


DH6004: Conceptual Introduction to Digital Humanities

“The Page Today: a new paradigm for understanding?”

Seamus Hanley, Paul Maher, Owen McGee

Traditional print media is limited to a physical format and can be comprised of text and images. The fact that it is in a physical format also incurs production costs and limits its potential exposure depending on geography or methods of distribution. These limitations are largely removed with web pages, which can be created freely and are not bound by geographical constraints.

A web page is not technically a “page” at all. Rather, this term was adopted during the early days of the internet to give people a familiar concept to which they could relate. The web page is simply a computer file which can be viewed remotely using a web browser. This very status of the web page as a computer file is why it is not bound by the physical formats of a typical page, such as A4 or broadsheet newspapers.

Web pages can be designed to be responsive. For example, they can adapt to the device on which they are being displayed. This has become increasingly relevant in recent years with the increase in use of mobile phones and tablets, whose screens can be rotated horizontally or vertically. While it is impossible for a web designer to design a page for every possible combination of screen size, they can take steps and adhere to standards to try to ensure that their pages will display and scale appropriately.

Web pages are created using HTML (HyperText Markup Language), which includes text formatting options. It also allows the creator to insert images, video or other multimedia elements into a page. Pages can be further stylised using technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Scripting languages such as Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) can be used to increase functionality, such as allowing one to query a page and display the results by what is termed a “dynamic page”, the contents of which may differ depending on what query, or when a query, was made.(1)

Web pages were originally static. This meant that they were created once and remained the same unless altered by the creator. This changed with the advent of Web 2.0, which allowed for interaction on the part of the readers. Readers could now comment on articles or, as in the case of Wikipedia and wikis in general, could edit existing pages. Web 2.0 gave rise to social bookmarking sites such as Digg and Del.ici.ous, as well as audio sites such as Last.Fm which actually generated content based on users’ listening habits. If they pleased, users could also add biographical information and photos about the artists to which they were listening to the same site.

Accessibility has been a key concept in the development of web pages. Aside from the introduction of standards to ensure consistency of display, other features introduced to improve accessibility for all potential readers include:

•Text-to-speech functionality and text scaling to facilitate people with eyesight problems

•Use of “night-time” mode on mobile devices to reduce the glare from the screen

•Use of specific Meta Tags attributes, one example being the “alt” tag that can be used in the case of an image not displaying so that the reader will be able to see a text description of the image instead

•Automatic translation features. These are built into some browsers such as Google Chrome, which integrates with Google Translate. The viewer can just right-click on any page to have its content translated. Although this technology is not perfect, it is developing and becoming more accurate.

The use of Meta Tags, such as keywords and page titles or descriptions, inside a web page allows that page to be searchable and found by search engines. Once listed by the search engines, it can then be found by people who are searching for similar content.

Web pages have essentially revolutionised the concept of publishing. Any writer can now publish their work and have it available for others to read or, if they choose, to comment on. Sites such as Issuu and Scribd also facilitate online publishing where users can simply upload a Portable Document Format (PDF) and have that available online with full sharing and embedding capabilities complete with traditional “page” effects such as the sound of a page turning.(2) In the case of Scribd, users may also choose to charge for their published work. Another publishing technology that exists enables a user to easily convert their document into an “e-Book” (electronic book) which can then be viewable online,including on mobile phones and tablets, or on a wide range of devices, including Kindles and other e-book readers.(3)

If the accessibility of web pages for their immediacy of use has been a key priority in their development, issues regarding their long term preservation have not always received equal consideration. One might make a comparison here with traditional media. For instance, paper has proven to be durable material for the storage of information for centuries, such as in codices or books, and with correct care and utilising suitable storage techniques, such as acid-free folders and environmental controls, it can be preserved almost indefinitely. Very different techniques are necessary for born digital or digitised pages, however, and curators of digital archives are already having many problems. This is because efforts to upgrade facilities with every iteration of technology are commonplace in both the public and private sphere. As a result, aside from issues of encoding data to preserve its meaning, even keeping intact the necessary software to retrieve the data can raise significant problems.(4) Costly programmes have been launched to maintain the integrity of digital archives, such as digital repositories, but this work is dependent not only on maintaining budgets, including staffing costs, but also the maintenance of relevant software. One undoubted advantage, as well as potentially much less costly feature, of digital archives, however, are their lack of space requirements for storage in comparison to all physical forms of media.

