Stuck between a paywall and equality

When I graduated with my PhD in 2016, I received offers to publish in various journals and I even have a book I’m writing. I am not completely committed to any of it.

What?!

I know.

Believe me, in this world of academic “publish or perish” I am not ungrateful and recognize my privilege in this. Anyone would jump at this, unless they think like me. I don’t create knowledge to sell journals, magazines, or subscriptions for some publishing house. I create for my fellow humans.

I am not a religious person, so this is not in a religious sense, but I have been privileged with circumstances, biological and societal, that led to experiences that nurtured my critical thinking and intelligence. I don’t wish to capitalize on that. None of this is what I truly earned so it wouldn’t be right for me to make knowledge that is not for everyone to receive.

I am committed to publishing my full dissertation and any writings of mine on my website, or in ways where they are openly accessible to others. Granted, this might be a delayed release so I can publish additional material off of my findings, but ultimately I don’t want my creations to be behind paywalls. My work is so personal to me. This is my art. This is my activism.

I did publish one article in a CASE magazine, but was insistent on this part of the contract:

“CASE agrees to identify Author/Assignor as the author of Work, and also to grant Assignor in perpetuity a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce by any means Work or parts of it solely for Assignor’s own personal use or as workshop handouts if the following copyright notice is placed on Work by Assignor: Copyright © 2015 Council for Advancement and Support of Education. All rights reserved. Used by permission.”

It wasn’t as perfect of a distribution option as I’d preferred, but better than many publishers include.

So, how do you all do it? How do you publish and still stand for free knowledge?

Education is a human right denied to many. That statement of mine was an unpopular one with faculty members at my private, Jesuit graduate school. I was rather surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.

Free knowledge is a radical act. It is political. It is absolutely political to believe in free knowledge.
-Katherine Maher (Source Code Berlin)

This is why I spend much of my time editing Wikipedia. Education equality is my passion, my activism.

I’m an academic and I use Wikipedia

Ok, friends, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. It’s time to move on. Everybody does it. I’ve seen colleagues do much worse. We all secretly do it, but are sure our colleagues will judge us for it.

I am an academic and I read and contribute to Wikipedia.

No one has unfriended me. I don’t have to wear a scarlet W around campus. I have kept my honors. Heck, I even am a visiting scholar because I contribute to Wikipedia.

Why am I saying this?

Because tonight I read a study about a study completed at two public Spanish universities (Aibar, E., Lladós-Masllorens, J., Meseguer-Artola, A., Minguillón, J., & Lerga, M. (2014). Wikipedia at university: what faculty think and do about it. The Electronic Library. 33(4). 668-683. doi: 10.1108/EL-12-2-2013-0217) – both relatively new and one of them was online only. The faculty used Wikipedia but only for subjects that were not in their primary field. Academics in STEM fields were more comfortable using Wikipedia for their scholarship and teaching. “So-called soft-science academics” were more skeptical.

Oh, my fellow social scientists, own up to it. You use Wikipedia. If you don’t, you should. What does this say about your bias? Go on. Go reflect on your actions and if your actions of judging Wikipedia/cloaking your true feelings are 1. valid and 2. really working toward the Truth we seek on the daily.

Did you know your students could learn in a collaborative environment where you don’t have to force inorganic collaboration? Pedagogical application is receiving mixed reviews in the literature. Why? Because many of those respondents are simply theorizing on how teaching with Wikipedia would be based on their assumptions about what Wikipedia is.

Wikipedia is “a new and powerful channel for the public communication of science.” Isn’t that what we want? Someone to read our work and to further scholarship? What are you waiting for? Give contributing to Wikipedia a chance, and what do you know, you might even let your hair down and teach with it next semester!

I’ll even volunteer to get you started.

I’m a visiting scholar!

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I am very excited to announce I was selected to be a visiting scholar with San Francisco State University. The goal of my position is to use the library resources available to me through SFSU to improve content on Wikipedia regarding disability. This includes art, culture, history, and so much more. The directors at the Longmore Institute already created a list of potential topics for me to examine.

Here’s the information about the role:

Historian and activist Paul K. Longmore founded the Institute on Disability at SFSU in 1996. When he passed away in 2010, the university created an endowment for the Institute and renamed it in his honor. It undertakes projects that work to challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes of disability by showcasing disabled people’s strength, ingenuity, and originality. Its public education and cultural events connect the Bay Area’s vibrant disability communities and the general public with faculty and students at SF State to fight disability stigma with disability culture.

Already I have so much to add! I am using my old pal, Scrivener, to collect the information before I make edits. I love Scrivener’s functions, which allow me to search my literature research notes, which will ultimately allow me to improve numerous articles with each source I find.

Oh! Did you know you can edit Wikipedia too? It not only helps build and improve the free, quality knowledge available on the Internet, it’s a great free time activity too – addictive, and habit-forming, but [generally] not harmful to your health. 🙂 Feel free to see what I’m up to on Wikipedia.

Locked out by paywalls

As a lifelong university student, I have never been without scholarly articles and quality information. I remember starting college when the World Wide Web was still young and reading articles online for the first time. Forget homework! I had my nose in some research article or op-ed piece about the desperate state of something. I love learning.

But so do many other people. They just don’t have equal access to information as I do…or did. Now I’m locked out. My guilty pleasure of swiftly replacing citations on Wikipedia with more valid sources is now more challenging.

What is the difference between a valid source and what I can find just by googling it? Well, published articles in journals have hefty weight. Most are peer reviewed and some are juried, so the content cannot be too ‘creative’ or far from the ‘truth’. On the other hand, people can say anything on the Internet. I can say I’m a dog, and you’d have to believe me. I could also say I have purple spots and ride a pineapple. Or take some of the election 2016 content. You get the point.

Being that anyone on the Internet can say anything, providing free, quality knowledge to people can be a challenge. This hits me right at my core beliefs: education and equity.

We are insanely privileged. We all may fuss about our clothes, our houses, or our cars, but we have access to quality knowledge. We have books in our homes. We have libraries. We have Internet access. Education is a human right, but only accessible to the privileged.

I am trying to change that. I hope you do too. Instead of just reading Wikipedia from now on, make an edit each time you read. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts. We can provide a free, quality education through Wikipedia.

If you can’t edit, keep me editing! Consider donating to help me purchase remote access to my alma maters’s databases so I can keep updating those citations. I greatly appreciate it!