Thursday, June 24, 2010

Writing crap

In the world of online reading, it's hard to know where the road will lead. That happened today when I found Danah Boyd's post about the academic impact of what we--meaning, loosely, academics--write.  In a conference presentation to academics focused on research output, Danah (a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society), calls it as she sees it:
If you didn't believe in the value of research, my guess is that you could game the system to maximize citations and publications. There are plenty of folks out there who do indeed write crap that they don't believe in so that they can stir up controversy and get people to pay attention to their work.
Impact doesn't necessarily have to be about the public, but it does have to be about the future. It is fundamentally about getting people to think and see the world in new ways. My hope is that we can find a way to get beyond discussing impact and generate research that does impact.
In this view of the world, impact includes writing for the public, which may actually make some research far better, more useful, more engaging.   Anne Davis writes about the unfortunate dichotomy between research and writing in her EduBlog Insights:
I have blogged very little since working on published research for the past two years. I can’t help but think all the published results would have been improved with input from the larger audience that would lead to better meaning making.
This isn't a new dialog; it's been around for as long as I can remember and all that's changed is the forum.  But perhaps a larger forum will generate more possibilities by blurring the line (for the better) between quantifiable research for the purpose of securing tenure and research that allows us to be better educators.  Or, as one of my students wrote:
(We) should be taught real world experiences from teachers (not researchers) with real world experiences. Researchers should be in educational walls, but in concert with teachers. Researchers provide a great foundation for the theory of the concepts used in the real world, while the actual teachers should provide knowledge of how to apply these concepts in real world situations. This would apply Bloom’s taxonomy by providing the knowledge, understanding and application from researchers and analysis, synthesis and evaluation from the teachers.


  1. Perfect parallel to the internet-age debate of making a product truly better and more usable (open source) vs. keeping control of the dollars, cents, distributions, usage of product.

    A bitter iPhone user

  2. It is a similar debate in some ways. And, in both cases, it seems wise to be clear about customers -- who they are, what they want, and whether they can get it better, faster, cheaper from a competitor.


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