The role of web pages in encouraging a reconsideration of digital data management techniques has also impacted upon the field of computational text analysis in the humanities; a discipline that is now generally known as ‘the digital humanities’. In the United States, the National Endowment for the Humanities has called upon digital humanities research to embrace the idea of the ‘Visual Page’ by recognising that existing tools for computational text analysis should encompass the visual features of a page as much as its linguistic content.

(5) Some has suggested that this development has encouraged a return to a sort of conceptual purity in the analysis of pages, akin to the schools of thought that existed in medieval times rather than the more ideological ways of thinking that are typical of modern times.(6) The status of the book as a piece of technology in itself has also become a subject of renewed interest, prompting Peter Stallybrass, for instance, to suggest that “the codex and the printed book were indexical computers that Christianity adopted as its technology of discontinuity”.(7)

The advent of computer files being remotely viewable as ‘web pages’ has also prompted a fresh consideration of the dynamics of reading itself; an idea that some digital humanities scholars, such as Leah Price, have addressed through focusing on the question of subjectivity.(8) Hyper reading, or sifting through web pages, has become a norm more so than close reading of particular texts. For this reason, Katherine Hayles has called for the concept of reading to be reconsidered.(9) In computer applications and computer games development there is a term called ‘reskinning’, whereby the original code or architecture of a programme are maintained but its Graphical User Interface (GUI) or appearance are changed. In contrast to the ideas of Johanna Drucker, who has suggested that past templates for books and pages are unsuitable for digital books and pages,(10) Jerome McGann has argued that the digital page today should be akin to the traditional page reskinned.(11) One could argue, however, that the page today has simply outperformed the page of yesterday through its use of multimedia and hypertext links.

Although digital pages rely on many elements to keep them ‘afloat’, such as a Central Processing Unit (CPU), a screen, electronics, memory, networks, electricity and software to interface with hardware, they allow for the storage and retrieval of data, text copying and computerised research tools literally all “at the touch of a button”. The ultimate primacy of the digital page over the physical page, however, perhaps lies in it ability to analyse its reader by means of data analytics. In the business world this is priceless information that allows for segmentation and demographic surveillance of potential customers, just as social media platforms are designed to serve as data mining tools for business purposes. As the technology involved in this process is jealously guarded, it has been suggested that society needs a Magna Carta of the web.(12) From this perspective, just as illiteracy in the past condemned generations to lives of exclusion and poverty the digital page may threaten people today in the same way: those who do not know how to read beyond the surface of the digital page may be condemned to being the new illiterate. This may seem an extreme concept but it reflects the centrality of the business world in shaping the development of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

The elements needed for a successful, or commercial, web page are many. To assist its discovery on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page), a designer needs to employ SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) techniques. These depend on multitudinous factors that search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo adjust regularly, supposedly for the sake of efficiency but reputedly to force people to pay money to receive a favourable result. Currently, SEO can be achieved by being cognisant of various factors:

•The adoption of links: good inward and outward links, including Social Media, can help legitimise and categorise your site

•Using keywords and headings tags: these must be chosen carefully as they are critical for search engine robots (it can also be useful to use synonyms as keywords)

•Creating a good URL: it is best to avoid ugly, or long, URLs (use a maximum of 3-5 words)

•Using “rich” media (e.g. images) with metadata whenever possible (copyright allowing)

•Ensure a good loading speed: if a web page loads slowly, this impacts negatively on its SEO ranking

•The concept of ‘bounce rate reduction’ or making a page interesting enough so users will not ‘leave’ it too quickly and be inclined to return to it frequently.

