oh dear - I didn't moan but simply commented on the irony of a situation shared by many of us which, as said, isn't exclusive to universities: there are those who uphold individual and those who uphold collective agendas, with pros and cons and no doubt a need for both. Maybe this somehow resonates with Sloterdijk's foam metaphor of mass individualism and networks of co-isolated individuals. How to measure surface tensions. Movement across membranes. Metrics and transduction again. Something intriguing about the Carolingians - pioneers in measurement as well as instaters of a new education system. OK I'm going "fairly far afield". 
Roger, as someone particularly well versed in Leonardo history, what do you think of Sean's  reference to the physics publication initiative (take-over of leading open access publications by a consortium of labs and universities)?  I found it intriguing but nobody seems to have responded to this reference. 


From: Curating digital art - on behalf of roger malina
Sent: Mon 05/05/2008 4:21 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] death by peer review

Myron Sally Jane

This discussion is going faily far afield, but I cant help comment
that as a community we are victims of our own sucess.

At the time Leonardo Journal was established in 1967 there were very
few venues were artists could write about their own work (
with the exception of a number of books by artists); Art world
publishing in general put the "critic" as intermediary; Leonardo,
as well as a number of other venues, were started as places
where indeed artists , who felt that their research was of wider
interest than only for themselves, could write about their own work. It
was one attempt to open up the academy and the art world to
other voices. And there was a feeling that because technical
details were not being shared, many artists were forced to
re invent the wheel rather than have access to what technical
inventions other artists had come up with. Peer review was one
way to screen out false claims of originality.  Now of course
the "publish or perish" pendulum has swung.

At that time, in 1967,  there were essentially no university
art departments that had any interest at all on how artists
were experimenting with new media; ( with notable exceptions
such as the Center for Advanced Visual Studies of Gyorgy Kepes).

Now of course there are hundreds of new media art departments
of various kinds internationally, all competing with each other
to hire faculty and attract students ( fee paying). And indeed they
operate on business principles where "metrics" are used to try
and assess "productivity" of faculty and researchers; These kind
of systems work for the " general" assessment of " general"
productivity but usually fail to detect the best and most original
individuals. Indeed "death by peer review" is a possibility.

Now that these systems have been set up , institutionalised,
we are again faced with how to make visible the most innovative and
interesting work. Sally Jane moans about "time for research", and indeed
the university sytem and teaching loads often make it literally impossible.

One of the reasons I got interested in Jon Ippolitos discussion of
alternative recognition metrics is that with all this internet technology
there must be a way to see who is doing really striking new work
internationally= but all the social network systems end up it seems
to me to "regress to the mean" in the same way that "peer review"
often does.

I am quite keen on some of the ideas of peter sloterdijk
for instance, and right now have a discussion going with a group
on re imaging cybernetics 60 years after Weiners 1948 book=
given the millions of texts being generated, how to I assess
in some way the "impact" that someone is having through their work.
I am just peer reviewing a text by an artist and the artist is claiming
to have invented a technique, but I know that someone else
did the same kind of work 30 years ago, but how do I find out
who they influenced and the heritage of a particular idea ? How
to we establish  something like an alternative "metric" that can
also serve as a radar ?

I think the good news is that we do have a digital commons out there
with many many more people engaging in discussions of substance
than was ever the case before because of the open part of the

Also good ideas are often fragile ( death by peer review) and
need to develop in sheltered environments before being tested
to full scrutiny. In the science world there are a number of establishments
that seek to provide such environentmes ( eg the Princeton Instititute
for advanced sutdy). The medieval university indeed served one
function to create such environments, and many of the on line
environments serve such a purpose now.

roger malina