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OPEN ACCESS, MODERNITY, AND CULTURE CHANGE
I fully support the open access reformation (OA). Still, a potentially enormous
culture change is looming for developing nations in the form of the open access
movement. Culture change can occur gradually or abruptly in incidents of social or
natural catastrophes of climatological, biological, or geological events. Culture change in
any form, especially if it is sudden and widespread, can spell disaster to unsuspecting
One of the most powerful agents of culture change is cross-cultural contact.
History is replete with instances of colliding civilizations that sent countless societies to
ruin. Even today, in our attempts to benefit society and culture by solving one problem,
we often create another problem, like converting corn into fuel for automobiles, which
jacked-up corn prices sky-high on the world markets, and significantly raised the number
We can’t always predict the outcomes of our good intentions. It’s like the
uncertainty principle: locating the position of a subatomic particle makes the velocity of
the particle uncertain; conversely, measuring the velocity of a particle makes its position
Partly because of our uncertainty about the future, cultural diversity, like
biological diversity, could be perceived as a potential fall-back strategy to protect life on
earth. For instance, if some new strain of bird flu, Ebola, or a ravaging crop blight
appears, a databank containing local knowledge systems of numerous cultures might
possibly supply answers that could hold the disease in check, or even eradicate it, unless
the solutions were not discovered in time, or the databank was insufficient, or the
traditional remedies had already disappeared in cultural breakdowns.
Remember the Bushman in the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy?” The Bushmen,
or San, are hunters and gatherers and have been on the verge of extinction for generations.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, African agro-pastoralists arrived in Central Africa, disrupting the
San lifestyle and culture. In the 17th century, European settlers arrived and brought more
disruptive cross-cultural contact (Marshall). And in the late 20th century, an empty Coke
bottle fell from the window of a passing airplane, and nearly wrecked the life of an entire
San village, or so goes the story in the film.
The San culture is in shreds. In 2003, National Geographic News
stated, “The San
have largely lost their sense of community and identity by being dispossessed of their
territories and becoming physically dispersed. They have suffered language loss and
some of their important social institutions have become dysfunctional” (ibid.). Few of
them hunt now. Instead, many work as farm laborers, and others are chronically
Yet you probably also know that the San population stands to earn billions of
dollars by assigning their “intellectual property rights” pertaining to a local desert plant
named Hoodia gordonii, which the San have used for centuries as an appetite suppressant
to quell their hunger on a long hunt. A gigantic pharmaceutical interest will pay huge
sums to process and market the local cactus to overweight people around the world.
This is a rather unique instance of conglomerates recognizing “intellectual
property rights” of indigenous peoples, instead of simply stealing the local natural
resources. According to National Geographic News
, there is growing international
recognition for the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples (ibid.).
The monies that go to the San will be used, in part, to reconstruct their culture by
initiating dialogues “between the elders who still have knowledge of…the old ways and
the younger generation who have lost [that knowledge]” (ibid.). The young people do not
know about the traditional uses of Hoodia, but their interest in the plant will certainly
skyrocket as the money roles in. Already the San are becoming more secretive about their
plants. They are literally repackaging their traditional plants as commodities to sell to
outsiders. I have often observed that when cultural practices, implements, and arts
become objects for exchange, they hasten the draining of traditional culture. By
diminishing the social practices once connected to their traditional plants, the San culture
In short, the San are well on their way to becoming modern, globalized,
materialistic, and capitalistic. Thomas Friedman would be delighted. He reinterprets
as the 21st-century “flattening of the world.” To him it’s as if the sudden
rise of digital communications and border-neutral commerce have broken down political
walls between peoples, his paradigmatic example being the Berlin Wall, and replaced the
walls with windows, that is, Microsoft windows. Capitalism reigns free to barrel over
flatlands without portfolio. Friedman knows perfectly well that he is talking about
massive cross-cultural contact. He is ushering cultures into rampant globalization, saying,
“the more your culture easily absorbs foreign ideas and best practices…the greater
advantage you will have in a flat world.” I shudder to think of it. He uses terms of
interchangeably as people and nations flatten themselves
together. It’s boring; it’s frightening. It reduces cultural diversity that we might
desperately need in the future for much more than high finance and weight loss.
Living in the modern age does not necessarily make an individual “modern.”
