What scholars can do outside the walls of big publishers?

| May 25, 2010

A recent article named Acknowledged Goods: Cultural Studies and the Politics of Academic Journal Publishing by Ted Stiphas (a professor at Indiana University), from the journal Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, is an interesting piece exploring five major trends affecting scholarly communication today: alienation, proliferation, consolidation, pricing, and digitization. Here is the abstract:

This essay explores the changing context of academic journal publishing and cultural studies’ envelopment within it. It does so by exploring five major trends affecting scholarly communication today: alienation, proliferation, consolidation, pricing, and digitization. More specifically, it investigates how recent changes in the political economy of academic journal publishing have impinged on cultural studies’ capacity to transmit the knowledge it produces, thereby dampening the field’s political potential. It also reflects on how cultural studies’ alienation from the conditions of its production has resulted in the field’s growing involvement with interests that are at odds with its political proclivities.
The author implies that academic journal publishing is similar to many other forms of media – being “controlled” by large, for-profit companies which have power over our scholars who want to publish in them. The parent companies of those journals gain big profits while authors have to sign away their intellectual rights: “the means of effective communication are being expropriated from the intellectual worker” (by CS Mills) quoted in the article. The author also mentions that the open publishing such as the Open Humanities Initiative, has becoming active in serving publishing committees at organizations such as the National Communication Association, including making a collaborative effort to demand different intellectual property agreements with publishers:

A pragmatic disposition should compel us not to rail against some abstract system ‘‘over there,’’ but instead should focus our attention on making meaningful interventions ‘‘right here’’ in our everyday labor practices, in the scholarly societies to which we belong, in our uses of technology, and more. This is a rare moment of opportunity indeed, a chance for cultural studies to ask fresh questions about academic journal publishing, to contemplate anew what we may want out of it, and as appropriate, to re-engineer it so as to better suit our needs.