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Humanist Archives: April 7, 2020, 8:18 a.m. Humanist 33.737 - on using academia.edu

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 737.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

        Date: 2020-04-06 11:07:20+00:00
        From: Tim Smithers 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.733: on using academia.edu & Humanities Commons

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your response to my previous post.

First, given some other posts on this topic, I thought to say
I work as a freelance and have no access to things like
University servers etc.  I pay for Email services, because the
quality of these matter to me.  I don't pay for my Academia
account.  Essentially, my use is parasitic, made possible
because Academia offers some functionality that is useful to
me, without demanding payment.  (It does pester me with
un-useful messages and special offers, and clearly does lots
of un-consented tracking to do this.  These messages get
junked by a filter I have set in my Email app.)

To respond, you say.

    "The Academia website allows you to see who your readers
     are ..."

Does it?  This is the point I was trying to make.  I have a
different notion of what a reader is, and I don't think
Academia, like other similar website, tells me anything very
much about what I count as readers.

You get more data from your Academia account than I do because
you pay, as far as I can tell.  My free account does not
identify the login that accessed any of my PDFs, nor tell me
how many pages it counts a "reader to have read," and it
doesn't it tell me if the "reader" downloaded a PDF. (It does
tell me how many times each of my PDFs has been downloaded,
if I look.)  But, frankly, I wouldn't use these numbers as any
kind of indication that a real person has done any actual
reading of one of my PDFs.  I certainly don't take it that
just because a PDF has been downloaded, it has been read by
someone.  Academia only counts things, and things it is easy
to count.  It does nothing to check that someone has actually
done any real reading, online, or of a downloaded PDF. The
idea that the things Academia tells you indicates real readers
and actual reading is, to me, one of its manipulations.  It is
this taking of easily acquired numbers to be evidence of real
people doing real reading that I am trying to point to as
reducing the humanness in this business.

It's not the not knowing who readers are that drains the
humanness, it's the taking of numbers of easily counted
things to be real readers and real reading that does this.

I do know who are real readers of my PDFs, they tell me.  I
just don't know all of them, they don't all tell me.  Only a
very few do.

Do you think when Academia tells you "someone read 10 pages"
of what is a 35 page publication, say, any reading of any real
consequence went on?  What Academia counts, as far as I can
tell, is the number of different pages displayed.  I don't
count this as reading.  Nor, as far as I can tell, does
Academia do much, if anything, to check that it is a real
person who accesses the PDFs it keeps.  (Perhaps someone else
here can say more on this?)

I'm not against Academia.edu.  I just would not spend money on
it.  I don't think what it counts tells me things it is useful
to know.  It, and other website like it, does tend to turn the
communication of research and scholarship into a numbers game,
and I don't like this.  This drains humanness, I think.  And
it tends to give the wrong impression to new researchers of
what is important in research communication, in my experience.

This is just how I see it.

Best regards,


Tim Smithers
Independent Research Practitioner
TSRi: teaching and strengthening research
Donostia / San Sebastián
The Basque Country

> On 06 Apr 2020, at 10:09, Humanist  wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 733.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                       www.dhhumanist.org
>                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>    [1]    From: Jim Rovira 
>           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.730: on using academia.edu & Humanities
Commons (22)
> --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
>        Date: 2020-04-05 18:11:33+00:00
>        From: Jim Rovira 
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.730: on using academia.edu & Humanities
> Tim -
> The Academia website allows you to see who your readers are, but I don't
> quite understand your line of reasoning, especially when you think not
> knowing who your readers are somehow drains the process of its "humanness."
> The fact is no author has ever known who their readers were at any time in
> history unless the reader happened to write to or about the author.
> Academia actually shows you who your readers how and how much of your work
> their read by page count, or if they downloaded your paper. That's
> remarkable.
> Your question about knowing who your readers are seems more important to
> activities like tenure review, where you want to be able to show that your
> readers are people in your field. Again, the Academia website allows you to
> collect far more data than any other method. Otherwise, you're just relying
> on numbers of citations, not numbers of readers.
> It's a good site that provides a valuable service. I'm not saying it's
> without flaws, but it has far more benefits.
> Jim R


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