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Following a blogging break, I’m as happy as I’m relieved to say that, after multiple versions since over a year ago, the modest 8 pages + Refs are out in the webo-sphere:  CJC Vol 37, No 3 (2012)

The issue is titled “Digital Life,” which–ironically–is very true of the possibility of biotechnological virtualization of our species, and of all the rest, naturally.

The gist of it all is that, leveraging off Becoming Biosubjects: Bodies. Systems. Technologies by Neil Gerlach, Sheryl N. Hamilton, Rebecca Sullivan, & Priscilla L. Walton (Toronto Uni Press, 2011), I visualize an existential continuum of all “known” levels of (non)bio-morphological complexity, mapping onto it macro-biological subjectivity, micro-biological and genetic subjectivity, and geosubjectivity.

If the first two kinds can be subsumed under the “biosubjectivity” represented in the book, the third corresponds, for example, to the hydroelectric plant on the Rhine river being subject to “Enframing” (per Heidegger’s classic “The Question Concerning Technology” [Die Frage nach der Technik] ) or the planet’s climate being pushed out of balance, at least in part, due to earlier as well as more recent artefactual technologies.

The necessity for an ecological-evolutionary ethics becomes clear, since it could (and should, like a vast number of other human thought media) provide guidance to human thought and action in relating more wisely, and in fact fairly, to ourselves as well as any other co-member of our shared ecosystem–biotic and abiotic alike.

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I have to thank the editors for including in the opening paragraph of the essay the news that the book has been awarded the 2012 Gertrude J. Robinson Book Award of the Canadian Communication Association–I couldn’t agree more with the choice.

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new terms:

biosubjectivity – per the book relates to subjectivity that comes specifically with genetic technologies, in the latter part of the 20th century; to my mind, staying with the meaning of the lexical components, the term can encompass any kind of biological subjectivity, from the macrobiological to the gene/submolecular level.

geosubjectivity – applies to the abiotic component of the planet (and beyond, if we have to be thorough) and seems like a fit coinage to complement my broader use of biosubjectivity, so that the submolecular – planetary stretch of the existential continuum gets “covered.”

eco(logical)-evolutionary ethics – the composite qualifier foregrounds the organic entanglement of ecological interdependencies and evolutionary consequences, which ethics can be recruited to keep healthy, or at least healthier.

My other pres at Congress2012, in a different ecosonic venue:

This one had a lot of nodding heads in the audience (likely students and post-docs), and ended in smiles and applause. Special thanks here are due to one of 2 anonymous reviewers of the initially submitted abstract, who by the read of it, indignantly pointed out that Kathleen Fitzpatrick had been doing work on open reviewing for quite sometime, and had not been mentioned–which is how I found out about her at all. It was also reassuring that that version got lowest grades on “originality,” meaning that academia IS already thinking re Open Reviewing, which is what I had not known from where I had been all these years.

So in the revised version (below) I threw in more references, including K.F., of course, and my special angle on the subject, educating grad students in that mode of academic publishing. NOT JUST “class blogs,” which are worlds away from peer review-level publishing.

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this an obvious way for academics to contribute to how wikipedia-type knowledge is being created in the wide-n-wild world (www) out there, in however minimal a way??? By educating students in epistemological collaboration, before unleashing them on the world?

Launched in 2007, the research presented in this paper is part of the “open” movements in academia, as theorised by a number of authors (John Willinsky 2006, Christine Borgman 2007, Kathleen Fitzpatrick 2009/2011, a.o.). Its evolution is traced through observations and pilot studies, conducted in graduate course settings and the online journal environment (cf. Alexandrova 2009, 2010, 2011). Since publishing is the spell-out of what academia does and is, it requires priority attention. For the “price” of a thorough makeover, the open review e-publishing model being developed can make a substantial contribution toward optimizing the epistemic sustainability of the university, and graduate particular. The question is, Why pay the price? Assuming that graduate programs are expressly invested in educating for society`s conceptual leadership, their projected impact on academia and society at large can be treated as return on the investment of creative thought, time, funding, and … expectations.

