Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy

Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy is a book by Kathleen Fitzpatrick , Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association and Visiting Research Professor of English at New York University , published by NYU Press on November 1, 2011. [1] The book provides an overview of issues facing contemporary academic publishing , including the closing of academic presses [2] and the increased pressure on faculty to publish to achieve tenure. [3] Fitzpatrick’s central argument is that academia should embrace the possibilities of digital publishing, which will change the culture of academic writing and publishing.

Major Themes

The book is divided into five chapters, not including the introduction and conclusion: Peer Review, Authorship, Texts, Preservation, and The University.

Toward a New Form of Peer Review

Fitzpatrick starts the book by deconstructing one of the most important steps in the academic publication process – peer review . Drawing on a Wide-Ranging History of and Problems in the Process of Academic Peer Review, she argues that much of the peer review process is about credentialing rather than about encouraging good ideas. [4] Digital technologies allow for a more flexible approach to the subject of the subject. and serious opinions “. [5] Keeping this in mind, Fitzpatrick offers a new peer-to-peer review. She usesMediaCommons as an example of a community-filtered web platform that can function as a site for a draft of scholarly work. [4] On such an online platform, authors can post a draft manuscript and invite comments from their peers or the public, or both. [6] Planned Obsolescence has been posted on MediaCommons Press. [7]

Changing Conceptions of Authorship

With digital publishing, Fiztpatrick envisions a shift in the conception of authorship from a solitary enterprise with a definite endpoint in the creation of the text of the writing of a community as part of an ongoing process. This change is a result of the capabilities of word processing, which permits for the swift and simple revision of text, and the digital networking, which enables linking, reader commentary, and version control . By releasing text to be read and commented on online authorship becomes ongoing, process-oriented work taking place in a community of interested readers.

Another aspect of community or collective authorship that Fitzpatrick explores is related to remix culture . She proposed a possible model of scholarly writing that collects and compiles work in illuminating ways. To be viable, this would require an institutional acknowledgment of this kind of work as well as the traditional scholarly monograph, and also the participation of the scholarly community in a gift economy with their work. It suggests that scholars use a creative Commons license for scholarly work to facilitate the use of material for the collective benefit of the community.

Fitzpatrick acknowledges that online writing, and particularly the use of platforms that enable readers comments, will require authors to develop a different relationship to their work. They must be committed to supporting online discussions without dominating them, and they must agree that they must invest in their written form, because they must participate and their duration is indeterminate. [8]

New Textual Forms

For Fitzpatrick, blogs , hypertext , and databases suggest directions in which digital scholarly publishing might move. She finds herself in the process of becoming a reader, but locates a possible future in the use of databases as well as new elements of networked arguments driven by the juxtaposition of digital objects and Their analysis. ” [9] Such texts might be multimodal, Fitzpatrick’s term for texts That do not simply include media objects aim INSTEAD media Incorporate into Their analysis uses gold as media analysis.

The Social Roots of Technical Problems

Fitzpatrick continues to develop ideas of the importance of a community of people with a view of the future. This proposal is based on the use of artificial hazards in the field of digital devices, but rather, rather than their use in the field of digital devices. It is often assumed that issues with digital preservation are due to the ephemeral quality of digital artifacts. Fitzpatrick points out that this is not entirely correct, it is not always correct, it is not always correct. The loss of access to digital texts or their interpretability,[10] Establishing this fact, Fitzpatrick argues that digital preservation efforts should not focus entirely on technical solutions to technical issues, but instead should concentrate on developing socially organized preservation systems. Fitzpatrick argues that the creators of digital artifacts must take steps to ensure the compatibility of their work with preservation efforts, stating: “… planning for the persistent availability of digital resources as part of the process of their creation will provide the greatest stability of the resources themselves at the least possible cost “. [11]

In addition to community cooperation and coordination, Fitzpatrick shows that the incorporation of open standards and built-in extensibility are crucial to the development of successful digital text preservation practices. Included in these practices are three key components: the development of standards for text markup , so that digital texts can be read across a variety of platforms; the inclusion of rich metadata , so that digital texts can be located reliably; and the preservation of access to digital texts themselves. To support her argument for social solutions, Fitzpatrick examines several successful projects dealing with the development of text markup, metadata, and access standards and practices (including TEI , DOI , andLOCKSS ) and shows that each is based in the creation of a community organization that values ​​openness and extensibility.

Rethinking and Repurposing for Sustainable Scholarly Publishing

At the heart of scholarly text production, preservation, and dissemination of the university. In a time of unfavorable economic conditions, Fitzpatrick suggests that the university may continue to fulfill its role in this endeavor only by rethinking its mission and repurposing its operational units. While the university has had a faculty of faculty, the faculty of the university has recently become a market-driven entity of the university. [12]The University of Ottawa is a university based university, which is often financially self-sustaining, and is driven by this expectation. Fitzpatrick attributes the recent trend of shuttering university and the need for them to operate.