“Modern individuals” tend to be utilitarian—they are more readily able than others to
take advantage of new features in contemporary society in order to achieve their personal
ambitions, improve their lifestyles, obtain profitable learning, and enhance their personal
power and efficacy—for good or even for unsavory purposes.
“Individual” or “attitudinal” modernity is a construct that has been used to gauge
the effects of culture change among persons who encounter cross-cultural contact with
more modern societies. Sociologists gather modernity data through very precise surveys.
Anthropologists use participant observation.
Particularly in Malaysia and India, I observed that modern individuals make
liberal use of globally accessible mass media, high-speed travel, and border-neutral
socio-cultural influences to compare their native social situations with other societal
systems as they become aware of them. They can choose between those different value
sets, or blend them into personal life patterns that best satisfy their tastes and needs.
Simply put, individual modernity is a matter of expanding one’s range of choices by
selecting from among available social options that are within reach and which matter
Two classic modernization studies that affected my thinking about culture change
were conducted by sociologists Daniel Lerner in The Passing of Traditional Society
(1958) and Alex Inkeles and David Smith in Becoming Modern
(1974). Lerner recounted
a case study of a grocer in a small village in Turkey. While watching an American movie
in Ankara, he was riveted by a scene in a U.S. grocery store that showed him wall-to-wall
rows of metal shelves with uniformly labeled cans and boxes of store goods stacked high
in orderly ranks “like soldiers in a parade.” The grocer knew immediately that this was
the future of grocery stores in Turkey. It was his personal future, too, and he set out to
bring to reality that vision he had received from a foreign movie. After he passed away,
his once skeptical neighbors called him a prophet.
In their multinational study of individuals in six developing nations, Inkeles and
Smith likewise found that the popular media were powerful change agents that could
light a spark of modernity in individuals sequestered in traditional social structures. Other
inculcators of modernization, they found, include participation in formal, hierarchical
organizations; travel; mass media contact; education, including the parents’ educational
levels; employment in factories; time management; and experience in urban settings.
According to Inkeles and Smith, contact with these types of modern technologies,
organizations, and behaviors induce individual modernity in those who participate in
these activities. The process works through modeling, imagined role reversals, and
empathy, that is, seeing oneself in a different, more beneficial situation. In his study,
Lerner called empathy “psychic mobility,” and regarded it as a prerequisite state-of-mind
Modern individuals can choose the social customs and practices that make the
most sense to them. They are opportunistic. They can perceive advantages in change,
often at the expense of their valued traditions and customary behaviors. Yet
modernization often spawns inflation, deflation, deadly violence, cultural disruptions, and
Recalling Friedman’s flatistic statements that digital communications will bring
nations together is certainly an aspect of the open access reformation. Many of the
world’s finest universities have implemented OA. Earlier this year, Harvard’s arts and
sciences faculty voted to permit Harvard to distribute their scholarship online, “instead of
signing exclusive agreements with scholarly journals that often have tiny readerships and
high subscription costs” (Cohen). Harvard English professor Stephen Greenblatt, himself
an editor of a scholarly journal said, “This is one of the only ways we can break the backs
of the monopolists who are currently seriously damaging our fields” (Child and Flow).
Stuart Shieber, the professor of computer science who proposed the new policy,
said the decision “should be a very powerful message to the academic community that we
want and should have more control over how our work is used and disseminated”
Probably the most celebrated OA repository is the Human Genome Database
(GDB), begun in 1990 at Johns Hopkins University (Levin). The GDB was created by
geneticists, librarians, and computer scientists. Librarians gathered genetic research from
journal articles, other databases, and direct communication with genetics researchers, and
passed it to one of 23 editorial boards of geneticists to vet the findings, which were then
added to the GDB for geneticists all over the world to access freely.
OA repositories like this can be created for every academic discipline and
research project, and the acceleration of pushing back the boundaries of knowledge could
match that of the GDB. This is the benefit OA would bring to the world.
In the mid-1990s, my library on the Kapiolani campus of the University of Hawaii
began developing databases of this type on Asian-Pacific studies. We worked with
several UH departments and the East-West Center, a U.S. government “think tank.” We
called our online creations “value added databases,” which we borrowed from John Haak
at the Hamilton Library. Institutional repositories
was not a common term at that time.
