Embargos, Miranda, and Khaaaannn!

August 20, 2013, 5:20 pm

So, what happened while this blog* was on vacation?

Hmm (I started to use the list tag from HTML, but it just looked so 1990s):

1. The American Historical Association came out (as historical associations are wont to do) with a fairly mild statement about not forcing graduate students to dispense their dissertations to all and sundry before they’d, you know, had a chance to publish. This statement came at the intersection of about seven different hot button topics: the catastrophic state of the academic job market, the collapse of academic publishing, the overproduction of Ph.Ds, the power of the intertubes, open access, digital scholarship, and probably a few I’m forgetting. Because of this intersectionality,** there was an immediate outcry on the blogs (including Edge co-founder, Eric Rauchway) and twitter (with hashtag!), condemning the reactionary mandarins of the AHA for failing to come into the 20th century, let alone the 21st. They should be focusing on increasing digital scholarship, and book publishing is such an old-fashioned way of measuring scholarship, and so on. These were all reasonable points, but ignored the fact that the AHA had been, in fact, trying to work on digital scholarship, and had been trying to revamp tenure requirements in a digital age, but that these efforts couldn’t magically and with a wave of the wand change How Things Are At The Moment. The AHA pointed all of this out, and then brought in William Cronon to articulate the position. Since everyone agrees that Cronon speaks from Olympus, much of the kerfluffle died off. This blog’s opinion? This blog thinks that the AHA has a perfectly good point in saying that graduate students should not have to submit to mandatory open access policies, especially in this era of University corporatization. Graduate students are weak enough as a group and rarely weaker when they are in that final moment of trying to get their dissertation approved. Short-circuiting their choice of what to do with that approved dissertation (by having mandatory open access policies) seems to this blog exploitative.

2. The British government decided to throw a hissy-fit and hijack (if only briefly) Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, at Heathrow Airport. This was catastrophically dumb in so many ways that it boggles the mind. They’re not going to recover anything (from the confiscated thumb drives, laptops, etc) that they don’t already have (given that Snowden took documents from the US government***) and the only result is going to be massive quantities of bad publicity. Greenwald does not strike this blog as someone likely to be intimidated by such ham-handedness (though, really, using your husband as a courier for classified documents?) and it puts the Guardian on warning that the UK government is prone to doing stupid things (which, apparently, was the UK’s intent). This blog does note the irony of the person under controversial detention having the last name Miranda, however.

3. Scientific American published a column by Salman Khan of Khan Academy arguing for more online content. This blog has already weighed in on the general concept of MOOCs, but wanted to point out that Khan’s vision of the university classroom–”Today students in most classrooms sit, listen and take notes while a professor lectures. Despite there being anywhere from 20 to 300 human beings in the room, there is little to no human interaction.”–appears to have been drawn largely from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

This blog is pretty sure there are classes like that, but it has only rarely witnessed, participated, or been aware of such, and this blog has been in a lot of classrooms. This blog also notes that MOOCs (or online learning in general) hardly seem models of human interactivity, but perhaps this blog is being as unfair to the Khan Academy products as Khan is to regular classes. It does however, give this blog a chance to post not only a clip from Ferris Bueller, but also from Star Trek:

4. There is no #4.

*I know, I know, all Julius Caesar of me, but I felt like it.
**I’m aware that I’m stretching the meaning of that word a bit.
***Though I note that if the US wasn’t sharing its intelligence with the British, the UK might actually have gained something from the confiscation.
****Apparently the blog post is in third person and the footnotes are in first person.

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