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May 19, 2013 7:14 PM Aaron Swartz lives

By Kathleen Geier

The legacy of the late internet activist Aaron Swartz lives on.

Just this past week, Aaron received the ultimate pop culture tribute: he was the answer to a question on Jeopardy. The topic was “Tech Drop-Outs.” Here’s the clue, which was worth $2,000:

This Stanford dropout & RSS pioneer died in 2013 while fighting government charges

Even more impressive is that the contestant who answered the question got it right!

But Jeopardy is far from the only attention, cultural, political, or otherwise, that Aaron has received since his tragic death this past January. Consider the following:

— There were long-form profiles of Aaron that appeared in Slate, New York magazine, the New Republic, the Atlantic, the Verge, and the New Yorker.

— A Kickstarter for an authorized documentary about Aaron met its goal in a matter of days.

— Posthumously, Aaron won the American Library Association’s prestigious James Madison Award, which honors “individuals or groups who have championed, protected and promoted public access to government information and the public’s right to know at the national level.”

— An artist in Greenpoint, Brooklyn made Aaron the subject of his latest mural.

— Two federal laws have been proposed that bear his influence. One, called “Aaron’s Law,” “aims to change the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the wire fraud statute to exclude terms of service violations.” The other, called FASTR, would advance open access by requiring federal agencies to provide the public with online access to scholarly articles that result from publicly funded research.

— Finally, just this week the New Yorker magazine launched Strongbox, an internet drop box Aaron co-created that allows users to anonymously deposit leaked documents.

I’m sure that there were also be books written about Aaron, and the inevitable Hollywood biopic can’t be far behind. Like Bird and Frodo, Aaron lives!

But while it’s heartening to see all this activity taking place to secure his legacy, like so many people, I miss Aaron — a lot. I miss his blog. I feel a chill when I come across his contact info on my cell phone, which I still can’t bring myself to delete. I’m happy to see that political campaigns to promote his ideas and causes are moving forward. That kind of activism is the key to creating the better world he dreamed about, and it is the most important part of his legacy. But the idealism, political smarts, and intellectual energy and joy which Aaron embodied are ever in short supply, and the world will always remain a darker place without his light.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee

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