Reading Response 4/9

The Wikipedia question. Definitely one I, as an English Composition teacher, encounter on a frequent basis. For me it represents key questions that are a basis for the classes that I teach, specifically. I teach research, critical thinking, citation practice, subjectivity versus objectivity, logical fallacies, and so much more that goes right into this discussion. No matter how many times I tell students not to cite Wikipedia, I still get ones that do, almost every semester, in at least one of their papers. We have discussions on what Wikipedia can and should be used for and watch the humorous CollegeHumor Video that makes the point about Wikipedia’s potential for inaccuracy incredibly blatant, and I still have students ignore my advice (and thus lose A LOT of points on their paper). I’m now thinking reading articles on Wikipedia may be an excellent way to broach this subject further and get into some of the deeper topics that I cover, listed above. I tell them it is a good first step, a good place to go to get a broad sense of a topic, and to find other potential sources from among their own citations. In reality though, this may be only useful for students that are naturally suspect or have developed critical thinking skills already and question truth from the get-go. Maybe its use should be discouraged for freshmen until they have proved that they can handle it.

The gender question referred to in the “Talk of the Nation” and our articles is a particularly disturbing one that you probably have to have a basis for understanding injustice and gender dynamics before you can understand and think intelligently about. That discussion on NPR was interesting as a whole in that they never fully addressed the woman caller’s issue, just saying “yes, that is how it’s supposed to be” and moving on, talking over her response of “well, then why did this not happen in this instance?” (I’m being petty here, but it stood out.) The idea she was suggesting was that the debate over the topic be part of the article, which makes complete sense as a way to address some of these issues and keep scholars who use Wikipedia up-to-date on current discussions in a field. The comparison she made with Wikipedia was to an academic conference, and this made a lot of sense to me. This is how I have kind of told my students to approach Ted Talks, which does seem maybe a little more apt, though. Wikipedia is not about making arguments, but putting out mass-agreed upon information out into the world, as the segment discusses. Wikipedia relies on secondary sources over primary sources, they said, and I guess as a general model, that makes sense.

I found Schiff’s article in The New Yorker fascinating and there was a lot I did not know about the development of Wikipedia and the behind the scenes part of it. I did not realize it is such a culture in and of itself. I do wonder how this article would differ if written today. How has Wikipedia grown up? She mentions the fact that Wikipedia runs almost completely on donations, what would she say about the constant begging for those donations that Wikipedia does today, that has been criticized by frequent users? Also, in an America where “fake news” is thrown around with great frequency, how does that change what we, as a society need or should expect from a site like Wikipedia? She says, “When confronted with evidence of errors or bias, Wikipedians invoke a favorite excuse: look how often the mainstream media, and the traditional encyclopedia, are wrong!” Which is fine and true that errors occur everywhere, but isn’t the sheer capacity for containing knowledge, space-wise, and the ability to stay completely current (the two biggest pros of Wikipedia), enough to at least inspire hope for accuracy within this platform? I guess I had more trust in the gatekeepers before reading these articles and listening to the NPR segment. I’m definitely left questioning a lot.

If you have not seen this, watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaADQTeZRCY. Also this is an interesting “how-to” guide for using Wikipedia within academia and includes other resource lists with more reading: https://www.legalmorning.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Proper-Use-of-Wikipedia-in-Academia.pdf.

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4/9

In writing history in the Digital age, it delves into the realm of public history. As a preservation major I think that public history should not be a separate track. With the digital age steadily progressing and advancements continuing to be made, instead of having to go through a large database and scoured through hundreds of broad topics to hopefully land on something worth while; there is an emergence of databases that are geared towards whatever topic you may be looking for. People from all different walks of life can create their own website, wiki, or blog; those with no interest in creating these spaces for themselves can still be apart of these communities however.  These new digital spaces expand and blur the spectrum of what counts as an historical practice. The informality of a blog can be used/seen as an advantage; academic publishers bring with it traditions of peer review and public commentary, but the informal presentation of blogs/wiki/ etc have a lack of filters, of a polished look that make it more appealing. Blogs and wikis can be useful, but unlike other sources it is nothing without an audience. For those who may be looking into a certain subject, but not engaged in an academic reasons, the author has to change the lingo to appeal to a broader audience rather than using scholastic terms. Using blogs allows for the author to show that academics are approachable people, and using a simple dialogue allows for a wider net.

