Jenny Reeder


With a Little Help from our Friends: Open Sourcing
November 20, 2006, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I am intrigued by John M. Unsworth’s borrowed phrase to describe the o-decade: with a little help from our friends we can utilize open sources, open systems, open standards, open access, open archives, open everything. I plan on combining several different programs to create my little website: CSS, a little Flash, and little Javascript, with a timeline borrowed from Simile, a wiki, and eventually, one day, several documents and images from various sources. It’s sort of a return of the patchwork quilt.

And yet with all this sharing, I am worried about copyright and fair use. While Cohen and Rosenzweig seem fairly optimistic about the stretches of fair use of images and such, suddenly I’m worried about being fair and appropriate as I pool items for my website. I have pirated images from the LDS Church Archives and BYU’s Special Collections from previous projects. I would love to use them, but I don’t want to get in any kind of trouble. My images are all pre-1923, which places them in open domain, but I recognize and understand the proprietary nature of repositories, and I respect both of these archives, especially because I consider their employees my friends and don’t want to take advantage of them in any way. I suppose to play it safe I should just email and get permission. I just want to be quick and easy and fair.

I’ve been made aware of a BYU website in creation which on the surface seems to be exactly what I wanted to do with my own. However, after careful scrutiny, I have found that I want to avoid a few of the issues raised with this one. First of all, the site is so embedded within the larger institutional site that a Google search will not easily find it. Secondly, it seems to be for a BYU audience as internal links to catalogs and online documents require a BYU student or employee ID. I want my site to be open access and easily found. Roy Rosenzweig raises some similar questions about the private and public web. One day I want to figure out how to bridge the gaps–to bring together information pertinent to my topic that can only be found on JSTOR or BYU’s website and make them accessible to a general public.

I question the ability to really be friends with the entire world in terms of true open sourcing. I think that both non-profit and commercial enterprises will retain proprietary ownership of their materials. While perhaps the Internet provides fairly open access, I think true open sourcing will require a lot more help from our friends.

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1 Comment so far
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The example of the BYU website raises a really intriguing question – traditionally, we talk about internalist history as having been written by someone who’s part of the community being described; is there another kind of internalist history which is written only to be read by members of that community? How does the history we write change when we can restrict who gets to read it? I imagine our colleagues in military history offices might be able to speak to that point…

Comment by Josh Greenberg




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