Eludamos just published my article, “Letter from the Wilderness.” Given the dominance in game design of technical and engineering paradigms I wanted to provide a road map for the kinds of contributions that game researchers from the humanities and social sciences could make not just to the academic field of game studies, but the kind of impact such work could have on the process of game design itself.
Eludamos is peer reviewed but uses an open access model of submission and editing which took me a little while to adjust to. I’m pretty happy with the end result (there’s only one major technical screw-up in the article, which isn’t bad). I like the model also for the way in which it encourages contributors to be participants rather than people who simply submit work and then receive responses.
One of the things that getting involved with blogging has done is really made me aware of the lag in academic publishing practices. I think I first submitted the article to Eludamos back in November of last year, received an acceptance in January with feedback, worked up a revised draft by July, and then it is published in October. That is a pretty quick turnaround for a peer reviewed publication, in actual fact. But in terms of getting your work and ideas out there it feels painfully slow compared with the blogosphere.
That is the point, however, and I can’t help feeling that it is a point that society at large and even academics are starting to lose sight of. The blogosphere is a great place for first thoughts, breaking news. Unfortunately, the first thoughts that we have about something are usually blindingly obvious or not woth the energy used to flip the pixels to display them. I spent the better part of a year working on the article before I submitted it, and then received feedback from the reviewers (one of whom in particular was great) that pushed me to refine it even further. Good thought takes time (not that I’m claiming that my article is a generation-defining piece or anything like that, but it will, I hope, be useful to someone). But it is time that is increasingly short supply. Is the blogosphere, like the 24 hour news cycle, shortening not so much our attention span, but our expectation for the amount of work and thought we expect someone to put in before releasing something that claims to be for our edification?
I agree that this question of whether or not the blogosphere is shortening the amount of work and thought and time that goes into published items is an important question to address.
In “And on a Lighter Note,” you directed our attention to a satire with comments, some of which ironically demonstrated the mental degeneration that the page was meant to satirize. The comments on that page (and really any page) are examples of exactly what you’re talking about in this post–and they’re terrifying. Nobody’s knee-jerk reaction is polished or objectively correct, and it takes time, consideration, work, thought, and revision (among other things) to turn that initial reaction or opinion into something with substance.
Now, with everyone publishing their first, unrefined thoughts via blog or twitter or facebook, not only imperfect, but outright careless works pervade the environment which without them would otherwise be respectable.
These instant means of publication have provided a medium for getting ideas out there to be read, interpreted, built off of, and argued for or against, but it’s important to not forget the value of research, data, and careful revision, which seems to be fading as we move more and more toward instantaneous communication.
It would by hypocritical of me to not acknowledge the irony of the fact that this reply is itself my knee-jerk reaction to your post. Not only do I not know the scope of the problem beyond my limited experience with blogs and comments on pages, I also do not quantitatively know that this “problem” as I’ve just called it, even exists in the first place, I just assume that it does. This is exactly why we should be addressing this question–the instant publication tools, while useful in their own ways, can be counterproductive in the sense that they don’t often produce what you call “good thought.” If this continues, it’s reasonable to expect that the respect held for published works will degenerate as a whole, reducing the value of research, and increasing the volume of unsupported claims.
I liked what you did there in that final paragraph! Your example, however, points to one of the most problematic aspects of current communication norms. We’re all familiar with the cliche, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Well, one of the problems with current communication practices is that very often there is just smoke. In fact, sometimes it is just a pile of twigs. Or maybe even an empty fire pit. But if enough people stand around that fire pit and start saying things like “That’s a damn fine blaze we’ve got going there!” then sooner or later people start to react as if there is a real fire there. So, yes, WalterstheGreat’s example works really well here. I’ve claimed there’s a problem, so there must really be a problem! This is a particular problem with the blogosphere, certainly, but also with things like the 24 hour news cycle. There was the recent case in this area where a harmless Coast Guard exercise on the Potomac on Sep 11th was picked up by the local and national news media and interpreted as evidence that there had been an attack on the Pentagon.
But I’m wondering if one of the other causes here isn’t that the web contributes to a flattening out of communication. Rather, it is taking a wide variety of types of writing and publication and making them all the same kind of communication and publication. Previously, for example, you might use a private journal to put down your random first thoughts about things, or to go off on a rant about something. You might be the only person that would ever see this; perhaps a few very close friends might be privy to this discussion. Now, however, those first thoughts can be made available for all to see, displayed alongside news stories, celebrity gossip, works of fiction, scholarly articles. . .At some level we may be vaguely aware that these are all different. But they often look very similar, and they share the same perceptual space (especially they have been sifted by aggregators or linked in to FB), which tends, quite powerfully, to imply equivalency.