Publicize or Perish

Any academics interested in getting their research disseminated should read Michael Jensen’s incisive essay The New Metrics of Scholarly Authority. Jensen offers the following “preconditions for scholarly success in Authority 3.0:”

They include the digital availability of a text for indexing . . . the digital availability of the full text for referencing, quoting, linking, tagging; and the existence of metadata of some kind that identifies the document, categorizes it, contextualizes it, summarizes it, and perhaps provides key phrases from it, while also allowing others to enrich it with their own comments, tags, and contextualizing elements.

Looks like it’s time to update Balkin & Levinson’s classic “How to Win Cites and Influence People.”

Apropos of my last post, I find it interesting how this academic “push to publicize” mirrors the accelerating trend in social networking toward making the details of one’s life accessible. Emily Nussbaum at New York Magazine says “the future belongs to the uninhibited.” Lakshmi Chaudry reports than an unreasonable expectation of publicity may have displaced our reasonable expectation of privacy:

Not only do Americans increasingly want to be famous, but they also believe they will be famous, more so than any previous generation. A Harris poll conducted in 2000 found that 44 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 24 believed it was at least somewhat likely that they would be famous for a short period. . . . . The rosy predictions of our destiny, however, contain within them the darker conviction that a life led outside the spotlight would be without value. “People want the kind of attention that celebrities receive more than anything else,” says Niedzviecki [in his book Hello, I’m Special.].

Chaudry anticipates a time when everyone feels they need to have a self-publicizing apparatus, be it a MySpace page, website, or blog. Fame is a positional good, and an inevitably competitive dynamic ensues (though, as Tyler Cowen & Will Wilkinson note, the internet has also made it possible to find fame in smaller niches).

I think this competitive dynamic goes a long way toward explaining the huge generation gap between old and young on privacy concerns. As Sherry Turkle notes in this podcast, what was once experienced as violation is now often seen as validation. The social networking sites do not merely mirror extant “real world” friendships and relationships; they effectively write them into being.

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