And one more year has passed. It’s October 21st, and it’s been 12 years since the journey of ICTlogy began. Happy anniversary, ICTlogy.
As usual, some data for starters:
- 1,231 blog posts at the ICT4D Blog, (), 1,376 comments () and 188 pages.
- 312 blog posts at the SociedadRed Blog, (), 1,337 comments () and 3 pages.
- A bibliography with 2,867 works and 2,307 authors ().
- 630 wiki entries (, ).
- 24 learning materials.
- 596 articles from 120 events from my liveblogging sessions.
- All the usual stuff: Twitter, delicious, Google Calendar, Slideshare, Prezi, YouTube, Lifestream/aggregator and FriendFeed.
And now, the usual comments.
The first one, my deep feeling that academia, as it is designed, is totally doomed. This is nothing new, but the feeling has grown deeper. Much deeper. And when I speak about academia I mean all of its main three functions: research, teaching and dissemination. Teaching and dissemination are, to say the least, inconvenient: they steal time to what the system only cares about, which is research. Thus, most debates about innovating in teaching and about making an impact in society are, in economic terms, irrational. All the time that faculty members devote to nothing but research is an irrational choice as it detracts time from the only thing that they will be given credit for. Hard to read? It’s even harder to cope with, mind you.
This would be only half a tragedy if research was handled in — my very personal opinion — rational terms. But it’s not. In most fields and places, research has ceased to be about building up new knowledge “upon the shoulders of others”. Now it’s about publishing. Whatever. Whatever with an impact index, of course. A technical report? Wrong. The analysis of some intervention project? Wrong. Some position paper or some white paper on some policy issue? Wrong. Some may say that everything can and should be published in impact journals, but it is wrong: academic journals, with all their waiting lists and politics inside, have their own logic, which is increasingly diverging from the pace of reality. Most people, when asked what they are working on, will answer they are working on a paper, not on a problem. And these are two different logics. Hard to read? It’s even harder to cope with, mind you.
For those thinking this is but a digressing rant, think about the problems you have in your everyday life. And see how much would you like some help from people that you, the taxpayer, pay to be thinking about solving problems. Yes, there are some relevant problems that are hidden to the common eye. But still. Ah, by the way, most publications by most scholars have to be paid twice for accessing them, because the system is double perverse: we push academia towards paper-publishing (not problem-solving) and, once their work is published, it’s behind a paywall. For someone a truly believer in the common good and the role of public sector, this is just enraging.
And, in this case, Twitter is not helping very much.
Don’t get me wrong: I think Twitter is actually transforming the world, and doing it for good. But, as it’s usually said in the world of communications, it is a strong competitor in the attention economy, and it’s capturing most attention away from the “long reads”. Indeed, it’s not only capturing attention away from readers, but also from writers: why would you write a 500-word reflection on a given topic or news when you can put it out in 140 characters? This has been happening to me since I joined Twitter in 2007, but I think this year I somehow peaked in this practice.
And if your life became more hectic than ever — kids, a more active role in politics, a strong participation in media — Twitter is just there to help you put out your thoughts in the easiest way. Though, of course, many times in the shallowest way.
Yes, this was not a good year for profound thoughts.
But don’t be mistaken. I believe my production in 2014 was quite good, and my production in 2015 will not be bad — there’s a book chapter, hopefully a couple of articles and some reports pending to add. But I just don’t like the way it all went. Even if I am happy with the outcome. Contradictory? Of course.