I realize this is a little belated, but our discussion on Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence really got the gears a-grinding, so to speak. Perhaps this is woefully ignorant of me to admit, but I was unaware that peer review forms such a cornerstone of modern scholarly publishing. As far as Fitzpatrick’s historicization of peer review, I am interested in the ways in which she locates it within systems of authority, but remain leery of much historical postulation about the history of the discipline, especially after reading Graff’s tome which completely neglects to locate any historicity within colonial England’s cultural imperialism of India. Furthermore, I am concerned by the larger implications of laziness within the academy, as peer review seems to be a sort of outsourcing of the evaluation of tenure candidates and doctoral students. If evaluation of my merit is to be outsourced to the system of peer review, I am deeply troubled by the flaws inherent in this system.
I was interested in the points brought up in class discussion about the concept of “blind review” regarding the construction of peer relationships — who are our peers, really? And could a misunderstanding of peer relationships, especially when conducted anonymously, lead to a biased review of an article, resulting in a rejection of material because your review operates under different theoretical methodologies than the ones which frame your work? Fitzpatrick notes that “blind review,” rather than rectifying these issues, “cannot compensate for the reviewer who operates within a cloud of intellectual bias, dismissing any arguments or conclusions that disagree with his or her own” (29). It reminds me of a Louis C.K. interview in which he discusses children text messaging each other — the layer of anonymity, though slight, enables harshness due to the lack of profoundly human interaction. These concerns gendered by blind review, however, seem to be echoed in the systems of online peer-to-peer review, causing Fitzpatrick to appeal to “consider[ing] the ways that network effects bring out both the best and the worst in the communities they connect, and the kinds of vigilance that we must bring to bear in guarding against the potential reproduction of the dominant, often exclusionary ideological structures of the Internet within the engagements between scholars and readers online” (36).
That being said, it is quite exciting to consider the opportunities opened by peer-to-peer review in the facilitating of discussions of scholarly work in real-time. I appreciate the way that Fitzpatrick consistently circles back to the idea of academia as a community, and her solutions seem to work against what Graff calls “patterned isolation.” I also appreciate the way in which she calls attention to authorship as a dialogic process, in which no text is an island, so to speak, and locates texts in their connection to and conversation with other texts. I am excited by the potential inherent in a system of peer-to-peer in which more people have access to the conversation taking place (which – imagine!- takes the form of an actual conversation where the text is not an uninterrogable lump of paper that shouts “I am authoritative,” but rather a space of conversation where the author can literally be held accountable in real-time for disjunctions in clarity as well as questions engendered by ideas and their implications – yes, I’m thinking of Homi Bhabha) and in which the digital world can mediate between spaces of exclusivity and inclusivity, thus perhaps unprivileging the position of the traditional scholar, which I think can only be a good thing as far as the project of humanizing the academy is concerned. I am also drawn to the ways in which such a system might be useful in expanding our notions of who our peers are, as reviewing across disciplines could be intensely helpful in certain kinds of work. I know my own work could potentially benefit in ways I probably can’t imagine from the comments of anthropologists or sociologists who would be capable of dispelling ignorances I am not even aware of. I am further thrilled by the thought of submitting work for review at earlier stages and hope to find an environment in which I can do so — it seems a low-stakes and less anxiety-ridden alternative to only submitting finished work in a make-or-break sort of setting. This kind of work could also help younger scholars be rid of the notion that scholarly works spring fully formed from the forehead of the author. As far as my own scholarship is concerned, I envision a technological utopia in which I am able to connect immediately to the texts which the text I am reading cite and/or obliquely refer to, however such a vision seems too labor intensive to be economically viable.
The labor question is one that holds a few contradictions for me: shouldn’t scholars be excited to participate in such seemingly vibrant intellectual communities that the digital world seems capable of producing and maintaining? Shouldn’t we be interested in peer-to-peer review for the simple sake of furthering our own work and nurturing the work of others, work that could potentially become viable to our own questions? That being said, I’m sure there are many (probably including Fitzpatrick herself) that would call me naive for having such an idealistic vision of the academic community. I appreciate that we are economically in a bit of a bad state, and scholars who are underfunded and overworked already (adjuncts, anyone?) need incentive to pour their labor into other people’s projects. While I understand the need to incentivize the peer-to-peer review process, I find the necessity disturbing in and of itself, finding it yet another instance of such isolation that prevents us from doing the best, most collaborative, interdisciplinary work possible.
Like Christina mentioned, the technical and jargon-laden passages, especially those in her “Texts” chapter, failed to resonate with me as well, however I am appreciative to at least have a reference point to start if I ever become interested in digital publishing (which I imagine I might, if Fitzgerald’s predictions about the future of scholarly publishing are correct).