[Air-l] Researching over the line/horizon? - the great forgetting?

Lachlan Brown lachlan at london.com
Sat Mar 16 17:41:52 PST 2002

Calm down, calm down.

Offensive academic inquiry? What a novel idea. 
Stepping over the 'line'? Since when has academic 
inquiry been required to remain within known bounds?

Address the questions!

[perhaps I should have edited the  'lonely-heart seeks
 similar' section from my  CV...it is better to give love 
than to constantly seek it]

The Air-L already has a set of protocols: academic 
and IT related. I can assure you that the bounds of 
permitted discourse are very highly policed. I have 
already skirmished a number of times with the forces
of moderation. It is significant that these forces pretend 
not to exist in this capacity. I have already received one 
hint of litigation. Great stuff. A hint that, invoking the 
discourse of the legal profession if I may briefly digress, 
has no grounds and on the contrary leaves he who hinted 
open to similar.

I think the question to be addressed regarding the range 
of permissible questions and the acceptability of approach
is whether this policing is to be derived from an academic 
discourse, or whether a  'set of rules' developed contingent 
to the emergence of online communication aided by a 
technology of distributed computing within highly 
specialized conditions and communities 
 is to prevail over this discussion and inquiry.

The point is not a minor one. This, it appears, is a list 
representing the state of academic inquiry into Internet. 
The state of academic inquiry has been questioned. By me.
Regardless of method, regardless of offence, regardless 
of reaction, notwithstanding any breach to ‘good sense and
 sound reason’, and certainly without deference of 'polite 
society'. People in industry, government, and in the general public 
look to this Association to provide meaningful information 
to help to inform them in their respective fields and duties. 
The production of wealth, governance, the sharing in our 
common well-being.

I would prefer that an academic discourse which here it 
seems, going by the mandate of AoIR, is the discourse of 
the study of culture, is privileged over an IT related 'discourse' 
dependant upon a 'nettiquette'.

The reason is this: there are significant gaps, oversights 
and repressions in research into Internet. The responsibility of an 
academic research community,  of which this list is a part, is 
to consider a range of modes of  approach and lines of 
enquiry so that questions that may have been overlooked 
may be identified, so that resources may be allocated and 
applied to their research and study.

An academic community, of which this list is part, has a 
responsibility to broader society to inform and to educate.
 It is in  a dialogue with this broader culture, it is in a contractual
 relationship with the society formed of this dialogue, the social 

I am all for rules. Believe me I am far from Anarchy on the 
question of intellectual inquiry. However, I believe the list already
has a sets of rules, rules laid down during centuries of academic 
and scholarly inquiry and rules set out to promote inquiry where
there is none.

Ignore these rules at your very, very great peril.

The Association of Internet Researchers has, it seems, chosen a 
cultural studies mandate. This mandate promotes inter-disciplinarity,
that is it requires of us, whatever our specialism, and whatever our 
ideological position on the question of whether qualitative or 
quantitive methods of analysis provide greatest purchase in the 
age-long quest for knowledge [for the grail, no less], to be open 
to the ideas, opinions and to research approaches.

Again, this inter-disciplinarity is to a purpose.
With regard to the rules of academic inquiry:
I propose that the discourse, the modes of approach and 
the means of critical analysis of cultural studies prevail 
here. The reason is that this inter-disciplinarity of cultural 
studies, far from being  an innovative approach as it is often 
assumed to be,  speaks to broader society. This speaking to, 
or dialogue with, broader society, church, state, commerce is 
not particularly a new idea. It first appeared in its familiar form 
in a directive of the Fourth Lateran Council: an instruction 
that the 'leered teeche the lewd', in their own language, all 
methods and means considered, without undue deference to 
the authority of Latin,  or the authority of the Church at that time,
 or to put it plainly: the educated have a responsibility to inform 
the uneducated in all matters. The european adaptation of the Islamic 
model of the University, and much beside, was an outcome 
of this welcome innovation in culture. The College of the Sorbonne
was I think the first University – an idea that spread.

Are we now to embark upon a great forgetting of the work that 
brought us to this place? For the sake of ‘nettiquette’ whatever that is?
Simply to make things easier for the world of 'information technology', 
information and knowledge management and administration, and 
computing? I think not.

I am considered provocative in my approach. This is a curious 
word and it is true that I did once say to Nikolas Rose, a 
Professor at Goldsmiths College that my web publication 
'difference engine' was provocative, but this was in the context 
of the very early days of WWW (Jan 1996) and the purpose was 
to discover the points where the host server and the host institution 
correlated, and where they did not. By provoking, one found out 
where boundaries lay, and one found out where there were none.

I do not think my research approach is provocative at all.

Now, where's my stipend, bursary, budget?

Lachlan Brown


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