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Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academyby Kathleen Fitzpatrick
Synopses & Reviews
Academic institutions are facing a crisis in scholarly publishing at multiple levels: presses are stressed as never before, library budgets are squeezed, faculty are having difficulty publishing their work, and promotion and tenure committees are facing a range of new ways of working without a clear sense of how to understand and evaluate them.
Planned Obsolescence is both a provocation to think more broadly about the academys future and an argument for reconceiving that future in more communally-oriented ways. Facing these issues head-on, Kathleen Fitzpatrick focuses on the technological changes—especially greater utilization of internet publication technologies, including digital archives, social networking tools, and multimedia—necessary to allow academic publishing to thrive into the future. But she goes further, insisting that the key issues that must be addressed are social and institutional in origin.
Springing from original research as well as Fitzpatricks own hands-on experiments in new modes of scholarly communication through MediaCommons, the digital scholarly network she co-founded, Planned Obsolescence explores these aspects of scholarly work, as well as issues surrounding the preservation of digital scholarship and the place of publishing within the structure of the contemporary university. Written in an approachable style designed to bring administrators and scholars into a conversation, Planned Obsolescence explores both symptom and cure to ensure that scholarly communication will remain relevant in the digital future.
Civilization and progress, Gilded Age Americans believed, were inseparable from Anglo-Saxon heritage and Christianity. In rising to become the first Asian and non-Christian world power, Meiji Japan (1868-1912) challenged this deeply-held conviction, and in so doing threatened racial and cultural hierarchies central to American ideology and foreign policy.
To reconcile Japan's stature with American notions of Western supremacy, both nations embarked on an active campaign to construct an identity for the Japanese which would recognize Japan's progress and abilities without threatening Americans' faith in white, Christian superiority. Japanese efforts included reassurances in diplomatic exchanges and in the American press that their nation adhered to the central tenets of Western civilization, namely constitutional government, freedom of religion, and open commerce. Many anxious Americans eagerly accepted such offerings, and happily re-conceived the Japanese as adoptive Anglo-Saxons.
As with the best new work in diplomatic history, in Outposts of Civilization Henning considers culture to be integral to understanding foreign relations. Thus in addition to official documents and press reports, he examines American missionaries' writings on the Japanese, and American and Japanese art and literature produced during the Gilded Age. In exploring the delicate and deliberate process of identity construction, and how these discourses on race and progress resonated throughout the twentieth century, Henning has produced a fascinating and important study of American-Japanese relations.
About the Author
Kathleen Fitzpatrick is Professor of Media Studies at Pomona College and founding editor of the digital scholarly network MediaCommons. She is the author of The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television and has blogged at Planned Obsolescence since 2002.
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