Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here, in the OA archive CSeARCH or in Coventry University's online repository CURVE here 

performative project Janneke Adema has put together, based on our ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’ article for New Formations, Number 78, Summer, 2013. 

Radical Open Access network

Wednesday
Nov252015

Why Are We Not Boycotting Academia.edu? - symposium, Coventry University, 8 December

Coventry University
Tuesday 8th December 2015 
3:00-6:00pm
Ellen Terry Building room ET130.
 
Janneke Adema – Chair (Coventry University, UK)
Pascal Aventurier (INRA, France)
Kathleen Fitzpatrick (MLA/Coventry University, US)
Gary Hall (Coventry University, UK)
David Parry (Saint Joseph’s University, US).
 
Organised by The Centre for Disruptive Media: www.disruptivemedia.org
________________________________________
With over 36 million visitors each month, the San Francisco-based platform-capitalist company Academia.edu is hugely popular with researchers. Its founder and CEO Richard Price maintains it is the ‘largest social-publishing network for scientists’, and ‘larger than all its competitors put together’. Yet posting on Academia.edu is far from being ethically and politically equivalent to using an institutional open access repository, which is how it is often understood by academics.
 
Academia.edu’s financial rationale rests on the ability of the venture-capital-funded professional entrepreneurs who run it to monetize the data flows generated by researchers. Academia.edu can thus be seen to have a parasitical relationship to a public education system from which state funding is steadily being withdrawn. Its business model depends on academics largely educated and researching in the latter system, labouring for Academia.edu for free to help build its privately-owned for-profit platform by providing the aggregated input, data and attention value..
 
To date over 15,000 researchers have taken a stand against the publisher Elsevier by adding their name to the list on the Cost of Knowledge website demanding they change how they operate. Just recently 6 editors and 31 editorial-board members of one of Elsevier's journals, Lingua, went so far as to resign, leading to calls for a boycott and for support for Glossa, the open access journal they plan to start instead. By contrast, the business practices of Academia.edu have gone largely uncontested..
 
This is all the more surprising given that when Elsevier bought the academic social network Mendeley in 2013, it was suggested Elsevier was mainly interested in acquiring Mendeley’s user data, many academics deleted their profiles out of protest. Yet generating revenue from the exploitation of user data is exactly the business model underlying academic social networks such as Academia.edu.
 
This event will address the following questions:.
 
Why have researchers been so ready to campaign against for-profit academic publishers such as Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, and Taylor & Francis/Informa, but not against for-profit platforms such as Academia.edu, ResearchGate and Google Scholar? 
Should academics refrain from providing free labour for these publishing companies too?  
Are there non-profit alternatives to such commercial platforms that academics should support instead? 
Could they take inspiration from the editors of Lingua (now Glossa) and start their own scholar-owned and controlled platform cooperatives for the sharing of research? 
Or are such ‘technologies of the self’ or ‘political technologies of individuals’, as we might call them following Michel Foucault, merely part of a wider process by which academics are being transformed into connected individuals who endeavour to generate social, public and professional value by acting as microentrepreneurs of their own selves and lives? .
 
About the speakers.
 
Janneke Adema is Research Fellow in Digital Media at Coventry University. She has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and edited books including New Formations; New Media & Society; The International Journal of Cultural Studies; New Review of Academic Librarianship; LOGOS: The Journal of the World Book Community; and Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy. She blogs at Open Reflections: http://www.openreflections.org/.
 
Pascal Aventurier has been leading the Regional Scientific Information Team at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research’s (INRA, France) PACA Centre since 2002. He is also co-leader of the scientific information technology group. His focus is on research data, linked open data, open science, knowledge management and controlled vocabularies, as well as researching digital and social tool practices. His team is also exploring the evolution of social networks for academic use. His recent piece on ‘Academic Social Networks: Challenges and Opportunities’, is available here: http://www.unica-network.eu/sites/default/files/Academic_Social_Networks_Challenges_opportunities.pdf.
 
