About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A disturbing trend: access to information

As I've mentioned before, I am teaching international marketing, one of my favorite courses to teach. Since the first time I have taught this course, in 1990, the way I teach it has changed extensively. By the turn of the millennium, my focus on this course went from finding information about international markets and making decisions with limited information, to learning how to filter and pour through the amount of information found on the internet about any given international market.

However, this year (it has been 3 years since I taught the course), I have discovered yet another trend that will impact how I teach this course. As part of the course, I require my students to write a feasibility study on an assigned country. Using all of the countries of the world, excluding those that an American company would be allowed to trade with (i.e. Burma, North Korea, Cuba, etc...), my students are randomly assigned a country to research (they pick it out of an envelope). This year, as my students began to investigate their countries, I noticed:

  1. there are more resources from within countries about their markets, even those that have traditionally been difficult to find out about (e.g. south Pacific Island nations, Indian Ocean island nations, East Timor, Viet Nam, etc...)
  2. Most English language resources can be traced back to one or two of the same sources (CIA handbook or BBC country profiles)
  3. There are more diverse non-English resources
  4. Most English resources outside of the two free ones I mentioned require payment to access the information

The last trend is part of a growing trend which I find especially disturbing. 4-5 years ago I could access information for free. The major barrier was knowing how to find the information. However, once found, it was fairly easy to access it.

Now, I am limited even in the information that I can access through our library and databases. Older material is available, but updated material is not. In addition, there are restrictions on what I can pass on to my students due to copyright laws. Some websites require that information that they have posted cannot be duplicated (copyright laws) OR LINKED to other websites without permission. This linking to other websites limits access to information. But I can understand how an owner of a website might not want to be associated with other websites due to possible misunderstanding as to the relationships between the two.

However, Harvard Business Review has the following restrictions:

It is not intended for use as assigned course material in academic institutions nor as corporate learning or training materials in businesses. Academic licensees may not use this content in electronic reserves, electronic course packs, persistent linking from syllabi or by any other means of incorporating the content into course resources. Business licensees may not host this content on learning management systems or use persistent linking or other means to incorporate the content into learning management systems. Harvard Business Publishing will be pleased to grant permission to make this content available through such means. For rates and permission, contact permissions@harvardbusiness.org.

In other words, I cannot require the article (even if I don't upload a copy, but make the students access the reading). I was shocked when I read this. That an academic institution would restrict access to academic information is disturbing. I find that the current climate of "intellectual property" laws will decrease the potential for the world economy, the US economy, and innovation. The countries that have survived the global recession are those that had open access to information. It is surprising that a country that has prided itself on its "democracy" and "innovation" through a free market economy, allows for the individual hoarding of information. We might find this can lead to our down fall unless we open up access to information.

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