Arc (NetGalley) Review: The Idealist- Aaron Swartz And The Rise Of Free Culture On The Internet

The Idealist


Product Details: 

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (January 12, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476767726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476767727
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds



A smart, lively history of the Internet free culture movement and its larger effects on society—and the life and shocking suicide of Aaron Swartz, a founding developer of Reddit and Creative Commons—from Slatecorrespondent Justin Peters.

Aaron Swartz was a zealous young advocate for the free exchange of information and creative content online. He committed suicide in 2013 after being indicted by the government for illegally downloading millions of academic articles from a nonprofit online database. From the age of fifteen, when Swartz, a computer prodigy, worked with Lawrence Lessig to launch Creative Commons, to his years as a fighter for copyright reform and open information, to his work leading the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), to his posthumous status as a cultural icon, Swartz’s life was inextricably connected to the free culture movement. Now Justin Peters examines Swartz’s life in the context of 200 years of struggle over the control of information.

In vivid, accessible prose, The Idealist situates Swartz in the context of other “data moralists” past and present, from lexicographer Noah Webster to ebook pioneer Michael Hart to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the process, the book explores the history of copyright statutes and the public domain; examines archivists’ ongoing quest to build the “library of the future”; and charts the rise of open access, copyleft, and other ideologies that have come to challenge protectionist IP policies. Peters also breaks down the government’s case against Swartz and explains how we reached the point where federally funded academic research came to be considered private property, and downloading that material in bulk came to be considered a federal crime.

The Idealist is an important investigation of the fate of the digital commons in an increasingly corporatized Internet, and an essential look at the impact of the free culture movement on our daily lives and on generations to come.



For those who have yet to watch the documentary The Internet’s Own Boy, this book by Author Justin Peters poses as both alternative and complement. United States Vs. Swartz has been a much talked about trial in the history of the Internet. After all, it was the moment when the legal system failed to prove that it was unbiased and didn’t have to resort to ‘making examples’ out of people.

You will NOT be disappointed by this book. It shows how academic research sanctioned by the government such as J-Stor can be kept from the hands of the researchers unless they cough up a premium fee. Is this what education has come to? A haven where profit is prioritized over knowledge? Aaron died a martyr, but he was demonized by many for standing up to a system which systematically took apart his confidence piece by piece until he could bear it no longer and took his own life much to the dismay of the online community.

Knowledge is power, Aaron knew this, and so he tried to make information as uniform as possible. His contributions span from helping form the creative commons to being the man behind RSS feeds and Reddit. He’s done his part, so it’s time that we do ours.



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