[-empyre-] networks and exchange

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Sat Apr 4 14:16:27 EST 2009

I agree with everything Joe says here.

The only place where there might be a tactical situation between an
"us" and a "them," in my mind, has to do with some fairly macroscopic
questions about the place of the University in relation to society as
a whole.

Having some experience at both large state schools and small liberal
arts colleges, there are some significant cultural attitudes about the
role of the University that are worth fighting against.  Are we a
continuation of high school, with a squishy promise of cash for
students at the end of the rainbow, and a certain albatross of debt to
hang around their necks?  Are we, in fact, providing highly marketable
skills at an excellent value?  Are we an anachronism?  Or, are we a
place where those mundane concerns are put on hold, so that we can
make some time for the inefficient splendors of reading cool stuff,
thinking a lot, sitting around talking, and making things?

I think these questions have been answered in a certain sense by the
ideology that has been dominant since I was a kid: Ideas are money.
But we could easily deploy a variety of tactical responses to this sad
equation.  In what ways do ideas differ from money?  In what ways is
there a tension between efficiency and philosophy?  How does art
exceed capital?  What if money were actually like ideas?  These are
all questions that have been around for a long time.  And each has as
many answers as there are students.  It's what got Socrates in so much
trouble.  They sap valuable resources from what otherwise could be
efficient degrees in button-pushing and debt accumulation.  But these
things are always part of what I consider a "real" education.

So there might be a fleeting utility in a tactical sort of us vs.
them, but I would be uncomfortable saying that at the end of the day
that there is too much of a difference.  I mean, I talk to my students
about careers and I mean it sometimes.  My own dad had a hard time
finding a job when he got older, and as much as I wanted to be a
bartender like my old man, being a professor is the closest I could
get to being a bartender without facing the material uncertainties
that my father faced.  So at times, I am "them," instead of the
vagabond I wish I was.



On Fri, Apr 3, 2009 at 7:12 PM, joseph tabbi <jtabbi at gmail.com> wrote:
> Tactically, I see three areas for concerted, networked action among
> literary scholars and artists: defense of tenure, peer-to-peer
> reviewing of scholarly/creative work, and credentializing across
> disciplines.
> Contextually, I see these changes happening through networks - not so
> different from those communications networks that have transformed the
> financial sphere. The difference is, these networks need to be open
> and communicative, not overly complex or opaque. And the regulation
> has to be done in common, by all those with a stake in the development
> of a profession. Discourse needs to be not encouraged but required, so
> that consensus is not built too quickly (the way prices are set, and
> risks determined, at the speed of electrons).
> On the defense of tenure, Bousquet and others have done more, in their
> books, than I can do here - except to say that where cases come
> forward involving scholarship in electronic formats, we can do more to
> make visible the kinds of recognition that many among 'us' have
> achieved. By 'us,' I mean those who have entered into discussions like
> this one and attracted considered response among peers and potential
> collaborators. That kind of activity needs to be brought to the
> attention of those in administrative positions, and since some of 'us'
> hold such positions, at one level or another, there is no 'us' versus
> 'them' opposition necessarily. But more of 'us' need to urge
> alternative modes of scholarly evaluation (the creation of a kind of
> cultural capital) through whatever administrative channels we can
> access. And we're not likely to do this through conventional
> disciplinary channels: these need to be dismantled in my view.
> None of this can be done through arguments exclusively. A more
> developed, peer-to-peer reviewing mechanism needs to be in place. At
> the Electronic Literature Organization, my colleagues and I've put a
> fair amount of sustained effort into the development of an e-lit
> directory, a repository of 'born-digital' literary works that is set
> to go live this year (largely through volunteer labor by organization
> members). These works currently are being read, described, and tagged
> by a group of advanced grad students and beginning professors with a
> career commitment to the field. (As of yet, most scholars with such a
> commitment are early in their careers.)
> Unlike conventional 'peer review,' this process will not be done by
> committees behind closed doors. It is done openly by people who select
> works for inclusion in the Directory, and these evaluations can be
> reinforced, or challenged, by peers and members of the public. The
> weight of such judgments will be measured by the level of a
> participant's reviewing activity. As comments are accepted, the
> commentator reaches higher levels of 'trust.'
> None of this is paid work (that's a carry-over from traditional peer
> review, where people are invited to report on manuscripts and tenure
> files gratis, as a service to the scholarly community). What we have
> instead is a gift economy among professionals devoted to making the
> work of individuals visible to others working in the networks that
> matter to scholarship and creativity.
> Another thing that distinguishes such trans-disciplinary and
> cross-cultural review, is that it uses the affordances of the
> technology and networks that define the field. It will work, if it
> works, by identifying sympathetic institutions with a common interest
> in credentializing scholars: academic departments, journals, and
> websites with a common interest in having their work
> recognized by an emerging community of writers, artists,
> technologists, and academics.
> As for its connection with finance - the point is that such a system
> creates alternative modes of capital, separate from monetary value and
> capable of regulating those exchanges.
> I'm no expert on the organization of financial institutions, but my
> suspicion is that, when they work, that's because a sufficient number
> of the professional cohort enjoys some level of job security and
> recognition among peers. Only people with that level of security can
> work with a *conscience,* and can observe conscientiousness in
> colleagues. Partners in law firms, and apointed justices, would be the
> rough equivalent of tenured professors, I guess, in the realm of
> finance. (My lawyer friends tell me that the Partner system is
> similarly threatened, but I don't know about this myself.)
> And no, no culture war, not here: although mobilizations will need to
> be made on occasion to help educate recalcitrant administrations.  And
> this will be more effective if scholarly networkers can be confident
> that they HAVE a field, with systems of evaluation in place that are
> at once measurable, collective, and self-generated.
> That's one vision, for a reformation of the network culture and its
> inflection away from the reduction of communication to commerce and
> capital.
> JT
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