In 1995, I was invited to speak to faculty and students at City University of Hong
Kong about the Kapiolani databases. When I began comparing them to the GDB,
however, I was literally shouted down by the faculty because they knew the GDB was
very expensive. They refused to listen when I said the Kapiolani databases cost less than
$8,000US, which was fully provided by our clients. We didn’t spend a dime. Our clients
were eager to have these online resources and make them globally accessible. The City U
faculty seemed unaware of the rapid development and the falling prices of technology of
In 1996, I gave a presentation with virtually the same information to the IFLA
meeting in Beijing. It was roundly applauded, the paper was published in the IFLA
, and I received inquiries from a number of nations, including China and Russia.
In 2004, I was again invited by City University of Hong Kong to speak about OA. I was
not shouted down that time, but the response was lukewarm, much like now in Hong
Kong. Today in Hong Kong, all eight government-funded university libraries have some
form of OA IRs, but they are not the type of research databases we’re talking about today.
Unfortunately, the two major funding agencies for the Hong Kong universities are
hardly enamored of OA. The meeting notes of the Research Grants Council (RGC) for
June 2007 stated, “…the RGC decided not to make it compulsory for the Principal
Investigators … to allow open access of their research outputs. However, the RGC
strongly encourages your institution and researchers to make available the research
output via open-access repositories on a voluntary basis …” A member of the University
Grants Committee (UGC) wrote in 2007, “We have concerns that researchers in Hong
Kong would oppose any initiatives that may compromise their IP rights … researchers
would also object to any proposal that might restrict their choice of publication venues …
We can only encourage them, but we will not be in a position to make it mandatory.”
Another UGC member wrote this question to me, “Should Hong Kong be at the
forefront of this? What benefit would it bring Hong Kong to take such an initiative?” I
was speechless before such a great lack of awareness by a multi-campus university
funding agent. How different the Hong Kong universities are from Harvard, Cornell, the
University of California, and so many others!
Let’s get back to culture change. We already know that OA will likely have a
major impact on developing nations. For instance, the Wellcome Trust in London funds
research to improve world health, and maximize the dissemination of this research
through free, online access to create a more robust worldwide research culture. Recipients
of Wellcome Funds are required to provide unrestricted access to their published research
as a fundamental part of Wellcome’s charitable mission (Wellcome).
Wellcome encourages grant proposals from developing countries, and provides
significant funding for its African Institutions Initiatives. This project seeks to strengthen
Africa’s research capacity by supporting African universities and research institutions,
and by converting research training into “career paths” for the most promising health
In December 2007, President Bush signed a bill that included the research access
provision of National Institutes of Health (NIH). The bill directs NIH to provide the
public with online open access to NIH-funded research. This is the first time the U.S.
government has mandated public access to research, funded by a major government
agency. NIH-funded researchers are now required to deposit electronic copies of their
peer-reviewed manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine's online archive,
Nobel Prize Winner Harold Varmus said, “Facilitated access to new knowledge is
key to the rapid advancement of science…The tremendous benefits of broad, unfettered
access to information are already clear from the Human Genome Project, which has made
its DNA sequences immediately and freely available to all, via the Internet” (ibid.).
There is no doubt that OA advances will dramatically affect developing nations,
mainly for the better, or so we must hope. Don’t forget the uncertainty principle.
I’ve visited a number of developing nations over the last fifteen years, including
China, Vietnam, India, Micronesia, and Malaysia, but the most compelling was my visit
in 2004 to Cote d’Ivoire in Central Africa. I was a member of a delegation of educators
from the California State University system (CSU) participating in a U.S. State
Department grant to mentor eight Universities in Cote d’Ivoire. Administrators and
faculty from the Cote d’Ivoire universities visited CSU several times, and the CSU
delegation made focused trips to Africa toward the end of the project.
When the CSU educators arrived in Abidjan and fanned out to visit the circuit of
universities, I was stunned by the deplorable condition of their library facilities and the
terribly small collections of outdated books. I decided not to talk about building new
library facilities and huge print collections, as the Ivoirian librarians and administrators
had expected, because these conditions were beyond the means of the nation to remedy.
Instead, I gave my Ivoirian audiences extemporary presentations on the principles and
benefits of OA for very rapid and timely scholarly communication. I used the University
of California e-scholarship repositories as the model.
