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An interesting piece of news floated across Twitterspace, and across some blogs this week: the revelation that the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine was, in fact, a fake journal sponsored by a pharmaceutical company. Even more dismaying was a followup story about how Elsevier, publisher of AJBJM, has an entire division devoted to such fraudulence, the so-called strategic medical communications agency, Excerpta Medica. Over at the ACRLog, Barbara Fister has a nice post with the link to the original Scientist article that outed the journal, as well as some discussion of the information literacy implications. Long story short, Elsevier's track record with respect to integrity is not particularly sparkling.

While it's hard to imagine something similar happening in the humanities, recent discussions of a particular anti-plagiarism vendor should probably give us rhetoric and technology folk pause, particularly when you recall that the most likely outlet for scholarship related to said vendor happens to be an Elsevier journal. But I digress.

It's tempting, I think, to see this and other events as further indictments of the academy's fetishization of peer review, but I'm not sure I would agree. And I say that as someone who would really like to see other models available to us for the circulation and distribution of our work. But the fact of the matter is that problems like these have more to do with the oligopolists than with peer review per se.

I review for several journals now, and honestly, I see maybe 1-2 submissions per journal a year. I have some quality control as a result, but the real responsibility for quality lies with the editorial staff of each, the folk who aggregate the results. I've thought a bit about what it must be like for those who were hoodwinked by the press into sitting on the board or reviewing for these journals, because my gut reaction to this story was to blame the reviewers. But that's assuming that submissions actually made it to reviewers, and there's no real guarantee that this is the case. Writers and reviewers alike operate on good faith, the assumption that there's some integrity at the editorial stage. Beyond a certain size, the editorial staff cease to function as part of peer review--their function is more aggregation and facilitation. And given the kind of money involved with the oligopoly journals, I guess I'm not totally surprised at something like this.

It's shameful, but not as shameful as it would be if the reviewers for a "real" journal had been found to be accepting money from Merck (or whomever) for certain outcomes.

Hmm. I feel like I have more to say, but I'm not sure what. Maybe I'll revisit this post after I think about it. For now, though, that's all.

The more, the messier

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Even after not having been there, one of the nice things about CCCC, at least in a program where many people go, are the conversations that take place afterward. And although I'm a grouser, I would admit secretly to a certain amount of energizing that takes place even as I think the conference needs improvement desperately.

So the question of scale. When I wrote that I thought that the conference had gone awry for reasons of scale, it would be more accurate to say that the conference hasn't scaled along with the membership. And by that, I mean to challenge the commonsense idea of "the more, the merrier," or what's sometimes described in network studies as the "network effect," the idea that as more users opt in to something, the more value the network accrues for everyone who's part of it. The classic example of this is the fax machine. The more fax machines that people buy, the more value it has as a communication device for everyone who already owns one. And this is true of utilities in general.

There's a great piece over at RWW today on the reverse network effect, though, which is something I've seen less discussion of. The basic idea is that, unlike an app like Skype or PayPal, where the network effect is pretty much ongoing, social networking applications, for most users, actually plateau in usefulness, regardless of how many users there are. It doesn't matter to anyone who doesn't work for Facebook that the service now has 175 million users rather than 50 or 100 million.

Bernard Lunn explains:

In a social network, the value for existing users of a new user joining the network plateaus once users have most of their own contacts in that network.

There's a finite limit to the amount of networking/socializing we can do, and once we reach that limit, we will either stop growing our network, or the quality of that network will change. Perhaps we will turn from "hanging out with close friends" to "social butterflying," for instance. I would argue that this process is never necessarily stable--that there are both centripetal and centrifugal forces at play--that we are our own "deictic systems." Nevertheless, I think this sense of plateau-ing is largely correct.

To bring this back to discussions of the conference, I think that there's a point in our careers (and while it may happen at different times for each of us, I think it still is pretty common) where the conference shifts from being a place to meet new folk to being one where we caretake the connections we already have.

Here's how I'd test it, if I were of a mind to do a project: I would do a massive survey of conference attendees, and ask them to answer the following two questions: which sessions did you attend? why did you choose them?

