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Posts from the ‘Practical Information’ Category

Debt and Graduate Admissions

From the end of Matthew Pratt Guterl’s essay “Debt“:

There are many major issues with higher education, but the solutions to most of them are well beyond the reach of tenure-stream faculty.  Chairs and department members can’t generally compel deans to do much of anything, because decisions about financial reallocation aren’t usually made by deans – they get made by Provosts and Presidents, by big donors, by trustees, and by students, who can always take their precious credit hours elsewhere.

There is, though, a metaphorical debt to be paid here. We owe graduate students a clear shot at a degree without an interest rate on the back end (so, a reasonable stipend, workshop space, and research support, but also financial counseling and informal support mechanisms).  We owe them some very straight talk early in their coursework about an exit strategy if they aren’t going to make it.  We owe them a direct path to the degree, and structures and cultures that make it possible for them to complete their work in decent time.  We owe them degrees with somewhat flexible career outcomes.  And we owe it to them to match the size of our incoming cohorts – as best as we possibly can – to the job market success of recent graduates, and not chiefly to the sometimes self-indulgent abstractions of graduate teaching.

These things are within reach.  These things can be done.

Matt’s essay is part of a larger ongoing conversation happening with extra vigor, and also extra despair, right now. (I am not going to provide a pile of links here. If you are involved in training graduate students, are a graduate student, or think you  want to be a graduate student, you should be plugged into this conversation. If you have not found it on your own, you should be reading Inside Higher Education and those parts of the Chronicle of Higher Education that you can access (it is not all freely accessible and not everyone has access to an institutional subscription). You should also be following the discussion on Twitter (@sarahkendzior and those whom she is in dialogue with would be a good start) and elsewhere on the open web.)

The timing of the debt discussion is particularly appropriate because right now, in research universities around the United States, academic departments with graduate programs are reviewing applications from would-be masters and doctoral students. Such departments face many hard to answer questions. Who to admit and why? How many students to admit? Of those admitted, how many will come? Will we provide financial support for some or all of those we admit? How long will it take for an admitted applicant to accomplish the learning and career goals that they are describing in their application? Can we adequately mentor and train the person we are learning about in a large but partial PDF file? What will the career prospects be for these applicants two or six or eight years from now? How is my university changing and how is the world changing and how will these changes shape the experiences of, and prospects for, these applicants?

In my own department, I am deeply involved in this process right now. No one can know exactly how to answer such questions or to perfectly do this work–and it is really work. When it is done and some of those applicants join us next fall, I will try my best to fulfill those obligations that Matt outlines in his essay. At least those things seem clear.

Notes on Thoughtfulness in Scholarly Publishing (1): A la Carte Pricing

Today a senior scholar whose work I greatly respect called me an asshole. This was in response to my being snarky in a social media environment. Snarky is probably never a good stance to take. This was a reminder. I will not revisit the episode except to acknowledge that, in a diffuse way, it motivates the post (perhaps a series of posts) initiated here.

One definition of “thoughtfulness” provided by the Oxford English Dictionary, characterizes things this way:

Showing thought or consideration for others; considerate, kindly.

I was not thoughtful in my snarky comment, although it was motivated out of concern for others.

This note on publishing thoughtfulness is not in first position relative to other notes in some kind of procedural or conceptual sequence. It is just a fragment from a bigger statement or recommendation that could be composed. Its is just one piece of the larger picture of scholarly publishing practices that is on my mind today. No one is obligated to follow this counsel, of course. For anyone who is interested, here is one thoughtfulness recommendation. (The post presumes academic publishing in scholarly journals without consideration of author payment. People writing for a living in magazines and newspapers have important and different concerns.)

Before submitting an article to, or agreeing to contribute a review to, a particular scholarly journal, find out how much the a la carte price to access that work is going to be.

This is easier said than done for a host of platform and PR reasons. Before I offer some tips on doing it, here are some arguments as to why this is a thoughtful thing to do.

