Friday, May 23, 2008

Something to ponder - comparative music edition

As I was eating breakfast and listening to the radio this morning, the DJ played back-to-back songs by Billy Joel and Elton John. There was something about them that struck me as similar. Hence...

Something to ponder, #2: Is Billy Joel America's Elton John?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Journal publishing in cultural studies

Quite some time ago, I drafted a short conference paper called, "Acknowledged Goods: Cultural Studies and the Politics of Scholarly Journal Publishing." I've presented versions of it at the annual cultural studies conference we hold here at Indiana University and at the "Cultural Studies Now" conference in London (both in 2007). I'll be presenting still another, more refined version of the paper at "Crossroads in Cultural Studies" this July in Kingston, Jamaica.

Since I'm done revising my book, I'm able to return to "Acknowledged Goods" and to begin developing it in earnest. To that end, I've placed a snippet of the paper-in-progress on the Differences and Repetitions Wiki, which you can access by clicking here. I'd appreciate any comments you may have. You can leave feedback right on the site or email suggestions to me directly (

Currently, there are only two paragraphs and a couple of tables, so the material shouldn't take you too long to read. The information about journal publishers and their subscription prices may surprise and even alarm you (or, maybe not, if you've been following the open access debates). I'll be adding more to the document in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Something to ponder - premiere edition

I've decided to add a new and probably periodic feature to D&R--a series of posts called, "something to ponder." In it, I'll pose a question I believe is worth thinking about. These posts won't contain much in the way of reflection on my part; that'll be up to you, dear readers, either on your own, or, if you're inclined to think out loud, in the blog comments.

Enjoy--and ponder away!

Something to ponder, #1: Why is it that the United States Federal Reserve has decided to cut interest rates, which presumably will drive more people into debt, as a way of mitigating the current credit crisis?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Why did I join Facebook?

It was bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose.

By "it," I mean signing up for Facebook. I'd held out for quite some time, my resolve bolstered by an informal straw poll I conducted this past January, in which my friends (not the Facebook variety) and interlocutors on D&R told me that I wasn't missing much by avoiding the popular social networking site.

LIARS!!!!!!!!!! Apparently just about everyone I know, or have ever known, was already on Facebook, which makes me about the last person on earth to join. I suppose it's worth narrating how I ended up there.

To put it as straightforwardly as possible, Twitter is the gateway drug for Facebook. Over the last year or so I'd incorporated various RSS news feeds onto my academic website, Bookworm, since I thought it might be nice to have some elements that updated constantly. I was never really satisfied with them, though, and so about a month or two ago, I made the fateful decision to join Twitter and place a badge on the site. I figured it might be a nice way to add real-time information about my research projects, conference presentations, publications, and so forth. And then something unexpected happened. People started following my Twitter feed, and eventually, I, theirs. It was riveting. One of my followers even proposed a picnic "Tweetup" to all his followers. Suddenly, I realized that virtual connections might indeed translate into "real world" ones.

I also blame Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point. I just started reading it in earnest the other night and became enthralled with his portrait of "connectors." These are people who know people--lots of people. Connectors are able to move in and across many different social circles, because they tend to maintain what Gladwell calls "weak ties." For them, connection is far more important than depth in a relationship, which allows them to stay in touch with a sprawling array of people. That sounded pretty Facebook to me.

So after much gnashing of teeth, I bit the bullet last night and signed up for Facebook. At 7:30 p.m., I registered. At 9:30 p.m., I had 17 friends. This morning, I have 28 and counting. I'm still not sure what to make of it all, honestly, but I'm intrigued to see how things develop. It's been nice reconnecting with old friends, though I fear for Facebook becoming a major time-suck. This was confirmed not only by the two hours I spent online last night, but also by some of the comments my friends had left on my Facebook wall. They said things to the effect of, "welcome to the black hole" and "sucker!"

I'll admit, I'm pretty awkward on Facebook right now. I can barely tell my profile page from my home page, and I have no idea what a zombie war is or why you'd want to fight one. I'm anxiously anticipating my colleague Ilana Gershon's book, therefore, which will provide a road map (among other things) to interpersonal dynamics on Facebook. For now, though, I'm really just fumbling through. Please bear with me.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

More open access

Here's some more good news about open access publishing in the humanities, and it comes at a very interesting time for me. Now that my book, The Late Age of Print, is more or less finished, I'm about to return to the "Cultural Studies and Journal Publishing" essay I've been pecking at for some time now and presenting bits of at conferences.

