Bruce Sterling's 1992 speech to the Library Information Technology Association is eerily prescient — the "Information Economy" is bankrupt, and it's taking the public domain down with it.
Ladies and gentlemen, there's a problem with showing Mr Franklin the door. The problem is that Mr Franklin was right in 1731 and Mr Franklin is still right! Information is not something you can successfully peddle like Coca-Cola. If it were a genuine commodity, then information would cost nothing when you had a glut of it. God knows we've got enough data! We're drowning in data. Nevertheless we're only gonna make more. Money just does not map the world of information at all well. How much is the Bible worth? You can get a Bible in any hotel room. They're worthless as commodities, but not valueless to humankind. Money and value are not identical.
What's information really about? It seems to me there's something direly wrong with the "Information Economy." It's not about data, it's about attention. In a few years you may be able to carry the Library of Congress around in your hip pocket. So? You're never gonna read the Library of Congress. You'll die long before you access one tenth of one percent of it. What's important — increasingly important — is the process by which you figure out what to look at. This is the beginning of the real and true economics of information. Not who owns the books, who prints the books, who has the holdings. The crux here is access, not holdings. And not even access itself, but the signposts that tell you what to access — what to pay attention to. In the Information Economy everything is plentiful — except attention.