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Cornelis Drebbel is one of She-philosopher.​com’s featured “Players.” Learn more here.

Margaret Cavendish is another of She-philosopher.​com’s featured “Players.” Learn more here.

Re. the gift economy of the Internet, as modeled by the “free software” movement:

Richard Stallman’s essay “GNU’s Not Unix! — Free Software, Free Society: Why ‘Open Source’ Misses the Point of Free Software” explains how freedom so conceived is about sharing and cooperation: “free speech, not free beer.”
   (A special thanks to Dave Crossland for pointing me to Stallman’s online essay.)


Thanks to Mick McAllister of a reference to Jonathan Lethem’s essay for the Feb. 2007 issue of Harper’s, “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism.” Lethem’s piece is fresh and clever and certain to make you think in new ways about computer-assisted processes of “sublimated collaboration” and accompanying questions of intellectual copyright.
Lethem plays creatively with 17th-century notions of intertextuality (otherwise known to scholars as Bakhtinian dialogics), opening his essay with a quote from John Donne:

   “All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated....”

then reframing Donne’s insights for the new information age. (For more on 17th-century intertextuality, see this site’s gallery exhibit, Portraits of Melancholy — II.)


Two recent books expand the argument over value, protection & funding of “creative work” and our intellectual commons:

1. Robert Levine’s Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back (New York: Doubleday, 2011). ISBN-10: 0385533764 and ISBN-13: 978-0385533768.
   Levine here deplores the devaluation of creative work & expertise which he attributes to the Internet-grown cult of “information wants to be free” ideology, and to growing acceptance of digital piracy.
Levine was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times (“The Sunday Conversation: Robert Levine,” 12/18/2011 issue, p. D3), and the interview is available online here.

2. In his book Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), Adrian Johns sees more promise, than does Levine, in cyberpunk culture’s “open-access” movement, especially when associated with the kind of “openness” that has become “a guiding norm of true scientific research.” (509)
   Moreover, Johns grounds “a new economics of creativity” in “the end of intellectual property” as we know it, accompanied by “a reformation of creative rights, responsibilities, and privileges.” (509, 508, 517)
   Noting that “Intellectual property has always been a dynamic compromise between the local and the universal, and between practice and principle” (518), Johns concludes,
   “... it is no coincidence that the problem facing intellectual property coincides with a period of deep unease about the practices that society entrusts with discovering and imparting formal knowledge in general. The foundations and status of the academic disciplines are in question, no less than those of intellectual property. Both the modern disciplinary system and the modern principle of intellectual property are achievements of the era culminating in the late nineteenth century, and the same departure of creative authorship to new projects and identities underlies the anxieties of each. In each case new realms of creative work can be accommodated into the existing system, but doing so involves ad hoc compromises and creates increasingly stark inconsistencies. ... In intellectual property, as in the disciplines at large, a reengagement with history is likely to play a central role in shaping the transformation that such a crisis entails. ... New accounts of the digital and biotech revolutions — along with revisionist interpretations of the Gutenberg revolution — herald another. Rather than adducing a discrete ‘culture’ defined by each given technology, they portray a practical, dynamic, and continuous interlacing of technologies and society. They furnish a kind of understanding that could underpin a revision of the proper relation between creativity and commerce.” (516–7)

To learn more about how you can donate & buy things safely online, plus protect yourself from online scams such as “phishing,” see Google’s helpful guide, 20 Things I Learned About Browsers & the Web, especially:
THING 13, “Malware, Phishing, and Security Risks (or, if it quacks like a duck but isn’t a duck)”
THING 14, “How Modern Browsers Help Protect You From Malware and Phishing (or, beware the ne’er-do-wells!)”
THING 15, “Using Web Addresses to Stay Safe (or, ‘my name is URL’)”

**  your contributions make this new style of sociable scholarship possible  **


First Published:  February 2012
Revised (substantive):  27 June 2017

Opening quotation markUse Thy Gifts Rightly.Closing quotation mark


This motto was inscribed, along with Drebbel’s monogram, on his many instruments and inventions, ranging from: a perpetual-motion machine “representing the motion of the Heavens about the fixed earth,” air conditioning, an incubator, the thermometer, “an instrument to sink ships,” the first microscope, and several different types of camera; to the first sea-worthy submarine, which in 1620 traveled down the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich under the surface of the water, with an 8-person crew and 12 passengers kept alive by Drebbel’s mysterious on-board manufacture of breathable air, 150 years before the “discovery” of oxygen in the early 1770s.

