Open Access Journals and Capitalism: An Interview with Christian Fuchs

Here is the transcript of an interview I conducted with Professor Christian Fuchs from the University of Westminster for a recent course paper. This was originally posted here:

QPublishing articles online requires server space and labour power. Since your journal tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique does not charge readers nor authors, how exactly are those costs covered?

Christian:tripleC has since 2003 when it was founded been a no-budget and no-profit journal operated by volunary work time donations of the editorial team. We do not charge authors or readers, which is a big difference to other models and makes the publishing process fair and democratic. There is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which means that articles can be reproduced when naming the source and author, they can be reused for non-commercial purposes without editing. I consider tripleC together with other similar journals an important innovation in the field of publishing in Media and Communication Studies.

Q: Seen as an alternative media organization, is there a hierarchy leadership required by a few individuals? What about the challenge of motivating employees to work for an OA journal instead of for a conventional, possibly better-known conventional publisher, recognizing that academics most often get a steady income from their universities and are expected to peer-review for journals as a ‘gift’ to the scientific community?

Christian: I am not sure if I fully understand what you mean by employees working… Employees are paid a wage for their activiy, in this sense tripleC has no employees. Everyone who is involved in the project does so because s/he is convinced that it is an important project, that academic knowledge should be no commodity and that we want to challenge the capitalist business of academic publishing, where large publishing houses exploit the free labour of academics, dispossess and commodify the resulting knowledge and tend to make profit rates between 20-60% per year, a value that is hardly achieved in any other industries (see the article by Wilhelm Peekhaus in tripleC’s Marx special issue for a good analysis).

The difference is that big publishers have a big team of hired (and exploited) employees for copyediting, language-correction, layout, technology, etc. tripleC does not have this. We have voluntary editorial assistants who handle the final corrections and upload. Increasingly we have tried to get the authors’ help by asking them to layout the articles and in some cases to look for a proof-reader, which seems to be fair because the resulting articles are available to anyone without payment, which makes a big difference to the corporate publishers as the reach is wider, the publication process is much faster, there are no copyrights, but Creative Commons, and there are practically no word count limits. tripleC encourages in contrast to most other journals (also online journals!) long articles because we are convinced that good theory needs space. Many other journals are neither interested in theory nor in critical theory. Not everything can be expressed in the standard length of 8 000 words, which is a relic of the age of print because paper is rather expensive.

Corporate publishers have large capital, which gives them advantages in the editing process. In 2012, I have myself corrected the language of hundreds of pages in tripleC, if the English is poor this includes rewriting entire sentences. You can imagine that this takes many hours well beyond a 40 hour working week. What I want to say by this is that non-profit alternative media such as non-profit Open Access Journals are in capitalism structurally discriminated because they have no capital and do not want to make monetary profits. This is a contradiction that is immanent in capitalism: alternative media are more democratic, but are often based on working long hours without pay.

Non-profit Open Access Journals are very important for democratizing and decommodifying academic publishing. We need public funding schemes for non-profit Open Access Journals at the EU level. In Sweden, Vetenskapsrådet has introduced a comparable model. Just like we have Research Councils, we need European-wide Open Access Councils that have calls, where editors submit proposal for journal funding that are peer-reviewed and where in the case of a positive result public funding is provided for a specific time period. The stipulation should be that by this money editorial assistants are employed, who take care of language correction, layout, copyediting, promoting the journal in academic communities, etc. It would create an entire new job profile for editorial assistants in the sense that this job could be transformed into a non-profit public service job category. Also university libraries could get a new role and help organizing the publication of Open Access Journals s in their universities.

There are a lot of reforms of academic publishing that are urgently needed.

Q: Amongst academics, consensus seems to be found that OA publishing is the future of academic publishing. What is your opinion on that matter and, speculating about time frames, when will OA publishing be ‘state-of-the-art’ (if so)? Do OA articles, by being freely available to the general public possess disruptive potential against the dominant media logic that influences (known as the process of mediatization) society to accept and embed values and norms generated through the dominant media institutions?

Christian: I do not want to speculate about anything that lies in the future because this is unscientific.

Open access publishing is discussed a lot, it is a very hot issue in academic politics. And each and every scholar is concerned by it.