As I discussed in an essay for anthropologies, only a tiny portion of the world’s population has institution-based access to the scholarly literature. (Even fewer have personal subscription-based access.) This means that most people will simply not be able to legally access your work. This opens the door to an open access discussion, but I am not going to open that door. Forget it. Forget about retaining your rights. Forget about green open access. Forget about all that stuff. Just focus on a la carte pricing.

If a person has the ability to discover your work but lacks the ability to read it behind a paywall, publishers have a solution. Pay-per-view is that solution. I call it a la carte because it involves paying money for a single item of scholarship, rather than some larger bundle of scholarship.

Depending on the publisher and platform, this price can be relatively modest or (by most people’s standards) rather high. For poor people, your “relatively modest” may count as rather high, but we are not dwelling too much on that here. (See the anthropologies paper for that kind of talk.)

If you do scholarship without any institutional affiliation whatsoever, it is actually easier to find the a la carte price. Use a smart phone or some other internet connecting device and drill down to the item you want (or that counts as your investigative test case) via whatever digital platform it exist on. When you get to the end of the line, you will be at a toll gate. Chance are good that there is a price tag attached to the item. Pay the amount and get through the gate. You may get to read it for a time period before it evaporates or you may get to “keep” a PDF for an extended period. There are many variations on the use rights you are buying at the gate. For now, the key thing is figuring out the price. (Just keep in mind that you are not really buying anything. You are leasing certain use rights. You cannot give your version away, for instance. Get the used bookstore image out of your mind.)

If you work at an institution of higher education with some kind of library funded access to the scholarly literature, the a la carte price may be hard to find. Those wonderful librarians are working to make your use as seamless as possible. This means not only do they struggle to find the cash (often tuition dollars) to pay for your access, but they also make keen technological arrangements to keep it easy for you. One of these is keying access to machine IP address. Access a journal platform from an on-campus machine or via a laptop that has been configured to act like one, and you may not see the paywall. If you get in seamlessly, you never see the a la carte price and thus may not even realize there is one. Publishers like this about their platforms. Its a design feature. One designed to keep you from thinking about how much is being charged to access their work.)

A thoughtful author can do a bit of work to find the a la carte price before making a publishing decision. Have you been asked to review a book? How much will your review cost? About to send out your manuscript. If you succeed, how much will someone pay to read you?

Were you asked to write a review for a Routledge journal like Folklore? Go to the site and see. That journal recently published a two page review of a book called Tales of Kentucky Ghosts. This two page review costs $37.00 plus local taxes. Forgetting the taxes, that comes to $18.50 per page. At Routledge, the price is flat per item, thus a 28 page article in a recent issue of Ethnos comes to $1.32 per page. [Why did I pick on that review of Tales of Kentucky Ghosts particularly? Well, consider this. The book itself can be purchased for $14.97 in a kindle edition from Amazon. Six cents per page for the book being reviewed in the $18.50 per page review.]

For Wiley journals “You can purchase online access to this Article for a 24-hour period (price varies by title).” To do this (or to see the price) you have to make a Wiley account and login. To purchase a review of the book Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside from the American Anthropologist costs $12 for 24 hour access to a 1 page review. City and Society content also costs $12 for 24 hours. Thus a recent 17 page article therein comes in at a just 70 cents for an entire day of reading. [One can get Dacha Idylls from Amazon for $15.99 for as long as the technology lasts...]

Considering Public Culture published by the not-for-profit Duke University Press, you can pay per view in it for $15 for two days of access. The editor’s letter in its recent number is four pages, making it $3.75 per page for 48 hours. Because the rate is flat, the price per page goes down as the page count goes up.

Social Forces published by Oxford University Press? $35 for 24 hours.

Of course, such a quest my lead to discovering that a journal does not provide a la carte access. (Ethnology seems to be one example of this. American Antiquity seems to be another.)

Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory? $0 for infinite hours. (Amusing myself with that one–of course there is no a la carte price at Hau–its a gold OA journal.)

You get the point.