In this article they use Ancestry.com as an example. The researchers and historians for this site, by analyzing different government records at varying origin and credibility. In Truth and the World of Wikipedia Gatekeepers; this article discusses how Wikipedia has become to the go-to-source for information on almost every topic imaginable. For years Wikipedia was a shunned site, due to the historians and researchers being volunteers and anyone can edit the page. According to this article you can see that due to Wikipedia having a shift to a primary place that researchers, students go to for information, the volunteers job has become a much larger task than once thought. With their new user agreement Wiki wants to use information from mainly secondary sources instead of primary sources to create a broader definition on the topic. From these two articles you can see that digital interfaces are now becoming the primary source for not only historians and researchers, but for history buffs who may have some fleeting interests in one topic or another.

Gatekeeping the Gatekeepers

When I was a teenager, I contributed to Wikipedia by correcting an article’s grammar. However, that joy was short lived, when I was told of how many additional hurdles I would need to face, as well as the time I needed to contribute to the website, before I could edit another article. In a way I felt that it was unfair, but I also felt (to an extent) that the website was trying to protect itself from being “vandalized”.

There’s an issue in who gets to gatekeep information, and it can affect anyone. For example, a professor who’s an expert on Chicago’s Haymarket Riot tried repeatedly to correct information on the Wikipedia article on it. However, his changes were repeatedly denied, because Wikipedia’s policies stated that published sources needed to be used, as opposed to using coroner’s reports. This was because published views “represented a majority view”; not only would the professor’s work need to be published, but because it was proposing a different view of the event, more literature would have to be published to counteract his work before it could be on Wikipedia. There is also a discussion on the NPR broadcast on the growing divide between the academic world and Wikipedia culture; while there is gatekeeping in the academic world, Wikipedia culture means that getting facts right gets in the way of having these facts changed when new literature on the subject is published.

Since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia has been on a mission to deliver as much free information as possible to the masses. Because the website can be as large as it wants, it can have as many detailed articles it likes. As the New Yorker article describes, the creation of the website also led to a creation of a community; users from around the world use the website to not only edit entries, but to create a culture on the site dedicated to information and education. However, it has had its share of issues. In addition to the idea of gatekeeping, there have been issues of vulgarity and pettiness, as well as issues where people (mainly politicians) have tried to edit entries on themselves.

My article this week discusses the rise of conspiracy videos and fake news on YouTube, and a proposed plan on how to curb these videos. Susan Wojcicki, the chief executive of YouTube, has proposed adding Wikipedia links to each video, thereby debunking “crisis actor” conspiracies and memes from spreading. However, with the issues that Wikipedia has had in the past with gatekeeping information, it may not be long before controversy strikes again.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/conspiracy-videos-fake-news-enter-wikipedia-the-good-cop-of-the-internet/2018/04/06/ad1f018a-3835-11e8-8fd2-49fe3c675a89_story.html?utm_term=.318650b7f38f

Publishing History in the 21st Century

The work of constructing a history has always been open to the contribution of everyone. There is no education requirement. No license or credentialing. No certification exam. No formal process of prerequisites to “do” history. For this reason and in some small but significant way everyone is in this sense is a historian of sorts. Some spend their time reconstructing family histories. Others will find a niche history to specialize in such as the history of barbeque or barber shops, stock cars or tractors. More popular fields of inquiry include the history of firearms or the American Civil War. Then there are the collectors that specialize in the artifacts of the past. Many of these people simply love their area of interest. What the articles this week make clear is that this group is gaining influence in the 21st century. Historians trained in the academy may have some claim over the title of professional but in many ways a simple love for the field is all one needs these days.

