Academic journal article New Formations

Why Write? Feminism, Publishing and the Politics of Communication

Academic journal article New Formations

Why Write? Feminism, Publishing and the Politics of Communication

Article excerpt


The language of openness is powerful and persuasive.1

John Holmwood

The efficacy of the language of openness is dependent in part on the exclusion of a binary opposite, or rather, a sequence of binary opposites: closure, secrecy (versus transparency), darkness (versus light), lies (versus truth) and so on. Open government, for example, is about making power itself transparent, bringing it to truth and light and thereby holding politicians to account without, as it were, any further need for action. Similarly, if open access is merely about getting publicly funded research out from 'behind the paywalls of high-subscription-cost journals' and making it free and available to use and re-use and if copyright reform - including exceptions for parody and quotation - is partly about increasing access then 'What is there to contest?' (CE, p2). For the sociologist John Holmwood contestation is tied to the recognition that open access occurs in the context of enclosure and that 'commercial enclosure is emerging as a significant objective of public policy' (CE, p2).

Two key aspects of public policy in the UK are linked by a language of openness that simultaneously excludes and produces commercial enclosure by means of the increased privatisation and marketisation of knowledge and creativity. The Finch report on open access, published in 2012, maintains that barriers to access, especially when research is publicly funded 'are increasingly unacceptable in an online world' in as far as they 'restrict the innovation, growth and other benefits' that might accrue.2 A concern here with public access to publicly funded research by means of 'enhanced transparency, openness and accountability' segues to an emphasis on 'closer linkages between research and innovation, with benefits for public policy and services, and for economic growth' (p5) [my emphasis]). Access here is effectively access to research for private industry or small and medium enterprises. Published a year earlier, the Hargreaves review of Intellectual Property (IP) is also concerned that IP rights that 'support growth by promoting innovation through the offer of a temporary monopoly to creators and inventors' might also 'stifle growth where transaction costs are high or rights are fragmented in a way that makes them hard to access'.3 If the problem with IP is that it fosters a closed market dominated by established players in technology and content, the solution is to redesign IP in order to facilitate a fairer, more transparent, more open and competitive market that encourages new entrants and enables rather than constrains further innovation. The solution to piracy in a digital world 'where copying and distribution are more or less free', is not, for Hargreaves, copyright enforcement as much as a modernisation of copyright law that encourages 'open and competitive markets in licensed digital content' (p 10).

The Finch recommendations in favour of 'gold' open access publishing funded by author or article processing charges (APCs) plus minimal restrictions on the rights of use and re-use are in the process of being incorporated into the UK Higher Education sector.4 The process is uneven and controversial, not least since the Creative Commons license (CC BY) mandated by Research Councils UK (RCUK) allows for commercial re-use of research material with attribution rather than the author's permission. An alternative to this would be a non-commercial share-alike license (CC BY-NC-SA) or one that simply allows non-commercial users to download and share work as long as the author is credited (CC BY-NC-ND). Martin Paul Eve, an advocate of open access, or rather, of the re-politicisation of open access, nevertheless recognises it as an instrument of neoliberalism understood 'as the practice of using the free market as the assignation of all value'.5 He lists the key traits of neoliberalism as:

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