Stuart kindly responded to the comments in my previous post with some further interesting observations. I am adding a couple of clarifications here to clear up the amibiguities in my initial comment. I should emphasise that I am coming from the point of view of readership and impact, rather than production. The problem of readership is something that has interested me for a long time. Essentially it is the question of how academics can best disseminate their ideas to their own community and also to the broader non academic community.
Thanks Clare. That’s not where my comments were heading – nor would I agree! From my perspective, journal articles and books accomplish different things. I prefer books, and see those as my major outputs. But as preparatory works that feed into books, collaborative ventures, or side-projects, articles have also been important to me. I have prioritised books (and will continue to do so), but wouldn’t want to have chose one entirely over the other.
I was debating recently the idea of not writing anything to do with a book for a year – I’ve written my books to date almost back-to-back – and just write articles and other shorter pieces. I’m not sure I will accomplish this – I know the next two books I want to write after The Birth of Territory…
I should also add that as a journal editor, I do think it matters who reads articles! Nonetheless, I definitely agree on the problems of quantification of outputs.
My remarks were of course provocative. As a former journal editor myself I agree very strongly that it matters a great deal who reads the articles and my statement: ‘who cares who reads the articles’ was perhaps too ambiguously ironic. It was intended to criticise certain institutional interests in quantity at the expense of any interest in the actual content of what is being written.
What worries me is academic writing that is published but not read. In this case one could argue that this work is not serving its social function and that forms of quasi censorship are in operation by requiring too hermetic a form. Some forms of journal article writing can close down the impact of academic work, rather than opening it up In this sense they operate like a closed club – or in Foucault’s terms ‘a society of discourse’ whose rules are only accessible to a very restricted few.
Of course one needs specialist discussion to advance knowledge – but if this is not being read even by other specialists then there is a problem.
You can find Stuart’s reply to this and further comments here.