In Rosenzweig’s Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past the idea that a historical narrative can be easily updated, revised, or edited gives contributors a new power in the field. No longer do amateur historians seem relegated to the niche histories of biographies, family histories, and firearms. They can now add to and create narratives on the Wikipedia page and in fact Rosenzweig explains that most of the articles published in Wikipedia were related to the subject of history. Some of the articles have errors but a vast majority of them seem to be fairly accurate. He seems to be frustrated that some important figures in history feature shorter articles than other seemingly meaningless articles about fictional characters, however, overall his reaction appears to be one of surprise that so much of what Wikipedia publishes is on target with historically correct details. Meanwhile Schiff maintains in Know it All that Wikipedia appears to be a subversive force that plans on stopping at nothing. Its contributors are regularly working to secure a strong product, fully capable of bucking peer review and government scrutiny.

In light of these articles, both published in 2006, the Wiki community is viewed as a very influential group. Interestingly while many of them seem to contribute to history articles they are clearly people that may or may not be professional historians given the diversity of writers and editors. Likely many of them are not. What is most notable from these articles is that publishing history in the 21st century appears to be turning into a joint effort between professional and amateur historians for better or for worst. This fact does not seem to be all bad. People with a genuine interest in history have and continue to be dedicated to some level of accuracy. However, as has already been a problem before the advent of the internet historians among the public do not always follow the same conversations as do academic historians and more importantly they frequently disagree with academic historians on key issues. The greatest challenge in this new century will likely be mending and closing the narrative gap between amateur historians and professional historians. How to do this is a very good question. This at least means that professional historians may have to join some of the conversations they have refused to be involved with in the past regardless of how insignificant or frustrating they may are. Obviously the internet continues to elude observers everywhere and many things have changed since these articles were written over 10 years ago, but these authors make clear that a fundamental change has occurred and the age of the amateur historian is upon us.

This article is about quality control

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/04/wikipedia-open-access/479364/

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Book

By Steven R. Garcia

I want to start with an anecdote. When I’m not reading, studying, or writing, I play around with little toy soldiers (of course, us hobbyists try to justify it as ‘miniature modeling’ or ‘tabletop wargaming’). Of my many interests in the hobby, I began with ‘historicals,’ or games focused on specific time periods or events. There have been few periods I dare not touch, namely modern warfare (i.e. Iraq, Afghanistan) and, most pertinent to today’s discussion, the American Civil War. Being a Puerto Rican migrant, I didn’t understand the divisiveness of the conflict as it stands today nor why some in the South were so fanatically entranced by the concept of ‘good ol’ Dixie.’ I was an outsider looking in. So, when a friend invited me to play at one of their battles, I decided to give it a shot. Most of my fellow hobbyists are history buffs anyway, so I thought I could learn a thing or two.

There’s a reason why I don’t play American Civil War games.

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A great table, beautiful miniatures, and a large turnout. There was only one problem . . .

“The war was fought for states’ rights,” said one player. “Slaves were not treated as harshly as some Northerners would make it out to be,” said another. I kept my lips sealed. My friend, who organized the game, dreaded this from happening. He and I are both academically-trained historians, and we both knew we needed to deescalate this quickly. Thankfully, he did a superb job in politely keeping controversy off the table and the preserving the spirit of the game. However, that memory stuck with me. Most of those players were locals who didn’t have professional training or education as historians and instead depended on online resources, maybe a few books, and personal heritage to color their opinions. I felt out of place and, moreover, increasingly agitated. I wanted to jump in there and tell them otherwise. “You’re misinterpreting source materials and letting your own biases influence your attempts at making a historical argument,” I would’ve said.

But I didn’t. One, because I used to work for the store that hosted that game. And two, because I felt like maybe that wasn’t the best approach to arguing against popular or, for lack of a better word, bad history.