Kathleen Fitzpatrick is Director of Scholarly Communication at the MLA, and visiting professor at Coventry University. The author of Planned Obsolescence (2011) she is also co-founder of the digital scholarly network MediaCommons. Her recent piece on Academia.edu, ‘Academia. Not Edu’, is available here: http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/academia-not-edu/.
 
Gary Hall is Professor of Media and Performing Arts, Coventry University, UK, and co-founder of Open Humanities Press. His new monograph, Pirate Philosophy, is forthcoming from MIT Press in early 2016. His recent piece on Academia.edu, ‘What Does Academia.edu’s Success Mean for Open Access?’, is available here: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2015/10/22/does-academia-edu-mean-open-access-is-becoming-irrelevant/.
 
David Parry joined Saint Joseph's University in the Fall of 2013. His work focuses on understanding the complex social and cultural transformations brought about by the development of the digital network. He is particularly interested in understanding how the internet transforms political power and democracy. He also researches and is an advocate for Open Access Research. His work can be found at www.outsidethetext.com.
Wednesday
Nov182015

Photomediations: A Call for Creative Works

The editors of Photomediations: An Open Book are working with the Europeana Space Best Practice Network to curate an exhibition (both online and physical), and are calling out to the photographic community to submit works for consideration.
 
We are looking for still and/or moving image works (as well as post-digital collages, installations and sculptures), that creatively reuse – in the form of mashups, collages, montages, tributes or pastiches – one or more original image files taken from the Europeana repository of cultural artefacts (http://www.europeana.eu). Europeana contains millions of items from a range of Europe’s leading galleries, libraries, archives and museums: books and manuscripts, photos and paintings, television and film, sculpture and crafts, diaries and maps, sheet music and recordings. Renowned names such as the British Library in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre in Paris are featured alongside smaller organisations across Europe. Whether you find a celebrated piece or a lesser-known work, Europeana connects you directly to the original source material.
 
How to submit your work in 4 easy steps:
1. Check out Photomediations: An Open Book (http://www.photomediationsopenbook.net) for inspiration, both about the concept of photomediations and about what can be done with various images.
2. Visit the Europeana repository (http://www.europeana.eu) and start collecting the images you wish to work with.
3. Develop and produce your work. Use mashup, collage, montage, tribute, pastiche, or any other technique that creatively reuses the source material in some way. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
4. Please email your submission to photomediations@gmail.com.
 
Submission is FREE. The closing date for the submissions is 30 March 2016. All successful entries will be notified by the judges by the end of April 2016. Selected entries and up to 10 honourable mentions will be highlighted on the exhibition website and then shown in a real-life exhibition venue. The organisers will seek to bear the print production costs for the real-life exhibition.
 
For further information about the exhibition please visit our website:
Submission requirements:
 
Should you have any questions, please contact photomediations@gmail.com.
 
This exhibition is part of Europeana Space, a project funded by the European Union’s ICT Policy Support Programme under GA n° 621037.

 

Sunday
Nov012015

Performing the Humanities @ 24 fps: Part 2

This is the second part of an interview conducted and filmed by the artist Stelarc for the Alternate Anatomies Lab at Curtin University, Perth, Australia. The first part of the interview is available here. Other interviews in the series are available on the website of the Alternate Anatomies Lab here.

Performing the Humanities @ 24 fps also appears in Photomediations Machine, December 3. It is from the Photomediations Machine version that the text bewlow has been taken. 


In a 1980 interview with Le Monde, published as ‘The Masked Philosopher’, the French philosopher Michel Foucault insists on remaining anonymous. He does so, he says, out of his ‘nostalgia for a time when, being quite unknown, what I said had some chance of being heard… The effects of the book might land in unexpected places and form shapes that I had never thought of. A name makes reading too easy’. Foucault proceeds to propose a game: ‘that of the “year without a name”. For a year, books would be published without their authors’ names. The critics would have to cope with a mass of entirely anonymous books.’

In Performing the Humanities @ 24 fps, an interview conducted in May 2015 by the performance artist Stelarc, Gary Hall discusses some of the projects he is involved with that are exploring how media theorists can make their own work less easy to read, hoping that it might ‘land in unexpected places’. These performative projects, or ‘media gifts’, as he calls them – some of which are indeed published anonymously – include Culture Machine (and its sister project Photomediations Machine), Open Humanities Press, Media Gifts, the Liquid and Living Books series, and Pirate Philosophy.

