Monday, January 16, 2023

Surveys of previous work

Sometimes, ok, frequently, when I'm reading surveys of previous work in a book, and it goes on for page after page, I think they should have read 2 Maccabees 2:32:
32 From this point then we will begin the narrative, not adding further to what was already said. After all, it would be absurd to prolong the preface but then cut short the history. (CEB)
Look, I get it, if it's a revised dissertation, you need to prove to the committee that you read everything written on your subject from the Jemdet Nasr period until today. Or, at least have read enough previous literature reviews from other dissertations that read literature reviews from other dissertations, ad infinitum.

As an aside, copyeditors know. I can usually find out the chain by chasing errors in citations back to the offending book or article. You might fool the dissertation committee or series editor, but the copyeditor will know. I've chased errors in citations back 20 years or more in some cases. And let's not even start with the padded bibliographies! I had one semirevised dissertation that was over 30 percent padded! OK, back to the matter at hand.

I've noticed a trend over the last 15 years or so: the literature reviews are getting longer; the morsels of insight are getting more tentative; the use of scare quotes is getting more prevalent. And, sadly, the synthesis of all this information, data, if you will, is disappearing—in many cases, totally disappeared.

So, while data is expanding and becoming overwhelming, the information, which is the synthesis of it all, has ceased to exist. We're drowning in data, but can't find the proverbial needle of real information/insight in the haystack of data.

I don't have a solution to it, because the way the system is set up, it encourages this type of baloney slicing, as they call it in STEM. You take your results, and slice them into tiny segments to coax out as many articles as you can.

Publish or perish! Tenure, where it still exists, depends on it! Or, if you are in that ever-growing segment of adjuncts, the possibility of a real job depends on it. And since, as an adjunct, you don't have a whole lot of time, you baloney-slice because of necessity.

All of this to go back to 2 Maccabees advice, don't prolong the preface to cut short the history…

Just an
</idle musing>