The intellectual Battle Between Knowledge and the Internet
The internet is by far the most powerful tool that has ever been invented by mankind. Its dexterity, availability and efficiency leaves it as being the strongest innovative contender. For hundreds of years humans have been traveling the planet, spreading ideas and creating civilizations, however, this valuable knowledge that has helped develop scientific theories, medical vaccines and technological marvels is now being locked away from the public. Millions of important documents and scholarly research has been compiled into databases owned by Universities and other powerful companies, limiting the access to only a handful of individuals. In Brian Knappenberger’s film The Internet’s Own Boy, the issue of restricting knowledge and research from the public is confronted by social activist and computer programmer, Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz, an intellectual computer prodigy, did not hold back in his pursuit for social justice, through his short lived career he founded several organizations that attempted to address online activism. His fight was to create equality on the internet and allow anyone and everyone to have access to scholarly research; however, his ultimate demise came when he was caught illegally downloading documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His actions were felt through the internet and several programmers all around the U.S. and the world have started a movement of hacktivism and online activism. He helped pave the for activist to truly confront the government and attempt to combat social injustices.
This documentary sparked some very interesting emotions from me. My initial emotion was very unsympathetic because Aaron got himself into that situation and bit the hand that fed him. However, the more the movie progressed, the more my emotions began to change and understand why he igniting the flame for social justice. As a University student I am very fortunate because I have access to more scholarly research and documents than I can even fathom. This is not a general consensus among Americans, a majority of individuals do not have access or will never gain access to view these documents. This is knowledge that has been around for thousands of years and now major business are restricting average people from viewing them so that they can make money. It is a frustrating scheme that needs to be confronted on a public scale. This documentary made me really evaluate the hierarchical structure in America and how in my opinion the only way to generate a response is to create social chaos. With increased exposure some issues that are being neglected by big politicians may finally be confronted and solved, Aaron Swartz disrupted the order of internet discipline and it lead to a movement. Shortly after Aaron’s death John Schwartz, writer for the New York Times, released a piece touching on Aaron’s career. In the article, Carl Malamud, founder of public.resource.org, states, “…Access to knowledge and access to justice have become all about access to money, and Aaron tried to change that. That should never have been considered a criminal activity” (NYTimes.com). In addition to this statement, Susan Crawford, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York and an adviser in the Obama administration, praised Aaron for his leadership and innovation, calling him a complicated prodigy. This is evidence that what Aaron Swartz attempted to do was not in vein. Aaron continues to get the recognition he deserves and his efforts has created something a lot more powerful than he could ever imagine.
This documentary changed my out look on the internet, hackers and online activism. My limited knowledge lead me to believe that hackers are nothing more than criminals. However, Aaron Swartz demonstrated that there are some talented programmers who are trying to fight social injustices and are trying to tackle important issues in today’s society. With increased exposure some issues that are being neglected by big politicians may finally be confronted and solved.
Schwartz, John. “Internet Activist, a Creator of RSS, Is Dead at 26, Apparently a Suicide.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Jan. 2013. Web. 7 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/technology/aaron-swartz-internet-activist-dies-at-26.html>.