My guess is that new and relatively new attendees are more likely to attend sessions because (a) they want to learn more about a topic, (b) they want to see a scholar whose work they respect/admire, and/or (c) the person/people they were with decided to go. Furthermore, I suspect that not only do more experienced conference-goers attend fewer sessions, but that they are far more likely to attend sessions by people whom they already know (ie, friends, colleagues, and/or students) than for the reasons above. It's not a perfect threshold, but I suspect that the patterns would emerge if you separated out folks who had been to 4 or fewer and 5 or more.

Partly, that's because attending sessions is one of the ways you reinforce extant ties as a conference vet. And those ties carry trust and affinity, but also obligation. I can remember plenty of times where another panel sounded more interesting to me personally, but where I opted instead for panels of those whom I wanted to support.

I'm most certainly not saying that one reason is better than another. What I am saying, though, is that once you've gone to CCCC a few times, your motivations may shift. Inevitably, there is a point at which the network value provided by the conference plateaus. Doesn't mean that you stop meeting new people completely, or that you never go to a panel with speakers you don't know, just that these activities are much less likely.

And these network plateaus organize themselves differently. For some people, it may be a SIG or Caucus that they attend every year. Some people may basically attend CCCC to catch up with their grad school friends. Some may attend as a way of mentoring their own students. Some may only do it to keep up with the work being done in their speciality. Again, none of these reasons is better than any other, just different. And these are all valid reasons to hold the conference and to attend the conference.

For me, a question worth asking, though, is whether or not there's a point after which that plateau begins to turn into a downward slope, as Lunn describes it. I think it fair to say that the recent (@5 years) spate of articles and CCCC papers bemoaning the absence of X, Y, or Z is a sign of this. And I notice that spate because many of them are drawing upon CCCC programs as evidence of this fact.

In some ways, our conference is designed according to an implicit faith in the constancy of a disciplinary network effect. I talked a little about this here when folks were talking about CCCC rejections, about how more specialized research was disadvantaged by the decisions made regarding the submission process. I also think that there's at least an implicit assumption that good proposals are those that target a general audience, including newcomers to the field. There's a reverse network effect as a result, one that Alex talked about yesterday, where the same questions are repeated year after year, because we're not encouraged to assume any prior knowledge in our proposals or our presentations.

But you may say to yourself, this is not my beautiful MLA!

In many ways, MLA suffers from the opposite problem, I suppose, given the way that their conference is organized and designed. Tied as it is to the misery of the job search, MLA doesn't have to worry about attracting newcomers.

But surely there's some in-between space. I have to believe that it's possible for a conference of this scope and size to be able to accommodate newcomers while still be rewarding for those whose motivations differ. The fact that folk use the CCCC program as evidence of our field's failings and/or neglect and/or fragmentation should be a sign to all of us that there are plenty of us who want something more from the conference, that it might be a place that serves both community and discipline.

Would it surprise you to learn that I've been talking about this for 5 years now? Here's an idea I posted in 2004, complete with my old skool design if you follow the link:

Book of the Year: Every year, several books in our field are nominated for a book of the year award (and one or two receive it). Plan a series of sessions, each of which focuses on one of the BOTY nominees. Allow the author to hand-pick 2-3 people to give presentations about the book and then the author would be a respondent. Participants in the BOTY series would be allowed to do a second presentation (assuming that their proposal had been accepted).

I still love this idea. And here's the thing. It would be a thread of sessions that (a) rewards the best scholarship being done in the field that year (in book form, at least); (b) rewards the writers of those books (by featuring their work in the program; (c) recognizes that work in a highly visible way; (d) functions as a centralizing force for the discipline and conference; (e) introduces newcomers to the best work being done by experienced colleagues; and (f) provides some space for sessions where advanced discussions of quality work might happen.

But I'm drifting off-point a little, and this has become much longer than I'd planned initially. (It started as a one-para linklove post to RWW.) Here's my broader point: for certain people in our field, there is an advantage to having a 5000-person conference rather than a 500-person one. There are more people to meet, sessions to choose from, etc. For others in our field, the advantage is reversed, because many of them may feel that the smaller conferences (like RSA, e.g.) allow you to accomplish more specialized, sophisticated work.

As for me? I believe that a genuinely flagship conference should be able to achieve both the social value of 5000 and the disciplinary value of 500. And I'm hypothesizing here that our org has pursued the former at the expense of the latter, even though I honestly believe that this expense has been largely unintended. That's the reverse network effect.

And that is all.

At Watson last fall, I gave a talk that was about, among other things, the idea of the "antilibrary" from Taleb's Black Swan, the idea that significant parts of our libraries are unread because for researchers, having read something is less valuable than knowing where to find it when you need it. And at the end of the talk, I said something like this:

this is less about technology, and more about rethinking our basic practices to include collection as one of our goals. For example, imagine a graduate seminar where instead of studying 2 or 3 articles chosen by the professor, students are instead responsible for locating and representing 2 or 3 articles that they've found themselves on that week's topic. Instead of 10 sets of detailed notes on the week's readings, each student would walk away with detailed notes for 25-30 essays. The conversational dynamics of such a course would be different, certainly, but such a seminar could accomplish a great deal in a short span of time if it were devoted to mapping out broad sets of texts rather than mastering a small handful. The point would be to shift our focus from reading to a combination, at the very least, of reading and not reading.

So this spring, I decided to take myself up on this thought experiment. The experimental part of the course won't begin in earnest for a couple of weeks yet, but I've started assembling the online portion of it. Here's the idea:

Over the last ten weeks of the course, we're going to be looking at the past ten years of composition and rhetoric, one year per week. During the week, everyone in the course will read that year's Braddock Award winner from CCC and the Kinneavy Award winner from JAC. In addition, each of the students will be locating 4 essays (or book chapters) published in that calendar year, taking notes on each, posting those notes to our course blog, and then tagging that entry in delicious. (I'll be doing the same for the shared essays.) Multiply this by 10 students, and by the end of the semester, we'll have a database of more than 400 essays from the past 10 years of the field.

I've encouraged them to use this exercise as a way of doing some preliminary research for their comprehensive exams, so the database won't be representative. Nevertheless, we'll be paying attention, via tags, to methods, key thinkers, etc., and so my hope is that certain patterns will emerge. I'll be encouraging them to think about their focus areas rather than extrapolating their findings to the discipline as a whole, so I'm hoping that some value will come of it.

And I'm certainly curious to see how our discussions will go. I'm still not sure how that part of things will work out. But that's what I'll be thinking about in my teaching this sem.

Blogging Conferential

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It's been a remarkably unconferential spring for me--I bailed on CCCC this year, am not going next year, and currently, RSA and C&W are happening without me, and doing just fine, I imagine. But over round Blogora way, Rosa asks, "who is livebloggin RSA in Seattle?" and the answer would appear to be no one. I've seen a couple of entries, and a handful of tweets, about C&W, but nothing steady. So I'm breaking prose silence to offer up a modest proposal, one I think I may have talked about before...

If I were hosting a conference, I think I'd see about raising money in order to have a bunch of folk blog the sessions. I know that there used to be something similar for CCCC, but I think that that was strictly a volunteer effort. So here's my proposal:

Offer 5 travel stipends to graduate students at $1000 apiece. To earn that money, they must commit to blogging at least one panel during the majority of sessions during the conference. (I can't be more specific, because it would depend greatly on the conference format, breaks between sessions, keynotes, etc.) For the sake of argument, let's say that that number is 10. So $100 per session.

In an ideal world, the organization would provide the laptops. That is coming closer and closer to becoming a reality, financially. My ultra set-up cost less than $300, and the prices on these things will only drop as Intel gets further into the game. But for the sake of argument, I'm going to assume that most would have their own or one they can borrow.

Also, lap desks. They don't need to be from Levenger or anything. You can get a good one at B&N for $30. It's worth it.

Also, a lounge/room set aside for them to store coats, bags, gear, laptops, with Wifi, cable hookups if they need, and bottles of water and bagels/muffins. Also, if they prefer to type up handwritten notes, they could do that here as well.

Someone from the organization would coordinate with them, so that all 5 aren't blogging the same panel during a given session, of course. But otherwise, they'd just be turned loose on the conference.

The upside? It'd be awfully nice for the majority of people in any organization who don't come to the conference, yes. But it would also provide a means of archiving what is now our #1 source of almost completely disposable scholarship. I've given some interesting papers now and then, and the only record of them outside of my hard drive is the paper title in the program. It would give all of us access to a largely untapped area of our disciplinary scholarship.

