[iDC] Hackademia as New Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

Jon Ippolito jippolito at maine.edu
Tue Jul 26 18:15:13 UTC 2011

On Jul 25, 2011, at 6:18 PM, Jan Schmidt wrote:
> 3) Participation as a meta-skill: Not only do we need to be fluent participants in these new public spheres; we also have to participate in the more general power struggles around the design and control of these new structures, which are often proprietary and intransparent.

English professor Stephen Ramsay riled his audience at last January's Modern Language Association conference by arguing that "if you're not making something...you're not a digital humanist." [1] In the past, I have lamented that the standards for academia privilege thinkers over doers, whereas most of the earliest generation of new media theorists were both--as Simon, Patrick, and others on this list can attest. In response, Roger Malina of MIT Press and the Still Water lab at UMaine have publicized promotion and tenure criteria for the 21st century to correct that imbalance and give doers the recognition they deserve. [2]

As of last week, however, there's a new kind of recognition for the activist brand of digital humanist: jail time. At least, that's what open access activist and RSS co-inventor Aaron Schwartz got in return for downloading 4 million academic articles from JSTOR, an act prosecutors claim was a precursor to making them available on peer-to-peer filesharing sites. 

On the positive side, the arrest of Aaron Schwartz has spurred copycat actions by open access activists, including the posting of 18,000 public domain articles previously behind a JSTOR paywall onto the notorious P2P search engine The Pirate Bay. [3]

If these developments portend the rise of a new breed of hackademics, then sign me up for the digital humanities!

Still Water--what networks need to thrive.

[1] "Hard Times Sharpen the MLA's Lens on Labor and the Humanities," http://chronicle.com/article/Hard-Times-Sharpen-the-MLAs/125905 (via Craig Dietrich)

[2] "New Criteria for New Media," http://thoughtmesh.net/publish/275.php

[3] "Academia meets Wikileaks: when plagiarism is activism," http://www.nmdnet.org/2011/07/23/academia-meets-wikileaks-when-plagiarism-is-activism-2/

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