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Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy

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Choice's Outstanding Academic Title list for 2013 Academic institutions are facing a crisis in scholarly publishing at multiple levels: presses are stressed as never before, library budgets are squeezed, faculty are having difficulty publishing their work, and promotion and tenure committees are facing a range of new ways of working without a clear sense of how to understan Choice's Outstanding Academic Title list for 2013 Academic institutions are facing a crisis in scholarly publishing at multiple levels: presses are stressed as never before, library budgets are squeezed, faculty are having difficulty publishing their work, and promotion and tenure committees are facing a range of new ways of working without a clear sense of how to understand and evaluate them. Planned Obsolescence is both a provocation to think more broadly about the academy's future and an argument for reconceiving that future in more communally-oriented ways. Facing these issues head-on, Kathleen Fitzpatrick focuses on the technological changes--especially greater utilization of internet publication technologies, including digital archives, social networking tools, and multimedia--necessary to allow academic publishing to thrive into the future. But she goes further, insisting that the key issues that must be addressed are social and institutional in origin. Springing from original research as well as Fitzpatrick's own hands-on experiments in new modes of scholarly communication through MediaCommons, the digital scholarly network she co-founded, Planned Obsolescence explores these aspects of scholarly work, as well as issues surrounding the preservation of digital scholarship and the place of publishing within the structure of the contemporary university. Written in an approachable style designed to bring administrators and scholars into a conversation, Planned Obsolescence explores both symptom and cure to ensure that scholarly communication will remain relevant in the digital future. Check out the author's website here. For more information on MediaCommons, click here. Listen to an interview with the author on The Critical Lede podcast here. Related Articles: "Do 'the Risky Thing' in Digital Humanities" - Chronicle of Higher Education "Academic Publishing and Zombies" - Inside Higher Ed


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Choice's Outstanding Academic Title list for 2013 Academic institutions are facing a crisis in scholarly publishing at multiple levels: presses are stressed as never before, library budgets are squeezed, faculty are having difficulty publishing their work, and promotion and tenure committees are facing a range of new ways of working without a clear sense of how to understan Choice's Outstanding Academic Title list for 2013 Academic institutions are facing a crisis in scholarly publishing at multiple levels: presses are stressed as never before, library budgets are squeezed, faculty are having difficulty publishing their work, and promotion and tenure committees are facing a range of new ways of working without a clear sense of how to understand and evaluate them. Planned Obsolescence is both a provocation to think more broadly about the academy's future and an argument for reconceiving that future in more communally-oriented ways. Facing these issues head-on, Kathleen Fitzpatrick focuses on the technological changes--especially greater utilization of internet publication technologies, including digital archives, social networking tools, and multimedia--necessary to allow academic publishing to thrive into the future. But she goes further, insisting that the key issues that must be addressed are social and institutional in origin. Springing from original research as well as Fitzpatrick's own hands-on experiments in new modes of scholarly communication through MediaCommons, the digital scholarly network she co-founded, Planned Obsolescence explores these aspects of scholarly work, as well as issues surrounding the preservation of digital scholarship and the place of publishing within the structure of the contemporary university. Written in an approachable style designed to bring administrators and scholars into a conversation, Planned Obsolescence explores both symptom and cure to ensure that scholarly communication will remain relevant in the digital future. Check out the author's website here. For more information on MediaCommons, click here. Listen to an interview with the author on The Critical Lede podcast here. Related Articles: "Do 'the Risky Thing' in Digital Humanities" - Chronicle of Higher Education "Academic Publishing and Zombies" - Inside Higher Ed

