Two different editorials about the future of open access appeared recently. The first, Michael Chibnik’s editorial in American Anthropologist, was gloomy about the prospects of the journal’s going open access in the future. A response from the board of the Society for Cultural anthropology ( ‘SCA’ the publisher of Cultural Anthropology) also recently appeared on the website. So what are these people saying, what is at stake, and why should we care?
Back in December Haidy Geismar, the incoming editor of The Journal of Material Culture (published by Sage), published an editorial mooting the future of JMC as an open access journal and asking readers to weigh in by taking an online survey about the future of the journal. To date, sixteen people have responded. Sixteen. That’s pretty embarrassing — for Geismar and for the JMC, but also for the open access movement more generally. So after you read this, go take the survey.
The apathy of the JMC’s readership is worth dwelling on because it demonstrates what is really at stake in debates about open access. Its not about open versus closed access, or for-profit versus non-profit publishing. Its about organic, flourishing publishing tied to vibrant intellectual communities versus mechanical mass production of journals. My use of the term ‘organic’ is intentional: just as consumers and farmers today are increasingly becoming aware of and taking responsibility for the production of the food we eat, so to is open access part of a broader movement to take responsibility for the production of scholarly content.
The short answer is: I was tired.
When it rains it pours. In the past two days it seems like I’ve been deluged with quality open access anthropology. Perhaps open access is not the right word, since some of them have pretty traditional copyright on them, but the important thing is that they are all free to read, and all deserve to be read. Where to begin?
I mentioned earlier that for many people ontology was a major theme at AAAs. Well now the good folks at Cultural Anthropology have published the papers from the Politics of Ontology Session. Short. Sweet. Ontologytastic. Most of what happens at the AAAs doesn’t live on in any meaningful way, or else is published years afterwards. It’s amazing, frankly, to see such relevant stuff from such high-calibre people get thrown up on the Intarweb.
Speaking of high-calibre, Museum Anthropology Review has published a ginormous double issue on digital repatriation and the circulation of indigenous knowledge. Its an amazing collection of papers that help get the word out about the cutting edge of digital repatriation projects which are out there. Hats off to the organizers.
There are also many new less scholarly, more general-interest pieces out now. Limn, an art magazine/scholarly journal hybrid founded by our own Chris Kelty, published its fourth issue on Food Infrastructures. Yum. There is also a new issue of Anthropology of This Century out as well as a new number of Popular Anthropology.
I wish I could recommend specific articles out of all these journals, but frankly I’m swamped — and eager to hear what you all have to say. Anything in here you’re particularly keen to read? Or what would you recommend, having read some of this stuff? The Internetz wants to know.
I’m so amazed and proud to see the way the anthropology noosphere has grown over the past few years. Where once we had two blogs and an Open Access lunch for six at the AAAs, we now have twitter meet-ups and more blogs and social media sites than you can shake a stick at. One missing piece of the puzzle, however, has been a good podcast. And now, thanks to the Society for Cultural Anthropology and their podcast series AnthroPod, we have that too. Go listen to it now.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been anthropology podcasts out there in the past. Savage Minds has played around with the genre from time to time, for instance. And of course the AAA has its own podcast series. But we at SM ultimately were too busy keeping the blog afloat to expand into podcasts, and the AAA series… well, the quality was somewhat uneven. Often podcasts would open up with a couple of seconds of static and then a phone dialing, and then people started talking, and if you listened for a while you slowly realized you were listening to Virginia Dominguez interview Marilyn Strathern. And even when they seemed a bit more professionally produced, these podcasts were too anthropological — too much for the sake of the interlocutors and not for the sake of the audience — to be interesting.