Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, February 23, 2007

Benjamin Mako Hill on OA

Ellen Duranceau, A Conversation with Benjamin Mako Hill, organizer of the MIT Student Day of Action for Open Access, MIT Library News, undated but c. February 22, 2007.  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)  Excerpt:

Benjamin Mako Hill, a graduate student in the Media Lab’s Computing Culture group, coordinated the February 15th “Student Day of Action for Open Access” at MIT. Following the successful “Overprice Tags” event, Hill spoke with Ellen Duranceau, Scholarly Publishing and Licensing Consultant in the MIT Libraries, about how he came to be involved in the open access (OA) movement, and why it matters to him as a student, author, programmer, and reader....

Libraries: How is your thinking about free software and open access to research related?

Hill: I think that cultural works, knowledge, and information should be free. Free software has very good definitions of what is free. … The OA movement makes a series of strong normative claims about what should be free and backs these up with compelling argument and evidence. That’s the kind of movement that I think is likely to be successful and it’s the kind of movement that I want to be a part of....

Libraries: You are an author of articles as well as code; how do your views about open access relate to your own works — where you choose to publish, how they are made available?

Hill:...I write both academic papers and technical books regularly which, economically, are very different beasts. I’ve only started to publish academically so I’m still thinking about the range of possibilities but I’m looking forward to supporting OA in any way that I can; I want any papers I produce to be distributed openly....My last book was the best selling book on Linux for most of last year and is under a Creative Commons “Attribution-Share Alike” license. It’s possible that I didn’t make as much money off the book as I might of. Then again, I think much of the book’s success was due to the fact that it was open.

Libraries: In your paper “How free became open and everything else under the sun,” you argue that “Free Software exists as a politically agnostic field of practice”....Do you think this true of the open access movement in scholarly publishing, too?

Hill: Sure. OA benefits a variety of different people. MIT administrators might support OA for purely financial reasons. I support it because that I think that it is wrong to deprive people of a good that could be had by everyone, everywhere, for the same cost that it is had by anyone. Those are very different perspectives but I’m happy that OA is defined in such a way that we can work together toward an overlapping goal....

Libraries: Why should students become involved in this movement?

Hill: For undergrads, it’s your tuition that pays [for high-priced journals and a system that suffers from barriers to access]. More important though, it’s unfair....Once we’ve edited a journal, it doesn’t cost anything to let everyone in the world view it. Why doesn’t this happen? When other people are [choosing to set up barriers to] their [own] work, that’s one thing. But [publishers are] also doing it with *our* work and they are not giving us a choice to act otherwise....