Chalk one up for Irony biting you in the ass. My article “Geeks, Social Imarginaries and Recursive Publics” is in the Summer issue of Cultural Anthropology (after about 4 years of re-writing, but that’s OK, it’s a better article now). The ostensible topic of the paper is how geeks make a “recursive public” by addressing each other in public at the same time that they address the means of making that public public– such as the ability to create networks, license software openly, anonymously contribute and read, etc. A chunk of the paper is about my good friends over at Silk List, who are inverterately recursive publicans. The Irony comes in that one of them noted the appearance of the article in AnthroSource, our discipline’s new stab at digitizing the last 100 years of anthropological scholarship–but could not actually access a copy of it. Unfortunately, without a membership in the American Anthropological Association, the article costs $12. Not a bad price really, except that the research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, and any self-respecting American Taxpayer should balk at paying a second time for research they have already funded.
But the Irony does not end there. This semester I have affiliations at three separate universities– Rice University, MIT, and Harvard. It turns out all of these institutions have subscriptions to JSTOR–which contains copies of the journal up to 1997–but none of them have subscriptions to AnthroSource, which contains the last six years of the journal–so even having standing at three very rich institutions does not guarantee access. Fine–I’m a member of the AAA in good standing, I think, I’ll just access AnthroSource and download a copy of my own article. No go. The system doesn’t recognize any permutation of any of my email addresses from any of the 8 years of meetings I have been to. When I “register” at AnthroSource, there is no option for looking up my member standing. No doubt I will have to do some sort of telephone tag or email trail in order to find the person who can help fix the problem, and probably that only temporarily.
Rub 1: I can’t even get a copy of my own article.
I knew this would happen. When I was revising the article, I returned the author agreement with an amendment that would give me the right to distribute electronic copies under a Creative Commons license. I’ve done this with four other articles I have written, but the AAA (via the University of California) said, and I quote:
The AAA does not allow authors either to amend the standard agreement or to retain their copyrights…AAA is a non-profit, educational and scholarly publisher. It exists for anthropologists as their collective publishing arm–unlike the many commercial, for-profit publishers against which Creative Commons pits itself.
The asinine suggestion that somehow Creative Commons is pitted against commercial for-profit publishers notwithstanding, they seemed to misunderstand the fact that what I wanted to encourage was for people to read my article, not the destruction of the AAA. What I want them to see, in the midst of much gnashing of teeth in the discipline about so-called “public anthropology”, is that the goal of the society should be to promote and distribute our research, not restrict it, charge people twice for it or make our lives exceedingly difficult by burying the research inside passwords and accounts and cross-linked memberships that don’t work.
The cry always comes up: “but the AAA depends on subscription revenue, without it we will go bankrupt!” To this there are two answers: 1) if the only solution to this problem of revenue means sacrificing the goal of distributing our research or making it publicly available, then fine, adieu! But, more charitably 2) there should in fact be much more discussion about how to increase the revenue for the AAA– through means other than the restriction of research–especially publicly funded research. There are ways to do this and a very lively ongoing discussion in “Open Access” such as the work Peter Suber and Public Knowledge have done– why not engage it more?
Rub 2: So much for recursive publics in Anthropology… I hope at least that a few people at the AAA, who do have working accounts at Anthrosource will read my article…
Update: I forgot to mention that the AAA is having an essay contest to best describe “How Anthrosource will Transform Anthropological Scholarship.” I’m not sure I have 1500 words in me, but it kind of cries out for a submission…
Update Two: Check out what google Thinks You Mean when you search for anthrosource. Not good.