[Air-L] more fetishism

Matthew Bernius mbernius at gmail.com
Wed Jan 6 07:09:38 PST 2010


For what it's worth, I think there's room for both types of scholarship
(public and internal/academic). In my opinion, anthropology hasn't done
enough public scholarship in recent years.Likewise, I think that there is a
need (and a responsibility) for open publishing (making all text available
to the general public) of all academic material, regardless of it's intended
audience.

That said, I also don't see a problem with using technical jargon if it's
used properly. Especially if it's the language of the audience we choose to
write for. The first task of a writer is to write for their audience and in
doing so we acknowledge the mediating role of lanuage and writing
(regardless if it's textual or some other form).

I'm not going to knock physical scientists for using jargon in their writing
that I don't understand.Nor am I going to expect that I'll be able to
understand some of the more in depth research that they produce -- not
without significant study. Likewise, I'm not going to take Joyce to task for
making *Ulysses *a slog to read.

The problem with this question of terminology is that it becomes a slippery
slope. At what point do we turn from terminology to critique phrasing? How
many academic writers come to mind who might not use complex words, but
instead use densely packed sentences with multiple ideas, often leaving the
reader equally befuddled? Take the writing of Bruno Latour for
example. *Reassembling
the Social* (which I'm currently rereading) uses relatively straightforward
words, but I think that the average reader could still argue that the
construction of the book is exceptionally "academicie" and difficult to
read.

Should we strive for clarity in our texts? Sure. But what exactly does that
mean? And that isn't necessarily the same thing as reach, though the two are
interrelated. As I see it, our goal should be to be as clear as possible to
the audience that we intend to be speaking to in order to effectively convey
the description that we are seeking to convey. And that influences the
language that should be used.

When I write for broader consumption, I may sprinkle some terms in (always
with explanations), but I assume that my audience doesn't have the same
exposure to that field and adjust my writing accordingly.

All that said, to restate, I (me, myself, I) am committed to talking to
audiences outside of anthropology and academia. And in doing so, I work to
bring the level of jargon and clarity into harmony with my audiences
expectations and experiences.

- Matt

-----------------------------
Matthew Bernius
PhD Student, Cultural Anthropology, Cornell University (
http://www.arts.cornell.edu/anthro/)
Co-Director, Open Publishing Lab @ the Rochester Institute of Technology (
http://opl.cias.rit.edu)
mBernius at gMail.com
http://www.waking-dream.com


On Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 9:37 AM, Jordan Lynn <jordanl at uga.edu> wrote:

> Barry,
> Why not write all papers with general consumption in mind? I've worked
> through an entire graduate career loathing the fact that my work will
> be lost to the relative obscurity of academia (if less than 2% of the
> population has access to or can functionally understand a work, I
> consider it lost to obscurity). Why write in Latin when the masses
> speak English? Are we being elitist, by developing our own language,
> or are we truly using the most efficient form of communication
> possible? Food for thought.
> -Jordan Lynn
> University of Georgia
> MoWerks Learning
>
> On Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 9:11 AM, Matthew Bernius <mbernius at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > Barry Wellman wrote:
> >
> > I hope no one uses “self-glossing” except on their lips.
> > One problem is that anthropology needs to move beyond is the unnecessary
> > use of insy-poo language.
> >
> > Mea Culpa. Though to be fair, there are a number of (European)
> Sociologists
> > who enjoy a good neologism, oops... I mean insy-poo language every now
> and
> > then. I've been spending a bit too much time with them as of late.
> >
> > BTW, in general I totally agree that we should work to avoid over
> > "academicizing" our writing (and I did have a feeling I was going to get
> > some flack for "glossing"). In defense of glossing for a sec, at least on
> > the linguistic anthro side, a lot of these terms have pretty specific
> > meanings, and by glossing a gloss to gloss the gloss (sorry, I was
> feeling a
> > bit Bourdieuian :-] ) in a paper, we're able to convey a complex concept
> in
> > a single word (for those in the know). That said, if it's a paper for
> > general consumption, then a different register/writing and language style
> is
> > completely in order.
> >
> > - Matt
> >
> > -----------------------------
> > Matthew Bernius
> > PhD Student, Cultural Anthropology, Cornell University (
> > http://www.arts.cornell.edu/anthro/)
> > Co-Director, Open Publishing Lab @ the Rochester Institute of Technology
> (
> > http://opl.cias.rit.edu)
> > mBernius at gMail.com
> > http://www.waking-dream.com
> > _______________________________________________
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