THES Harnad vs Fuller debate, marketing of ideas on line Edward Vielmetti 18 May 1995 13:13 UTC

Date: Mon, 15 May 1995 16:14:43 CDT
From: Edward Vielmetti <emv@Mail.Coast.NET>
Subject: THES Harnad vs Fuller debate, marketing of ideas on line
To: Steve Fuller

Thanks for your reasoned critique of Stevan Harnad's "Post-gutenberg

Having once believed a bit too strongly in the mythos of the Internet
as a tool for transcending space and time, I am now of the opinion
- having learned the hard way, with 1000s of e-mail messages more
to read than I was able to answer, and abandoning them unread
and unanswered - that it is much less of a suitable medium for
either scholarship or research than it once might have seemed to

The naive faith that simply because something exists electronically
and can be recalled at will means that it has been "published" is
easily seen to be absurd, when you realize that hundreds of millions
of other random documents of all possible combinations of truth,
lies, and relevance have also been published in the same manner.
Selecting the one bit of writing that the author has self-determined
to be scholarly (and who has marketed it shamelessly as such) does
not in and of itself mean that you have engaged in scholarship,
especially when authors are empowered to be editors and reviewers
of their own work.  Careful editing of fevered intentions and rapid
typing of well-worn critiques can easily crowd out new viewpoints
(cf. Gresham's Law, "bad money drives out good", describing the process
where inferior coinage newly minted causes old good coins to be
removed from circulation).

This poor medium does not allow me to sketch out for you the notes on
my blotter, the constructions of the "web" that would variously allow
one document among many in it to be either emphasized and made prominent
among many or the careful hypertext editing that can take a careful
well-written critique and turn it into a footnote among footnotes.
The hypertext architect blithely blazing their own trail through a
thicket of texts has much more say in the presentation of an argument
than the same author hemmed in by an editor who cuts them down to
size and shape and leaves room for refutation on the facing page.

I cannot disagree with Stevan Harnad because I am not a publishable
author, not by his standards nor by the academic standards in which
he seeks his status.  This message will get flung out to some smallish
group which I have contributed to before (PACS-L) and then will evaporate
into the mists of network history, half remembered by a few and
glossed over by others.  Had I the proper motivations (per Harnad)
I would go back through all archives of all articles I had ever
written, plus the thousands of messages saved and sent and unread,
and spew them all out onto the net as scholarship - but you know,
life it is too short for all that typing, and there has to be something
more to the process of collective discourse and learning than mad typing
all hunched over a keyboard into the late hours.

Edward Vielmetti, Ann Arbor MI

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