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Cultural Agoraphobia and the Future of the Library: the first Arcadia Lecture

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In his new book The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind James Boyle argues that we have a bias that makes us unduly skeptical of open networks, systems and methods of production. The success of non proprietary systems—ranging from open source software to Wikipedia and the open Internet itself—fills us with surprise. He calls this bias “cultural agoraphobia.” In a world where all texts were tangible, the institution of the library stood for the proposition that a certain degree of openness was good; that a place that allowed free access to knowledge by every citizen was one of the defining institutions of a liberal society and culture. How will that principle change or evolve in the digital world? Will it survive at all? What is the future of the library in a world grappling with cultural agoraphobia?

About the speaker

James Boyle is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School and founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain. Professor Boyle is also the Chairman of the Board of Creative Commons, and the co-founder of Science Commons. He serves on the board of the Public Library of Science and on the advisory board of Public Knowledge. In 2003 Professor Boyle won the World Technology Network Award for Law for his work on the public domain and the “second enclosure movement” that threatens it. He is the author of Shamans, Software and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society, and the editor of Critical Legal Studies, Collected Papers on the Public Domain and Cultural Environmentalism @ 10 (with Larry Lessig.) His more recent books include Bound By Law, a co-authored “graphic novel” about the effects of intellectual property on documentary film, The Shakespeare Chronicles, a novel, and The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind which was published in 2008 by Yale University Press. He writes a regular online column for the Financial Times’s New Economy Policy Forum.

This talk is part of the Arcadia Lectures series.

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