Wiki Academia

The study provides some interesting findings regarding academics’ view of the benefits of Wikipedia-style peer review and publishing. Most respondents (77 percent) reported reading Wikipedia, and a rather high number (43 percent) reported having made at least one edit, with 15 percent having written an article. Interestingly, as many as four respondents stated that they were “credited for time spent reviewing Wikipedia articles related to their academic careers” in their professional workplaces. The more experience one had with Wikipedia, the more likely one would see advantages in the wiki publishing model. Most common advantages listed were cost reductions (40 percent), timely review (19 percent), post-publication corrections (52 percent), making articles available before validation (27 percent) and reaching a wider audience (8 percent). Disadvantages included questionable stability (86 percent), absence of integration with libraries and scholarly search engines (55 percent), lower quality (43 percent), less credibility (57 percent), less academic acceptance (78 percent) and less impact on academia (56 percent).

Survey of academics’ view on Wikipedia and open-access publishing,” Wikimedia Research Newsletter, Vol: 4 • Issue: 4 • April 2014

I’ve always thought that the only way for Wikipedia to build its credibility is for it to become a part of academic writing and research. I don’t think encyclopedias will ever replace peer-reviewed articles, but Wikipedia can only benefit if academic scholars are involved in the writing, reviewing and editing of articles. I wouldn’t want Wikipedia to be swallowed by academia; everyone should be able to contribute. I tell the teachers that I teach that the best way to understand Wikipedia, and develop a policy on it, is to participate.

Too many academics are suspicious, even openly hostile about the online encyclopedia. One professor I knew used to plant false information in Wikipedia and then ask students to research this information for homework. When they came back to class with his answer, he’d scold them for using Wikipedia. This is a professor, by the way, who sailed through tenure, despite his very open– even proud– advocacy of dishonesty towards students. The good news is that I don’t think his nasty little lesson would work anymore.

A New Review of “A Taste for Language”

A growing number of composition theorists (Hooks; Peckham) have noted the relative lack of discussion of social class in our field. James Ray Watkins Jr.’s A Taste for Language: Literacy, Class, and English Studies provides a theory of “middle class” language production for post-WWII education and reformulates a responsible cultural capital in the 21st century world outside the university. Watkins provides a multigenerational family autobiography to construct a revisionist history of composition studies that supports the proposed 21st century forms of cultural capital. To his credit, Watkins also provides a pedagogy to achieve this new cultural capital, although his “writing in the wild” pedagogy may not be as groundbreaking as a theory pressing for new cultural capital would demand. That said, A Taste for Language is a welcome addition to the discussions of social class in composition and the future of English and composition studies.

Book Review: Watkins’ A Taste for Language,” Liberty Kohn, 2014

It’s a nice review, positive but not fawning or anything, and I think his criticisms make a certain amount of sense. It’s worth reading in full.

Women Are Not Men

“Finally, Steve Levitt and sociologist Jennifer Schwartz talk about one of the biggest gender gaps out there: crime. Leave it to Freakonomics to wonder: if you’re rooting for women and men to become totally and completely equal, should you root for women to commit more crimes?”

Freakonomics » Women Are Not Men: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast.

I’ve been listening to the Freakonomics podcast at the gym recently but I might have to stop now. In many ways, Freaknomoics is bourgeois, reified, academic economics at its very worst. This is society being disguised as nature. The problem is their freakish adherence to a ‘disinterested’ point of view, which they seem to see as synonymous with the scientific method. In this issue, for example, they run up against feminist thinking (and progress) again and again but manage to avoid acknowledging it.

Feminism, of course, is by definition an ‘interested’ approach and so, the show suggests, not ‘scientific’ and ‘objective.’ Avoiding so-called bias gets them twisted in all sort of knots. They can acknowledge the existence of the patriarchy– and a matrilineal society– but they are unable to acknowledge that a patriarchy is by definition sexists and chauvinistic. This is like trying to talk about racism without mentioning the ideology of white supremacy. Apparently, that would be biased; this is science not politics.

Thinking About Paula Deen

I have to say that I am fascinated by the fate of Paula Dean, mostly because the media seems obsessed with what boils down to a kind of corporate myth, a public relations narrative. I have no evidence beyond videos and interviews and the like– the same stuff everyone else has seen– but Dean seems like a pretty ordinary American white supremacist. I suspect she is smart enough to avoid racial slurs in her professional life–most of the time, anyway– and she surely knows how careful she has to be if she is going to continue to make millions being Paula Dean. Still, I suspect she is also confident in her own racial superiority.

My generation– the Baby Boom– believes that it has overcome racism and that, as Justice Roberts might say, times have changed. Our parents and grandparents, well, that’s a different story. It’s a myth, of course, because at bottom, despite the many changes in the U.S., we still live in a society in which wealth and power are unevenly distributed along racial lines. We haven’t undone the historical legacy of slavery yet, and we won’t until we begin to seriously address some of the persistent inequalities in wealth endemic to U.S. capitalism. At the very least, we need a national health care system that makes medical care a human right and not a commodity.

I think this myth of the end of racism lies at the heart of Dean’s troubles. It’s not the public that is driving Paula Dean out of the spotlight and into an early– perhaps temporary– retirement. In fact, if restaurant and book sales are any indication, the pubic seems to be supporting Dean. The idea that the pubic is outraged is a part of the corporate myth; it’s the corporations, in the end, run by the Boom Babies, that are so outraged by Deans’ dream of a slavery themed wedding and her apparent former use of racial slurs. This is the real story. If racism is over, why does corporate America believe that it has to be so racially squeaky clean?