One from the vaults. In response to DavidWeinberger : http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-feb26-01.html#professionals
> Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2001 7:53 PM
> To: David Weinberger
> Subject: on academic philosophy
> Hi David,
> just read your February JOHO on academic philosophers as gatekeepers.
> Here's a couple of thoughts. I have a lot of empathy.
> I've just fucked up my Phd after 7 years, and I'm feeling pretty
> out of sympathy with academia. I worked in an area (Artificial
> Life) which
> allowed a lot of interdisciplinery reading and dialogue between AI,
> philosophy, biology, psychology etc. I loved the interdisciplinery
> atmosphere, I loved the discussions, I loved hanging out with smart and
> enthusiastic students. But I was also unable to discipline myself,
> too easily sidetracked by one idea after another. My actual work seemed
> narrow, and lacking in content. I couldn't read real academic papers
> because of the extraordinary dullness of the language. My eyes slipped
> over the words and equations, taking in nothing.
> So I screwed up. I wrote a pathetic thesis in the last 6 - 8 months of
> my 7 years. I didn't sleep properly. I wrote sarcastic footnotes and made
> puns and used ironic quotations, because I was too tired to care
> that this
> wasn't the correct way to write. The examiners
> said I demonstrated no understanding of scientific method (in fact I read
> too much Popper and Fayerabend) - and worst of all I didn't cite
> hundreds of other sources to demonstrate that my work was the result
> of systematically reading all the possibly relevant literature.
> Naturally enough, failing is very very painful. It's great to be in
> academia when you feel you have a right to be there. But the moment you
> fail, you feel delegitimized. How can you sit in on a talk and ask
> demanding, critical questions of a speaker when you (and your
> colleagues) all know that the speaker is qualified but you aren't?
> At the same time, I've been an avid reader of web writing, of Cluetrain,
> of the weblog phenomenon. In a sense I feel like someone realizing that
> they're gay, and struggling to accept their sexuality. On the one
> hand I'm
> seduced by the sense of freedom, the exhuberance of web-writing. And the
> possibility : "I can take my research, my philosophical thinking and
> writing to the web. I can discuss freely. I can say something meaningful
> using aphorisms, or anecdotes, or weblog entries. I don't have to be
> scholastic to contribute to knowledge."
> OTOH there is a repressed side, where the academic super-ego still
> dominates. "Publishing outside the official journals, without
> peer review,
> is for the eccentrics, the nutters. Only those whose work isn't valuable
> enough to publish in journals will resort to vanity publishing on the
> web. That's for the coloured crayon brigade. Without the self-discipline
> to organize your ideas into a thesis format, to survey the relevant
> literature, your ideas will be half-baked. " And perhaps its true.
> Anyway, that's where I'm coming from. But when I read your piece something
> clicked into place for me, and weirdly web cultural theory has made me
> suddenly more sympathetic to academia. The realization I just had was that
> "citing is linking". Of course, in a sense, that has been obvious all
> along. But culturally the two stood (at least in my mind) for entirely
> opposite things. Citing was part of the mystic rites of academia. Boring
> days in the library searching and photocopying papers that said pretty
> much nothing more than you expected them to (or that a dozen others
> also said) in laboured detail. Why does it matter to note that Hegel
> said something similar two hundred years ago? I'm saying it now!
> Whereas linking stood for the alchemical magic of the web. The chain
> reaction that let the world's online knowledge reach critical mass and
> explode in a utopia of free discussion. When I think about the hyperlinked
> web, I am happy that due to blogrolling hundreds of weblogs say pretty
> much the same things, each from a slightly different perspective. I am
> happy with pages that serve no function other than to link other
> and whose only real contribution is that they present a different
> clustering criteria for these resources.
> Suddenly, now I realise that citing is linking, I can forgive
> exegetic philosophers that behave the same way. Perhaps when your
> correspondant sent you a large list of previous philosophers who have made
> similar points, the spirit isn't RageBoy's cynical "shut the fuck up" but
> a present of a page of links to other resources,
> Thinking about it, before computers could automate the process, the skills
> of "scholarship" (a word I used to detest) were the only way for humans
> to animate a web of hyperlinked information. And of course, (I think
> optimistically) now that computers DO automate the process for us, we
> really don't need to do it for ourselves. There is no other magic
> of scholarship that we need to concern ourselves about.
> What, Panglossian? Me?
> phil jones
See also :
Seb has a posting with good links on a related theme : which http://radio.weblogs.com/0110772/2004/06/16.html#a1613, which seems to key into his "think like an outsider" point. Maybe seek the value at the edge of the network should take us to a variant of SocialOriginOfGoodIdeas and WorstConnected and PeerToPeer too.