Saturday, May 31, 2014

Paired Dissonance

Once, early in the history of this blog, I came across a news story listing the winners of a particular academic prize at Harvard University. Since the thesis titles were excellent examples of obscurantist academic boilerplate, I made fun of them.

Now there is a Tumblr blog that takes some of those same kinds of titles -- which are exact in their specificity and almost meaningless in their hyper-precision -- and imagines what they would be if they were recast as "clickbait" phrases "Clickbait" is a name for a kind of headline that is designed to play up the most intriguing feature of a story in order to tempt people into clicking on it while reading other things online. The only problem is that sometimes clickbait is not always, um, truthful, and almost always oversells the uniqueness of the story to which it leads. When you click on the bait expecting one thing, you might find something else entirely that may be slightly related to what you expected but is not at all as shocking, interesting, intriguing or whatever as the clickbait head led you to believe.

Since PhD dissertations are frequently packed with academic jargon and the tortured sentence structure which academic writing encourages, they would definitely need clickbait headlines in order to draw readers. Of course, the rest of the paper, other than the headline, would be the same old deadly dull academic prose. A solution to that situation has not yet arisen.

1 comment:

CGHill said...

This situation also prevails, I believe, in the mythical land of Equestria. Here's Twist's PhD thesis (Manehattan Institute, 1025): "Vision and Revision: Failures of Memory Retention in Aging Pegasi." Now if that isn't obscurantist academic boilerplate, I don't know what is.