The other day I wrote a post for the Atlantic’s Tech Channel arguing that JSTOR and other academic content aggregators and distributors will be hard to displace — and not just because they wield financial power. They wield that power in part because they offer something that we academics and our students think of as a genuine service: the filtering and credentialing of scholarship. My claim, in brief, is that it’s so difficult and time-consuming to teach students how to perform triage on the firehose of information — to mix metaphors more wildly than you’ll see them mixed elsewhere today — that many of us will find it irresistible simply to defer to the judgments implicitly made by JSTOR and Project Muse when they include journals in their databases.
I just want to emphasize here a point that I only made glancingly in that post: that these temptations will surely be stronger for the many adjuncts teaching in American colleges and universities today, who rarely can meet with their students as often as they like or for as long — often they have no offices in which to do so —, who may be juggling courses as multiple schools, and who may have limited contact with the academic librarians who could help. This is a reminder of the multiple entanglements that afflict the American academy — the various forces that work together to impede the achievement of meaningful learning.
So let me make the pitch once more for the rise of colleges with different financial and educational priorities than is the norm today. And, while I’m at it, I’m still waiting for the VCs to show up and make me the founding president of Cassiodorus College.