Lecture to examine future of information commons

Lecture to examine future
of information commons

“Universities, the Internet and the Information Commons” will be the topic of a March 24 lecture by Hal Abelson, professor of computer science and engineering at MIT. The lecture, presented as part of the Technology, Society and Public Policy Lecture Series, will be at 4 p.m. in McMurtry Auditorium, Anne and Charles Duncan Hall.

Universities have a mission to create, preserve and disseminate knowledge. In addressing that mission, academicians should take care to preserve and strengthen the information commons, that shared wellspring of ideas and innovation from which all may freely draw, Abelson said in his lecture abstract.

Today, the information commons and the university community that relies on it are confronting stresses from both inside and outside the university, such as squabbles over who owns academic work, technologies for restricting the dissemination of knowledge and the impact of increasingly stringent and far-reaching intellectual property laws.

In this talk, Abelson will describe initiatives aimed at bolstering the information commons at MIT and elsewhere. These initiatives include the OpenCourseWare enterprise that publishes the materials of all MIT courses for free use worldwide and the Creative Commons initiative to create legal and technical tools that support balance and moderation in the control of digital information.

Abelson is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, co-director of the MIT-Microsoft Research Alliance in educational technology and co-head of the MIT Council on Educational Technology. He is a founding director of the Free Software Foundation and a director of Creative Commons and of Public Knowledge, three organizations devoted to strengthening the intellectual commons.

The Technology, Society and Public Policy Lecture Series focuses on social, political and legal issues that have emerged from the information revolution. Information technology touches most aspects of daily life, transforming workplaces, classrooms and homes and the way people learn, communicate, entertain and govern. Increasingly, the transforming power of computing, networking and data is impacting the notion of individual rights, civil liberties, social problems, national security and social responsibility. This lecture series aims to highlight the challenges faced as cyber-society matures, with an eye toward issues related to impact, ownership, use, control and management of information and technology in society. The series is sponsored by the Computer and Information Technology Institute, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

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