Abstract - The Information Society 11(4)

Cybermaterialism, or why there is no free lunch in cyberspace

Steve Fuller

Anyone who has followed the Harnad-Fuller debate will have detected that the positions are more incommensurable than contradictory, a situation that is complicated by the simultaneous arguing about the suitability of the electronic medium to scholarly communications and the desirability of peer review as a regulatory mechanism on such communication, regardless of medium. If the incommensurability cannot be resolved in the brief span of this debate, it can at least be clarified, so that others can take the arguments further. Toward that end, the bulk of the response is devoted to articulating the larger theoretical framework, in terms of which it is difficult to accept even the opening moves of Harnad's (1995) analysis of the Internet's implications for scholarly communications. The points of debate are over exactly what the transformative powers of the electronic medium are and the costs and benefits, as well as how these matters are likely to be determined. The disagreement is more profound when it comes to the desirability of peer review as a scholarly regulator. Harnad is more satisfied with the order of academic specialties and normative sensibilities that the peer review process tends to perpetuate.

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