Digitize This Book! The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now Series (Electronic Mediations, Volume 24)
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In the sciences, the merits and ramifications of open access—the electronic publishing model that gives readers free, irrevocable, worldwide, and perpetual access to research—have been vigorously debated. Open access is now increasingly proposed as a valid means of both disseminating knowledge and career advancement. In Digitize This Book! Gary Hall presents a timely and ambitious polemic on the potential that open access publishing has to transform both "papercentric" humanities scholarship and the institution of the university itself. Hall, a pioneer in open access publishing in the humanities, explores the new possibilities that digital media have for creatively and productively blurring the boundaries that separate not just disciplinary fields but also authors from readers. Hall focuses specifically on how open access publishing and archiving can revitalize the field of cultural studies by making it easier to rethink academia and its institutions. At the same time, by unsettling the processes and categories of scholarship, open access raises broader questions about the role of the university as a whole, forcefully challenging both its established identity as an elite ivory tower and its more recent reinvention under the tenets of neoliberalism as knowledge factory and profit center. Rigorously interrogating the intellectual, political, and ethical implications of open access, Digitize This Book! is a radical call for democratizing access to knowledge and transforming the structures of academic and institutional authority and legitimacy.
areas of concern. The ﬁrst of these is that of copyright, which I discussed in chapter 1; the second is quality control—not in the sense of the standard of the technical reproduction, publication, and archiving of texts, or their accessibility to the reader, 55 56 JUDGMENT AND RESPONSIBILITY but the quality of the archived work itself: how the established standards of scholarship and research, and thus the identity and coherence of a given ﬁeld of study, can be maintained after the transfer,
idea for the institution.” The “notion of culture as the legitimating idea of the modern university has reached the end of its usefulness” (Readings 1996, 5), according to Readings, and has been replaced by the concept of “excellence,” which has the “singular advantage of being meaningless, or to put it more precisely, non-referential” (1996, 22). This process of “dereferentialization” means that we cannot return to what Readings calls the “University of Culture”: this institution is ruined and
unforeseen forms? Quite possibly. But if this is the case, it is an opening that is not explored rigorously. On the contrary, Kahn and Kellner (like Kellner in his earlier article ) clearly already know what politics, democracy, social justice, oppositional intellectuals, and the public sphere are in this essay; and consequently they know what net politics has to do in order to act politically. Their argument is simply that the “effective use of communication networks” is helping to “deﬁne,
constitutes a strategic use of a speciﬁc form of digital culture within particular institutional and sociopolitical contexts (although, as we shall see, it cannot be reduced to those contexts). It is not something that is necessarily generalizable or transferable to other forms and practices of digital culture—the peer-to-peer sharing of music and video 155 156 M E TA DATA I I I ﬁles, the decentered electronic distribution of ﬁlms, the digital storage of visual art, the online publication of
regarding the Internet’s reconﬁguration of the political. To return to just the ﬁrst of the examples provided above (not least because it seems to underpin many of the others): the challenge Poster sees the Internet as presenting to the idea that “the relation between technology and the human is external” 177 178 HYPERCYBERDEMOCR AC Y (1997, 205) would, on this basis, not be conﬁned merely to chatrooms, MOOs and MUDs, the Internet, or even the postmodern age seen as a new and distinct