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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who cares?

Lorenz Khazaleh, George Marcus: "Journals? Who cares?",, October 25, 2008.  Excerpt:

When George Marcus, one of the most influential anthropologists, was in Oslo recently, I asked him what he thinks about Open access. His answer surprised me. He said: “Journals? Who cares?” There is little original thinking in journals, no longer exciting debates, he told me. “Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. I don’t care.” He explained that “journals are meant to establish people”. They are more important for one’s career.

George Marcus offered similar pessimistic views in an interview he gave for the journal Cultural Anthropology (subscription needed) in spring. Among other things, he said, that there are no new ideas in anthropology....

Comment.  Did this transcript miss something or did George Marcus miss something?  Even if we concede for the sake of argument that there are no new ideas in the field of anthropology, and that journals are more about advancing careers than advancing research, Marcus' answer was not responsive.  Apparently he thinks OA is all about journals, which it isn't.  It's all about access, which may be through journals or repositories or many other vehicles (like wikis, ebooks, multimedia webcasts, P2P networks, RSS feeds...).  It's as if someone had asked, "What do you think about freedom of speech?" and he answered, "Public speaking?  Who cares?  It's all grandstanding and vanity." 

Update (10/27/08).  Lorenz has blogged a response to my comment.

Good point! I have to admit that Marcus was very busy and did not have much time for this interview and I had lots of questions. We talked just a few minutes on Open Access while we we took the subway from the city to the university. He admires Chris Kelty’s work on open source and open access but he does not seem to be up to date in regard to blogging, web2.0 etc (few anthropologists are actually, and most anthropologists have never heard of the Open Access movement).

Update. Also see Dorothea Salo's comments.