Saturday, May 12, 2007

Obscenity on the web

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Mission and Goals

In the broadest sense, JSTOR's mission is to help the scholarly community take advantage of advances in information technologies. In pursuing this mission, JSTOR has adopted a system-wide perspective, taking into account the sometimes conflicting needs of libraries, publishers, and scholars.

JSTOR's goals include the following:
  • To build a reliable and comprehensive archive of important scholarly journal literature
  • To improve dramatically access to these journals
  • To help fill gaps in existing library collections of journal backfiles
  • To address preservation issues such as mutilated pages and long-term deterioration of paper copy
  • To reduce long-term capital and operating costs of libraries associated with the storage and care of journal collections
  • To assist scholarly associations and publishers in making the transition to electronic modes of publication
  • To study the impact of providing electronic access on the use of these scholarly materials
I'd love to know how they accomplish this last goal, given that their actual mission appears to be to protect the pulp, print and lumber industries by ensuring that no scintillae of intellect ever escape the JSTOR lockdown. And they split infinitives.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a controlled study, Tom. You can't do a good study without controls, right? Well, people who aren't currently associated with a major university -- they're the controls. JSTOR will compare what happens to them to what happens to people who can reach JSTOR. And when the report comes out in thirty years, I'm sure you'll find the results interesting, if you're allowed to read it.

5/12/2007 4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ray, I hope it's not 30 years. The societal effect of 299.5 million USian minds, or so, give or take, totally deprived of scholarly oxygen over that span of time could be ruinous if not deleterious to our collective and or crowdwise sense of the gnuances of the opera maiora of Tommy Chong, not to speak of the cruel poverty of sources for our developing understanding of the son of Elsa Melsa. Or worse.

5/12/2007 6:42 PM  
Blogger fpaynter said...

Your tongue may be in cheek, Tom; but, there is data locked away in the journals that would help us shape policy and if only an elite have access to the data, then only an elite... well, how do we tear down the library walls anyway?

5/12/2007 10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fp, this is about more than gentle mockery. I can't tell you how many times in the past years I have excitedly clicked on what seemed a link to something I very much wished to read, only to find the JSTOR matron of chastity belts and legacy intelprop barring the door. David Weinberger is suggesting that ultimately such data will either be routed around or wither on the vine. Another route might be to open a conversation with the anals and ask them to kindly explain themselves. Drop the hint that nothing succeeds on the web like open access. There's hacks, I guess, too.

5/12/2007 11:11 PM  
Blogger fpaynter said...

Yes. I've experienced the same thing, and opened a conversation with the University of Wisconsin Memorial Library with no positive results so far. I have a library card and a couple of degrees from the place but am unable to read an article my next door neighbor (who works at UW) refers me to. I'll let you know if I come up with something. (Dorothea Salo is back in town, at the library, and on our side in this, so there are librarians who know where we're coming from. But they're bound up in copyright law.

5/13/2007 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dorothea is a hero. We have an institution that in your case puts an invisible wall around writing that concerns you and your neighbor in that institution's locality. But the wall is everywhere, affecting everyone. And there's really not a whole lot of economic interest here, as far as I can tell.

It's almost a pure example of sheer perversity. An academic writes something, it's got a relevant shelf life of perhaps 5 months, if that. The journal it's published in remains obscure because its "content" remains bound within its mighty container. The writer gets read by a few people who probably already know his work. The disseminative upshot: near zero.

If you get any of these people to explain the logic, please advise. The Mellon's rationale on intelprop is here (pdf at bottom). It's baffling to me that any benefit can be imagined from the delay or denial of public access to the creative work of serious scholars.

It's not at all surprising that some of the brightest of these folks now do a lot of their thinking, writing and conversing via blogs etc. I wonder if their dept. heads or Mellonheads or university proprietors or publishers give them any grief.

5/13/2007 2:01 PM  
Blogger Arkady said...

Tom, I think a large factor in the highly proprietary approach to knowledge and access to scholarly works is part of the senior management class's backlash against post-WW II class mobility. It's a social control issue. Roger mentioned, the other day, that all the people who made good in the boom years are now anxious to pull the ladder up behind them. The economic gains of putting in a pay to play are a distant second to the economic gains from the conservatism of denying resources.

5/13/2007 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are lots of decent academics out there. You can find some of them at:

What may really be needed, though, is for all those decent academics to simply refuse to be involved in any walled journal whatsoever and to start open journals in their fields when none exist. And that's a lot to ask even a decent academic to handle along with all their other shitwork.

5/16/2007 7:35 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Ray, that there are many such is beyond dispute and in fact it is the privation of their work from anyone who isn't already familiar with their work, or belonging to the proper club, that maybe justifies the title of this post.

Your idea is superb. And it's nice to see on that site evidence of some awareness of open access. Perhaps you are more attuned than I to the groves; I hear of no discussion of proposals such as yours. Happy campers all?

5/16/2007 7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how frustrated I am that JSTOR operates behind closed doors. Having graduated last year from the University of Durham in England, my thirst for knowledge had become regularly trenched by a quick dip into the veritable plunge pool of archived material that JSTOR provides.

My degree was spent researching in my bedroom - JSTOR, Connexions, Google Books et al helped stimulate my academic desires and fuel the fires of a young, nocturnal researcher and literary scholar.

I now work with search engines, social media et al and am beginning to engage in the academic world of digital media. Whilst limited JSTOR access is not such a barrier in this industry it would hearten me to see the old library walls demolished.

They can still moderate their admissions, have human checks before access is allowed...perhaps a first step would be a programme allowing former alumni of a higher education establishment apply for Alumni-Access through the institution they studied at. Great to see that there are other intelligetn people who want to hack the JSTOR, I'm sure we could dig up a few geeks to crawl and index it if it becamse necessary!

6/14/2007 5:51 AM  

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