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Benjamin J. Robertson

Vilém Flusser dedicates an entire book to the question, “Does writing have a future?” He answers immediately: “Writing, in the sense of placing letters and other marks one after another, appears to have little or no future.”1 We can better transmit and store information in media other than that associated with writing. In the future, therefore, only historians will concern themselves with that which we now call writing. Flusser notes, however: “Many people deny this, out of laziness. They have already learned to write, and they are too old to learn the new codes.”2 As such, by the end of the book Flusser admits: “There have been attempts to carry alphabetic thinking over into the digital and so to continue writing after all.”3

The desire to maintain practices of writing as writing (against, for example, digital technologies that threaten its conventions) derives from a conservatism.4 Departing from Flusser a bit, we can take his indictment of this conservatism to imply another question, namely, “Does writing have a history?” More specifically, we should ask, “To what extent does the conservative refusal to think writing’s future or lack thereof ground itself in an implicit or explicit refusal to understand writing in terms of its historical situatedness and development?” Flusser understands the problem of history all too well. He notes “that the future reader will be free to access linear, historical cross-links between elements of information among others.” He continues, “But the history that comes from such a reading is precisely not what we mean by ‘history.’ Historical consciousness—this awareness of being immersed in a dramatic and irreversible flow of time— has vanished for the future reader.”5 To create a future for writing requires that we understand that writing has a history, that it came about and developed in relation to innumerable events, institutions, practices, and technologies. Once we come to understand this history, the writing that we will have in the future will no longer be the writing that we had in the past. Thus, for writing to have a future we must know its history without being constrained by its history; such constraint leads to the aforementioned conservatism. To bring about this understanding— which, insofar as it involves a certain ignorance, is more precisely a mis- or non-understanding— we must, argues Flusser, go back to the beginning, back to kindergarten.

This essay thinks through this question of history with regard to certain practices of reading, writing, and publishing in the humanities. Namely, I argue that whatever the value of the scholarly journal in the past (and scholarship broadly), its future should not—cannot—be understood as constrained by that value if it is to be a future properly so called. Reliance on and confidence in this past value, on one hand, ignores the fact that this value has an historical origin (as opposed to being a given for humanities scholarship) and, on the other hand, forecloses on new practices that offer to create new values for the future. Alexander Reid has recently argued that “As unlikely as a near future (i.e., the next fifteen to twenty years) without journal articles might be, it is equally unlikely that scholarly practices will move forward without being transformed by emerging technologies.”6 I am most concerned here with the nature of this transformation and those aspects of technology that prevent it from taking place.

Flusser’s injunction that we go back to the beginning of our schooling will return below. Before that, however, I will turn to the recent work of Bernard Stiegler on technics. Stiegler’s conceptions of tertiary retention, grammatization, and organology offer a vocabulary through which to describe, first, the process by which historical forms of publishing continue to inform and constrain scholarly practice, and second, how these processes establish a world in which scholars lose their knowledge and skills with regard to scholarship itself. Finally, Flusser’s kindergarten returns in spirit in my discussion of graduate education, where I argue for a rethinking of scholarship for the sake of those generations who can no longer afford to do scholarship as presently constituted.

Tertiary retention: The influence of print on the humanities journal in the digital age

Increased pressure on humanities faculty to publish (coupled to decreased revenue for and subsidies to university and other academic presses) has been partly responsible for the appearance and proliferation of online journals. They are cheaper to maintain than traditional print journals and the increased publishing capacity they offer affords lines on CVs for a greater number of people (lines whose value go down for several reasons, including the perceptions that the market is oversaturated by these journals and that, no matter the quality of an online journal, the fact that it was not printed on dead trees means that it is less valuable). Postmodern Culture was among the first wave of online-only humanities journals in the early 1990s and has been followed by numerous endeavors of various sorts: some peer-reviewed, some not; some open access, some not; some that include multi-media content, some that remain based in print and writing; etc. These journals include, in no particular order:electronic book review, Culture Machine, Reconstruction, Theory & Event, Contretemps, Kairos, Computational Culture, Hyperrhiz, Cosmos and History, Fast Capitalism, Fibreculture, Film-Philosophy, Image and Narrative, Parrhesia, Postcolonial Text, International Journal of Žižek Studies, Vectors, M/C Journal, Journal of Digital Humanities, and others.7 This list, of course, does not include less formal publishing venues such as group and individual blogs and Twitter.

