Refracted Input

Clare O’Farrell’s blog on books, TV, films, Michel Foucault, universities etc. etc.

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.

Stuart remarks

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.

3 thoughts on “Academic publication 2

  1. It’s safe to say that outside academia, ‘academic writing’ is almost synonymous to ‘not read’, unless it deals with the few popular concepts and academic rockstars that made mainstream through cultural osmosis.

    One suggestion for academic work to have a greater impact is convergence, whether it’s blogging, journalism, movies, anime, etc, the use of multiple medium will help academic topic reach across a greater public.


  2. Clare says:

    Thanks Gareth, I thoroughly agree with you.

    Blogging is a fantastic medium for academics to disseminate their work and build communities of ideas. I think ‘convergence’ – and the other venues you mention is absolutely the way to go. I think it is a real waste if ideas just stay stuck in a closed circuit which nobody outside academe has access to. It defeats the purpose of what academe can offer the rest of the social body


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: