Tag: postmodernism


Postmodern Publishing

Some 120 papers published in established scientific journals over the last few years have been found to be frauds, created by nothing more than an automated word generator that puts random, fancy-sounding words together in plausible sentence structures. As a result they have been pulled from the journals that originally published them. –Fox News

As an avid reader of theological and computer science journals, I can tell you that it’s often hard to figure out what point the author is trying to make — other than, “I’m important because I’ve published an article in a peer reviewed journal.” The result above, then, doesn’t surprise me. But it does leave me with one puzzling question:

How can they tell the difference?

Fox news, above, argues this is a result of the “publish or perish,” model of modern academics. If you’re under pressure to publish, you sometimes take the shortcut, just publishing made up stuff to get another notch on your CV. They then ask the tougher question — if these are supposed to be peer reviewed journals, why didn’t the reviewers notice something wrong? How does this stuff get published in the first place?

The answer here isn’t just that people are busy. Instead, a lot of this is based on the desire not to hurt anyone’s feelings; we don’t want to make someone feel bad, it might discourage them from trying again later. Particularly in the case of “disadvantaged authors,” there’s a tendency to overlook bad work in order to avoid the charges of racism or sexism.

Or perhaps we could just blame it all on our postmodern view of text. If the reader is going to supply the meaning, then there’s no point in the author actually putting meaning into his writing. The reader, in this case some peer review committee, sees a lot of stuff that sounds really good (or matches his belief system), and imbues the text with enough meaning to give it a pass.


The Greed Meme

The world is awash in memes —the evolutionary name for an idea that develops through social interaction over time. Whether or not memes are really the way humans developed morals, popular culture has embraced them. Not as something that develops over time, but as something intentionally created to fulfill a purpose (intelligent design, anyone?).

Internet meme creators and remixers can be a force for good, in that they “look for a pathos in the world and try to capture it,” thereby exposing absurd aspects of commercialization and mass media; but it is increasingly important that those who love memes understand and deal with “the ethical dimensions that can come from our happy generation of lulz” -Technology Review

“Pathos” is an expression of suffering —presumably what this is saying that “meme creators” are doing good by “capturing the suffering caused by commercialization and mass media.” These “meme creators,” are, apparently, a force for social good through their exposure of the power structure —turning individual moments of suffering into humor to attract attention to them, thereby “speaking truth to power.”

Here is one of the various ironies of the culture of the ‘net —turning suffering into humor as a method of social justice.

But underlying this irony is another, deeper irony, one that isn’t like to be seen by those who stand on the pitching deck of relativism. On what do those who want to “speak truth to power,” base their campaign? Do these “meme creators” really have no power on which to stand? Even David had a platform on which to stand —his faith in God.

On what do they stand, then?

On the power of building an audience by building the best “meme,” the best representation of suffering as humor, the most absurd contradiction of suffering and commercialism. On the power of the number of clicks their images get, the idea of a “meme,” “going viral.”

In other words, on the power of popularity. The more attention a meme gets, the more important, within the community, the person who created the meme becomes. As a leader of a community, the creator of the meme now has the power to sway thousands (or millions) of people.

Even if we look beyond the reality that this power to sway and influence can easily be (and often is) turned into the power of cold hard case, the underlying meme, itself, is flawed.

The meme that replacing greed for money with greed for attention will make society a more pure place.

Fat chance.

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