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Reviewed by:
  • The Virtues of Openness: Education, Science, and Scholarship in the Digital Age Michael A. Peters and Peter Roberts
  • Cy Dillon, Director of the Library and College Computing
The Virtues of Openness: Education, Science, and Scholarship in the Digital Age, Michael A. Peters and Peter Roberts. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2012. 224 pages. $36.95 (ISBN 978-1594516863)

The Virtues of Openness: Education, Science, and Scholarship in the Digital Age is a detailed look at the history and philosophical foundations of open science, open publishing, open cultures, and open learning systems from the point of view—and using the rhetorical methods—of specialists in the field of the philosophy of education. Authors Michael A. Peters and Peter Roberts address the significant changes in “the economic, technological, and political order” brought on by the transformative technology of the Internet that encourages “participation, collaboration, and new forms of collective creativity.” (p. 16) Throughout long academic careers, they have written extensively and edited distinguished journals about educational philosophy, producing a remarkable number of books and articles as well as receiving many academic honors. Peters is professor of education at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, emeritus professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and adjunct professor in the School of Art, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University), Australia, and in the School of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou University, China. Roberts is currently professor in the School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and president of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.

Peters and Roberts have produced a dense book that is meticulously researched. Though not always easy to read, it has much to offer librarians who are seriously interested in open-access (OA) scholarly communications and the power of open learning environments. It gives readers who have already taken in more accessible books such as Peter Suber’s Open Access (MIT Press, 2012) the opportunity to see how OA fits into the broader cultural movement toward openness, to look in detail at its chronology, and to examine how ideas of openness have developed as reflected in the writing of philosophers from Aristotle to Ludwig Wittgenstein. The authors are optimistic about the potential benefits of “new architectures of participation and collaboration” created by “open education, open science, open access publishing and the ease of sharing information on the internet.” (p. 19) As they explain, “The role of nonmarket and nonproprietary production promotes the emergence of a new information environment and networked economy that both depends on and encourages great individual freedom, democratic participation, collaboration, and interactivity.” (p. 69) Nevertheless, they are also careful to discuss the limits of openness in detail, making their argument more convincing by restraining their enthusiasm.

One section that clearly demonstrates Peters and Roberts’s attention to detail and wide knowledge of philosophy deals with the development of the concept of the “death of the author,” that is, the change in the relationship between writers, readers, [End Page 656] and the text in the postmodern era. Beginning with Walter Benjamin in 1928, they trace their argument through Roland Barthes in the 1960s, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida in the 1970s, and more recently Umberto Eco and Roberta Kwall. In spite of the irony inherent in using a progression of authors to support their thinking, they offer a convincing argument that we no longer see texts as controlled by authors who directly communicate specific, unmistakable, and proprietary ideas to their readers. Texts and the ideas they represent belong to readers as well as to authors, just as open-source software allows users to add to its functionality.

Peters and Roberts tie together different aspects of openness by explaining how open data, open access, and open education create possibilities for the collaborative creation of knowledge. Near the end of the book, they discuss Wikipedia, clearly explaining its development, methodology, and underlying philosophy as well as its shortcomings and limitations. They see in Wikipedia the potential for a near-perfect product of open scholarship, which has not yet reached its ideal. Unfortunately, their argument is undercut by the use of a parallel discussion of a masterful but little-known novel by Herman Hesse to...


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pp. 656-657
Launched on MUSE
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