I’m not all grumpy-pants. I found the idea of an “open scholar,” whose project and process are not only visible both within and without academia, but continue to evolve in response to the conversation they foster (which itself is visible), particularly intriguing this week. That would provide quite a contrast to the more traditional approaches to scholarship, especially through academic journals (which in terms of the business model I tend to think are all kinds of problematic in their current form anyway). The tension between the two approaches seems to me reminiscent of our discussions about a pedagogy of abundance (as opposed to scarcity), in the sense that those journals are premised on the idea that due to the editorial and peer-review process, the knowledge/scholarship they present is of higher quality/authority (scarce), whereas knowledge/scholarship not vetted by those processes is perhaps not (though possibly abundant on the open web). So in a sense, the goal is to create the impression of scarcity even where it might not truly exist. The open scholar presents one avenue for escaping that model, though certainly not one without its own problems (not least of which, of course, is that mechanisms for determining quality may not be as well refined or tested).

However, I also have to question the viability of this model for all scholars (I’m thinking here in terms of rank more than discipline, though the latter could be a factor as well). In part that concern arises from my position as newly tenure-track, and my attention to what will secure/advance my own career–and in the current climate, becoming that “open scholar” wouldn’t. Sure, that’s something that might be combined with a more traditional approach, though that just increases the demands on my time/energy/resources. Besides the relative security of tenure, a more senior scholar would have advantages that I think would facilitate her/his transition into being an open scholar, most notably a well-established network (PLN?) of peers and contacts who could contribute one element of that open conversation, providing some continuity in the conversation as well as academic authority (which could potentially be constricting, but could also serve as “quality control” to some extent).

Part of what I want to accomplish with my domain is to share some of my work and my process, and even some random thoughts I’m unlikely to ever follow up on, and I’d love to continue conversations about scholarship that I’ve begun in other venues. Plus, I do want to make sure if people search for me and read my webpage, they can get a good sense of what I work on. At the same time, I’m wary of making that work too available, so available that no one has any reason to come to me to get it, or to publish it in a journal, etc. For the time being, I’ve settled on descriptions and abstracts, and perhaps a focus on process (what I’m doing) over product (what I have to say).

One Thought on “The “open scholar”

  1. Will Mackintosh on February 23, 2014 at 8:27 pm said:

    What you say makes a lot of sense to me. I have always really enjoyed the process of scholarship when it’s shared, when I feel embedded in a collaborative scholarly community. And I’ve always kind of found it tiresome and unpleasant when it’s competitive or absurdly hierarchical. Maybe blogs are a way to have more of the former and less of the latter.

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