[look who didn’t drink his coffee this morning]
Let’s begin with a pessimistic idea. People are stupid [insert ignorant, arrogant, whatever] and academics are people. And a hundred years of ethnographic evidence shows that researchers, anthropologist and otherwise, can get things wrong. Being stupid in this sense isn’t so bad. School is supposed to help with this problem. Dedication to a life of intellectual debate is supposed to make us better thinkers. It is supposed to instill critical thinking. It should make us less stupid. At least that’s what you’d hope.
The truth is, and I’ll speak for myself here to avoid stirring too much fire, that I am still stupid after writing a thesis.
So here is the question, what is an academic to do when he or she finds themselves wearing a stupid hat, after spending years in school? Say I became a teacher, how is a teacher, whose primary job it is to quantify their students stupidity, supposed to walk into a classroom while wearing the very same stupid hat? Surely the students would complain, and their parents would rage.
Teachers depend on maintaining intellectual authority
“Of course I get things wrong” they will think, but never will they let the layman make that assertion. That is why academics have a sophisticated system of peer review. The work published get’s reviewed by other expert academics, who maintain the same necessary air of intellectual authority.
This is why the majority of anthropologists are not sharing their work outside of a peer reviewed journal, and why they don’t want to share their work openly online. You don’t want to engage with noobs. If a noob contributes to what you are doing, you might end up getting flagged as noob yourself. One anthropologist referred to the Youtube audience as a bunch of fifteen year old brats. If only that were the case. Youtube brats are far worse than a bunch of fifteen year olds. Or at least they can be. [mental note check up on Michael Wesch’s youtube projects, which seem to get pretty supportive comments actually, which are then integrated into academic projects… ].
This is the challenge of learning in the “open”. By sharing work online as work progresses one is more likely to be attacked/shown to be stupid [arrogant, ignorant, prejudiced, etc]. This is a wonderful thing in terms of making progress in an academic discipline. Critique should be welcomed. As far as a discipline goes, finding out researchers are wrong, and learning from that, is a wonderful thing.
But most academics cut this discussion off. The style in which they write rarely invites genuine questioning. To ask a question would be to invite the participation of the students and people around them, and again, the academic doesn’t want anyone else to answer their questions! At best, they will read their paper at an expert conference and invite 10 minutes of discussion at the end. Wow talkabout opening up ones research!
Feedback from the “out in the open”
|External critiques vitally important to anthropology,
revealed enormous ethnocentric bias within the discipline. [but noobs correcting experts leaves noobs]
|External critiques attack reputation of anthropologists as experts. [but internal critiques are okay, since experts correcting experts still leaves experts]|
So why don’t most anthropologists blog and share their work outside peer reviewed presses? It doesn’t help them look smarter than everyone else! To look smarter then everyone else they restrict their work, make it difficult to find, they write in ways that invite no questions, they write in ways no one wants to bother to understand, they write about things not important to anyone else, etc… [Ie, as happened to most ethnography in the past. Go in, write about stick to talking about century old social theory, as a way of avoiding any issues of war, imperialism, etc… certainly don’t involve others in creating the question in the first place.]
Go ahead, call me stupid. That’s what this blog is for.
[so is it fair to say publishing Open Access is an attempt by researchers to open their work to commentary? Probably not. After all, even if the article is OA, there might not be any attempt to disseminate it. Just having a page like this one on the internet, is not a very active way of obtaining feedback is it? Feedback is really ignored in the OA discussions… Most of the arguments for OA are based on other professional arguments, such as “OA get’s you cited more”. hmmm]