It's remarkable just how far things have come in a year, especially in the humanities, which has lagged way, way behind the sciences, medicine, and technical fields in terms of making its journal publishing apparatus more open and less corporate. Still, I wonder: does OA journal publishing need to remain so resolutely hierarchical? That's a question I'll be pondering, probably in the conclusion to my essay. I'll be posting the piece to the Differences & Repetitions Wiki for feedback once it's a bit farther along.

Anyway, here's the OA announcement. Congratulations to all those involved on launching the Open Humanities Press initiative, and thank you for your vision.

– Open Access expands to humanities disciplines with a bold new publishing initiative in critical and cultural theory.

Brussels, Belgium – On May 12, 2008, the Open Humanities Press (OHP) will launch with 7 of the leading Open Access journals in critical and cultural theory. A non-profit, international grass-roots initiative, OHP marks a watershed in the growing embrace of Open Access in the humanities.

“OHP is a bold and timely venture” said J. Hillis Miller, Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, a long-time supporter of the Open Access movement and OHP board member. “It is designed to make peer-reviewed scholarly and critical works in a number of humanistic disciplines and cross-disciplines available free online. Initially primarily concerned with journals, OHP may ultimately also include book-length writings. This project is an admirable response to the current crisis in scholarly publishing and to the rapid shift from print media to electronic media. This shift, and OHP’s response to it, are facets of what has been called ‘critical climate change.’”

“The future of scholarly publishing lies in Open Access” agreed Jonathan Culler, Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cornell University and fellow member of OHP’s editorial advisory board. “Scholars in the future should give careful consideration to the where they publish, since their goal should be to make the products of their research as widely available as possible, to people throughout the world. Open Humanities Press is a most welcome initiative that will help us move in this direction.”

OHP will give new confidence to humanities academics who wish to make their work freely accessible but have concerns about the academic standards of online publishing. In addition to being peer-reviewed, all OHP journals undergo rigorous vetting by an editorial board of leading humanities scholars.

OHP’s board includes Alain Badiou, Chair of Philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure, Donna Haraway, Professor of the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies, UC Santa Cruz, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Director of the International Center for Writing and Translation, UC Irvine, Gayatri Spivak, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, Peter Suber, Open Access Project Director for Public Knowledge and Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College, and Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University, who has been leading the public debate on the crisis of academic publishing in the humanities.

“Open-access publishing in serious, peer-reviewed online scholarly journals is one of the keys to solving a financial crisis that has afflicted university libraries everywhere and has had a chilling effect on virtually every academic discipline” said Greenblatt.“Making scholarly work available without charge on the internet has offered hope for the natural sciences and now offers hope in the humanities.”

With initial offerings in continental philosophy, cultural studies, new media, film and literary criticism, OHP serves researchers and students as the Open Access gateway for editorially-vetted scholarly literature in the humanities. The first journals to become part of OHP are Cosmos and History, Culture Machine, Fibreculture, Film-Philosophy, International Journal of Zizek Studies, Parrhesia, and Vectors.

“But it’s not simply a matter of what Open Access can do for the humanities” added Gary Hall, Professor of Media and Performing Arts at Coventry University, co-editor of Culture Machine and one of the co-founders of OHP. “It is also a case of what can the humanities do for Open Access. Researchers, editors and publishers in the humanities have developed very different professional cultures and intellectual practices to the STMs [Science, Technology, and Medicine] who have dominated the discussion around Open Access to date. OHP is ideally positioned to explore some of the exciting new challenges and perspectives in scholarly communication that are being opened up for Open Access as it is increasingly adopted within the humanities.”


Open Humanities Press is an international Open Access publishing collective specializing in critical and cultural theory. OHP was formed by academics to overcome the current crisis in scholarly publishing that threatens intellectual freedom and academic rigor worldwide. OHP journals are academically certified by OHP’s independent board of international scholars. All OHP publications are peer-reviewed, published under open access licenses, and freely and immediately available online at

Monday, May 05, 2008

Rockefeller UP goes CC

From today's Inside Higher Ed:
Rockefeller University Press on Friday announced a shift in copyright policy for the three journals it publishes. The new policy allows authors to re-use their work in any way under a Creative Commons license, so that authors who wish to effectively make their work open and free may do so. The press publishes The Journal of Cell Biology, The Journal of Experimental Medicine and The Journal of General Physiology.

