Re: from EduPage (electronic publishing)

Steve Krause (
Tue, 25 Jun 1996 20:56:36 -0400

On Tue, 25 Jun 1996, Fanderclai Tari wrote (in part):

> Gee, Steve, I didn't say we shouldn't compare print and electronic
> publication, nor that we shouldn't mention the problems and advantages of
> each. That would be stupid.

Well, I guess I misinterpreted your last post-- when you said we
shouldn't have a contest between the two, that's what I thought you meant...
> The problem I have is that we seem to be making those comparisons a lot of
> time in order to prove that electronic publication should replace print
> or that it's plain superior to print. That doesn't seem like a practical
> way to go at it.

I'd agree with this for all of the obvious reasons, not the least of
which is that print does many, many, many things better than electronic
publishing. IMO, it's a lot more fun to read the paper version of WIRED
than it is to read the on-line version, even the ever-present "Hot-WIRED"

But to me, here the the real point for us academic-types:

> Print is an institution of the Institution. Institutions
> don't change just because it would make the inmates happy. Heck, they
> don't even change to make the guards happy.

> You have to be You have to show the People In Charge
> something that will make THEM happier, and it seems to me you'll have
> better luck doing that if you propose an addition to rather than a
> replacement of what's already in place. I don't think any of us really
> need or want print journals to go away anyhow. What I *think* we're asking
> for is to have electronic publication recognized as a valid way to spend
> your time, and something the academy ought to give you credit for.

Now that-- "credit" and how it's defined-- is the _real_ question, the
really interesting one about electronic publishing, perhaps the one that
the old-guard fears the most. Here's the way I see it: under the
current system, publishing articles and books in traditional text formats
equals tenure, which, among other things (like academic freedom), equals
employment. Even small, non-research-based schools want their faculty to
publish _something_. Under the current system, publishing _means_
something in the sense that since it is reasonably hard to do (after all,
not everyone can start their own journals to publish their works and
circulate it all over the world), articles can "count" and literally be
"counted" at times of review. Assistant Professor Smith is up for tenure
and has published 4 articles, 2 in reviewed journals (and she has done
everything else like good teaching and service and has generally been a
good egg). It doesn't matter _what_ these articles said-- since someone
thought they were worth publishing, they must be good enough-- and Asst.
Prof. Smith becomes Assoc. Prof. Smith and lives happily ever-after.

Now, what happens if _everyone_ in academia can publish _anything_ they
want and reach an _international_ audience simply by putting up and
maintaining a web page (or other electronic database)? Assistant
Professor Smith can simply slap her articles up on the web and be
considered published. So if everyone can publish anything, anywhere, and
anytime, then how do you decide things like tenure? Or, and I guess this
is my real question here, what then counts as "publishing?"

I'm kind of rambling now and I can't even pretend to have an answer here,
but I think these terms "credit" and "publish" need to be explored a bit
more fully before we can go too far down the comparison path one way or
the other.

Steve Krause * Department of English * Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH * 43403 * (419) 372-8934 *
*Soon to be at Southern Oregon State College in Ashland, OR*