This response is co-authored by Ken McAllister and Judd Ruggill:
A short answer to the question about how to build digital cohorts and academic communities: They’ll emerge even without ambitious plans, repurposed MIL-SPEC hardware, and Kickstarter-funded software.
A longer version: Historically, academe incentivizes individualism and penalizes collaboration. Promotion and tenure, merit increases, puff pieces in alumni magazines—all tend to spotlight the person, not the people. Indeed, projects’ people are routinely and compulsorily scissored out of the group shot, casting each scholar as—to use David Ignatow’s phrase—“a crowd of oneself.”
But the academy has started to molt, to shed this skin. Continued erasures of human and material resources and escalations of research, teaching, and service loads are creating an environment in which eventually academics will be punished for not collaborating. There’ll be no way to do what needs doing without working together, without the synergy and economies of scale that digital scholarly communities enable. We won’t be able to publish enough to meet the ever-rising demands of P&T, we won’t be able to manage courses enrolling many thousands of students (and thus won’t be able to service our institutions’ primary bill-payers), and we won’t be able to maintain day-to-day departmental operations because there will be too few staff and qualified administrators.
So how do we adapt to and benefit from this change? Extant and emerging digital scholarly communities, plus the torrent of apps designed to facilitate collaboration and community building are two effective avenues. There is also faculty revolt—folks forcing the issue by hijacking the relevant committees and rewriting institutional policies governing research, teaching, and service so that collaboration is actually rewarded, not just tolerated (and certainly not punished). And then there are administrators’ potential largesse and vision, generally considered essential to rejiggering the rules of academic citizenship.
And if none of these blooms bear fruit in the seasons ahead? Not to worry: the transformation of higher education and its eventual and utter dependence on collaboration and digital scholarly communities is already a done deal. Thanks to the new math of higher education funding, increasingly the name of the game is teamwork. The solitary scholar--not the collaborator--will be the outlier: dubious, incalculable, and jobless.
We can’t wait.
The interface versus the author(s)
Even before reading, I was struck by this piece's byline, and how it highlights one challenge on the road to synergy and the like. Ken and Judd are obviously writing together, as its noted in the first line of the body. Yet the interface here, as in so many places like it, expects a solitary accountable and creditable author.
Even in the wake of "the torrent of apps designed to facilitate collaboration and community," the majority of universities and public institutions still buy into mega-platforms and CMSs that seem only clumsily to re(re)mediated the sort of one-author model that's dominated aca-discourse for so long. We accept that the university juggernaut tends to lag there (we're usually content to chalk that up to red tape). Even as some teachers try to bring blogs and wikis and social media into the classroom, others clamor, ardently as ever, for proper citation and for recognition of intellectual property (and, of course, against using Wikipedia as a source—poppycock!).
So, as the collaboration mandate washes over us all (and I fully agree with Judd and Ken that it will), I wonder what role the interfaces themselves (particularly those used in academia) will play in changing the author notion. Is it just a matter of changing the code, or is changing the code the way to change how we think of the author(s)?
Danielle has certainly expressed the irony of this post. Though, the waves of change are coming and in the new version of Drupal, co-authors will be much easier to present. The technology will catch up with our needs (and then we will need more from it).
I agree that collaboration and production by community will become increasingly more popular. I am also in love with this byline because it's reference to the Borg reminds us that the collaborative used to be the enemy in its destruction of the individual. This response, though collaborated, is distinct. It shows how far the culture of community has come through a reference to one of the biggest fan cultures out there.
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