Scholarship cannot be open and accessible until we recognize and make space for a multiplicity of forms. And we can only make that space by banding together against scarcity narratives in the humanities.
When Knowledge Unlatched announces a single proprietary platform for digital OA it is at best a myth that it is neutral or agnostic to types of scholarship it hosts or worse an incursion that threatens erasure of diverse voices. And we don’t have to speculate on the types of damage the ‘single platform solution’ can have on expression. We’re all currently living the ruins of that system post-internet 2.0.
I think back to an article Zadie Smith wrote wrote about Facebook 9 years ago. There Zadie Smith notes that her concern with Facebook is that it represents only one person’s view for how we should utilize digital communication and present ourselves to the world.
What might the internet be like if we didn’t conform to one mode of expression for so long?
Academia faces some revolutionary changes in how it functions internally and interacts with society. It might be tempting to think we need single ‘comprehensive’ solutions to be austere, but I think it’s important we reject such fears and let more people in.
Many of our discussions at ScholarLed imagine an infrastructure that acts as scaffolding among different forms of scholarship - and that’s a future that I think might not only be open and accessible but also ethical and equitable.
Open and accessible scholarship is as much about how and what we write.
So when a senior scholar tells others that certain types of language should be frowned upon, even going as far as labeling that language “jargon” and “undemocratic,” we should recognize the illiberal turn. It is illiberal and undemocratic to say that expression should be for everyone and in the same breath seek to constrain forms of expression. Particularly egregious to cite the public’s capacity for comprehension to justify such a claim. The public is varied and diverse and smart.
We’ve seen such a clear example of the public’s intelligence and ability to participate in scholarship recently (though in a way that surfaces every scholar’s deepest fear in being read by more people) in realigning the historical interpretations of that new book.
When I ran my bookstore, the most scholarly scholarship not only sold great but generated amazing conversations in the shop. My customers were by in large people in their 20s who didn’t go to grad school. Which is to say, I get the sense that when some scholars try to tell us what the public wants, they haven’t spent much time with the public.
There are so many publics and there is so much people care deeply about and want to learn and teach together. But the humanities are not going to reach all those people and contain all those voices - or be open and accessible - if we believe that anything we do has to come at the expense of everything else.