I'm not talking about posting the papers themselves, although I sometimes will do that for myself, so it wouldn't be an issue of a pre-print threatening those who want to publish longer versions later on. But a good blog summary of a panel would be enough to let researchers know if they'd like to follow up and email a presenter for a copy of the paper.

Or, imagine that you're putting together a panel on X for a future conference. It'd be nice to be able to do a search for folks working on that topic. Or to gather some ideas about possible folk for an edited collection. Or to get some idea about whose work you might want to follow up on for an article of your own about X.

Right now, the scholarship we do for conferences vanishes into the ether for the most part. Blogging the conference in a semi-systematic fashion would mitigate against that, and it would make all of us who don't attend every single conference feel a lot more connected. That wouldn't be a horrible thing, either.

Let's say that we have 1000 people in an organization, which is probably an overestimate for some and under for others. But given 1000 dues-paying members, it would take and extra $5 a year to pull this off, and the result would be access to a cumulative database of 150 presentations per conference (5 bloggers x 10 panels x 3 presenters/panel).

Finally, it would be a nice way to support our graduate students and it would be, I imagine, a really valuable introduction to the breadth of our discipline for those who participated. At conferences like RSA and C&W, the majority of the panels could be blogged. It would be a little more of a drop in the bucket at a conference like Cs, but that's the organization most capable of scaling this up beyond just 5 bloggers, too.

Seriously, I'd pay $5 or $10 more a year if a database from each year of the conference was the result. If someone could get on that for me...heh.

That is all.

No C's for you!

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As most people who expected to see me in New Orleans have learned by now, I'm not there. It's not as dramatic as some may think. I've been struggling a little health-wise this semester--nothing big, but a lot of small things, and it's taken me longer to recover than it did when I was, say, 20. Or 30 even. I was sick again last weekend, when otherwise I would have been leaving on the road trip that took me to NO and to CCCC, and I thought to myself that it would be sooo much easier on me physically if I simply bailed on it this year. And so I did.

I feel sad not to see everyone, and a little guilty about bailing on my co-panelists, but I feel really good today, and it took a few days of sleep that I wouldn't otherwise have gotten to feel that way. So I think it was the right choice.

I have a couple of QuickTime versions of my talk, which I used to test out Keynote's recording and exporting functions. It's a pared down version of the talk I would have done, and the visuals are done up a little as well. It's not great, but it's there. I've got two versions that you can either watch on screen or download: a smaller 10MB version and the monster 44MB version. You may need to right-click the links to download. The larger version is more faithful to the smart builds in the original presentation, but still a little choppy. It would have looked and probably sounded much better in person. Deal.

And have a good time in NO, everyone. That's all.

Update:It occurred to me that it might be nice if, prior to downloading a 40+ MB file, you had some idea of what it is you were downloading. Here's the abstract that I submitted:

Speaker X: Visualizing the Invisible Collage of Research

In 2006, Brad DeLong likened the academic blogosphere to an invisible college, a metaphor familiar to those of us who use email, discussion lists, and blogs to maintain our social networks of friends and colleagues. Speaker 5 argues that Web 2.0 represents an opportunity to make public other disciplinary networks as well. These technologies allow us to conduct practices like annotation, referencing, and collection collaboratively; in doing so, they permit a different model for knowledge production to emerge. If the blogosphere makes visible the invisible college, our journal web sites may help us reveal the "invisible collage" of texts and ideas that each of us now assembles in isolation.

Ahhh, prognostication. My talk ends up being less about "journal websites" and more about the college/collage play on words, I think. And my examples are drawn more from my own experimenting than from anything happening right now in the field, I fear. But the talk's true to the spirit of the abstract if not the letter. My favorite moment is a slide with Robert Boyle (17th C originator of the phrase "invisible college") and "Ye Olde Webbe 2.0" in an old English font. Cracks me up every time. Anyways. That's what all you're in for if you take a peek. The panel's in a matter of hours, and I have it on fairly good authority that they're going to screen my cast. So you'll sort of see me there. 'Night.

