lunes, 14 de enero de 2013

Is MIT ready for the next Aaron Swartz?

As I posted before, I grew up in the west hills of San Salvador's Volcano. At school we did not have a library. At home there were very few books, if any. At 13 I remember myself eagerly studying the Bible. It affected me so much that I ended up that year being part of a rural profetic speaking-in-tongues evangelical sect. Fortunately that experience lasted a little more than a year.

By the late eighties my father became an assistant librarian in a kind of two-year technical community college. Every time I passed by visiting him, I spent many hours checking book after book and shelf after shelf. It was a kind of epiphany that I recall with joy. Later on, while being a PhD student, I remember having again that feeling. The sensation came this time not from my walkings through bookshelves but from surfing ScienceDirect, JSTOR, IEEE digital library and so many online libraries my abroad university had subscribed.
After finishing my PhD studies I came back to El Salvador. It was hard to realize I had lost my access to online libraries. Every now and then, when I desperately needed a technical article, I shamelessly begged to my friends who I knew had access to those libraries. Sometimes they responded my calls but warned me not to share the information with anybody because I could get them into troubles.
Aaron Swartz (wikipedia)
Aaron Swartz
It was through the New York times that I happened to know that somebody was criminally charged for downloading almost the whole JSTOR library. At that moment, for me, It was no more than another story of extreme government punishment over activism. The New York Times reported JSTOR's role in Mr. Swartz's prosecution: "Asked if it was pleased that someone misusing the service could be brought to justice, a spokeswoman for Jstor wrote in an e-mail response: 'We wanted the content back, and we were able to secure it and ensure it wasn’t distributed. We were not interested in further legal action around this incident. We have no comment on the prosecution or how they have chosen to characterize it.' ”

A believer
Aaron was a believer. I know what is to be one. I experienced that myself with my evangelical speaking-in-tongues mates. Even JSTOR gave Aaron recognition. The death of Aaron has troubled MIT community. MIT’s president has appointed a prominent professor, Hal Abelson, to lead an investigation.

Is MIT ready for the next Aaron?
MOOC is creating new believers. Is anybody listening? A new young generation is interpreting the message of the apostles of the new MOOC gospel in different ways.

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