Embracing all these considerations may be a complicated process but this is a challenge that businesses and institutions now address almost everyday. As a result, an industry has grown up around providing expertise in this area. Some have attempted to school themselves in these processes, relying on studies such as Nielsen’s Heuristics,(13) but it is more common for institutions to hire advertising managers and simply pay for good SEO. This is usually done by hosting carefully chosen advertisements on the institution’s website that carry a ‘pay per click’ charge. This means that that the advertiser will pay the web host, or business, a fee every time their advertisement is discovered, or ‘clicked’, through the company’s web site. It is clear, therefore, that the web ‘page’ has connected the world of computer processing with the world of advertising in a very direct way. This has impacted on the business practices, or bureaucracy, of virtually all institutions in the public and private sphere: governmental, educational and commercial.

There is perhaps no more irrefutable evidence of the societal impact of web pages than the development of ‘e-government’ practices, which may have profound implications for the future. Legislation was passed in many countries relating to Data Protection and Freedom of Information both prior to and conterminously with the launch of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, while since the 2000s the practice of encouraging e-government (or the availability of government records electronically) as a basis for more open, or accountable, governmental practices has been official governmental policy in both the United States and the European Union (including the United Kingdom).(14) Such a development would simply not have been possible were it not for the growing centrality of the Internet to all forms of societal communication and, in particular, societal reliance on the web page, as opposed to the physical page, for access to important information (including, in the case of online banking, private financial records). An extension of this process has been the growth of the idea of “digital citizenship”, which effectively means that individuals will use the Internet and web pages in a socially and politically responsibly fashion, based on the concept of mutual respect and respect for the existing political order. In effect, the Internet has become a political forum that requires its own legal code. Indeed, it is worth noting that one of the first and most significant theorists on the development of the Internet was a distinguished Harvard law professor with party political affiliations; namely, Lawrence Lessig.(15)

Unsurprisingly, this change in the manner of governmental interaction with society has prompted a reevaluation of educational processes too, leading to a prioritisation of digital literacy within the education sector.(16) The process of “open government”, or open access to government records, has encouraged a process of encouraging “open access” to educational resources as well.(17) Governmental willingness to launch online archives of past records has not only enhanced the public profile of many curatorial institutions but it has also helped to alter the manner in which research is carried out. While this development has been most evident in the pure sciences, it has begun to shape work in the humanities as well, reflecting official EU policy, under its Horizon 2020 programme, that researchers must carry out their work according to an Open Data standard.

This Open Data standard is essentially a business ethic based on the governmental policy of encouraging the creation of a ‘digital single market’(18) in the belief that this ‘removes barriers to innovation’ in the business world by making ‘it easier for the public and private sectors to work together’.(19) The motivation of this policy is essentially that the professionalism of the business world and the professionalism of the civil servant and educator shall become one and the same thing. This may seem to be removing from consideration any knowledge that does not serve to generate commercial wealth, which is why many are inclined to associate the ethics of the digital world with iconoclasm. However, it would probably be fairer to say that what this development reflects instead is the purely functional role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in serving as a common denominator to the information management needs, or practices, of all section of society.

The possibility of creating a less costly version of shop fronts online, thanks to the existence of HTML, has made the digital page ubiquitous as a basis of the marketplace, in turn making digital marketing, as well as social media, a constant preoccupation of both commercially motivated individuals and institutions. The advantages of the digital marketplace include greater affordability of advertising; the possibility of moving from planning to executing and adapting marketing strategies with greater speed; being able to track and analyse the progress of marketing campaigns with greater ease; and allowing for greater analysis of customer wants.(20) Governments also legislate for quality control in the online marketplace.

For instance, the European Union has recently updated its charter of consumer rights, dealing specifically with contracts between buyer and seller conducted outside the trader’s business premises as well as contracts using distance communication tools such as the Internet and the telephone.(21) This trend reflects the fact that the traditional marketplace of high street retailers and travel agents has changed utterly in the last twenty years with the advent of digital pages as online, as well as frequently more amenable, portals for the effective sale of their products or services.

