Humane Metrics/Metrics Noir (meson press)

Introduction

That Elsevier/RELX group has now rebranded itself as a “global provider of information and analytics,” seems indicative of the way academic publishing is increasingly moving into the highly profitable data analytics market. Here the linking of journals and scholarly social networks to the data underlying them through article level metrics, citation and download figures, usage statistics, ratings and altmetrics, serves as an opportunity to further extract value from the relationalities of scholarly publishing. Connect this to the demand of neoliberal governments for bibliometrics to index and rank scholars and their universities in order to measure impact and excellence, and enable accountability and transparency as part of national research assessment exercises, and it is clear that the logic of calculation and its accompanying mechanisms of surveillance and control is now omnipresent in scholarly publishing—and this includes requirements towards researchers to measure and monitor themselves as “brands.”

The papers in this panel will ask, what are the implications of this state of affairs for scholarship and for the value of expertise and democratic judgement? Is it indeed the case that, as Chris Newfield argues “with indicators ascendant over judgment itself, and tied to complicated, obscure, or proprietary procedures, metrics can pacify the interpretive powers of the public and professionals alike”? Yet the authors of this panel will also explore strategies for pushing back against the metrification of scholarship and publishing.

How counterproductive the impact of metrics on academic life actually is, is outlined by Christopher Long in his paper “Toxicity, Metrics, and Academic Life.” Drawing on personal experiences of academics as well as on the work of Christie Dotson and Zach Kaiser, Long points out that “higher education has a culture problem that is at once historical, structural, and interpersonal”–and needs to be addressed urgently. To confront the toxic culture of higher education, Long and the HuMetricsHSS Initiative propose a value-based “metric” framework around values such as equity, openness, collegiality, quality, and community, which not only functions as a checkpoint for self-reflection, but also as a starting point for better academic practices and outputs.

The panel concludes–and opens discussion–with Eileen Joy’s “‘An Instrument for Adoration’: A Mini-Manifesto Against Metrics for the Humanities (To Be Elaborated Upon at a Further Date).” In ten theses, Joy not only relentlessly reveals how inappropriate and harmful metrics are for the Humanities, but also resolutely calls for resistance against the tyranny of academic metrification and the Neoliberal University.

The pamphlet that accompanies this panel includes the paper “Digital Impact: New Rating Cultures Challenge Academic Science”, in which Martina Franzen looks into the rapid rise of altmetrics in times of a digital economy characterized by ubiquitous reciprocal evaluation practices. Following Paul Wouters and Rodrigo Costas, Franzen characterizes altmetrics as “narcissistic technologies,” which first and foremost measure popularity and the marketing success of an author (and not the quality of her publications). That authors respond to this development by gaming the system, should, Franzen states, “be viewed as a successful adaption to misguided indicators.” What is beyond question is that this constant pursuit of maximum reach and impact will affect the quality of the knowledge produced.

meson press

Martina Franzen studied sociology, philosophy, and German Literature and Language Studies at the University Bremen and the Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel. She received her PhD in sociology from the University of Bielefeld in 2010. From 2009 to 2014 she was a research fellow and project leader at the faculty of sociology at the University of Bielefeld. Since June 2014 she is a research fellow in the project group Science Policy Studies Studies at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. Her research area is the relationship of science, the media, and the public, currently with an emphasis on the consequences of the digital turn in science and research. 

Eileen A. Joy is a specialist in Old English literary studies and cultural studies, as well as a para-academic rogue drone-strike machine, and a publisher, with a wide variety of publications in poetry and poetics, intellectual history, ethics, affects, embodiments, queer studies, object/thing studies, the ecological, post/humanisms, and scholarly communications. Her many books include The Postmodern Beowulf (West Virginia, 2007), Cultural Studies of the Modern Middle Ages (Palgrave, 2007),Speculative Medievalisms: A Discography (punctum, 2012), On Style: An Atelier (punctum, 2013), and Fragments for a History of a Vanishing Humanism (Ohio State, 2016), She is also Founding Co-Editor of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies and Founding Director of punctum books: spontaneous acts of scholarly combustion.

Christopher P. Long is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. His extensive publications in Ancient Greek and Contemporary Continental Philosophy include four books: The Ethics of Ontology (SUNY 2004), Aristotle On the Nature of Truth (Cambridge 2010), Socratic and Platonic Political Philosophy: Practicing a Politics of Reading (Cambridge 2014), and Reiner Schürmann and the Poetics of Politics (Punctum 2018). He is co-founder of the Public Philosophy Journal (http://publicphilosophyjournal.org), editor of the Journal for General Education, and a co-PI for the Mellon Funded HuMetricsHSS initiative (http://humetricshss.org). To learn more about his administrative approach and his recent research in philosophy, digital scholarly communication, and higher education, visit his blog: www.cplong.org or reach him on Twitter @cplong.

Christopher Newfield is Professor of literature and American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Much of his research is in Critical University Studies, which links his enduring concern with humanities teaching to the study of how higher education continues to be re-shaped by social and economic forces. His most recent books on this subject are Unmaking the Public University: The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class (Harvard University Press, 2008), and Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University, 1880-1980 (Duke University Press, 2003). A new book on the post-2008 struggles of public universities to rebuild their social missions, called The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in November 2016. His current research, “Limits of the Numerical,” studies the effects of learning and research measurement on higher education, and has been awarded a 2-year NEH Collaborative Research Grant.  He served as co-PI on an NSF grant that founded a Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB, where he studied renewal energy innovation and co-authored a film, What Happened to Solar Innovation? He also writes about American intellectual and social history (The Emerson Effect, University of Chicago Press), and has co-edited Mapping Multiculturalism (University of Minnesota Press) with Avery F. Gordon.  He blogs on higher education policy at Remaking the University, and has written for the Huffington Post, Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education, WonkHE (UK), The Guardian’s Higher Education Network, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.  He teaches courses in Detective Fiction, Noir California, Contemporary U.S. Literature, Innovation Theory, and English Majoring After College.