The question is not if Open Access will be the future of academic publishing, without a doubt it will be, but which model of Open Access will be the future, as there is not just one, but several ones.
In the so-called green model of OAJ corporate publishers release articles after 6-12 months for OA publishing.
In the gold model, articles are immediately published online and there are author fees. The commodity logic is just transfered from readers to authors, who pay for getting published!

In the diamond model, articles are published open access without the commodity logic. These journals are non-profit, non-commerical and non-commodified and make the articles available based on a non-commercial Creative Commons License or a similar license.

Regular corporate academic publishing a) exploits the free labour of academics, b) commodifies academic knowledge, c) is injust and unfair because those who cannot pay or are not part of a rich university do not get access, d) is racist and imperialist because poor readers and universities in developing countries are excluded from access.
The “gold model” of OAJ results in new capital accumulation models. My experience is that those who run such models tend to undermine peer-review: they tend to publish most articles just for the profit-sake. The author fees are often very high and when you are not rich or not part of a rich unversity or do not have large research projects, then you are excluded from publishing. This model creates a two-class structure in publishing, it is an expression of class divisions in academia. It is also again racist and imperialist because scholars in developing countries tend to be excluded.

The only model that I consider appropriate, democratic, fair and just is the diamond model of Open Access Journals. If you ask me, then this should be the future of academic publishing. The model can also be applied to academic book publishing and there are already a few publishers around focusing on this model. But of course this model that strengthens the academic public sphere and democratic access to knowledge needs a support infrastructure, it is very important to look at political economy here and not to be idealistic: If this model should be the future – which is an at the moment undecided, political and normative question – then diamond model journals need public funding and general funding schemes need to be implemented. This means that public money needs to be dedicated to this task. If this is not then, then academic publishing will remain as undemocratic and closed as it is today. There is a potential for change, we’ll see if it will be realized or not.

Q: A few words on influence: In your field, how much of the discourse is shaped by toll-access journals and how much by OA journals?

Christian: I do not know, I have not quantified this, but somebody should definitely make an analysis of it.

QDo you think it is valid to talk about a “mediatization of education”, referring to the form of direct mediatization as discussed by Stig Hjarvard, being the convertion of a formerly non-mediated activity to a mediated form, i.e. the activity is performed through the interaction with a medium – the medium is the Internet?

Christian: I think the category of mediatization and the academic discourse that has developed about it in Media and Communication Studies is misleading. All human activity is always mediatized. The mediatization discourse creates the impression that mediatization is something new and an evolutionary process and overlooks that mediatization is a fundamental anthropological constant of any society. The air is a medium of face to face communication just like networked computing is a medium of online information, communication and collaboration. Media imply information and communication and the other way round. It is therfore a mistake to separate Media Studies from Communication Studies. We need an alternative discourse to mediatization theory. This theory is neither helpfull nor critical.

Q: Is there a (subjectively-felt) shift towards Open Access publishing amongst academics in your field or do scholars continue to submit their work to conventional publishers? Is there a generational factor motivating the decision?

Christian: I think somebody should conduct research about this question.

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Flogsta Essentials

A complete change of environment is often a good, sometimes even a necessary endaviour. I have changed mine from living in a perfectly-cosy appartement in a beautiful city in the heart of the alps to living in the heart of Swedish student life, a corridor room in Flogsta. An experience indeed, one cannot but observe some things that are clearly in connection to such a change of environment.


  • Opening one’s window every evening at precisely 22:00 to simply scream as loud as possible, sometimes motivated by joy, sometimes motivated by frustration. Motion Picture. ADD: newspaper article.
  • Waking up and sitting down for a coffee one early Saturday morning, watching out of the window, as usual, but observing a massive stack of newspapers, set on fire and still happily burning, from what must clearly have been a, too, massive party last night.
  • Seeing a strange person running in and out, like a shadow, your kitchen now and then and after two weeks realizing that this shadow is actually a person from Kyrgyzstan living next door to you, but for some reason never bothered to say ‘Hi!’ or whatever ‘Hi’ might be in Kyrgyz.
  • Motivated to have a look at the Halloween-party the building next to yours but being restricted from entering by a police officer. Finding out later that the whole thing turned out to be quite too big, that is, 400 drunk and dressed-up people (think robots) browsing through a single house, topped by the fact that some idiot managed to break a pipe of the central heating and thus literally flooded the whole stairway.
  • Waking up the narrow staircase where someone apparently dropped a pesto jar one of those days; its contents beautifully spread onto the wall and the most interesting thing was to observe its change of color and shape. Passing by it at least four times a day, one could be astonished by a conversion from tomato-red, to start with, to dark-red, after about a week, to green-brown-blackish, after two weeks. The class splitters were removed after the contents turned black, finally, but the pesto is still to be found on the wall. I’ll keep you posted if, eventually, something grows out of that stain.
  • Coming home that same Saturday evening and noticing that the massive stack of newspapers is still out there, still burning. Quite simply, nobody seems to care.

