[Air-L] more fetishism

Bob Rehak brehak1 at swarthmore.edu
Wed Jan 6 07:19:38 PST 2010


I'll cast my vote for specialized and specific language whose priority is first and foremost to advance conversations within the discipline. I'd say I was for jargon, except that I find the term "jargon" similar to the term "weeds" -- it's in the eye of the beholder, and usually used in a rather hostile and passive-aggressive manner to police the discourse of those with whom we disagree.

Debates about the degree and acceptability of specialized language suggest to me a larger question of how a given discipline and its practitioners wish to position themselves relative to a broader cultural context -- and hence a secondary issue in the production of knowledge. Perhaps it's a worry symptomatic of fields like cultural, media, and digital studies that intersect so centrally with popular culture. I wouldn't want my medical doctor, astrophysicist, or archeologist to streamline (or dumb down) their mode of thought and expression so that people without training can understand it; that kind of translation from minority to majority is one of the functions that bloggers and journalists provide.

The problem, in other words, is not so much that academic speech is inscrutable outside its microscopically-targeted audience; it's that organs don't exist to translate that speech to a wider audience. I'm still holding out for a cultural theory column in USA Today!

Bob Rehak
Assistant Professor and Chair
Film and Media Studies Program
Swarthmore College

----- "Matthew Bernius" <mbernius at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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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