One kind of thoughtfulness in publishing decisions focuses on the end price to legally access the scholarship that we give to publishers with the hope that they will get it before the eyes of interested readers. If I used only the data presented above, I cannot easily make a case for one toll access publisher over another. It gets easier when other considerations are brought into play. Still, if you recoil at the idea of someone paying $35 to read your book review or at the idea that someone would pay the same about to rent access to your article for a single day, then the thoughtful thing to do is to not publish in such venues or, if you must, to do so in a way that allows you to legally share your work in green open access ways.

The MMWC Newsletter and Other Infrastructure: Building our Bazaar


The Mathers Museum of World Cultures (MMWC) has a new newsletter. The cover for MMWC #1 is shown above. Clicking on it should take you to the whole issue as it appears on the online publishing platform Issuu. To add the newsletter to your hoard of PDFs, you can download it from the MMWC website download it here. For the long haul, we will soon add the newsletter to the museum’s “community” in the IUScholarWorks Repository.

Before talking about the newsletter as infrastructure, I want to thank MMWC Assistant Director Judy Kirk for her great work getting it edited and launched. This is a small summer issue that recaps some recent MMWC developments. A forward-looking fall issue will follow it very soon. While thanking Judy, I want to also thank the whole MMWC community–staff, volunteers, students, researchers, advisory board members, donors–for the work that we begin reporting in this first issue of the newsletter.

One of the museum’s accomplishments of the first half of 2013 was the establishment of an ambitious strategic plan. One thread running through that plan is work aimed at putting into place a range of kinds of museum “infrastructure.” Some of this will be very visible to the museum’s friends and supporters, other kinds of infrastructure will help the museum do its behind-the-scenes work more effectively. As I can, I will try to tell the story of our infrastructure work here. I have found the public reporting of my colleagues and of peer-institutions extremely helpful and my aim here is to reciprocate in appreciation for what I have learned from them. (For a recent example, consider this great account of the building of a teaching lab at the Penn Museum.) Read more

Genres Leak, Being a Reflection on Michael E. Smith’s Essay on Semi-, Quasi- and Pseudo- Journals

On his weblog Publishing Archaeology, Michael E. Smith raises key questions about the status of a mode of scholarly communication for which he is in search of a name. To guide his thinking, he considers two actual web publishing projects in anthropology: (1) Anthropologies and (2) Anthropology of This Century. Committed to the centrality of the established peer-reviewed journal form (but eager to advance open access and also a blogger himself) he wonders what to call these journal-like publishing efforts. Noting that these publishing efforts have some clear similarities to conventional journal but that they are also, in some ways, different, the possibilities that occur to him include semi-, quasi-, and pseudo- journal.

I do not have answers for Michael’s questions all nailed down perfectly myself, but I doubt that semi-journal or quasi-journal or pseudo-journal will, in practice, stick. There are a great many experiments going on in scholarly communication and I think that we will eventually discover the right names for specific kinds of projects. I think that the label “journal” is likely going to continue to spread to refer to a greater diversity of communicative forms. For me, the key thing that we know now is that it is important not to conflate platforms with genres (or with quality). Read more

Why Michael Wesch’s “Blogging” Should Count

In his essay “Blogging for Promotion: An Immodest Proposal” anthropologist Greg Downey outlines a clear set of actionable proposals for reform at the intersection of scholarly communications practices and academic tenure and promotion practices. I commend his essay, which was published today (10/20/11) on Neuroanthropology, a compelling and influential PLoS (Public Library of Science) weblog that he runs with Daniel Linde. Rather than discussing this important contribution here in depth, I am going to try enacting one of its proposals. (For reference, see especially the discussion that follows Downey’s section heading “An immodest proposal (not an indecent proposition)”.)

First the set up. I am working extensively right now preparing a new course for spring 2011. This course was devised as part of my participation in a two year think-tank funded by the Teagle Foundation (a funder supporting projects designed to foster innovation in undergraduate teaching and learning) and organized by the American Folklore Society. The AFS project was built around the theme “What is the relationship between lay and expert knowledge in a complex society?” Colleagues teaching in a range of institutions, from community colleges and private liberal arts colleges to large research institutions gathered to explore the frontiers of research-based teaching, changing curriculum practices, and the wider contexts of our work in a small border discipline bridging the humanities and the social sciences, as well as the academy and the public sphere. As part of our work, we developed plans for new courses and teaching resources. Part of my work focused on working out plans for the course that I will initially teach next spring (it opens for enrollment today).

