Academic Publishing and its Digital Binds: Beyond the Paywall towards Ethical Executions of Code
In this article we explore various constraints and potentials of academic publishing in the digital age. Advancement of digital platforms and their expansive reach amplify the underlying tensions of institutional and scholarly change. A key affordance of these platforms is that of speed: rapidly distributing the outputs of a precaritised profession and responding to pressures to publish as well as the profit motive of publishers. On the one hand, these systems make possible alternative modes of contributory content and peer-production for supporting the commons. On the other, they turn all too readily into privatising devices for contracting labour and profit in the corporate sector and, within the academy, for accentuating subtle power effects. Drawing upon platform studies and integrating insights from political philosophy and property law, our article seeks to problematise neat binaries of possession and dispossession associated with the sector. We examine in particular how co-existing and emergent socio-technical circuits—what we term digital binds—modulate the political economy of academic publishing on a number of scales. These entangled binds constrain but also indicate mechanisms for opening up new possibilities. We introduce three ethical executions of code towards this end: dissuading, detouring, and disrupting. Together, these mechanisms show how mutually beneficial boundaries can be drawn for designing otherwise: by blocking dominant systems and bargaining for fairer practices; exploring sanctioned and unsanctioned systems which offer more diverse publishing pathways; and, disrupting systemic processes and profits towards more inclusive and equitable conditions.
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