Monday, December 19, 2011

Search query "Academic's wet dream"...

Or ...'if hipsters ran the search engines'

As any academic will attest, the most difficult part of the literature survey is finding the legacy articles, the ones that everyone points to as foundational work, but few have actually read. They are not the rare, but the obscure. Of course, there are other types of articles that elude even the most skilled searchers; these articles, or at least the mention of them, surface only in crucial moments like during a dissertation defense when one of the examiners wonders why article X wasn't included in the bibliography.

When even the seasoned doctoral candidate, replete with years of search skills, can not find the 'right' literature, how is anyone else to get by? I propose an elegant if annoying solution: Let hipsters create and run all the academic article databases. That particular culturally bereft demographic is adept at finding the most obscure materials of which no one, save for the original author, knows. I'm sure that even some of those articles the original authors have forgotten or lost manuscript drafts in their overstuffed-tenured-indulgence offices.

There are a couple caveats to this proposal: First, the hipster who actively shares knowledge of the obscure is a sellout and will be shunned by the other members of the petit bourgeois hive; second, the act of organizing anything to be readily available, even to themselves, runs counter to the "must appear nonchalant at all costs" ethic; third, the intrepid project manager must channel the the hipster name dropping habit for good. Wasting time and energy on derisive eye-rolling during the literature search is unproductive.

Implementation will be another concern; It would be impossible for only one hipster to create such a mammoth tool (unless he is already a mammoth tool). In this case, one hipster will have to cull prose from many self-indulgent Tumblr blogs to create the new search engine's code base. This follows the 'million hipsters with a million ironically-purchases typewriters' fable. The compiled text will build the site so craved by the academic community. The might Google, with its untold number of server farms and penchant for half-baked products/services would be the perfect proving ground for this venture. It will augment their already excellent Google Scholar site; we will call it "hipster.google.com" and it will be obscurely awesome.

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