It's only a news brief, but you can find it here. Way to go, RUP, and thanks for supporting open access to ideas! Let the trend continue!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Thoughts on Tuesday's primary

Well, I really blew it on Super Tuesday. In a post on February 5th, 2008, I wrote:
Today, one of my students asked me where he could vote in Indiana's Super Tuesday primary. He was despondent when I told him that Indiana doesn't vote until May--about a week before Guam, and long after the Presidential nominations probably will be sewn up.

Who would have predicted back then that the primary season would still be going strong (for Democrats, anyway) come May? I hadn't, clearly, and I pretty much had resigned myself to having essentially no say in who the Democratic nominee will be. I'm thrilled, therefore, about this Tuesday's Indiana primary. I hear it's the first time in 40 years that the state will play a meaningful role in the Presidential nominating process. It'll truly be an historic day.

It's interesting to have experienced two significant Presidential primaries now--one at the front end of the process, the other, at the back end. In 1992, I was living in New Hampshire, home of the nation's first primary. The Democratic field was wide-open, and the state was abuzz with a dozen or so candidates. The late Paul Tsongas was the front-runner at the time, and I saw him deliver a speech at the UNH Memorial Union Building. The smallish room, where I often heard local bands play, was drab and poorly lit. Tsongas looked fine, but he was neither especially well-appointed nor particularly well-groomed. There was a decent turnout for the event, which was simple and straight-forward: he showed up, we clapped, he spoke, we clapped again, and we all went our separate ways. I vaguely recall that Tsongas seemed to have lacked energy. I'm sure there must have been some media presence, but no doubt the reporters were spread thin, given the size of the field that year.

Fast-forward to 2008. Last Wednesday, I attended a rally for Barack Obama at Indiana University's Assembly Hall. This is the IU basketball stadium. If you know anything about basketball in the state of Indiana, you should have some sense of the size of the event. The venue wasn't exactly filled to capacity, but it was close. Pretty much the only empty seats were in the nosebleed section. The floor was so densely packed that EMTs carted off three or four Obama supporters who, needing fresh air and a reprieve from the heat, had fainted. (In a particularly kind-hearted gesture, Obama tossed his own water bottle into the crowd, to help keep others from passing out.) The whole event was carefully choreographed, all the way down to the homemade looking signs that Obama's campaign staff had provided to the group selected to sit behind him on stage. There were also a capella groups, who entertained us during the two-and-a-half hour lead up to the event, and inflatable beach balls, which the audience knocked around as though were were at an arena rock concert. Oh--and did I mention that among the throng of reporters, there even was a correspondent from The Daily Show? He stood out because of the glittery blue cape he wore over his suit jacket.

As for Obama, he didn't look like someone who's been campaigning for 18 months, that's for sure. He showed up in his shirt-sleeves, and though his appearance may have seemed somewhat relaxed, it nonetheless didn't appear too casual. That is, to me he still read, "politician," and commanded just that sort of attention. His speech may have begun at 9:00 p.m., yet he seemed as fresh and as energetic as if he'd begun speaking at 9:00 a.m. The rally concluded not only with resounding applause, big smiles, and lots of audience glad-handing, but also with Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" blaring over the stadium PA.

It would be easy enough to wax cynical about how spectacular last week's Obama event was, compared to the Tsongas rally I attended 16 years ago. But what, after all, would be the point of that? Indeed, what's remarkable to me is how much more audience minded Presidential campaigns have become over the last two decades. Sure, a lot of it may be gimmicky, but I'm nonetheless stuck by how invested people seem to be in this particular Presidential election. To put it simply, I don't recall people being as interested in a Presidential nomination--or politics writ large--in my entire adult life. This is a welcome breakthrough indeed.

Surely this resurgent interest in politics has everything to do with the many serious issues facing not only the United States but also the world today. But those issues can easily seem abstract absent certain techniques to get folks riled up about them. Though I've not had the good fortune of attending a Clinton rally, that's surely what I saw at Obama's.

Tuesday's your day, Indiana, the last you may have in a looooooong time. Make it count, an keep the momentum going!