During August, the TEXT office had a phone call from Professor
Barry Goode of Eunaymit University. Professor Goode had, on the face
of it, a simple request. He needed to know who owned TEXT and
where did the journal align itself.
The question about alignment could be answered quite simply. TEXT
- with the AAWP and its members;
- with those staff teaching writing in tertiary institutions
- with those who donate their time to TEXT as referees, book
reviewers, proofreaders, web consultants and the like;
- with all those who write and research for TEXT and with
the executive of the AAWP;
- and finally, with the unselfish and discipline-committed furthering
of the cause of teaching writing across Australia (and by extension,
But the question of ownership was another matter. This question had
never been asked before. The editors themselves had never asked it.
TEXT was dreamt up by the current editors, and the concept was
presented to delegates at the first AAWP conference at UTS in 1996.
By way of preparation, Tess and Nigel had met with Cassandra Pybus (the
originator of the Australian Humanities Review, the first Australian
academic journal on the web) and had taken themselves off to learn HTML
- a task easier than they anticipated.
In 1997, on an old 486 PC, they coded the first issue, and set up the
contributions, refereeing and subscriptions procedures. Living strongly
from support generated by delegates to the first AAWP conference, the
initial issue was netcast from the Griffith University site, the host
to all issues so far.
TEXT went from a small beginning to far greater strength. With
the October issue of 2001 the journal completes its fifth year of publication,
having in that time published 80 refereed article, 19 creative pieces,
3 interviews, 34 reviews and 8 non refereed papers in the soapbox section
we called "The Mouse". Additionally there have been three
allied sites: a comprehensive Australia-wide Programs Guide and two
special issues sites (Creative Nonfiction and Writing Online/Online
Writing). All of this research material can be accessed from the comprehensive
In the last five years, through all this endeavour, TEXT has
established itself as a research site of extraordinary value. There
is nothing like it in the rest of the world: a single site that covers
theory, praxis and practice in the discipline.
During the five years, one of the editors moved from Griffith University
to Deakin University and that institution now co-sponsors the publication
in terms of recognition of academic time and equipment needs. No university
actually gives the editors or the AAWP any up-front funds for the work
involved in an issue. (For only one issue, a proofreader was paid by
Griffith.) The AAWP itself has never provided funds to TEXT (and
has never been asked to do so).
The editorial office PCs are kept up to date by two universities (Deakin
and Griffith), and Griffith provides the server. The editors do the
editing as part of their research activities but receive no DETYA points
for doing so and no teaching relief. Like the others who referee or
otherwise contribute to TEXT, they do it because they deeply
believe in the importance of generating debate, discourse and vitality
in a new field of study.
TEXT survives on the continuing widespread recognition of its
research and the significance of its publishing (as reflected in the
Australian National Library's continued archiving of the journal in
the Pandora Project). Thirty-seven universities - through the commitment
of their academic staff in editing, writing, refereeing and reading
- keep TEXT up and running. This thirty-seven represents almost
the entire complement of Australian universities.
TEXT is clearly, therefore, a national academic activity. It
does not belong to any one university or campus. TEXT's domain
comprises that umbrella domain defined by all the activity and representation
of the Australian Association of Writing Programs.
So who owns TEXT?
Could the editors take TEXT and sell it, for example, to the
SBS website as an important cultural activity? Could the AAWP replace
the editors and take TEXT to another site, giving it another
philosophy, another publishing 'look'? Could Griffith University claim
it as theirs (as they have from time to time suggested when they have
gone into the site and re-arranged its layout, or removed it from the
server - our relationship with the Griffith sever has been a continual
hassle)? Could Deakin claim 50% of TEXT - and if so what would
it do with it?
Could another university buy out TEXT over the head of the AAWP?
Or could another university simply state a claim and equally simply
remove it to its own site?
If TEXT ran up a debt (we don't have any budget so there isn't
much chance of this) who would have to pay it? If TEXT was sued
(again unlikely) who would have to go to court or pay the costs?
Perhaps TEXT is owned by a number of stakeholders: the editors,
the AAWP, the host universities? Or since no one has ever taken legal
possession: do the contributors and their copyrights own it? Or might
the actual owner simply turn out to be the next most aggressive, bullying,
university cartel with a selfish takeover mentality and a useful budget?
All of this brings us back to Barry Goode's recent questions. He asked
the questions because his colleague, Professor Maffeeya, at a recent
meeting at Eunaymit University, claimed TEXT as one of his (Professor
Maffeeya's) own assets.
Who is Professor Maffeeya, many of you may well ask, and what right
does he have to claim a major stakeholding in TEXT? Has he ever
contributed to TEXT? Is he a member of the AAWP? Has he ever
attended an AAWP conference? Does he teach creative or professional
Shouldn't academics with a view to taking over research domains have
at least done something in that domain previously? Shouldn't they have
established at least some credibility in the area? What are we up against
here? A new academic stand-over group trying to gain territory by bluster,
deception, big-noting and narcissism?
Professor Maffeeya, among other things, runs a website where innocuously
he asked TEXT (and presumably a number of other online journals)
to let him carry links from his gateway/index page. He was trying to
collect or corral into one site various online publications based in
On the face of it, this is a good idea and not an unusual one. TEXT
is frequently asked if this or that publication can offer a link to
the site. After all, TEXT has been published online now for five
years and is something of a flagship in online scholarly publication.
But, the permission having been given, the link to TEXT suddenly
made it one of Professor M's claimed 'assets'!
'Armed' thus with TEXT (and other website links), Professor
Maffeeya then went on a rampage. He tried to rip Professor Goode's entire
creative writing program off him! He tried to suggest that he owned
TEXT and would set up a swag of courses in teaching creative
writing around them as his personal-use website. He tried to suggest
that the AAWP should come right in under his new umbrella - the flimsy
one he had suddenly erected by his mere talking up. Being a Lilliputian
in the world of creative writing research, he wanted to tie down the
whole Australian industry and claim it for his own.
Out there in the world of university money and politics we are witnessing
thinking and planning that involves sly maneouvring, takeover bids,
and asset-stripping. All this in the creative writing/teaching field!
Not from writers, nor necessarily from those who teach writing; but
from cultural studies personnel who see writing as a cash cow, it seems.
TEXT will resist these takeover bids, as will our AAWP president
who is carrying the AAWP in its own right into the heart of the current
debates regarding creative and research funding.
This editorial is written to inform readers and AAWP members of the
existence of unsavoury developments around us. TEXT and the AAWP
have made enormous efforts to unite the various approaches to the teaching
of writing in the Australian university sector and to embrace colleagues
in the TAFE sector. TEXT will resist upstart efforts from peripheral
players keen to muscle in on the valuable advances already made in the
creative writing discipline.
The upside of all this excitement is that subscribers to TEXT should
be proud and active regarding how the AAWP and TEXT draw so much
attention - how the two bodies, hand in hand, have generated a force
and voice of significance. This has been made possible by the number
of people who have organised national conferences (we are about to have
our sixth), nominated to the executive of the AAWP, organised forums,
sent in comments and submissions, contributed to TEXT, refereed
for TEXT, and generally promoted the discipline under the aegis
of the AAWP umbrella.
The AAWP and TEXT need your continuing support as part of keeping
the discipline independent and democratic.