30 review for Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm

    There is something ironic about a book that deals with technology and the future of publishing, given that in the view of many the future of publishing does not lie in the book, but then the story of this particular book points to many of the key issues involved in the future of publishing and the academy. It was initially accepted for publication by a press and then turned down on marketing grounds, along with the review and refereeing by the press Fitzpatrick opened it up to an on-line open re There is something ironic about a book that deals with technology and the future of publishing, given that in the view of many the future of publishing does not lie in the book, but then the story of this particular book points to many of the key issues involved in the future of publishing and the academy. It was initially accepted for publication by a press and then turned down on marketing grounds, along with the review and refereeing by the press Fitzpatrick opened it up to an on-line open review and refereeing process (via http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/) (and acknowledges in places where that process resulted in notable changes) and substantial portions of it have been developed through her blog – also Planned Obsolescence - http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/. The pressures on the academy and academic publishing are considerable – we are, for instance, expected to produce outputs with high impact and achieve a certain number/level of these to qualify for additional funding, which may seem reasonable until we consider, for instance, the fairly short timeframes involved (5-7 years) which mitigates against, for instance, pure research in the sciences where it may be decades before applications are worked through, or many areas in the humanities and social sciences. Alongside these pressures we find commercial publishers shying away from publishing research monographs (as Fitzpatrick discovered) for commercial reasons, while various new media platforms offer us new publishing outlets, while open access journals seem to challenge the place of the print journal, and as Creative Commons publishing licenses chip away at the forces creating privatized ‘intellectual property’. It is these latter issues – the impacts and effects new media platforms and the like on conventional publishing and ‘the book’ in particular – that Fitzpatrick is concerned with here. The substantive, empirically based, argument turns around four key issues – the character and meaning of authorship, the place and future (forms) of peer reviewing (the process by which we as academics assess whether a piece of work should be published), the character of the text in this new media world, and what it means to and how we go about preserving texts. I’d have to confess, straight up, that the first two issues (peer reviewing and authorship) resonated much more with me than did the questions of texts and preservation mainly because the latter two discussions stretched my technical knowledge beyond its limits, which is not a problem with Fitzpatrick’s writing, accessibility or argument but a problem of my knowledge of the technology I use everyday (and am using now). So, staying in my comfort zone, she makes a powerful and compelling case in favour of open peer reviews where our research ‘outputs’ grow and develop in public so that we are able to assess and evaluate both the author and the referee. In part I found this compelling because I referee a lot of papers but 1) it is not counted in any assessments of my workload, 2) it is a blind and closed process so even when a paper is published my sometimes considerable contribution is unacknowledged and unknown even by the author as mine although it is a significant part of my scholarly and collegial work, and 3) when done for a commercially published journal it is, in effect, free labour given to a (sometimes) major global publishing conglomerate who can afford to pay! Fitzpatrick’s model opens up the actions of our vocation to collegial oversight and could help develop a (re)new(ed) scholarly community at the very time when commercialising forces are driving into individualising and competitive work. Equally, she makes a powerful case in favour of a new sense of authorship as contingent, collective and emergent and as about both product and process. In doing so she challenges two current takens-for-granted in scholarly work: the idea of authorial originality (and with it plagiarism and so forth), and the claims to intellectual property that have emerged from the commercialisation of this originality where ironically the one thing that is not legally protected is the idea – only its expression. These claims to intellectual property are a serious threat to scholarship and intellectual practice and mean that, for instance, an undergraduate course that I develop based on my particular set of interests and research which may be unique in my department is legally owned not by me but my university and should I move elsewhere and look to teach the same course I could be subject to legal action to defend my former employer’s intellectual property even though no staff member there is teaching ‘my’ course (I’m not saying my university would do that, just that legally it could). The second implication of Fitzpatrick’s proposed sense of authorship as collective and contingent is that it undermines this intellectual property and could replace it with what she sees as a gift economy – or perhaps even as something residing freely in the commons, given that a ‘gift’ implies reciprocity. The final chapter shifts away from the empirically grounded character of the rest of the book to become more conjectural and consider the place of the university, publishing and the press in this emerging newly mediated world. Once again the issues are compelling and challenging, being centred on the problem of publishing as a commercial venture. She argues, instead, that the university press could/should be reconceived as a part of the institution’s scholarly apparatus designed to disseminate research of that university. In doing so, she points to places where, for instance, the university press has been restructured as a department (such as a part of a learning and information services unit including the library) and as such has had the profit-making force removed. This chapter is challenging in part because it proposes a profound (and often fundamental) new business model in a context where the evidential base is weak. This is not to denigrate the usefulness of its questions or proposed answers – just to note (as does Fitzpatrick) that it is much more conjectural. Overall, the book takes us through some of the key questions in contemporary academia and weaves together some of the best of contemporary humanities based scholarship with the problems of current scholarly practice. The character of its propositions are a sign of the profound moment of change we seem to be in, and show clearly that our current thinking – such as open access journals and Creative Commons licenses – are only an important start to a much more significant set of changes that we are going to have to move through rapidly if we are going to not only survive but maintain much of the best of what scholarship and academic work is about. There is also a review in the Times Higher Education Supplement at http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Hickman Walker

    Well, now I know why everyone keeps going on about Digital Humanities. This was a very interesting read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Full Stop

