[csaa-forum] ERA Listings and journal survival

Andrew Murphie andrew.murphie at gmail.com
Wed Jul 16 17:17:17 CST 2008

as often is the case, I agree with both of these points ... as the editor of
an online journal (and in every other facet of academic life) I am still
stunned by the overwhelming generosity of academics and others in terms of
"free labour". Fibreculture and many journals (and in fact the entire
university system and beyond) simply couldn't function without this
generosity (and both Ned and Warwick are two people who made very generous
contributions to FCJ over the years).

On the other hand, I am sometimes just as stunned by the university sector's
willingness to capitalise on this generosity without acknowledging it
(indeed as someone said to me recently the attitude in some universities
seems to ocasionally be that academics are somewhat lazy and stupid and need
to be brought to heel). I have to say I am also just as stunned by the
willingness to embrace hierarchical performance measures and systems in all
kinds of strange places ... increasingly strict performance measures don't
seem much more to me than attempts to corral all kinds of intellectual work
into both the paths of funding and its regulation, and into maximum inputs
and outputs of cognitive labour along prescribed lines. Much has of course
been written about this, although not quite so much on how this actually
compromises "quality" or "excellence" or whatever you want to label it. Or
on how these kinds of measures favour tradition and established disciplines
as againts genuine innovation.

Finally, however, I feel I am witnessing a kind of exhaustion set in around
all of this .. in tenured academics who have been around for a while, and in
many who still, despite qualifications and experience, still struggle to
find satisfactory work with satisfactory conditions ... I'm not sure this
means that generosity will be abandoned .. I hope not ..  indeed, I'm not
sure this kind of performance system necessarily going to benefit the
"system" at all.  A kind of de facto refusal to keep accommodating
performance demands when they become simply impossible might clear the path
for the more rewarding acts of generosity. I know we all choose to be
"oppressed" (to be rather old-fashioned for a moment) but I also have enough
faith in people to think that this choice can only go so far before people
choose to do something more interesting, rewarding and yes, ethical, once
again ..

The ERA rankings could prove then to be a catalyst in several directions at
once - both enhanced hierarchies and more resistance to these, even if the
latter are implicit and under the radar so to speak. In short, even if not
explicitly refused (which one might have hoped they would be on the basis of
simple sense if nothing else), the performance systems can be refused in
many less explicit ways. This is especially the case when academics already
work 50-70 hours a week (and casual academics often much more!), and
performance demands (as well as the simple intellectual and reasonable,
ethical cultural demands) simply cannot all be met at once.

Interesting times. I know that some CS people such as Melissa Gregg have
been doing some work on labour recently which is valuable. Time for a more
searching examination of work and culture perhaps  .... if we have time that
is ...

best, Andrew

2008/7/16 Warwick Mules <w.mules at bigpond.com>:

>  I didn't say that it wouldn't impact upon labour conditions; I said that
> individual academics might 'take this opportunity,' that is, *decide* to
> do otherwise, and hence affect a resistive power to support independent
> research.
> Chs
> Warwick
> > From: Ned Rossiter <ned at nedrossiter.org>
> > Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 15:02:42 +0800
> > To: CSAA discussion list <csaa-forum at lists.cdu.edu.au>
> > Subject: Re: [csaa-forum] ERA Listings and journal survival
> >
> > Sorry to be the spoiler here, but this all sounds very quaint.  Are
> > CS academics really so naive with regard to their working conditions?
> > While I share the motivations and desires around so-called
> > independent journals, both past and present, it is pretty crucial to
> > make the connection between the desire for independence and
> > infrastructural conditions - minimal as they may be - that university
> > employment provides.
> >
> > Like the 'free labour' of much of the open source software movement,
> > the independence of the more peripheral, experimental journals is as
> > strong as the 'free time' academics and researchers have to devote to
> > the administration and production of such journals.  If that time is
> > subtracted by increased administrative / teaching duties that arise
> > from the division between research 'active' and 'teaching' staff - a
> > division built into the regime of rankings, then it doesn't matter
> > how much 'good will'  and 'powerful ideas of critique' there is out
> > there.  Simply put, the ERA will impact upon labour conditions, and
> > to think otherwise is really pretty freaky.
> >
> > Ned
> >
> >
> > On 16 Jul 2008, at 14:10, Warwick Mules wrote:
> >
> >> Three cheers for Adrian Martin's post. I have been following the
> >> discussion on the ERA list with much alarm as almost everyone seems
> >> to think that the ERA listing will spell the end of smaller
> >> humanities and cultural studies journals, including the one I edit,
> >> Transformations. It was against such attempts to include,
> >> exclude,   measure and corporatise the 'content' of intellectual
> >> activity that I initially started Transformations as an
> >> independently minded e-journal in 2000. We operate without funding
> >> and with a small team of core workers, backed by a helpful group on
> >> the editorial board and an army of referees. We are constantly
> >> heartened by the amount of good will from academics and others in
> >> the humanities towards ensuring  the articles submitted are of the
> >> highest standard possible. I cannot see that the possession or not
> >> of a high ERA ranking will change this. Indeed, it is my hope that
> >> authors will take this opportunity to resist the corporatisation of
> >> intellectual output in line with the powerful ideas of critique
> >> that we follow and espouse, and continue to support and sustain
> >> independent journal publication in Australia by continuing to
> >> submit material and offer to referee submissions and the other
> >> things that make for a rich, critically minded intellectual culture
> >> offering opportunities for all (a fair go) that one assumes the
> >> CSAA supports wholeheartedly.
> >>
> >> Regards
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Warwick
> >>
> >>
> >> Dr. Warwick Mules
> >> General Editor  Transformations             http://
> >> www.transformationsjournal.org/
> >>
> >>
> >> English, Media Studies and Art History
> >> University of Queensland
> >> Brisbane Qld
> >> mobile: 0412292541
> >>
> >>
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"Take me to the operator, I want to ask some questions" - Barbara

"A traveller, who has lost his way, should not ask, Where am I? What he
really wants to know is, Where are the other places" - Alfred North

"I thought I had reached port; but I seemed to be cast back again into the
open sea" (Deleuze and Guattari, after Leibniz)

Andrew Murphie - Associate Professor
School of English, Media and Performing Arts, University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia, 2052
Editor - The Fibreculture Journal http://journal.fibreculture.org/>

fax:612 93856812 tlf:612 93855548 email: a.murphie at unsw.edu.au
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