Saturday 15 August 2020

Why I Don't Cite

An observant reader may have noticed that throughout this blog I don't cite my sources in any of the common styles, such as the one prescribed by the MLA. While I do generally mention my sources when directly reproducing any information, in my opinion art writing has a somewhat skewed relationship with citations, which undermines the original purpose of citing your sources and I have conciously attempted not to partake in those practices.

The main purpose of scientific citation is to provide a possibility for the reader to verify the information on which the author based their premises.
What I in most instances try to do is present a coherent logical argument with premises that are public knowledge or otherwise easily accessible. As there are rarely any exact numbers involved, nor any conditions present that ought to be reproduced in order to verify an outcome, citation is less important as all that is necessary to check my reasoning is the reasoning itself and some amount of public knowledge.

More broadly speaking I also believe that citation should be of little to no importance to art writing, as most art writing is naturally concerned with artworks. The greatest amount of information one can gather about an artwork is the artwork itself and this of course doesn't allow itself to be cited in any usual way. The information presented by the artwork is also available and equal to all who have access to the work or its reproductions and other factual documentation.

Yet what happens often in art writing is that instead of the artworks being treated as the primary source, other authors are cited extensively to support the authors' claims. This is also commonly not done in order for the reader to ascertain the veracity of the other author's statement, but to reinforce the perceived truth value of current text. 'x has claimed something similar in the past, so therefore my views now must be true.' This is a dimly disguised argument of authority, the principal enemy of science and truth. Author x having been right or wrong about a, doesn't have any a priori relation to x being right or wrong about b.

It is for these reasons that I chose not to mention my sources on this blog in the usual manner. In order to have you think critically about the content of my writings, I present them as isolated as possible, making them unable to rely on the false security of significance that any similar utterances by others may bring.