[Air-L] Landrushes and Interdisciplinarity

elw at stderr.org elw at stderr.org
Mon Dec 17 08:48:00 PST 2007

Interestingly, there has been a parallel thread on the SOCNET list in the 
last week or so... in which people who do study social networks (of the 
non-Internet sort) express some concern that the "study of social 
networking websites" variety of research (and the media's complete 
inability to see that there is more interesting work under the sun than 
just Facebook, MySpace, and the occasional Orkut article...) will do more 
to damage than promote the work of scholars who study the more general 

All-o-these-things-belong-together... kinda the same... made for each 
other... etc.  </sesame street>


On Mon, 17 Dec 2007, Christian Nelson wrote:

> Date: Mon, 17 Dec 2007 11:38:18 -0500
> From: Christian Nelson <xianknelson at mac.com>
> Reply-To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
> To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
> Subject: Re: [Air-L] Landrushes and Interdisciplinarity
> My comments were about individual scholars, not disciplines. And,
> though I wasn't clear about this, they weren't about all scholars.
> I'm sure some of the earliest to investigate social networks (e.g.,
> danah boyd) just happened to be in the right place at the right time
> with the right interests and background. But the land rush mentality
> is still present. Once people see that there's gold in them thar
> hills, they rush for it and resent those who've gotten there sooner,
> hence the pettiness and even violence that's been directed at danah.
> --Christian Nelson
> On Dec 17, 2007, at 6:02 AM, Nancy Baym wrote:
>> I haven't seen the evidence of a landrush mentality in which
>> disciplines are pitted against one another in internet studies or the
>> study of social network sites and the WP article didn't provide any
>> to support that claim.
>> I would have thought that being so deeply invested and watching it
>> from its gestation, I would be attuned to tensions between, say,
>> sociology, communication and information studies, over who ought to
>> "own" the field. I haven't seen it. To the contrary, I've seen people
>> in all three of those fields realizing how much the perspectives of
>> other 2 have to offer.
>> What I generally observed in a decade of working to move internet
>> studies forward as a solid and legitimate field of study is people in
>> every field feeling like internet studies was/is on the margins of
>> their own discipline and therefore seeking connection across borders.
>> If people were cloistering to try to keep it to their own field, AoIR
>> wouldn't do as well as it does. Unless, I guess, we're just a big
>> spyfest where we take the gems back to our own camps for polishing.
>> There may be landrush in the sense of all disciplines wanting a piece
>> of the topic, but if the disciplines are after one another to own the
>> field so they can corner the grants, it's news to me. The big grants
>> I see getting funded generally involve people from multiple
>> disciplines working together. All disciplines SHOULD be rushing to
>> internet research because the internet does impact them all. It's the
>> charge of disciplinary *competition* with which I disagree.
>> I have seen poor observations "dressed up in academic terminology"
>> and don't challenge that there's some lame internet research (and I
>> must point out that the WP writer did note after teasing everyone
>> that there are good ideas in the work she mocked). I'd wager there's
>> not a paper written, no matter how deep its insights, that has no
>> lines than cannot be pulled from their context and inserted into
>> another stream of discourse to look vacuous or dressed up in, shock
>> horror, a language style more appropriate to its original genre.
>> Nancy
>>> I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. The author of the Post
>>> article observes that scholars demonstrate a land-rush mentality when
>>> a new area of inquiry opens and substantial funds for its researching
>>> become available. They demonstrate this by hurriedly staking claims
>>> in the new area with supposedly academic observations that are merely
>>> the most obvious ones dressed in academic terminology. And they do so
>>> because the group of people who get repeatedly cited in the new area
>>> quickly narrows, along with the opportunity for acquiring the
>>> lucrative research grants. That fact is reflected in the resentment
>>> of the "sooners" expressed by scholars who feel they've been beaten
>>> to the punch. As I see it, these observations are pretty accurate,
>>> and predictably so given all the available research on academia as a
>>> social institution.
>>> --Christian
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