Reflecting on the blog…

A lot of this blog has been my own personal response to academia. Over the last four years of graduate school, I’ve become more adverse to academic writing. Putting on the academic hat and writing “like an academic,” has never been something I enjoyed and this was a great way for me to rewrite many of my pieces in a more natural and vivid manner. It is hard to discuss without promoting a monolithic image of the academy despite it being a complex interworking of thousands of individuals pouring unmeasurable effort into subjects in an attempt to expand human knowledge. However, my gripe has never been about the topics, but about the needless barriers to publication and writing expectations that naturally isolate most of the literature. Additionally, the time lines upon which most articles are written are simply too slow to effectively respond to many of the rapid political and cultural developments occurring today.

Something I love about blogs is how quickly information can be produced, indexed and then consumed by other audiences. I was able to cover topics such as the Oscar’s, something that translates poorly into official academic writing. After a 2 year long review, resubmit and publication process, the people of 2019, will hardly care about the 2017 Oscars.

Blogging can be seen as one of the best ways to democratize information and knowledge production, while still having enough space to cover topics thoroughly. The other end of the spectrum of academic publications, while thorough, often goes too far. Early in my graduate career I was told to look at journal articles as 99% just reorganizing others work and then 1% my own contribution. While seemingly an excellent way to gatekeep out bad information, the long and slow timeframe of publication coupled with only 1% of new information is just too slow for todays world.

The speed of including new information isn’t the only part of blogging I appreciated, it was also universally accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Inertia has caused many of the flagship journals to now be housed in places like Wiley, TandFonline, and Ebscohost. 15 years ago when these journals decided to link up with these content organizers it made sense because searchable databases still required dedicated programmers and hosting fee’s were substantial. For some reason we still give them all of our published work, the labor of the editors and endorsements of the school departments completely free of charge. They literally provide nothing that cannot be achieved for free and profit handsomely because of the work that academics are willing to due to advance their careers. There is a serious asymmetry in how much we need each other and I think it is time to break up with the major “publishing companies.” They charge $40 for access to a single  article and keep 100% of that profit. The researcher who spent 100 hours creating the data, analyzing it and writing about it gets a single line on their CV. The editor who leveraged their personal relationships to get solid reviewers, reads 300 articles a year and refers them, receives a line on their CV and a vague sense of being charitable. The reviewers get a headache and maybe a beer from the editor the next time they attend the same conference. The company who bought a database 10 years ago gets to then take all of that labor and be the exclusive entity profiting. Schools pay millions of dollars to access these articles and in the overwhelming number of cases the researchers, editors and reviewers never see a dime. The ease of which I was able to maintain a blog despite being coding illiterate highlights how poorly parts of the academy have capitalized on new technology, that could radically increase accessibility of knowledge we produce. While they used to offer exclusive expert knowledge on the publication process, they are mostly sustaining themselves on the inertia of editors just doing it the same way they always have. The process of blogging has revealed to me just how absurd the current distribution of labor and profit is among our journals.

Although the slow process of publication and inaccessibility of the information produced might be easily remedied, the expected voices of those publishing is something I’ll never go back to. There is no reason a writer cannot be both entertaining AND thorough when discussing a topic. While we shouldn’t require writers be entertaining because they might have something important to say despite being boring people, this doesn’t mean we should mandate boring writing. If I had a dollar for every time I had a professor insist I take out a humorous metaphor or colloquialism from my writing for being “informal,” I might just be able to afford these ridiculous Miami rent prices. Being able to ask rhetorical questions, use a picture to capture someones attention or make a joke can help make reading an otherwise boring piece somewhat enjoyable.

When I first started this blog I was unwilling to write on topics I didn’t feel I was a complete expert on. I’d only cover the subjects I’d read at least 1000 pages on, but realized this just wasn’t necessary and could instead cover short events, provide a few links to related topics and call it a day. Sometimes other people make the arguments I want to make in ways that only requires I point them out and direct readers attention to what they are saying. For example, academia would typically require a complete dissection of an hour long stand-up show if wishing to discuss comedy. The blog format has allowed me to simply proclaim I find it funny, isolate what I think is unique, and direct my readers to “The Axis of Evil comedy tour.” I’ve tried to let more work speak for itself, rather than muddying the encounter with my own thoughts and notions of argumentation.

This blog has helped me break up with academia while not feeling like it is a complete loss. I’ve been able to organize my thoughts on prejudice and the media in a way that I actually enjoyed producing and I believe is accessible to audiences without expert backgrounds or high priced library subscriptions.

In the future I would love to bring in other writers to help me with this project. Some shows despite having Muslims, will never make my watch list (cough…the real housewives…cough). Extra perspectives are always helpful and can get me out of a rut that might make my writing too predictable. Additionally, I will try and participate in other related blog comment sections to hopefully drive up my own readership. Finally, I’d love it if someone else would be willing to edit my posts and I edit theirs. I can find all the typos and poor grammar in something I didn’t write, but my own work just fills in what I intended to write and I’ll miss seemingly obvious stuff.

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