Create Change

Shouldn't the way we share research be as advanced as the Internet?

Scholars Speak

Music Therapy & Indigenous Studies

Carolyn Kenny
Antioch University Ph.D. in Leadership and Change

Carolyn Kenny
Carolyn Kenny

Carolyn Kenny is a professor of human development and indigenous studies in the Antioch University Ph.D. in Leadership and Change. She lives in Santa Barbara, CA. Kenny’s research focuses on the role of the arts in the revitalization of indigenous societies, music therapy theory, and policy issues related to Native women. Before joining the faculty at Antioch, she was a senior researcher at the Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research at the University of California Santa Barbara and an associate professor in First Nations Education at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia. Kenny is the co-editor-in-chief of Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, an online open access journal.


In the digital age, how are academics communicating and researching differently in your fields of indigenous studies and music therapy?

There are pockets where things are quite developed and there are wastelands where nothing is happening. But in indigenous studies it’s really moving ahead quickly because we have an oral tradition. It’s fabulous to capture this in videos, which communicate more than a story on a flat page. It’s wonderful for us because there is a real problem with the differences between orality and literacy. So much of indigenous studies is an oral tradition and we are using technology to get these stories recorded digitally. I have recorded a lot of interviews with people who have since passed on.

With the arts, there is a natural link because of the ideology that there is knowledge contained in art that can’t be written in word. With music, the only way to represent it is through sound. Wherever the senses are embedded in the content, the media-enhanced texts really do help to communicate the content, meaning, and special knowledge available through the senses.

What do you feel have been benefits of these new forms of digital scholarship—in general and to you personally?

First, there has been a radical shift in communication with the Internet and open access. It allows for much quicker communication and more communication internationally. Now there are networks in music therapy and ways of communicating across cultures and internationally that couldn’t exist previously.

Technology also helps to advance the arts because works can be more accurately represented. With the click of a button you can see the digital representation of a piece of art or hear the actual music for music therapy sessions, rather than describing it on paper. I am working with an arts student who just finished her electronic Ph.D. dissertation. She did an amazing job of using media-enhanced files within the dissertation. In her author introduction, she begins with an audio recording of herself talking about what her dissertation will cover. Then she has music and video files embedded in the text.

Tell us about Voices: World Forum for Music Therapy. How did this online journal come about?

About seven years ago, my Norwegian colleague, Brynjulf Stige and I launched Voices We felt there was a need for a better way to network internationally. Today we have 22 volunteer editors from all over the world and a paid managing editor. We wanted a forum for encouraging dialogue and debate. We resisted the idea of being a research journal. We want content that will stimulate discussion. It’s amazing how many hits we get. Every month there are several thousand. It’s being used in classrooms and students are writing articles about it. It’s really exciting.

How are the costs of publishing supported?

The costs are minimal since we have so much help from volunteer editors. We just pay our Managing Editor, who also serves as our Webmaster. He receives a fair half-time salary, which is sponsored at the present time by the Grieg Academy of Music in Bergen, Norway. We are also exploring corporate and government sponsors for the journal.

What has your role been?

My role is networking. I also do technical editing, helping authors whose first language is not English get their ideas across. Their ideas are great—they just need help communicating them in English. It’s very labor intensive, but it’s a labor of love.

We have three main issues a year and ongoing, moderated discussions. We showcase a country each month, and do interviews with music therapy pioneers, composers, and traditional healers. We also post resources about conferences around the world.

Are you surprised by the success of the journal?

We envisioned success, but I’m surprised about just how popular it is. I think it’s taken off because we are sharing information across cultures about ways to use music therapy in different countries and how to modify approaches based on cultural norms. It’s also a good way to educate people about the profession.

How did your interest in new forms of scholarship come about?

I was a recalcitrant, traditional paper-and-pen professor, who printed out every document from the computer and worked with the hard copies. About ten years ago, one of my art students said she wanted to do a Web-based thesis. I was horrified. I said: “No way. This is ridiculous.” But she was persistent. Finally, I told her to give it a try. Once I got into it, I was totally hooked. She was able to embed photographs of the art installations of her students in the document. When she cited books and articles, we could just click onto an embedded link that took us directly to the reference list for the full citations. I was just blown away. Ever since then, I’ve been a fan. Now I encourage students to do Web-based dissertations. I’m not fluent in electronic media myself. Often I learn about new options from our librarian or my students.

In your experience, what is holding back further change in how scholars communicate, share their work, and achieve recognition?

It’s generational. We are creatures of habit. But the rules are changing. There is a revolution because of open access in publishing of journals. More people have a voice. It’s a liberating feeling now. I do see open access as a revolution. It’s inevitable.

What recent changes are encouraging?

I see more journals like ours—free, online open-access journals. I think that’s really exciting. Even if you live in a remote area, you can get information now. We’re seeing things moving ahead very quickly.

What is the benefit of more open sharing of research?

It will give more people more of a voice and cut through the power structures—journal reviewers behind the scenes and the academic publishing business. Open Access is changing the way information is reviewed and produced and it will change the way people learn and do things. It’s a complete revolution and cuts through the hierarchy.

Some say there’s a danger we’ll leave behind quality filtering or other highly valued features of traditional publishing. What’s your reaction?

I think this is a big topic. And in order to explore it fully, we would also have to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the paper journal peer-review process. Reviewers on paper journals do not always give authors access to their criteria for publication. The review process is sometimes more political than scholarly. But it is behind the scenes. In an open access forum, we hope that there is more transparency.

In our online open access journal, Voices, we have established what we are calling “soft criteria.” And we publish those criteria for everyone to see. The goal of our journal is “dialogue, debate, discussion as well as information sharing and International bridge-building.” It is a forum instead of a research journal. However, it is still “peer-reviewed” by very prestigious music therapy scholars around the world. We edit articles, ask for revisions, and try to have a respectful discourse. So we do have standards. But they are different than the standards for a research journal.

Of course, there will be debates about quality as we move into more open access. The online medium is great for discussion forums. But I think we just need to ride this wave and let the open access happen, then evaluate when we have more open access and fewer closed access options. My sense is that the definitions for “quality” will shift. Certainly “access” will be one of the new criteria for quality. Remember the often-quoted idea about knowledge being power? Well, this open-access movement will shift the power bases as well.

Looking down the road a decade or so, what do you expect will be different with digital scholarship in your field?

I think that we will see a lot more discussion forums. Because there is more access internationally, there will be more cross-cultural communication. There will be more higher education through virtual spaces and this will encourage more collaborative scholarly work. Scholars who focus on the arts will have a wonderful palette of media enhancements from which to choose. They can embed their scholarly works with art and music. Because knowledge will be more accessible to more people, educational opportunities will increase radically. I see this already in Native villages all over the world. More Native children are getting more education because they can stay in their home communities to study scholarly works through the computer. We can even imagine that for those of us who have always believed that there needs to be a redistribution of wealth around the world, the open access movement will finally make redistribution of knowledge, and therefore, redistribution of wealth a real possibility.