Sunday, September 23, 2012

Demands from above. What's wrong with #IntJC ?

This is unexpected. A few days ago, I was contacted by representants of John Benjamins Publishing through a warning mail contending that I had reproduced - read copy/pasted - most of the article used for Session 21, and demanding clarification on how access to Session 13 support article - theirs again - was granted. The message included two orders, that the "reproduced article" be removed, same for the article available via download, and a somewhat puzzling request to change accompanying text.

I deleted the link to the downloadable text but didn't move on the matter of Session 21 support article. The reason for the latest is simply that the article is partially visible over Google Books and what is still featured over #IntJC web site is the link to Google Books. As far as I know, both link and Google Books display of the article are public information. As for the accusation of "reproducing" the article, this is still wrapped in a mystery shroud as nothing was reproduced, and technically speaking, even if the will to slyly reproduce something from Google Books were part of my intentions, I would have crashed on the wall of technical incompetence. It seems you don't copy Googles Books content with a click.

As for access to Session 13 support article, this was granted and thus taken care of with fair intentions in mind. The authorities above answered back after a little mail chit chat that they would investigate at a later time the matter of Session 13.

Once you set aside the conspiracy theory, there are a few issues left half-cooked that need to be looked at squarely in the eyes.

Let's start with a long digression, as usual.

As I wrote somewhere else in the past, "Sorry is the hardest word" could not be a song happening in Japan just like Al Capone could only happen in Chicago. Here in Japan, apologising is part of the daily socialising grease. You chuckle early on at the joke that people here would apologise for the rainfall. Especially Westerners learning Japanese at some level bump into the difficulty of doning the cultural suit of mellowing tone and manners and saying "I am sorry", because culturally speaking, apologising in the modern times is harder than it used to be in the West, at least when you read 19th century literature that suggests that manlyness and gentlewomeness came with theatrical settings of saying I am sorry and looking for mending the bruises. Manners and sincerity are two different dimensions, but theatrics may be better delineated on this side of the planet than on your own. Not having been raised in the 19th century has made me too as ill at ease with apologising as the next door's lad. I suffered learning Japanese for such non-linguistic yet essential issue of "paraître dans la société", something that might translate with "management of self public visibility". So now you know why Elton Jones made a hit.

Now, back to the issue which is no matters of apologies. After all, my take on Google Books being public may be wrong. My assumption that a text was made available as a result of cleared authorisation may be missing the spot. I have sent two requests for receiving a pointer to where a "reproduction" of Session 21 article was located. These didn't generate any answer and may or may not stem from the fact that the other side has been wrong, as again, it may be the reverse.

But let's set aside the matter of gentlemanlyness in an exchange where demanding and looking under is easier performed from a side than from the other.

The point is this: although it would be nice to have at times collaborative rapports with such essential publisher like John Benjamin to feed the need for support articles and beef up the scarcity of free and valuable content online, #IntJC didn't start with a single speck in mind that it would be swell that way. I never thought about the possibility.

What is swell though is the dynamic, that of people in a profession that - although not unique in that sense - share a public secret of backslashing and hushed innuendo mongering at all levels and settings you can think about - that some of them would gather and in a repeated manner at that is a miracle, or just the reverse, a possibility proved by experience to be indeed feasible.

Therefore, it is that dynamic devoid of the above that is swell, that (to me at least) permanent jaw dropping with no healing in sight witnessing of top gun interpreters, together with learners and beginners joining at a fixed time to exchange knowledge, thoughts and wits, in a totally devoid of the above atmosphere. I would gladly simply sweep the floor of such meeting place just to eave drop at the discussion, only there is no dust in virtual thin air and everything is public.

Thus, I set this public too: putting aside any sources of contention, #IntJC doesn't need taps on the shoulder, doesn't need paternalistic nodding from the above nor frowning. It doesn't need you, although it would be nice and probably valuable on a reciprocal basis that some collaboration arises at times. The office is open so just inquire.

But horizontal collaborations of individuals have already shown that it works and may be going on for a few further sessions, or end all of a sudden, or else. It doesn't matter as proof of concept through the practice of it has already been proved 21 times, and a 22nd time is coming on Saturday next week. That is the only near future target that matters here. The rest is conjectures and a dash of mystery.

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