If you're like me, there's a hole in your aggregator where Clay Shirky used to appear regularly. In a lot of ways, he and the rest of the Many2Many crew helped to spark my interests in social software, web2, and network studies. So it's been a little lonelier at Google Reader without him. The hiatus, though, had its consequences: this week, Clay's book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations (Amazon) was released. I was lucky enough to be quick on the draw when Clay posted an offer to bloggers for a free, advance copy in exchange for blogging it, and although I'd hoped to do so before its release (thereby proving my Relevance and insider status), the sad truth is that the crossword tournament and other things got in my way. But here I am now. And here you are. Here we go.

This book will be largely familiar to those of us who have been reading Clay for a few years, and equally familiar in tone and style to those of us who read Gladwell, Johnson, Anderson, etc. There's a genre that's emerged in the past few years that I think of as PopTech (although perhaps sociologists would correct me, since I think these book "intrude" on their territory more than any other)--books that translate both sociological concepts and the technology industries for the more casual reader. I don't think of PopTech as a bad thing--my own attitude is a more open sociology/rhetoric of knowledge kind of thing. So it's interesting to me that these kinds of books are where "my work" is being done most actively. Okay, that's neither here nor there, except to note that the book works hard to be engaging to those who have little stake in the conceptual end of things. Again, not a bad thing.

The about part: HCE is about understanding the changes that are happening as a result of the net, web2, etc. "These changes are profound because they are amplifying or extending our essential social skills, and our characteristic social failings as well" (14). The big change that this book narrates is the move from institutions/organizations as the primary site of social interaction to a more bottom-up activity. In a sense, this is an answer to what Clay calls the "institutional dilemma"--we need institutions to direct our group efforts, to act collectively, but a certain margin of those institutions is devoted to actually directing those efforts (19). "New social tools are altering this equation by lowering the costs of coordinating group action" (31).

One of the profound shifts that this book examines is the move from scarcity to abundance, a theme that you'll find in Anderson's Long Tail as well. But while the original thesis of the Long Tail dealt primarily with commerce and economics, Shirky's focus is on a more interpersonal scale. In an age of media scarcity, where access to publication and broadcast is limited, the "professionals" are those whose job it is to filter our media pre-publication. With social tools, more and more, it's instead "publish, then filter." But Shirky's careful not to suggest that utopia is just around the corner: "The limiting effect of scale on interaction is bad news for people hoping for the dawn of an egalitarian age ushered in by our social tools" (95). And that's one of the nice features of this book, overall, the fact that Shirky doesn't fall victim to the temptation to try and discuss these tools outside of their social context. It recalls for me his discussion of A-lists, power laws, etc., from the good old days. These tools may address technological or media issues, but that doesn't mean that our social or cognitive limitations have somehow vanished along with them.

One of my favorite posts from Shirky's site is "The FCC, Weblogs, and Inequality," which has my favorite subtitle of all time: "Diverse. Free. Equal. Pick two." He goes into a little more detail in the book, of course, but of particular interest to me was his discussion of power laws, motivation, and collaboration in Chapter 5, where he notes that "imbalance drives large social systems rather than damaging them" (125), which I take to be a gentler translation of that original point. The book shifts at this point to talking about collective action, flash mobs, political action, cultural capital, and small worlds. And that's an awfully skate overview of those latter chapters, I fear.

What happened for me as I read through the book was that by the final couple of chapters, it felt like all of the narratives and terms really coalesced into the overriding message of the book. And the final chapter pretty well sums it up: "Promise, Tool, Bargain." Only one of those is technological, you'll notice, and each is as essential as the other two. According to Shirky, "The promise creates the basic desire to participate...After getting the promise right (or right enough), the next hurdle is figuring out which tools will best help people approach the promise together...Then...A successful bargain among users must be a good fit for both the promise and the tools used" (261). Of these, the bargain was the trickiest for me, and it's the trickiest of the three in general, I think. But really, it's everything from explicit contract to implicit, phatic exchange.

