Weekend Reading: Hail to the MLA Edition

Publishing Take-Out

Overnight, the Modern Language Association announced–inevitably, via Twitter!–they were doing something forward-looking: not only were they creating a new office of scholarly communication, but the new director of that office would be Kathleen Fitzpatrick, cofounder of MediaCommons, author of The Anxiety of Obsolescence and Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. She’s also, of course, a writer for ProfHacker!

Kathleen says, via e-mail, that:

The Modern Language Association has long supported its members’
communication needs through its distinguished book publishing
programs. The organization is committed to maintaining a leadership
role in the evolving world of scholarly communication, and I’m
thrilled to be able to bring my experience in both print and digital
publishing to this effort. We’ll be exploring a range of possibilities
for new modes of publishing and interaction with our members, our
committees, and the MLA Executive Council. I’m looking forward to
working with them and with the MLA staff to develop options that will
respond to the changing needs of the profession in the twenty-first

Kathleen’s experience with CommentPress, and more broadly with systems of open peer review and collaboration in scholarly writing, makes this a brilliant hire for the MLA. As Amanda French observed, you can “expect those languages to get REAL modern up in here, y’all.” Couldn’t happen at a better time.

On to this week’s links!

  • Kevin Kelly’s list of “Techno Life Skills” should become part of 1st-year orientation everywhere: What do you give up? This one has taken me a long time to learn. The only way to take up a new technology is to reduce an old one in my life already. Twitter must come at the expense of something else I was doing — even if it just daydreaming. (Via Alan Jacobs)
  • Dominik Lukeš offers notes “Towards a System of Uncredentials for Education”: The operative word here is ‘trust’. This whole edifice works entirely on trust. Or more accurately on the performance of trust. . . . So what unschooling and uncollege need is a way of establishing that trust. They need a system of trusted proxies that can evaluate the suitability of an unschooled individual to whatever they claim their unschooling makes them qualified. The homeschooling system already has a place for this in their bureaucracy through various inspections and then standardised (if stupid) testing to provide at the gateway to the next level.
  • Stir to Action’s interview with David Graeber looks at the overlap between the activist and the academic: What you can do is let people use your Xerox machine! There are a million types of resources that exist on campuses from space, to machines, to food that you can make accessible to those involved in alternative organizing. I wrote a very funny piece, once, about grade inflation saying that it was a political victory won by student in the sixties to give them time to engage in alternative types of activities! Then you could decide how to allocate your time if you are guaranteed an A – you could study Nietzsche or you could smash the state – it’s up to you! So, a lot of people will spend that time experimenting with sex, drugs and music and not smash the state at all and that is fine too.
  • Dean Dad plays out a few different scenarios in the Showdown at Mt. Hood Community College: s with any nuclear weapon, it isn’t so much what happens when you actually use it, since you hope not to; it’s what happens when you have a sufficiently credible threat to scare the crap out of the other side.
  • Aaron Bady explains the difference between William Cronon and Don Giljum: The difference between this story and Cronon’s is obvious: Cronon is important, and has the clout to make himself heard, so his career is safe. Don Giljum, on the other hand, does not have “academic freedom” because he does not have job security.

In this week’s video, from Authors@Google, Eric Schmidt hosts a book chat with Tina Fey about Bossypants:

Have a great weekend!

Photo by Flickr user Gideon Burton / Creative Commons licensed

Updated at 3.23pm 4/29 to fix a stray ‘s.’

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