The New Enlightenment: And the Fight to Free Knowledge

Peter B. Kaufman. Seven Stories, $18.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64421-060-4
Kaufman, who works in strategic initiatives at MIT Open Learning, debuts with a passionate yet disjointed critique of the information economy. Railing against the commercialization of search engines and digital archives, Kaufman compares William Tyndale, an early translator of the Bible into English who was martyred for heresy in 1536, to open access activist Aaron Swartz, who died by suicide in 2013 while being prosecuted for illegally downloading millions of paywalled academic articles. Both Tyndale and Swartz, Kaufman writes, were victims of different iterations of the “Monsterverse,” a vaguely defined concept that encapsulates all of the “powerful offices” and “moneyed interests” taking part in “a relentless effort to crush freedom of thought, independent thinking, expertise—and to stanch progress toward open, civil society.” Kaufman holds up organizations such as Wikipedia, the Creative Commons, and the Internet Archive as models for how knowledge might be shared more freely, and calls for universities, museums, and libraries to help combat misinformation by making “verifiable” research and data widely available. Unfortunately, Kaufman’s overwrought prose makes some of his points hard to follow, and he fails to meaningfully engage with counter arguments, including allegations that Wikipedia’s open editing process is vulnerable to sexism and conflicts of interest. This manifesto misses the mark. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/19/2020
Release date: 02/23/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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