I'm not gonna write you a love song

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Interruption #3.

Just got back from doing a guest shot at one of the RSA Summer Institute Workshops, and while I suppose that I could have been better organized, the conversation was a little disappointing.

To wit. The conversation with Laura, Mark, and Tim the other day began in part with Tim's remarks about the academixploitativeness of the publishing oligarchy. The idea that we give our scholarship to big corporations, which then charge outrageous prices to sell it back to us through our libraries, is something that could only make sense in the cottage economy of academia.

Anyhow, one of the things that we're proudest of when it comes to CCC Online is the way that we're able to duplicate almost all of the functionality of the big vendors, for a fraction of the cost and in a way that's genuinely scalable to smaller journals and online journals. So imagine my joy at having the opportunity to defend what we're doing against the alternative of just rounding up all our journals, giving them to one of the oligops, and letting them "do it for us."

I was less than convincing, I suspect. There are good answers, having to do with browsability, folksonomy, access, the kinds of exploratory and heuristic visualizations that Derek is working on, and the fact that our tools are much more modular and manipulable. Unfortunately, I'm much more coherent after a two-hour drive than I was this afternoon. And honestly, a little bit of my will was sapped today. I've put two-plus years of work in on this site, learned a great deal, and (with a great deal of help, of course) produced a site that should be a model for how we distribute and circulate our work to each other.

What I fear people see/hear when I talk about this site, however, is A Big Scary Technology That If I Can't Understand Must Be Time/Labor/Cost/Energy Prohibitive For Anyone But The Geekiest Of Our Colleagues. Believe me when I say that this is indeed a category. I've seen it over and over and over for more than 10 years now.

There are days where I honestly believe that I can put in the work and effort to transform for the better the way we do what we do as academics. And days where I believe that we already have with our work on CCCOA.

And then there are days. Days where I'm not gonna write my discipline a love song.

That is all.


Wait a minute, I think I walked by you when I was leaving the medical rhetoric workshop. You were outside, I think. I was trying to figure out a voicemail from my mother who keeps hitting the wrong buttons. I knew that guy looked familiar!

Yeppers, that was me, sporting a cap and displaying my Penn State (?!) pride. Sorry we didn't at least say hi...

As you say, there are days. It's taken me too long to figure out the fairly obvious fact that peoples' attitudes towards the discipline's engagement with technology change from day to day. A while back, I couldn't understand the dust-up over the call for being "critical," but now, with what you've written here, I think I understand a lot better.

And I think I understand what you're talking about a lot better because I've just gone through my first year as an assistant prof, and I've seen firsthand the paranoid terror among senior faculty at doing things in any way other than they've always been done. There was a good bit of that "I don't know how to do it so I don't trust it" at CCCC this year. It's frustrating.

Yup. I guess part of what gets me down is that so much of what we do takes place in isolation from each other, and unnecessarily so.

The discussion today was all about how great these proprietary oligops are, with little to no awareness of (a) how they maintain the illusion of the isolated scholar, (b) how the multiple silos keep us from reading each others' work interdisciplinarily, (c) how feeding that machine directly impacts the rapidly declining budgets available for things like book series in our fields, and (d) how it privileges a print model of journals. And on and on.

Goodness knows, I'm no expert on the economics of it, but even I know it's screwy. But there are a lot of folks who use these vendors precisely so they don't have to rethink some of these assumptions.

Ugh. Time to think about something else. Puppies. Kittens. Baseball. Something.


It's even worse than you say. You aren't in an English department dominated by literary expectations. Turns out the English departments expect the single-authored book more than ever, despite the fact that University Presses are folding faster than deck chairs on the Titanic. Fortunately, I work in a department that recognizes the worth of online publishing. It's going there, and you are one of the small band leading the way.

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This page contains a single entry by cgbrooke published on June 23, 2007 10:49 PM.

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