This may not necessarily be where Stuart’s comments were leading, but my own personal view is that journal publishing is not really where it’s at if you want to make a real contribution to the field that people actually read – at least in the humanities area. Many journal articles I find turgidly unreadable and not tractible for use as lecture or teaching fodder either.
Journal articles are something the institution has fixated on as being a quantifiable measure of academic performance. Who cares whether anybody actually reads them? I would argue that those who measure such things are in the rear guard in relation to new developments in how academics actually do their work as academics (as opposed to their work as employees of an institution). It’s rather like Bourdieu’s point that those who are not part of the educated elites think that impressionism is great modern art and a sign of culture – whereas the educated elite are all looking at bleeding edge contemporary art..
It’s a different situation in science – well perhaps not – as the publishing lead times are too long and scientists are resorting to online publication to get their work out before somebody else beats them to it in their chosen research areas.
Journals articles are, in my view, the impressionist art of academe for those not quite in the cultural know.
Thanks Clare. That’s not where my comments were heading – nor would I agree! From my perspective, journal articles and books accomplish different things. I prefer books, and see those as my major outputs. But as preparatory works that feed into books, collaborative ventures, or side-projects, articles have also been important to me. I have prioritised books (and will continue to do so), but wouldn’t want to have chose one entirely over the other.
I was debating recently the idea of not writing anything to do with a book for a year – I’ve written my books to date almost back-to-back – and just write articles and other shorter pieces. I’m not sure I will accomplish this – I know the next two books I want to write after The Birth of Territory…
I should also add that as a journal editor, I do think it matters who reads articles! Nonetheless, I definitely agree on the problems of quantification of outputs.