With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the
privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?
Aaron Swartz, July 2008, Eremo, Italy
In January 2013 Aaron Swartz was found dead in his apartment in Brooklyn. The 26-year-old information freedom activist was due to face the United States justice system for illegally downloading large quantities of academic articles from JSTOR, a paid digital library that holds thousands of academic articles. The promise of thirty-five years in prison became a burden that Swartz could not handle. He ended his life, leaving the online community grieving one of its prolific members.
The motivations and passions of Aaron Swartz are discussed in the amazing documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy”, by Brian Knappenberger. From his early life to his final moments, people like the creator of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee, Aaron’s family members and friends, and his lawyer, all talk about the situations the programming prodigy had to face through his life and meteoric career.
But the most interesting aspect of the documentary is how Swartz’s story and understanding of life is a reflection of his generation. People who were born into the Internet world see education and the process of acquiring it differently than previous generations. Thanks to the global access to information the new generation does not need anybody’s approval to question and modify concepts and paradigms in academia and society.
This is radical change from the vertical access of knowledge that my generation (I am 32 years old) and everybody before it went through. All of us were given concepts as absolutes. It is very interesting to hear Aaron Swartz himself speaking about his take on education and the reasons why school was not enough for him, how a structured curriculum makes no sense in a world where knowledge can be accessed just by looking for it. And how this freedom became so scary for the U.S justice system, who saw it as the spark of this new breed of people who are flooding the street putting a question mark in the self-proclaimed “best country in the world.”
I completely recommend this documentary. It is for free in Youtube. Enjoy!