“Information wants to be free” is one of the most enduring and influential mantras of the digitalized network society. This sentence – an incomplete quotation from the American publicist Steward Brand – serves as the basis for the justification of the “free culture” of the internet. While criticism of this idea has become louder in recent times, free access to unimaginably large cultural and intellectual resources is one of the foundations of the internet. Collective cooperation without any intention of profit is a prerequisite for knowledge generation online, be it via Wikipedia or in “citizen science” projects ranging from collective mosquito counting to the networked measurement of fine dust particles via an app.
The lecture will trace the genesis and historical impact of the dogma that “information wants to be free,” while also pointing out its consequences for free culture projects and the archiving of cultural assets.
Tilman Baumgärtel is professor of Media Science at the Mainz University of Applied Sciences. He has written and edited a dozen books on media culture, including publications on internet piracy and theories of the internet.