Saturday, March 2, 2013

Of eBooks, Fan Fiction, and Scholarly Work

What I'm about to write may incur the wrath of half of the readers and writers on this blog, so I would just like to ask that as you read my comments, hear me out. I was assigned to read over two chapters regarding Fan Fiction, as well as the advantages of the blogosphere in the realms of academics. Each of these writers raises wonderful points. Ashley Nelson in Chapter 2 discusses how Fan Fiction opens up untold possibilities to stories that we know and hold dear to our hearts that are reopened and explored when taken on by other readers. As we seek to disseminate the knowledge we have gleaned from this project, certainly we want to make it available to others and give them the opportunity to take that information and use it to their own advantage. If we are not seeking to make our research more readly avaliable, then really, what is the purpose of the eBook?

Bri Zabriskie concludes the book by devoting a chapter to the importance of using the new modes of digital technology to reach more audiences and make the reading/research process a more colloborative and collective experience than an isolated one. This too is a great goal to have in the class as part of creating this eBook, and we certainly couldn't complete the work we have to accomplish without those efforts. 

All that being said, I think this raises some serious issues within the realm of creating this eBook. Dr. Burton points out that the creation of a typical research paper is isolated and does not allow for a great deal of outside influence or colloboration. He also argues that the minute things turn academic I certainly don't argue with this statement, but I feel that this really goes against everything we are taught to do in academia. Obviously we want people to be thinking about the ideas we present and we don't just want them to be kept to us. However, when it comes to doing research for other classes, I find it difficult to accept that we are all eventually going to be using blogs and eBooks in lieu of the typical term paper. Academia is academia. It will always require the use of scholarly sources and formal papers. If students are unwilling to explore these sources as a means of obtaining information and becoming experts on their desired field, then they don't deserve to be part of the academic community. 

I'm sure people will disagree with some of what I've written, so by all means, add your thoughts to what I've written.


  1. Evgeni Zamyatin, author of «Мы» ("We"), a book considered by many to be Aldous Huxley's inspiration for Brave New World, held that in order for new ideas to be received and implemented, they must be conveyed in some new or radical form. In other words, "only a heretical form c[an] adequately dramatize heretical ideas," ideas that will shatter the foundations of previous thought and scholarship. The idea of eBooks isn't just to be different; it's to provide a new way of thinking about scholarship-- one that is not ruled by old men who sit in dusty libraries reading dusty tomes written by even older men in their respective dens but rather the sort of collaborative learning and scholarship that allows people to connect and work together as pertaining to those things that matter most. We are entering a new age where foundations of the top-heavy academic body are beginning to crumble, and the heir apparent to the legacy is our generation-- the generation of Tweets and Youtube, of crowd-sourcing and Instagram. And the world that lies before us in terms of education is an amazing. You're right on the account of academia: academia is academia, and it will always require the use of scholarly sources and formal papers, but we're approaching a time where the academics won't necessarily be the ones calling the shots. The reality is that a whole world full of people who are excited to learn and connect and share is infinitely more powerful and meaningful than a handful of really smart people who sit around reading each other's books and writing on obscure topics that have real-life application to a grand total of three people outside of formal academia. The idea of knowledge and education is no longer a secluded one thanks to the internet and other digital media resources, and time will only show us the great potential of these resources, both inside and outside of academia.

  2. I'm delighted to see this back-and-forth between current and former students. These are definitely things to be thought through. I sympathize with Josh's concerns -- in part from the merely practical point of view that as a student he must continue to produce traditional kinds of academic products. However, I don't think it is a simple either/or proposition. I think one can make use of the new media and their methodologies to enhance and strengthen traditional academic processes and products. For example, one can research on Twitter or via various social networks in order to come back to very traditional scholarship or writing. But I also agree with Greg that we must have some courage to think more broadly. We are in a time of change, and as Lincoln said about his day, "As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew." It is worth noting that most of the things taken for granted in scholarship today were arrived at gradually over time and are not permanent fixtures. They were responses to the exigencies of their day. The college essay, for example, is a product of its times, and not an eternal, Platonic form. Keep in mind that most people living in a renaissance neither know it or even believe it. It's only afterward that we look back on the pioneers and recognize their courage in innovating. Good discussion! Thanks to both of you for chiming in.

  3. I definitely see both sides of this argument, but it does seem to me that those dusty old tomes still represent the vast majority of academia, and that the e- or i- thing is still the distraction from those college studies, not the tool. My husband's on track for a Ph.D. at Purdue University, but we still don't know if it's the right career for him to pursue, largely because he's heard so much from professors about the disconnected-from-students, research(of dusty authors)-based, publish-or-perish mentality of academia. As our recent forum speaker, Michael Wesch, stated, there's a new knowledge machine--the Internet--that's fighting with college, not working with it. At least, not yet.