|
Performing the Scholarly Monograph in Contemporary Digital Culture

5.2 Openness and Open Access Publishing

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Open access publishing can be seen as one of the most important recent developments in digital scholarly publishing. David Prosser, the director of Research Libraries UK (RLUK) even goes so far as to call it ‘the next information revolution’ (2003), and both the UK and the EU have made headway with mandating open access for publicly funded research. Open access has also been important for book publishing, and, more specifically, for the struggle over the future of the book. I will therefore begin with an analysis of the relationship between open access and scholarly book publishing, and the motives behind the latter’s interest in and uptake of open access. As part of that I will examine some of the forms a politics of the book based on openness might take, where a politics of the book is concerned with exploring how we can criticise and potentially start to change the cultures of material and technological production that surround scholarly communication in such a way as to allow for alternative, more ethical, critical and responsible forms of research. We can do this, I argue, by rethinking and deconstructing the object-formation of scholarship, both as part of academia’s impact and audit culture, and as part of the publishing market’s focus on commercially profitable book-commodities. This can be achieved, not by ignoring the fact that the book is and needs to be cut at some point in time (and thus cannot only be a processual and never-ending project), but by focusing on what other boundaries we might emphasise and take responsibility for. How might these aid us in critiquing the ongoing capitalisation of research—which comes to the fore in the increasing need for measurement, innovation and transparency, for instance?

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 To examine such a politics of the book based on openness, I will begin by looking at some of the critiques that have been put forward with respect to the concept of openness, and open politics more specifically. Where initially the open access and open source movements where heralded by progressive thinkers as part of a critique of the commodification of knowledge (Berry 2008: 39), openness is seen increasingly as a concept and practice that connects well with neoliberal needs and rhetoric, and that can be related to ideas of transparency and efficiency promoted by business and government.[1] From an initially subversive idea,[2] one can argue that open access, partly related to its growing accessibility and wider general uptake, is increasingly co-opted by capitalist ideology (of which the Finch Report, which we will be discussing later, is ample evidence) and as a result is turning in some respects at least into yet another business model for commercial publishers to reap a profit from.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 To present another context to this debate and to open up and struggle for an alternative future for the already diverse and contingent idea of openness, I will be critically engaging with the work of media scholar Nathaniel Tkacz. Tkacz has written an important article on openness in which he pinpoints what he considers to be some of the inconsistencies in the concept of openness and open politics, and how from its very inception it can be connected to neoliberal thought. He achieves this, both by going back to the ‘father of open thought’, Karl Popper, and by analysing the influence of open software cultures on current open movements. Tkacz’s article can be seen as an illustrative example of the kind of thinking that criticises the liberatory tendencies and idealism present in many openness advocacies, and that sees openness as related to neoliberalism—a way of thinking that is no less fuelled by the recent uptake of open access by government and commercial publishing.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 However, as part of my exploration of an open politics of the book, I want to offer an alternative genealogy of openness: one that is closely connected to the history of the book and of scholarly knowledge production, as discussed in the previous chapter; but also one that supplements Tkacz’s analysis, which focuses mostly on openness’s genealogy in the thought of Popper and the open source movement, and on the prevalence of an open-closed dichotomy. My alternative genealogy forges a stronger connection between the ideal of openness and the development of scholarly communication and open access publishing, while simultaneously seeing openness as intrinsically implicated in practices of secrecy and closure. This will then serve as impetus to explore in further detail the diversity of current engagements with openness and open access (beyond a focus on its neoliberal usurpation) by analysing some of the different value systems, motivations and politics underlying its uptake. The emphasis I am placing here on the sheer variety that makes up the ‘schools of thought’ on openness and open access, also serves to counter the vision that open access is intrinsically connected to neoliberalist discourses and practices, and enables me to argue instead that it can, at least potentially, be used as a powerful critique of these systems. To illustrate this diversity of uptake I will contrast the neoliberal vision of open access publishing as envisioned in the Finch Report[3] with what could be called radical open access publishing, drawing on some recent experiments that try to challenge and rethink the book as a commercial object, as well as the political economy surrounding it, by cutting the book together and apart differently.[4] I will conclude my discussion of open access with an exploration of what an open politics of the book could then potentially be, the latter being a politics that has its base in forms of open-ended experimentation, but which at the same time remains aware of, and takes responsibility for, the boundaries that still need to be enacted.

5.2.1 Reasons and Motivations Behind Open Access

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 What, then, were the main reasons behind the uptake of open access, especially in scholarly book publishing? How was it envisioned as a potential strategy against excessive forms of commercial publishing and academic capitalism? The open access movement[5] can be seen as a direct reaction against the ongoing commercialisation of research and of the publishing industry, coupled to a felt need to make research more widely accessible in a faster and more efficient way. Open access literature has been defined as ‘digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions’.[6] The movement grew out of an initiative established by academic researchers, librarians, managers and administrators, who argued that the current publishing system was no longer able or willing to fulfil their communication needs, even though opportunities were now increasingly offered by new digital distribution formats and mechanisms to make research more widely accessible. From the early 1990s onwards, open access was initiated and developed within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, where it focused mainly on the author self-archiving research works in central, subject or institutionally-based repositories (Green OA). These can be works that have been submitted for peer review (preprints), or that are final peer-reviewed versions (postprints). The other main and complementary route to open access focused on the publishing of research works in open access journals, books or other types of literature (Gold OA) (Harnad et al. 2004: 310–314, Guédon 2004). In the humanities and social sciences (HSS), the fields where books have tended to be the preferred communication medium, open access caught on later than in the STEM fields. This was due, among other reasons, to: the slow rise of book digitisation and of ebook uptake by scholars; the focus on green open access within the STEM fields, targeting the high costs of subscriptions to journals in these fields, whereas journals in the HSS are generally cheaper; the specific difficulty with copyright and licensing agreements for books; and the expenses involved in publishing books in comparison with articles (i.e. they have different publishing and business models).[7]

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Open access also filled another void in the HSS, where it was perceived as the answer to the monograph crisis. As described in chapter 4, scholarly monograph publishing is seen to be facing a crisis, where its already feeble sustainability is being endangered by continually declining book sales.[8] Library spending on ebooks has gone down, due to acquisition budgets cuts and decisions to buy journals in STEM instead, which have seen rising subscription costs (Thompson 2005). This drop in library demand for HSS monographs has led university presses to produce smaller print runs and focus on marketable titles. This has been threatening the availability of specialised humanities research and has led to related problems for—mostly early-career—scholars, where career development within the humanities is directly coupled to the publishing of a monograph by a reputable press (Darnton 1999). Partly in response to this perceived monograph crisis, these developments have seen the rise of a number of scholarly-, library- and/or university-press initiatives that are experimenting more directly with making monographs available on an open access basis. These initiatives include scholar-led presses such as Open Humanities Press, re.press, and Open Book Publishers; cooperatives of university presses such as OAPEN and Open Edition; commercial presses such as Bloomsbury Academic; university presses, including ANU E Press and Firenze University Press; and presses established by or working with libraries, such as Athabasca University’s AU Press and Göttingen University Press. As Sigi Jöttkandt and Gary Hall argue with respect to the decision to set up Open Humanities Press in relation to the monograph crisis:

