Every couple of months it seems that one of my friends teases me about one of my first blog posts [re-posted here]. I’ll admit liking Pomplamoose is pretty hipster, but hey I like the music. I also really like their success in going around the traditional gatekeepers of the music industry. They first gained success by posting music on youtube (free of charge, of course), but what really struck me was when I saw that half of Pomplamoose (Nataly Dawn) raised over $100,000 to record a solo album after asking for $20,000 on Kickstarter. Then a gaming company raised over 1 million for a game console in 8 hours (that’s over 2k a minute). Clearly people will pay to fund the things they like. And this got me thinking would people fund my research? Would someone give me $25 to present at a conference if I sent them the conference paper and talked with them about it online? Would someone give me $50 to give a sample run of my presentation to them over Skype? Would someone give me $100 for research if I thanked them in an article or my dissertation?
Well, Kickstarter doesn’t allow “fund my life” projects, which is what asking for funds for research or conference presentations would likely be classified as. And anyways there are already funds for travel and research in academia (from departments, institutions, and external agencies), right? Of course, but it always seems like humanities funding is hanging by a thread. The humanities always need to justify their importance in the changing modern world and what better way to justify your work than to have the public prove it with their support?
Kickstarter is filled with people self-publishing books, magazines, films, albums and other things. While self-publishing is a big no-no in academia, could a journal get funded through a Kickstarter project? (I’d be interesting in hearing about it if one has). What if someone made an academic version of Kickstarter? Maybe only projects that have built in buff fanbases (like the American Civil War) would get funded, but I’m sure those historians wouldn’t mind. One of thing that I have put into many different blog posts is that many people love history and academic historians seem unable or unwilling to take advantage of this. Browsing Kickstarter, I just see so much money being moved around for creative projects and I can’t help but think academics are missing out on a powerful funding force (the people).
Hey Brian –
The recent kerfuffle between the U of Virginia and its president has got me thinking that there needs to be some care exercised when mixing academe with the structures of the modern capitalist society, lest the venerable old institutions (an nice presidential ladies) be swept away in a rolling tide of “strategic dynamism.”
The university as it has existed for the last millenium is a pretty radical institution, and one that subsidizes its various institutions for the pursuit of academic knowledge, not dollars (or at least not ostensibly). The strength of these institutions lies in the fact that, like bankers in a market economy agree that dollars will be measure success or failure, the faculty and students of a university agree that scholarship will be the coin by which the institution’s success and failure are judged. And while that may not always be borne out completely in practice (see: funding for the humanities), it is at least a noble lie that must be used to keep business school deans and corporate boards of trustees at bay.
That’s not to say that this alternative venue you are suggesting couldn’t provide stop-gap funding for underfunded areas, but only that it might be wise to exercising caution before letting individual preferences influence the direction of scholarship. How much would someone have to donate before they also get to donate there own set of facts with their dollars?
Ask Regent University, I guess.
Hope you are doing well… looking forward to joining the unshowered graduate school hordes.
Thanks for the well crafted comment Tim. I agree in full with your words of caution. I should probably clarify that I would never want to replace the way in which the humanities are funded because unwanted influence could quickly creep in as you suggest. I also should have given a few more answers than questions, particularly what type of projects would actually stand to get public funding. Though I mention travel for research or presentations, realistically any humanities project that would get public funding would need a purpose with some public outreach (website, magazine, podcast, community program)–which the humanities could stand to do more often.
Great to hear from you, but be careful–I think they shower in business school.