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As a thoroughly independent, risky, and unpredictable venture that continues to challenge established academic practices, has no such patrons to solicit. Nor do I have an academic salary to fall back on, or any of the usual perquisites (like paid sabbatical leave) that come with this. Rather, I must fund my own postdoctoral research projects, and I donate everything — not just my scholarship, but also my services as designer, author, editor, and publisher, plus all “tech support” — that is needed for website development.

In so doing, I rely on the growing network of supporters who are willing to share with me their own research, expertise, and best practices, thus contributing to the informal scholarly dialogue on which this site depends.

The result is a new kind of sociable scholarship, conducted in the spirit of the “gift economy” which flourishes on the Internet.

Given this mission, will continue to make the highest quality scholarly work freely available — in hopes, but with no requirement, of reciprocity. If you value the site’s resources, and can afford to make even a small donation to the cause of independent and visionary e-scholarship, I encourage you to do so.

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Some final comments on the evolving genres of scholarly publication, since I continue to be contacted by those searching for a list of my print publications.

The short answer is: there aren’t any (other than my doctoral dissertation, published by University Microfilms International, as is required for a PhD).

I have chosen not to follow the traditional publication route (printed monographs and articles in peer-reviewed journals, written for an ever-shrinking audience of like-minded scholars), and because I don’t have an academic career, I’m able to get away with this. Nonetheless, I’m still governed by the institutional dictum of “publish or perish,” which takes on yet a new cluster of meanings in the dynamic world of online publication, where scholarship must compete with all the edutainment out there, and yet still survive prolonged immersion in what a mainstream-media reporter once called “the acid bath of peer review.”

When I launched — a Web-based research project specializing in the history of science, technology & culture during the early-modern period (sometimes known as the “long” 17th century, because it extends several decades into both the 16th and 18th centuries) — it was in hopes of opening new dialogues between past & present, between academic and non-academic audiences. This remains a work in progress, but thus far, I’m quite pleased with the results. I am doing the best scholarship I have ever done, and find that the quality of peer review within the online community is unsurpassed.

Over the years ( officially launched in March–April 2004), I have built a website rich with content, including archival data, images, maps, and digital transcriptions of period writings by women and men, plus scholarly monographs and interpretations not available anywhere else. I have eclectic research interests (everything from feminist science studies to the history of printing and other trades, including masonry, agriculture, medicine and pharmacy; from studies in rhetoric and symbolism, to the history of taxonomies, information design, and the evolution of the modern flow chart). And I am committed to making the highest quality scholarship on such matters available not just to teachers and students, but also to modern professionals — across the arts & sciences — and to anyone else with an interest and stake in the historical research. Your donation will support me, and all those who use the resources of, in this independent inquiry into our past & present.

So let me make one last funding appeal: to all those who willingly would have purchased a printed book of mine, how about donating whatever you would have paid for such a book to instead?

If we are to keep up the creative dialogue, all of us who benefit from free & open access to Web-based scholarly resources must figure out new — and sustainable — ways to support and fund this.

Facsimile of a 19th-century head-piece (shows 3 boys passing through hoops).

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facsimile of late-17th-century printer's decorative tail-piece

^  Tail-piece from the Latin edition of Margaret Cavendish’s biography of her husband, William, the duke of Newcastle, entitled De Vita et Rebus Gestis Nobilissimi Illustrissimique Principis Guilielmi Ducis Novo-Castrensis (London, 1668). Both Margaret and William were patrons of the arts & sciences.

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