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A very peculiar practice

11 June 2009

Such is the pressure to write that academics have no time to read the flood of published work. John Corner ponders a slightly absurd position

Academic publishing has always had its own economy and culture, but sector expansion and the intensified push for print have combined to make it a distinctly odd affair. In most subjects, it is a heavily producer-driven activity, generated more by writerly imperatives than by readerly requirements, even allowing for the idea of the communal pursuit of knowledge.

Precisely because of the Publish or Perish mindset established by universities and imposed upon their academic staff.  No-one wants to read things (as we saw at the EDUCAUSE event) like ALTC reports and bland accounts of research.  Precisely why the real experts are those out there in the wild doing and reporting on it as they go – warts and all – they trust us to come to our conclusions and our own purposeful application on emerging knowledge.

How often have I sat through a 1 hour conference paper that could have been usefully reduced to a 140 character status update that could mull over for an hour and find my own contextualised significance?

Precisely why I think the smart players in academia are embracing the mew forms of spontaneous micro-publishing; and stepping away from the published journal model into open-access (see the MIT stance of a few weeks back)… the very process of hard copy publishing diminishes the value of emerging knowledge in a rapidly changing environment… and those that can’t cope with constant change won’t cope with the century…

I don’t feel overwhelmed by the rich array of information available in the world because I am the consumer – I decide when I can, can’t, want or don’t want to engage with material…and I sort according to the changing needs of my working life, my interests, my passions, my gaps in knowledge and my personal pursuits.

I could be accused of intolerance towards those who can’t judiciously use their DEL key… the reality is I trust people to make those decisions for themselves – who doesn’t filter and prioritise their incoming communications?

Case in point – the Twitterstream from NMC2009

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