[iDC] Gated Knowledge Communities

john sobol john at johnsobol.com
Fri Feb 10 11:34:37 EST 2006

On 10-Feb-06, at 10:31 AM, trebor at thing.net wrote:

> But, what are the editors and publishers of these expensive journals
> thinking? --

If you ask me there is a severe epistemological crisis in academia at 

On the one hand, the past twenty years of post-modernist infatuation 
has resulted in endless discussions about alterity, situatedness, 
embodiment, etc. in the social sciences. However, although an enormous 
number of professors profess allegiance (or the po-mo version of it) to 
discursive fluidity, openness etc., they appear in practice to have 
made only the mildest impact on established epistemological norms in 
academia. Students still have to write scholarly papers exactly like 
they did before teachers started teaching that authoritative linear 
narratives could never go uninterrogated. And those essays are still 
extremely formally restricted and are of course highly regulated linear 
narratives that must be authorized by the mechanics of scholarly 
epistemology (citations, bibliographies, MLA style, etc.). And 
professors still have to publish their authoritative linear narratives 
in authorized restricted-access journals even as the subject of their 
critiques is often the fallibility and folly of accepting at face value 
hegemonic claims of epistemological authority. Despite all the 
progressive theories, it's still about extremely hierarchical and 
official certification of knowledge (think marks, fellowships, 
peer-review, dissertations, defenses, degrees, etc.) in hyper-literate 

Now, this paradoxical (or hypocritical – depending on your perspective) 
situation would likely have continued forever (since the literate forms 
of academic discourse have proven invincible to the very critiques that 
they claim to express) were it not for an unexpected new player on the 
epistemological landscape. Of course I'm referring to digital networks. 
Collectively, institutions designed to authenticate knowledge according 
to positivist epistemological criteria are facing a growing crisis as a 
result of new communication technologies propagating a highly 
subversive and increasingly alien epistemological system. If the ways 
we exchange knowledge are changing, and if the nature of the knowledge 
we exchange changes in response to the tools used to exchange it, and 
if those new ways of exchange yield new knowledge cultures based upon 
genuine discursive openness and fluidity that dwarfs anything discussed 
in an immobile, hierarchical, text-based class, and lastly if students 
entering academia are fluent users of those new knowledge systems, then 
the 'paradox' of 19th century forms being forced upon 21st century kids 
by professors promoting (late) 20th century theories from their ivory 
towers will soon begin to turn kids away from the university 
altogether. (Sorry for that overlong sentence but you get the point.)

To put it another way, if you can get the info that will answer the 
question on your exam by consulting google via your mobile phone, does 
it make sense to be punished for cheating when your real skill is the 
ability access needed information rapidly?


bluesology • printopolis • digitopia
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