Manuel Castells and Open Access

Manuel Castells and Professor John Barrow featured in a recent edition of the Forum programme on the BBC World Service. It was an interesting discussion, touching on Castells’ view of the emerging network organisation and society, and Professor Barrow’s observations on scientific practice in that context. Castells sees ICT as affording advantage to organisational arrangements that are horizontal (rather than bureaucratic), featuring loosely coupled units of highly skilled professionals, using project-oriented relationships with other such units to get work done. It is a picture that many academics will find familiar of course. Professor Barrow cited arXiv as an example of researchers working in this way, contrasting it with the more traditional “institution” of accessing the literature via journals. Might he also have mentioned libraries? This did make me think about Lorcan Dempsey’s ideas of the network effect and gravitational pull on the web, but also of arXiv’s ability to embed itself and provide value in researchers’ everyday workflow, as they work in network organisations. Providing this kind of appropriate infrastructure for other disciplines remains a challenge.