    http://www.full-stop.net/2012/11/14/r... Review by Blake Seidenshaw In a speech given at the University of Illinois in 1962, the American architect and polymath R. Buckminster Fuller spelled out an eerily-prescient vision of the technological innovations which were bound to revolutionize education, precipitating the birth of a ‘world-around’ society. “Simultaneous curricula are obsolete”, he proclaimed, “Real education […] will be something to which individuals will discipline themselves spontaneou http://www.full-stop.net/2012/11/14/r... Review by Blake Seidenshaw In a speech given at the University of Illinois in 1962, the American architect and polymath R. Buckminster Fuller spelled out an eerily-prescient vision of the technological innovations which were bound to revolutionize education, precipitating the birth of a ‘world-around’ society. “Simultaneous curricula are obsolete”, he proclaimed, “Real education […] will be something to which individuals will discipline themselves spontaneously under the influence of their own […] individually unique chromosomal pattern. Everyone has his own chromosomal pattern. No two persons have the same appetite at the same time. There is no reason why they should.” Under the conditions of electronic media, our dysfunctional educational practices would be revitalized and reoriented to the needs of individual learners. Fuller imagines a complex system of ‘directly-beamed’ two-way television signals, whereby each home would communicate with a central library of videos; obviously the architecture of what we now call the web ended up taking a slightly different form. But the imperative that it has seemed to embody for the past couple of decades of its startlingly-rapid proliferation surely retains some of the flavor of Bucky’s prognostications: “We must make all of the information immediately available…” Read more here: http://www.full-stop.net/2012/11/14/r...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Will

    Every single content stream in the world has been redefined in the past decade, except for the contents that surround higher education, which have thus far been rather stalwart in resisting change. Personally, I don't think this is a noble part of higher thought, but a reflection that academics has become a form of bloated bureaucracy. Fitzpatrick does a great job of providing the details behind the bureaucracy of journal publishing, though perhaps in using such a traditionally academic & line Every single content stream in the world has been redefined in the past decade, except for the contents that surround higher education, which have thus far been rather stalwart in resisting change. Personally, I don't think this is a noble part of higher thought, but a reflection that academics has become a form of bloated bureaucracy. Fitzpatrick does a great job of providing the details behind the bureaucracy of journal publishing, though perhaps in using such a traditionally academic & linear approach to her writing, she manages to keep this book out of reach of the mainstream reader. This seems to go against her professed hope that the future of academic writing could create a dialogue with a wider community than the ivory tower. It is also the biggest shortcoming that I see in the book. However, I do understand how one could think that the first group to convince of the changes that need to occur in the academe are academics, so it's only a problem if you think that the way to create dialogue is by reaching out to folks outside of the ivory tower.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nazareth

    Fitzpatrick's account of the new modes and changes in scholarly communication remains remarkably timely in 2014. The book is well documented, detailed and sophisticated, avoiding the problems of technological determinism and futurology that undermine other accounts. The only speculative leap in her analysis is her admittedly utopian reliance on the idea of an economy of the gift, which she argues should shape the collaboration of scholars in the digital humanities, at least in the early chapters Fitzpatrick's account of the new modes and changes in scholarly communication remains remarkably timely in 2014. The book is well documented, detailed and sophisticated, avoiding the problems of technological determinism and futurology that undermine other accounts. The only speculative leap in her analysis is her admittedly utopian reliance on the idea of an economy of the gift, which she argues should shape the collaboration of scholars in the digital humanities, at least in the early chapters of the book. The final chapter ("The University") provides a more realistic assessment of the costs. It seems more accurate and pragmatic, to this reader at least, to say that the academy is currently operating under politically imposed neoliberal austerity. There is no economy of abundance, and that, as well as the need for a broad range of skill sets and expensive infrastructure, makes collaboration in the digital humanities all the more necessary.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Hellstrom

    This is an accessible look at the current state of digital humanities. Fitzpatrick really delves deep into the economic realities of publishing scholarly online work online and how in many ways it can be beneficial (more collaborative) but is also wary of the costs as well (less editorial control/ vetting) Overall, an engaging treatment of the subject. It would be perfect for an undergrad or grad course.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    An unusually eloquent discussion of the future of academic writing in a digital age.Fitzpatrick argues that it is not so much changes in technology as the inability of our institutions to respond to those changes that make intellectual writing an increasingly marginal activity. Read for my grad course on Writing in a Digital Age.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fern Slattery

  10. 4 out of 5

    Antonio

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fred

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jason Heppler

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Donovan

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Salisbury

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hope

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul L. Swanson

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nigel Lepianka

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Herrera

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    A very interesting and perhaps idealistic look at academic publishing now and in the future, especially as to how technology should be changing processes and evaluations. She brings up some important but potentially revolutionary ideas about tenure, publishing, reviewing, and collaboration, and I would love to see many of those implemented. I'm not holding my breath, though I do think that certain institutions and organizations are trying to push beyond their institutional stasis to try to chang A very interesting and perhaps idealistic look at academic publishing now and in the future, especially as to how technology should be changing processes and evaluations. She brings up some important but potentially revolutionary ideas about tenure, publishing, reviewing, and collaboration, and I would love to see many of those implemented. I'm not holding my breath, though I do think that certain institutions and organizations are trying to push beyond their institutional stasis to try to change things.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janel Atlas

  25. 5 out of 5

    Megan Fahey

  26. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christina

  28. 5 out of 5

    mkgold

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  30. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne Shirazi

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