When I read Leslie Madsen-Brooks’ article on black Confederates, I empathized with the examples provided in the piece. I’d been in the shoes of those historians and editors before, struggling to find an appropriate way to argue against poorly-sources or misinformed historical arguments. The power of the Internet is both a blessing and a curse, and its duality in being able to greatly inform or lead astray the curious public is astonishing. Throughout the semester, we’ve gone back and forth on what role do historians play in the digital sphere. The conclusion to Madsen-Brook’s article encapsulates my opinion on that debate the best: “that said, our best role is perhaps not that of an authoritative figure or the “sage on the stage”; the “guide on the side” role makes more sense in the digital space” (Madsen-Brooks 2012). Considering the virtual audience we as historians face, it’d be in our best interest to not alienate the populace at large. I argue it’s a matter of picking your battles, knowing when to intervene, and doing so with tact that I think not many of us are trained to consider.

Case in point, Talk of the Nation’s Truth And The World Of Wikipedia Gatekeepers. Now, to be fair, I have nothing against Dr. Messer-Kruse’s opinion on Wikipedia. Being rejected on a revision and knowing you’re the expert in your field would be frustrating for anyone, but I think his opinion does reveal a little something about his approach. Dr. Messer-Kruse even said it himself, stating that in “academic culture, we have very specific gate keeping” that is “admittedly exclusive” by nature (Talk of the Nation 2012). I would wager Dr. Messer-Kruse played the “I’m a professional” card more than once in his arguments with the Wikipedia editors, thus leading me to believe that he may be somewhat misinformed as to the purpose of Wikipedia’s existence in the first place. A story that another guest in the segment, Andrew Lih, was well aware of. Wikipedia was founded as a public encyclopedia, driven by community engagement and a desire to catalog. I believe Dr. Messer-Kruse saw himself less as a part of that public, but rather as a ‘sage on the stage’ attempting to bestow his wisdom upon the crowd.

Suffice to say, most academic historians don’t receive training or guidelines on how interact with the public (except public historians, but even they may suffer from elitist perceptions from internet communities large). Even if someone, a lover of history albeit untrained in reading source material or conducting research, goes out and posts an article or makes a site grossly misinterpreting sources, scholarly works, or historical events, I think we need to take a step back and consider our approach. It’s not so much a question of ‘is this argument worth getting into?,’ but rather how. I argue that presenting an academic viewpoint, sourced and well-researched, in an enticing way through a blog, podcast, or a Wikipedia article will undoubtedly get more traction and validity in online communities than rants, arguments, or even apathy and lack of care. In short, it’s a matter of instilling a sort of ‘web-etiquette’ in academic training and, above all, an understanding in all academics that the web is quickly becoming the primary vehicle for the dissemination of scholarly ideas. To ignore it is folly and, in turn, allow for misinformation to spread. So, let’s try to walk softly more often and carry our big books when pertinent.

I’d like to try and have less tense wargames on the American Civil War in the future, if nothing else.

On that note, here’s an interesting article from 2017 on how academics are maneuvering through the minefield that is maintaining or, in some cases, regaining the public trust: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/01/27/academics-consider-how-rebuild-public-trust-higher-education

Response 3/26

The episode of RadioLab we listened to was intense, but it raised some interesting questions, and ones that I’m not sure I have completely fleshed out thoughts on. I support the ultimate decision of Time and everyone to let the father see the pictures, and I support his decision to say no, they cannot be published. To be completely honest those pictures seem too intense to be published in that particular magazine to begin with, but that’s probably a different subject. Journalistic-ally, they lost something, but they kept their integrity, the photographer says, and this I agree with. But what, exactly, did they lose journalistic-ally? Is seeing those gruesome, personal photographs the only way to convey the realities of war? I’m a writer, so obviously I do not think so. Tim O’Brien’s weird sort of nonfiction/fiction blend in The Things They Carried comes to mind. It portrays the horror, honors the real men who died, and exploits no one’s family, as the line between real and imagined (or, more probably, real and molded together from bits of reality) remains fuzzy. Readers who knew O’Brien in the war can see themselves in it or not, and he plays with this too, though he has the privilege of time passed. Maybe that’s another layer to the photographs. If the sisters of the deceased can see the pictures after enough time as passed, after they are old enough, then would it be more appropriate to release these photographs later? Would they still be important in twenty years or have the same effect? If the answer is yes, then what is wrong with potentially waiting? If the answer is no, then why are they so necessary now? I’m not saying the photographs do not sound meaningful and important, but I do think there are some things we should not have to see to believe. There are multiple ways to tell a good, powerful story.

