I’m sitting on the speakers panel at Ars Electronica, listening to AKMA. “Theological discourse intrudes awkwardly into tech conferences,” he says. Theologists and technologists frequently talk past one another, he says. They are mutually suspicious. Theologians sometimes suffer from “replacement panic,” the fear that online will replace real world interaction. The church needs to “indiginate” itself online. [Live blogging. Poorly. Omissions, typos, mistakes. That’s just the way it.]
Jacques Paul Migne discovered in the 19th century the most efficient means of editing a paper: outright plagiarism. He’d copy an entire article, while introducing it by noting where it was first published. “He scraped newsfeeds and republished them.” Migne owned five steam presses in 1861. He published a “universal theological library” comprising 25 vols of Biblical commentary, 25 vol encyc, 18 vol of Christian apologetics, 13 vols in praise of the blessed Virgin Mary, and many more. While most relied on public domain sources, he sometimes republished volumes still within copyright. It was a “theological literature Pirates Bay.” Charles Sheldon’s “In His Steps” (“What would Jesus do?”) had a technically flawed copyright notice, so it was republished without permission.
So, situate all of this in the transition to digital media, AKMA suggests. Theological might serve as a useful “fishbowl” for technological innovators. There are online libraries of theological works, but “no organization has broken through to offer open access digital works” in comfortable, readable formats. “The conditions for publishing will go through some sort of convulsive change.” It will not replace books. But it will enable a “vastly more open exchange of digital literature.” We need “shareable, searchable, downloadable, disposable” texts, as well as durable, ownable printed texts. We need an open, standard format with a direct correlation to print copies (because print will survive and will generate cash flow). This will provide users wioth the “tools and the incentive to particiapte in the production of knowledge.”
Q: (James Boyle) You say technologists should see in the theological domain an opportunity to expand the commons. Why have not the faithful seen IP issues as something that gets in the way of the practice of their faith? E.g., many pieces of sacred music is under copyright. The organist at a local church said that she has a parishoner who is dying of cancer and I want to send her a cd of the music. They want $5,000 for a hymn.” I told her to go ahead and when they sue you, come to me. Why isn’t the world of the faithful looking at these issues?
A: The Bible publishing industry was one of the startups in 19th century US because the King couldn’t enforce copyright on this side of the ocean. Replacement panic causes the church to fear that personal interactions will evaporate. And assimilation to the culture of property rights.
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