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Re: [xmca] Citing and Slighting
To tell you the truth, it is the slighting part of the subject line that most concerns me right now. The editorial itself is something of a howler, and it's actually quite interesting that it fails so obviously to practice what it preaches. But what really irritated me about it was that I read it right after getting my umpteenth rejection from MCA for...you guessed it...not mentioning the right names. And this was after the article was resubmitted (after THREE YEARS of being mislaid) on the advice of the editor, who in a rather cryptic note enjoined us to "contribute to the literature", presumably the literature survey.
Still I recommend that people read the editorial. It includes a very touching and moving history of MCA which tells me a good deal about how the journal has fallen from very idealistic beginnings into the (generally poor) state in which I find it in my mail box.
Picture a group of people who are find their fellow humans incurably tribal and hold that their very cognition shows it, and that academic disciplines are really just another name for this arbitrary tribalism. They are, appropriately, keenly interested in what Mike calls "population differences in cognition" and whether and how these variations can be said to be "developmental".
They set up a newsletter to talk about these differences, and the newsletter is, for many years, more or less exactly what Jay describes in his French model and even in his theoretical physics model of an academic publishing community. It's citation poor and idea rich. Nobody ever really thinks of anything first, and the only thing that matters is what you've been thinking lately.
The newsletter is also transdisciplinary rather than interdisciplinary. It's an inquiry in the good old applied linguistics sense (before we got into TESOL and "Critical Discourse Analysis"). It's not a federation of tribes that establish diplomatic relations and temporary alliances with continguous territories for the purpose of exchanging ambassadors. It's a fleet of pirate ships and whalers that navigate a roiling sea of problems with a miscegenous and miscegenating crew Melville would be proud of.
Things work perfectly well so long as it is understood that the sea is the real captain. But as their venture prospers, it becomes necessary to have a boatswain and mate, and these indispensables somehow "know" where other hands are to be found, and which are to be trusted.
Now, I am one of those found hands, technically known as "reviewers". And technically, I suppose I should not be, since in a peer review system one is supposed to be reviewed by peers, and I have never been able to publish any of my research in MCA. But the sea is a stern master, and sometimes calls even the cabin boy to climb the mast.
When I review an article, I assume that the editor has read it, and considers it at least potentially valuable. What that means is that I will NEVER give that article the rating "Do not resubmit". Part of the job which the editor has entrusted me with is to make sure the author knows what kind of effort is required for this article to join our venture.
That effort doesn't usually involve adding rafts of citations, and in fact the one time I have made such a suggestion it was to replace a number of citations with the single name of Vygotsky, which can be almost as unifying as the sea itself in some latitudes.
Reviewing NEVER involves uncivil language on my part; it NEVER involves casting aspersions on the scientific integrity or the scientific worthiness of the venture or on the validity of the author's inquiry. After all, why would the editor waste my time with an article which he considers iredeemably worthless?
Now, of course, some of this reviewing takes time. I have written some reviews that were nearly as long as the original article, particularly since I feel that native writers of English owe something to the many many good scholars who have been radically inconvenienced by having to write in our mother tongue. And I suppose that many specialist reviewers called to what they may easily imagine is an interdisciplinary enterprise rather than a transdisciplinary venture, have little time for this sort of thing.
So four times in the last three years I have received instructions from reviewers at MCA that the article passed on to them by the editor should not be resubmitted. Now I take it that this uncivil, ill-tempered and (if I may say so) unscholarly attitude is really a reproach to the editor rather than to me. I also take it that the reviewers who respond this way have simply failed to take our journal seriously as a transdisciplinary venture and are writing from the confines of their own snug little home port. The longing for familiar references is just one sign that they haven't got their sea legs.
When I was particularly hard up for money once, I shipped as a hand on a shrimp boat in Gabes, Tunisia. The boat was very small, and the seas were very large, and the first day I was very sea-sick. I remember passing out on deck in the hot sun when were cleaning the nets. When I came to, I heard one of my companions saying contemptuously "Mazal t'hayat?" ("Not dead yet?"), and I was stung to the quick. Actually, though, he was talking about a large dogfish we'd caught.