On a positive note, online journals and their relatively low production costs afford niche publishing ventures. Narrow and focused topics can afford their own spaces in which to develop without feeling the need to acquiesce to established fields and methodologies. Nonetheless, however positive this affordance of networked media, it fails to challenge basic assumptions about the humanities and the scholarship that defines them. Setting aside those journals that offer more than the possibility of publishing simply writing, “in the sense of placing letters and other marks one after another” (although there are ways to include them in this critique as well no doubt), scholarly journals in the digital age retain and even valorize what Bernard Stiegler, following Husserl, would call print culture’s tertiary retentions. Stiegler glosses “tertiary retention” as “a mnemotechical exterioriation of secondary retentions [i.e. memory conventionally understood] which are themselves engendered by primary retentions [i.e. the immediate data of consciousness].”8 The materiality of these tertiary retentions establishes an intergenerational memory support that conditions learning, acting, and further activities of memory. These tertiary retentions do not simply store memories in the sense that an mp3 is “on” an iPod or an essay is “on” a hard drive, but also retain the gestures, the very manner of human being and doing with which they are associated. Print publishing, for example, not only allows us to archive and disseminate scholarship (which is to say that it allows us to transmit scholarship through time and space).9 Additionally, print publishing, as a tertiary retention, also transmits (especially through time and amongst generations) a logic and gesture of print. Writes Stiegler, “To this extent, therefore, tertiary retention always already precedes the constitution of primary and secondary retention. A newborn child arrives in a world in which tertiary retention both precedes and awaits it, and which, precisely, constitutes this world as world.”10 As we will see below, this world includes the isolation of the scholar, the manner in which she sits and reads and writes, etc. If, to adapt Flusser’s formulation, the scholarly journal is to have a future, we must ask whether that future will be newly constituted or determined by that logic and gesture we transfer from old media to new.

Just as the nineteenth-century realist novel remains a standard against which all subsequent novels are measured (a Pynchon seems strange when compared to a Dickens), and has thus become an apparently ideal form, scholarly publishing still measures success according to forms established more than a century ago. Alexander Reid, in an essay on graduate education in the context of the digital humanities, gives us a brief history lesson on this establishment. He notes that the current model of academic publishing in the humanities arises in the 19th century with the advent of the Modern Language Association

Industrialization not only prodded the growth of higher education; it directly supported the development of scholarly practices in the humanities. While the earliest MLA conventions were likely facilitated by rail travel, contemporary national conferences were built on air travel, a national highway system, and the general process of urbanization that led to conference centers and such: MLA is just one of many national conferences in many industries. Similarly, PMLA becomes one of the many periodicals in an age of industrial printing, and scholarly monographs fit into a larger publishing industry. An investigation of the various assemblages or networks that have participated in the formation of humanities discourses could extend interminably. However, I think it is fair to say that the typical length of a journal article (around seven thousand words) or conference presentation (around twenty minutes) is not a reflection of some tangible, epistemological structure in humanities research: under different technological constraints, these would likely be different.11

Beyond the facts presented here we should take away from Reid an understanding that scholarship and the media through which we transmit it has a history. The conference paper, the essay, the journal, the monograph – such forms are not natural, but historical. (We might add to this history things such as peer review, tenure, the job market, etc. – no matter what we think of them and their necessity.) Moreover, Reid demonstrates that the histories of these forms are not removed from other historical conditions, the most notable in his account (and for the present argument) being the technical milieu in which they develop and manifest. The article (which itself has become a standard against which other forms, such as tenure, are determined) does not derive its standard and standardized form from an eternal ideal to which it relates as simulacrum, but rather from technical constraints “external” to it.

