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Posts from the ‘Neoliberal Patterns’ Category

Value, Ownership, and Cultural Goods: Regina F. Bendix to Deliver 2016 Richard M. Dorson Memorial Lecture

This is the season’s big lecture. With many heritage studies projects underway, it is a perfect time to welcome Regina back to Bloomington. Here are the details:

2016 Richard M. Dorson Memorial Folklore Lecture
Join us for the 6th Annual Richard M. Dorson Memorial Folklore Lecture.

“Value, Ownership, and Cultural Goods”

Regina F. Bendix, University of Gottingen, Germany

Monday, March 21, 2016
6:00-8:00 pm
800 N Indiana Ave

A reception will follow the lecture.


Since the mid-1990s, scholarship on heritage has blossomed – some might say boomed – and brought forth a plethora of new journals and studies in many languages, not least due to the vigorous work and impact of UNESCO’s heritage programs. UNESCO’s work on behalf of “cultural goods” reaches back roughly sixty years and has yielded many policy suggestions, conventions and programs. UNESCO’s activities in turn mobilized other international agencies concerned less with safeguarding valuables and more with ownership and group rights. They point toward ways in which different groups of actors harness the notions of tradition, folklore, culture or heritage to improve their lot on this earth. In their efforts, such groups are likely assisted more by experts in international law and economics than by students of culture.

For scholars in folklore and related fields, at least two tasks present themselves. One entails a continuation of a by now “traditional” task: understanding how excerpts from cultural scholarship, in their transfer and implementation in the public sphere transform, the practices, people and places we tend to study. A second task builds on this first one: we need to find avenues to communicate better with disciplines and practitioners engaged in establishing the legal norms and the economic projections concerning the fate of culture turned resource.

Tomorrow! Workshop on Social Media and Academic Freedom

Social media panel discussion flyer

Hostile Workplaces

Bad workplaces in broader social context is a theme in my social reading today.

I very much recommend reading Paige West’s essay “That person at your office.” (via @subliminaries c/o @professorisin)

I also recommend a piece that I read a while back that is back in the news because the labor leader at the center of the story was apparently fired today. The story is by Sarah Kendzior and it is called “The Minimum Wage Worker Strikes Back.” (via @sarahkendzior)

Open Access at Indiana University Bloomington

Richard Poynder doesn’t miss a thing.

As reflected in Richard’s tweet and the Indiana Daily Student story that he pointed to, I–in my role as the chair of the Bloomington Faculty Council Library Committee–reported to the full council on Tuesday (April 29, 2014), summarizing the committee’s work deliberating during AY2013-2014 on two special charges relating to scholarly communications policy on Indiana University’s flagship Bloomington campus. This issues are complicated and understanding of them among faculty members remains low, motivating me to prepare formal remarks outlining the work of the committee and some of the contexts that motivated it. I also prepared a summary for circulation to the faculty via the regular reporting undertaken by the Council’s secretary. For those beyond Bloomington with an interest in the matter, I can report here a couple of points not raised in the IDS story. I will also present below my submitted summary text.

While the members of the Committee were divided on the desirability of continued efforts toward a Bloomington open access policy of the sort now in place at the University of California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Trinity University, the University of Kansas, Oberlin College, Rollins College, Duke University, the University of Hawaii-Manoa, the University of North Texas, Lafayette College, Emory University, Princeton University, Bucknell University, Oregon State University, Utah State University, Rice University, Wellesley College, Amherst College, the College of Wooster, Rutgers, Drake University, Georgia Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Bryn Mawr College, Connecticut College, and other institutions around the world, the Executive Committee of the Bloomington Faculty Council has announced that the matter will remain on the Council’s agenda in AY2014-2015. The Library Committee of the Indianapolis Faculty Council at IUPUI has recommended such a policy to its full campus council and the leadership groups on both campus intend to pursue educational and policy setting efforts around open access at the level of the university as a whole under the auspices of the University Faculty Council. Those watching open access policy work in Bloomington then should know that discussions on the issues are not concluded, despite the majority report of the Library Committee.