They immediately saw that OA repositories could quickly gather research on
agriculture, tourism, and other industries throughout the region to bolster the nation’s
economic and social development. They decided to put buildings and collections aside
and focus on digital research for scholarly communication. Then shortly after our return
to the U.S., the civil war in Cote d’Ivoire flared again, ending all our collaboration.
The Ivoirians were proud to show-off their IT systems to the CSU group, and
though meager, the technology worked, and our group could see that the technical people
were very savvy. Although the Ivoirians lacked funds and infrastructure, they did not lack
insight, intelligence, or education. Many of them received their academic educations in
Ten years earlier, I gave similar workshops to reference librarians at Peking
University on automation, technology-leapfrogging, and the Kapiolani value-added
databases. And look what happened to scholarship, research, and information sharing by
China’s academic libraries since then. They rival anything the West has to offer. Of
course, this burst of advancement was certainly not a result of my lowly workshops.
Instead, it was the readiness, drive, and motivation of the librarians and administrators,
and we must not overlook the role of the 211 funding package from the central
government, to move China’s universities and their libraries forward quickly.
Technology is the great equalizer; crack open a door of an underdeveloped nation
with a little training and access to a bit of information technology, and many individuals
will quickly become early adopters and transform their nations. We see it every day now.
While developing nations may lack “stuff,” their capital is their ambition and
inquisitiveness, and OA-delivered research might be perfect for them. In fact, developing
nations may likely be the primary beneficiaries of open access.
OA is an important part of globalization. Globalization does not touch only on
economics and business. Culture is intricately pervasive in social actions and beliefs.
Change the social actions and beliefs, and culture will be affected. Globalization
inculcates uniformity among disparate societies. OA may not be good in all instances or
in all developing nations. Knowledge is power, and power is easily turned corrupt and
It is quite possible that some governments in developing nations may quarantine
or embargo OA information to make their own profits. Such a case would simply transfer
information from one criminal monopoly (the commercial publishers) to another (the
central government). If a government, as in the NIH bill, can mandate that all health and
medical information be free, some governments can mandate that information must be
purchased, and at exorbitant prices. If commercial publishers go out of their monopolistic
business in the developed world, they might hire themselves out to governments in
developing nations at even higher costs.
We certainly cannot restrict OA information reaching developing or remote
cultures. We must go ahead for the sake of humanity. But remember the uncertainty
principle: we can’t always predict all the results of our good intentions.
We’ve been talking about culture and the intellectual property rights of Harvard
professors, Hong Kong professors, and African Bushmen. The different circumstances
and effects of these different intellectual property rights holders could be very different in
Or NOT. Perhaps just within the next generation or two, both groups will be
utilitarian opportunists. That’s the way Friedman sees the future of the flat world. I’m not
Bacon-Shone, J. E-mail to Ferguson, T., and Palmer, D. (Dec. 28, 2007). Child, M. and Flow, C. “Motion to Allow Free Online Access to All Harvard Scholarly Articles.”
Harvard Crimson Online.
Feb. 13, 2008. http://www.thecrimson.com/
Cohen, P. “At Harvard, a Proposal to Publish Free on the Web.” New York Times.
Friedman, T. (2005). The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Guterman, L. “Harvard Faculty Adopts Open Access Requirement.” Chronicle of Higher Education
, Feb. 12, 2008, PAGE?? Inkeles, A., and Smith, D. H. (1974). Becoming Modern: Individual Change in Six Developing
London: Heinemann Educational.
Lerner, D (1958) The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East.
Levin, A. (Feb. 1992). “The Log-On Library.” Johns Hopkins Magazine,
vol. 44, no. 1,
Marshall, L. (April 16, 2003). “Africa’s Bushmen May Get Rich from Diet-Drug Secret.”
National Geographic News.
Glycopyrronium Bromide 200 micrograms/ml Injection Summary of Product Characteristics NAME OF THE MEDICINAL PRODUCT Glycopyrronium Bromide 200 micrograms/ml Injection QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE COMPOSITION Each 1 ml of sterile solution for injection contains 200 micrograms of glycopyrronium bromide. Each 3 ml of sterile solution for injection contains 600 micrograms of glyco
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