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Such a situation not only affects the careers and, potentially, the choice of research areas of individuals. It also impacts the humanities itself – both because a lot of excellent work is unable to find appropriate publication outlets and also because decisions concerning the production, publication, dissemination and promotion of humanities research are being made less and less by universities and academics on intellectual grounds, and more and more by scholarly and commercial presses on economic grounds. When ground-breaking research that develops new insights is rejected in favour of more marketable introductions and readers, it is clear that academia as a whole becomes ‘intellectually impoverished’. (2007)

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 However, as is already indicated by the variety of initiatives and the diversity of their backgrounds, the motivations behind the development of open access archiving and publishing are extremely diverse. They include the desire to: increase accessibility to specialised humanities research by making it online and openly available (to enable increased readership and to promote the impact of scholarly research, next to enabling heightened accessibility to research to those in developing countries, for instance);[9] to publish or disseminate research in an open way in order to take social responsibility and to enhance a democratic public sphere as a means of stimulating a liberal democracy that thrives on an informed public; to argue for the importance of sharing research results in a more immediate and direct way; and to offer an alternative to, and to stand up against, the large, established, profit-led, commercial publishing houses that have come to dominate the field in order to liberate ideas and thinkers from market constraints and to be able to publish specialist scholarship that lacks a clear commercial market.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 However, these liberal-democratic motives for open access exist side-by side, not just with more radical and critical motives, but also with the neoliberal rhetoric of the knowledge-economy. In the latter, open access is seen as supporting a competitive economy by making the flow of information more flexible, efficient, transparent and cost-effective, and by making research more accessible to more people. This makes it easy for knowledge, as a form of capital, to be taken up by businesses for commercial re-use, stimulating economic competition and innovation. In this way the research process, its results and their dissemination, can be efficiently monitored and measured and can be better made accountable as measurable outputs (Hall 2008a, Houghton et al. 2009, Adema 2010). This will make it easier for business and industry to capitalise on academic knowledge and it will stimulate global competition.

5.2.2 The Potentials and Pitfalls of Open’s ‘Openness’

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 As Hall has argued in Digitize this book!, where he gives a very detailed and comprehensive overview of the differing but often also overlapping motivations that exist concerning open access and openness, there is nothing intrinsically political or democratic about open access. Motives that focus on democratic principles often go hand in hand with neoliberal arguments concerning the benefits of open access for the knowledge economy. The politics of the book in relationship to open access publishing is thus not predefined, nor is it my intention to argue that it should be.[10] Openness in many ways can be seen as what Laclau calls a floating signifier (2005: 129–155), a concept without a fixed meaning and one that is easily adopted by different political ideologies. As I will point out, it is this very openness and lack of fixity of the concept that gives it its power, but also brings with it a risk of uncertainty towards its (future) adoption. However, for some scholars it is exactly this ‘openness’ of open access or of the concept of openness that is problematic. Before we can explore in more depth what openness or an open politics could potentially enable in the form of experimental and critical scholarly practices, we therefore need to focus on some of the criticisms that have been made of this controversial and unsettled idea of openness. Recently, a lot of this critique has focused on the ease with which open access, as a concept and practice, can be applied in a variety of political contexts—most noticeably as part of a neoliberal rhetoric and profitable commercial business models (Tkacz 2012, Eve, M. 2013, Holmwood 2013a). As I mentioned previously, media scholar Nate Tkacz is one of the thinkers who has critiqued the concept of openness extensively from this angle, and it will thus be useful to explore his analysis here more in detail.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Tkacz’s assessment of openness in his article ‘From Open Source to Open Government: a Critique of Open Politics’, is based on what he sees as ‘a critical flaw in how openness functions in relation to politics’ (2012: 386). Tkacz explores ‘the recent proliferation of openness as a political concept’—where it has become, as he states, ‘a master category of contemporary political thought’ (2012: 386–387)—through a detailed reading of the work of Karl Popper on openness and the open society, while further tracing its recent genealogy through software and network cultures. His critique focuses mainly on how openness and open politics, both in Popper and in contemporary incarnations of open politics, serves as an inscrutable political ideal, merely opposed to its empty binary, the closed society, or closed politics, which is a politics based on centralised governance (critiqued by neoliberalists such as Friedrich Hayek) and/or unchallengeable truths (such as Popper argues one can find in the politics of fascism and communism).

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Tkacz is interested in how this concept and ‘empty ideal’ of openness has recently re-emerged in politics, and how it has been re-politicised, based on its connections with software cultures. He explores how openness has been translated into new domains, such as open access, in entities such as Wikipedia and Google, and in a variety of government initiatives, as a practical application of open-source politics. His examination leads Tkacz to conclude that ‘the same rhetoric [of openness] is deployed by what are otherwise very different groups or organisations’ (2012: 393). Openness shows certain consistencies throughout these cultures, Tkacz argues, such as in ‘its couplings with transparency, collaboration, competition and participation, and its close ties with various enactments of liberalism’ (2012: 399). These can also be seen to underpin our current neoliberal governmentality.[11] The mobilisation of openness in the politics of ‘activist and marginal network cultures’ (2012: 395), as well as in more mainstream organisations, urges Tkacz to coin a critique of the open, arguing that there are some crucial problems with the concept and that it has a poverty that ‘makes it unsuitable for political description’ (2012: 399).

