ICTlogy.net: 11th anniversary

This should be October 21st, but it’s November 29th. Meaning: I’m more than a whole month behind celebrating ICTlogy’s 11th anniversary. I’ve like a zillion excuses to explain that oversight: pick any of them, and sure it applies to me.

But I digress. Let us first see some figures.

This year there are few comments to be made.

While the activity throughout the year has been absolutely hectic, its disperse nature has caused that it has been less reflected in the website. Among other things, my appointment as Director of Open Innovation at Fundació Jaume Bofill made that I spent less time “thinking” and spend more time “doing” things instead. And when reporting the stuff you do happens elsewhere, it is just natural that the rest of the activity, the one related to reflecting, just takes less room than usual.

Fatherhood itself and opening up a collective blog on fatherhood — Vadepares — also took away a good amount of time I used to spend on writing. The two and a half hours I used to commute to work this year turned into an hour and a half of biking, thus implying less reading too. And, hence, even less writing. Fatherhood and a little bit of exercised turned to be something better than spending so much time typing… but I somewhat regret too the trade-offs that come with the limited asset of time.

And, of course, Twitter still is transforming my/our communication and organization practices. And doing it at a level which I would have never suspected back in September 3, 2007, when I joined the social networking site.

All that said, what is more remarkable from this past year is what I call the academic paradox. This year more than ever I became aware of a tremendous mismatch between what academia does and what academia is required to do. Take that last sentence as you want: any interpretation will suit what I meant. This year more than ever I became aware that most of the things I asked to do outside of the academia where due to the fact that I was, indeed, a faculty member. But. Most of the things that society at large asked me to do because I was a faculty member where totally, absolutely and definitely worthless in an academic world.

If I keep on accepting the demands that society does to me (speak at a conference, participate in a workshop, provide advice to some institutions), I will be kicked out of academia for not performing.

If I instead turn my efforts into achieving the goals that academia sets for a scholar to be called so, I will be forced to turn my back to most demands coming from outside of the academic world. A world which, shockingly enough, pays my rent.

A very simplified scheme goes like this:

  • Part of the government pays me to teach. Most of my income comes from this agreement between my university and the government.
  • Another part of the government, and academia at large, will evaluate my performance strictly looking at my publications, output of my research. And not all my publications, but only some indexed in some specific indices.
  • Society at large will perceive me as “useful” if I answer positively to their demands, most of them falling under the category of “knowledge transmission”.

That is, I get paid for doing one thing, I am evaluated for doing another most different thing, and people will think I am of any use if I do none of the former, but yet a third kind of activity.

This is so, so broken.

Doing research on the impact of Information and Communication Technologies in Development is right, but taking part in the Global Forum on Telecentres to explain what is the state of telecentres and what could be its horizon in 2023 is a waste of time if I care for my academic career.

My government will ask me to, for instance, teach what are the technological foundations of e-government and will, on the contrary, not pay me to teach that outside of a university classroom. The government will actually think that I am wasting my time doing otherwise… even though the Parliament will ask to me speak there about e-participation. Or the Senate.

Surprisingly, my peers will recognize my value as a researcher if I publish a paper on Spanish politics… in a US journal on Spanish Culture. This very same paper — with minor differences — is absolutely worthless if presented at one of the most important gatherings on Internet and Politics in Spain. So, if my fellow citizens want to read about the research they are paying with their taxes, they will (a) have to do it in English and (b) pay (again) for it. Either that or, indirectly, they will say (though academic evaluation boards) I am a bad scholar for not publishing where I should and not where they would like to. This is schizophrenia at its purest essence.

I’ve personally dozens of examples like the preceding ones.

If you want to do the things that you think you should do as a scholar — and which most people outside of academia ask you to do —, you have to circumvent the academia and, sooner or later, most likely be kicked out of it. If you want to stay in the academia, you have to most of the times forget about doing things not-for-scholars and concentrate in what the ivory tower is demanding.

This situation is tiring and discouraging.

And sad, very sad.

The solution to the puzzle, maybe in the 12th anniversary of ICTlogy. See you then.

