I hope to write something more detailed about the fundamental ethical problems with APC (Article Processing Charges) models of Open Access.
The short version is that they are basically a subscription charge that preserves all the bad things about paywalled access to knowledge and preserve none of the good.
- User subscriptions are “pay to play” in the sense readers need to pay to access the knowledge; APC charges are “pay to play” in the sense that authors need to pay them or the knowledge to get published. Either way, access requires somebody to cross a paywall. Subscriptions are better because they spread the cost more widely (and hence make access cheaper on a unit basis). Moreover, subscription doesn’t prevent the dissemination of knowledge, it only restricts access; APC restricts the dissemination to those who can pay to publish. The second is much worse and far more unethical.
- User subscriptions involve trading cash for assets in the sense that libraries that pay subscriptions end up with an asset they can then use—access to the knowledge. APC charges are basically extortion: universities and libraries are told that their authors will not be allowed to publish if they don’t pay somebody to let them. The end result is that the library is poorer in terms of cash and not richer in terms of assets.
But the real evidence that there is a problem with the APC model is the existence of predatory journals. The basic premise—pay us and we’ll publish you—is far more open to corruption than the alternative—pay us and we’ll let you read our content. In a subscription model, the press has an incentive to keep quality high—readers will not pay for garbage; in the APC model, presses have an incentive to lower quality since authors will pay to print garbage.
That subscription models are more ethical than Open Access APC charges does not mean that Open Access itself is unethical or a bad idea. The main issue is how public money is being spent. If libraries and universities that are currently willing to risk public money going to scam artists instead used those funds to support Green Open Access journals we’d be able to have the best of both worlds: free access to freely disseminated research. That would be a good use of public funds—and it is much harder to scam.
Seymour Hersh in Salon today Hersh in Salon today about the problem with “report the debate” journalism:
“Our job [as journalists] is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here’s a debate’ our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and who’s wrong about issues,” Hersh said. “That doesn’t happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardizes, it raises risks….”
And his solution:
“I’ll tell you the solution, get rid of 90% of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can’t control,” he says. I saw it in the New York Times, I see people who get promoted are the ones on the desk who are more amenable to the publisher and what the senior editors want and the trouble makers don’t get promoted. Start promoting better people who look you in the eye and say ‘I don’t care what you say’.
Mutatis mutandis, I suspect much the same problem and much the same solution is true of Universities as well.
The cause of this is obvious enough: we all believe that the people who believe the same things as us or who agree with us are really quite clever. And when it comes to hiring, we tend to want to hire the clever ones.
What I like about Hersh’s solution, however, is that it proposes an algorithmic solution to our human desire to reward sycophancy: hire somebody who makes you uncomfortable.
This might not be a good way of running an assembly line, hiring an administrative assistant or organising a dentist’s office. And it might not be a good idea to hire nobody but people who make you uncomfortable. But I suspect occasionally taking a flutter on somebody you can’t control is good for the organisational DNA in knowledge enterprises like Newspapers and Universities.
Il vaut le voyage: Borges, Jane Austen, Gus van Sant, and the Zombies, or, Truth is stranger than fictionPosted: September 22, 2013
I’m slowly working my way through the collected fictions of Borges (in translation, unfortunately), and loving it. I’d never read much of him before, but he’s rapidly becoming a favorite.
Right now I’m reading “Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote,” which is about a minor authors whose greatest work was that he set about to recreate, word for word, several chapters from Don Quixote. The joke is basically a variant on the monkeys and Shakespeare except with a bit of direction. Menard’s idea is that he is going to set down to write the Quixote, not copy it, and produce it word for word:
Pierre Menard did not want to compose another Quixote, which surely is easy enough—he wanted to compose the Quixote. Nor, surely, need one be obliged to note that his goal was never a mechanical transcription of the original; he had no intention of copying it. His admirable ambition was to produce a number of pages which coincide—word for word and line for line—with those of Miquel de Cervantes.
As he says at one point to the narrator, this implies that Cervantes himself had it easy: “I have assumed the mysterious obligation to reconstruct, word for word, the novel that for him was spontaneous… Composing The Quixote in the early seventeeth century was a reasonable, necessary, perhaps even inevitable undertaking; in the early twentieth it is virtually impossible. Not for nothing have three hundred years elapsed, freighted with the most complex events. Among those events, to mention but one, is The Quixote itself.”
