Yesterday, on my way home from work, I meandered into a campus presentation on Deep Blue by the librarian who conceived of and nurtures this all-campus online depository. I had not expected to be there for anything but supportive purposes–to pad the audience (the session had been arranged by a close colleague, and I hate it when speakers or facilitators are presented with, and possibly disappointed by, an embarrassingly sparse audience.) Well, the surprise was on me! Although I happened to be very familiar with the content of the presentation, the presenter’s style was so lively and interesting that I listened closely to the nuances, admired the performance, and left with a couple of thoughts to ruminate about.

The speaker referred at one point to Neil Stephenson, author of “Cryptonomicon,” apparently a masterful sci-fi work that I have never even heard of, and his distinction between an academic being either a Beowulf or a Dante (forging out to publish on his/her own or being generously supported by his/her patron, the academy). I had studied Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon version, way back when, and although I cannot say that I really read Dante in the Italian, I probably should have–so my attention was piqued by all three references.
Another statement that held my interest was the speaker’s self- admitted reluctance to tell a faculty member that he/she was infringing on a publisher’s copyright if he/she was posting his/her published papers on his/her website without proper permission, since “that is not the way to start a friendly conversation.” I know that many people think it’s perfectly okay to post one’s own publications, because they are uninformed about or don’t remember signing their rights away. I asked the question that came to the forefront of my mind: Wouldn’t an academic want to have this information, if only for ethical–if not for legal–reasons? I would want to be told, so I figured that others would want to do the right thing, too. I did not receive any confirmation from the audience, which I thought was also interesting. Again, could I be the only one who thinks this way?