gurdeepmattu

Author and Publisher. I work in academic publishing. I live in London and am currently writing my second novel. I can be contacted at @gurdeepmattu and gurdeep.mattu@gmail.com and would especially like to hear from literary agents interested in representing my work.

Category: Uncategorized

Some Thoughts on Digital Platforms and Accreditation

TDW 

I recently spoke to an academic who is a Director of Research for a department at a sizeable institution.  Our conversation was broad ranging – from ideas for books to the notion of not having enough bookshelf space and through to Open Access.  Open Access always seems to come up, because it is, quite clearly, a huge issue.  It’s been over a decade since the initial manifestos and declarations in Budapest and Berlin.  In that time, the journals ecosystem has shifted hugely and the academic books world is now, at the time of writing, also undergoing seismic shifts.  We are seeing initiatives like Knowledge Unlatched gather steam, and fully open access presses like Ubiquity, UCL Press and White Rose University Press.

In the UK, we’ve had the Stern Review, published in 2016, and the Finch Report in 2012.  Both had elements that expressly dealt with open access.  The Finch Report recommended that open access become a central requirement of the (funded) academic output in the UK and the Stern Review dealt with the requirements of the next Research Excellent Framework and how open access might be mandated for inclusion.  So much, so familiar – this is has all been dealt with in so many places, and in so many ways, by the pro-open access lobby and the anti-open access lobby (that feels open access would be a bad thing for an already established publishing ecosystem).

Despite the tenor of the debate, even if the journal is open access, the path to accreditation at promotion panels is clear.  A journal article is put against someone’s name, and they become the Named Author.  An open access book is the same thing: people understand what a book is, and they know that, as long as the book has merit and is not vanity published or plagiarised, that it is a good thing.  ‘How good’ is matter that depends on the prestige of the press, the reception of the book in the outside world, the sales figures it accrues, the reviews it garners.  But we understand it.

What about a 8,000 word piece that goes onto an online platform (either free to access, or behind a subscription paywall)?  How is this rated, and how will this go down at panels?  In their rush to set these sorts of subscription platforms up, have publishers considered that academics might be wary of writing for cash payments, and for their work to be absorbed into a mass of millions of words?  Will these sorts of things be articles that are admissible to the research assessment frameworks that exist across the world?  How are the metrics of success to be extracted – clicks?  Numbers of subscribers (publishers are very, very reluctant to release this information)?  How is the reputation of the subscription platform to be judged – will we need some sort of ISI ranking for subs products?  They are incredibly varied, and it is case of compares apples with oranges for the most part.  This doesn’t even touch on the work that academics put in to MOOCs and online course materials.

I don’t propose to deliver answers here, but it is certainly something that I will be thinking about and writing about in the near future.  Please do get in touch with me if you’d like to contribute to that process.

High End Audio

207naimcd555
It is very easy to get sucked into the world of high end audio, or ‘audiophilia’.  It can start very innocuously.  It might be, as with me, that your trusted CD player (part of the classic Panasonic SA PM 20 midi system) had started skipping, and you wanted a solution in order to play your collection of Compact Discs.  It’s a very swift process and before you know it you are staring at a review of a £15,000 NAIM CD555.  Words like ‘confident sound reproduction’ and ‘stunning timekeeping’ are bandied about as if normal CD players had self-esteem issues, or a woeful sense of 1-2-3-4 (despite being digital devices).  The mind boggles at the speakers and amplifier that an audiophile might pair with this kind of CD player, which (lest we forget) only plays ‘Red Book’ CDs (the kind you and I know as ‘CDs’) rather than any of the high-resolution variants like SACD.  It won’t play your DVD collection.  It won’t let you plug in your iPad.  It plays CDs.  For £15,000.  A suitable speaker set up might be the Wilson Audio Alexandria XLF that cost £200,000.  Then there the ‘interconnects’ to buy – the incredibly expensive high end audio leads that provide ‘loss-less transfer’.  By no means is it an exaggeration that you could speak £300,000 on a stereo in this rarified world, and of course, at that point, you’re unlikely to have 1 set of speakers, 1 CD player, or 1 amp.  You’ll probably want a pre-amp, for instance.  And a vinyl player.  And this is just the digital world of chips and transistors. There’s another world altogether where tube amplifiers are the range.

Wilson_XLF2

The gateway drug to all of this was the label on my Panasonic CD player.  It states that is is ‘MASH’, the acronym given to ‘Multi Stage Noise Shaping’.  It was the proprietary trademark name for their late 80s and early 90s series of DAC chips (‘Digital Analog Converter’), which acted to convert the 1s and 0s from the digital disc back into the waveforms that make up an analog sound wave that our ears can comprehend.  DACs are now themselves incredibly contested territory and prestige DACs go for many, many thousands.  There are heritage sites dedicated to famous DACs, of which the Panasonic/Technics MASH family are low-price upstart wedding-crashers.   Here is a list of famous DACs, and a rating of the ones in the Technics MASH family.  I have ebay alerts set up to try and snag a bargain Technics CD player but of course, by now, a lot of the other components in them will have started to ‘go’, too – the capacitors, the drive-belt, the chip boards themselves.  They won’t give me that true RED BOOK SOUND ! What is a man to do?  (I turn back to streaming digital music on on old HP netbook via my FiiO E7 DAC into the Cambridge Azur 640A amplifier, in case you were wondering, which I know that you probably weren’t.)

