Thank you for having me here this afternoon. It is always a pleasure to interact with millennials like you within the precincts of an Engineering Institute like IIT, Kharagpur. It is a sort of homecoming, having myself graduated from the Birla Institute of Technology.
The introductory image itself suggests the discussion that we will have today, unless some of you are thinking that there is a spelling error. No, there is no mistake. Indeed we are today discussing this phenomenon of "Commons" and "Open Access"
Some key advancements in the early 90's led chiefly by the World Wide Web (WWW) and then later by Open Source Lab (OSL) are leading a silent revolution in knowledge enhancement and information sharing. I remember that growing up as a young student in Ranchi, I was not really known for sharing, except the glass of milk, which my mother forced down my throat every night. I actively solicited contenders that could share that glass, and it was mostly my brother who would bail me out. On my list of never-share, were my exam notes, my remote powered toys and my cricket bat/equipments.
By the time I was appearing for my Class 10th Boards, it wasn't just technology (read WWW) or the society around me that was changing. Something within me was also giving way. Nothing captures this change better than the epic innings by the cricket newbie Inzamam-Ul-Haq. He hit a brazen half century against the Kiwis in the 1992 World Cup Cricket semifinal in Australia. That day, he had walked out to bat with the legendary Imran Khan's bat in hand and used it as a rapier. Classic example of sharing/open source model. Imagine a batsman being comfortable with someone else's equipment!
Today platforms like Wikipedia, Creative Commons, PLOS and others have almost removed the premium on keeping research and proprietary work, exclusive. By doing this, they are not just encouraging others to critique their work, they are also enabling them to take some of this proprietary research and copyrighted work, much further. There of course is a flip side to this as well. Lack of curation and editorial control means that there is a lot of misinformation that is going around.
Curiously enough, the more the open access, the harder it is becoming to find authentic and real information. There is just too much information out there. Myths like Einstein being denied admission by the University of Bern, tooth dissolving overnight in
However, even as there are challenges, Open Access is and will change the way we live and move forward. For e.g., The
Coca-Cola Founders, an enterprise run by David Butler of The
As the world gets more open about "open source" and "commons", we must however reflect on (1) whether everything should be governed by "commons" (2) Is this the beginning of the end of institutional control (3) how do we inculcate a sense of responsibility with increasing accessibility?
Thank you for debating this and contributing to the discussion.
This report by students at IIT Kharagpur is part of their interaction with Kamlesh Sharma, Former Director, Public Affairs and Communication,