Probably the most amusing thing about this story is that the concept is ridiculous, but not fictional. People actually do the easier variants on this. Thus Gus Van Zant tried to pull a Menard right after his success with Good Will Hunting (a movie that my father had a role in and was the math advisor for), by recreating Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho shot-for-shot (of course, Van Zant took the easy route that Menard spurned: a) he copied it rather than actually try to recreate it without following the original; b) he was apparently an obssessive fan (Menard is not really that familiar with The Quixote and b) his version was in colour, incorporating, in other words, some of the events of the time that has passed since the original.
(If Van Zant’s film is not precisely Menardian, however, Timothy Sexton’s appreciation of it on Yahoo, is very much Borgian:
Vaughn has the distinct advantage of audiences coming into the movie already aware that Norman Bates is the titular cross-dressing murderer, so he acquired the latitude to allow Norman to be less normal and more creepily off-kilter right from the beginning.
The construct of the original was dependent upon audience ignorance of what takes place at the Bates Motel in order to achieve the first of its many shocking twists and revelations. As a result, Perkins is hindered in a way Vaughn is not. This disconnect contradicts the idea that a shot-by-shot remake is pointless and serves to point up another aspect of the remake that is superior to the original.
Hitchcock simply could not allow Perkins to play Norman Bates authentically because of his vital role in creating what can accurately be described as a false consciousness. In other words, Perkins’s Norman Bates is required to be a marketing ploy for most of the movie, whereas Vaughn is allowed to penetrate into and reveal more of the true nature of Norman right from the beginning.
The difference here results in the “unoriginal” shot-by-shot remake paradoxically purifying the story of “Psycho” by breaking free from the game of manipulating audience expectations that Hitchcock chose to play. )
The other one is [Pride and Prejudice and Zombies]. Actually, this is a sub-Menardian feat, “one of those parasitic books that set Christ on a boulevard, Hamlet on La Cannabière, or don Quixote on Wall Street.” As the narrator notes, “like every man of taste, Menard abominated those pointless travesties.”
So take that!
An interesting discussion of form is encapsulated by the article “An Apology for Form; Or, Who Took the Form out of the Process?” by Richard M. Coe.
The article’s first premise is that form and content cannot exist without the other, which gives us an interesting consideration for our research. He says that content is created out of form, by to some degree dictating what will be written. Coe says, “[f]orm in its emptiness, is heuristic, for it guides structured speech. Faced with the emptiness of a form, a human being seeks matter to fill it” (19). Here, he directly addresses the five paragraph essay. He states that the reason students write three body paragraphs – not two or four – is because the form dictates that there are three empty spaces to fill. Therefore, the writer invents until he has three points to discuss. And then he stops.
Luckily, it’s not all cynicism. The author applauds people like Dan and Michael who are creating new forms to fill in the gaps. He says, “as rhetoricians, we should explicitly invent forms to meet new needs” (21). He also suggests that “a new form often must be created in order to express a radically new idea – and that knowing a form with which an idea can be articulated improves the likelihood of thinking that idea” (25). That is an interesting point to address why students are always coming up with same, rather dull and unoriginal ideas.
He ends by restating the importance of creating new forms in order to invent new ideas. So well done Dan and Michael, in creating an avenue for students to express themselves in previously unknown (or at least long-forgotten) ways. Coe applauds you.
Poster and slam
At the end of you year, you will be asked to present a poster to the class.
The poster consists of a single powerpoint slide that represents the content of your research project: outline the evidence, present the argument, explain the context, and so.
The “Slam” is an event where every student presents their poster to the class. You will bring your slide with you on a USB key and load it onto the class computer. When your turn comes up you will have 1 minute to explain what your research project is about and why it is interesting and important.
Ever student will be expected to help lead a seminar on a topic of their choosing. In most cases, they will share their seminar time with other students (though you may work alone if you choose). Students should aim for a total length of about 30 minutes (including all presentations), although considerable flexibility is allowed.
Exactly how you lead you seminar is up to you. You can read an analytic paper, teach a class, present exercises, show a video. The point of the exercise is to give you a chance to research and teach some aspect of the topic scheduled for class that week (teaching is the best way to learn something) and to give your colleagues a chance to hear and respond to informed student opinion.
