In his seminal work, The Wealth of Networks, Benkler is concerned with exploring how the ongoing digital revolution is reconfiguring not only methods of knowledge production, but also the means by which this knowledge is certified and shared. When looking at the traditional model of academic journal publication, Benkler states that the proprietary model used in the past produced excellent, certified works of scholarship, but at the cost of increasing subscriptions rates that, in effect, mean that poorer institutions and libraries are locked out from accessing the knowledge produced. Here is an article from the F1000 (the Faculty of 1000 Post Publication Review) magazine, The Scientist, discussing how increased costs have driven many libraries to abandon large numbers of their journal subscriptions. A quote:
The economic downturn is hitting libraries and hitting them hard. A 2009 global survey of 835 libraries in 61 countries found that nearly one-third of academic libraries saw their budgets reduced by 10 percent or more that year. And journal subscriptions are taking the brunt of that loss: The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) cancelled 118 print and 115 online subscriptions for 2010, as well as several databases (including Faculty of 1000 Medicine, publisher of The Scientist). Last spring, the University of Washington announced cuts of 1,600 print and electronic journals, databases, and microforms. The University of Virginia library sliced 1,169 journals, the University of Arizona downsized by 650 print and electronic titles, and Georgia State University cut 441 and is now considering the fate of another 1,092. The list goes on and on.There are alternatives, however, that attempt to escape the proprietary publishing model, and Benkler discusses the two varieties one will encounter. The first follows a model closely associated with traditional publishing, but with greater emphasis on utilizing online tools to streamline the submissions and editing process. Yet these publications require a salaried staff, meaning that funds must be solicited from a combination of grants, subscription fees, and even author fees, in order to produce the finished product. This ensures some degree of financial stability, yet Benkler is quick to point out that these journals suffer from the 'prestige' problem- since advancement in many academic careers is predicated on being published in a reputable journal, these new journal ventures have an uphill battle to wage in terms of being considered an equal to Nature or Science. Essentially, this is a problem of 'certification' of knowledge, an issue that will have to be addressed with any potential 'graduate journal' program.
|Photo by Tom Magliery|
One last comment from Benkler also highlights a current issue surrounding digital knowledge production- that being the issue of 'tagging' uploaded or self-published work. The sheer volume of work that is produced and displayed online makes searching for relevant works a difficult and sometimes arcane process. While I would not advocate trying to establish a standard of 'tagging' (many, many others have spent a long time on this debate, creating solutions that will be reviewed in a future post in this series), I do want to present this quote from Benkler demonstrating the potential benefit standardized tagging could bring to our profession.
"If scientists and other academics adopt this approach of self-archiving coupled with standardized interfaces for global, well-delimited searches, the problem of lack of access to academic publication because of their high-cost publication will be eliminated." (326)A lofty goal, but one within reach using the variety of digital tools available. 'Tagging' works also finds parallel in another project I'm very interested in- Open Bookmarks.
Can I export my bookmarks? If you’ve highlighted or annotated text in an ereader, can you save, email and share these? Can I expose my reading list? If you’ve read a load of books, where can you or other people see these? Where’s the privacy feature? If I’m sharing or saving my bookmarks, who controls who sees them? Where’s the backup? If this ereader or service tanks tomorrow, what happens to my bookmarks?
This is an incredibly brief list, which points towards the central question of Open Bookmarks: who owns your bookmarks? The answer should be you, and the questions above help tease out the answer.Let's summarize what this post covered- we know from part I that graduate students produce a large volume of work, little of which can be shared via traditional academic journals. There exists other models of publication that circumvent, in varied degrees, the problems encountered in proprietary journals. Online collaborative tools promise to make this barrier to publication melt away, but only if these same tools allow users to 'certify' the knowledge of the arguments presented, as well as facilitate easy sharing of notes and 'bookmarks' so that others can easily see what specifically drove one users comments or views. By creating a standardized 'tagging' system, we can ensure that works are easily indexed and shared, increasing the circulation of ideas and dramatically speeding up both innovations and critiques.