The Future of Free



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image Opensource.com

"This is the Google Generation, and they've grown up online simply assuming that everything digital is free." (Anderson, Free p 5)

According to Nicholas Burbules, "capabilities within the Internet have extended and facilitated" self-educating processes. The result is the creation of public spaces that provide access to a "common storehouse of knowledge." The communities created often partake of an "open source ethos" where sharing is not for personal gain but for the community as a whole. While a wealth of sharing takes place, there is the potential for, "misappropriation, misuse, misquoting, or misinterpretation." Burbules' views in Self-Educating Communities neatly point to the future of free. On one hand, there is the great and growing potential of open collected knowledge and resources. On the other, there is the potential misuse or misinterpretation of collected knowledge and resources. The future will always be a balancing act.

Andrew Keen in Cult of the Amateur warns, “What you may not realize is that what is free is actually costing us a fortune...The new winners — Google, YouTube, MySpace, Craigslist, and the hundreds of start-ups hungry for a piece of the Web 2.0 pie — are unlikely to fill the shoes of the industries they are helping to undermine, in terms of products produced, jobs created, revenue generated or benefits conferred. By stealing away our eyeballs, the blogs and wikis are decimating the publishing, music and news-gathering industries that created the original content those Web sites ‘aggregate.’ Our culture is essentially cannibalizing its young, destroying the very sources of the content they crave.”


Many of today's students have grown up in a world that is both digital and social. Information is available anytime and anywhere, and more often than not--it is open and free. If we listen to those who fight for reform of copyright, and those who attempt to offer alternatives to copyright, like copyleft, we could believe that the future may well include more openness. On the other hand, if we listen to those who believe that the freedom and openness of the web lead to copyright infringement, theft of culture, loss of jobs and destruction of traditional media, we could believe that the future may include a reining in of the freedom we now see.

Watch the Prezi below and see one teacher's view of who the students of today are.



In his July 2009 article Priced to Sell in the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell takes Chris Anderson and his book Free:The Future of a Radical Price to task picking apart Anderson's love of free and laying out the consequences of free. What he does admit is this, "The only iron law here is the one too obvious to write a book about, which is that the digital age has so transformed the ways in which things are made and sold that there are no iron laws." (Read more here: Priced to Sell)

Predicting the future is a difficult task, and perhaps the best that can be done is to note some significant trends. On the following pages, see some of the trends related to openness and free culture.

Next up: Social Networks and Sharing