, The 7th Munin Conference on Scientific Publishing 2012 – New Trends

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The Intellectual Properties of Learning: The Medieval Origins
John Willinsky

Last modified: 11-12-2012


With new means and models of scholarly publishing roiling the academy, with the price of the research article split between free and forty dollars, it may be time to take a look at the historical formation of learning's intellectual properties for what sets them apart from other sorts of intellectual property. As part of a larger history of the intellectual properties of learning in the West, this presentation will explore how a few medieval monks and nuns were able to overcome what Max Weber identifies as the anti-intellectualism of early Christianity. They did so by establishing the contribution and value of learned properties to the larger community amid the monastic tension between learning from the world and remaining at a remove from it, in a distinctive economic and legal sense. The presentation will draw on the examples of Bede, Alcuin of York, and Hildegard of Bingen to illuminate why we may want to recall how much of that early learning contributed to later notions of intellectual property and why it makes sense to keep in mind learning's distinctive properties, so critical to its value, as we sort out new ways of circulating knowledge in the digital age.

>> View video of the presentation (61 min)