The Traditions of Peer Review
As we examine the existing alternatives in the previous section, we see that we are facing what Kathleen Fitzpatrick of the MLA calls "less of a material obsolescence than an institutional one; we are entrenched in systems that no longer serve our needs." In a world where knowledge is being made available at a rate unprecedented in history through the proliferation of e-publishing, the publication phase and the distinction phase of writing become all the more distinct. It use to be that being published was the distinction between any writing and trusted or critically examined writing. Thus being able to impart distinction becomes a powerful act, and those we hold that privileged are thus extremely reluctant to lose that power.
Peer review is alive and well in just about every part of the academy, from hiring prospects to tenure decisions, and grants to fellowship extensions. But most importantly, in the publishing of academic content. However reading digital publication is very different from reading print publication, one can observe this difference in Wikipedia. Unlike consulting a traditional encyclopedia, Wikipedia is in itself a kind of ongoing peer review in which both the result of the reviews and the records of the review process are all made open for public viewing. To read Wikipedia as a traditional print encyclopedia fails to engage with the merits of the project in general. Thus employing traditional peer review methodology on digital publishing is short sighted and cannot be sustained. To fully take advantage of the merits of digital publishing, we have to develop to adapt and work with this new system of authorization, essentially learning how to read digital content by understanding the nuances of its production and the value of its consumption.
These calls for change are often met with the same answer that "We have never done it that way before", it is time that scholars turn the same critical eye they used in to scrutinize results in research labs on the very textual of their own profession, from its values and biases to its behavioral norms.
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