Private Control Over Information

A reference at the end of the BBC news discussion of the Google News Archive led me to the stimulating writings of Professor Roy Rosenzweig, a historian from the Center for History and New Media at George Mason UniversityYou can see what he looks like here.

“I’m strongly in favour of the democratisation of access to historical documents, but also cautious about how much information Google now controls. Increasingly the model of how we access information and what information we have access to is changing, as public archives such as libraries are replaced by private companies”.

He has written provocatively on the implications of the increasing private control over information for scholarship and the public interest, in a piece entitled The Road to Xanadu: Public and Private Pathways on the History Web.

Here is an interview with Roy Rosenzweig on the relevance of multiple choice in an era of Google and h-bot, and its implications for a participatory, democratic digital history.

Slaw readers should also be interested in Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past,Originally published in The Journal of American History Volume 93, Number 1 (June, 2006): 117-46..

One consequence of law libraries discarding books in favour of online access is that this information becomes increasingly distant from the public.


  1. I read Rosensweig’s article and found it a good overview of the landscape of information and knowledge sources as they exist and our developing. He is certainly right about the growing “digital divide” . Academic and research institutions spend big dollars licencing impressive databases, most of which is not available to the public, or to smaller institutions. Here is the list of databases licenced by UVic Libraries:

    Interestingly, though, in the most recent user survey done by UVic Libraries this year the acquisition of more print material, mostly books, was placed as a high priority by both undergraduate and graduate students and faculty.