September 30, 2011

The scholarly press book... "isn’t dead; it is undead."

Says Kathleen Fitzpatrick.

IN THE COMMENTS: Yashu says:
While Fitzpatrick makes some good points (e.g. about problems with the peer review process-- though I'm not sure I buy her solution), the main thrust of her argument makes me break out in hives. It's the Elizabeth Warren political vision, advocating the priority of "community" over "individual achievement." It's Warren's critique of the business world transposed to academia (where "professorial culture is infected by pride in individual achievements and prejudice against publishing models that would de-emphasize them"):

I don’t think academics need to be "humbled," but would instead say that we need to reconfigure our priorities and understand that insofar as we have operated as individuals, it has always been by building on the work of others, and by putting our work into circulation such that it can be built upon. Some fields of course already operate in predominantly collaborative ways, as do most successful online projects, but the humanities in general have a deeply ingrained belief in the primacy of the individual voice. If we are going to take full advantage of the new ways of working that digital technologies make available, scholars will have to consider the possibility that we can accomplish more collectively than we can alone. This is not to say that the individual voice will be wholly subsumed within that of the Borg. Instead, it is meant to suggest that that voice will very often be found in more direct dialogue with other scholars, an interconnectedness that will make clear that, in fact, the individual voice that we so value has never been alone.

As you note, shifting our focus from the individual to the collaborative will require us to get past some fairly entrenched assumptions. We in the humanities will need to think differently about “credit,” so that collaborative work will count in hiring, tenure, and promotion processes. We’ll also need to develop new means of citing the contributions that our colleagues make to our work as it develops. But even more than our processes, we need to change our mindset: we need to understand ourselves as working toward collective goals; we need to value work done on behalf of a community as much as we do work that serves ourselves.
Yashu continues here.

14 comments:

Carol_Herman said...

First, look at Hamlet!

It's still in print. And, it gets put into production!

But it's a GHOST story! As if we still believe in ghost stories!

Then, it tells of a young man, who is told by his father's ghost ... to go seek revenge on his mother.

Does DNA talk?

You buy the story that the DNA leaves tracks ... so that men listen to their dad's ghost? I don't think so.

But that's just me.

Shakespeare really did have a knack with language, though. It's nice to get your ears trained so that you can still hear the vocabulary.

We should do the same thing with the King James version of the Bible. (Which is really Tindale's. The guy who got burnt at the stake for translating the Vulgate. From Greek to English.)

And, the pope had him burned at the stake!

What did King James do? He called together about 30 or 60 scholars. And, they fine toothed combed Tindale's translation ... fixing it where he had written "you" ... and they went all the way with "thou."

Ear training encourages freedom ... because it opens people up to the music of words.

In the "publish or perish" world ... the real worry has got to be that magazines to accept your articles are dropping dead. And, libraries are cutting their subscriptions.

Carol_Herman said...

I still remember Murray Gell-Mann's story. He wanted to write into one of his quantum formula "The 8-Fold Way." And, the editors of the American physics magazine 'blue penciled this.'

Oh, yeah.

And, then when he wanted to call a particular part of a piece of the atom ... a "quark" ... the editors of the American physics journal, blue penciled this out.

He went around them! TO ENGLAND!

While Richard Feynman called these pieces "partons." Gell-Mann.

Because using James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake ... for "3 quarks for Mr. Mark) ... found linguistic success.

It pays to read far and wide.

Scott M said...

lol

I'm currently editing a novella on this very subject.

edutcher said...

Hmmm

I've read some good ones...

but not recently.

yashu said...

While Fitzpatrick makes some good points (e.g. about problems with the peer review process-- though I'm not sure I buy her solution), the main thrust of her argument makes me break out in hives. It's the Elizabeth Warren political vision, advocating the priority of "community" over "individual achievement." It's Warren's critique of the business world transposed to academia (where "professorial culture is infected by pride in individual achievements and prejudice against publishing models that would de-emphasize them"):

I don’t think academics need to be "humbled," but would instead say that we need to reconfigure our priorities and understand that insofar as we have operated as individuals, it has always been by building on the work of others, and by putting our work into circulation such that it can be built upon. Some fields of course already operate in predominantly collaborative ways, as do most successful online projects, but the humanities in general have a deeply ingrained belief in the primacy of the individual voice. If we are going to take full advantage of the new ways of working that digital technologies make available, scholars will have to consider the possibility that we can accomplish more collectively than we can alone. This is not to say that the individual voice will be wholly subsumed within that of the Borg. Instead, it is meant to suggest that that voice will very often be found in more direct dialogue with other scholars, an interconnectedness that will make clear that, in fact, the individual voice that we so value has never been alone.

