"You could think of our kind of scholarship," he said, "as something like 'slow food' in a fast-food culture." — Ivan Kreilkamp, co-editor of Victorian Studies (Chronicle of Higher Education, March 2009)
John Hartley’s entertaining and polemical defense of a disappearing art form (the print copy journal designed to be ripped eagerly from its envelope and read from cover to cover like a good book) came my way via the usual slightly disconcerting M/C Journal overture:
I believe that your research interests and background make you a potential expert reviewer of the manuscript, "LAMENT FOR A LOST RUNNING ORDER? OBSOLESCENCE AND ACADEMIC JOURNALS," which has been submitted to the '' [sic] issue of M/C Journal. The submission's extract is inserted below, and I hope that you will consider undertaking this important task for us.
Automated e-mails like these keep strange company, with reminders about overdue library items and passwords about to expire. Inevitably their tone calls to mind the generic flattery of the internet scam that announces foreign business opportunities or an unexpectedly large windfall from a deceased relative. At face value, this e-mail confirms John Hartley’s suspicions about the personalised craft of journal curation. Journal editing, he implies, is going the way of drywalling and smithying—by the time we realise these ancient and time-intensive skills have been lost, it’ll be too late. The usual culprit is to the fore—the internet—and the risk presented by obsolescence is very significant. At stake is the whole rich and messy infrastructure of academic professional identity: scholarly communication, goodwill, rank, trust, service to peers, collegiality, and knowledge itself.