My take on parallels between control over curatorial and academic contexts--
Danny Butt wrote [New Media Curating list]:
>I can't help but think of homologies back to the idea of net.art as an
>attack on the gallery system. What I think has become clearer is that
>the role of curatorial practice, or the museum, or the publisher, is
>not merely that of gatekeeper as it is often conceived in the net.art
>imagination. It is also about the provision of context that is a
>critical aspect of the entire ecosystems of disciplines and practices.
I agree that curators provide context as well as gatekeeping, but if my fifteen years as a curator in a major museum is any indication, the ability to control the context is even more powerful than the ability to control who gets in the door.
Sure, there are some artists and curators mounting risky shows in alternative spaces. But as long as these efforts are evaluated according to the art market's prevailing hierarchy of value, they don't have much effect on the top of the pyramid.
This was precisely the value of Internet art--not just to produce and distribute art outside the museum, but to establish a different context that wasn't under the thumb of blue-chip gallerists and auctioneers.
Similarly, as Sean Cubitt mentioned, university research is increasingly evaluated according to a monolithic hierarchy that reduces each researcher to a numerical standing calculated from the number of refereed articles times the "rank" of each
journal. This rankism is a pitifully shallow view of the ecosystem required for critical or creative thought, and is one of the "impediments to new ideas and expression" that Roger Malina described crippling the contemporary university.
So how can academics nourish the ecosystem for new media research?
1. Publish early and often. The scientists are doing it (see Mitchell Waldrop's article in this month's Scientific American at
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=science-2-point-0&print=true). Some folks on this list have already published on ThoughtMesh (http://thoughtmesh.net), which will soon launch a "submesh" feature that emulates journal selections.
2. Negotiate each publication with your press. If the contract your press sends you doesn't explicitly allow you to self-archive your work, write it on the contract and fax or email it back. You'll be surprised at how flexible publishers can be.
3. Lobby your university to upgrade its promotion and tenure criteria for the 21st century. As mentioned elsewhere on this list, Leonardo has been quick to see the need to expand publication opportunities for scholars in the networked age; Leonardo
magazine will soon be publishing the guidelines for new media academics produced by Still Water at the University of Maine:
"New Criteria for New Media" (white paper)
"Promotion and Tenure Guidelines" (sample redefined criteria)
I've already received a half-dozen emails from folks hoping the publication of criteria like these will force their institutions to recognize the new forms of research birthed by digital media. If you have your own guidelines or want to contribute
to the conversation, please join the Leonardo Education Forum discussion at http://artsci.ucla.edu/LEF/node/104.