Your seminar leadship is part of your formative grade, but it will also be given a letter grade. An excellent seminar will be well-prepared and researched, informative, and provoke discussion, questions, or other indications of interest. Things like confident presentation, high quality aids such as slide shows, handouts, exercises (if used), and careful timing are also evidence of excellence.
The prospectus is a researched proposal for a research project. It explains the proposed focus of the paper (i.e. the works or topics that will be covered), the bibliographical context (i.e. important research works that touch on this topic and will useful in writing the paper), the broad outline of the argument that is going to be made and the evidence that is going to be used.
Think of it as a somewhat detailed explanation as to what you are going to write about and why you find it interesting.
The Prospectus does not need to be long. 2-4 pages is usually appropriate, though there is no set length.
The prospectus will receive a letter grade, though it is a formative exercise. In grading it, I will be looking for evidence that you have done some thinking and research on the topic and that you know the core primary and some of the main secondary sources that will be useful in your topic. The very best prospectus show evidence of serious thought and reading about the topic in question. Weaker ones show less careful thought, reading, or preparations.
For this exercise, you are required to write a Notice of Intent, outlining the topic you are planning to research for your major research project.
The Notice of Intent is a very short document, no more than two or three paragraphs at most. It should describe in broad terms the work(s) and/or topics you are thinking of writing on for your major project, why you think this topic or work(s) is/are interesting, and any preliminary ideas you have for further research.
Your Notice of Intent does not commit you to write on the topic you specify. Its purpose it help you get started thinking about your project and begin to identify resources you may need and to give me a sense of what kind of topics the class as a whole is interested in.
The Notice of Intent is graded pass/fail. A passing Notice of Intent will show evidence that the author has done some preliminary reading of the primary sources with an eye to identifying a potential topic.
Read the historical and biographical sections of the introductions to your textbooks, search for “Chaucer,” “Middle English,” “Medieval England” on the internet, look around in the library, and otherwise do some preliminary research to familiarise yourself with Chaucer and his age. Then write a brief essay discussing something about Chaucer, his age, contemporaries, or culture that intrigues you. This might involve
- something that you already knew something about but have a deeper knowledge of after your research
- something you did not know, but found interesting
- something you wish you could find out more about
- interesting trends or patterns you notice in what you read about the topic.
The precise choice and number of sources you use should be determined by your approach and the nature of your argument.
The goal of this project is to help you organise your thinking about Chaucer and his age by helping you discover what you do and do not know. It will also help you learn about various research tools for the study of the period and perhaps identify areas you will like to explore more thoroughly in some of your subsequent work.
This is an informal assignment. If the work looks like a good faith effort has been made, you will receive 100% (for the calculation of your formative grade) and a letter grade (for calculation of your bonus). In assigning a letter grade, I will be looking for evidence of engagement, good research and research problems, and clear, effective writing.
There is no length requirement, though most people tend to submit two to four pages (i.e. between about 600 and 1200 words). That is the kind of depth I would recommend, but you can be shorter or longer.
See the syllabus for the due date. You will submit the essay on Turnitin.
For the last 15 years or so, I’ve been a big fan of rubric grading. I got the bug after reading a column by my colleague Robert Runte in our faculty association newsletter. Over the years, I’ve developed a variety of different rubrics, several of which have been adopted and adapted by my own colleagues (see here and here). Read the rest of this entry »
Apparently in 1917 people had a different view of the centrality of English professors…
When we consider our educational position, we teachers of English composition are in a fair way to become conceited. In view of certain featuresof our daily experiencethe dangerof becoming conceited may not seem imminent. But the outstanding feature of our position among pedagogues surely spells danger in that very direction. The practically universal assumption that our work is educationally indispensable is truly ominous (William Hawley Davis. 1917. “The Teaching of English Composition: Its Present Status.” The English Journal 6 (5) (May 1): 285–294. doi:10.2307/801590).
From George Hillocks 2005, “At Last: The Focus on Form Vs. Content in Teaching Writing,” Research in the Teaching of English 40 (2) (November 1): 238–248. doi:10.2307/40171704.
Based on a review of “500 quasi-experimental studies of writing instruction between 1963 and 1983″ concentrating on those with strong research design.