I have mentioned the course here previously. In a nutshell it uses the toolkit of folkloristics (and by extension my other field–cultural anthropology) to consider human responses–including aesthetic, expressive, customary, and communal responses–to a range of recently emergent and highly contested human social problems. Called “The New Social Problems: Communal and Expressive Responses” the new problem domains to be considered include such things as the digital divide, genetic engineering, intellectual property contests, and nanotechnologies. I am sure that I will be discussing the course further as it moves forward. The important point in this context is noting the influence that one colleague–whom I do not know and whom I have not yet met–has had on the shaping of my plans for this experimental course.

Michael Wesch, on his website/weblog Digital Ethnography (which is a key node in the digital infrastructure of his undergraduate-based research group), has regularly and effectively documented the pedagogical experiments and research work that he has been pursuing (over many years) with many successive groups of Kansas State University students. Wesch has been appropriately recognized and celebrated for the innovative work that he and his students have been doing. What I want to highlight here is that the manner in which he has documented and explained this work has made it richly available for the wider scholarly community. Because he has used as a venue for reporting on his work, his strategies and experiences are openly and immediately accessible to me (and to my students) as well as to everyone else able to surmount the digital divide. Essays like “Our Class on How We Run Our Class” in which Wesch and his students describe (and enact) the technical and intellectual strategies through which a standard U.S. undergraduate course is turned into a deeply meaningful research collaboratory for social scientific investigation are just not available in the conventional published literature in our field. It is on the basis of the inspiration provided and the information conveyed by Wesch and his students that I am able to imagine a very different kind of course to pursue with my own students in January.

Michael Wesch’s Digital Ethnography efforts represent the kinds of “blogging” work that deserves to count as a substantive scholarly contribution (bridging teaching, research, and service) in such areas as annual review and tenure and promotion considerations.

Read Frank Speck’s Oklahoma Essays on your Phone, Free (Connexions)

The Connexions project headquartered at Rice University is great. I tried it out as a book publishing platform last year by editing into existence a book composed of Frank G. Speck’s essays on Oklahoma and Indian Territories originally published in The Southern Workman. Speck was a anthropologist and folklorist who visited the twin territories just before statehood.  The essays are really interesting for a lot of reasons that I try to describe in my introduction to the volume.  Today I am just noting that Connexions has added EPUB format to the range of ways that you can freely read and use (and remix) Connexions content.  This means that the little Speck book can be read using a e-reader on fancy phones and other mobile devices.  Connexions also serves up content in free PDF files and free dynamic webpages.  Any work can be purchased as a print on demand book too. If you do not know about Connexions, you really should check it out.

The Cost of Applying for that Academic [Anthropology or Folklore] Job on the Final Day

This note encodes a particular observation on the academic job search process that I have witnessed on several occasions as a faculty member involved in, or witnessing, a number of faculty searches in anthropology and folklore studies. There is plenty of good advice out there on the academic job search but I do not recall anyone ever making the following observation.

This note applies to searches that are not of the “wide open” variety. That is, I am speaking about cases where a department wants a particular set of specialties.

Anthropology job searchers play close attention to the job ads in their field. A sometimes puzzling development is when a department runs their ad again with a new, later due date. It may be obvious that this happens when the search committee is not happy with the size or qualities of the applicant pool. What is not so obvious is the effect that last minute applications have on this process. I am talking to you last minute applicants!

As the due date for applications approaches, those managing the search have to make an assessment. Is the pool large enough to pass muster with college or university HR officials? In many institutions, the powers that be will not allow a search to move forward to the screen and interview stage if there are too few applicants.  Too few applicants is a sign that something has not gone right.  In some institutions, the human resources authorities want to see that the pool has attracted an appropriately diverse pool in terms of gender and other demographic variables. For multiple practical reasons, the assessment of the pool typically has to happen before the original due date is reached. If the due date is reached without being extended and the pool turns out to be inadequate, the search might be declared “busted.” Particularly under current economic conditions, faculty searches are very prized occurrences and no one wants to risk seeing the plug being pulled from above.

