The Unexpectedness of Editorships, A History Boy, 02/11/2017

A short post today. I took the first of this month off, because instead of composing Wednesday’s post Tuesday evening, as I usually do, I was tired. A few things in my professional life are unexpectedly in flux at the moment, and I needed to take Halloween night to relax watching Cult of Chucky with my fiancée.

One of the nice changes happening in my professional life is that I’m taking over editorship of the Reply Collective. I’ve been part of this group pretty much from its inception, and I was pretty surprised when I got the offer to be the Patrick Troughton to Jim Collier’s William Hartnell.

I ended up as an early member of SERRC – I was talking with Jim in 2011 about coming to Virginia Tech’s Science and Technology Studies department for a post-doc. When I didn’t get the funding, I thought that would be the end of it.

But at the same time, Jim was rolling out this open-access companion website to the journal Social Epistemology. It seemed like a really cool thing to be part of, especially because I wasn’t within spitting distance of a teaching or research job on my own.

Since then, SERRC has been my intellectual home more than any other institution. I’ve regularly published there, contributing original essays and reviews, replies, conversations, collaborations. They’ve been better than any regular old journal would have been when it comes to my more experimental pieces.

Knowledge can't just stay in university desks and archives anymore.
We have work to do.
Here’s a story about how much SERRC means to me. When I attended the Canadian Philosophical Association conference in Victoria a few years ago, I did so to present a panel on my book Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity. At the time, I wasn’t working in a university or a college.

Honestly, I was working at IKEA. $13/hour. Booking and processing furniture deliveries for people. Had a couple of contingent communications contracts, but that was actually my main source of income at the time.

But I’d seen how people are ostracized when they write “Independent Scholar” on their nametags at academic conferences. I wasn’t about to do that. So I put on my nametag the name of the institution my name was most associated with.

“Adam Riggio. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective.”

I got a few “What the hell is that?” comments. But I’ve always loved breaking people’s brains, much more than I could ever enjoy being treated like shit on the bottom of a tenured professor’s boot.

Let me take an institutional view. SERRC is open access. It’s free for everyone to read. Sometimes, our articles can get really technical. But for the most part, we encourage contributors to write in a style that any half-intelligent person will be able to follow. Platforms like SERRC are, if you ask me,* is the future of research.

* And it’s my blog, so I’m just going to tell you.

The heavily paywalled model is dying. The academic publishing companies may still be profitable, but that’s only because their massive subscription prices practically hold university libraries hostage.

More and more libraries are turning down journal subscriptions – there are too many journals, and universities face too many funding cuts to maintain subscriptions. As a researcher, I always wanted to have my work read by the general public as well as colleagues in my fields.

So it never suited me to spend hundreds of hours of work on article submissions to elite journals that few people could even access. Today, higher education is under threat from politicians and revanchist social movements who consider their research either useless or actively hostile.

We aren’t going to defend critical knowledge production institutions and networks from radical reactionary politicians and governments by publishing technical papers in journals no one can access. That makes us elitists, and everyone hates those people.

I’m not going to say in detail what I plan to do with the SERRC once I take over the editorship. That’s going to be one very contentious email thread.** But we live in very difficult, dangerous, contentious times.

** Mind you, first thing I have to do is get updated emails from everyone. The number of bouncebacks I got tonight kind of ruined my emotionally-loaded tribute to my William Hartnell.

Through a platform like SERRC, it’s possible for intellectuals who believe in freedom of knowledge to take a public stand. So necessary.

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