The TWC Symposium
blog, which is the blogging arm of the online-only peer-reviewed academic journal Transformative Works and Cultures
, is a must-read for academics and people interested in fandom, and they've had several great posts recently.
The first is Breaking the Primacy of Print
, about the consequences of TWC's decision to be and to remain an online-only academic journal:
We naively thought that rigor, peer review, excellent editing, and overall high standards would trump mode of publication. But little has changed in institutional practices. It is too easy to replicate the existing model, or too difficult to permit an institutional committee to assess items on their own merits. They would rather offload their assessment to a proxy, such as publication in a prestigious journal or by a prestigious press. Why read the book if Oxford University Press published it? It’s Oxford University Press!
I don't think it's any great revolutionary observation to say that the academic model of journal publishing is, shall we say, living with an end-date. The phrase "dead-tree publishing" never seemed so apt when, before moving to California, I piled two years' worth of the Journal of Asian Studies and the Journal of Popular Culture into my recycling bin. I'll miss the notes I made in the paper copies, but since I do have online access to the journals' content as a subscriber, there's absolutely no reason to keep the paper copies around, and frankly I would have preferred an e-copy from the start.
TWC is at the bleeding edge of a change that is going to take place in academia in some form; I'm sure most academic journals will end up going primarily online, but quite frankly I hope most or all of them end up making all their content freely available as well. As academics we have specialized knowledge, but that doesn't make us or the knowledge we produce inherently special, and quite frankly most of what we do produce could be profitably put to use by people well outside the ivory tower's ambit. In this era of deep budget cuts and calls to radically increase the number of college graduates in the States, we ought to be looking to connect our work with as many people as possible, full stop. It's not like any of us who actually write for, work on, or edit these journals see a cent from them, anyway.*
The second is Mad Men and Aca-Fen
. Some initial caveats: who says "fen" now anyway? Only acafans, I think. Secondly, in some ways I don't even see the point of the acafan debate, at least from the academic side. If we didn't like the things we were researching, we wouldn't be researching them, because only a deep love for our subjects is enough to carry us through the endless iterations of research and review that producing anything scholarly requires. But anyway:
For me, the subtext of Mittell’s complaint is his refusal or inability to find pleasure in that ironic mode, to secure a pleasurable place as audience and potential fan within those contradictions and ambivalences that threaten to overwhelm him with complicity and contempt. The pleasures of Mad Men, and the experience of being a fan of the series, thus remain opaque to him as they don’t align with his own.
Whether or not you enjoy irony is a personal quirk; I certainly do, and I don't think I could get through my research topics without it, either. But being a fan of something, aca- or not, is about far more than simply being a slavish devotee--fandom has long made a space for critical and "Yes, but…" responses to media and canons, and there's no reason that acafans can't do the same.
* You may at some point have heard me say that Mechademia
actually does make money for the University of Minnesota Press. It does, and the small royalties it does pay are immediately put back into the journal to defray the production costs of printing images in future issues.