I feel like this is only tangentially related to the idea of scholarship being free, but I see the connection. The idea behind both is who are the gatekeepers? Should there be gatekeepers? Part of this is the question of how to scholars make money off of their work. Part of this is the question of can the public be trusted with open access to scholarly work? Or even with the photographs? They would have been printed in a spread that told a story, that was mediated by professionals to create a specific effect. We have witnessed what the internet can do to photographs today, how people cannot be trusted with them. The photo going around of Emma Gonzalez supposedly ripping up the constitution is a prime example of that. Someone took an image, photoshopped it, and spread it around as if it were fact. This would not have been possible in the same way without the internet, or if there was someway to prevent people from downloading photographs, etc., off of the internet (aka having free full access to someone’s actual work). If we cannot have an educated public that is willing and able to think critically about the scholarship presented to them, then maybe we need limits to access. I’m too cynical to think that democratizing access is the key to gaining such an educated public.

Here is an article on gatekeeping and the media: https://medium.com/@gabrielletutheridge/what-is-the-role-of-gatekeeping-journalists-in-today-s-media-environment-2034a30ba850. (Sorry this is so late. I’ve been most unwell).

Content Accessibility and Ownership

One issue that affects how content is curated is the issue of ownership and accessibility; how much access should individuals have when it comes to sensitive information. In Ray Rosenzwieg’s article, he talks about how the NIH was urged to make their papers public. This raised issues about how some groups, such as students and academics, have long had access to these papers, but the outside public did not. The rise of the internet has also furthered these discussions, as restrictions on websites highlight the inequality in information access. Just because an individual makes content, does not mean they have the final say in if it’s released, and to whom.

One example of this is discussed an in episode of Radiolab, where a photographer took photos of a soldier’s final moments. One moment was highlighted, where one military personnel told the photographer to stop taking pictures, but others defended her. However, photos that identified the soldier in any way were forbidden from being used without the soldier’s permission.  As a result, the photojournalist talked to the soldier’s family, who gave permission to see the pictures before they were published, but it conflicted with the rules of Time Magazine, who needed to publish the pictures before the family could see it. Time allowed the soldier’s family to view the pictures, after which the family withdrew permission to use certain pictures. Although there were some who felt that Time had the right to publish pictures, the photojournalist felt that the right call was made.

In Brown and Kaiser’s article, this issue is further explored in the form of the medical history of impoverished African-American families visiting a health clinic in the Mississippi Delta. Because many of the patients are still alive, a condition was set so that the records would not be accessible to the public until 2038. This makes research on recent history difficult, but not impossible. As the article highlights, in the past, information on the U.S. South was largely restricted, as many records were restricted to private collections or private historical societies. It wasn’t until recently that the SHC was established, giving more access into information on the southern identity and past. Returning to the idea of restricted access, identifying potentially sensitive material in an archive is an important but sometimes counterproductive process in the race to get a collection processed. Still, making some information restricted, such as to protect medical records or respect the wishes of a grieving family, is vital to ensure that content curation and preservation is done ethically.

