Sunday, 24 May 2009

the anarchy and oligarchy of science

Part 3 of The new information ecosystem: cultures of anarchy and closure by Siva Vaidhyanathan was written some six years ago but remains as relevant now.
Science has always been global, cosmopolitan, messy, inefficient, and troublesome.
Yes, inefficient (or “low-throughput”, as in this blog’s name). All these aspects of science attract me.
Despite some elements of oligarchy, science as a practice succeeds because of, not despite, its ideology of relative openness. Credentialism is more an imperfection rather than a corruption of science.
Of course, credentialism is not a corruption of science: it is its inherent feature. The golden age of science free of credentialism never existed, thus nobody could corrupt it in that way. Still, the other possibilities of corruption are always abound.
As in so many other areas of life — from music to political action — just as communicative technology has allowed the flowering of a new scientific revolution, the oligarchic concerns of commerce and national security have crowded out these democratic values at their sources — the university and laboratory.

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