Beria, you dont need to ask - please go ahead :)

Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2012 10:27:06 -0200
Subject: Re: [Wikimediaindia-l] [Press]: The Indian Express : "Would Gandhi 
have been a Wikipedian?"

Tinu, can I FW to my chapter list (is also a closed list)?_____
Béria Lima
(351) 925 171 484

Imagine um mundo onde é dada a qualquer pessoa a possibilidade de ter livre 
acesso ao somatório de todo o conhecimento humano. Ajude-nos a construir esse 

On 17 January 2012 04:08, CherianTinu Abraham <> wrote:

The Indian Express : "Would Gandhi have been a Wikipedian?"
( Article by Achal Prabhala)  
( Single Page Version) 

In 1941, a young Argentinian librarian who would soon go completely blind 
published a story about the futility of the “total” library. His inspiration 
was Kurd Lasswitz, a 19th century German philosopher and science-fiction 
pioneer, whose own idea of a “universal” library was a mathematical nightmare 
of frighteningly large but finite proportions. The writer was Jorge Luis 
Borges, and his story, The Library of Babel, (taking off from the mythical 
Tower of Babel, a place of linguistic dysfunction) spawned a minor publishing 
industry of its own. Borges’ library was not a happy place: its chronically 
overworked librarians were suicidal, thuggish cults periodically vandalised the 
books, people spent lifetimes searching for a catalogue without success, and — 
wondrous as it all was — no one expected to find anything useful there ever. 

Eighty years after it was written, Borges’ feverish fantasy is a cautionary 
tale for those who are tempted to take Internet-era fantasies at their word. 
When a Google executive was asked to describe the perfect search engine, he is 
reported to have said, “It would be like the mind of God.” Preposterous, yes; 
but also exciting. And anyone excited enough to adopt this as a mission 
statement would do well to have a cold shower, and heed Borges’ conclusion on 
the topic — “The library is unlimited and cyclical”.

Happily, there are more human, and altogether more humble manifestations of the 
desire to learn and share and prosper. In ancient history, the pre-biblical 
city of Babylon was a working counterpoint to the biblical Tower of Babel; a 
bustling site where diverse crowds made good together. In the present day, we 
are no closer to knowing everything, but we have Wikipedia: a bustling website 
where diverse people from everywhere in the world create miracles. Wikipedia’s 
humility is the flip-side to its success, and it comes from wanting to be 
precisely the opposite of the total library: call it a perpetually partial 
library, if you will. No one who has spent even a minute contributing anything 
to it would dare assume that the job is done, the perspective complete, or the 
game won.

Eleven years ago to this day, Jimmy Wales typed out “Hello world!” and 
Wikipedia was born. In 1989, Richard Stallman pioneered a form of copyright 
licensing for software that allowed programmers and users to do virtually 
anything they liked with it. This formed the basis for free and open source 
software, or FOSS. In 1995, Ward Cunningham used FOSS to build the underlying 
software for a novel form of collaboration — the “wiki”. By this time, the 
benefits of a generous copyright licence to software were apparent, and it was 
extended to mainstream culture — to words, sounds and images. Wikipedia was 
among the early exponents of this free culture experiment, quickly followed by 
sister projects of the Wikimedia Foundation: Wikimedia Commons, Wiktionary, 
Wikiquote, Wikibooks and more.

Wikipedia’s collaborative system of knowledge has exceeded everyone’s wildest 
expectations. Today, it is the world’s fifth most visited website — and the 
sole non-profit upstart in the oligarchical fiefdom that is our online 
landscape. There are thriving communities of volunteers in countries like India 
and South Africa, among several other places, who are helping us discover that 
learning does not have to be a passive act, and that the value of generosity 
can be productive and revolutionary at once.

Interestingly enough, it was about a hundred years ago that a young, idealistic 
lawyer set off on a similar journey. Affected by colonialism in his home, 
India, and faced with debilitating segregation laws in his adopted home, South 
Africa, he saw the productive and revolutionary potential in generous 
knowledge. Over a long sea journey from London to Cape Town, he wrote down his 
ideas on self-determination and independence. The young lawyer was, of course, 
Gandhi, and his book, Hind Swaraj, would go on to become the intellectual 
blueprint for the Indian freedom movement. The original was written in Gujarati 
in 1909. One year later, it was translated into English and published as Indian 
Home Rule. On the cover of the first edition of this English translation is a 
prominent, if unusual, copyright legend. It reads, “No Rights Reserved”.

Now it can be told: Gandhi was a free knowledge activist. Consider what he was 
encouraging his readers to do. In short order, a person reading Indian Home 
Rule in 1910 would have been able to copy the book freely, distribute those 
copies widely, translate the book into other languages, and join the 
conversation as a participant and not merely as an observer. I know of Gandhi’s 
radical copyright intentions because I’ve seen an image of the cover of this 
rare first edition, even though it is mostly unavailable in museums and 
archives. Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie and Isabel Hofmeyr, two South African scholars, 
photographed the book and generously shared it with the world. And how did they 
do that? By putting it on Wikimedia Commons, where anyone can use it, in any 
form, for all time — exactly as Gandhi intended. Indeed, the universe is 
cyclical. Gandhi would have been a Wikipedian.

Prabhala is a Bangalore-based researcher and writer, and serves on the advisory 
board of the Wikimedia Foundation 

Tinu Cherian

Important Note : The publisher ( The Indian Express ) of the above news article 
owns the copyrights of the article / content. Request to kindly not reproduce 
or circulate the content further. The information is only shared only with an 
internal community who have been featured on this article.  All copyrights are 
duly acknowledged.


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