Abstract - The Information Society 21(4)

Who Wants to be a Discipline?

Naomi S. Baron

In contemporary times, two primary motivations have driven academics to attempt to form new intellectual disciplines. The first motivation is intrinsic to the subject matter at issue: either old disciplinary questions need to be examined in new ways (as in the creation of sociolinguistics out of linguistics and sociology) or the field itself is novel (for example, computer science). The second motivation is more political: unlike “areas of inquiry”, “fields of study”, or “tools of research”, new disciplines (e.g., cognitive science) often command significant academic real estate and sizable budgets. This essay considers several case studies in which potential academic disciplines have emerged – or failed to do so. The author suggests that in their attempts to determine what formal status they wish their research to hold, Internet scholars must carefully differentiate between the nature of their intellectual enterprise and legitimate professional desire for academic turf.


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