Access Denied

During the course of compiling evidence, gathering information, and sifting through vast archives of material ripe with research value historians can often find themselves frustrated with denied access. This can include documents of the most diverse forms. One would assume that some of the hardest information to obtain would be top secret military documents but in many cases medical records, family histories, and pictures of certain events can be just as difficult. The reading from this week featured several examples of this problem. In the podcast Sight Unseen the website Radiolab interviewed a photographer that knew the release of pictures she took while in Afghanistan would likely prove to be somewhat controversial. One set of pictures she took featured a Marine that had been evacuated out of combat with fatal injuries. Her shots were focused on the doctors, nurses, and medics attempting to revive him. What became apparent during the operation was the medical team’s desire to document the event, and as a result the photographer was able to fully capture the feeling of the trauma room at the time of the Marine’s death. However, access to the documentation of the event became problematic because of the nature of the situation. In Brown and Kaiser’s analysis of recent history in Opening the Archives of the Recent American Past the difficulties of researching late 20th century become apparent when access to a medical school study seems to hang in the balance of federal law acting on medical records, student records, and personal information. Also in Drakes’ Who Owns Your Archive? Historians and the Challenges of Copyright Law the problem of copyright shows to be a major access obstacle for historians and the members of the public alike. Access seems to have been privatized since the 1970s and any attempt to access the information warrants a heavy monetary price. Ownership views the rights to many pictures, documents, and other sources of history as potential profit. Interestingly the ownership is usually not the original creator of the material. However, as the owner the company that owns the rights the company can levy fines for using material without paying for it. Most archives located in universities or libraries are free and provide as much open access as possible but increasingly historical data is being stored by corporations that have little to no interest in providing it to the public. Drake says that access is extremely difficult to obtain without rights to the material.

Finally Rosenzweig identifies the problem of access inside historian’s own backyard in Should Historical Scholarship Be Free? He explains that academic journals are continuing to restrict access to the public even years after the internet promised to showcase a never ending flow of quality information. He says that this is especially a problem in the humanities because many journals in the humanities are produced by academic societies rather than the commercial institutions. Because that are very dependent on subscription money they have a difficult time encouraging the release of history literature for free. Unfortunately many historians write articles that are published by these journals with no compensation, and the public is unable to view their work.

Access to historical data and research appears to be a major problem for the foreseeable future with very few solutions in sight. Two of the biggest barriers seem to be the passing of copyright laws and restricted academic journals. Until these issues are worked out historians will continue to deal with access problems and a public that is unable to view their most important work in the field.

An interesting article on copyright https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/20/crooner-rights-spat

Josh

3/26

From “Opening Archives on the Recent American Past”, this article highlights the importance of having archives. From this article you can see the amount of information that can be derived from archives. Some of the issues that can come from the information being accessed now, is that many of the people apart of this survey are still living and it is a issue of HIPPA, of exposing their health student information and it could be compromised. So in order for their information and records to remain confidential and to lessen the chances for information not to be compromised the SHG (southern historical collection) has decided to seal medical case histories and student evaluations for seventy years from the date that it was created. While this is a compromise in order to not give personal information, it also hurts medical research due to not being able to access information which could help further medical research. In the second article it discusses who is actually the “owner” of the archives. There are a number of different entities one archive could be tied to. The original creator, the publisher, the editor, the archivist, etc. In this article the author touches on how they want to create a presentation and are not sure who or how to go about contacting the correct person about the object/image/document at hand. This author was at a crossroads due to the fact that in order to effectively get their point across the image/video needed to be shown. So by possibly violating U.S. copyright laws and possibly violating many of user terms, they downloaded a video to their presentation. This essay not only highlights the struggle that comes from piracy issues and who is actually the owner of images, document or history overall is an ongoing battle. The battle of who is the correct owner is not something that is just an issue in the archival world. Any historian, curator, people in the art community can tell that history (particularly that or Africans, African Americans, and other minorities) is not seen as something that belongs to those people. Although their history and culture was stolen from them, many think that it no longer belongs to them because it was in the possession of someone else. This has been an ongoing problem as people who are African American generally can only go so far back in their history and lineage before it becomes muddled or just ends all of a sudden, with no way to provide documentation and being unable to keep personal belongings.