A major influence on Hall’s thinking in this respect is Marshal McLuhan’s Gutenberg Galaxy, especially the idea that the development of the print book and the related requirement for closed-off spaces in which having time to read and study played a fundamental role in the emergence of modern subjectivity, along with the associated notions of the rational liberal individual, linear thought, critical reflection, and the distinction between public and private. But what if, with the development of social and mobile media, predictive computing, algorithmic surveillance and the cloud, we are now moving into a post-Gutenberg world?, asks Hall. To what extent can we understand this world, and our place within it, by continuing to act as if we are still living in the Gutenberg Galaxy of the traditional humanities, replete with its emphasis on the importance on the book, privacy, and the rational, liberal subject? For example, how can we understand and theorize photography and film in the era of open source content streaming apps such as Popcorn Time, and self-organized online libraries such as Library Genesis? What implications do these projects have for our inherited ideas of the ‘named’ proprietary author, individual and individualised humanist subject, fixed and finished object, copyright, etc.? Why do we still insist on writing commercially copyrighted, linearly organized, print-on-paper codex books and journal articles about them? Can the humanities be performed and enacted otherwise?

This interview was originally published on the website of the Alternate Anatomies Lab at Curtin University. We are grateful to the Lab and to Stelarc for permission to reuse it.

Sunday
Nov012015

Performing the Humanities @ 24 fps: Part 1

This is the first part of an interview conducted and filmed by the artist Stelarc for the Alternate Anatomies Lab at Curtin University, Perth, Australia. The second part of the interview is avaiulable here. Other interviews in the series are available on the website of the Alternate Anatomies Lab here.

Sunday
Oct182015

Does Academia.edu Mean Open Access Is Becoming Irrelevant?

(At the Radical Open Access conference at Coventry University in June, I spoke briefly about Academia.edu as part of a session with Stuart Lawson and David Harvie on Radical Accountability. A number of people asked afterwards if I would be publishing a written-up version of those comments.  Then, at The Sociality of Sharing event at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Warwick, in September, some of the participants found they had each been approached separately by Academia.edu to join their ‘Editor Program’ (i.e. act as an unpaid editor for Academia.edu, recommending publications appearing on the platform to others in their areas of research expertise), and were keen to know more about its philosophy and business model. So here are my brief thoughts on the subject. I will post them on Academia.edu using the title, 'Should This Be the Last Thing You Read on Academia.edu?' A version translated into French is also available here.)

 

A brief discussion took place this month on the Association of Internet Researchers air-l listserve concerning a new book from the publishers Edward Elgar: Handbook of Digital Politics. Edited by Stephen Coleman and Deen Freelon, this 512 page volume features contributions from Peter Dahlgren, Nick Couldry, Christian Fuchs, Fadi Hirzalla and Liesbet van Zoonen, among numerous others. The discussion was provoked, however, not by something one of its many contributors had written about digital politics, but by the book’s cost: $240 on Amazon in the US. (In the UK the hardback is £150.00 on Amazon. Handbook of Digital Politics is also available online direct from the publishers for £135.00, with the ebook available for £40.) As one of those on the list commented, ‘I’d love to buy it, but not at that price’ – to which another participant in the discussion responded: ‘I encourage everyone to use the preprint option to post their piece on ssrn.com and academia.edu, perhaps others have other open access suggestions (e.g. Institutional Repositories of individual universities)’. Now, to be fair, the idea that is implied by this suggestion that the Academia.edu platform for sharing research represents just another form of open access is a common one. Yet posting on Academia.edu is far from being ethically and politically equivalent to using an institutional open access repository.

Tomorrow is the start of International Open Access Week 2015, an annual event designed to promote the importance of making academic research available online to scholars and the general public free of charge. But when it comes achieving this goal, is the open access movement in danger of being somewhat outflanked by Academia.edu? Has the latter not better understood the importance of both scale and centralisation to a media environment that is rapidly changing from being content-driven to being more and more data-driven?