I'm not sure that there's a formula, though. In fact, let me change that around: I'm sure there's not a formula, but one of the things that Shirky discusses in the second-to-last chapter is how these new tools make failure "free"--if no one's interested in your obscure Wikipedia page, or your Meetup group, or your Flickr account, or your blog post, then if that's not part of your bargain, you just drop it/them. In traditional organizations (pace James Dyson), there's not a lot of room for failure, which translates into lost resources, or adds to that margin of costs. Online, though, if your group doesn't fly, or your discussion list fades, or enough people don't pay attention to you, then you just go on to do other things. Failure is free.

And this may be the most interesting part of the book to me. "Cheap failure, valuable as it is on its own, is also a key part of a more complex advantage: the exploration of multiple possibilities" (247). In other words, as much as this is a book about organization and about social tools, I left the book thinking of it as a book about social and organizational invention, and I mean that more in the rhetorical sense than in the corporate sense of innovation. It's a nice bridge between the more technical ideas (power laws, e.g.) and the concrete, practical examples thereof. And it's a book that would be accessible to those of my colleagues who don't think of technology as something they "do." The tools are only part of the equation; in many cases, we're part of it ourselves.

As a close, I think this book would/will be valuable for those who are looking to connect up rhetoric of social movement kind of work with technology and/or the language of networks (which is getting full-on buzz in my field right now, I think). Donna mentioned something to this effect last week, and I think she's right to call for this kind of cross-pollination. It's definitely worth reading, and it's a good entry point for folks in my field to some of these issues.

That's all.

Re/Visions are Live

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I'm assuming that the issues themselves are going into the mail soon, but if you visit the NCTE site (which I seem to be doing a lot lately), you'll find the most recent issue of CCC available, which includes the Re/Visions piece from Anne, Jeff, and I.

The issue index is here, and the article itself is available here. You'll need to be a subscriber to download it, though. If you want a free copy of the Janangelo article, it's available on the front page of the CCC Online Archive.

I'm just heading out; otherwise, I wouldn't violate the rule against deictic linking. Sorry about that.

Tonight's entry is prompted by the arrival today of several entries in Google Reader, the most recent entries fed there and published at the Kenneth Burke Journal:

KB Journal feed

The KB Journal is, unfortunately, one of the only journals in our field that is (a) using RSS feeds, and (b) using them correctly. Exhibit A in how not to use them comes from the Project MUSE journals. I was excited to see that their journals had feeds, until the first one arrived. Basically, they feed a link to the table of contents page for new issues. This is okay, I suppose, but differs little from sending announcements to email lists.

What the KB Journal does (and Written Communication and CCC also do) is to create entries for each article, with more information than the fact of its existence. Hell, even the author and title would be an improvement. I use a reader to skim a lot of sites, and to make decisions about whether to follow up. Using them to draw readers to their site, as MUSE does, is to make a bunch of Web 1.0 assumptions about eyeballs, traffic, stickiness, etc. With the MUSE journals:

  • I don't know what I'm getting until I've loaded their page
  • Unless I have an immediate need, I'm likely to forget their content, since there's little point in bookmarking random TOCs
  • I can't bookmark an article to return to it when I have time
  • I can't bookmark one to download to my office machine, where my access to MUSE is automatic
  • I can't look back through recent articles
  • I can't use the journal in any way other than I'd use it if I saw it on a colleague's shelf

But you know what? At least they HAVE. A. FEED. Even if MUSE is doing it wrong, at least they're trying to do it. There are so many journals in our field that haven't even bothered to create feeds that it should be embarrassing to us. And we all know who they are, including some pretty unlikely suspects, journals that should be at the forefront of providing this kind of access.

Here's what it takes to provide a feed of recent articles for a journal:

  • A free account with a blog provider like Blogger or Wordpress

  • The ability, for each article, to:
    • copy and paste relevant information into a textbox

    • Click on "save" or "publish"

That's it. You don't need crazy designs, blogrolls, any modification whatsoever. It doesn't have to be integrated into a larger site or do anything fancy. For pretty much any journal, with readable files for the articles, I could post a new issue in roughly 15 minutes. Four issues a year? Maybe an hour total. One hour. Per year.

You can't tell me that the resulting increase in circulation, were our field to cotton eventually to the notion of RSS readers, wouldn't be worth it. And the benefits to us?