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 As noted above, Tkacz relates these problems to a genealogy of openness connected to the thought of Popper and the politics and political economy of software and network cultures. For Tkacz, Popper is the father of open thought, who sketches an overall theory of the open versus closed society. Tkacz sees the thought of both Popper and Hayek (one of the fathers of neoliberal thought) as highly influential with respect to the current politics of openness. He analyses the recent proliferation of openness in open movements ‘largely as a reaction to a set of undesirable developments, beginning with the realm of closed systems and intellectual property and its “closed source’’’ (Tkacz 2012: 403). Here he sketches a conceptualisation of openness that is similar to the binary already proposed by Popper.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 In his critique of openness, Tkacz thus focuses mainly on Popper and on how the binary open-closed cannot be upheld, since closure is inherent in Popper’s notion of openness. Tkacz states that, based on the philosophy of Popper, the open as a concept is reactionary (where it merely states what it is not, i.e. not closed), it has no (true, positive) meaning—which would close it off—and cannot ‘build a lasting affirmative dimension’ (2012: 400). He further argues that if there are positive qualities to openness, they exist at the level of reality (of real practices) and are therefore subject to continual transformation, which Tkacz sees as paradoxical: how can something that is already open, then become more open, when this means that it thus must have not been open before? For Tkacz, then, clearly ‘Openness (…) implies antagonism, or what the language of openness would describe as closures’ (2012: 403). He argues, however, that these closures get obscured in current incarnations of open politics. The way the open is used in a forward looking and almost prophetic way in many open movements (towards ‘more openness’) has made these simultaneous closures invisible, which mainly has to do with the lack of critique of the open in these movements. For Tkacz’s argues that there has been little reflection on the concept of openness, especially with respect to ‘how seemingly radically different groups can all claim it as their own.’ From this Tkacz concludes that ‘openness, it seems, is beyond disagreement and beyond scrutiny’, and elsewhere, ‘whose meaning is so overwhelmingly positive it seems impossible to question, let alone critique’ (2012: 386, 399).

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 In response to Tkacz’s analysis that openness is ‘beyond disagreement’ and ‘impossible to question’, I would like to argue that an extensive critique of openness does exist (including his own work on the topic), and has been formulated, also from within open movements.[12] Furthermore, I would also like to offer an alternative to Tkacz’s genealogy of openness—and with that to open access and open politics. I want to do so to offer a supplement to his genealogy based on the thought of Popper and the politics of software and network cultures, but also in an attempt to offer a genealogy that does not rely so strongly on the open-closed binary. For the genealogy of openness that Tkacz traces is a very specific one; one that relates to what Hall has called ‘the liberal, democratising approach’ to openness (2008a: 197). An alternative genealogy that tries to re-asses the binary open-closed and that can be traced back to the early developments of scholarly publishing, influencing current incarnations of open access, might therefore be beneficial here. It might be so, not only with regard to rethinking some of the problems Tkacz describes relating to the concept of openness, but also to casting a more favourable, affirmative light on the potential of openness and of forms of what can be called radical open access.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Tkacz’s problem with the concept of openness, in my opinion, relates mostly to the concept of openness as developed and used by Popper (notwithstanding the influence this has had on the political reincarnation of openness). It isn’t the concept itself, in all its uses—as Tkacz describes it (2012: 399)—that has crucial problems, but the specific concept of openness developed and used by Popper. It is this concept that is based on a binary between open and closed; and that has been further developed through the thought of Hayek and network and software cultures, following a forward-looking (neo)liberal/democratic approach to openness. In this respect, Tkacz has traced the genealogy of a specific approach to openness, one that makes it easy to connect openness to neoliberalism and capitalist democracies, as well as to a teleological conception of openness as a form of looking forward, focused on being more open (in the sense of being less closed).

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 However, I would like to draw attention to other forms and cultures of openness that do not connect so strictly to this binary, but rather envision openness and closure as enmeshed, similarly to the argument Tkacz makes when he states that openness inevitably includes closures. Tkacz regards these closures in openness as something inherent in openness, but then following the binary conception of openness in the thought of Popper, decides to see this as problematic and paradoxical for the concept of openness, instead of developing this further and envisioning this as a potential core strength of ideas of the open and open politics. As he states: ‘closure remains an inherent part of the open; it is what openness must continually respond to and work against – a continual threat amongst the ranks’ (Tkacz 2012: 403). However, building further on what Tkacz states about openness implying antagonisms, I would argue that these antagonisms, these closures, are exactly what we need (and have always had) as part of an open politics, and what give it its strength.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 I would thus like to propose a genealogy of openness in which openness is integrally connected to and entangled with a different ‘antagonist’, namely, secrecy. Interestingly, in this genealogy, openness as a concept is directly related to the historical development of systems and discourses of knowledge production and communication. Scholarly research on openness in scientific communication can be seen to be far more ambivalent and contextual in its coverage of the concept of openness than Popper is, for instance ( Long 2001, David 2008, Vermeir and Margócsy 2012, Vermeir 2012). By offering both a contrasting and a supplementary genealogy of openness, I would like to shed a more positive light on the potential of openness, both as a concept and as a practice and politics, to critique the ongoing marketisation of knowledge.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 Extending from that, and in response to Tkacz’s prompt to explore open projects more closely,[13] I would like to take a more contextualised look at some specific open access projects at the end of this section. There I will argue that if we analyse specific instances of how openness is practised and theorised, we will see that open access is not one thing, that its meaning is highly disputed, that it is (or can be) implemented in different ways and that this leads to different and often contrasting politics. For neither the same rhetoric nor the same underlying motivations for openness are shared by the different groups of people involved in open access practices, where these groups theorise openness in (often highly) different ways, and according to different underlying value systems.[14] This includes practices and theories of radical open access that are critical of openness in its neoliberal/democratic guises, but still try to engage with the open in an affirmative way too. The latter are projects that don’t necessarily adhere to a teleological vision of openness (towards the goal of more openness, whatever that would be), but argue instead that openness is not about being more open, for instance, but is rather about being open to change and experimentation—depending on the contingent circumstances, the political and ethical decisions and cuts that need to be made and so on—in a process of continual critique, without necessarily being forward looking in a teleological sense. In our ongoing affirmative politics and practices of the open we make cuts and close down the open; however, as I will argue, we can start to think more responsibly and ethically about the closures we enact and enable in our communication practices: for instance, by focussing on creating difference as part of the incisions (closures) we make, and by promoting otherness, variety and processual becoming. Instead of shying away from these closures, these boundaries that are already implied in openness, might a more interesting approach not be to explore how these decisions are made, by whom, and how we can re-cut them in different ways? And might it not be more interesting to do so especially with respect to how we currently publish our scholarly books?

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 I will thus explore an alternative and complimentary genealogy of openness to that offered by Tkacz next—one that fits better, I will argue, with the specific, contextual politics of open access and radical open access publishing, and that does indeed see openness and secrecy/closure not as binaries but as integrally enmeshed. After the examination of that alternative genealogy, I will provide an account of some of the different ways in which openness and open access have been and are being theorised and practised, by comparing the neoliberal analysis of open access the Finch report offers, with the practices and critique of radical open access publishing. I will do so to emphasise the contingency and contextuality of openness, but also to bring attention to more radical and critical incarnations of open access and openness, which focus on a critique of the business ethics underlying neoliberal politics, among other things.