Seoul National University of Education
is o NOT resubmit
And and often serves to cut down on the number of citations as a result). It does happen, of course, that articles come to my attention which need work, and sometimes that work is not small.
e tribes, and that all tribes
--- On Sat, 6/12/10, Jay Lemke <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Jay Lemke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Citing and Slighting
To: email@example.com, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Saturday, June 12, 2010, 3:15 PM
As a former, and I guess also current though not very active, journal editor, and not having read the MCA editorial against name-dropping yet, I would have to agree in general that a lot of social sciences journals in the US seem to have rather peculiar notions of what and when a citation is needed.
In general I think citations wind up being what they are as a balance, not to say a negotiated peace settlement, among opposing forces.
Authors with a lot of experience in publishing and academic politics tend to cite defensively (as is sometimes done in the natural sciences): weigh in with all the works and big name people that support your point of view, and head off possible criticism by citing everything that might be considered relevant by any reviewer or critic of your ideas. The former seems to be more Anglo-US and the latter more Germanic, but they often get combined. The result is way more citations than most readers have the patience for, or most publishers want to pay for the paper to print.
Reviewers always want more citations, not fewer. And responses to their criticisms, if made in the text of the manuscript, usually require added citations. Editors on the other hand are looking for fewer, both as agents of the beleagured reader and agents (or victims) of the profit-hungry publisher.
So on one side there is maximal citation: everything that anyone could possibly consider relevant. On the other, minimal citation: only those that absolutely cannot be done without. As many will know, French tradition tends to be minimalist, often including no citations, only allusions for the cognoscenti, on the theory that if you have to ask for the citation, you are not really a qualified reader.
And there lies a further tension: do we cite for the expert reader? or to make our work more accessible to a wider readership?
In the natural sciences the conventions are pretty well worked out. You cite two or three items at the beginning to place the new work in its narrowest specialist context of prior work, to define the purpose of doing it in the first place. You can also include a couple items of your own prior work at this point since you've probably been working on similar issues for the last few years. You are citing only for other expert specialists in a very narrow field. You then make one or two cites on methodology, generally referring to specialist techniques that have been applied in similar research. No citing as you describe what you did and what you found. At the end, regarding interpretation, which means the contribution of the present work to theory or standing issues in the field, you might cite someone you disagree with to say how your data shows that they are wrong and you are right. Minimalist, expert oriented, grounded in consensus models of research and
Every step away from this model adds to the number of citations. In the social sciences it is usually necessary to clue readers in to the conceptual framework you are using, the historical ancestors who are the conventional reference points for the approach and philosophy of the research, the more recent research on similar topics that you are in dialogue with, the work that describes and justifies the use of particular broad methodologies, your own prior relevant work and that of your friends (optional) and mentors (required politically), everyone else who has produced data or theory on the same topic, and everyone whose interpretations and conclusions in the area you agree or disagree with. What this model generates are dissertations, not articles or book chapters.
The conventional rules that are taught are of little real help: cite the evidentiary basis for every empirical claim (like a two-column geometry proof?), cite every work you quote from (verbatim, with page numbers) or paraphrase (a descendant of biblical exegesis?).
In the age of Google, readers who want to find background information to inform the reading of a text can do so without many of the formal citations of yore.
Among intellectuals who detest the commodification of knowledge and the Great Man theory of "credit" for knowledge production, many justifications for citation appear more political than scientific.
As an editor and a reader I want a citation when:
You refer to and rely on someone else's work that, even as a knowledgeable researcher in the discipline, I am unlikely to be familiar with
You claim that someone holds a position that s/he is not widely acknowledged to hold (or in fact does not hold, so far as I am concerned!)
Otherwise, I appreciate a couple of early citations to place your work in some intellectual-philosophical-theoretical tradition, just to save me the trouble of having to figure it out for myself from reading the whole piece and then having to go back to the beginning again.