Here's what I see when I go to List View for my Written Communication feed:

Written Communication feed

Not only am I notified when new articles are published, but I have access to the last three or four issues of the journal at all times, from any computer. And I can star them for future reference. Want to follow up on a title? They're expandable:

WC feed, expanded entry

This functionality currently exists for a mere handful of our journals. If the time spent gnashing our teeth about the overwhelming amount of stuff to read were spent instead putting together feeds for all of our journals, you know what? All of a sudden, we'd be able to manage that load much more easily. And I'm not kidding when I suggest that it's really that easy. It is. There's a lot more that could be done, but if our journals would take the tiny step of being responsible for RSS feeds at the point of production/publication, the resulting benefits would be colossal. And that's not me being hyperbolic. Imagine being able to open a browser window and being able to search, read, and bookmark abstracts from the last year or two's worth of journals in our field. Seriously, how much easier would that make our academic lives?

And yes, we have been doing this at the CCC Online Archive for the past 2+ years: But my point isn't to gloat--it's to ask instead why the heck our editors, including many for whom this should be obvious, haven't followed suit.

And that's all. I could get a lot snarkier about this, and I could name names, but let me instead close with an offer. On the off-chance that someone's reading this who wants help setting a feed up, please let me know. Honestly. I'd be happy to show someone just how easy this is.


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I need to get a-typing, if I'm going to meet my goal of reaching the 1000-entry plateau this summer. These entries won't write themselves. It's been a light first week, for various reasons. One of the biggies, though, is that I think I'm getting a little touch of arthritis in my right hand, which suggests to me that I need to rethink my current approach to mouse usage. It hurts when I type as well, but I think that my mice are curving my hand in a way that my knuckles aren't pleased with.

Anyhow, enough of the whine. One thing I wanted to note this week was Donna's entry about Jason Jones' interview with Steven Johnson. I'm a big fan of all of SBJ's books, but Ghost Map is one that I keep meaning to review (and in more detail than my discussion of it here). But the funny thing about Donna's entry was that I felt a little exposed. Not in any dramatic fashion or anything. But when she notes

Ah ha! I thought. So now I get the connection among many of the things Collin blogs about: Moretti, Johnson, and Latour, too.

I feel a little like I've had a secret made public. I'm not ashamed of my influences--far from it, in fact--nor of the fact that I have influences. We all do. But it's strange to have them named like that, the texts that recently have resonated with me and with each other. One of the things we do as academics is to assemble our own private bibliographic networks, and inevitably, the texts we value most highly drift towards the center of our network, and become the default frames that we bring with us both to subsequent reading and our own writing.

And interestingly enough, we don't always pay attention to each other's networks. Sure, every couple of years or so, there's a thread on a discussion list about the disciplinary desert island books, but even those threads ask us to represent the discipline. I would guess that most of those books/articles have very little to do with us personally. Moretti, Johnson, Latour, and others affect the way I see the world academically, but none of their works are rooted primarily in my discipline. I wonder from time to time about my colleagues' networks, and about what it would tell us about each other if we could generate and share an honest "cloud" of our influences.

It makes me curious to go back and assemble all of my bibliographies (the way that Derek did with coursework a ways back) and to see if there are patterns that I can detect. Are there thinkers I rely upon unconsciously? Probably. But for the moment, I'm going to pursue the various angles that writers like Moretti, Latour, and Johnson supply me, because I'm not close to done with them yet.

That is all.

danah boyd has a fantastic entry today, on "fame, narcissism and MySpace." There's nothing there that she doesn't already say much better than I could, so I cite her entry more out of appreciation than with an eye towards adding anything.

Long story short: claims about MySpace producing a generation of narcissists misses the broader social point, which is that MySpace is only a small symptom of a much deeper cultural tendency towards unwarranted esteem (from "you can do anything" to "you deserve everything").

Particularly interesting to me is the vicious cycle that boyd describes with respect to so-called "reality" programming (even the name itself is symptomatic of the economy at play). This kind of programming helps contribute to the spread of narcissism (Why should you be the next American Idle?), and then harvests that attitude by providing outlets for it. reality programming appeals to network execs because they can pay talentless amateurs a fraction of what they pay actors, without any corresponding drop in advertising revenue.

Anyhow, boyd has some good thoughts on fame, esteem, attention, and narcissism, and there are some really nice followups in the comments. Check it out.



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