Book section Open Access

Open Access and Symbolic Gift Giving

Herb, Ulrich

Editor(s)
Schöpfel, Joachim; Herb, Ulrich

Open access has changed. At the beginning of the millennium, it was portrayed in a romanticizing way and was embedded in a conceptual ensemble of participation, democratization, digital commons and equality. Nowadays, open access seems to be exclusive: to the extent that commercial players have discovered it as a business model and article fees have become a defining feature of gold open access, open access has increasingly transformed into a distinguishing feature and an exclusive element. Scientists are beginning to make the choice of a university or research institution as an employer based on whether or not they can afford to cover the article fees for publications in high-impact but high-priced journals. Surprisingly, this transformation of open access is not the subject of any noteworthy discussion in specialist or journalistic publications, but instead the ideals of the digital commons of knowledge still prevail in these venues. Even so open access is increasingly becoming an instrument that creates exclusivity, exclusion, distinction and prestige. These functions, however, are obscured by symbolic gift giving strategies and presented as altruistically staged, so that in the discourse of the open access community and in media reporting on open access, the both euphemistic and largely obsolete prosocial story-telling of open access dominates. The paper also discusses the question of whether the concept of open access was not overstrained by the hopes placed in it.

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