¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The text contained on this site is the draft manuscript of Generous Thinking: The University and the Public Good, the revised version of which was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in February 2019.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 As I had done with my previous book, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, I sought feedback through a process of community review. This time out, I handled a couple of things differently, however: I staged the review process by first seeking input from a range of specific readers before opening the draft to the world, and the comment period was limited to six weeks. The internet is a bit different than it was in 2009, and while I still believe in working in public (as this manuscript will bear out), I wanted to acknowledge and account for the challenges that openness presents in 2018.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 3 Planned Obsolescence explored a number of potential transformations in the ways that scholars work and communicate with one another that were being inspired by the networks through which we are connected; Generous Thinking turns its attention to the ways that scholars might connect and communicate with a range of off-campus communities about our shared interests and concerns, which I believe will be a necessary element of rebuilding the relationship between the university and the public that it is meant to serve.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 2 That this relationship needs rebuilding seemed all too evident as I originally posted this draft, in February 2018, as the news was — and remains — filled with evidence of spectacular failures: the university has been undermined by the withdrawal of public support for its functions, but that public support has been undermined by the university’s own betrayals of the public trust. My hope is that Generous Thinking might provide one pathway toward renewing that trust. It won’t be easy, but it’s crucial to the future of higher education in the U.S. that we try.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 4 The first seeds of the idea for this book were planted late in the Obama administration, a time when the call to generosity, to community, to care seemed only natural. Much of it was drafted during the 2016 presidential campaign and its 2017 aftermath, when the same call seemed to take on a kind of desperation. It has been difficult, in several ways, to keep this from becoming a fundamentally angry book, while nonetheless allowing its anger space in amongst its general emotional swirl. Acknowledging those emotions and their often very personal origins is one of the ways in which this book tries to find some common ground with the audience that it seeks to create, an audience that is not just composed of other scholars but also administrators, students, parents, and the many other people who affect and care about the futures of our institutions of higher education. The book also tries, to some extent, to minimize its scholarly apparatus; while I still rely on many voices who have contributed significantly to my thinking about the questions I raise, my goal was to make this text as broadly readable as possible.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 The conclusion of the print edition notes that it’s going to require more minds than just my own to come up with solutions to the crises the university is embroiled in. In the end, I invite readers to share their own thoughts here, as a means of thinking together about the path forward. As a result, comments on this draft are once again open, with the caveat that the spring 2018 discussion here produced some serious rethinking of several of my arguments. You can see the results in the JHUP version.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Portions of chapter 4 were originally published as “Giving It Away: Sharing and the Future of Scholarly Communication,” in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing, vol. 43, no. 4 (2012).
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Huge thanks are due to Lucretia McCulley, Rob Nelson, Kevin Butterfield, and their many colleagues at the University of Richmond, for inviting me to visit. The talk I gave there in February 2016 turned out to be the first tentative steps toward this project, and their generous reception and engagement with the ideas I presented played an enormous role in its development.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 1 Thanks are also due to Greg Britton and Catherine Goldstead at Johns Hopkins University Press, and to Nicky Agate, Eric Knappe, Ryan Williams, and Anne Donlon at Humanities Commons, for making this process possible. And finally, thanks as well to Christian Wach for continuing to support and develop CommentPress, on which this project and so much other scholarly conversation relies.