Academic Carelessness, Bootstrapping, and the Cybernetic Investigator

Hannah Drayson


The following discussion is concerned with certain forms of poor practice in academic publishing that give rise to “academic urban legends.” It suggests that rather than simply consider phenomena such as poor citation practices and circular reporting as mistakes, misunderstandings, and evidence of lack of rigor, we might also read them as evidence of a particular kind of creativity—for which misunderstandings, assumptions, and failures of diligence are mechanisms by which potentially influential ideas manifest. Reflecting particularly on a critique of the debate surrounding pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement and its use by university staff and students, the following will argue that investigators within the disciplines concerned with the effects or development of these technologies are themselves implicated as potential subjects. Alongside reflections from science fiction studies that offer insights into the experiential dimension of reading and misreading, this paper offers some insights regarding how we might think of mistakes and misunderstandings as a form of bootstrapping and a source of creativity in scientific and technological development.


academic carelessness; bootstrapping; cognitive innovation; creativity; looping effects.


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