Soft Citation

March 23, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Uncategorized

Over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, higher education acquired its current denomination or discipline/subdiscipline structure.  Germany established a paradigm for government-academia relations that was reproduced in the United States and then utilized in the Second World War to create an integrated response to the international crisis.  University-government interlocking hierarchies were established that achieved national security goals.  The U.S. became a military behemoth and then the prime economic power.  The structure of higher education has reflected this vertical frame of reference.  The citation system has been integral to this rise.

It is a premise of this work that the two heterochronic directions of human evolution, neoteny and acceleration, also manifest in society.  Patrifocal societies, or what Eisler calls dominator societies, compel a vertical, top-down, male-control frame.  This reflects the societal encouragement of maturational accelerated, dominating males and neotenous, cooperative females.

I have been suggesting that contemporary society is in the middle of a transition to a matrifocal, matristic, partnership society featuring horizontal structures, egalitarian diversity, transparency and a breaking down of walls.  Commanding, maturationally accelerated women mate with cooperative, neotenous men to support a society where verticality feels like an obstruction to creativity and a sharing of resources.

The Internet has been a transportation system down which many of these changes have been traveling.  Our present highway system was built largely for the military in the middle of the 20th century.  The Internet, though originally conceived as a military tool, has evolved to become the conduit through which matrifocal values are distributed to the society at large.

At present, the Internet is training our young people to think like anarchists.  I mean “anarchists” in the sense that they are observing and experiencing subtle and complicated things getting done with little or no top-down administration.  Events get planned, high quality information gets distributed, people self-organize, idea makers meet idea users and barriers drop.

Across the planet and throughout society, web users are experiencing the dropping of barriers and the collapsing of hierarchies.  This is not so clear to the rest of us.  To the young, this is feeling like the way the world works.

As the economy collapses, this new paradigm will recreate many towers into a single bridge.  That which is high and separate will become shared, transparent and horizontal.  Our higher education will see its center of gravity precipitously drop.

In academia, citations are coin of the realm.  Climbing the primate ladder requires citations–grooming rituals–that confirm bonds between allied forces in the competitive world of ideas.  Citations outline the exact territory of consensus and the community engaged in that support.  Just as there is hard currency, there are hard citations.  Hard citations keep academic hierarchy firm.

The Internet and open source is about soft citations.  Credit is derived by an individual’s participation in a project in a way that he or she receives respect from a community of peers for his or her contributions.  When people are participating in open source projects, citations are not currency for advancement but for esteem.

Open source is becoming societal philosophy, a foundation story.  It’s not just about pooling the creativity of the many to transcend the congregation of economic resources by the few.  Open source is changing the way we think.  It will change academia.  As the philosophy of soft citation moves up with the young people that achieve tenure, the vertical system supported by hard citation will fall.

Look at the web as a massive, growing citation system that distributes esteem horizontally at exponential speeds.  Compare that to the academic system with hard citations almost always recorded on paper and stored in libraries.  How long before higher education understands that healthy growth comes with the taking down of barriers, not a continued maintenance of walls?

That understanding is beginning.  Observe the proliferation of papers by young academics published not in journals but on the web.


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