Category: "Open Access Anthropology and Knowledge Sharing"
Egypt: Open access to online scientific journals, ebooks and encyclopedias for everybody in the whole country
It does not happen often that there a good news from Egypt where I am still living. This news here, although nearly too good to be true, is at least interesting. In January, Egypt is going to launch the Egyptian Knowledge Bank. Anybody with an Egyptian IP-address will be able to get free access to academic journals, ebooks and other publications that normally only would be available to a small circle of individuals that are affiliated with well-funded universities.
Agreements with 26 international publishing houses have already been signed. According to an official statement by the president's media office the Egyptian Knowledge Bank project would be "the largest digital library in the world".
"Our goal is to provide all Egyptians with access to world-class publications, like Nature and Encyclopedia Britannica. By providing these materials free of charge, the knowledge bank ensures that all Egyptians, no matter what their economic circumstances, will have the tools they need to excel in their education and research", Tarek Shawki, chair of the Presidential Specialized Council for Education and Scientific Research, says.
Gaining access to research materials from private journals and other for-profit online publications has long been difficult in Egyptian academic circles, according to the news site Mada Masr. While the American University in Cairo is able to pay for online journals and databases, public universities like the University of Cairo aren't able to do the same.
The agreement with publisher Elsevier, for example, "provides access to ScienceDirect, Elsevier's full-text platform for research literature and abstract and citation database Scopus. They also include Elsevier's clinical search engine ClinicalKey, and engineering reference platforms Knoveland Engineering Village. The partnership also gives Egypt's policymakers access to SciVal, meaning they will be able assess the impact of these tools, and make informed decisions on how and where to invest in research", according Elsevier.
This state-funded initiative is an interesting variation of the open access debate. So far, the efforts have been focused on making the journals itself free to access - a nearly impossible task so far, at least regarding the more prestigious journals. The growth in open access journals, at least within anthropology - is, it seems, rather caused by the establishment of new journals like HAU, Altérités or Vibrant than established ones becoming open for anybody.
Read more about the Knowledge Bank:
Egypt signs national agreement to expand access to scientific information (Elsevier, 17.11.15)
Dean Shawki: Egyptian Knowledge Bank to Widen Research, Education Opportunities (American University in Cairo, AUC, 11.11.15)
Al-Sisi orders establishment of ?Bank of Knowledge? (Daily News Egypt, 15.11.15)
Presidency launches Egyptian Knowledge Bank project (Egypt Independent, 15.11.15)
Would you like to get an overview over the most recent anthropology blog posts? The old newsticker did no longer work reliably, so I've created a new one. It is still work in progress, but so far it seems to work well. I tried to make it look more attractive, with a newspaper look, images and short excerpts with responsive design that also looks good on mobile devices. It also provides a tagcloud from all the categories that the blog authors assigned to their posts, a probably useful tool for exploring previous posts.
The feeds are updated every two hours. Have a look at the new Anthropology Newspaper here http://www.antropologi.info/feeds/
So far, 100
70 blogs are included, so far only English and German ones. I might add more languages later. Please let me know if there are other blogs that I should add or if things are not working as expected, either here in the comment field or via the contact page.
As mentioned, I'm still working on it, there is a lot more that can be done with the current set up. It was not easy to find a good solution. I was about to go for a commercial solution but then I was so happy to find the free and opensource feed aggregator FeedWordPress by "web developer, student of Philosophy, and sometime political activist" Charles Johnson. The more I more I've used the more fascinated I became by this plugin. I am also very thankful for the smart template Ocomedrev that web developer Antonio Sánchez created. I only modified it slightly.
Lots of new anthropology blogs have been started up recently, most of them have made it into the overviews here at antropologi.info: the anthropology blog newspaper http://www.antropologi.info/blog/ and the - I think - more reader-friendly anthropology blog news ticker http://www.antropologi.info/feeds/anthropology/ (if not, let me know!)