5.2.2.1 A Genealogy of Openness and Secrecy

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 In her book Openness, Secrecy, Authorship (2001), the historian Pamela Long provides a genealogy of openness that is closely connected to the development of specific cultures of knowledge, and the way these have categorised and conceptualised knowledge. She shows how openness advanced in connection to ideas and practices of secrecy, authorship, and property rights, and alongside the establishment of print and the printed scholarly book in the West (although her exploration of openness, secrecy, authorship and the technical arts stretches back to developments in antiquity). Long looks at the influence and development of craft and practice-based or mechanical knowledge, alongside traditions of theoretical knowledge, and their mutual influence and interaction with respect to the construction of the discourse surrounding knowledge over the centuries, including its relationship to openness and secrecy. Where initially in antiquity Aristotelian science made strict divisions between têchne (material and technical production), praxis (action) and episteme (theoretical knowledge), Long argues that it was the direct links and closer interaction between the mechanical arts (craft knowledge), political power, and theoretical knowledge (or learned traditions), which led to the development of empirical and experimental scientific methodologies in the 17th century, including an expansion of scientific authorship into practices of ‘openly purveyed treatises’ (2001: 102).

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 As Long points out, it was the new alliance between power (praxis) and the technical arts (têchne) that initially enabled authorship in these fields to expand in an effort to legitimate and promote those in political power. New city-based rulers wanted to emphasise their legitimacy, and did so through, among other things, grand urban redesigns and other construction projects. Books on the mechanical arts thus became a worthy subject from the 15th and 16th century onwards, where many of these volumes emerged from a patronage system, produced to enhance the status of the patron. However, they also served to enhance the status of mechanical and craft knowledge, for one important aspect of openness, as Long states, was the accurate or proper crediting of authorship, which in the mechanical arts led to validation of practice in an environment where priority and novelty became of growing value (2001: 180). As Long makes clear, ‘open display of technological practices and of practitioners-authors developed in tandem with the growing value of novelty and priority,’ where as she puts it ‘open authorship often could be used to establish priority’ (2001: 209). These practices led to ‘the development of an arena of discursive practice in which the productive value of certain technical arts (inherent in their ability to produce fabricated and constructed objects) was augmented by their status as knowledge-based disciplines’ (Long 2001: 243). It was this improved cultural status for the mechanical fields as well as for new forms of open authorship that significantly influenced the culture of knowledge. Long claims that it was these forms of open authorship that developed in the technical and mechanical arts that were highly influential when it came to ‘seventeenth-century struggles to validate new experimental methodologies’, including open authorship, in the scientific fields (2001: 250).

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 However, and this is where Long’s argument becomes important in this context, she also argues that these new, open traditions of authorship developed at the same time that neoplatonic secrecy and magic and esoteric knowledge saw a rise in popularity.[15] Part of the complexity of early modern science was exactly the co-existence of ‘diverse values of transmission, including both openness and secrecy, as well as evolving attitudes of ownership and priority’ (Long 2001: 250). Long clearly complicates the opposition between openness and secrecy here, as well as the identification of science with openness. As she states: ‘until recently openness was taken to be characteristic of science, and there was very little reflection concerning whether scientific practices were actually open and, if they were, what that openness meant’ (Long 2001: 4). We can locate this association of science with openness in scholars such as Robert Merton (1973) and Derek de Solla Price (1969), who argue that science is intrinsically open (to communicate findings the scientific norm of communism is seen as essential), where technology is regarded as intrinsically secret (to sell material trademarked objects). However, as Long argues, recent historical research into the development of early modern natural philosophy, shows a far more complex and contextual picture, where Vermeir and Margócsy write that ‘the opposition between secretive technology and open science has been qualified, nuanced and contextualized’ (2012). Openness is thus intricate and enmeshed with secrecy, and integrally connected to issues of priority and patronage, where it functions in a complicated network of alliances, mixed up with authorship in relationships of power and secrecy. This is something that is supported by Paul David, who argues that a functionalist search for the origin of open science can know a historicist bias, where we take our current conception of open science for granted. A more contextualised historical search for origins shows a very different and more messy picture, one caught up in systems of power and rival political patronage (David 2008: 14–16).

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Long gives neither a positive nor a negative definition of openness, but connects it to secrecy directly when she states that ‘openness refers to the relative degree of freedom given to the dissemination of information or knowledge and involves assumptions concerning the nature and extent of the audience’ (2001: 5). Historian Koen Vermeir has similarly pointed out that ‘openness and secrecy are often interlocked, impossible to take apart, and they might even reinforce each other. They should be understood as positive (instead of privative) categories that do not necessarily stand in opposition to each other’ (2012: 165). Vermeir argues that we need to pay more attention to the specific genealogies and contexts in which the values as well as the practices of openness and secrecy have operated. Normally they are seen as negations of each other, but Vermeir notes that it might be useful to see them as gradational categories that need to be judged according to their specific historicity where openness now means something different than it did in the 17th century, for instance. We might also consider positive notions of openness and secrecy (as in the positive notion of freedom), by looking at the intentionality behind openness: how or in what way is circulation/dissemination of scholarship positively promoted? Vermeir emphasises that something can be open but at the same time undiscoverable in a sea of information overload, which can make for new forms of secrecy.[16] Openness and secrecy also don’t always exclude each other, Vermeir states—in the publication of a coded text, for example. Finally, whether we see something as open or secret also depends on the perceiver’s viewpoint.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 This short overview of an alternative genealogy of openness shows that, if we look at the history of our cultures of knowledge and scholarly authorship and at the development of our modern systems of scholarly communication and publishing (including its technological advances), we can see that openness as a concept has always been integrally entangled with notions of secrecy. At the same time it enables us to argue, following Vermeir and Long, that it is essential to take this genealogy into account if we want to study and understand the development of the open access movement—particularly as a specific incarnation of open politics. The particular context in which the open access movement arose, related to developments in (digital) technology, the existing cultures of knowledge and unfavourable economic and material conditions, requires us to acknowledge the influence this longstanding tradition of open scholarship has had on its values and underlying motivations. At the same time it is important to study this ideal of open science and the assumption that knowledge needs to be shared by efficient forms of dissemination and consumption, as part of a historical development where, in practice, openness and secrecy co-developed in changing conditions of power, patronage, and technological development.[17]