Suddenly we find ourselves in the position of the Don DeLillo character who frets about the fact that, even if her mop cleans the floor, she cannot be sure that the solvent that cleaned the mop is clean or if that which manufactured the solvent is clean (and on to infinity). How can we trust the original standard once it has revealed its own contingency? The short answer is that we know we cannot trust these groundless standards with their histories and so we insist on their perpetuation as instantiations of eternal forms. To clarify: our academic system (which I will discuss shortly in terms of what Stiegler calls organology) derives its standards from conventions that develop over time. That these standards have such a history is itself not a problem. Rather, the problem is that when a new technical milieu (which of course itself developed out of and as a response to the same one that academic publishing developed within) presents itself we insist on retaining the logic of our historical forms as if they had no history.

Grammatization and the organology of scholarship

We should not take Reid’s point that “the various assemblages or networks that have participated in the formation of humanities discourses could extend interminably” as a warning against the consideration of such connections, but rather as an imperative to understand the manner in which tertiary retentions influence and determine what we call scholarship and its transmission. Stiegler develops his thinking on tertiary retentions in the three volumes of Technics and Time. However, the gloss to which I refer above comes at the beginning of his book For a New Critique of Political Economy. That he begins this later text with a discussion of the means by which the mnesic capacities of technology transmit not only content, but constitute the world for future generations underscores the necessities of, first, thinking how past forms condition future possibilities and, second, framing this question as one of system, network, assemblage, or in Stiegler ’s term “organology” (which takes the place of political economy elsewhere in his work).

Stiegler argues that the creation of tertiary retentions involves a process of grammatization. As discussed above, tertiary retentions do not simply store or disseminate something called content (songs, essays, videos, etc.), but more importantly store the gesture and logic of the human who uses, produces, and comes to rely on them.

Gesture must here be considered (like speech) as a retentional flow, that is, as acontinuous chainof gestures, and the learning of a craft consists in producing gestural secondary retentions, whereas the discretization and the spatialized reproduction of the time of gestures constitutes technical automation, but where it is no longer the logos of the soul but rather the gestures of the body that becomeanalytically reproducible as tertiary retention. This reproducibility results in retentional gain that one can callgrammes. And this is why we posit that the evolution of tertiary retention, from the Neolitihic age to our own, constitutes a process of grammatization.12

Otherwise put: the process by which secondary retentions of the body and mind (muscle memory or formal logic, for example) become tertiary retentions requires that these secondary retentions become discretized, decomposed, grammatized (in a formulation Stiegler develops out of the early Derrida). This process allows secondary retentions to enter political economy or, as I will discuss below, to become part of an organology.

To the extent that we understand grammatization, Stiegler argues, we properly understand what Marx called, in the Manifesto, proletarianization, which is one possible outcome of grammatization. Marxism’s mistake has been the confusion of the working class with the proletariat when in fact proletarianization, as grammatization, is a process of knowledge loss and deskilling that can afflict members of any class. By the nineteenth century, writing and its associated technologies (print, the codex book) had fully grammatized language andlogosand thus made possible the proletarianization I write of here. Then, with the industrial revolution, the “history of mnemotechnics suddenly surpasses the sphere of language.”13 At this moment, which roughly corresponds to the rise of Foucault’s disciplinary society, gesture becomes the primary target of grammatization and thus becomes available for reproduction within those tertiary retentions associated with automation at the beginning of the twentieth century. Notably, with the advent of automation also come those technologies of reproduction that Benjamin would investigate in the 1930s. Finally, from then on, the capitalism of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, through the “grammatization of gesture, which was the basis of what Marx describes as proletarianization, that is, asloss of savoir-faire,” could pursue, through the invention and innovation of electronic and digital media, the grammatization of all forms of knowledge.14

In the present context we can understand the grammatization of humanities scholars and their knowledge practices as a process by which the historical forms of writing, publishing, storing, and disseminating scholarship – that is to say creating scholarship, vetting it and making it available in a consumable form, and then transmitting it through time and space – become naturalized through the storage, as tertiary retention, of its logic and gesture in media and technology such as the journal and the monograph (or, more broadly, the codex book). This grammatization constitutes a loss of savoir-faire insofar as humanities scholars, whoperhaps once could think scholarship itself and not simply within a scholarly mentality always already given, can never question the foundations of their practice.

