Questions of place and role dance prominently in my mind with aggressive repetition as a first-year PhD student. In a time where anyone with access to the internet and to a computer can start a blog and publish daily think pieces, why am I striving to join an academic community that traditionally values publishing in niche, socially invisible journals? If one of my primary objectives as a scholar-researcher is to offer meaningful analyses to the widest possible audience, I have a responsibility to make my work accessible, in terms of medium and in terms of readability.
In an article titled, “Erasing the Pop-Culture Scholar, One Click at a Time” on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s website, Amanda Ann Klein and Kristen Warner argue, “What pains us more than the absent citation [of a professional academic’s work] is the unsupported claim, the anachronistic parallel, the apocryphal anecdote.” They assert that writers, and specifically pop-culture and media journalists, should be reaching out to scholars to help augment their work. In this way, the scholar can play a critical role in positively developing the communities about which we care.
However, this seems far too passive for me.
I focus much of my research on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (specifically the Sherlock Holmes stories) and the many film, radio, theater, dance, and novel adaptations that have followed since 1887. For nearly 15 years, I have run a website devoted to this interest, and I have enjoyed interacting with very bright, opinionated fans who are excited and encouraged by me to tease out their reactions to any number of productions, including the original Doyle stories. As I advance my academic career, I see my role changing. I appreciate embracing the democracy that the internet affords us in terms of letting people voice their more-or-less researched work. However, I now see myself reaching a place of information augmenter. My education does not give me permission to act as the sole authority or arbitrator of “correct” readings, but my education does give me the opportunity to have read theorists and other obscure tomes that have likely escaped lay people.
For example, the latest season of Sherlock, the wildly successful BBC series, just aired in January 2017. Fans, as well as film and television critics, have flooded websites, blogs, and tumblr with a fair amount of generic whinging, but also many thoughtful, engaging pieces. What they lack, in general, are opportunities to better explain their frustration through relevant theories and theoretical frameworks that could even possibly offer recommendations for future productions. I see myself itching to include my work in the online prosaic canon of responses, perhaps in the form of a reworked version of a piece I hope to publish in a journal that no one will read. This holds true also for Sherlock Holmes fan communities (termed “scions”), in several of which I am a participant, where members routinely present papers. My challenge would be to recognize what theories or theorists may be esoteric and in need of properly straightforward explanation that an academic community may not require.
Klein, Amanda Ann, and Kristen Warner. "Erasing the Pop-Culture Scholar, One Click at a Time." The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 July 2016, http://www.chronicle.com/article/Erasing-the-Pop-Culture/237039.