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Open access and closed discourses: Constructing open access as a development issue.


  • Jutta Haider

Summary, in English

This thesis investigates the connection between open access – the free online availability and distribution of scientific and scholarly publications – and the ‘developing world’ from a post- development perspective. It takes a discourse analytical approach, drawing predominantly on Michel Foucault’s understanding of discourse. It aims to answer the following questions:

- Which notions of science, of development and progress, of knowledge as well as of information and technology are capitalised on in the open access debates and in which way are they shaped as a consequence? - Which discursive effects can be established, what are the results and of which kind are they?

The thesis is divided into six chapters, chapters 2 to 5 are grouped into two parts. In the introduction (chapter 1) the general problem space is outlined, the connection between the open access movement and the ‘developing world’ is established; the research approach is briefly sketched, followed by a presentation of the research questions. Furthermore, the relevance of the study for Library and Information Science is discussed. Chapter 2 introduces the notion of discourse. It contains a discussion of the Foucauldian concept of discourse in relation to the notions of knowledge, truth, and power, as well as resistance, governmentality, and pastoral power. The manifestation of discourse in language is discussed with reference to Michel Pêcheux. The way in which discourses are dispersed unevenly in society is examined. It concludes with a presentation of the concept of the discursive procedure, which forms the basis for the analyses.

Chapter 3 introduces post-development theory, specifically focusing on development discourse. It presents and problematises the concept of development, of poverty and ignorance, as well as of science. The historical foundations of development discourse and the role of science and technology in it are examined.

Chapter 4 investigates the representation of open access in its relation to development. It is based on a corpus consisting of 38 articles and similar publications and 5 statements and declarations. The latter are also examined from a genre perspective. The following discursive procedures are identified: (1) Leaving a blank or defining the undefinable: The elusiveness of the ‘developing world’, (2) Technologism and technological determinism, (3) Economism, (4) Scientific centralism and scientism, (5) Temporal distancing. It concludes with a discussion of the guiding metaphor, the divide.

Chapter 5 investigates how open access is debated in the context of development. It draws on a two-week long email debate organised by a development institution in 2006. 146 postings by 49 participants are included in the analysis. The following discursive procedures are identified: (1) Technologism, (2) The role of the profession: mediation, translation, and control, (3) Rural people and the lack of education, (4) Developmentalism and anti- developmentalism: Positioning oneself in and against development. It concludes with a discussion of the guiding metaphor, the barrier, as well as of identity construction.

The concluding chapter 6 is concerned with providing a sum-up of the analyses with a view to answering the research questions. It considers a possible future for the open access movement in its relation to the ‘developing world’ and concludes with a brief discussion of issues relevant for future research.

The main findings suggest that the ‘developing world’ is constructed around the coordinates provided by mainstream development thought. Open access is inserted into its discursive repertoire as a problem of development, a tool for its delivery, and its measure. The dominant understanding of information adheres to a sender/receiver model. However, ruptures occur in significant places. This requires a partial re-positioning of the way in which development is framed and of open access’ role in it.

Publishing year




Document type



City University: London, UK


  • Information Studies



Research group

  • Information Studies


  • David Bawden

Defence date

28 June 2008

Defence time


Defence place



  • Eva Hemmungs Wirtén