Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Return of the pre-internet age

I want to be a good citizen and comment on the AAUP report "Sustaining Scholarly Publishing," currently up on the estimable MediaCommons, but I think I'm going to have to refrain. It feels too much like grading.

For example:
Publishers were essential to the scholarly ecosystem of the pre-web age. For scholars to see their work disseminated within their scholarly community, it had to be published by a publisher. For some, this pre-web reality implies that university publishers are no longer required, because the conditions have changed.
The. Pre-web. Age.

Without giving too much detail, I would like to appeal to longtime colleagues' memories of one of my all-time most hilarious grading moments: a student (writing on eighteenth-century poetry) attributed something to "the pre-internet age."* You know, things were thus-and-so in the eighteenth century because there was no internet. This means that the AAUP report closely reproduced, in all earnestness, one of my go-to examples of a hilarious freshman blooper.**

Back-in-the-day versus Now is a convenient historical formulation, but not an illuminating one. The AAUP might be interested to learn that scholars have also communicated in other ways, such as letters, or even (I know this sounds crazy) conferences. In the pre-web age, no less!

I have to read C papers from time to time, but this is definitely not going to be one of those times.

*This was years ago, and said freshman has no doubt gone on to do great things, blissfully unscarred by her-or-his crime against history.
**Some troll inevitably points out that the internet and the web are not the same thing. This is true, but not relevant.


ajmcc said...

but is that better or worse than my own favorite first sentence, alas not one i received myself but related to me by a friend:

"Since the dawn of time, people have been stealing music from the internet."

equally hilarious, just in the opposite historiographic direction (i.e. "'then,' 'now,' what's the difference?!")

Natalia said...

Hmm, yes, I see what you mean. One is anti-history, the other is pseudohistory. For hilariousness, I think anti-history wins; for insidiousness, probably pseudohistory.