So, in a hypothetic search for a specialized colleague, it is almost due date time and there are too few applicants. Rather than risk a range of problems, the department extends its deadline. Then, minutes before the original deadline, a wave of applications arrive. Arriving on the last day are just enough solid applications to cause the original pool to be viable after all.  If those late appliers had applied earlier, the original deadline would have stuck and they would have been part of a small but viable pool. For any one of them, their chances would have been better had this happened. Now, in this example instance, they have to wait around a month or more to see what happens. Their chances are harmed because delay=risk. (A Dean can close an in-process search for all kinds of reasons.) They are also harmed because the pool, with additional time, will attract additional candidates. Additional candidates=additional competition.  This scenario happens in the real world and the N number of applicants who turn their stuff in on the last day are the cause.  They mess things up for themselves and they mess things up for the hiring department. Applying at the last minute is, of course, better than not applying at all, but if you are an applicant, it is not in your self-interest.

If you are applying for an anthropology or folklore (or etc.) job with a narrow area or historical focus or in a specialized or emergent research area or for a job with a complicated mandate or in an off-the-beaten-path location, paying attention to this potential dynamic is very much in your interest. It is simply better to be an excellent candidate in a small but viable pool in a search that is unfolding quickly and early in the annual hiring season.

What can the Open Folklore project help me do now? [3] (The Community Arts Network Edition)

This post is the third in a series [1] [2] discussing what the efforts bundled as the Open Folklore project can do for the community now, before the portal site that will live at is finalized.

A part of the Open Folklore effort that has not been discussed here previously concerns the plan to durably archive content-rich websites of relevance to scholars and practitioners in the field of folklore studies. Recently a need arose to put these plans to a quick test. The Community Arts Network (CAN), a not-for-profit service organization that had built up a large and widely used website found itself needing to cease operation of its elaborate site. On August 31, Debora Kodish of the Philadelphia Folklore Project contacted the Open Folklore team at Indiana about the possibility that the project might be able to assist in the preservation of the CAN assets.  Discussions and investigations quickly followed and the IU Libraries decided to pursue archiving the site. This work was complete before the time of the scheduled shut down on Labor Day.  It all worked and now we can see what a website archived in the manner that we anticipate using looks and feels like.  The words of appreciation that have been offered from the community arts and public folklore communities have been most appreciated and are a major source of encouragement for what we are trying to get going with Open Folklore.

To help explicate a bit further, this is a re-posting of an announcement being circulated by the Community Arts Network (CAN). It was crafted with input from the librarians at Indiana who are central to the current early-phase work on the Open Folklore project. Thanks go to everyone who has been involved in these efforts.  (See the CAN Facebook page for additional discussion.)

The Community Arts Network (CAN), Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, and the American Folklore Society are pleased to announce that the CAN Web site has been archived as part of the Open Folklore project ( Open Folklore is intended to be an online portal to open-access digital folklore content and plans to launch a prototype in October at the American Folklore Society meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

After CAN announced it would be forced to immediately shut down its Web site due to lack of funds, the IU Bloomington Libraries offered to capture the CAN Web site using Archive-It, a subscription service from the Internet Archive that allows institutions to build and preserve collections of born-digital content. The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded in 1996 to build an “Internet library” with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to collections that exist in digital format. Because CAN is a content-rich Web site that is of great interest to folklorists, the IU Bloomington Libraries made use of their subscription to Archive-It to preserve the site without charge.

The archived CAN is static, but is fully text searchable, though some external links and some internal scripted functions may no longer work. It is, however, a unique and permanent record of the site as it existed at the time. Users may visit the archived site at The full text of the site may be searched at the Archive-It home site,

Art in the Public Interest, CAN’s non-profit, will continue to seek funding to develop the CAN materials into a sophisticated archive library.

