Ownership vs. Accessibility

There’s an interesting post on the Harriet blog (hosted by the Poetry Foundation) about ownership, and the author quotes several others in the idea that accessibility is better than ownership. For the poor poet–this can’t be more true. I can’t go out and buy every collection of poetry because at ~$12 a pop, I would quickly be more broke than I already am. Ideas such as having access to highways and roads that drivers don’t own and accessing published works via google books that one doesn’t purchase are glorious. There are some pitfalls (remember the old Atari game???) to this idea.

For example, the majority of people in the united states run a computer with either Windows or Mac OS as an operating system. If these users read the fine print, they do not own the software that runs the computer but rather pay exuberant amounts of money to access said system. Both Microsoft and Apple have rules that tell you how you can and can’t use their software (for example, you can only install the purchased OS on a certain number of computers–usually one). If I were to pay $400 for the full version of Windows vista, but I have 4 computers in my house–MS tells me I have to buy a license for each computer. Hog wash. In this light, accessibility feeds the corporate moguls that are ruining our economy. (Full disclosure: I have a macbook b/c of the great student discount I got through DU…but as soon as 10.4 isn’t supported anymore, I’m putting linux on it even though that might violate my terms of use)

With this in mind, I’m a linux guy. I have three computers at home that run Arch Linux. One of them is a movie and music server so my family can listen to music or watch our (purchased!) movies from any computer in the house. The other two are regular desktop machines. My wife’s computer is a print server, so everything prints in one location (even from my mac!). Sure this is possible with windows, but I haven’t paid a cent (I’m on a teacher’s/poet salary, give me a break!). I don’t mind not owning something, and accessibility is great. But why should I pay money (excessively anyways) to access something when I can own something for free. Hmm.

In terms of software, I use openoffice.org for office tasks, Scribus for desktop publishing (which I’ve used to create two self-published volumes of poetry), The GIMP for photo editing, Firfox for web browsing (adblocker is the greatest invention!!), and CeltX for screen and stage projects. I’ve saved at least a month’s paycheck for choosing opensource software over closed source, proprietary options. And I’m not simply accessing this software, because when I download and install it, I can do whatever I want with it–thanks GPL.

It takes a little computer savvyness to hang up the “accessible” software in this world, but my money can go to other things besides virus checkers. (And open source isn’t just crappy freeware. Some of the world’s most-used applications are open source software: apache web server, MySQL database, PHP programming language, to name a few.)

My final thoughts on ownership vs. accessibility is on government. Every taxpayer in the United States technically owns a piece of the government. But our access is limited. Obama tells us he will be open with decisions, which holds a certain amount of merit. But I own (however miniscule) a share of government that kills people–whether in the middle east or in the wombs of women stateside. My taxes go to determining the value of life and that disgusts me. (I’m not saying anything about the legality of abortion, but rather how tax dollars are used). In this sense, both ownership and accessibility are worthless. And if that’s the case, are either valuable?

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