Two potential directions for para-academic digital scholarship

Para-academics mimic academic practices so they are liberated from the confines of the university. Our work, and our lives, reflect how the idea of a university as a place for knowledge production, discussion and learning, has become distorted by neo-liberal market forces. We create alternative, genuinely open access, learning-thinking-making-acting spaces on the internet, in publications, in exhibitions, discussion groups or other mediums that seem appropriate to the situation. We don’t sit back and worry about our career developments paths.We write for the love of it, we think because we have to, we do it because we care. […] We do this without prior legitimisation from any one institution. Para-academics do not need to churn out endless ‘outputs’ because of the pressures of a heavily assessed research environment. We work towards making ideas because learning, sharing, thinking and creating matter beyond easily quantifiable ‘products’. And we know that this is possible, that we are possible, without the constraints of an increasingly hierarchical academy.
The Para-Academic Handbook

I’ve just read back over our submission to this and I realised that the main thing I was trying to say can be summed up as two responses by para-academics to the question of how their digital scholarship is recognised:

  1. Incorporating digital scholarship into the evaluative procedures within the audit culture and leverage ‘digital products’ for instrumental advancement within a institutional environment which is likely to become increasingly amenable to their recognition.
  2. Resist the auditing of digital scholarship and seek to find spaces within the contemporary academy to move what have, up until now, been purely ‘online’ practices into ‘offline’ spaces. Eventually seeking to overcome the dichotomy all together.

Clearly this is an overdrawn dichotomy but I’d argue there are, fundamentally, two potential direction of travels: incorporating into existing structures or expanding out in an attempt to change (or at least resist) those structures. Is institutional recognition of digital scholarship worthwhile if it distorts the practices (which at their best are paradigmatic of communication for its own intrinsic value rather than extrinsic institutional rewards) which render digital scholarship attractive in the first place? Now to try and work out what (2) means in practice – the case made to this end in the chapter is pretty meagre.

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