One exciting thing for me about the Great Writers Inspire project is that we release the material – podcasts, essays, interviews, ebooks – under the Creative Commons license, which means it can be reused as widely as possible. As soon as I heard about this I was committed to it, since, like most academics, I’d like to communicate my ideas and my interests as widely as possible and for that to be usable in different contexts by different people. It’s sort of like being a blood donor (also a good thing, but not the topic of my post today).
The prompt for my blog was a wonderful book I’ve read in its prepublication online form, Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. Fitzpatrick published this book with NYU press in 2011. It’s a bracing discussion of where scholarship is going and how digital technologies allow us not just to change the way our academic work is distributed, in ebooks for instance, but to rethink cherished ideas about originality, authorship, peer-review, and the institutions of the academy. I found it really stimulating. One thing, for example, is that she discusses something I’ve been struggling with: academic attitudes to Wikipedia Why are we so hysterical about this resource that most of us use but can’t admit to? What does it threaten about our ways of presenting and preserving knowledge? Fitzpatrick suggests that because the wiki process reveals something about how knowledge is produced and contested – the very things that we smooth out of the academic work we want to publish – it is a challenge to something quite fundamental about academic practice. Read it and see: you may not agree, but it is stimulating and engaging to think about. And it confirms my view that talking about and evangelising for Creative Commons is vital as we really embrace the challenge and the opportunity of the internet for academic purposes.