To conclude, in light of the seemingly ever-growing centrality of web pages to the bureaucracy of government, commerce and education, raising the very question of “the page today” may seem to raise the need for new paradigms of understanding. It is clear that the commercial entity of the web page has made an impact on society comparable to that made by the commercial development of mass print journalism in the mid-nineteenth century or the equally commercial development of television in the mid-twentieth century.

This has prompted some Internet theorists to return to the ideas of media theorists such as Marshal McLuhan (1911-1980) in seeking to explain the meaning of this development.(22) It is possible for individuals to overreact to these trends, however. Some have been inclined to focus on the idea that the government-led process of encouraging cloud storage of data, voluntarily or otherwise, raises ethical issues.(23) Meanwhile, rather than creating new ‘virtual worlds’, the development of Web2.0 practices of interactive web pages or social media could be seen as something no different than the long established tradition of individuals using daily “letters to the editor” pages within newspapers to stimulate discussion.

Within academia, advocates for the creation of scholarly editions of texts in a digital form have emphasised that digital texts must attain the same level of integrity as the most valued historical texts: a digital edition must become an “edition for all the ages” if it is to survive or be of value,(24) while also recognising that a digital text can be a “fluid text” in the same way as multiple editions of past printed texts.(25) Perhaps this field of endeavour may become the principal contribution that humanists will make in responding to the ICT industry of the present. There may be no more important societal development for documenting the age in which we live than the development of trusted digital repositories to ensure that the full media records of this age—be it educational, governmental or commercial—shall be retained for posterity as much as those of all previous ages.

Advocacy for this cause may be weaker in countries like Ireland than it is in many countries, although the establishment of the Digital Repository of Ireland in the last couple of years is undoubtedly a positive step in the right direction.(26) In this process, the practice of “appraisal”, or selection of what is to be retained, is inherently an inexact science, although archivists have various guidelines that they can follow, many of which are published online by governments’ respective national archive services.



(1) For more information on PHP, see
For more information on CSS, see


(3)One example of an open source E-Book creation software is CALIBRE. See


(5)Vincent Mosco,To the cloud: big data in a turbulent world(Boulder, 2014), 190.

(6)Vincent Mosco,To the cloud, 193, 214-219

(7)Peter Stallybrass, ‘Books and scrolls: navigating the bible in books and readers in early-modern England’, in J. Anderson, E. Sauer (eds) Material Studies(Philadelphia, 2002), quote pp.73-74.

(8)Leah Price, ‘Reading: the state of the discipline’,Book History, vol.7, no.1 (2004), 303-320

(9)N. Katherine Hayles, ‘How we read: close, hyper, machine’,ADE Bulletin(no.150, 2010)

(10)Johanna Drucker, ‘The virtual codex from page space to e-space’, in S. Schreibman, R. Siemens (eds)A companion to digital literary studies(Oxford, 2008), pt.11

(11)Jerome McGann, ‘A note on the current state of humanities scholarship’,Critical Inquiry, vol.30., no.2 (2004), 409-413

(12) (magna carta for the web)


(14)The latest incarnation of this process has been various open data governmental sites, including for the United States (, the United Kingdom ( and Ireland (

(15)Lawrence Lessig,The future of ideas: the fate of the commons in a connected world(New York, 2001). Lawrence Lessig,Free Culture(New York, 2004).

(16)An Irish example is Department of Education and Skills,Digital strategy for schools 2015-2020: enhancing teaching, learning and assessment(Dublin, 2015).

(17)In the United Kingdom, this process has been led by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC:, which has served as a role model for a National Steering Committee on open access in Ireland ( and also employs the same Creative Commons license policy that was originally launched by Lawrence Lessig in the United States.