For Fitzpatrick, the key to establishing financially viable models for university presses and modes of scholarly publishing is the reconceptualization of the university’s mission. Universities must recognize that their mission is, in addition to the production of knowledge, the communication of knowledge. Fitzpatrick conceptualizes scholarship as an ongoing conversation between scholars that can only continue if participants have the means to contribute to it. Publishing and disseminating information via the university press is one possible mode of communication. This reconceptualization of the university’s mission is part of the restructuring of its press operations. If the university is reimagined as a center of communication, rather than principally as a credential-bestowing organization, its central mission becomes the production and dissemination of scholarly work. In this rethinking, the press has a future as the knowledge-disseminating organ of the university. For this purpose, it is necessary to be integrated within the university and to be sufficiently funded, rather than financially based, rather than aligned with that of the university.

Following this restructuring, Fitzpatrick suggests that the mission of the university be further strengthened by the establishment of partnerships and modes of operation between the university library , the IT department, and the university press. As argued throughout the book, scholarly publishing in its current and future forms of training. These new interactions can lead to roles for the library, the press, and IT as a service to provide guidance during and add value to the scholarly production process.

Lastly, Fitzpatrick Suggests That thesis shifting locations and roles of the university press May remove the financial Concerns Previously Restricting Their abilities to experiment with new modes of publishing, Perhaps Allowing presses to explore alternative, more sustainable and open publishing models, Including open access publishing.

Peer-review process

Two years before publication Planned Obsolescence was openly peer-reviewed online at MediaCommons Press. [13] The manuscript is still available for open discussion on the website . Putting up a draft manuscript of the book up for open public review and discussion of the book – what scholars have a lot to gain from openly sharing their work on digital platforms, and that open debates should become apart from the publishing process itself. [6]


Planned Obsolescence has been reviewed by a range of writers.

Critics have written positively on Fitzpatrick’s treatment of authorship. Houman Barekat in the Los Angeles. Review of Books. Fitzpatrick’s Reluctance to Understand the Reality of Technology and Processes of Production “A sobering antidote to the vulgar process of determinism that characterizes so much of the hype around the digital revolution.” [14] Alex Halavais That Fitzpatrick notes “masterfully” threads history, issues, and practical implications of technologies for writers, while ignoring Neither nor too Relying Heavily on the theoretical concept of ” the death of the author “. [4]

Fitzpatrick’s exploration of academic peer review has received less favorable criticism. In particular. [4] Fitzpatrick’s outline of the post-publication peer review, the suggested alternative to pre-publication peer review, has been put into question by one reviewer deemed her proposal “riddled with flaws”, [14] while another reviewer commended the public scholarship potential of such an open method. [5]

Planned Obsolescence has also been listed as required for reading on the digital humanities , new media, and / or interactive technology and pedagogy in institutions such as the University of Maryland , [15] Emory University , [16]the CUNY Graduate Center , 15] 17] [18] and the University of Wisconsin-Madison . [19]

See also

  • Academic publishing
  • Peer review
  • Digital collaboration


  1. Jump up^ Fitzpatrick, Kathleen (2011),Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology and the Future of the Academy(1st ed.), New York, NY: NYU Press, p. 245,ISBN 978-0-814-72787-4
  2. Jump up^ Howard, Jennifer (2012-05-25). “Planned Shutdown of U. Missouri Underscores Press Shift in Traditional Publishing” . Chronicle of Higher Education . Retrieved 2014-03-17 .
  3. Jump up^ MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion (2007). “Report of the MLA Task Force on Evaluating” (PDF) . Profession : 9-70.
  4. ^ Jump up to:d Halavais, Alex. “Review: Planned Obsolescence” . At Thaumaturgical Compendium . Retrieved 16 March 2014 .
  5. ^ Jump up to:b Baldwin, Neil. “Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Essential New Book – Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy The CRC December 2011 Neil Baldwin’s Spotlight Review and a Letter in Response from Gary Hall About a Revolutionary Open Access e-Book Project ” . Montclair State University . Retrieved 16 March 2014 .
  6. ^ Jump up to:b Tosi, Alessandra. “Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy” . Times Higher Education . Retrieved 16 March 2014 .
  7. Jump up^ Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “How to Read this Text – Planned Obsolescence”. Retrieved 16 March 2014 .
  8. Jump up^ Fitzpatrick, Kathleen (2011). “Authorship”. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy . New York: NYU Press.
  9. Jump up^ Fitzpatrick, Kathleen (2011). Planned Obsolescence . New York: NYU Press. p. 103.
  10. Jump up^ Fitzpatrick, Kathleen (2011). “Preservation”. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy . New York: NYU Press.
  11. Jump up^ Fitzpatrick, Kathleen (2011). Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy . New York: NYU Press. p. 125.
  12. Jump up^ Fitzpatrick, Kathleen (2011). Planned obsolescence: Publishing, technology, and the future of the academy . New York: NYU Press. pp. 157-166. ISBN  978-0-8147-2896-3 .
  13. Jump up^ Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “Planned Obsolescence” . Kathleen Fitzpatrick. Retrieved 16 March 2014 .
  14. ^ Jump up to:b Barekat, Houman. “The Read-Write Generation” . Retrieved 19 March 2014 .
  15. Jump up^ “Introduction to Digital Humanities” . Retrieved 2 April 2014 .
  16. Jump up^ “Intro to Digital Scholarship and Media Studies” . Retrieved 2 April2014 .
  17. Jump up^ “Fall 2012 Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Core 1” . Retrieved 2 April 2014 .
  18. Jump up^ “Digital Praxis Seminar” . Retrieved 2 April 2014 .
  19. Jump up^ “The Future of Print” . Retrieved 2 April 2014 .