This list has potential to go on and on, but I get tired typing now. Living in the Flogsta höghus is widely considered an essential, if not the essential experience of being a student in Sweden. And after all, living with twelve random people also has its very nice parts.

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Challenge Accepted

The thing is: When you do things worth blogging about, you cannot possibly find enough time to blog about those things.

Well that’s what happened; What’s what is happening; But what also happened was that I found a full-time job, quit a full-time job, and thus decided to toss a well-secured and well-ordered life (in what I realized to be on of the most beautiful places on the planet) promptly overboard again. Why?

That’s why: so that I can post some more entries into here. After all, this site is by definition a ‘travel- and adventure’-blog, which naturally requires travels and adventures. And to stick true to (one of) my mantra(s) to live life as a challenge, I will be moving up into the Scandinavian North for two years or so. Why? The better question would be: Why not?!

But seriously, if there is one thing I cannot stand, than it is the feeling of having, some way or another, wasted a day; And if you have corresponding feeling a bit too often, then the only way out is through radical chance of circumstances. Go challenge yourself.

And because you should always attach a picture for a blog entry to shine pretty, here are some sheep:

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New York & die Hauptstadt

Dies ist übrigens ein brutalst verspäteter Nachtrag, der Abschluss des Studiums und die herbstlichen Schönwetterperioden forderten ihren Zoll. Aber nun, als akribischer Fan von Vollständigkeit, hier der letzte Abschnitt meines USA-Aufenthaltes 2010. Für die Großenkel, irgendwann dann mal. Jaja, man muss vorausdenken und an die Langlebigkeit von Webservern glauben.


New York

Weil es letztes Jahr so lustig war. Ich erbat wieder Herberg’ bei meinen getreuen russischen Freunden in Manhatten. Dieses Jahr war, neben der viel zu stressigen Stadt, auch mal Upstate New York angesagt. Der geplante Klettertrip in die Gunks wurde mangels Cams, Stoppers und einem Seil in einen Wandertrip umdisponiert. Doch zur Belohnung gab’s einen kristallklaren See. Schöne Natur unweit der Betonhölle, kaum zu glauben.


Washington, D.C.

Die Hauptstadt. The Capitol. Runter mit dem Bus, Juli, gefühlte 40°. Und dann muss man natürlich die ganzen tollen Museen und Sehenswürdigkeiten besuchen, es bietet sich eben an. Sind doch auch ganz unterhaltsame Dinge dabei. Doch was Washington D.C. wirklich auszeichnet, ist die schier überwältigende Auswahl an Motiven für meine Lieblingsbeschäftigung: Fremde Leute beim porträtieren zu porträtieren. Great. Außerdem gehört noch die überwältigende Freundlichkeit meines Couchsurfers James erwähnt, der mir den Glauben an die Gutheit der Spezies homo sapiens wieder näher brachte.

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Two and a half Dogs

Dieses Jahr wohne ich also “off-campus”. Dies ist vom Blickwinkel der Erwachsenheit ein großer Vorteil. Ich darf jetzt sogar Bier auf meinem Zimmer lagern und eine Kerze anzünden. Solch neuen Freiheiten sind herrlich. Rick hat neben seinen drei Hunden also noch einen vierten (und ganz wilden) adoptiert und lässt mich bei sich im Haus wohnen. Turned out, dass wir hier in einem sehr noblen Viertel von Oh!maha hausen und der Pool im Garten wird bestimmt auch noch seine Vorteile zollen.
Nachdem die ersten Wochen im Zeichen des “Oh my God! Can’t believe you’re back!”-Bieres standen kehrt jetzt so langsam Alltag ein. Amerikanischer Alltag. Ertappe mich immer öfter beim artikulieren der Phrase “Who are you doing’?”. Erschreckend. Ansonsten wird an der Diplomarbeit und den SILOs (Details folgen!) gebastelt. Ein Fahrrad habe ich nun auch (wieder) – Nummer Eins wurde mir nach rekordverdächtigen zehn Minuten vor dem Supermarkt geklaut. Zehn Minuten, erster Tag, Rad weg. Man glaubt es kaum …