(20)For a graphical representation of the history of digital marketing, see



(23)Vincent Mosco,To the cloud: big data in a turbulent world(Boulder, 2014)


(25)John Bryant,The fluid text(Chicago, 2002)



Memories jaci XIII C.C.

paging Yueh-Hsin Sung C.C.

The Arrest of Christ, from the Book of Kells  Josh Hale C.C.

Open Data Ecosystem  Solutions that empower  C.C.

 Publicidad-smartphone   Marcela Palma  C.C.

Open Access & Society


 Open & Society. Is Google helping?  

The almost recent US Supreme court decision to grant Google books permission to continue to copy and digitize and make available excerpts of over 20 million books must encourage a debate on the nature of intellectual or artistic property from all sides of the open access community. The Authors Guild who challenged Google have said “this case represents an unprecedented judicial expansion of the fair-use doctrine that threatens copyright protection in the digital age.” Their president Roxanna Robinson sees the decision as “a redistribution of wealth from the creative sector to the tech sector,”across all areas of the arts. Time to reappraise perhaps. It does highlight a control issue, and as the most powerful or most wealthy usually hold the levers of power, it must pose many questions for the future of Open Access and with whom it allies itself.

This is not original as we know Open from programmer ‘internet hacktivist’ Aaron Swartz was a laudable and non-commercial in ethos, version of same. To paraphrase Aaron Swartz….. books are the world’s cultural legacy, to allow it be controlled by a corporation is ‘scary.’ When a tech companies coopt the open movement are they in earnest or is it the privatization of knowledge? Is an author’s desire for control over their work worth less than the overall good of society?  Curiously enough Aaron Swartz was jailed for copyright infringement for downloading some of the jstor catalogue, yet Google has been allowed circumvent copyright issues using the ‘fair use’ principle. Where Aaron Swartz’s pockets not deep enough for justice to be done? And now have the floodgates been thrown open?

Do not get me wrong I am a big fan of OA. Open access in education and research is patently the way to go for the transformation of human endeavour and knowledge in the digital age. The idea of books in chains, as was the case in medieval monasteries seems preposterous to us now, but in reality has continued in essence right up until the present day.  Vested interest groups such as academia, governments, institutions and the professions consistently try to stymie OA with legal technical and financial constraints. OA promotes the idea of all knowledge available anywhere anytime. But is open source also equal free to access? Not really when companies like Google appear in the mantle of OA, ostensibly acting more like an NGO than a multi-million dollar corporation with shareholders to answer to, and proclaiming their noble commitment to open in all its forms.

Google on open: “Closed systems are well-defined and profitable, but only for those who control them. Open systems are chaotic and profitable, but only for those who understand them well and move faster than everyone else”. I wonder if this applies to Google books whereby they moved very fast indeed and scanned and uploaded millions of books without the consent of authors. They also blatantly contravened most established copyright laws worldwide. Of course, the authors and publishers fought back in court only to lose under the fair use doctrine. But is it fair use to allow a corporation make money from a writer’s work without permission and allow a behemoth like Google potentially control the worlds access to knowledge.

Google have been accused of trying to create an Artificial Intelligence, unlike anything the world has seen. After a recent viewing of the Ben Lewis BBC, documentary Google and the World Brain, I was taken by the almost complicit nature of society in general, not to question the motives of tech companies when they develop a project such as Google Books. The most worrying thing is that they have got away with it and are now the world’s largest library. But they are being closely chased by a Chinese tech giant Baidu among others. This is not how I imagined a pan-global initiative opening up world knowledge to the masses. I saw it in a more publically moderated global and local network available at no cost to the user.

But everyone must decide for themselves and the film Google and the World Brain (see H.G. Wells World Brain)  is should cause debate, it is available online. My own concerns could be encapsulated in an interesting review from Huffington post which caught my eye. It identifies the point when a Monks idealism is confronted with a new disturbing reality, which leaves him speechless. If H.G. Wells’ idea of a world brain comes to fruition who will control it, the elites or the public?