When reading The Access Principle by John Willinsky, I was particularly intrigued with the way Willinsky approached the topic of open access and politics. Essentially, the message is more information and access to scholarly research and evidence can and should inform the global, national, or local political policy debates. Ideally, members of the government, bureaucrats or politicians, should have access to the latest and best of academic research. More importantly, members of a democratic society should have access to the same. Realized, this brave new world would be filled with informed, reasoned debate. Journalism would live up to its ideals, and mysticism, emotion, and rhetoric would fall down to evidence and logic.
Sounds like the Reformation.
In fact, Willinsky references the impact of the printing press on the same event.
He bravely faces the critical issues surrounding this most noble ideal: context; context and the informed and capable public able to read the material. This is not to say that people aren’t intelligent enough, but there is a problem given at least the American society today. Willinsky points to it when he quotes Christopher Forrest, “The public reads the bottom line.” I will tell you from personal experience that bureaucrats, politicians, soldiers, and any government support personnel also read “the bottom line.” Massive and complex issues are dealt with in one-page summaries. Detailed and sensitive issues are handled in boiled-down bullets. Willinsky espouses a fantastic ideal, but reality still presents a problem.
I have previously expressed concern over the information age in that we have too much information and very few efficient and effective tools to cull through the mountains of data and conclusion. Opening all the doors to the ivory tower’s basement will further complicate the overwhelming sense of information overload. As a collection of academics, citizens, and servants we must work harder on good knowledge management tools and principles to better see the future that Willinsky calls for.
Until then, I may just play the role of ostrich…