Content Accessibility in Academia

By Steven R. Garcia

After listening to Radiolab’s Sight Unseen, I wondered as to how the episode would tie in with the rest of the readings. A journalist’s ethical dilemma on using the ‘perfect shot’ coupled with the suspenseful tale of a grieving family being given the choice of whether or not to allow the publication of that shot in a widely circulated print magazine? How could any of that be related to scholarship and the academy at large? In conjunction with the rest of our readings for this week, Sight Unseen and its connection to the academy results in two lines of thinking that I’ll loosely explore here: the differences between scholarship and journalism on the ownership of ideas and the paradox of academic publishing. In short, I feel that the premise of publishing rights and, more importantly, subscription-based scholarship is contradictory to the ideals of contemporary education; in addition, I suggest that print scholarship and print journalism meet two different goals and, thus, models of publication should be inherently unique to each as well.

First, let’s start with the differences between scholarship and journalism. Since starting my graduate degree, courses have consistently tackled this odd relationship between journalism and academic history. Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine comes to mind as an example, as I remember my classes’ discussions of the book being laced with the phrase ‘although she’s a journalist and not a historian.’ Klein wrote a strong critique of neo-liberalism and shock capitalism, but it seems that the merits of her research are not sufficient to allow her ideas to be justified as credible. But, I argue that if a Latin American historian had written the same book in a similar style, it may not have received as much criticism in that regard. Sight Unseen, when coupled with our other readings, reminds me of this tenuous relationship between the academy and journalism. In the case of the episode, not only does the story presented offer valuable insight into the ethics of using a source, but the differing presentations of an idea and their perceived educational value. In short, how would a historian have handled the question of using a source? At its core, Radiolab’s episode was the study of a debate; it was the balance a fine line between mass appeal through a compelling narrative and upholding the standards of one’s profession.

The academy too, like journalism, balances a fine line between striving for mass appeal while upholding the standards of the profession.

Roy Rosenzweig’s “Should Historical Scholarship Free?” discusses this idea in part, along with that other point on the paradoxical nature of academic publishing. In order to maintain good standards (i.e. ethics, grammar, rigorous academic research, etc.), academic publishers must pick and choose what articles get put in their journals and what the ‘entry fee’ for viewership of those journals will be. Our class has been discussing at length the necessity for some kind of editing and vetting process, lest academic research take a nose-dive in quality. But, much like Rosenzweig suggest, isn’t the point of that research to educate? And in a contemporary democracy that supports public education, shouldn’t that content be readily available for the public good — in other words, free? Here’s where I asked myself what the difference between journalism and the academy was. Journalism is a business and the academy isn’t. Then I realized how wrong I was — how idealistic that definition is. Higher learning is a business, and academic publishing is but one part of that. But why would publishers then charge readers for content? Herein lies the paradox: academics research to create original scholarship to further educate society, but that educational value is locked behind a monetary ‘pay-wall.’ How then does the academy reconcile this?

I believe it comes down to a question of ownership. Academic publishers, for the most part, clearly think that academic research is co-owned by both the author and the press. That content can be then sold for the betterment of those willing to pay for it. That’s just business. But, this isn’t the business of journalism — it isn’t about ratings, book sales, or the next big scoop. It should be about the process of educating itself, and the core belief of education in this country is (arguably) that education is a public endeavor. What’s more, online media has made it vastly easier for the everyday individual to learn and research that subscription-based publishing seems less and less viable. I think that, much like Rosenzweig, alternatives for publishing should be pursued. Academic standards shouldn’t be outright abandoned as a result, but this isn’t a chase for ratings. Publishers can still turn a profit without comprising the basic duty of academics as producers of educational content in service to society at large, not just personal research interests or the interests of the private press. Education is shared ownership.

Also, here’s a link to an article on oral history and ethics. I found it pertinent considering Radiolab’s episode on ethics in journalism: http://www.history.ac.uk/makinghistory/resources/articles/oral_history_2.html