Open access is organic: on the Journal of Material Culture | Savage Minds
"Back in December Haidy Geismar, the incoming editor of The Journal of Material Culture (published by Sage), published an editorial mooting the future of JMC as an open access journal and asking readers to weigh in by taking an online survey about the future of the journal. To date, sixteen people have responded. Sixteen. That’s pretty embarrassing — for Geismar and for the JMC, but also for the open access movement more generally. So after you read this, go take the survey. The apathy of the JMC’s readership is worth dwelling on because it demonstrates what is really at stake in debates about open access. Its not about open versus closed access, or for-profit versus non-profit publishing. Its about organic, flourishing publishing tied to vibrant intellectual communities versus mechanical mass production of journals. My use of the term ‘organic’ is intentional: just as consumers and farmers today are increasingly becoming aware of and taking responsibility for the production of the food we eat, so to is open access part of a broader movement to take responsibility for the production of scholarly content. You see, in some sense it doesn’t really matter what the authors and editors of the JMC want for their journal, because its not their journal. Sage owns the name. So if Geismar et. al. decamp for a new Open Access Journal Of Material Culture, Sage will just get new editors for the JMC and all of the back issues will still belong to the company. This issue regarding who owns a journal is a big one and affected how Cultural Anthropology went open access. This issue is bigger than the JMC. It is about the ownership of our means of production. The published version of the editorial about open access seemed misguided to me on several scores: right about the Finch report, but wrong about the ‘dangers’ of green OA. What can I say? Haidy and I can hash out these issues later. What’s germane now is the apathy that greeted the editorial. To be frank, I think Geismer (and her co-author Küchler) were their own worst enemy. They write so diplomatically that it is often difficult for the reader to understand just what they are saying. The complexities and jargon of open access debates (green, gold, Finch) compound this problem. Geismar also buries the lead in the editorial, asking readers readers to work through two thousand words of editorial before actually getting to the URL for the survey. Even the title of the piece 'On Open Access and Journal Futures' makes the classic sophomore error of telling us the topic of the editorial, but not the claim. Perhaps titling the piece 'the future of this journal is in your hands, please take this important survey' is too brusquely American for the well-healed staff at JMC, but I think it would have helped ..."