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Paying inattention: The art of ignoring others’ work among Russian social scientists
Why do scholars pay attention to some works, and recognize the influence of their authors, but not others? Robert Merton famously suggested that scholars search for information instrumental in producing their knowledge claims and reward authors for making important contributions. Opposing him, the critical sociologists of scientific knowledge explained recognition (e.g. in the form of citing) as rhetorical practices that strengthen one’s credibility. Both models fail to explain why academics sometimes ignore apparently relevant sources or how groups of scholars turn into bubbles, censoring information about findings made outside of them. According to the theoretical model suggested in this paper, what governs information search is not first-order relevance (what individual academics consider relevant), but second-order awareness (what they know their audiences are aware of). In this model, the search for information is mostly governed by the necessity to make successful claims of novelty – to present findings that are new to one’s audience. Individuals easily disregard findings their audiences are unaware of. Institutionally organized audiences thus serve as enforcers of information search, and their members may tacitly collaborate in maintaining unawareness of intellectual developments outside of their common attention space In the empirical part of the paper, we use the example of post-Soviet sociology to test the predictions following from this model: (1) that scarcity of enforcement results in an overall shrinking of individuals’ attention spaces, and in their attaining idiosyncratic configurations; (2) that when borders of audiences cross-cut legitimate classifications, attention spaces are shaped by the former, rather than the latter; (3) that as a reaction to such cross-cutting, new classifications are introduced, legitimizing existing in

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Jun 8, 2021 02:00 PM in Warsaw

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