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Metrics and the death of imagination

In John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture, there’s an interesting remark about the structural position of first time authors which I think has wider purchase. From pg 200:

Ironically, in a world preoccupied by numbers, the author with no track is in some ways in a strong position, considerably stronger than the author who has published one or two books with modest success and muted acclaim, simply because there are no hard data to constrain the imagination, no disappointing sales figures to dampen hopes and temper expectations. The absence of sales figures sets the imagination free. The first-time author is the true tabula rasa of trade publishing, because his or her creation is the book for which it is still possible to imagine anything and everything.

A world where metrics are ubiquitous is a world where imagination has died. When everyone has a track record, the space to imagine someone’s future as radically different from their past collapses.

Categories: Algorithmic Authoritarianism and Digital Repression Cognitive Triage: Practice, Culture and Strategies Communicative Escalation and Cultural Abundance: How Do We Cope? Digital Inequalities The Content Ecosystem The Technological History of Digital Capitalism Thinking

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Mark

3 replies

  1. Makes me think about those papers I have on Google scholar that are not doing well at all. You do tend to question them more than they deserve I suppose. Insightful book

  2. That’s an interesting point. When I check the download and read count (not citation) they are not too bad. A question I ask often is how do value papers that are just read by students , professors or just about anyone. Maybe they’ll take something useful from some of them but doesn’t count (literally).

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