‘Information wants to be free’, famously observed Stewart Brand, way back in 1984. Goading a debate that still rages. Seemingly putting those who make money from content up against the internet’s utopians.
We see the arguments play out most days in one form or another, be it over newspaper paywalls, music downloads, Apple’s app store, and every time we watch a film at the cinema having first to view the clip about piracy. But, as Cory Doctorow argues, it’s worth understanding the full quote from which the snappier phrase has been grasped:
“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”
Doctorow re-phrases Brand’s quote:
Better to say, “The internet wants to be free.”
Or, more simply: “People want to be free.”
But why mention any of this at all?
Well, in a year where wikileaks opened up for all the world to see thousands of state-secret documents, it is vital to understand how information operates where anyone with access to an internet connection has the biggest photocopier ever designed at their finger tips, and the philosophy underpinning this ability.
So it is that my very good friend Becky Hogge has for the last eighteen months had her head down writing her book Barefoot Into Cyberspace, for which today she has published a chapter for all to read. The chapter she’s chosen is entitled (yes you’ve guess it) ‘Information wants to be free’. It explores Brand’s legacy and is based on an interview Becky had with the man himself last year.
I therefore give you your weekend reading: