Gary Hall is a Professor of Media and Performing Arts at Coventry University, UK. He is author of Digitize This Book! The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now (2008) and Culture in Bits (2002), and co-editor of New Cultural Studies (2006) and Experimenting: Essays With Samuel Weber (2007). His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Angelaki, Cultural Politics, Cultural Studies, and The Oxford Literary Review.
Gary Hall Photographed by Sebastiaan ter Burg at the Unbound Book Conference.
In the ‘Digital Enclosures’ workshop, the panel presented their respective stances on the questions of ‘open access’, copyright laws and business models, in relation to e-books.
Gary Hall explained how the impetus for open access is due to the fact that the scholarly model of publishing is no longer working effectively for publishers. This is largely due to the fact that conventions of academic publishing have been taken over by media conglomerates where the majority of their energies go to music and other media that will generate more profit. Academic writing therefore must sell and be seen as a commodity in order to ensure its success and backing by conglomerates.
Hall mentions various business models for publishing. In the first example, for-profit publishers concentrate mostly on sales. In this case, they tend to sell textbooks, a hot commodity for students which the publishers know will sell because of course requirements. Scholarly-led open access publishing is when the scholar takes the means of production into their own hands. They need not be merely profit oriented. Finally, the third model is when various scholars come together and perform all tasks related to the text. External funding from various sources subsidizes business costs while still ensuring open access books. One of the benefits of this model is the high level of production and editorial standards in the process.
In regard to the question of copyright, Hall states that the main source of funding is from institutions paying employee salaries. Scholars are generally happy to give work away open access. What this means though is that open access cannot be translated to other industries or areas of society such as the Culture Industries. These producers/ creators must be compensated for their work in order for business to thrive. Ultimately, copyright is good for corporations. However many new technologies require new and specific copyright laws (evident when looking at internet piracy).
Is there an economic model for sustainable, long term, open access policy in the humanities? Hall concludes that we don’t know but we must address this not as an all-encompassing “one size fits all, magic bullet answer”. Hall concludes that perhaps digital culture may provide us with an opportunity to think differently about these issues, away from our currently understood notions of individualism and property.
For more info on Gary Hall’s work and research, please visit http://www.garyhall.info/