Debora Kodish, founder of the Philadelphia Folklore Project first suggested that Open Folklore might have a role to play in preserving CAN, and this suggestion was enthusiastically and swiftly adopted. IU Bloomington Libraries Dean Brenda Johnson described this sequence of events as an excellent proof of concept for Open Folklore and for the value of collaboration between a research library and the scholarly community it serves. “This is a sterling example of why digital preservation efforts are so important. Without the active collaboration of the folklore community, and without IUB Libraries participation in Archive-It, a unique and valuable online resource would have vanished.”

I invite you to check out the archived CAN site.

What can the Open Folklore project help me do now? [2]

This is a second in a series of postings describing things that can already be done with folklore studies scholarship that has been made available through the efforts of the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries. These various projects are being brought together in the Open Folklore project. While it will soon provide a portal to this diverse range of this content at, a great deal of content has already been made available. The first post described accessing folklore books via the Hathi Trust Digital Library. This post explains accessing several bundles of materials via the IUScholarWorks Repository.

IUScholarWorks Repository is a DSpace-based institutional repository for Indiana University Bloomington.  Folklore studies materials that have been incorporated within it include the following items and groups of items. While I could describe how to access these materials, it will be easiest for new users to just click the links given and explore the repository.

The journal Folklore and Folk Music Archivist (1958-1968) can be accessed here:

[As discussed here previously] a range of reports, monographs and working papers published by The Fund for Folk Culture can be accessed here:

The back files of the journal New Directions in Folklore (1997-2003) can be found here:

Newly added, and of special interest, are several special publications issued by the American Folklore Society, including the book 100 Years of American Folklore Studies: A Conceptual History edited by WIlliam M. Clements and published by the Society during its centennial year, 1988.  These materials can be found here:

The motherlode of folklore scholarship in IUScholarWorks Repository are the back files of the journal Folklore Forum.  Published since 1968, forty years of journal content (1968-2008), constituting 1314 items, is available here:

Folklore Forum is a publication of Trickster Press, the student-run publishing house in Indiana’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.  Trickster continues to publish Folklore Forum as a gold open access journal (see here). In addition to making its back files available in IUScholarWorks Repository, the Trickster Press team, working with the IUB Libraries has also made available content from the Folklore Forum Bibliographic and Special Series (87 items), which can be found here:

Books from the Folklore Forum Monograph Series, can be found here:

In addition to these Folklore Forum-related materials, Trickster Press has also opened four of its out of print book titles.  These are:

Log Buildings in Southern Indiana by Warren Roberts (1996) available here:

Folklore on Two Continents: Essays in Honor of Linda Degh edited by Carl Lindahl and Nikolai Burlakoff (1980) available here:

Fields of Folklore: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Goldstein edited by Roger D. Abrahams (1995) available here:

and The Old Traditional Way of Life: Essays in Honor of Warren E. Roberts edited by Robert E. Walls, George H. Schoemaker, Jennifer Livesay, and Laura Dassow Walls (1989) available here:

In classic institutional repository mode, various materials produced in IUB’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology are also available in IUScholarWorks Repository. These materials, which include conference proceedings, post prints, MA theses, sound recordings, and syllabi can be found here:

This heterogeneous corpus of folklore scholarship is continuing to grow and it is anticipated that the Open Folklore portal will make consulting it easier in the years ahead.  In the meantime, there is plenty for the early adopters to read, study and enjoy.

Thanks to all who have worked to make these resources openly available.  Thanks as well to the many people who have expressed support for the Open Folklore project.

Worldwide List of OA Journals in Anthropology

Thanks to for compiling a worldwide list of (gold) open access journals in anthropology and neighboring fields. (Many folklore and ethnology titles are included.) In addition to listing known journals with links, a search utility has been set up on the site. Find the OA anthropology journal list here: . This is a great resource for a number of reasons, including the presence here of titles such that have not been included in the Directory of Open Access Journals. The listing should be of special value to higher education librarians and the students and faculty that they support. had already established itself as the best blogroll in anthropology (see here), so this was a logical and wonderful next step.


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