18.725 more on dubious conferences

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 08:03:38 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 725.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Kevin Hawkins <kshawkin_at_umich.edu> (4)
         Subject: more on dubious conferences

   [2] From: Willard McCarty
<willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk> (17)
         Subject: why scamming conferences work

         Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 07:49:27 +0100
         From: Kevin Hawkins <kshawkin_at_umich.edu> (6)
         Subject: more on dubious conferences

I'll reserve judgment on whether that upcoming conference in Orlando is
legimitate, but this latest news certainly won't help their image:



         Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 07:49:27 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: why scamming conferences work

In the article referred to by Kevin Hawkins, "MIT prank paper accepted for
publication", the author quotes Jeremy Stribling, one of the MIT students,
who points to something that really does need more attention than the
possibility of fraud. He notes that,

>in addition to mocking academic jargon, the prank sheds light on what
>Stribling sees as a problem: conferences with low standards that pander to
>academics looking to pad their resumes, but which harm the reputations of
>more reputable gatherings.

In other words, the real problem here is a combination of the conditions of
work in the academy and the personal standards of academics. At the risk of
seeming to have the cane of self-important but fearful old age and to be
thumping it, I do think there's a moral tale to be told: of a generation
(or generations) of academics who along with many others have lost sight of
what academia is for. This is not to blame them, or to blame only them.
Fingers can certainly be pointed at targets higher up. The question is,
what do we do about it -- and because we are here, that question is better
phrased, what can we do with humanities computing to improve the situation?

The key, I think, is to communicate what we know in such a fashion that we
will be understood far outside our domains of specialization. A subsidiary
lesson of the MIT students' prank is pointed by the weasely jargon
lubricating their success. This jargon is indeed invited by the title of
the conference: the Ninth World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics
and Informatics. Surely an invitation to puffery, or at least a title that
carnival professors will take to be just that. In any case, it's not what
we need to be doing. Let me suggest that one of the things we need to be
doing, perhaps the most important thing of all, is to be coming up with
answers to the question, how is computing an agent in the quest for a more
meaningful life -- rather than, say, a higher salary? I'm not one to deny
an offer of a higher salary (yes, please), but there are choices.



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Received on Fri Apr 22 2005 - 03:21:32 EDT

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