Social and mobile: a threat to open access?

Online Information 2010

This week, I’ve been at Online Information 2010 so managed to avoid the heavy snow at home. As a presenter, I had a free place so fortunately was able to stay for the whole three days. However, for a blogger this creates a problem – what do I include and exclude! So instead of trying to do that, I just want to focus on the theme highlighted by the keynote speaker, Dion Hinchcliffe, in his talk entitled “Network Shock: How the dominance of social and mobile are remaking life and business”.

This dominance of the social and mobile is changing the nature of the internet in a way that I hadn’t really incorporated in my thinking. I know that we’ve moved from static to dynamic communication – websites to blogs and so on. But I hadn’t fully appreciated the implications of the dominance of Apps in online activity. Dave Kellog CEO of MakeLogic referred to an article by Chris Anderson in Wired Magazine, October 2010: “The web is dead. Long live the internet”. He describes a day in the life of 21st Century Common Man which involves checking e-mail on your iPad, browsing Facebook, scrolling through RSS feeds in a reader and so on. He says: “You’ve spent the day on the internet but not on the web…..This is not a trivial distinction. Over the past few years, one of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open web to semi-closed platforms that use the internet for transport but not the browser for display”.

This is giving the industry a second bite at the commercial cherry. With the web, content has been freed (illegal downloads and all that) but they won’t make the same mistake with mobile. More than one speaker raised this. So what, if any, are the implications for scholarly communication and open access? Again, a few speakers pointed out that the move to social and mobile is predominantly in personal and recreational spheres – there’s not a lot of evidence that it’s taking hold in enterprise, companies aren’t really embracing it yet. Robin Neidorf from Freepint presented the results of a survey which showed this pattern of behaviour in senior information managers. And the same can be said for communication behaviour in research – the recent RIN study “If you build it, will they come? How researchers perceive and use Web 2.0” showed that “frequent or intensive use is rare”.  So perhaps, this “closing down” isn’t a threat to open access. I’d be interested in views on this. What do you think?

On a completely different note, congratulations to Dave Patten from the University of Huddersfield who won the Information Professional of the Year Award. This was announced on Tuesday evening at the conference and we all drank a toast to Dave. A very well deserved award.

About Jackie Wickham
I am based at the Centre for Research Communications at the University of Nottingham. I work on the JISC funded Repositories Support Project which supports the development and growth of the UK repositories network.

2 Responses to Social and mobile: a threat to open access?

  1. Pat says:

    I am not sure it’s the closed nature of the platform thats the problem, but the increasing ease in which content can be DRM’ed.

    A journal app on a phone doesn’t close anything down, it may well facilitate things (and a phone app doesn’t mean a website has to die), but a DRM’ed PDF would be a lot more damage.

  2. Steve Hitchcock says:

    Jackie, You have highlighted and brought together some interesting possible trends and the implications. On the wider threats to the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee recently addressed these in Scientific American On your more specific point, there always has to be scope for value-adding in publishing, whether through new apps or Web 2.0 services. If you are concerned about the effect on open access, however, then the question is which open access are you promoting? Green open access through author self-archiving in repositories allows value to be added to other versions of those papers without compromising open access. Gold open access publishing can be associated with the uncertainties you highlight, which is why green open access needs to be established first, if open access is your priority.

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