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February 13, 2008

sour grapes

Posted by dogpossum on February 13, 2008 6:58 PM in the category academia

Reading this rant here (and it is a rant, and I do think we should all allow ourselves the luxury of ranting on our blogs - that's the delight of self-publishing, no?), my immediate thought was "that's a bit rich." I mean, the author is one of those young-gun rock star type American academics. She's sporting a whole lot of academic and social privilege which plebs like myself really don't have access to.

I also thought "hey, I have a paper in that journal!" And I am, I must admit, extremely excited about my article (it's a nice one about YouTube and dancers and I'm quite proud of it). It's not in that special issue of the journal, though it was initially accepted and later politely knocked back (I guess it was bumped for some rock star, right?). As I said, I'm feeling quite chuffed about being in this journal - it's an International, donchakno? So I'm not all that cool reading that post - what does that make me, sister? Some sort of publisher's stooge (I wish, I wish - I am so ready to be some publisher's stooge).

So reading that article, I was a little bit... pooped. I mean, I don't really think it's all that cool to snub the very source of a serious part of your cred and status. That's the action that's getting her a career. That's the action that'll help me get a permanent job (anyone else just loving these semester-by-semester positions? Empowering, no? Terribly punk, yes?) and fund my future jazz spending (wait, I'll tell you about today's presents later). That's the stuff that'll make the past...15 years of work mean something.

I'm sorry, homegirl, you can't go making those sorts of calls without expecting some sort of kick up the bum... or perhaps just a polite throat clearing and measured response.
This one by Anne is my favourite so far. I also like Jason's comment on the original article and his blog entry. You can chase the other responses around the internet yourselves, but you can see the sorts of responses that sat bestest with me.

I think, from my position here, as:

  • casually employed lecturer
  • unemployed researcherjust-finished-(no corrections! - sorry, but I need to remind myself at times like these) PhD-person
  • self-employed article-writer and book-maker (oh yes, I can't help but squeeze those papers out - it's like blogging: must share, look-at-me-look-at-me-look-at-me!, God, am I the only one?)
  • serial paper-giver/self-humiliator

I'd be kissing internet arse, making like I was the biggest bitch o' the establishment ever if I was in that position.
I mean, isn't that the scam? We get in there, softly, softly, then we make with the rabble rousing on the quiet, like?

And, finally, the other immediate thought that I had when first reading that initial post was, "hells bells, woman, we're working in universities, not Médecins Sans Frontières". Yes, it'd be really nice to think that we were actually out there making people's lives wonderful, fighting the good fight and all, but at the end of the day we're working within institutions whose primary goal is to institutionalise people. And to make money. I think it's a little naive to think that universities now - if ever! - have ever really been about freeing minds, making jiggy with the knowledge and all. I know it's a wonderful idea, but in practice... let's be realistic here. Researching and writing in universities is privileged stuff. It's not easy - it's damn hard work, especially for n00bs - but it's pretty freakin' good work.

And sure, let's say our academic articles are suddenly free and available to the whole universe. Does that mean that they're suddenly also well written, accessible and meaningful to most people? I don't think so... There's far more to be done to make academic work the people's work than simply avoiding old school journals. And I do feel that there's some sort of ...arrogance? to the idea that just because our academic work's out there in the 'public sphere' that people'd actually want to read it. Pft. I don't think so. You know they'd really rather look at kitties. I had that idea when I started in on my PhD work. But maybe that's just dancers - no time for academic wankery.

...I can't help thinking about this as I type this. I might be one of those types.

Posted by dogpossum on February 13, 2008 6:58 PM in the category academia