As you note, shifting our focus from the individual to the collaborative will require us to get past some fairly entrenched assumptions. We in the humanities will need to think differently about “credit,” so that collaborative work will count in hiring, tenure, and promotion processes. We’ll also need to develop new means of citing the contributions that our colleagues make to our work as it develops. But even more than our processes, we need to change our mindset: we need to understand ourselves as working toward collective goals; we need to value work done on behalf of a community as much as we do work that serves ourselves.

Paddy O said...

Weird, if the scholarly press business is dead, what are all these books I'm buying, and enjoying?

It's pretty lively still in the theology world, but maybe because there's a bit of a renaissance in theological studies these days while other fields are rather more moribund.

yashu said...

NB she's talking about the humanities, not the sciences-- which, by their nature, are & must be collaborative. IMO the humanities are a different kettle of fish-- a realm where "the individual voice" should have a place to flourish, be valued & cultivated. Of course, all scholars depend on & draw from others' scholarship & research; all scholarship is dialogic & cumulative; and credit should be given to those scholars who've collaborated & contributed to others' work.

But the great humanities scholars, the great interpreters of art & culture (whether that's philosophers, literary critics, art historians, cultural theorists, etc.) are distinctive minds with distinctive sensibilities & perspectives, who offer unexpected insights, original analyses, new syntheses, who enlarge our view of of the human by disclosing different aspects of it-- not necessarily by "working toward collective goals." To subject all scholarly work to a kind of crowd-sourced smoothing-out & flattening, masticated by the mediocrity & tyranny of the majority… yuck.

I'm being kind of unfair here: what she's advocating can be seen, more positively, as giving more value (e.g. in tenure considerations) to the dialogic, participatory dimension of scholarship. Like, appreciating someone's work as a blog commenter-- and not just as a blogger-- as a significant contribution to the blogosphere. Thus, scholars should be assessed "based on how helpful they have been in reviewing and refining ideas that have been set down by others," on their activities as an "academic citizen," assessing "a scholar's participation in his or her community of practice as being as important as the production of his or her own work."

"As important"? This prioritizing of collaborative work-- done for, within, & on behalf of the "community"-- still makes me gag. It reminds me too much of something I've always loathed in all my school years-- being forced to work "in groups," doing academic projects/ presentations "as a team," being graded for "class participation."

Of course, some scholars do thrive doing collaborative work-- and that should be counted, why not, in tenure deliberations. But Fitzpatrick's overall vision would appeal to those who feel at home & at one with the academic "community" & its "goals" (whatever those might be). To the more individualistic scholar, who may depart from the current theoretical trends, commonplaces, & PC consensus, the scholar who prefers to work in depth, at length, & independently from others, to require him to devote himself to the "community" (more than he's already required to do) would be not a help but a distraction from or even threat to his own work. And this, in the end, would detract from the academic community & its contributions to the larger world. IMO.

But perhaps I recoil most because of the foibles of my own personality-- someone introverted, who prefers to work alone. Who values academia for the opportunity it provides to do my own work, but who feels alienated from (& even repelled by) it as a "community." As one of the commenters to the piece writes:

A question: There seems to be a certain fear among scholars, who often like to work alone, that their solitude will somehow be intruded on in the brave new collaborative world. Are there certain kinds of academic work that are best done in solitude, and will they suffer? Will the models you describe favor the gregarious scholar over the reclusive one?

Carol_Herman said...

RE: ELIZABETH WARREN

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds had up the photoshop-ed with one of those clueless wonders ...

So women who got raped would thank the manufacturers who designed the really short skirts. And, the taxpayers who provided the roads ... so you could get this crap to the customers.

Nothing like thanking the wonderful designers who make this stuff real popular!

While back in the old days ... when women wore really long skirts ... they could trip over their hemline ... and break their necks.

While all broken bones were hard to fix.

Not that anything's foolproof!

Carol_Herman said...

I wonder how many resumes contain fake articles ... that no one thinks gets looked up?

Zach said...

With the large caveat that I work in the sciences rather than the humanities, I don't think her proposal of publishing it all and relying on post-publication review is very good.

When I look through the literature, I'm either trying to answer a specific question or to figure out the current state of the art. So what I'm really looking for is correctness and originality. When I'm not familiar with the field I read review articles, where the main criterion is comprehensiveness. Most searches will come up with at least 10 papers that seem at least a little interesting, so I'm looking at 50-60 pages that have to be at least skimmed through.

The criteria of being technically correct, original and giving a fair summary of the field should be easily achievable by any paper that is remotely publication worthy. It's hard for me to get any value out of a paper if I have to dig into multiple pages of post publication commentary to figure out whether the paper clears these very low hurdles.

Note that I'm not asking the paper to solve all problems in the field, agree with fashionable groupthink, or give an exhaustive summary of all related work. It's just got to be good enough that it helps someone working in the field rather than wasting their time.

The Crack Emcee said...

Don't care, don't care, don't care, don't care, I really don't care.

Still nothing on my piece that mentions you and Glenn, huh?

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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