We're celebrating University Press Week with a 37-press blog tour. Weclome to Day 2 of the tour and to the SUP blog. Today's topic is the Future of Scholarly Communication and we're kicking the mic over to Alan Harvey, our Director. Enjoy!
The erudite Alan
Harvey, Director of Stanford University Press, poses this question during my
job interview. To my ears, the question sounds nearly as chiding in his English
accent, asked in earnest, as it did when I asked it of myself a week ago, after
moving to Silicon Valley.
Here’s the context:
I’m applying for a job with the Press, which Alan describes as one of the few
remaining publishing houses in a state whose dot-com bubble gutted the industry
of much of its human capital before subsequently bursting. He points
something else out to me, something of which I am already acutely aware: I hail
from an unlikely but robust mini-mecca of indie publishing: the Twin Cities.
So, why would I—a newly minted English major—move to a valley so tech-oriented
that it takes its handle from the computer chip?
This is the usual
tension of tech versus text, is it not? The trope has been so frequently
deployed so as to be a cliché at this point. Journalists and Op-Ed columnists publicly
dissecting the utility of print culture at the dawn of a digital age would have
you believe that conventional books, academic dissertations, the humanities and
liberal arts studies are rendered obsolete in a world where binary code surpasses the alphabet as the most common way of transcribing our communications and nuance and
verbosity are sacrificed to the 140-character-limit caprices of Twitter.
But is all this
partisanship really necessary?
Ultimately both mediums—from
scholarly tomes to Apple iPhones—are geared to connect minds and generate
conversations. After four years at a liberal arts college something that left a
deep impression on me was how the ideas that percolate in the academic
mindshare have a way of guiding tomorrow’s daily reality. They have the power
to shape the way our political leaders think (Mearsheimer), recalibrate the way
we perceive our society, its subjects and its structures (de Beauvoir, Said),
and draw attention to emerging challenges, or alternately, to problems too long
Far from undermining these conversations, technology presents an unprecedented opportunity to add dynamism to academic discourse. Social media, for example, collapses traditional barriers to access (class, race, geography)—a trend aptly noted by this recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed—making rapid dissemination of new ideas possible and broadening their purview by inviting people into the conversation who could never access it before.
This is why I wanted
to be a part of SUP and why I was excited about this new role in particular, a
role that embraces social media and its possibilities. I wanted to not only
take part in these conversations, but broaden them. (At least, that’s the
answer I wish I had been cogent enough to offer during my interview. As it was,
I parsed together a few emphatic statements about really liking books and left the interview exasperated with myself,
nerves jangling and fingers crossed.)
I’m thrilled to join
the press, where my role (appropriately) lies at the cross-section of
technology and publishing. In addition to handling digital distribution to University
Press Scholarship Online and tuning the Press’ online presence on the website, I’ll also be tweeting, blogging and facebooking on behalf of the
Press, our authors and the multitude of ideas with which they engage the world.
I hope you visit us on Facebook and Twitter and join in on our conversation.
Kalie Caetano is the
digital media specialist at Stanford University Press. Before coming to SUP she
interned for Minneapolis-based marketing agency, Fast Horse Inc. and the
nonprofit literary publisher, Milkweed Editions.
What kinds of things are you comfortable sharing? Your “Interests” and favorite “Quotations” on Facebook – many people are. Your professional profile on Linkedin – absolutely. Your personal financial documents and bill statements – maybe not. Ultimately, everyone has a different take on what they think should be private.
With all the different possible circumstances, perhaps we shouldn’t base our definition of privacy on the convention arguments between private and public; personal and collective; protected and unprotected. But how should we be approaching the idea of privacy? In this day and age when the advent of the internet has allowed unthinkable expanses of information to be available at the click of a mouse, how should privacy be defined -- from both political and moral standpoints?
So, when we join online communities like Facebook and Linkedin, we allow a certain amount of personal information to be accessible to others and we decide just how much we’d like them to see. However, when we sign up for online banking, we expect that all of the information we enter is protected and unseen by others. It’s not a simple matter of private vs. public anymore. With so many possible ways to share information, it seems like a two-category system just won’t work. While the amount of information flowing through our world increases daily, a look at privacy in its various contexts may be just what we need to sort it out.
Nunziato explains that the FCC is now working toward requiring broadband providers to be neutral parties within internet communications. But why should the FCC have to take such measures? Aren’t we already free to express and view whatever we want on the internet? After all, that’s what blogs like this one are for. But according to Nunziato, not everyone is enjoying the same rights.
In both her book and the Op-Ed, Nunziato references occasions where companies like Verizon, Google, and Comcast have limited the actions of certain users. “In 2007, for example, Comcast blocked access to legal peer-to-peer file-sharing applications and then withheld information from its users (and the FCC) about its actions.” How is it that these sorts of violations to our right to free speech have been going on right before our eyes?
Nunziato asserts, “The FCC and the EU should act now to require that the handful of powerful companies who serve as the gatekeepers for Internet expression fulfill their obligations to the public free of discrimination and censorship to protect our free speech interests in the digital age.”
So the next time you’re on the internet, ask yourself: Just how much have I been missing?