Sunday, November 15, 2015

What we've got here is failure to understand Scholarly Communication

If you follow conversations about Scholarly Communication (as I do), it is not uncommon to run into the frustrations of librarians and scholars who cannot understand why their peers continue to publish in journals that reside behind expensive paywalls. As someone who very much shares this frustration, I found this quotation particularly illuminating:

As in Latin, one dominant branch of meaning in "communication" has to do with imparting, quite apart from any notion of a dialog or interactive process. Thus communication can mean partaking, as in being a communicant (partaking in holy communication). Here "communication" suggests belonging to a social body via an expressive act that requires no response or recognition. To communicate by consuming bread and wine is to signify membership in a communion of saints both living and dead, but it is primarily a message-sending activity (except perhaps as a social ritual to please others or as a message to the self or to God). Moreover, here to "communicate" is an act of receiving, not of sending; more precisely, it is to send by receiving. A related sense is the notion of a scholarly "communication" (monograph) or a "communication" as a message or notice. Here is no sense of exchange, through some sort of audience, however vague or dispersed, is implied.

- "Speaking into the air", John Durham Peters, p.7

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Fascinating. Reminds me of the near-complete disconnection between the academic idea of "publish" and "to make public." Publishing means putting something on record, a record few people will ever be in a position to consult. But who cares? It's been recorded.

I wonder how these academics imagine an audience, then, which is pretty intrinsic to writing. Is the audience a mirror image of oneself?

To be honest, though, I think most academics imagine they have an audience (likely made up of people like them who they meet at conferences and such) and hope they will be read and maybe daydream about it a little, but learned that there was one way to do academia and just haven't wrapped their heads around alternatives because they assume somehow the way they learned is just how it works.