Marshall Sahlins and Open Publishing

Creative Commons: Education
Interview with Sahlins on “Prickly Paradigm Press” which publishes pamphlets under Creative Commons licences.
Sahlins isn’t necessarily known to mince words and he seems to like controversy. In this case, though, it’s mostly a well-articulated version of views that appear to be quite common in academia.

Two excerpts:

My position is that once we’re even, it can go free. None of our authors and none of our publishers and certainly not me, above all, are in this business for gain. I mean, I write a lot of things for academic journals for which I never see a penny. And I’ve written books that I do see a penny for, but it’s literally about a penny for an hour of hard labor. None of us is making a living off of this. Most of us feel that our ideas for the most part come from other people, and it’s certainly the case that we want them to be disseminated among other people. So free distribution seems to me correct. The only constraint I put on it is this one that I would like to be able to break even so that we can continue to function.

You know, this seems to run counter to the old “I’ve worked a lot on this (album, software, book) so I think I deserve money for its use by you, the lowly listener/user/reader.”

I truly support the idea of the free dissemination of intellectual information, and that I truly lament the various forms of copyrights and patents that are being put on so-called intellectual property. I also lament the collusion of universities in licensing the results of scientific research, and thus violating the project of the free dissemination of knowledge that is their reason for existence. So I consider it an important act to release these books under a Creative Commons type of license. I’m happy, and also a little proud, to do so.

More polemic and underlining a real issue with contemporary academia. Some research institutions aren’t so much about creating the ideal context for reflection, thoughtful communication, or innovative ideas, but markets for intellectual property. This could be expected from “R&D” groups in corporate contexts but the contemporary university is becoming less and less of the place where ideas and knowledge are thriving.
It’s probably one of the most pernicious problems in the whole Publish or Perish scheme. Well, along with the academic version of payola, the dramatically rising costs of academic publishing, the abuses on author rights, the reliance on publication prestige instead of usefulness, the new barriers to dissemination of ideas, the effects of publish-oriented profs on the teaching role of universities, the diminishing advantages of the tenure-track system, the tendency not to replace retiring faculty, the view of tenure as sinecure, the linear ranking of universities, the reliance on test scores, the obligation for faculty to “produce” even while exploring new possibilities…
P. or P.? Nah! P2P? Sure!

Now, if it were possible to convince academic departments that relying on the old model of academic publishing is detrimental to academia as a whole and that there should be better factors of academic success, we’d be on the way to a much better academic situation overall.

Ah, well…

About enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast. View all posts by enkerli

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