Open Access

It seems to me as though the debate revolving around open access is a debate between the symbolization of “free content” in a capitalist system and the incongruity of capitalism itself and intellectual property. The first thing we need to do is establish terms–effectively we have two terms implied by open access: there are closed access and open access journals. Closed access or course refers to the “pay” schemes of most scholarly journal, creating an industry.

The main difference between closed and open access journals is for me rooted in the difference between commodity and intellectual property. A commodity, as defined to us first by Karl Ponanyi in the sixties, is something that is produced for the purposes of consumption. A non-commodity, however, is something that is not produced, such as “land” or “labor.” As regards intellectual property, we must now ask the question: is intellectual property a commodity? As such, intellectual property is something, as far as I am concerned, not captured in the idea of something “produced.” Sure, intellectual property is a production process; it is produced, but not in the same sense as a bottle of shampoo.

Intellectual property is a process is more akin to an image created by the forces of collaboration that subject enters into than it is an opaque product. In this sense, there is no specific author to intellectual property, but a consortium of authors from which the “creator” of any said unit of intellectual property draws. Intellectual property extracts new histories from old facts. Intellectual property is most certainly about ideas, but it is not about the commodifiable unit of information that contemporary ownership schemes wish to assign to it.

Consider the genre of advertising, certainly a knowledge producing discourse. An advertiser would never think to include images and/or phases from a competitor’s imagery; this would result in a lawsuit. Scholarship, on the other hand, is full of direct extractions from those one would “oppose” or those who would seek to outdo one’s own scholarly vogue. At any rate, “quoting” ones adversaries in advertisement results in advertising for one’s adversaries. This is the definition of “bad press is good press,” the idea that any attention nowadays is good.

Open access seems natural to the field of intellectual property, save one caveat: legitimacy. Closed access journals are considered more legitimate than their “free” counterparts. This is a psychological category rooted in faith. It is through faith that subjects accept the idea that a paid journal is more legitimate than one that is unpaid. One problem I see emerging with this new paradigm: the process of legitimization through payment has or is dissolving with no alternative.

What’s the Point?

Dear reader,

I’m sitting here exhausted from the ills I managed to contract recently–a headache that won’t let me sleep, fatigue that won’t let me think, and nausea that won’t let me eat. I cannot do any of my three favorite things to do. And yet, although I find myself in an effective state of inactivity, I nonetheless find it easier to deal with my reality by attempting to distract myself with a confession. And we all know a confession is the most therapeutic act after transgression, but I am not sure if what follows amounts to a combination of the two.

I have found my thoughts wandering to despair recently, corroding the image I had of what earning a PhD would be. It’s a general despair, not one of any specific nature, but perhaps not a general one either. That would be inaccurate. It is a specific despair, but one I cannot recognize. I project things onto it. I project phantoms like hurricanes or despots onto it, but none of the projections capture my despair. Am I just going through some kind of middle-PhD crisis? I figure it can’t be that weak. But I figure it is that weak; just don’t take what follows as pure, as a representation.

I hate the idea of writing. I sat down the other day to work on an assignment due tomorrow, and on the wings of Mercury, I leapt over two hours of time and told myself that, despite no objective sign of any work done, I had nonetheless made progress in thought. Maybe I did; I don’t remember. But the idea of writing engenders in me such a ferocious repulsion of late, I have found myself compensating in so many pathetic ways, the above of which is an excellent example.  It’s like every time I think I’ll sit down and write, my compulsion turns on itself because we need the future if we want anything to matter, and there is no future when the worst has already happened. And it has–we only have to watch the worst unfold.

I am unsure if I even hate anything anymore. A friend of mine and I joked recently that even the coming apocalypse is boring. You know? The coming apocalypse in which humanity ends not in flames (well it will when we launch nuclear missiles against each other), but in a Wall Street scandal of such a scale due to its algorithmic reach that production simply cannot reproduce itself in the wake of its disruption. Supply chains will sputter to a halt. Then war. But everything is boring now, so the war will probably be a series of cyber hacks from nerds. Heroes don’t exist anymore.