Deft citation is more art than procedure. It's a feature of writerly style, based in a kind of habitus acquired in a field over time, and so a species of cultural capital which is probably not transferable.
Can editors really say anything useful beyond Cite More or Cite Less? Maybe.
Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
University of California -- San Diego
La Jolla, CA
On Jun 10, 2010, at 7:20 AM, mike cole wrote:
> You will be pleased to know that Eugene has an extensive critique of our
> editorial in an upcoming issue of mca.
> On Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 7:00 AM, Michael Glassman <MGlassman@ehe.osu.edu>wrote:
>> Hi David,
>> I haven't read the editorial but I have to agree with you that "name
>> dropping" is one of the more bizarre editorial critiques I have come across.
>> It reminds of of one of my favorite movie scenes from Amadeus in which
>> after one of his first operas Mozart asks the Franz Joseph how he liked the
>> music. Fran Joseph says that well it was all right but there were problems.
>> Mozart asks what poblems. And Franz Joseph says that well, there were too
>> many notes. To which Mozart states that there were just as many notes as
>> needed, no more and no less.
>> Generally this is true of citations I think. Of course you should refrain
>> from citing yourself unless necessary, or friends - but otherwise - WTH?
>> I've been doing some research on hyperlinks lately - and their history is
>> that they are meant to function a great deal like citations - but in many
>> ways citations don't only represent origination of information source but
>> also associations - that these works offer associations and trails of ideas
>> - when we write we are not only attempting to talk about a new idea but also
>> pull together a web of information and integrate what we are writing into
>> that web. This is both the author's responsibility but also the author's
>> The couple of times I have gotten the name dropping critique (never
>> explained or expanded upon) it has always struck me as the reviewer waving
>> his hand in the air and saying "too many citations."
>> From: email@example.com on behalf of David Kellogg
>> Sent: Thu 6/10/2010 3:56 AM
>> To: xmca
>> Subject: [xmca] Citing and Slighting
>> I just read Mike (Cole's) and Wolff-Michael (Roth's) editorial "The
>> referencing practices of Mind, Culture, and Activity: On citing (sighting?)
>> and being (sighted?)" with what I must confess is a mild dose of that most
>> unworthy emotion, irritation. I will try to compensate for it with generous
>> glop of humor, but I imagine some of this must be at the expense of the
>> For those of you with no access to the article, I summarize. Michael and
>> Michael hector prospective writers, in the name of the readers, about
>> unnecessary citations which they consider "name dropping" and resume
>> stuffing moves. We are given an amusing assortment of examples of this, not
>> only as examples of bad practices, but in the editorial itself, for example
>> when an overenthusiastic citation of Ilyenkov makes it appear that he is
>> entirely responsible for the dialectical materialist account of modern
>> science and poor Bakhtin is dragged in by the ears to make a completely
>> uncontested point about monologism and dialogism (even more amusingly, the
>> title of Bakhtin's book "Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics" is given
>> What the editorial really LACKS is any explanation for this lamentable
>> phenomenon beyond blaming the victims. As an author myself, I can assure the
>> editors that it is not, in general, my own name that I drop or my own resume
>> that I stuff. Why, then, do I do it?
>> Well, anybody who reads Wolff-Michael's editorials on a regular basis may
>> notice that we are often enjoined to cite MCA for no other reason than to
>> increase the journal's impact factor. And anybody who has access to my
>> voluminous collection of MCA rejection slips will notice that one of the
>> most common reasons for rejection is that the citations are incomplete.
>> As the authors say, this problem is by no means confined to MCA; I can name
>> half a dozen journals where my articles were ONLY published after the
>> insertion of references that I have very good reason to suspect were to the
>> work of the reviewers. I must say, though, that MCA is better than their
>> word on this: in general, my rejections do NOT say "revise and resubmit with
>> more references"--they tend to say "Don't bother, kid. You're not in our
>> I paraphrase, of course. But I could certainly quote and cite.
>> David Kellogg
>> Seoul National University of Education
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