In Taking Care of Youth and the Generations, Stiegler offers a description of academic training in terms of what he calls general organology. “A scholarly education, as the interiorization of organology, consists entirely of psychotechniques for capturing and fashioning attention, transforming it into nootechniques through the interiorization of disciplinary criteria.”15 By “organology” Stiegler refers to a general practice and study of the connection between human organs (i.e. the body and mind, broadly), technical organs (that is, technologies), and human organizations (such as schools). “Psychotechniques” are practices of individuation that cultivate attention (such as the book) and must be distinguished from “psychotechnologies” which short circuit attention (which include electronic and digital media).16 “Nootechniques” are practices of transindivuation having to do with a “we” rather than an “I”; hence the connection here to “disciplinary criteria”, the standards of a group. To be clear: Stiegler here refers to both the rules according to which one might make arguments in an academic setting as well as the gestures embedded in the technologies through which those arguments are made. He continues this passage as follows:

Embedded in these criteria are the rules governing the practice of any organology—such as the rules for rewriting in mathematics, as the anamnesis of the long circuits grounding those rules in reason (that is, by going back to axioms) transferred through the course work assigned by teachers in training programs. Certain organs – the eye, the hand, the brain – must be coordinated for reading and writing to take place, but the entire body must first be trained to sit for long periods of time.17

We can see the connection here between Stiegler’s organology and academic training in the humanities insofar as such training has been conditioned by the book and writing implements of various sorts. We learn to sit and read, to sit and write. Our human organs become coordinated with technical organs, namely those having to do with reading and writing – not only books and paper but desks, chairs, footrests, floor and desk lamps, pens and pencils, notebooks, typewriters, computers (and the keyboard-screen-mouse interface), etc. We learn that perhaps the most valuable things we can own are good office and reading chairs that will prevent chronic back pain because the tertiary retentions we inherit have dictated that it be so. Moreover, this coordination of human organ and technical organ, of person, book, chair, etc. also coordinates with organizations. Foremost among these is the school (or, as Stiegler prefers, the skolieon) which becomes the site at which discipline develops and maintains itself (although Stiegler’s reading of the school and similar disciplinary institutions is far more positive than Foucault’s). We might also include the library, the bookstore,, professional blogs, Twitter, Facebook, granting agencies, government organization on various levels, and hardware and software manufacturers (and on to infinity as Reid suggests) among the list of spaces and institutions involved in this organology. In short, stored in the scholarly practices of the humanities – including its journals – are not only certain contents (poems, our thoughts on poems, etc.). Also stored there – in the same manner that the assembly line stores the gesture of the industrial worker that preceded it as well as the economy that informs that worker – are the muscle memories of the humanities scholar, an ergonomics of reading and writing, as well as the objects, practices, and organizations that support and inform this ergonomics.

This tertiary retention of scholarly practice in the form of the book and other technologies of writing, publishing, and transmission, has a serious consequence. Namely, it has “constituted this world as world” for all those who have entered the humanities since the end of the industrial revolution. Any new scholar has the right to write articles or monographs, but never the right to challenge articles or monographs as such; you may involve yourself in innovative writing practices, but you may never challenge the fundamental form known as scholarship (or those practices and objects that support it). Whatever you do must be recuperable in terms of those fundamental forms: you will write articles, you must write a book. And here we might push still further to note that even when someone does manage to challenge the fundamental forms of the article or the book (or the practice of writing), as in contemporary advocacy for tool building and collaborative research in the digital humanities, the language of scholarship is ingrained in the discourse to the point that it becomes unavoidable. For example, in their introduction to a special section of the 2011 edition of Profession on evaluating digital scholarship for promotion and tenure, Susan Schreibman, Laura Mandell, and Stephen Olsen offer something of a Stieglerian take on the intersection of media and scholarly being when they write: “Current debates in the field of of the digital humanities about the divergent practices of ‘close’ and ‘distant’ reading are really a screen for deeper changes called for by the advent of new media. Digital technologies do more than propose new ways of thinking, as did theory; they requirenew modes of being.18 However, even as they look forward with this claim they find it impossible to avoid the language they inherit and the forms it suggests when they write: “digital scholarship needs to be recognized not only as scholarship but also as literary scholarship.19

Here we confront the significance of Stiegler ’s organology for the present context, namely that any failure to rethink scholarship, to create (or destroy) its future by understanding and thus overcoming its past, manifests not simply from our adherence to an ideal content of writing, nor only from the linearity and uniformity with which writing and print inform our thought (a subject to which Flusser, following McLuhan, devotes considerable attention). In addition to these inheritances, scholars have learned – and have insisted, explicitly or otherwise, that new scholars learn – those practices through which long circuits of attention form. These practices are not simply “the dissertation” or “the book” or “the article” (or even the keyboard- screen-mouse interface) insofar as these are the recognizable objects of reading, writing, and publishing. They also include the material demands these forms place upon scholars to adapt their bodies to the rigors of rigor. The “new modes of being” that Schreibman, Mandell, and Olsen posit are not subjectivities that write essays about new objects, or even ones who find new essay forms. They include the subjectivities that blurredly develop during collaborative writing, that evolve in the dynamic spaces of the humanities computing laboratory, that find expression amongst the conversations at the “unconference,” or that emerge as a function of the rolled-up- sleeves mentality of the coding or building team.20 None of these practices depends upon, teaches, or maintains the historical forms of attention on which humanities scholarship continues to be based. For there to be a new mode of scholarly being – for scholarship to have a future – scholarship in the form given us by tertiary retention must forget those tertiary forms, even as it recognizes and understands them, and return to the beginning.

Kindergarten and the arrival of the newborn child

The length of the list of online humanities journals above (and that its woeful incompleteness implies a much longer list) reveals perhaps that we in the humanities think of the problem of publishing in terms of supply and demand. We do not think that there is a demand on the part of potential readers for more scholarship to read, of course, but rather that there is a demand for more outlets for scholarship – a demand for more vectors for its transmission through time and space. The supply of potentially publishable scholarship is high (a supply created in part by both a need for tenure among those fortunate enough to have tenure track jobs as well as a desire by and need for those without such jobs to gain such jobs through, of course, increased publication). Our logic seems to be that if there are more opportunities to publish, the rewards of publication (again, employment, tenure, etc.) will follow. Even if we understand the proliferation of online journals to be in response to a need for venues for new avenues of scholarship, we might not be heartened. After all, this response responds to an ossification or reification of the scholarship taking place in extant, longstanding print journals. Moreover, these online journals do not for the most part (although there are notable exceptions) challenge the print based assumptions of what scholarship is and can be but only reinforce those assumptions.

When we think of the future of the scholarly journal we need to think not only of its future for us, who continue to write within the old codes Flusser describes (even if we do so in a new medium). We must also consider Stiegler ’s newborn child, in this case the first-year graduate student (or the late career undergraduate). The history Reid gives us above comes in an essay about “the question of how to prepare graduate students for academic careers in the humanities.”21 Reid notes that graduate students entering doctoral programs now (2011 in his essay) will be finishing their degrees at the end of this decade. Given the scarcity of academic jobs, many of these PhDs will not find full time employment before 2025 (and even this seems optimistic by Marc Bousquet’s account).22 What sort of world will that PhD find for herself in this future? Will it be one characterized by what a fundamental shift in the grammatization of scholars, such as Reid imagines when he speaks of a radical instantiation of the digital humanities that

is not simply the digital/computational study of the humanities or the humanistic study of the digital; it is the the way in which the humanities as a whole shifts from a print paradigm to a digital one. It is in this sense that all the humanities becomes subsumed within the digital, and it is at this level that the concern for a digital education in graduate programs affects everyone in the humanities.23

The “the digital/computational study of the humanities” and “the humanistic study of the digital” Reid mentions here represent the legacy of Flusser’s conservatism and suggest, given their entrenchment within the purview of scholarship as presently constituted, that the world that the new graduate student finds upon arrival will be much the same as this world, which is to say the world of the nineteenth century.

