In the recording industry, certain unspoken rules govern what reaches the ears of the public. It’s considered damaging to an artist’s image to release demos and other raw forms that are, in truth, necessary steps in the creative process, steps that are rarely skipped even by those considered geniuses. Lili Looofbourow and Phillip Maciak debate in “Introduction: The Time of the Semipublic Intellectual,” whether or not this same feeling of mystique, and its power, extend to the academic and public realms, as well as where the two overlap. The Evgeny Morozov New Yorker article http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/13/planning-machine the one cited for its questionable reliance on Edin Medina’s research, is used to ask whether the need for detailed research in academic writing needs to be streamlined for the ‘public.’ And while Loofbourow and Maciak continue on to argue where and how the lines between academic and public scholarship exist, noting several frighteningly totalitarian instances of the guillotine blade of inoffensiveness-above-all falling on an intellectual’s professional neck, I argue that we stop at Morozov’s justification for this omission of detailed citations of Medina’s work (the link provided shows that Morozov does refer to Medina within the article), to pose some important questions.
We all, as readers, understand the mystique of genius. We would like to believe that inspiration descends upon the blessed, or perhaps we entertain our own ideas of how concepts are born or what they mean in relation to our own lives We also know the tinge of disappointment we feel when we find out that works we thought were rife with symbolism and insight are actually as literal as they can possibly be. The ‘mystique’ as it’s known in show-business terminology adds to the legendary status of the creative mind. Recently, poet Austin Cleon, during his Tedx talk “Steal Like an Artist,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oww7oB9rjgw revealed the ways we all, in one form or another, incorporate others work and the persistent voices prepared to jump at the opportunity to quickly label someone’s work as stolen, no matter the intention. As what was once cloistered becomes popular, and as Harold Bloom believes critical writing to be just as much a creative endeavor as any, do we streamline this need for painstaking citation? Do we apply the ‘immature artists borrow, mature artist steal’ logic to the realm of public intellectualism? Does the level of research and the need for ethical use of sources turn off those readers we hope to reach? Loofbourow and Maciak write of the “reactionary” stance that feels like the new normal standard regarding responses to scholars’ blog posts and nontraditional writing, leading to consequences we must address before they become standard practice (442).
If we can, at the present time, conceptualize of a future without paper or an infrastructure-free research community, now may be the perfect time to address these issues of research integrity. As Loofbourow and Maciak ask, “[c]an scholarship exist at…two speeds, can these modes be complementary?” (442). They are asking, in short, if what remains will be entertainment dressed up as true research, with the authorial mystique intact and the many hours of others spent in libraries and databases lost in the shuffle, and more importantly, is the need for–and benefit of–verifiable evidence in danger of becoming an issue of little importance.
Loofbourow, Lili and Phillip Maciak. “Introduction: The Time of the Semipublic Intellectual.” PMLA 130.2 (2015): 439-445. Print.