Gary Hall interesting as always. In this article on Academis.edu, here: Should this be the last…
My own take is less well thought out, but I felt Hall’s essay was almost like an airplane safety steward performance – offering us a plastic airbag of comfort adn some nylon socks to distract as we plummet to horrific death, oh, and here are the exit lights to provide a final weird glow as you do. Except Hall’s critique is better than that, and funnier/well written/more important.
When I was invited to be one of these academia.edu editors here was my perhaps a little idealistic response (did not know of the critique by Hall then – but am still using the platform since it’s really just Facebook for dummies, no?).
1) The recommend button has ‘fields’ built, I guess, into its algorithm. What mechanisms are in place, if any, to counter the inherent conservative character of this recommendation system? What I mean is, like any search algorithm, the system works on likes and similarity, when what we probably need is a way to discover not so much what we already know and like, or variations thereof, but truly things that will stretch our ideas, habits of though, disciplinary boundaries. Not just some cod-interdisciplinarity either. is it possible to build an algorithm based on something that acknowledges quality – as this recommendation system is designed to do – but does not congeal disciplines with a tendential affirmation of the centre. This, of course is also the problem with Research Assessment Programmes of Govt and funding bodies, indeed, all discipline based peer review.
2) what is the companies position on attention theory of value? For example, the 40 mins of my time I just spent, the increments of time so many users ofacademia.edu spend etc. The benefit of using the site is not exactly a wage. Like peer review for mainstream publishing houses, academia.edu seems to benefit massively from unpaid labour. What mechanisms are in place to recompense user-workers for this astonishing gift of free labour. A share scheme for example. Otherwise what differentiates academia.edu from value extraction of the most virulent kind – unpaid exploitation of willing dupes, thriving on people’s egoistic desire to check their H-index or some such? Is there a discussion within the company of public ownership, distributed ownership, or at least transparency of accounts? Uber, airbnb etc have been starting to get some bad press of late, it might be good to head that off with a share distribution scheme so that academics can make a buck out of their obviously welcome labour.
Read Gary Hall’s essay – click below: