Friday, March 31, 2006

CFP: Knowledge Economy: The Commodification of Knowledge and Information in the Academic System

Received this through the CFP mailing list. It looks like an interesting project and would, I think, benefit from an international perspective.
Knowledge Economy: The Commodification of Knowledge and Information in the Academic System

Tomas R. Giberson, Ph.D. Oakland University, Michigan
Gregory A. Giberson, Ph.D. Salisbury University, Maryland

We are seeking proposals for papers to be included in an edited collection investigating the various ways the academic economy drives the purposes, processes, and outcomes valued from Academics, individually and collectively. We suggest that our behavior as academics is governed not only by our dedication to our individual disciplines and our specific specialties but also is influenced and often determined by varying professional, intellectual, social, and political factors. These factors differ by the size, prominence, and mission of our individual institutions, our tenure status, as well as the expectations of our colleagues, students, administrators, and local communities. The competing and often contradictory demands placed upon us are often at odds with the traditional notions of liberal education that persist as traditional performative façade, an idealization of the academy existing primarily in the lore, rituals, and mission statements of most colleges and universities but not always in the products faculty are expected to produce. As Jean François Lyotard observed in The Postmodern Condition, "The question (overt or implied) now asked by the professionalist student, the State, or institutions of higher education is no longer 'Is it true?' but 'What use is it?" (51) Indeed, the "value" of higher education has taken on new meaning, which often contradicts its traditional goals: critical and intellectual development, and civic engagement.

Members of all disciplines are invited to share thoughts, observations, and experiences in each of the three traditional areas of academic work: teaching, scholarship, and service. We also encourage submissions that address the implications of the meta economy-the interaction of these three areas on individual and systemic behavior. Historically, these three areas of the academic "job" are thought of as responsibilities defined in job descriptions and position postings. However, teaching, scholarship, and service have become commodities-outcomes that enable academics to advance their careers and achieve prominence among peers and administrators, who bestow the ultimate commodity for individual faculty members, tenure and promotion. As commodities, these become not the production of individual scholars and teachers, but units of value to be held, traded, and bargained with by universities, corporations, publishers, and degree holders to promote, trade, and sell.

Examples of questions that may be addressed include, but are not limited to:

  • How has the commodification of knowledge influenced the research you engage in and the scholarship you produce?
  • How is your behavior as a scholar influenced by the "number" and/or "quality" of publications required for tenure?
  • How is your scholarly production consumed by the university and other institutions and individuals and how does that influence you as a professional academic?
  • How has the increasing pressure to secure external funding through grants and the like impacted what and how you conduct research and scholarly inquiry?
  • How does the pressure of publication affect the pedagogy within graduate and undergraduate education?


  • How does/did your perception of the professional implications of student evaluations influence your teaching in pursuit of tenure?
  • How has your teaching been affected by the expectations of students, peers, and administrators?
  • How are your teaching strategies influenced by the number of classes/students you teach in a given semester?
  • How is your pedagogy influenced by the mission of your institution?
  • How has your teaching been influenced by other external factors, local or otherwise?


  • How do service requirements influence your work as a teacher and/or scholar?
  • How are service requirements for faculty accounted for in terms of tenure and promotion by the institution?
  • How do service requirements influence your behavior in productive and non-productive committees?
  • How do service commitments on the part of untenured faculty affect their bid for tenure?


  • How are the actions of your institution influenced by national rankings in teaching and research?
  • How do federal, state, institutional, and unit-level budgets affect your behavior as an academic?
  • How has the academic economy forced you to compromise your personal and professional goals?
  • How have increasing expectations for productivity and assessment across generations influenced your relationship with other faculty?

Given the sensitivity of the topics addressed, we will accept submissions from authors who prefer their work to be published anonymously, particularly for aubmissions from untenured faculty. However, your submission must include a brief description of your institution, department, and your placement within the tenure process, along with reasons why using your name with your submission would cause problems. We hope that tenured faculty will want their names attached to their submission.

We are seeking proposals of 500 words or less for chapters between 3,000 and 7,000 words. We welcome submissions from faculty, administrators and staff. The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2006.

For questions or to submit a proposal:

Greg Giberson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Director of Freshman Composition
Director of the Eastern Shore Writing Project
Department of English
Salisbury University


Anonymous said...

Wow! Heavy stuff. They're seeking proposals 500 words or less; I'm seeking CFP's that are 500 words or less!--ERG

Anonymous said...

P.S.--That is to say, not a knowledge economy, but an economy of knowledge: don't give it all away in the CFP, but leave enough room for others to write about it as they see fit.--ERG

Jonathan Benda said...

Despite my interest in this CFP, I have a problem with it--I feel there's sort of a disconnect between the "macro" perspective of the first paragraph and the kind of perspectives they're calling for in the second paragraph and following sections, particularly with the questions they list in the scholarship, teaching, and service sections. I'm just not sure a collection of chapters outlining people's particular situations in various types of school settings will be able to hold together.

Anonymous said...

Your judicious analysis, Jon, probably reflects your more patient reading of the CFP than mine. I think they might have been just as well off stopping after the first paragraph "macro" perspective as you refer to it. It seems to me that they go on after that opening--probably with the best intentions of elaborating and clarifying--but the effect is to qualify and jargonize to the extent that almost anything could "fit" what they're calling for. I wonder if "traditional performative facade" is the same as when I tell my parents "I fooled 'em [my academic employers] again!"?--ERG

Anonymous said...

As one of the authors of this call, I think all of the comments offered here are relevant and certainly informative. "Performative facade" is derived from Lyotard and refers to the disconnect between the idealized version of the academy represented in our traditions, lore, etc. and the day-to-day realities of academic life that bring into question that idealization. Also, "Knowledge Economy" is intended to refer to a concept that has entered into the vernacular as a overwhelmingly positive idea.

The response so far to the CFP has indeed prompted varying responses to both the macro and micro implications of the impact of the Knowledge Economy on the academy. Our suggestions, which, upon reflection, primarily speak to the micro, have also inspired several interesting (and international) macro analyses. We certainly encourage people interested to "write about it as they see fit." That's the main thrust of this project--to figure out what is going on!

Thanks to Jonathan for posting this, and thanks to others for the comments. One difficulty with a CFP such as this is getting in front of as many people as possible.


Jonathan Benda said...

Thanks for your response, Prof. Giberson. I'm glad to hear you're getting both responses focused on both macro- and micro-level analyses. (And some international responses. As I've said before on this blog, I think A. Suresh Canagarajah's A Geopolitics of Academic Writing is powerful for the way that it pulls the focus of discussions of academic writing away from the North American context and toward the ways in which the commodification of knowledge has placed serious material constraints on scholars in the developing world.)

Good luck with your project!