12.0521 purity of academia stained?

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 26 Mar 1999 19:56:57 +0000 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 521.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 19:58:15 +0000
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: the purity of academia stained?

Recently I received and was bemused by a message sent to Humanist by a
member or editor of a technical discussion group, who suggested in barely
controlled terms that a member of Humanist be henceforth banned from said
technical list because he had published a piece of commercial "advertising"
on that list. I have not quite been able to figure out why the complainant
was attempting to vent his spleen on Humanist, but I replied to him saying that,

> I appreciate your annoyance at advertising, but I find it more difficult
> than you do, apparently, to draw the line between announcements of work that
> benefit an academic's reputation, and so contribute to his or her promotion,
> and those that increase the profits of a commercial enterprise whose work is
> related to the subjects under discussion. As editor of Humanist...
> I do not require that messages contain "technical
> information"; such a limitation would deprive Humanist of many qualities we
> have quite carefully developed over the last 12 years.

The man again wrote to Humanist (apparently addressing the said member of
Humanist) saying,

>I do not mind advertising if it contains useful information.
>Neither your spam, nor your site do.
>I challenge you to publish [evidence &c.] ....
>why not keep your prose for Humanist exclusively, we can live without
>your "qualities".

I would be one of the last to object to the convention that bans advertising
from groups such as Humanist, but it does seem to me that, as the targeted
member of Humanist replied to me,

>I think the blurring of the line between academia and industry that
>has occurred over the last 10 or 15 years has not yet brought the necessary
>maturity to everyone.... that would allow one to note and
>dismiss feelings of jealousy before writing a post. I do admit that describing
>something in industy does have an advertising sound to it, but it is hard to
>deny that we are in industry....

This is not, of course, the only change computing has and is making to the
academy, not the only line being blurred by computing -- and by large
changes in the society that ultimately pays for us. What role, I wonder,
does humanities computing have in the trading zone between commercial
developers and the "pure" realms of academic research?

Comments welcome.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5081
<Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
maui gratia

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