That is, the new graduate student will come to a world always already constituted for her as a print-based world of industrial era logic and gesture, in which she might (might) find purchase for her scholarly thoughts but never will have opportunity to think what scholarship might be—despite the availability of post-print tools by means of which she might accomplish such a task. Instead, she must produce another close reading or cultural study of a text, a period, an author, an object, etc. So that she might publish on her chosen thing she must find a new spin on it, perhaps a new methodology. Failure to do so will disqualify her from publishing because someone has always already published on that thing according to an establish spin (which is always scholarly, of course). However, a new spin will not be welcome by those invested in the old one and therefore she needs a new journal, which will likely be online. (In this context the blog reveals itself to be the logical conclusion of a process by which each scholar, because of the uniqueness of her scholarship, must establish her own journal in which to publish.)

Of course this proliferation of journals and the increased publishing capacity they afford might solve the problem of publishing capacity but does nothing to address the situation of the humanities in the twenty-first century or the tenuous position of potential humanistic scholars. When every potential publication is actually published, publication itself no longer has value. Clearly, the logic and gesture according to which the journal article descends to us was never equipped to exist at the scale we in the humanities now demand,24 nor was it meant to be the standard against which all practitioners of the humanities are to be judged. As readership for scholarship declines, forward thinking scholars (which is to say non- or no-longer-scholars) should wonder about the point of continuing with the practice or, at least, valuing this practice to the exclusion of any other practice. Once that wonder takes hold, a wonder born of the knowledge of the historical conditions of scholarship that no longer constrain it, scholarship will no longer have a future. At that moment we will have returned to kindergarten, to the beginning of education, to the moment when we have no more memory of our discipline except as a history that has passed. At that moment, the future will belong to the generations who will live it.


My conclusion seems to me optimistic, and I hope that optimism is warranted. However, I do not wish to imply that the embrace of the digital is without its problems. David Golumbia, inthe Cultural Logic of Computation, warns us about the problems of what he calls “computationalism.” Fred Turner, in From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, describes the connection between technolibertarianism and systems and industries of control. Stiegler himself remains skeptical about the potential of digital technologies to produce something as worthwhile as the monuments of print culture. The process through which humanities scholars adopt a new logic and gesture of digital media is also a process of grammatization and also affords its own tertiary retentions; for Stiegler, everything is pharmacological, both poison and cure. However, I do not believe that we can, from the current vantage point within print culture, anticipate or overcome any problems that might arise from such a process. Rather, we will solve those problems under the conditions that create them, with the tools the we develop out of whatever the next step is. The problems of the digital will not be solved in the past, but the future.

  1. Vilém Flusser, Does Writing Have a Future?, trans. Nancy Ann Roth (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2011), 3. 

  2. Flusser, Writing, 3. 

  3. Flusser, Writing, 151. 

  4. For recent examples of such conservatism, see Stanley Fish’s blog posts for The New York Times, including “The Old Order Changeth” and “The Digital Humanities and the Transcending of Mortality.” See also Gary A. Olson’s article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, “How Not to Reform Humanities Scholarship.” For a response to Olson (and implicitly Fish) that dovetails with my arguments here, see Mark Sample’s blog post “Serial Concentration is Deep Concentration.” 

  5. Flusser, Writing, 154. 

  6. Alexander Reid, “Graduate Education and the Ethics of the Digital Humanities,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2011), 357. 

  7. This list does not constitute anything like a comprehensive list, but rather reflects my own critical and scholarly interests in cultural studies, theory, and media. Each field within the humanities likely has its own swath of recently created online publication venues; the existence of such only serves to underscore my point. In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention that I am the former managing editor of electronic book review and that I remain on its editorial board. Finally, this list does not (with the exception of Postmodern Culture) reflect the digital publication of print journals in subscription databases, an issue I cannot address here. For a recent account of some the problems with this mode of publication, see Laura McKenna’s article “Locked in the Ivory Tower: Why JSTOR Imprisons Academic Research”. Also see Nancy Sims’ response to McKenna, “Academicpublishing is full of problems; lets get them right,” which corrects a number of mistakes in McKenna’s account of JSTOR. 

