I had a somewhat embarrassing experience in the blogosphere on Friday, carrying over briefly to the twitterverse. It's a good example of how what Michel Foucault called "enunciative modality"—the manner of speaking or way of discussion in an academic discipline—conditions who gets to participate in discussions.
On Wednesday, Jerry Davis had published a post called "Is 'Public Intellectual' Oxymoronic" in which he criticized the intellectual abilities of, well, the public (represented by the commenters on the Guardian's website) and the researchers and journal editors (of especially open access journals) who cater to them. In the discussion that followed, there were people who defended both open access journals and the public, some in great detail. I'll write another post on the substance of the discussion; this morning I want to focus on how it ended.
The paper that Davis had chosen as an example of good research, not published in an open-access journal and not properly appreciated by the public, had naturally been the focus of the discussion. Steve Morgan, for example, had written a long comment pointing out flaws in the paper that should, he argued, have been apparent to the careful reviewers that Davis had been, well, bragging about (he had himself been the editor of the paper he was promoting). In response, one of its authors, Balazs Kovacs said something that I found very strange. Post-publication discussion of papers, he said, can be
really taxing on the authors. That is, if someone posts a comment / doubt about your paper, you as an author need to address that otherwise the last public record will be an unanswered doubt. This obligation to reply any future comments, however, means that the process never ends. And that is not something I look forward to. I am a kind of person who gets tired of a project during the publication process (I guess I’m not alone!). The main reason that I love getting a paper published is that then I can close the process and move on to other new and exciting projects. The key is “moving on.” The fact that in such public debates of my previously published papers I’d need to go back to old stuff, essentially takes away the biggest satisfaction I derive from publishing a paper. (February 28, 2014 at 8:41 pm
Now, first of all, the paper has just been published. But you can imagine how people like me, who believe that good research is all in the criticism and replication of published results, not in their mere production and publication, would find it disappointing to find this kind of comment made by an author of an article in, literally, the top journal in the field.
I expressed my disappointment in a comment, as did an anonymous commenter, who, as I recall, suggested sarcastically that, s/he guessed, Kovacs would be happy if no one cited the paper in the future too. I have to recall that comment because, as with my own comment, it drew the ire of not only Jerry Davis but also someone identifying herself as Lisa
and with some kind of connection to ASQ*, and finally caused Brayden King to delete it. For the record, I thought the sarcasm was well-placed. Kovacs' unwillingness to discuss his own recently published results was silly and deserved ridicule. Not long after, in any case, Brayden closed the comments altogether, saying that I, specifically, had "hijacked" the thread. I was a bit taken aback by this, all the more so when I saw that Brayden had explained his actions on Twitter as being necessitated by "the trolls moving in". Needless to say, I don't like being called a troll, but I'll leave it to anyone who is interested to determine whether or not they think that's what I am.
I'm out of time (in fact I've run over) this morning and will have to continue this on Wednesday. In her reprimand, Lisa asked me to "check myself"; in an email correspondence, Brayden has suggested that I be more careful on the internet in the future. These people, I will argue, have drawn way too fine a line between criticism and trolling. That line needs to be much thicker at OrgTheory and, I'll suggest, in organization studies in general. Like our skin.
*It turns out that I'm probably wrong about this. I had read her as saying she had published the Kovacs and Sharkey paper, but it is more likely that she was simply putting herself in their shoes.