Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Free information!

Bullshit wants to be free. Information wants to be really, really, really expensive. 

Allow me to elaborate ...

Up until the mid-1990s, LexisNexis had a very expensive lock on decent, searchable articles and legal and public records. Then the Internet stomped onto the scene like Godzilla! By the early 2000s, lo and behold, the floodgates opened, and a world of free research opened up – first-rate stuff, just there for the taking, I’m telling you, like thousands of suburban homes ready for glue-huffing teenagers to strip bare. 

Like Pynchon’s Zone, this anarchy didn’t last long. By the mid-2000s, the informationally propertied got smart and bought expensive locks. Suddenly, all those free newspaper and magazine articles weren’t free no more. After a brief appearance, the free accessmylibrary.com vanished into the gelatinous blob that is Cengage – which politely suggested you open your naked eyeballs to the glare of HighBeam Research and pay a subscription for the formerly free stuff. JSTOR, meanwhile, maintained and expanded its Great Wall of Academia. (Including the fracking article from 1990 in Film Quarterly for which this blog is named.) Aaron Swartz tried to drill a hole in said wall. JSTOR sicced the feds on his ass. Facing 35 years in federal prison, Swartz hung himself. But relax, kids ...

An army ant carpet of snot-nosed thieves with no political agenda are ripping off all the meaty bits of pop culture you could ever want. Free -- if illegal. And a global septic tank of legally free information remains – from data-mining social networks to an infinitude of asshole opinions and choirs preaching to choirs. As to original research, if you want, say, detailed explanations of the Flat Earth Theory or why pointy headed Lizard People are behind chemtrails and the Illuminati, a wealth of steaming data awaits. Yes, all the stupid stuff is free! And most of the smart stuff that’s just there to distract you. The smart stuff that actually matters … well, that’s not for everybody.  

There’s a story here, damn it. It’s worth a book, a movie … a freaking magazine article. But nobody’s paying me to research it.

So you’ll have to settle for my unsupported speculation instead.

It's free.

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