Open Access scientific, electronic publishing and Bakhtinian dialogism

Robert W Vaagan
2007 Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture  
The article explores Open Access (OA) scientific, electronic publishing in the context of recent contributions in communication and public relations theory, notably Bakhtinian dialogism. Increasingly since the 1960s, communication and public relations theory have shifted their focus away from one-way, asymmetrical to two-way, symmetrical models, thereby progressing to more equitable and interactive, multi-levelled conceptual models of dialogic and polyphonic communication (Grunig, 2001) . It is
more » ... unig, 2001) . It is in this context that Bakhtinian dialogism becomes highly relevant. OA scientific, electronic publishing is interpreted by using the Bakhtinian concepts of dialogue, polyphony and carnival. Acting together, these concepts define OA as a healthy and sustainable, consumer-led answer to the serials crisis, and a revolt against the system that has produced it, viz. hegemonic power structures and relations of traditional, subscription-based and commercially motivated scientific publishing. ______________________________ Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture © 2007 (University of Westminster, London), Vol. 4(2): 85-99. ISSN 1744-6708 (Print); 1744-6716 (Online) relations perspective, especially Bakhtinian dialogism. A noticeable shift in focus has taken place since the 1960s from one-way, asymmetrical to two-way, symmetrical models. The result has been that contemporary communication and public relations theory and practice are oriented towards and make use of interactive, multi-level models where the concept of 'dialogue' in various forms is operationalized. In consequence, several theorists are assimilating the ideas and reflections of the Russian literary theoretician Mikhail M. Bakhtin (1895Bakhtin ( -1975. Though not explicitly used by Bakhtin himself, dialogism is emerging as a useful term to project his thoughts on language, communication and literature (Holquist, 2002) . These are proving fruitful in analyzing symmetrical communicative processes and electronic discourse in the information age, albeit Bakhtin's ideas predated the Internet. In this perspective, as we shall see below, traditional subscription-based commercial publishing (print and electronic) which is seen to have been a major cause of the serials crisis, is interpreted as a manifestation of what communications and public relations theory define as 'asymmetrical' or 'one-way' relations. Such relations are imbalanced and tainted by the inequalities of the digital divide. In scientific publishing, asymmetrical relations have developed from and are driven by self interest among key stakeholders (publishers, agents, scholars, libraries, end users). In this framework OA represents feedback, a protest or 'voice' from the receiver (library, reader, research community, end user) in a communication model with a sender (author, publisher) and a message (publication, including its price and cost). Exactly how and why OA can be termed a 'voice' is where Bakhtin proves useful. Methodology The article makes use of multimethod and interdisciplinary research (Brewer & Hunter, 2006) involving a) qualitative text analysis of key works in Russian by Bakhtin and studies in English of Bakhtin's work, b) intensive and typical case sampling (Patton, 2002) of recent textbooks in communication and public relations theory as well as some e-articles and a few international conferences dedicated to OA. Results OA can be viewed in a Bakhtinian perspective as a manifestation of dialogic, polyphonic and even carnivalistic practice, as feedback from the recipient in a symmetrical communication process. Applying a Bakhtinian perspective facilitates the 'hearing' of the other, of other voices, and suggests that OA is generating a redefinition of self interest among key stakeholders as well as more balanced, equitable and democratic power relationships. The approach suggests that OA
doi:10.16997/wpcc.88 fatcat:dfdkz6o55vdczawasx56u6sp6m