I want to reiterate something Boyle had written fairly cavalierly—“We do not do this in a vacuum, in some sterile cultural ‘clean room.’ We are always already inside, or between, a set of histories, ideologies, institutions, and practices” (174). While I am in total agreement, I do not see Boyle adequately deploying this understanding throughout the text. For example, he makes absolutely no mention of the fact that copying and distributing things like software are made easy through a real material political economy totally dependent on the skilled hands of exploited women of color (or are our microchips also assembled by a bucket of bacteria in a lab somewhere?). Questions of our “information society” must also be grounded in an understanding of the labor that’s used to construct it—not solely the labor used to invent it. Moreover, even in his discussion of law and ethics of information authorship/ownership, Boyle fails to provide what I view to be an adequate critique of the imperial-colonial nature of the governing of an information society—even in the US we have plenty of distinct cultures that conceive of information, authorship, and ownership in vastly different terms…While I do see the text as a somewhat useful launching point for more critical discussions, the narrative Boyle offered in this text seemed to be to be incredibly Western-centric and lacking in its understanding of imperial power structure.
- Obviously I've been thinking of Boyle's text in relation to imperial power and data collection, something I consider at great length in my own work; what are the strengths and limitations of a narrative that preys upon fantastical fears of transgenic slavery rather than the lived realities of drone warfare (which relies on amassing private-access spatial data without consent)?
- Similarly, limitations aside, what prescience does this text have for us as academics? None of us are going to be in labs curing cancer (as far as we know), but we are responsible for mass dissemination of ideas and 'intellectual property,' not to mention those of us who do ethnographic work and thus have a responsibility to operate in a manner culturally consistent with and sensitive to the communities in which we work. How (if at all) does this translate into our concerns as researchers/scholars/educators in terms of public/private bifurcations and knowledge production/ownership?