“It’s not for us, it’s for Academia”: Research, publishing, and dissemination

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Last month my article “Chipmusic, Fakebit, and the Discourse of Authenticity in the Chipscene” was published at Widerscreen (April 2014). It has been great working with the editors and reviewers – it’s a very rewarding process for anyone who’s into writing, and it wasn’t an exception for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

I was curious as to what chipscene-related people will think. For the ones who do not know this, I conducted research with a group of people who are very much active online. VERY. MUCH. And my article was written in English, a language that the majority of my informants speak and read. Also, the article is open access – and of course, available online. 

I have read several ethnographic books and articles in my life, but none had prepared me for what would happen following the publication. There were hundreds of comments in social media, online communities, and blogs overnight. I read every single comment I could find. Some of them were in languages I don’t speak (such as Spanish) so I asked people to translated it for me. 

It is very much expected that in online communities there is some clustering with regards to opinions, views, perspectives, and generally, ideology. Some people liked the article, others hated it. There was the occasional troll (loved the comments!) and in some cases, people discussed seriously about themes I mentioned in the article (there goes my attempt to eliminate the ripple effect in anthropological terms). There was one comment however, which prevailed over others and appeared in diverse comments: “[This article] is not for us. It’s for Academia”. 

Why would anyone say this? First and foremost, the language in which the article was written. It’s not the easiest read and it uses some academic jargon. Secondly, some people felt my argument isn’t really a big thing for the chipscene (anymore?) so it doesn’t apply to current situations. Thirdly, it was longer than a journalistic article or a blog post (around 10,000 words). 

Why do we publish? Everyone must have their reasons – REF, get a job, passion for writing, dissemination of research (because we got a grant and we need to justify where the money went), extend research in our field, advance knowledge in a field etc.

When it comes to doing fieldwork in places that our written output will potentially be read by the people we’re working with, how should we proceed with the writing process? Every writing seminar will teach you that you need to know who this piece will be addressed to. What is our audience? Is it academics? The people we’re working with? Our informants? Our friends? Is it even possible to write a generic article that can tick all the boxes?

Well. Short answer is no. Long answer is that you can always bend the rules. I’m pro “applied academia” – I see the point of publishing something that will be read by fellow academics who are working in a similar area only, and yes, it’s a valid argument, but I somehow think this isn’t enough. Can we still (socially) afford to divide the world in “academics” and “non-academics” or “academics” and “administrators” or “______________” (apply here any such division)? 

In a liberal world, such divisions are pointless. Recent electoral results showed that we (in Europe) live far from a liberal world. Perhaps this post shouldn’t be for us, but for politicians (!). 

In any case, thanks to everyone who bothered to comment on my work in any way. And thank you for this food for thought!

 

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2 thoughts on ““It’s not for us, it’s for Academia”: Research, publishing, and dissemination

  1. Good points! Some of the things you mention have popped up in, say, subcultural studies – how people hate being defined – but it’s a totally different perspective when you’ve seen it from close up.

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