Last week I learned that I had been awarded one of the 2020 Emerald Literati Awards for “How Patents Became Documents, or Dreaming of Technoscientific Order, 1895-1937,” published in Journal of Documentation 75(3), 2019. This came as a complete surprise. But a welcome one, obviously.
So much about scholarly publishing fascinates me. First there’s the enormity of it, the fact that you’re recognized (even read!) for one article in this ever-increasing avalanche or tsunami of publications out there seems like a minor miracle. I remember when I as a Comp Lit Ph.D. candidate at Uppsala University decided to write my thesis in English rather than Swedish: I admit that I had naive idea that because I was writing in English I would automatically have a huge (well, maybe not huge, but certainly bigger than 10 million Swedish-speaking) readership as well. This equation turned out to be slightly more complex and complicated than I thought some 20+ years ago.
But I think one of reasons why this award was so nice to receive was because I have always identified myself as a writer of books rather than articles. I still do. But in PASSIM I produce articles, and this means both writing and thinking differently than with a book. It’s a challenge. For many reasons. Not so much the stylistic side of things, but in terms of the way in which journal publishing has become so “formalistic.” Not sure if it’s the right word, but there is something quite problematic with the way that we decide which journal to write for first, before we decide (or even know) what the contribution of the article actually is. Of course, the entire scholarly ecosystem is now geared towards articles rather than monographs, and there are similar considerations to be made also when it comes to books, but there is something in this structure I find problematic and important to discuss.
But maybe not right now. For the moment, and in this Covid-19 moment, I’m just very pleased and grateful to Journal of Documentation.