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The Information Producers Initiative

Ubiquity, Volume 2001 Issue May, May 1 - May 31, 2001 | BY Seth Johnson 


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A strategy for protecting our interests as the nature of information access and production evolves.

The Information Producers Initiative is a project of the Committee for Independent Technology. A draft of the committee's basic position paper is posted below. The initiative is meant to be a general foundation that could be applied to specific policy positions.

The Committee for Independent Technology holds that a proper consideration of information-related public policy must focus on what the state of technology means for all citizens.

We believe that a well-founded understanding of the condition in which citizens presently find themselves as a result of information technology should focus on one fundamental principle.

This principle is that information is used to produce new information. To put another cast on the same point, information that is accessible in whatever form has never merely served the purpose of consumption. This may seem to be an obvious point, but when it is considered in light of the new modes of public access that have developed, and the flexible means of using information that are now at hand, one sees that this principle is more important now than it may ever have seemed to be before.

In the past, only specific groups of people, engaged in specific types of activities, had their interests assessed in terms of their capacity as information producers. The public at large has been treated as mere consumers of information in many areas, with public policy reflecting this tendency.

Now, however, we all have the capacity to participate in the development of human knowledge, on a reasonably equal footing with all other citizens, because of the forms of access to the public sphere that are now available, and to the forms of information that may be found there, by means of public communications networks such as the Internet. This puts us all in an entirely new position with respect to our abilities to access, manipulate and produce information.

We may now manipulate information in a profoundly flexible way. We may quickly access any work that is available electronically on public communications networks. We may, with great facility, decompose any digitized work into component parts. We may manipulate, analyze, synthesize, select and combine the conclusions, observations, discrete facts, ideas, images, musical passages, binary bits and other elements of any information in digital form. We may efficiently produce useful, meaningful and creative expressive works on the basis of this flexible access to information.

But perhaps the most far-reaching way in which information technology affects our condition as citizens is in the fact that we may all now distribute our information products to the public at large in a powerful and convenient manner that obviates the need to rely on publishers and other intermediaries who have traditionally provided public access to information producers.

We must no longer allow our rights in the area of the access to and use of information and information technology to be regarded merely as rights of consumption. All citizens must assure that policy makers no longer treat their interests in information merely with respect to their capacity as consumers. We must advocate for and guard our broader interests as information producers in equal standing in the public sphere, possessing essential powers and rights in the access, use and communication of information.

The Committee for Independent Technology seeks to assure that the rights and capabilities of all citizens are not undermined through public policies that restrict the ordinary exercise of their rights to access and produce information by flexible means.

Seth Johnson, Committee for Independent Technology, invites your feedback on this paper. He may be reached at [email protected] or you may post your comments in ACM's Forums


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