  8. Bernard Stiegler. For a New Critique of Political Economy, trans. Daniel Ross (Cambridge: Polity, 2010), 9. 

  9. I am influenced here by McKenzie Wark’s A Hacker Manifesto. Wark’s main concern is the manner in which information takes on value and how the vectoralist class (which supersedes the capitalist class when information supersedes the industrial factory as primary property form) extracts that value. He writes, “Extracting a surplus from information requires technologies capable of transporting information through space, but also through time. The storage of information may be as valuable as its transmission, and the archive is a vector through time just as telesthesia is a vector through space. The whole potential of space and time becomes the object of the vectoral class” (para. 318). See also Wark’s discussion of representation, which mirrors the present discussion on the difficulty of overcoming inherited forms of thought. 

  10. Stiegler, New Critique, 9 (original emphasis). 

  11. Reid, “Graduate,” 355. 

  12. Stiegler, New Critique, 10 (original emphasis). 

  13. Stiegler, New Critique, 32 (original emphasis). 

  14. Stiegler, New Critique, 33. 

  15. Bernard Stiegler, Taking Care of Youth and the Generations, trans. Stephen Barker (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2010), 65. 

  16. Although Stielger’s work on technics offers a means by which to describe and perhaps overcome the constraints the past places on scholarship as tertiary retention, Stiegler himself tends to be rather conservative on this front. In Taking Care of Youth and the Generations, he decries many if not all electronic and digital media. Such media, he argues, short circuit attention, fail to produce the long circuits of attention that reading and writing (in the conventional understandings of these practices) cultivate. Although his insistence on the pharmacological properties of all technology (which I will very briefly discuss in my postscript) complicates his apparent conservatism, I still detect (and remain uncomfortable with) a note of paternalism in Stiegler’s argument. 

  17. Stiegler, Taking Care, 65 (my emphasis). 

  18. Susan Schreibman, Laura Mandell and Stephen Olsen. “Evaluating Digital Scholarship: Introduction,” Profession (2011), 126 (my emphasis). 

  19. Schreibman et al., “Evaluating,” 126 (emphasis modified). 

  20. Each of these speculative new modes of being refers to longstanding conversations in the digital humanities. For more on these issues I refer the reader to Matthew K. Gold’s edited volume Debates in the Digital Humanities, in which Alexander Reid’s essay, discussed above, is published. 

  21. Reid, “Graduate,” 350. 

  22. Bousquet argues that for most graduate students in the humanities, the PhD signals the end of an academic career rather than the start of one as the terminal degree prices them out of a casualized labor market that demands cheap adjuncts or teaching assistants to meet budget restrictions engendered by the focus of university administration on projects that have little to do with education or research. See How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation for more on this issue and for Bousquet’s discussion of “informationalism,” which has influenced the argument I present here. 

  23. Reid, “Graduate,” 357. 

  24. See Helen De Cruz’s recent blog post, “The increasingly hard quest for referees,” for an account of one journal’s difficulty of finding referees, a problem that arises no doubt in part as a function of this increased scale. As the number of writers seeking publication goes up, so does the demand for referees. However, the number of competent referees does not necessarily increase at a pace sufficient to meet demand. The reasons for this problem of supply include the fact that many would be referees are themselves consumed by the necessity of writing to the exclusion of other tasks that appear to be service (such as refereeing) and because, in relation to the number of writers who desire publication, there are proportionally fewer acknowledged experts in a given field whom editors understand to be qualified to be referees. Also see Denise Horn’s article for Inside Higher Ed, “How Journals Put Us Behind the Times,” for a straightforward account of how journal publication cannot keep pace with scholarly conversation in the digital age. 

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