Vinyl is a six decade old format that completely avoids this conversion, hence the purists and vinyl fans and their love of their heavy plastic frisbees.  It is never converted from analogue to digital unless of course its from one of the many studios that now record to digital, use sound editing, and then send it out to master.  Fans duly arrive on forums to knock CDs as nothing more than ‘shiny plastic mug coasters’.  Then the cassette tape fans pile in and everyone starts laughing.  I’m not sure if anyone mourns the MiniDisc.  But there is probably a very active internet forum somewhere…

David Honeywell is Outside

David Honeywell is outside.  It’s cold and there is a light haze in the air.  The mist from the morning is clearing.  David walks forward on a crumbling path, half tarmac, half dirt.  He notices a tattered American flag with the Union Jack inset on the top left corner, flat in a ditch that is also filled with shallow grimy water.

David Honeywell is outside looking at a world that was blown up.  His bones are crumbling and his eyes are bleeding.

David Honeywell is outside watching the drones pick over the desolate landscape for raw materials to take back to the Trump Compound – a place that used to be called Texas but is now a walled bio-dome exclusive for rich people to survive and prosper in the ravaged present.  There is a clear admission criteria.

The future is open wide;

Billions died;

David Honeywell is outside.

Integration

integral-definida

 

As part of reading through a script, and of course in absorbing various events around the world, I have been thinking about integration.  The script I am working through is forthcoming from my list at Bloomsbury Academic and currently has the title “Constructions of Migrant Integration in British Public Discourse: Becoming British”.  It is by Dr Sam Bennett and it’ll have the HB ISBN 9781350029200.

The book is complex.   The point rattling around my brain at the moment is rather less so : it is do with one aspect of what Bennett spends quite a while talking about and defining.  This is ‘migrant integration’.  I guess what strikes me is the racial imbalance of the thing: the Othering of the immigrant of colour.

It’s long been wryly pointed out (less wryly now there is so much, life and death even, at stake, and with humour post-Brexit) that an Indian over here in the UK is an ‘immigrant worker’.  A (usually) white British national in India working there is part of the ‘ex-pat’ community.  The same applies in Hong Kong, Moscow, in Cairo, you name it.

A Brit living in Spain, talking no Spanish and drawing down on their health service and municipal benefits is an ‘ex-pat’.  A Spanish financial services worker in London is a ‘European migrant’.

And of course there is the plurality of cultural identity that these people are allowed to hold (or not hold, depending on where you are from and where you are now living).  A white American whose ancestors hailed from Donegal or the Highlands are allowed to be as fully Irish or as Scottish as they want to be.  Embrace the Tribe!  Bang the drum.  If you are from India, or Africa, you are stubborn if you hold onto your cultural roots and eat saltfish instead of cod fishcakes.  Your goal should be to assimilate.  To be waving the Irish flag on St Patrick’s Day is a jolly jape because the Irish are ‘just like us’.  The flag of Nigeria adorned on a national holiday is viewed with suspicion – these people are ‘not trying hard enough to integrate’.  Either that or its the famed ‘chicken tikka’ conundrum.  That is–

Brits will embrace the food, the pakora, the samosas, the spices, but not the people that bring them or the smells of the cooking or the ‘odd’ customs.  They love a piss up at an Indian wedding but draw the line at loud bhangra from a passing car .

These people are not trying hard enough to integrate…

Open Access and Peer review

This is good from Martin Paul Eve.  Reading his book on open access – here is the section where he talks about peer review.

The first point to note is that the gatekeeper model – that is, the system of deciding on permissibility before publication through both publisher policies and peer-review practice – works on a series of unspoken ideological assumptions that are never wholly objective and apolitical, but are rather, at the extreme end, based on a series of exclusions and marginalisations. While much review certainly is aimed at improving work and there are often substantial efforts to bring work up to standard through iterative commentary, at high-end journals and publishers there must be a percentage of rejections based on notions of importance in order to match page budgets and preserve prestige. This is because a gatekeeper model sometimes pre-defines its audience and disregards a series of important questions.

Walkers Bugles

I tried these at lunch the other day, for the first time.  They are interesting – a mild cheese flavoured corn based snack.

Their ‘fun’ shape allows for good scooping of salsa or some other dip or condiment.  The fact they are corn and not potato based makes me wonder if they still count as ‘crisps.  Walkers Crisps is the full name of the company so perhaps they should clear this up.  This is crunch, as opposed to crisp.

Here is a close up of the ‘fun shape’:

As you see, they look a bit like wizard hats rather than bugles and there is no opening to blow through as you would expect from a bugle.

I would say a 6 out of 10.

Review of 2016

Not great, all round

Rocks

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got
I’m still Gurdeep from the block
Used to have one pebble now I got a lot
But I still know where they came from

(Answer: The Earth)

The gravel four(e)court

The sadness of a Jeep with a flat tyre on the fourcourt, gravel-bound, peeling signs, what do you want from us?

Piss

I think of the air in the gents, humid with water from the hand dryers, acid with the uric tang of piss. The subtler notes of rotting shit.

Wo heimat zu?