5.2.2.2 Openness Contested

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Now that I have provided an alternative genealogy of openness—one more focused on the complex interaction between openness and secrecy/closure, and the intricate relationship between the concept and practice of openness and the development of our modern system of scholarly communication—I want to offer an account of the different ways in which openness and open access have recently been theorised and practiced. What I want to show here is that openness (which as I made clear above functions as a floating signifier), and especially open access, has indeed increasingly been taken up in neoliberal rhetoric and politics. However, contrary to Tkacz and those critics of open access that relate it or its roots to neoliberalism, or see its current uptake in the Finch report or profit-focused author-pays models as exemplary, I want to explore how the understanding of open access, openness and open science has been heavily contested and how separate discourses on the concept of openness have been developed within the scholarly communication realm (Hall 2008a, Adema and Hall 2013, Eve, M. P. 2013, Fecher and Friesike 2013, Holmwood 2013b). It is important to emphasise this because if the implementation of open access in the UK, for instance, proceeds along the lines of the Finch report (2012), then there is a risk that this version of open access will become the dominant or hegemonic narrative, subsuming the variety of discourses that currently exist on open access as well as its multifaceted history.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 It is for this reason that I want to both reclaim and put forward another version of open access, one that targets business oriented approaches directly and instead positions open access as an ongoing critical project. Focused on experimentation and the exploration of new institutions and practices, this approach towards openness, examining new formats and stimulating sharing and re-use of content, can be seen as a radical alternative to, and critique of, the business ethics underlying innovations in the knowledge economy. It also offers a potential way to break-through the object-formation of the scholarly book—something that prevails in the neoliberal vision of open access (which sees the book as a product)—and the exploitation of scholarly communication as capital, as objects to sustain and innovate the knowledge economy.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 To do this I will compare the (mainly neoliberal) motives that the Finch report identifies as being fundamental to open access with the values underlying a series of experiments with radical open access publishing. I will begin by giving a short general overview of the influence of neoliberal rhetoric and ethics on higher education, and on experiments with digital academic and open access publishing more in general.

5.2.2.3 The Neoliberal Discourse on Open Access

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 The discourse of neoliberalism, which focuses on the reshaping of culture and society according to the demands and needs of the market, has infiltrated higher education on a number of different levels (Pekkola 2009). It has turned capitalism from a mode of production into a cultural logic where economic freedom is seen as the necessary precondition for political freedom. David Harvey, in his history of neoliberalism, describes it as ‘a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade’ (2007: 2). Wendy Brown conceptualises neoliberalism as a political rationality that extends market values and economic rationality beyond the economy into all dimensions of human life, including our institutions, where they become part of our social actions. Neoliberalism can thus be seen a form of governmentality which ‘produces subjects, forms of citizenship and behaviour, and a new organization of the social’ (Brown 2003). Within this mode of thinking, not only are universities forced to act more and more like profit-making enterprises instead of public institutions—in a process that also involves the ongoing privatisation of Higher Education in the UK—but the focus of the knowledge economy is also placed to an ever higher degree on the extensive standardisation and the economic exploitation of knowledge, as a form of capital produced within these universities (Hall 2008a). This leads to a situation where researchers within the knowledge economy are asked to produce research that feeds directly into and sustains the neoliberal economy (Olssen and Peters 2005).

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Increasingly, open access publishing is featuring in neoliberal discourses in Higher Education and government as a system to promote innovation and transparency of research (fitting in well with the aforementioned audit culture). Open access supports the knowledge economy by making the flow of information more flexible, efficient and cost-effective, and by making research more accessible to more people. This makes it easy for knowledge, as a form of capital, to be taken up by businesses for commercial re-use, stimulating economic competition and innovation. Additionally, the research process, its results and their dissemination, can be efficiently monitored and can be better made accountable as measurable outputs as part of an audit culture: think of experiments with bibliometrics and data mining, for instance, which can be used as tools to stimulate greater transparency of research. In conclusion, according to this neoliberal rhetoric, society, or better said, the individual taxpayer, gets improved value for money or return on investment with open access (Hall 2008a).

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 As I argued earlier, the openness of the discourse around open access has made it easy to incorporate in a neoliberal context. Martin Eve, although critical of an equation of open access with neoliberalism, argues that open access is easily connected to measures related to the REF, its impact agenda and call for transparency and the privatisation of knowledge (Eve, M. P. 2013). This connection can be used to explain to some extent the current resistance of certain scholars to open access, again related to its potential towards increasing transparency, and towards promoting an audit culture and state control.[18] Their opposition focuses on how, in the new system proposed by government (together with HEFCE and RCUK), universities, or more specifically, university management, will have more widespread control over their academics’ ability to publish. These scholars argue that the specific implementation of the gold open access (as favoured in the report)—in which in order to publish in an open access journal a fee needs to be paid beforehand (e.g. by one’s institution)—is an attack on academic freedoms, and will most likely be aligned with the REF’s impact agenda (Sabaratnam and Kirby 2012). In this sense, while many academics are not against increasing access to scholarly publications, they are afraid that the policy recommendations of transparency and openness will be used as an instrumentalist justification for the imposition of a certain version of open access. It is one which has the potential to promote a further expansion of neoliberalism and which, as sociologist John Holmwood has argued, will function to ‘open all activities to the market and reduce public accountability of its operation’ (2013a).[19]

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 To explore this neoliberal rhetoric surrounding open access in more depth, let’s now take a closer look at the Report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings—or the Finch report as it is commonly known after its chair, Dame Janet Finch. This is an independent study commissioned by the then UK government science minister David Willetts, released in June 2012, drawing on the advice and support of a group of representatives of the research, library and publishing communities. The report recommends the further implementation of author-side fees for the open access publishing of journals, where an article processing charge (APC) will be needed to cover the publishing costs. This fee, paid for by authors or in most cases by their institutions, will enable the article to be opened up to the wider public under a CC-BY license (as recommended by the Finch report). This is a strategy that can be seen as maintaining and favouring the system of communication (or ecology, as the Finch report calls it) as it is currently set up.[20] In this gold APC system, the publishers’ profits will be sustained, where in green open access, depositing of articles in repositories will not require an APC. But as Philip Sykes, a librarian on the Finch panel, has said, ‘It’s not in the interests of UK scholarship to make recommendations which undermine the sustainability of the publishing industry’ (Van Noorden 2012). This has provoked Stevan Harnad to conclude that ‘The Finch Report is a successful case of lobbying by publishers to protect the interests of publishing at the expense of the interests of research and the public that funds research’ (2012).

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 The report offers recommendations to ensure sustainable and efficient models for future scholarly communication defining, among other things, the criteria for success with regard to how to reach this goal. In the following quote related to APCs they accurately illustrate the neoliberal vision of promoting market mechanisms in Higher Education, and of universities acting as businesses: ‘The measures we recommend will bring greater competition on price as well as the status of the journals in which researchers wish to publish. We therefore expect market competition to intensify, and that universities and funders should be able to use their power as purchasers to bear down on the costs to them both of APCs and of subscriptions’ (Finch 2012: 11).

