27 June 2009

On referencing--again!

This harks back to an earlier post, to which Alec Gill, the author of the linked article, responded.

If you haven't got time to read his piece, the argument is for the simplification of referencing, and a straightforward way of doing it, by citing the form or medium of the material immediately after the date. The comments refine the ideas, leading to a constructive discussion.

I have great sympathy with the argument. Indeed, my only dispute is with the assumption that there is any prospect of achieving a standard format through rational discussion. That assumes that rational criteria such as clarity and usability actually count for much in this field.

Sadly they don't. The arcane variations in referencing practice owe more to turf wars between academic tribes or even competing journals than they do to anything sensible. And once a discipline or a professional association or a journal pins its colours to the mast of a particular style, negotiations become about face and power before mere utility.

Academe--we kid ourselves--is where the rational and the sensible reigns. Sorry.

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