The sick, perverted world of knowledge capitalism and knowledge dissemination rankings. It’s time to tell them to **** off.

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From: Blasts from the Ram’s Horn, 1902. Think of this image as a metaphor. Wikimedi commons.

aniel J. Boorstein in his book The Discoverers wrote about European physicians in roughly the 1500’s relying on the work of the ancient Greek physicians, “‘Knowledge’ was the barrier to knowledge. The classic source became a revered obstacle.”

‘What goes around’ phrase inserted here, sadly. The world of knowledge, with changes in ways and means, its conveyances, is accelerating at an exponential speed, but not for the dunces in confederacy, administrators in formal learning institutions, who smoke knowledge capitalism as though it were meth, who in their psychopathic, heart-felt sickness need to quantify, rank, and monetize as though Lukács and Veblen never lived.

Let’s be clear, knowledge and capitalism are incompatible. (That is, unless the government starts funding knowledge creators by an annual salary with no strings attached.)

These dunces next attempt to sell, or outright extort, their methods for doing so as innovative. Faculty, for example are captives required to conform within a system of control. The administrators, generally punctilious narrow minded bean-counters who cream over reporting exercises, PowerPoints, (of course the word power is in this) and ranking metrics, want to abdicate their agency in the extortion. They seek participatory allies, usually exogenic agencies or consultants, who act only in specific ways. Now batting: quality assessment groups and journal ranking systems. Of the latter there are many for example, impact factor, eigenfactor, h-index, altmetrics, and so forth. This isn’t a laissez-faire knowledge growth model, it’s a highly manipulated, perverted quid pro quo knowledge economy model.

once read about an artist at an Australian university whose retrospective of his creative work was not considered a knowledge output acceptable as a quantifiable outcome for his tenure portfolio, but when he wrote and published a review of his own show, this was accepted as an acceptable quantifiable outcome by the university. At least, finally, knowledge creators are finally standing up to this sort of ridiculousness. Negative consequences and pushback is well documented. For example, as of this writing, 1,290 organizations and 14,023 individuals have signed a Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) that at a top level stresses “the need to eliminate the use of journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, in funding, appointment, and promotion considerations” (go to sfdora.org to sign it too). DORA stresses that research should be assessed on it’s own merits. Parallel is the call for open access to maximize accessibility and usability of knowledge, which in turn are two of the principles found in the vision of future scholarly communication in the report by the Expert Group to the European Commission titled Future of Scholarly Publishing and Scholarly Communication of 2019. Plan S put out by Science Europe, has the goal to “decisively advance towards the Open Access of scholarly publishing by 2020.” (Science Europe, Communication of Plan S, July 11, 2018).

Faculty and researchers of all stripes, both in the sciences and in the humanities, must continue to actively rebel against the use of ranking metrics an systems related to the dissemination of their outputs whether these are rankings of journals, exhibition venues, performance venues and so forth. They must continue to rebel against the commodification of their work by utilizing non commercial and open access venues by blurring boundaries in their outputs, and so forth. Keep this in mind: Transaction value can arise from community not from commerce and in the humanities, and this is the way most of the world’s creators operate.

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Wikimedia commons.

Yet, knowledge capitalism and its addiction to making as much money as possible would have us think that market success or number of citations equates with quality, suggesting evidently that John Grisham is better than Herman Melville, that Thomas Kinkade is as important as Sigmar Polke, and that Ariana Grande and Post Malone share the table with Barbara Strozzi or Mozart.

We should not agree to be “agents within bourgeois relations of production.” (Marx, Captital, Volume III)

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Marx/Engels, Das Kapital. Dietz Verlag Berlin 1973. Wikimedia commons

ut the dunces cry, without quality assessment and rankings how can we be reassured of knowledge and not bunk? Of course they can’t understand how, they lost their critical analytical skills when they became lackeys. But more specifically: Bentham’s nonsense on stilts was given a careful look when Edmund Gettier in his famously short paper challenged the equating of knowledge to justified true belief. Later, as philosopher Lorenzo Peña pointed out, no warrant rests on absolutely steadfast ground; being warranted is no property of belief. He stated, and I fully agree, once we detach belief from the justification of the belief, we find: “A mental act is one of knowledge to the extent that it is (i) is a belief and (ii) it is true.” One may believe the truth of a belief when the belief is not justified. It’s not like he’s some kook out there with some weirdo position, others, (v. e.g. Crispin Sartwell) have come to the same understanding.

In Democracy and Capitalism, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis suggest that we lose too much when we shift knowledge as a philosophic endeavor to knowledge as a capitalist endeavor. Knowledge then detaches from the person. A wonderful review of their book by Sarah Knopp is found in the International Socialist Review, Issue 78 titled, “What do schools produce?” She first looks at the correspondence theory of Bowles and Gintis, in that schools function as a reproduction of social relations of production. “The hierarchical relations of work and production are mirrored in the relations we see in schools. The hierarchies between administrators and teachers, teachers and students, students and other students correspond to boss-worker relationships.” In turn the institution plays a role in social control, in turn hiding (somewhat) the “exploitive relations of work in a capitalist economy.”

What this means for the humanities especially is that the foundation upon which knowledge practices are built is corrupted by historic and inappropriate norms which are then perverted by reviewing and measuring entities, none of which has anything to do with knowledge itself.

Novelist, poet, a post-studio visual artist, and the founder of The Invisible Art Collective International. Recent novels include “Sundre” and “Garbage Head.”

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