I just don’t know if I should laugh, cry, scream in rage, or drool. Perhaps an emoji? That just doesn’t matter.


Blog Post 2 – Ethics

The Office of Research Integrity’s beginnings occurred in the 80s when Al Gore first raised the issue of falsification of data with several major institutes. The institute centralized the responsibility for reviewing suspected false public health research. It is interesting to note when one checks the credentials of the directors of this program, the integrity of this institution’s administration seems to be intact. As we have seen in many other government institutional appointments under our current administration, the appointee lacks any competence in his or her post. This of course will only occur as long as this particular institution does not threaten the administration’s efforts in an overt way.

At any rate the consequence for ethics and morality under such an administration is that the effectiveness of an institution such as ORI dwindles. Perhaps they still maintain some power over the aim of research, i.e. one can not falsify effective research. For an institution such as the EPA, its luck is not so great. Its purpose has been hijacked in the service of business. But it is these institutions that provide the very basis of our moral and ethical principles, so it is not just the undermining of morality, but of the very coordinates that provide for its emergence in the first place.

Terror and Buffoonery

The Nathan Bedford Forrest statue facing I-65 just outside of Nashville Tennessee crystallizes in its idolatry the ideology of white supremacy. The sculpture depicts a horse-mounted confederate general rearing his horse, wielding a pistol and a sword, typical of many confederate statues, but in an incredibly cartoonish style. Most confederate statues emerged from the neo-classical style, imitating ancient Greek statues in style and proportion (Washington Post), and most emerged during the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights movement (John Oliver). Before the statues embodied a false sense of patriotism that emerged from the change in meaning of the image of confederate leaders, i.e. from the embodiment of traitors to the embodiment of containers of American tradition, it was the hood that carried meaning for white nationalists.

I would like to suggest that the movement from hood to statue to the current backlash over their removal map onto three corresponding versions of disavowal introduced by Slavoj Zizek in his essay “The Totalitarian Invitation to Enjoyment.” Normal, manipulative, and fetishistic form his triad of disavowals. Normal disavowal regards the hood. It corresponds to the effectiveness of the mask (or in our case a hood) over the bearer in traditional idolatry. For example, a child may one day be disappointed to find out his father has been posing as Santa all along, but then he may have greater enjoyment adopting a position of faith or commitment to the ritual for his niece. The lesson of this tale, is that the symbol, the mask of Santa is of greater importance than the bearer. The hood gave white nationalists special powers.

The next form of disavowal is manipulative and it corresponds to the “elite” who supposedly “pull the strings” of the greater social population. This is where the erection of cynical statues enters the stage, for it is becoming common knowledge that they emerged not during the civil war as the defense of tradition argument would imply, but during periods of time when the social hegemony was in jeopardy. That is to say, the erectors of the statues clearly did not believe in the traditional ethos with which they associated their sculptures; they knew the effect was a rewriting of tradition to obscure the suppression of history. However, as we have seen, the second the statues come into question, southern elites and conservatives rush to defend the false tradition; they believe more than those they fool, their “base.”

The third form of disavowal corresponds to the direct embodiment of the object through the subject, which means that the subject is the direct embodiment of “the party,” according to Zizek. In our case it is white supremecy. This means that a white supremacist knows he is just a person like any other, but nonetheless considers himself to be made of something special. It makes sense in the age of hyper-individualism and far right explosions in popularity. Is not this the basic call to action nowadays? Do we not think of ourselves as just people, atomized individuals, while simultaneously the center of our own universe (social media)? And is this not the Nathan Bedford Forrest sculpture’s ethos—a multimedia ultra conservative memorial depicting a buffoonish clown, a terrorist-father, a source of authority and rebellion?


Slavoj Zizek. The Totalitarian Invitation to Enjoyment. Qui Parle. Vol. 5, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 1991), pp. 73-100