Now, I'd like to mention especially two blogs. The first one is Thomas Hylland Eriksen's blog at http://thomashyllanderiksen.net He is one of the most visible anthropologists in the public, he set up his first website already back in prehistoric 1996 (recently rebuilt and moved to http://hyllanderiksen.net). So finally, we will get more frequent updates about his work and thoughts on his blog.
Some of the recent posts include Fossil addiction: Is there a road to recovery?, Whatever happened to prog? and About Progress, where he dares to criticize the ruling rightwing-populist Progress Party in Norway. Within few hours his post stirred up a bit of controversy in the media.
The other new blog is by Sindre Bangstad at http://www.sindrebangstad.com/ I am glad he finally set up his first website. I've been following him on facebook for a while where I enjoyed his daily comments about the state of the world and the numerous interesting links he posted. His main focus is islamophobia and racism.
"Second Life is their only chance to participate in religious rituals": This seven year old post about the research by anthropologist Tom Boellstorff on the virtual world Second Life came into my mind when I heard about the new special issue "Religion in Digital Games" of the interdisciplinary Open access journal "Online. Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet".
The journal is published by the Institute of Religious Studies at the University of Heidelberg and has just been relaunched and redesigned.
Religion in online games seems to be still a new topic in the university world.
"Until now this certainly huge field of research remains mostly untapped and digital games have only recently been declared an interesting object for scholars of religion", Simone Heidbrink, Tobias Knoll, and Jan Wysocki write in their contribution "Theorizing Religion in Digital Games- Perspectives and Approaches".
As universities generally are conservative institutions, Simone Heidbrink and Tobias Knoll start their introduction with an apology for leaving established paths:
When researching a rather new, unusual or controversial topic in nowadays academia it seems to be a new kind of “tradition” to apologize in great length for doing something the scholar thinks the readerships thinks he is not supposed to study (or something equally confusing along those lines), based on the assumption that it is scientifically unworthy, insignificant or plain nonsense. That was our experience with the topic at hand. (…)
In order to follow the apparently mandatory academic ritual of apologizing and legitimizing, we would herewith like to express our deepest regrets for publishing this special issue of Online – Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet topics on “Religion and Digital Games. Multiperspective and Interdisciplinary Approaches”.
Religion plays a role in many games, as Simone Heidbrink, Tobias Knoll, Jan Wysocki show. This is also true for religious stereotypes that might be reproduced in "neglected media" like video games in more explicit forms - partly because these media are considered to be less relevant in cultural discourse and thus less subject to media critique.
They refer among others to Vít Šisler who in his research shows how Muslims are being stereotyped in different video games. The topic of the Middle East as war zone and virtual battleground has become even more significant in the post 9/11 era. Not only have the numbers of games with an objective of fighting terrorism increased significantly according to him. The stereotyping, the “othering” of the (virtual) Muslim counterpart have become even more racist as well.
Regularily, new initiatives are launched to make anthropological knowledge more accessible to the general public. A few weeks ago, PopAnth was launched - a highly ambitious project that “translates anthropological discoveries for popular consumption” as they explain:
We take anthropology’s collective knowledge and translate it for mainstream audiences, much in the way that popular science books, tv shows and trivia quizzes make even the hardest of sciences accessible. We strive to provide you with the best of anthropology in a format that makes you go, ‘Wow! I didn’t know that!’ Our cross-cultural stories aim to help you discover things about yourself and the world you live in.
That sounds - apart from the corporate PR-language - good and is exactly what we need more of in the social sciences. And already after a few weeks, there are a lot of articles about a wide range of topics about everything from backpacking, human emotions and Japanese consumers. And yes, they are all written in an easily understandable language. Yeah!
This also applies to the book reviews, where they also chose to focus on books that might be able to attract a wider non-specialized readership like Watching the English by Kate Fox or Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer.
And they’ve also set up a discussion forum.