Those who know me and my commitments on these issues should know that I continue to believe what I have said that I believe on them and that my obligations as chair of the Library Committee were distinct from my commitments as a publisher, scholar, and public interest advocate.

The Summary

For AY2013-2014, the Bloomington Faculty Council (BFC) Library Committee was charged with deliberating on two specific issues [in addition to its standing obligations]. The BFC Executive Committee asked it to weigh a permanent change in committee charge to encompass work monitoring and formulating policy on scholarly publishing and scholarly communications issues. The committee was also asked to weigh options and to recommend (or not recommend) a specific proactive campus open access policy that could be considered and acted upon (after suitable campus consultation) by the Council. In response to the question of recommending a change in the committee’s standing charge, the committee recommended not making this change, instead recommending a mechanism by which the BFC Executive Committee would partner with the Provost in staffing the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Office of Scholarly Publishing. In response to the question of a normative open access policy for members of the Bloomington faculty, the committee recommended not pursuing such a policy, despite the growth of such policies at peer institutions. The committee’s motivations for adopting these positions are complex and different committee members arrived at different positions for varied reasons. Central to the recommendation to not expand or change the committee charge was concern that the committee as already inadequately addressing its ambitious existing charge, something than an expanded charge on a different set of issues would not ameliorate. Factors motivating member reservations about a campus open access policy defy categorization and are sometimes contradictory. A highly abstract summation of them is concern that such a policy could have various unintended negative consequences either as an outgrowth of achieving the stated goals of such a policy or in failing to do so.


My work as a member of the Bloomington Faculty Council ends officially at the end of the university fiscal year, but is effectively concluded now. I appreciated the opportunity to serve on, and learn as a member of, the Council. I have served as a member of the Library Committee on several occasions, including as its chair on multiple occasions. I am thankful for that opportunity. Outside of these roles in the years ahead, I look forward to new work advocating for progressive scholarly communications policies at Indiana University.

Check Out the New Anthropod Podcast on Open Access

I really enjoyed listening to the new Anthropod podcast on open access in anthropology. Focusing on the move of Cultural Anthropology to an open access model, hosts Bascom Guffin and Jonah S Rubin have done a great job with the podcast. I urge everyone to check out their well produced conversations with Sean Dowdy (of Hau), Alex Golub (of Savage Minds and many OA discussions), Brad Weiss (past SCA President), and Timothy Elfenbein (Cultural Anthropology Managing Editor).

Find it in context here:

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.

Conflation as Insult (On the Gold Open Access World I Live In)

On Savage Minds, Alex Golub very generously celebrates the recent publication of a large quantity of open access journal articles in anthropology and neighboring fields. I wish to add one point. I am talking to you under-informed, confusion-promulgating open access skeptics.

Not one of the journals that Alex highlights in his new post (to which we can add the remarkable Hau, the focus of other recent posts (1, 2) on Savage Minds) relies upon author fees to achieve this abundance. It is fair to say that the growing embrace of gold and hybrid open access by large commercial publishers (old and new) has very properly accelerated discussion of author-side charges and their very significant downsides. This shift has also erased older binaries and made it harder to talk about open access more broadly. But those wishing to advance the pro-/con- discussion of gold open access have an obligation to understand facts on the ground and to stop prematurely overgeneralizing on the basis of ignorance. The widespread conflation of all forms of gold open access with author-pays gold open access is not only unhelpful, it is an insult to all of those academics (and others) who take time out from their own work to help review and publish the writings of their colleagues in free-to-all-internet users and free-to-author ways. It is also unfair to those generous agencies and individuals in the world who are donating cash and services and attention and expertise to the building out of a progressive open access publishing ecosystem.

