Panton, Panton, Panton

Richard Poynder has just blogged about our Panton discussion which has been released as audio and we hope a transcript RSN. But the main reason for this post is that I have learnt something new and unsettling about our adoption of the name "Panton" for our outputs – we now have Panton Principles, Panton Discussions and Panton Papers. I'll quote and comment…

Last August I sat down in a pub (The Panton Arms) in Cambridge to discuss Open Data with Peter Murray-Rust, Jordan Hatcher and others. The event was the first of what Murray-Rust has dubbed the Panton Discussions. Murray-Rust is a Reader in Molecular Informatics at Cambridge University. The Panton Arms regularly plays host to members of the University Chemistry Department, so it was an obvious place to meet. This special relationship between Cambridge chemists and The Panton Arms is doubtless a consequence of the pub being just down the road from the Chemistry Department.

And perhaps Richard is unaware that Panton Street (between the Chemistry Dept and the pub) is also the home of the Open Knowledge Foundation. Indeed you are quite likely to bump into Rufus and his collaborators in the street. Just last week we had a long intense discussion outside the OKF with the wind whistling through our clothers

However, it could be that The Panton Arms is an appropriate location for discussing things like copyright, Open Data, Open Access, Creative Commons and the Public Domain for another reason.

The Panton Arms, and Panton Street (in which the pub is located), are associated with the Panton family. And in 1806 "Polite" Tommy Panton succeeded in having Parliament pass the Barnwell Enclosures Act, leading to the enclosure of what was then farmland.

I was completely unaware of this – and as I said I find it unsettling. But what is done is done, and often good has been built on the site of evil. Perhaps we need an exorcism. I assume Rufus is aware of this.

Today many argue that the frequent and increasingly maximalist changes made to copyright laws represent a new enclosure movement. And it is partly in response to that process that we have seen a proliferation of "free" and "open" movements like Open Data and Open Access – with the aim of preventing, or at least mitigating, the new enclosures.

Richard is right. I use the terms "digital gold rush" or "digital land grab". I find it intensely frustrating that so many people are not aware of the problem and when told do not care. Academia can be very arrogant – individuals survive on the handouts from the robber barons while the general citizenry is unaware of the problem.

We are too protected. A non-university healthcare professional is debarred from reading the literature – perhaps 90-95% of it. Non-academics are not our inferiors that we shouldn't worry about. Yet I frequently hear "oh we can't let non-experts read that" and similar. This is just as insulting as the many insults of human ownership, gender, race and so on that we have fought over the centuries.

We are entering the century of the information age. It must not become the century of information slavery.

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One Response to Panton, Panton, Panton

  1. I googled a bit on the Barnwell Enclosures Act, but keep running into statements like: "Barnwell enclosure act, allows development of the lands that had belonged to Barnwell Priory (basically the south and east of the city)"

    While privatizing farmland does seem bad (right of way, etc), the above seems rather fair... in fact, other pages shown this to be important to the development of the University of Cambridge...

    What is it I should know about that Act?

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