But as a look at their first articles also reveals, this project suffers from similar shortcomings as many others we find online. It is a rather Western / US-centric endavour in the sense that the “we” that is invoked and articulated in many articles means “We Americans” or “We in the metropolitan West”. Most of the authors have an US- or Britain-based background.
In my opinion a thematic focus and stronger connections to current issues and bigger questions would benefit the site and attract more readers. The content of the articles seems to be somehow arbitrary, and their focus sometimes too narrow.
Maybe more articles are needed who ask such big questions as Edward F Fischer does in his interesting piece Can reducing our choices increase our happiness?
Another thing that struck me as typical for our time is the cry for attention, the cry for being shared and liked. Big sharing buttons everywhere, one of them even covers parts of the text, and makes it unreadable. And when we are approaching the end of the article, we get attacked by a huge popup with the message “You’ll probably get a kick of these too”.
Two years ago I looked at a similar initiative with a very similar name, and as the title of the post I chose Popular Anthropology Magazine = fail. This journal does not seem to exist anymore. All we see is a post called Welcome to Popular Anthropology Relaunched, but all the articles are gone. But there are ads for firewood and business intelligence software… …
Academic paywalls: No access to knowledge. Photo: noboder network, flickr
30 US Dollars in order to read a single academic article? Why? Is it about making money? No. “The high price is designed to maintain the barrier between academia and the outside world. Paywalls codify and commodify tacit elitism”, writes anthropologist Sarah Kendzior in Al Jazeera.
She gives a good overview of some important issues that restrict the circulation of knowledge. Most academic articles are hidden behind paywalls. People without affiliation to a well-off university that can afford to subscribe to (often overpriced) journals are denied access.
Many researchers would like the public to engage with knowledge, she writes. But many are not able to pursue that goal “due to the tyranny of academic publishers and professional norms that encourage obsequiousness and exclusion”.
In todays’s academic world, academic publishing is not about sharing knowledge:
Publishing is a strategic enterprise. It is less about the production of knowledge than where that knowledge will be held (or withheld) and what effect that has on the author’s career. New professors are awarded tenure based on their publication output, but not on the impact of their research on the world. (…)
One of the saddest moments I had in graduate school was when a professor advised me on when to publish. “You have to space out your articles by when it will benefit you professionally,” he said, when I told him I wanted to get my research out as soon as possible. “Don’t use up all your ideas before you’re on the tenure track.”
This confused me. Was I supposed to have a finite number of ideas? Was it my professional obligation to withhold them?What I did not understand is that academic publishing is not about sharing ideas. It is about removing oneself from public scrutiny while scrambling for professional security. It is about making work “count” with the few while sequestering it from the many.
Sarah Kendzior is a frequent contributor to Al Jazeera and other media. She has received lots of attention for her articles, among others about the elitist American academia and academics with salary below the poverty line (The closing of American academia) and The fallacy of the phrase, ‘the Muslim world’ where she explains why is time to retire the phrase “the Muslim world” from the Western media.
On her blog she keeps us up to date with her new publications and the reactions she has received.
She has recently received her PhD from Washington University in St Louis. The title of her thesis The Uzbek Opposition in Exile: Diaspora and Dissident Politics in the Digital Age.
“When you write [for us], please remember to write in plain English”, the editors Brian Moeran (Copenhagen Business School) and Christina Garsten (Stockholm University) ask in their editorial of the first issue:
One thing that can be said about anthropology in general is that, as a discipline, it has been blessed in the past by good writing, and by anthropologists who have been good writers. This is by no means the case nowadays, when the monograph is being ousted by the journal article, and freedom of expression by all kinds of restrictions.
In spite of all appearances to the contrary in most academic journals, it is possible to express complex ideas in simple language. Theoretical musings can be intelligible, divested of jargon.
