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I was checking a paper that was posted on Twitter where everyone seemed to be so enthusiastic about, so I had a short check on it. Here is the first line:

Post-Cartesian frameworks, including developments within the embodied and enactive cognitive sciences, complex systems science, and dialogical approaches to cognition, strongly emphasize the inherently indeterminable nature of the person and the inextricably entangled relationship between person, other, and technology.

And it goes on with:

Automation, on the one hand, is something that is achieved once a given process is complete, that is, it is understood, and discrete such that it can be implemented from a set beginning to a set finish reliably. People and social systems, on the other hand, are partially-open, always becoming, and inherently unfinalizable (Bakhtin, 1984). Automation as complete understanding, therefore, stands at odds with human behaviour, which is inherently incomplete, making machine classification and prediction futile.

Is it me, or is this paper obscurely written? And why didn't anyone seemingly notice it, given that it was both peer-reviewed and published? Why were people so enthusiastic about it, instead of admitting they just didn't have a clue of what it is about (or at least to understand the arguments presented in the paper)?

Why is there still so much academic gibberish?

Related link: http://www.skeptophilia.com/2014/02/academic-gibberish.html

Edit: My mistake! It might not be peer reviewed. But I'm still wondering if this is very common in academia, or if it is dependent from field to field?

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    Looking just at the abstract, I think it's full of useless buzzwords, but it seems to present a (potentially important) argument that can be refuted or corroborated, so at least it's not bullshit.
    – henning
    May 29, 2021 at 11:01
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    I quote the last part of the abstract of the article you linked. "When ML systems “pick up” patterns and clusters, this often amounts to identifying historically and socially held norms, conventions, and stereotypes. Machine prediction of social behaviour, I argue, is not only erroneous but also presents real harm to those at the margins of society." It does not look "gibberish" to me.
    – Nobody
    May 29, 2021 at 11:18
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    That is not a reputable journal. You can tell from the low number of papers published and low number of citations. I did not see anything claiming the journal is peer reviewed. May 29, 2021 at 11:35
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    For what it's worth, some well known philosophers employed dense prose such as this, for example Heidegger, Kant, Adolf Grünbaum, etc. I suppose in this case (I haven't yet looked at the article) it comes down to whether the dense prose serves a legitimate purpose (i.e. isn't all show and no substance). May 29, 2021 at 12:01
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    Yes! That's perfect, thanks!
    – Marvinsky
    May 29, 2021 at 15:08

2 Answers 2

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There's one of my papers, much of which is couched in seriously obfuscated language: in places, even worse than the example linked by OP. (I won't say which paper, in case I embarrass my co-authors.) In my case, I think the reasons were:

  • More than a decade elapsed between production of the first complete draft of the paper and its submission to the journal where it was eventually published. During that period, we changed our minds several times about some of the core conclusions; but each time, some bits of explanatory text got left in the paper that were only really apposite in the context of now-obsolete conclusions.
  • During that period, my co-authors and I were not in very frequent contact, and we ended up using edits to the text of the paper to communicate with each other about the science in the paper; this produced text that was sub-optimal for communicating with readers.
  • Despite the long total drafting period, the submitted version was finalized in a tearing hurry to meet a deadline for a thematic issue of the journal, so there was no time for a thorough pass through the text for clarity and concision.
  • Perhaps most significantly of all: the referees let us get away with it.
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  • Thanks for sharing this! But wouldn't you have wished at least that the editor/peer-reviewers would have reacted to it? And why didn't you abandon it, and/or write it anew?
    – Marvinsky
    May 29, 2021 at 12:23
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    @Kat Well, yes, I'd like all my papers to be better, and I'd like all the referees to help (or at least incentivize) me to make them better. Sometimes things don't work out that way. May 29, 2021 at 13:19
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The linked paper is about philosophy - if you don't like it, that reflects upon the field of philosophy, not upon academia as a whole.

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    That is the main point. I don't want to open a discussion on what is science and what is not. But in my field that abstract would be already incredibly long. Buzz words might be a problem, yes, but I never saw something similar in hard core science papers, where characters count is a real issue.
    – Alchimista
    May 30, 2021 at 9:45

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