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 But this vision comes to the fore even more directly when we look at the motivations underlying the wider dissemination of research that the Finch report identifies and supports. According to the report, improving the flows of information and knowledge will promote:

  • enhanced transparency, openness and accountability, and public engagement with research;

  • 36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 closer linkages between research and innovation, with benefits for public policy and services, and for economic growth;

  • 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 improved efficiency in the research process itself, through increases in the amount of information that is readily accessible, reductions in the time spent in finding it, and greater use of the latest tools and services to organise, manipulate and analyse it;

  • 38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 increased returns on the investments made in research, especially the investments from public funds (Finch 2012: 5)

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 In short, according to the vision of the Finch report, ‘these are the motivations behind the growth of the world-wide open access movement’: promoting greater transparency, accountability, innovation, economic growth, efficiency and return on investment (Finch 2012: 5). The report thus locates the values underlying open access for the most part in the effect it will have on the knowledge economy, and on how it will be a valuable return on investment.

5.2.2.4 Radical Open Access

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 Motivations for experimenting with alternative forms of open academic publishing are not only focused on serving the knowledge economy, however, as is implied above. Many open access advocates, for instance, see it as a movement and a practice that actually has the potential to critique and provide alternatives to the increasing marketisation of higher education and scholarly publishing. But as I will show, the schools of thought involved in open access publishing and research can be said to be more wide-reaching, more complex and enmeshed, even than that. It will therefore not be fruitful to create yet another dichotomy, distinguishing neoliberal motives for open access publishing from anti-neoliberal ones, as Holmwood implies, for instance (2013b).

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 What I want to explore at this point are examples of experiments with openness in digital publishing that offer affirmative, practical dimensions, through their uptake, critique and experimentations with openness; experiments that work with their own, alternative value systems that cannot easily be classified as the negative side of a dialectic. Instead, they can be seen to endorse another set of values, based on a different underlying system of ethics, distinct from the motivations for open access as defined by the Finch report. Mostly academic-led and centred, these consist of experiments with making research available on an open access basis, using new formats such as liquid monographs, wiki-publications and remixed books. Additionally, with the establishment of new, alternative institutions and practices, they try to challenge and reconceptualise scholarly communication, while simultaneously experimenting with and rethinking openness itself. This approach towards openness, exploring new formats and stimulating sharing and re-use of content, can be seen as a potentially radical alternative to, and a critique of, the business ethics underlying innovations in the knowledge economy. At the same time it is an approach focused on creating strong alternatives that try to break down the commercial object-formation that has encompassed the scholarly book by envisioning open access as an ongoing critical project.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 What I am calling, for shorthand, radical open access, is not one thing, however, nor is it an overarching project. It consists of various groups, peoples, institutions and projects, with their own affordances. Moreover, radical open access is also a contingent and contextual approach that cannot easily be pinned-down as, again, it is an ongoing critical project, one that endeavours to embrace its own inconsistencies, and struggles with its own conceptions of openness. Nonetheless, I want to try and point out some points of similarity that radical open access projects seem to share, not least as a way of contrasting them to the vision of open access put forward in the Finch report. I would like to mention three examples in particular of what can be seen as radical open access initiatives that have tried to experiment with progressive, counter-institutional alternatives, namely Open Humanities Press, Ted Striphas’ Differences & Repetitions wiki and Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s experiments with open peer review for her book Planned Obsolescence.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 Open Humanities Press (OHP) is an international open access publishing collective in critical and cultural theory, founded in 2006 by ‘Open Access journal editors, librarians and technologists’, experimenting with open access journal and book publishing (Jöttkandt 2007: 4). OHP focuses on countering negative perceptions that still exist concerning open access and online publishing by creating a trustworthy, reliable, high-quality system for those scholars sceptical about online modes of distribution and dissemination. Battling these negative perceptions serves two goals, they argue: first, it makes experimentation with new business models possible and can therefore work to help solve the current publishing crisis in the humanities; secondly, it paves the way for further experiments in scholarly communication—with new forms of writing and publishing; with open content and open editing, for instance—something that stands at the basis of OHP’s projects (Jöttkandt 2007: 3–4). The Differences & Repetitions wiki is a site for open source writing (along the lines of libre/read-write open access), set up by Ted Striphas, which contains fully editable projects or working papers. As a personal (though at the same time collaborative) archive of writings, Striphas explores what it means to publish scholarly findings in a different way, and to experiment with new, digital, collaborative writing practices that try to not give in to the compulsion to repeat established practices. Kathleen Fitzpatrick co-established MediaCommons, a scholarly publishing community, to build networks and collaborations among media scholars. She used MediaCommons Press, a digital text platform and publishing experiment from MediaCommons, to openly review the manuscript of Planned Obsolescence. Adopting CommentPress software—a WordPress plugin that allows comments to be made next to specific paragraphs of text—the draft was made available online in 2009 to potential reviewers and commentators (alongside a traditional peer review process by NYU Press).

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 First of all, then, looking at these initiatives, it becomes clear that radical open access offers a practical, affirmative engagement with open access. However, next to establishing practical and experimental (and also scholar-led) alternatives to the present scholarly publishing system, these initiatives also serve to question the system of (commercial) academic publishing as it is currently set up—a system which, as I outlined in the previous chapter, functions increasingly according to market needs. In this respect these projects aim to critique the commodification and commercialisation of research in and through academic publishing. For example, Fitzpatrick argues for the importance of establishing open access presses to save certain forms of specialised research, such as the monograph, from obsolescence in the current ‘fiscally impossible’ system of scholarly publishing. This as part of an effort to rethink our publishing practices and to ‘revitalize the academy’ (Fitzpatrick 2011: 156). Gary Hall, co-founder of OHP, has similarly noted that the current profit-driven publishing system does not allow space for works that are specialised, advanced, difficult, or avant-garde, but favours instead more marketable products, making academia as a whole ‘intellectually impoverished’ (Jӧttkandt and Hall 2007). These initiatives, in a shared critique, therefore focus on how our current publishing system increasingly serves marketisation, instead of our communication needs as academics. As Striphas claims ‘the system is functioning only too well these days—just not for the scholars it is intended to serve’ (2010).

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 What’s more, we can see how experiments in radical open access not only aim to stimulate access and re-use of scholarly content by critiquing the economics and excessive commercialisation of the current scholarly publishing system, and by setting up their own alternative publishing institutions. For these initiatives open access also forms the starting point for a further interrogation of our institutions, practices, notions of academic authorship, the book, content creation, copyright and publication, among other things. Here the focus is on exploring the kind of ethical and responsible questions that, according to Hall ‘we really should have been asking all along’ (2011: 13). This questioning of institutions also focuses on the hegemonic print-on-paper paradigm that, as Hall and Jӧttkandt from OHP argue, still structures our current (digital) scholarly practices, including our standards for reviewing and certifying academic work (2007). We also need to keep in mind, as Striphas notes, the specific historical context in which our currently dominant structures were forged, according to circumstances which might not apply anymore today (2010). In this respect there seems to be a combined aim to, as Fitzpatrick argues, ensure our interrogations not only explore our scholarly institutions but also our own scholarly practices of doing research, writing and reviewing in a digital context (2011: 10). As Hall and Jӧttkandt point out, this might involve exploring ‘a new knowledge, a new grammar, a new language and literacy, a new visual/aural/linguistic code of the digital that is capable of responding to the singularity and inventiveness of such [digital] texts with an answering singularity and inventiveness?’ (2007).