While the philosophy behind the project has a lot in common with Fitzpatrick`s open peer review vision, for example, its research value lies in representing specifically the perspective of graduate students as academics-in-the-making, as well as generalizing to academia as a whole, and even looking to applications beyond it. If the desired change in academic practices and worldview is to take effect, it is crucial to address both clauses of the university`s dual research/education mandate. Future academics should be incorporated into the process, organically and substantively, just as the (self- and mutual) life-long education of faculty themselves should be supported, productively and strategically.

The envisioned “educative publishing” involves knowledge co-creation in an online wiki-type environment. It relies on shared epistemic responsibility (an extension of Code 2006) and self-governance (cf. Bateson’s self-correcting complex systems). Quality assurance is by “open review” (OR), where participating authors are each other’s commentators. A working papers e-journal issue illustrates the students-only format, and a conference proceedings e-book the faculty-and-students mixed format. The OR model, tested in the pilot studies above, offers 1) a highly productive mode of knowledge co-creation and quality assurance through mutual epistemic “scaffolding” for current and future faculty, and 2) a proper “translation” from print to internet publishing, replacing exclusionary, (double-) blind peer review with interactive, “seeing” forum review. By employing net-native knowledge-making modes it simultaneously speaks the language of younger generations and rewards earlier generations with the mitigation of some well researched flaws of traditional reviewing (Godlee 2000, Lamont 2009).

In conclusion, the proposed educative OR publishing model enriches the research epistemologies and networks of both junior and senior academics. It transforms academic publishing from selection-based to learning-oriented, honing abilities that can serve well in and beyond academic contexts. In effect, it “generalizes” education both vertically, from student to professor, and laterally, from academic to web user, simultaneously flattening hierarchical structures and replacing one-way with interactive communication and evaluation. The expectation is that OR-type quality assurance has as much chance of making a difference in academia as wikipedia and open source have done in the public domain, despite initial predictions of failure. Recognizing some real drawbacks, e.g. in the shape of institutional and curricular conservatism, academic scepticism, fluctuating motivation and aptitude/preparedness (see Guédon and Siemens 2002, Fitzpatrick 2009, a.o.), the bottom line is that, if one extrapolates from the conducted pilot studies, the proposed radical change in knowledge making and validation promises to pay off.

Given the projected upgrade of epistemic sustainability supported by publishing web design which can be professionally or socially constructed (see Feenberg 2002), academia is presented with a choice between actively contributing to the currency and quality of (non)academic knowledge production and standing back as an “objective” analyst of the latest “viral” web developments. Shouldn’t the advocated makeover generate—on an academia-wide scale—an agenda for action rather than a dilemma?


Alexandrova, Lynne (2011) Online Publishing, Academic Listening, and Epistemological Sustainability. Presentation at CSSHE, Congress 2011. Related poster: Enacting Online Interaction: The Open Review Format.
———- (2010) Turning the Tables on Epistemological Disconnect and Axiological Paradox: A Mindmap for Graduate Education Programs. Poster at the Annual CSSHE Conference, Congress’10, Montreal, Quebec, May 29-31, 2010.
———- (2009) Graduate2B, Shall We Online-Ride Beyond the Grade? A Case for Educational Publishing. Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Communication Association, Congress’09, Ottawa, May 30, 2009.

Bateson, Gregory (2000 [1972]) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. With a new foreword by Mary Catherine Bateson. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.

Borgman, Christine L. (2007) Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Code, Lorraine (2006) Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Location. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Feenberg, Andrew (2002)Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited. New York : Oxford University Press, 2002.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen (2009) Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy . Open review URL <> Published in print by NYU Press, November 2011.

Godlee, Fiona. (2000) “The Ethics of Peer Review.” Ethical Issues in Biomedical Publication. Ed. Anne Hudson Jones and Faith McLellan. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. 59-84.

Guédon, Jean-Claude and Raymond Siemens (2002) “The Credibility of Electronic Publishing: Peer Review and Imprint” TEXT Technology 11.1 (2002): 17-35.

Lamont, Michèle (2009) How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment Cambridge, Masss: Harvard University Press..

Willinsky, John (2006) The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Another, very true WP comment. Well, now that there’s online, “paper work” need not trouble us writers as much.

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.
Peter De Vries


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