The community of people engaging with open access questions critically, and even skeptically, needs to grow and I want to welcome rather than discourage newcomers. But, if you cannot take the time to study the subject of open access in sufficient depth to make evidence-based pronouncements, then you should stop talking and start listening.

Coda: In my world, the conflation is most often an honest mistake by well-meaning people but it is also sometimes intentional FUD. One illustration of the rhetorical steps one takes to malign gold open access through conflation are illustrated by Konrad M. Lawson in today’s ProfHacker post. (See also Open Access: Six Myths to Put to Rest.)

Notes on Thoughtfulness in Scholarly Publishing (3): In This, I Support Elsevier

[Updated] This series began in the wake of an instance in which I, to the irritation of most observers, questioned a case of self-piracy. Soon thereafter, self-piracy was a big deal among publishing scholars for a higher education news cycle or two. I have stated my views previously and do not need to belabor them again here. I was busy with other things and thankfully Alex Golub and the Library Loon [and Barbara Fister] have each done a better job of writing about it [=Elsevier going after its agreement breaking authors] this time that I could ever do. Please read them.

Don’t blame Elsevier for exercising the rights you gave them by Alex Golub on Savage Minds.

Pig-ignorant entitlement and its uses by The Library Loon on Gavia Libraria

[When You Give Your Copyright Away by Barbara Fister in Inside Higher Education]

While I am a Elsevier boycott participant and cannot ever imagine publishing with them, I 100% support the rights of Elsevier and other publishers to fully and legally exercise the copyright that they legally hold and to protect their property from illegal misuse by third party firms and from their author agreement-disregarding authors who mistakenly believe that because their name is on the byline of an article that they can do whatever they wish with value-added property that, despite their authorship, they do not own. Self-piracy is wrong and it is not helping build a better scholarly communication system. Instead, it further confuses the already confused into believing that [pseudo] open access is easy and it leads to painful ironies such as scholarly society leaders setting publishing policies that they do not understand and that they, even as they make them, are out of compliance with. No open access advocate should be out of compliance with their own author agreements. (This is true all the more for those who are actively doubtful about open access.)  If a scholarly author wants to share their work freely online, there are many legal (and preservation-minded, and discovery-minded) ways to do this. Breaking contracts that one has already entered into so as to steal articles which one then hands off to a for-profit website (here today, gone when?) is not the way to do it.

Unfortunately, doing things the way we should do them is presently harder than doing things the way we want to do them. Reading and understanding (and knowing how to legally modify) author agreements is part of the hard work that thoughtful authors are obligated to pursue.

Notes on Thoughtfulness in Scholarly Publishing (2): Tim Elfenbein on the *Why* of a la Carte Pricing in Route to a Multivariate Thoughtfulness

If you find value or interest in the discussion initiated in my post on pay per view journal article pricing and its relevance to scholarly authors and general readers, then do not miss Tim Elfenbein’s comment on that post.

Tim is the managing editor of Cultural Anthropology and an all around great person to keep up with. Among many other things, he is a knowledgeable, well-positioned reader for my post. He is a great interlocutor for many reasons, including (importantly for me) that he kindly saw that I was bracketing out a lot of important stuff. Rather than calling me out for that, he saw the opportunity to extend the conversation, adding another “note” toward a more holistic set of considerations. It should be in this slot as a guest post, but you can find his comment here. I recommend it.

Tim puts an important range of considerations on the agenda. Most directly he tackles the need to understand something about the “why” of a la carte (or pay per view) pricing, but he also points to the nature and impact of platform choices, human appreciation to those who are paying for our publishing, appreciation for those who are doing the labor behind our publishing, and recognition of the reputation (and tenure) economy and its effects. Even the ways that digital, legal, and financial transformations have devastated the old interlibrary loan model is lurking in there. All deserve revisiting or visiting. I am glad that Tim recognized that I was biting off one arbitrary chunk and that there were others lurking beneath the surface (or sitting on the surface, as with my repeated use of the word legal).

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.

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