And articles in the JBA, unlike articles in most other journals, really ought to say something that is novel, exciting, stimulating and provocative. They ought to strive to reach across to a variety of audiences. Otherwise, there isn’t much point in publishing them in the first place – unless, of course, we are going to play the citation index game, which we’re not. So there!
The journal is not meant to be interesting for researchers only. According to their selfdescription the journal staff hopes the articles may “guide business practitioners in their day-to-day working lives”. A better understanding of organizational structures and interpersonal relations, they argue, “can help in the management of personnel, workplace design, and formulation of business strategies”.
Business is understood broadly, as they explain in the editorial: Business is done both on a Norwegian oil rig or, a Peruvian craft market, a tea plantation in the Himalayan foothills, a Bulgarian rose field or on a camel train in the Saudi Arabian desert. In all those places, people engage “in practices that form many of the building blocks of anthropological theory: material culture and technology; gifts, commodities and money; labour and other forms of social exchange; (fictive) kinship, patronage, quasi-groups, and networks; rituals, symbolism and power; the development and maintenance of taste; and so on.”
The Journal of Business Anthropology adopts “a critical stance towards the commercial exploitation of academic research through the publication of overpriced journals that take advantage of under-budgeted university and educational libraries”:
By adopting a multiple format approach, it also takes a stand against current administrative evaluations of ‘academic quality’. It does not believe in the value of, although it may be obliged to take part in, citation indices. It also makes its contents entirely free. Copyright for all material published on the journal’s Open Access website remains with its authors, who may use it elsewhere as they wish.
Multi-format means there will be both traditional articles (published in traditional issues at specific intervals - two issues in 2012) as well as case studies and field reports that will be published separately as they become available. They will also be supported by blogs to enable the journal’s readers to engage in ongoing dialogues about issues arising from these writings. They also intend to run a news and information section.
One of their aims is also to counter what they describe as an “unfortunate development in the discipline of anthropology” - US-centrism.
“During the past two to three decades”, the editors write, “it seems to us that American anthropology has turned in on itself; its proponents have talked mostly to themselves and often ignored the work of those who live and work elsewhere”:
It is our abiding impression that the anthropological study of business is an American development, and that the businesses studied are themselves either American or located in the United States.
But other anthropologists in other parts of the world have also been conducting research on different aspects of business relations: for example, Norwegian herring fleets (Barth 1966), labour migration in Uganda (Elkan 1960), family firms in the Lebanon (Khalaf and Schwayri 1966), and transnational mining and the ‘corporate gift’ (Rajak 2011).
Their aim in launching the JBA is “to bring together fragmented anthropologies”. In the future, they intend to include an essay on one national or regional anthropology in each of the early issues of the JBA. “It is not simply in its methodology, but in its general approach and attitude, that anthropology needs to be holistic”.
Articles in the first issue:
Among the case studies we find A Funky-Formal Fashion Collection: Struggling for a Creative Concept in HUGO BOSS (pdf) by Kasper Tang Vangkilde.
The book review section also contains an extensive bibliography.
So far, there has been little innovation in the field of open access journal publishing. Most of them are based on traditional paper thinking. One of the few exceptions is Anthropology Reviews: Dissent and Cultural Politics (ARDAC).
It’s Open Access, Copy Left, and Peer Reviewed: Hau. Journal of Ethnographic Theory. Only ten days left, then the first issue will be available online. Yesterday, the preview (=table of contents) of the inaugural issue was posted at http://haujournal.org/
“By drawing out its potential to critically engage and challenge Western cosmological assumptions and conceptual determinations, HAU aims to provide an exciting new arena for evaluating ethnography as a daring enterprise for ‘worlding’ alien terms and forms of life, by exploiting their potential for rethinking humanity and alterity", it is stated on the journal homepage.
Many well-known anthropologists (from the US and Western Europe only, unfortunately) are among the contributors of the first issue. Will HAU become one of the most important Open Access journals in English and promote Open Access publishing or will it end up as a “One Hit Wonder” as the maybe similar journal project After Culture did?