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One way to put it is that there's room, in this world, for the Open Scholar. S/he can in fact be employed as an Open Scholar. But maybe not make her/his way very easily within the Ivory Tower. So, in a way, Open Scholarship and Public Intellectualism are parallel career choices to the Tenure-Track Professorship and other parts of the "Publish or Perish" system. It's a bit sad that there aren't more contact points between the Open Scholar and academia. But it's probably easier to remain sane by separating the two, for the time being. After all, it's possible (though a bit rare) for an academic to have projects and even contracts outside of her or his academic institution. There are even some tenured professors who have side-careers in fields which have little to do with their academic work. It wouldn't be too strange to have academics who have side-careers as Open Scholars, with some degree of controlled overlap. In this case, I'm merging the Open Scholar figure with the role of the Public Intellectual. They can be separated, with the Open Scholar being a professional scholar working in the Ivory Tower who also happens to do OA and other "openny" things. But having the OS figure and PI role together, we can more easily talk about differences in terms of contexts. One context, the university (college, institute, research hospital...) is constraining. The other context, the public sphere (the Internet, social networks, non-political organizations...) is as broad as an open field. There's more room for developing oneself as an Open Scholar in the Open Field than within the walls of a given institutions. But the Open Field also necessitates that one brings her or his own structures. It's frequent for professors to blog anonymously. Those who do so tend to complain the current state of their world. What it tends to show is a perceived incompatibility between working for a given institution and speaking openly. If tenure is supposed to protect academic freedom, these blogging professors seem not to feel much in terms of other forms of freedom. Oh, BTW, though I signed in using a blog having to do with my semi-, pseudo- and fully-academic work, I have no qualms about discussing things under my own name (Alexandre Enkerli) and identity (e.g. Facebook.com/enkerli). Call it "radical transparency," if you will. Though it's probably not required of the Open Scholar, I find that it facilitates my work outside the university without hindering my university work.
Toggle Commented Sep 3, 2009 on The Open Scholar at Academic Evolution
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Almost a manifesto! Lots to say. In fact, I feel sad that I didn't come across this post when it was written. At least, joining the Open Scholar group should be a way to get in touch with likeminded people. The fact that you conceive of Open Access as a way to get beyond the "publish or perish" system is reassuring. I've spent some time discussing OA with some scholars (including some prominent OA advocates) and they invariably are quick to defend the PoP system and the current "peer-review" process. These were usually tenured or tenure-track colleagues but it's actually difficult to find academics who hold more radical views about OA as a way out of the old structures. Of course, there are intellectuals outside of academia. They may be the one with whom we should discuss these things. I'm thinking, in part, about French-style «intellectuels». http://enkerli.wordpress.com/2006/10/16/french-«intellectuels»-draft/ (Sorry for the shameless plug, as this is one of my posts on my main blog. But I think it may provide some context for my comment.) In France, there is room in the public arena for intellectuals of different stripes, whether or not they are professional academics. It's not necessarily a better context and there's a lot of posturing among French intellectuals. But it has the merit of being a different model from that of North American academia. Although, the US model has been spreading over to other parts of the World and there are some ways to be a public intellectual in the US. On the US influence elsewhere, I can't avoid worrying about the loss of diversity, as other models for intellectual roles are disappearing. In fact, many of the actual role models for academics in the US come from systems which are incompatible with the current form of US academia. For instance, Bourdieu and Foucault have influenced many people in North America, but it'd be quite difficult for a North American to have a Foucault-style career or to do as Bourdieu did. Going back to OA and publication... Blogging gets very close to the main manifest function of publishing: to "broadcast knowledge." The "call to academia" implies a desire to share ideas. I'm really not sure that I ever met an academic who didn't have this passion and thirst for knowledge which relies so much on communication. But many academics I've met have been labouring under a set of assumptions about the role of academia. These assumptions are often felt as unwanted and inappropriate pressure. In fact, some colleagues describe the academic system in which they work as simply oppressive. But we still take part in it. Wonder what Gramsci would have to say about us. ;-) In the abstract, blogging is exactly what academics dream about. But when you start discussion blogging (or even OA) with some colleagues, they adopt another perspective. I'd argue that this perspective isn't their own but neither is it necessarily a bunch of talking points from the publishing industry. It's more of an internalized discourse on what is commonly said about the finalities of academic work. In other words, I get the impression that most of our colleagues still want to share ideas and spread knowledge, but we often catch them when they're thinking about jobs rather than about values, beliefs, or ideals. I tend to insist on blogging for several reasons. One is that it's probably closest to what scholars are trained to do, even in a PoP system. But another is that blogging has already become the focus of a lot of discussion about changing academia. There's a bunch of useful blogposts about these issues, including some from Hugh McGuire writing in the Huffington Post or some insightful-as-always content from Language Log. On some podcasts like Chris Lydon's Open Source, Robert Harrison's Entitled Opinions, and Laurie Taylor's Thinking Allowed, there has also been some fascinating discussion on roles for intellectuals, either explicitly distinguished from academia or described in such a way as to show how limiting academia has become. Because of risks associated with posting too many links in the same comment, I will refrain from posting those. But they would all merit discussions. More personally, I must say that the current state of academia has helped me decide to undergo something of a partial reorientation. I still have a foot in academia given that I teach as part-time faculty. But I also do a lot of things that I would indeed associate with public intellectualism. Regardless of whether or not my work is considered valuable and beyond the fact that I'm getting positive feedback, acting as something of a public intellectual has been simply liberating. I hesitate to say things like these because labeling myself as a public intellectual may sound self-serving or even petty. But such considerations matter less in social media than in academic contexts. As a blogger, I'm able to propose some descriptions of myself just as others are allowed to describe me as they wish. An undesirable aspect of social media is that personalities end up taking a lot of space. But the same thing can be said about a number of academic contexts, the main difference being that personalities are supposed not to matter in academia. I may sound cynical. Cynicism is either endemic through academic institutions or it may even be a function of the system. Academics who don't seem cynical enough aren't taken as seriously as others. Public intellectuals, however, may not have to rely on how seriously they are taken.
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