Ich mag Hunde ja gern, aber … drei … wie lästig müssen denn erst Kinder sein? Und immer diese mitleidvollen Augen, sobald man etwas (auch vollkommen egal was) isst. Ach. Vor allem denen von Grace, dem Golden Retriever (mein Liebling, weil ständig komplett stoned wirkend) ist schwer standzuhalten (vergleiche hierzu Abbildung 4). Aber vielleicht gewöhnt man sich an das Gebelle in der Früh ja so wie an den Zug, der seit Jahren am Haus vorbeifährt. Nur werde ich wahrscheinlich wieder abreisen, sobald es soweit ist.
“Och Mensch, der hat vielleicht Sorgen!”, werden nun einige einwerfen. Ja, das ist richtig, und deshalb hier das Fazit: Alles GUT! Abgesehen vom Dollarkurs.

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Colorado Rocks

Der Jetlag war also gerade überstanden, da hieß es gleich wieder “auf in eine andere Zeitzone”, Mountain Time (Zone)! Vier Tage Colorado und jede Menge Abenteuer in den Rockies standen an. Abfahrt also Donnerstag Nachmittag, Ankunft gewohnter Weise Freitag, 3 a.m. In der Ferne hörte man noch vereinzelte Studenten feiern, doch wir gönnten uns ein paar wohlverdiente Stunden Schönheitsschlaf im Auto (brrr …). Multiple Kaffees am nächsten Früh-Morgen sorgten dann für die nötige Motivation, die imposanten Flatirons vor Boulder im trad-Style durchzuklettern. Hätte man auch durchaus solo machen können … ach, das nächste Mal.

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Gegen Abend noch etwas Sportklettern um uns richtig hungrig zu machen und dann auf zu Paul’s. Dort war dann Treffpunkt mit den anderen Dudes, das Fleisch (orcanic!) saftig und der Wein vorzüglich. Irgendwann fanden dann doch alle (zehn Leute!) ihren Schlafplatz am Parkettboden. Nächster Tag Sportklettern & Bouldern in Flagstaff, super Stein. Gleiches Programm dann wieder am Abend, daran gab’s auch wirklich nichts auszusetzen. Am Sonntag war uns dann endlich die Sonne Freund und es ging ab in den berühmt-berüchtigten Eldorado Canyon, wo wir die zwei trad-super-classics Yellowspur & Greenspur punkten konnten. Zitter. Sonntag, um unsere Finger vollends zu zerstören, zum Ausklang eine Bouldersession in der geliebten Sonne. Und ja, neun Stunden Rückfahrt.

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So, da wären wir mal wieder, in Omaha. Irgendwie hat mich niemand vor dem rapiden und unerwarteten Sommereinbruch gewarnt, von Schnee in München direkt zu 28° in Omaha. Nice. Außerdem, be aware, nach 27 Stunden ohne Schlaf kann ein Bier ganz schön weh tun.

Was mir dieses Mal, sei es Zufall oder schärfere Wahrnehmung, aufgefallen ist: Es gibt wirklich verdammt viele dicke Leute. Überall, allerdings auch kaum zu übersehen. Das mag jetzt vielleicht diskriminierend oder menschenverachtend sein, egal, die Wahrheit, und die gehört einfach mal gesagt.

Morgen werde ich von meiner temporären Unterkunft in den Dorms in meine längerfristig-temporäre, zu Rick’s, ziehen. Und, oh ja, klein ist die Welt: Als wir nach meiner Ankunft noch des Durstes wegen schnell in eine random-bar ein Bier trinken gingen, saßen da doch glatt Rick, Justin, Chris und Nicole zu Tisch. Zufällig, gleiche Bar, gleiche Zeit (Sonntag Abend!). Ich: “Man, Omaha’s really small.” Justin: “Well yes, but usually not THAT small.”

Als ich letztes Jahr hier landete, roch es stark nach Neuem, nach Abenteuer. Jetzt irgendwie mehr nach ‘zu Hause’.  Good times coming up!

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