[iDC] Gated Knowledge Communities

trebor at thing.net trebor at thing.net
Fri Feb 10 10:31:32 EST 2006

We discussed the circulation of lengthy papers on lists prior to conferences.
This could circumvent painful paperism. I just received this from Julian
Stallabrass in response to our discussion.

Julian writes:
“But one element working against such change, and for the broadcast mode of
conference proceedings, is the sheer pressure that academics are under, which
makes it harder to distribute texts in advance, harder to read them in advance
and formulate responses, harder to engage in sustained dialogue. An urgent
aspect of this thinking, then, is the struggle for time.”

In addition to time pressure there is also the academic contraption that is
still placing full-fledged emphasis on dead wood and closed access journals.
This does not make any sense! It is simply counterproductive. Many journals
will not print an essay that was already published online. But if our goal is
the sharing of knowledge then such approach is just horrendous. How can you
build up on the insight of others if that expertise is behind thick gates and
firewalls? I would not blame young academics without job security for playing
this game. But, what are the editors and publishers of these expensive journals
thinking? Are they just in it for themselves? Often, they are an older crew of
established scholars who are not as much in touch with the burning issues in,
for example, “new media.” Why don’t more tenured scholars speak out against
such bizarre practices? Eighteen (18) dollars for one issue of “Grey Room”? How
much for “October”? How much for the essays in the ISEA05 catalogue? Is not it
obvious that their readership becomes very limited when you put such a
financial lock on the door? Or is that the idea in the first place? In 2006, do
we really have to explain that online there will be many more readers and
responders? The audiences for such elite paper publications may not completely
coincide with the online readership. There is definitely a place for books and
paper journals!

But the mentality of gated knowledge communities is flat out wrong.
It prevents knowledge and expertise from resonating in a wider culture.
It locks out all who are not at well-endowed educational institutions. It
restricts the circulation of knowledge to an elitist, self-referential, and
double-crossed inner circle.

Online journals like "FibreCulture Journal" or "First Monday" work hard to
overcome the widespread prejudice against online publications as ‘zines.’
FibreCultureJournal’s essays are often ten thousand words long. They are
vigorously edited. The more open access publications and archives of this
caliber will be around the clearer the case for open access will be. And then,
scholars do not have to loose sleep about putting their work into online
journals (or on mailing lists) anymore.


This "First Monday" essay by John Willinsky on the topic of open access and open
science is useful in this context.

Also see:
"FibreCulture Journal" issue on Distributed Aesthetics

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