I talked last night with friends about Oxford’s colleges — the basic life-unit here: those are not strictly academic discipline, most host under-grads, grads, fellows and seniors; all have an active cultural life and take part in frequent symbolic competition. More importantly, there are the central area of scholarly discussion; as an homage, the set of scientists working on the same field without living in the same country, quoting each other, often meeting only at conference, is often labeled an ‘invisible college’ — and since the early academic Internet, we have countless amazing ‘virtual’ colleges.
Last night, the most knowledgeable of us mentioned the ancient city wall, and its still standing parts that one can see around town — he mentioned that a large chunk was still barring the way, in the middle of one of the most recent colleges, and it seemed a very inconvenient architectural feature.
Although most of my references are either from the invisible college around my adviser, or too early to be more hen pre-prints accessible on arXiv, but some are behind pay-walls too expensive, diverse and inconvenient for my university to trample them all. I’ve been able to grab most of the references that I needed thanks to the far more comprehensive Library service here in Oxford — and I would like to thank the Web Science Research Initiative and the Oxford Internet Institute for inviting me if only for that — but to the many dwellers of the inspiring spires who, like ghosts, can cross those paywalls, I would like to point out how annoying those become when you realise that they are there.
Those limitations are not wrong because they prevent ‘anyone’ to read your work: they are wrong because they prevent your friends and critics, the few people who you know, or would like to hear from, the handful of those with whom you can actually talk shop, goof, be yourself and not just have to dumb down your hesitations. These walls are not and the edge of the academic city to protect it from hordes of ignorants—they are in your invisible college: they bar the corridor between your office and the invisible common room.