I’m very taken with Andrew Pickering’s concept of veiling. If I understand him correctly, it refers to how knowledge production can circumscribe reality by taking us on a detour from certain aspects of it. Those features which resist representation in our approach risk dropping off stage, unseen and unheard. He uses it to refer to how modern science veils the performative dimension of our being but I think it can also be used to make sense of how platformised knowledge production, reliant on what registers as a behavioural trace within a digital platform, leaves large swathes of social reality opaque.
Kicking myself I can’t make the date for this conference organised by Eric Lybeck:
Call for Papers (LINK)
Academics, Professionals and Publics:
Changes in the Ecologies of Knowledge Work
4 April 2019
University of Manchester, UK
Organiser: Eric Lybeck, Manchester Institute of Education
Andrew Abbott, University of Chicago
Vivienne Baumfield, University of Exeter
Linda Evans, University of Manchester
A PARADOX: never in human history has the role of knowledge been as central to the organisation of our work, politics and experiences as in our 21st century globalized societies. Yet, we also find today a rising distrust in experts, academics and professionals amongst the public, politicians and, indeed, other experts in differentiated disciplinary and professional fields.
Are there historical precedents for the growing challenges to the authority of knowledge workers and professional expertise? Are there aspects of the way knowledge is presently organized institutionally, politically and publicly that causes these dynamics? What is – and, what should be the relationship between universities, their graduates and wider societies? Have we reached the limits of a particular set of functions – the education of increasing cohorts of students and professionals; the advancement of economically profitable technical innovations; social justice activism – or, are we destined to add more and more roles and structures to an already highly complex global university system?
This conference to be held 4 April in Manchester will assess the role of academics and professionals and the knowledge economy, in general, to reflect critically on the past, present and future of the academic profession within a field of professions (and other occupations) – taking stock of what has led to our present condition, while perhaps signalling a navigable course for the future.
Call for abstracts:
We encourage interested members of the academy (any discipline), professions and public to submit abstracts for consideration in the programme, which will take place across one day in concurrent panels, workshops and keynote speeches.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the role of academic knowledge in professional education and practice; populist distrust of expertise; the role of think-tanks, consultancies and ‘non-academic’ forms of expertise; the changing role of knowledge in policy-making; histories of experts and professions, including artisan, trade and other occupational groups; economists’ and consultants’ role in law, education, science policy, etc.; professionals as public intellectuals; professionals, academics, students and political activism; professional services within university administration; academic work-life; sociology of higher education; inequalities of higher education and/or professional employment by race, class, gender, etc.; policy discourse and professionals as carrier groups; neoliberalism and professional expertise; individualisation vs. collective professional ethics; jurisdictional competition between and amongst professions; leadership and development; professional careers; crises of expertise, historical and present; the civic role of universities; rankings of universities and professional schools; international experiences of higher education and/or professional careers.
Please send 250 word abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org before 15 February.
Further Conference Details:
Further details regarding the conference will become available early March. In the meantime, we encourage interested participants to arrange travel and accommodation for the morning, afternoon and evening of 4 April in Manchester. The main costs of the conference itself are funded by the Leverhulme Trust as part of the organiser’s early career fellowship, ‘The Academic Self: Changes in University Expectations Since 1800’. There may be a nominal fee requested to cover the costs of refreshments, which will be announced in March. We are also actively exploring facilities to support childcare and reduced fees for early career researchers and will have more news of this in due course.
Any questions or comments, including registration of interest for future email updates and news, can be directed to email@example.com
When we talk about the possibilities which digital media offer for rethinking scholarly communication, it’s easy to slip into the trap of thinking this ambition is a new one. We counterpoise the ‘new’ and the ‘old’, the innovative and the traditional, the digital and the analogue. In doing so, we obscure past projects which sought to rethink how scholarly ideas are disseminated. These are projects from which we could learn much. The Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, created by Pierre Bourdieu in 1975, is one such project:
We shall present here, side by side, texts differing very greatly in their style and function: ‘finished’ texts, on the one hand, as they are called by academics journals, but also short notes, accounts of oral presentations, work in progress such as interim research projects and reports, in which theoretical intentions, empirical procedures of verification, and the data on which these are based, are all that much more visible. The desire to provide access to the workshop, which has different rules from those of method, and to present archives of a work still under way, implies a rejection of the most clearly ritual formalisms: justified typography, standard rhetoric, articles and issues of similar length, and more generally, everything that leads to the standardisation and ‘normalisation’ of the products of scholarship. Recognising no other imperative than those imposed by the rigour of demonstration, and secondarily by the aim of visibility, will mean freedom from the censorships, artificial devices and perversions generated by a concern to conform to the established customs and good manners of the university field: a rhetoric of caution or false prediction, with the apparatus and panoply of celebrity discussion that is never more than self-celebration, the ostentatious displays of signs of belonging to the most selective and select groups in the intellectual universe.
Political Interventions: Social Science and Political Action, pg 90
The ambitions here are familiar ones from discussions about what social media means for scholarly communication:
- Diversifying the types of scholarly output in circulation.
- Sharing work-in-progress, revealing the scaffolding that lies behind the carefully crafted reality of journal articles and monographs.
- Rejecting scholarly formalities where these operate as rituals, marking inclusion and exclusion, rather than contributing to the intellectual endeavour.
- Rethinking the norms of scholarly communication with an aim of improving visibility, overcoming self-serving control of ideas (and the evaluative practices which constitute their proxies) in order to liberate scholarly communication.
The ambition was to “make visible, sometimes by a simple graphic effect, what is generally hidden” (p. 91) and doing this was seen to involve manifesting in its own representational activity the demystification which was its ambition in relation to the social world. If I’ve understood correctly, Bourdieu’s point was that sociological reflexivity has to extent to the communication of sociological knowledge, as well as to its production, if its critical value isn’t to be lost at the point of dissemination.
The value of social media lies in the tools it offers to these ends, understood in terms of their practical utility in specific organisational contexts, particularly in the absence of significant resources. But in overcoming the trite distinction between analogue and digital, between traditional publication and contemporary innovation, we need to be alive to the myths of social media which are in circulation, particularly as they manifest themselves in the academy.
In her superb The Monsters of Educational Technology, Audrey Watters makes a convincing case that innovation in educational technology has been dominated by the trope of ‘content delivery’. New technologies are seen to improve content delivery in a variety of ways: scale, speed, cost etc. But this is a limited and limiting conception of education, access and innovation.
Is there a risk that social media use by academics comes to be framed in these terms? What I’ve written about as the fallacy of amelioration is relevant here. The assumption that there are vast stores of untapped knowledge which could be used to straightforwardly fix social problems, if only people would listen to us.
If I’m right about this conceit then there’s an obvious compatibility between it and the ‘content delivery’ trope. We can see the marginalisation of academic knowledge production as a failure of content delivery, susceptible to rectification through shiny new delivery mechanisms which we must all now embrace as a matter of urgency. In doing so, we would fundamentally mystify the implications of social media for the academy.