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7 Comments to “ICTlogy.net: 11th anniversary” »

  1. Felicitats, Isma.

    I pel que fa a la reflexió, potser la situació no és tan desencoratjadora: has de decidir si vols transformar la societat o reflexionar sobre ella. L’acadèmia, si per alguna cosa serveix, és per tenir impacte a mig termini. Si esperes que canviïn aquestes regles de joc també estàs en el mig termini. Amb sort i lluita, és clar.

    Ja ho vaig decidir fa molts anys, abandonant la universitat. Mai no me n’he penedit.

    Una abraçada i a seguir!


    • El problema és que el que m’agradaria arreglar és l’acadèmia, Boris, perquè crec fermament en la seva funció social… que considero que ara té desatesa.

      Potser aspirem a massa? :(


  2. Dear Ismael,
    It is never late to celebrate!
    All the best and many many more articles and texts!
    Separation of academia and industry is something that is unnatural. If academia works for itself, then there is no sense to exist. Also, industry will have significant problems without academia. This symbiosis is very important, although very difficult to achieve.
    Once again, congratulations and keep on!!!
    Greeting from Banja Luka and BiH!

  3. Felicidades por los 11 años y que cumplas muchos más¡¡

    Me gustaría también hacer algunos comentarios sobre la universidad y su futuro al hilo de tu entrada.

    Ahora trabajo en una universidad y no me dedico ni a dar clases ni a la investigación académica tradicional. En esta universidad hay un departamento, vamos a decir, que se encarga de transferir el conocimiento de la universidad a la sociedad. Lo hace en forma de proyectos de tal forma que la universidad se comporta como una empresa de consultoría en diversos temas. Por ejemplo, en lo que yo participo, esa transferencia se concreta en proyectos de formación en el campo de la educación. Formamos profesores de todos los niveles y ámbitos educativos (incluídos los profesores de la propia universidad) y participamos en otras acciones donde el componente informativo tiene un papel central. Trabajamos para instituciones educativas públicas y privadas. Los equipos se forman ad hoc para cada proyecto. Hay gente que se mantiene en todos los proyectos y una población flotante que incluye a profesores e investigadores de la universidad, doctorandos, estudiantes en prácticas, licenciados, gente que llega de subcontratas o gente que se contrata para un proyecto determinado. Los proyectos son transversales a las facultades y departamentos de la universidad. Por ejemplo sin un proyecto requiere de un estudio de campo preliminar, se arma un equipo con gente de psicología, sociología y economía. Si hay que levantar infraestructura digital viene gente de las ingienerías. Las evaluaciones las pueden hacer personal de la escuela de economía, etc.

    En este tipo de proyectos se está dando formación a gente más allá de la universidad con lo que la universidad es un agente activo en ese espacio del life-long learning que todo el mundo anhela pero nadie parece tener una idea concreta al respecto del cómo. Y la formación que se proporciona es radicalmente diferente a los contenidos de que ya ofrece la universidad en sus grados, másters y posgrados oficiales. No se trata de reciclar ni de reutilizar. Ni siquiera son Recuersos Educativos Abiertos ni MOOCs. Nada por el estilo.

    Considero que mi trabajo es knowledge-intensive como lo pueda ser el trabajo de cualquier profesor o investigador en cualquier universidad. Eso sí: la relación con el conocimiento es diferente. Y se investiga mucho. Lo que pasa es que el resultado no es un paper que va al peer review. A grosso modo, te diría que es como si la Fundación en la que trabajas fuera un proyecto de la universidad.

    Yo no quiero decir que este modelo sea LA solución, ni la única manera, pero desde luego me parece mucho “innovador” que cualquiera de las cosas que (no) se hacen en España.


    • Genial el proyecto que explicas, Daniel.

      No deja de ser algo chocante, sin embargo, que parezca (por lo que cuentas) un proyecto algo desvinculado (en su diseño y ejecución) de la academia, no?


      • Yo diría que sí está vinculado a la academia. Pero quizá tú estés pensando en otra cosa o tengas otra idea de vinculación.

        • Desconozco los detalles de tu proyecto ;) pero yo me refería por el día a día (sin proyectos: en sus tareas cotidianas) de los profesores e investigadores.


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