Launched in 2008, Academia.edu is a San Francisco-based technology company whose platform displays many of the same features as professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn. Users have an individual ‘real-name’ profile page, complete with their picture, CV, details of their professional affiliations, biography and employment history. The main difference in Academia.edu’s case is that these features are accompanied by the user’s academic research interests and a list of publications – generally the associated metadata but also quite regularly now the actual full texts themselves (often in the form of the author’s pre- or post-print manuscript, if not the final published pdf) – that others in the network can bookmark or download from the platform. Academia.edu also enables users to send messages to one another on the site, post drafts of papers they would like feedback on, and receive updates when new texts are uploaded – either by those on the platform they are following or in specific areas of research in which they have expressed an interest. In addition, a set of metrics is provided detailing the number of followers a user has, together with an Analytics Dashboard that allows academics to monitor the total number and profile of the views their work has received: page view counts, download counts, and so on. The platform even breaks these ‘deep-analytics’ down by country.

Yet for all Academia.edu describes itself as a ‘social networking service’ for academics that ‘enables its users, including graduate students … to connect with other users… around the world with the same research interests’, it operates increasingly as ‘a platform for academics to share research’. 26,281,552  academics have signed up to Academia.edu as of October 18, 2015, the site claims, having collectively added 6,972,536 papers and 1,730,462 research interests. In fact, academics are using it to share their research – both journal articles and books – to such an extent that shortly after it purchased the rival social network for researchers Mendeley in 2013, Elsevier sent 2,800 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices to Academia.edu regarding papers published on the site that the academic publishing giant claimed infringed its copyright.

The popularity with academics of the Academia.edu social network – founder and CEO of Academia.edu Richard Price goes so far as to maintain it is the ‘largest social-publishing network for scientists’, and ‘larger than all its competitors put together’ – clearly raises a number of questions for the open access movement. After all, compared to the general sluggishness (and at times overt resistance) with which the call to make research available on an open access basis has been met, Academia.edu’s success in getting scholars to share suggests that, for many, the priority may not be so much making their work openly available free of charge so it can be disseminated as widely and as quickly as possible, as building their careers and reputations in an individualistic, self-promoting, self-quantifying, self-marketing fashion. Nor is this state of affairs particularly surprising, given the precarious situation in which much of the academic profession finds itself today. But does it mean that any open access venture hoping to meet with similar success would be well advised to adopt many of the same subjectivising features that are used by Academia.edu and other social networks to help users connect and develop their individual profiles as ‘personal brands’: real-name policies, personal pictures, CVs and biographies, ‘credibility metrics’, analytics dashboards, quantifying deep analytics and so on? (Some open access projects have already done so, of course, including PLoS, whose journals provide Article-Level Metrics, Rich Citations, and other indicators relating to usage data.) Perhaps even more dauntingly, would such an open access venture also need to be capable of spending a similar amount of money designing and maintaining an easy-to-use social networking interface as Academia.edu, the latter having raised $17.7 million dollars from investors at the time of this writing?

The key aspect of Academia.edu to be aware of in this respect is its business model. Unlike that of some for-profit publishers, this is not based on academic authors, their institutions, or their funders paying a fee for their research to be made available on a free and open basis:  what’s known as author-pays or an article processing charge (APC). Its financial rationale rests instead on the ability of the angel-investor and venture-capital-funded professional entrepreneurs who run Academia.edu to exploit the data flows generated by the academics who use the platform as an intermediary for sharing and discovering research. In the words of CEO Richard Price:

The goal is to provide trending research data to R&D institutions that can improve the quality of their decisions by 10-20%. The kind of algorithm that R&D companies are looking for is a ‘trending papers’ algorithm, analogous to Twitter’s trending topics algorithm. A trending papers algorithm would tell an R&D company which are the most impactful papers in a given research area in the last 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days, or any time period. Historically it’s been very difficult to get this kind of data. Scientists have printed papers out, and read them in their labs in un-trackable ways. As scientific activity is moving online, it’s becoming easier to track which papers are getting more attention from the top scientists.