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 The practical aspects of these interrogations of our scholarly forms of communication come to the fore in some of these radical open access projects too. For instance, Fitzpatrick’s experiment with peer-to-peer review very much focussed on re-envisioning peer review and quality control in a digital context, pushing it towards a more community-oriented system. Furthermore, her experiment aimed to change the way we think about academic publishing and peer review away from ‘a system focused on the production and dissemination of individual products to imagining it as a system focused more broadly on facilitating the processes of scholarly work’ (Fitzpatrick 2011: 11). Striphas similarly argues that we need to engage with peer review—as a specific fixture of scholarly communication—more creatively in order to explore its future. His wiki, functioning as a form of pre-publication review, is a good example of that, as well as comprising an investigation into more communal forms of writing, questioning the individual author (Striphas 2011). Hall and his colleagues explored the rethinking of the book, authorship and authority in OHP’s Liquid and Living Books series, which are books published using wikis that are available on a read/write basis. With this open, collaborative, and distributed way of publishing OHP endeavours to raise ‘all sorts of interesting questions for ideas of academic authorship, fair use, quality control, accreditation, peer-review, copyright, Intellectual Property, and content creation’ (Hall 2008b).

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 But radical open access also involves the critique of openness as a concept and the practices of openness themselves. This is of course something that Tkacz, as I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, sees as missing in open projects, where he feels there has been too little reflection on the concept of openness and on its specific projects. What radical open access projects share, however, is a common aim to emphasise that there are ways for open access not to be simply a neoliberal or even an economic issue. Instead, they explore open access as a concept and practice based on experimentation, sharing and community, among other things. We can see this in Fitzpatrick’s aim to shift the discourse on the way we perceive open access away from a focus on costs to a focus on values (2012a); but we can also see this in Striphas ongoing critical exploration of the drawbacks and benefits of his own open research projects, where he sees his Differences & Repetitions wiki not as ‘a model’ but as a ‘thing to think with’ (2011). In this respect the engagement of radical open access with openness is very similar to a specific vision of open politics where politics can and needs to be rethought in an ongoing manner, adapting to new contexts and conditions, functioning as a floating signifier. According to Étienne Balibar, for instance, a more interesting and radical notion of politics involves focusing on the process of the democratisation of democracy itself, thus turning democracy into a form of continuous struggle or critical self-reflection. Democracy is not an established reality, nor is it a mere ideal; it is rather a permanent struggle for democratisation (Balibar 2008). And in this respect open access can and should be understood in similar terms: not as a homogeneous project striving to become a dominating model or force; not as a thing, an object, or a model with pre-described meaning or ideology, but as a project with an unknown outcome, as an ongoing series of critical struggles. And this is exactly why we cannot pin down open (nor radical open access) as a concept, but instead need to leave it open: open to otherness and difference, and open to adapt to different circumstances. To explore this idea of open politics in relation to open access more in depth, it will be helpful to look at the work of Gary Hall, who has written extensively on this subject.

5.2.2.5 Radical Open Politics

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Hall, in his always already contingent conception of open politics, engages with the work of media theorist Mark Poster, to think through what (an open) politics might be, which he formulates in the context of this theoretical exchange as a ‘hypercyberdemocracy’. Similar to Balibar, Hall’s conception of openness and open politics is not one that should be conceptualised as a project or a model. He warns, for instance, that when it comes to politics on the Internet, we should be cautious about forms of predetermined politics in which ‘politics would be reduced to just the rolling out of a political plan, project, or program that is already known and decided upon in advance’ (Hall 2008a: 36). This would close down what politics is, and what it means to be political, without giving space to the potential of the new and the experimental. As Hall states, in such a scenario ‘there would be no responsible or ethical opening to the future, the unknown, uncertain, unseen, and unexpected’ (2008a: 36). Hall thus argues for the development of new, specific and singular theories of politics—especially concerning the politics of digital media; theories in which politics is responsive to the context and developments it encounters (such as those described in Poster’s account of cyberdemocracy), where these have the potential to alter both our politics and our understanding and analysis of digital culture (2008a: 158–159). Hall points out that in Poster’s essay, this contextual connection comes to the fore in, among other things, his argument toward the intrinsic connection between humans and technology. Hall extends this argumentation—referring to Stiegler’s idea of originary technology and Derrida’s concept of the technological condition—by explaining that political subjects are continuously constituted by the political networks in which they interact and vice versa. Since ‘the human is always already constituted in and by a relation with technology’ (Hall 2008a: 178), this means we are already cyborgs before we interact with Internet politics. For Hall, cyberdemocracy emerges as a potential space for new, ‘unthought’ forms of democracy, where ‘in order to understand the politics of the Internet we need to remain open to the possibility of a form of politics that is “something other than democracy” as we can currently conceive it’ (2008a: 179–180).

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Such a conception of open politics runs into a number of challenges as for many embracing such a position or way of thinking and practicing might be to risk too much, not least because it has the potential ultimately to place in question what we have come to understand as democracy. In this sense, as Hall claims, many critics hold on to conventional conceptions of (Internet) politics and democracy, ‘including ideas that view it in terms of technological determinism, citizenship, the public sphere, and democracy’ (2008a: 182). In this sense Hall and Poster go further than Balibar. For Balibar, rethinking politics as a process is still seen as a ‘democratisation of democracy’, where we can end being caught up in a framework of change that necessarily needs to be more democratic, instead of thinking out of the democratic box. Hall eventually argues, beyond, but at the same time with, Poster (whilst pointing to the ‘modernistic’ aspects that remain part of Poster’s politics), that we need to be open to both politics and hyperpolitics—which are not easily disconnected—where hyperpolitics ‘names a refusal to consider the question of politics as closed or decided in advance, and a concomitant willingness to open up an unconditional space for thinking about politics and the political “beyond” the way in which they have been conventionally conceived—a thinking of politics which is more than politics, while still being political’ (2008a: 197–198).

