i dream of being possible

who is academic and who is public?

One of the more interesting comments I got from a reviewer of teh article was on a footnote (no longer there) where I mentioned that I wasn’t an academic and, thus, didn’t actually have to do a thing that academics would normally need to do. The reviewer said it was jarring and didn’t make any sense because why would I publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal if I wasn’t an academic…?

It was a weird comment, to me, mainly because the journal asked me if I wanted to write and publish the paper, not the other way around. Also because it is a library journal and I figured that it was an appropriate space for librarians to publish… even when we aren’t academics.

I don’t call myself an academic because researching, writing, and teaching aren’t part of my job. I don’t get paid to blog. I don’t get paid to write papers or present at conferences. The latter of these is particularly important since, any conferences I do must be paid out of my own (pretty empty) pocket. Or I need to get scholarships set aside for diversity (which tend to be competitive and not as numerous as one might hope).

And after reading that article this morning talking about how ‘good academics engage in teh ~public~ discourse’ (in reference to twitter and blogs), I totally get that I’m considered the ‘public’ as far as academia is concerned. Or am I??? Hard to say as a PT librarian at an institution where librarians have faculty status. Technically, I’m faculty at MPOW… but based on a few interesting factors, this is really in name only. Part-time librarians at MPOW belong to no union and we have zero benefits of any kind. Yes, this means that we are even below adjunct faculty in terms of labour status. Heck, we are below TAs and RAs in terms of labour status.

This situation is one of the things (all of it, not just the details of my current position) I dislike most about academia. Why, indeed, would a non-academic, a member of the unwashed ~public~ want to publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal?

I ask this question like this because it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the way that academics view themselves in relation to the rest of the world (while always untenable) really retains the hallmarks of the elitism that has always been a part of the Academy. Especially in reference to that article that necessarily placed an opposition between those bloggers and tweeters and academics. That ‘academics’ ought to engage in ‘public’ dialogue to be good academics.

But how is this position tenable in a network environment? It the case that academics are also bloggers and users of all kinds of social media, while – and this is really important – not always identifying themselves as such. It is also the case that many bloggers and social media users are students, have been students, etc. It is even more the case that academics have been, for a while now, plagiarising, stealing, and exploiting the ~public~ they encounter on social media and blogs.

Just last week, I saw an announcement from some shitty tech companies to create an abliestly named data consortium or whatever, to facillitate academic (and other kinds of) research. I hear, every week now, about the opportunities that social media data provides for researchers in many disciplines to do a side run around ethics and mine all the delicious data.

In a networked world, I would actually like to know what it means for academics to engage the ~public~. As far as I can tell, it involves always referring to us but never actually, you know, engaging us. It involves citing our blog posts, tweets, etc (or, in the worst cases, using our ideas without citation). It involves maintaining a distance, a distinction between us and them.

But it rarely involves in any real awareness that ideas and knowledge can proliferate outside of the academy. That some of us ~public~ individuals were pushed out of the academy for a variety of oppressive reasons but… wait for it… that being pushed out/excluded from the academy doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our love and passion for learning. That somehow, as we are escorted to the exits, we suddenly lose our capacity for critical thought.

So who is an academic? I’m not sure. But I know that I’m not. This message has been received (over and over and over again).