There is also an opportunity to make a large economic impact. Around $1 trillion a year is spent on R&D globally: about $200 billion in the academic sector, and about $800 billion in the private sector (pharmaceutical companies, and other R&D companies).

Of course, the majority of academics who are part of Academia.edu’s social network are the product of the state-regulated, public higher education system, as is their research (a system, it should be emphasised, from which public funding is steadily being withdrawn). But just as Airbnb and Uber are parasitic on the public ‘infrastructure and the investment’ that was ‘made by cities a generation ago’ (roads, buildings, street lighting, etc.), so Academia.edu has a parasitical relationship to the public education system, in that these academics are labouring for it for free to help build its privately-owned for-profit platform by providing the aggregated input, data and attention value. We can thus see that posting on Academia.edu is not ethically and politically equivalent to making research available using an institutional open access repository at all.

Indeed, the reason it’s so crucial to understand Academia.edu’s business model is because it highlights just how much the situation regarding the publication and dissemination of academic research has changed since the open access movement first began to take shape in the 1990s and early 2000s. Without doubt the argument of this movement, that publicly-funded research should be made openly available online free of charge, is extremely pertinent to the content-driven world of profit-maximising academic publishers such as Reed Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, and Taylor & Francis/Informa, with their high journal subscription charges and book cover prices, ‘Big Deal’ library contract bundling strategies, and protection of copyright and licensing restrictions. But this argument isn’t anywhere near as relevant to the data-driven world of search engines, social media and social networking. That's because for the likes of Google, Twitter and Academia.edu free content is what for-profit technology empires are built on. In this world who gate-keeps access to (and so can extract maximum value from) content is less important, because that access is already free, than who gate-keeps (and so can extract maximum value from) the data generated around the use of that content, which is used more because access to it is free. Accordingly, the relevant arguments here are more those over the ownership and control of the platforms, together with the ‘black-boxed’ computer programmes, software, algorithms and the associated IP that are making access to the free content possible. How are these data and information management intermediaries structured? What data do they capture? How are they able to manipulate it? Who does what with this data and the resulting metrics and analytics? (Is it sold it to advertisers and other commercial companies? Shared with the NSA and GCHQ for surveillance purposes?) And as environments that encourage users to be self-disciplining, self-managing and self-monitoring, what forms of subjectivisation and subjectivity do they produce?

This is why I raised the question of whether the open access movement is in danger of being outflanked, if not rendered irrelevant, as a result of our media environment changing from being content-driven to being increasingly data-driven. For the data-driven world is one in which the data centre dominates. This in turn brings us to the issue of scale, as there is an obvious reason for this domination of the data centre. Quite simply, the larger your data sample, the more relevant data you can capture, store, process, mine and manipulate, the more accurate your data analytics. (It’s not because Google has better algorithms that it has a 90-95% share of the European market for search, according to Peter Norvig, its Director of Research: it’s because it has more data. This is also why such companies strive to become monopolies: because it’s harder for them to scale to the massive extent that’s needed to produce the best data analyses if they have rivals who are capturing a significant portion of the relevant data.)

Now the kind of decentralised infrastructure that is represented by the open access movement’s wide variety of different journals, megajournals, repositories, book publishers, open source software tools, websites, portals and directories may be entirely appropriate to achieving its goal of making large amounts of different kinds of research content available for free, online, by providing green, gold and even platinum open access alternatives to a closed access publishing industry that is itself relatively decentered. The increasing importance of being able to create massive data sets, however, means that such decentralised infrastructure is in the process of gradually being replaced by what Rachel O'Dwyer, in a recent article on blockchains, describes as a ‘recentralisation of infrastructure’. Lots of content may be freely accessible, but this access is now being mediated by centralised entities. The result is that those rich and powerful international companies who are able to capture, analyse and exploit extremely large amounts of data are coming to act as the gatekeepers of our media and communications networks; and this includes our scholarly communications networks, as the 36 million visitors who are apparently attracted to the Academia.edu research sharing platform each month bear witness.