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Applying this argumentation to the specific politics of open access publishing and archiving, Hall states that it is too easy to see open access as merely an extension of neoliberalism, which it necessarily is or can be, when it can also be conceived as a progressive cyberutopian democratic concept. However, Hall is not interested in exploring open access along either of these lines as the two sides of the digital debate, which as we argued before, are not so easily distinguished in the form of a dialectic. He is concerned, not so much with attaching pre-existing political labels to open access publishing, as in the potential of open access and of Internet politics ‘to resist and reconfigure the very nature of politics as we currently understand it, its basis in notions of citizenship, the public sphere, democracy, and so on’ (Hall 2008a: 195). This focus on a ‘politics of undecidability’ doesn’t mean though that we do not need to make decisions, or don’t need to cut – and this is where the opposition of openness versus closure again becomes untenable as they are intrinsically two sides of the same coin. By the same token, while Hall does not offer a fully-fledged politics, he nonetheless insists that we need to be political, as we still need to make affirmative, practical and ethical political decisions (2008a: 196–197). And through these decisions we need to imagine, invent and experiment with new forms of politics, by asking questions and remaining open towards, our notions of politics, scholarship, authorship and, in this context specifically, with the book. As Hall concludes, with respect to a cultural studies politics, ‘as such, digitization and open access represent an opportunity, a chance, a risk, for the (re)politicization—or, better, hyperpoliticization—of cultural studies; a reactivization of the antagonistic dimension that is precisely what cultural studies’ politics is’ (2008a: 203).

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 Hall is not the only one who is exploring such ideas of openness and experimentation in relation to the political in an academic context. In his influential book The University in Ruins, Readings formulated a similarly forceful argument focused on openness (though not specifically on open access) and experimentation in his exploration of the ideal type of the University of Thought, which he envisions as an alternative to the University of Excellence. As he puts it, ‘What I would like to suggest is that we recognise that, with the decline of the nation-state, the University has become an open and flexible system and that we should try to replace the empty idea of excellence with the empty name of Thought’ (Readings 1996: 3). Readings argues that the original cultural mission that determined the logic of the university in the past has been declining, producing a situation where from a connection to the nation state (producing and sustaining an idea of national culture) it has become a transnational bureaucratic company following the discourse of excellence and accountability (1996: 11). From this position Readings points out that we should let go of the idea that the university has a social mission connected to cultural identity, when ‘the notion of culture ceases to mean anything vital for the University as a whole’ and ‘culture no longer matters as an idea for the institution’ (1996: 90–91). As he states, introducing new referents won’t do the university any good; rather it is important that the university provides a context where judgement towards cultural value as well as to the value and meaning of the university itself is left open. In this de-referentialised space that the university then becomes, Readings suggests we can start to think notions of community and communication differently, and thus begin to envision them as places for radical dissensus (1996: 167). We need a community without a common identity, which consists of singularities, not of subjects. In this respect we can’t refer to an idea outside of ourselves and the university for a community’s justification; instead, we need to take responsibility for our immediate actions here, in relation to our present contextualized practices. Readings thus reiterates that we need to keep the question of evaluation open. However, just as in the thinking of Hall (and Barad), this does not absolve us from the responsibility of making cuts, a necessity Readings formulates as the need to make judgments about issues of values. At the same time, Readings does not see these judgments as final, as they themselves are part of an ongoing critique and discussion: ‘Value is a question of judgment, a question whose answers must continually be discussed’ (1996: 134). Knowledge for Readings then becomes a permanent question, where ‘Thought does not function as an answer but as a question’ (Readings 1996: 159–160). He is thus interested in conditions of openness and decidedness in higher education that enable agonism and heteronomous communities of dissent. This comes to the fore when he argues that disciplinary structures should be rethought and reconfigured periodically; they should remain open to ensure disciplinarity remains a permanent question (Readings 1996: 177). In Readings’ vision these communities of dissent are also non-humanist in their basic outlook, where they profess an obligation to nonhuman otherness. As he states: ‘to speak of obligation is to engage with an ethics in which the human subject is no longer a unique point of reference. The obligation is not to other humans but to the condition of things, ta pragmata’ (Readings 1996: 187).

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 What these two readings of openness in an academic context by Hall and Readings show is the importance of remaining open to, and affirmatively exploring new forms of, open politics, while still taking responsibility for the decisions and value judgments we need to make as part of these experiments. Experimentation in this respect can be seen as a form of ongoing critique. This is also the way experimentation is being explored in forms of radical open access, I would argue, where it serves as a means to re-perform our existing institutions and scholarly practices in a more ethical and responsible way. Experimentation thus stands at the basis of a rethinking of scholarly communication and the university in general, and can even potentially be seen as a means to rethink politics itself too. For instance, by experimenting in an open way with the idea and the concept of the book, but also with the materiality and the system of material production surrounding it—which includes our ideas of the material and materiality—we can ask important questions concerning authorship, the fixity of the text, quality, authority and responsibility; issues that lie at the basis of what scholarship is and what the functions of the university should be. Radical open access, as an affirmative and experimental practice, can therefore be seen as an effort towards the deconstruction of the object-formation and commodification of the book, which is maintained by the print-based institutions of material production as well as by our own repetitive and consolidating scholarly communication practices. It can be seen as a political and ethical effort to re-perform these stabilisations (Derrida et al. 2003: 86, Hall 2008a: 76).[21]

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 In the previous passages I have explored open access, and in specific forms of radical open access book publishing, as affirmative and continuous strategies directed toward rethinking our market-based publishing institutions and our own academic research practices, as well as the object formation that takes part through forms of academic capitalism. Although open access, in its neoliberal guise, also has the potential to contribute to this object formation, this chapter has made a plea for reclaiming open access by focusing: on its potential to critically re-perform our print-based institutions and practices; and on its potential to experiment with new ideas of politics, scholarly communication, the university, and the book. Now is precisely the time to focus on a different discourse of openness—similar to reframing the historical discourse on the book as an object, as discussed in the previous chapter—to emphasise these other aspects of openness, and the potential for change it also inhibits, and to encourage a diversity of experiments with open access books.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 Experimentation is essential here, not only as an integral aspect of forms of radical open access, but also as a strategy on its own to break-through the material structures and practices surrounding the object-formation of the book. As Kember has written, ‘Experimenting with academic writing and publishing is a form of political intervention, a direct engagement with the underlying issues of privatization and marketization in academia’ (2014). To explore this concept of experimentation in more depth, however, I want to distinguish it from neoliberal notions of innovation. I want to do so because, as with open access, the motives, values, as well as the goals that lie behind these two concepts differ fundamentally. (For instance, the undecidedness (or openness) towards its outcomes can be seen as an important aspect of experiments with radical open access.) In what follows I therefore want to differentiate the business rhetoric of innovation that accompanies the university of excellence and more neoliberal visions of openness, from the vision of experimentation as promoted from within cultural studies, among other fields. The latter vision that will be illustrated by a selection of research and publishing efforts that specifically explore experimentation as a discourse and practice of critique, especially with respect to the current system of scholarly object-formation.

Page 29

Source: http://www.openreflections.org/?page_id=109