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~ Attempting humor in academic writing

Screenshot of a browser based pitch organization extraction tool
Fig: Advances in Speech and Music Technology book cover.

I have recently published an chapter in an academic book published by Springer. The topic of the book is of interest to me but can be perceived as rather dry: Advances in Speech and Music Technology.

The chapter I co-authored presented two case studies on detecting duplicates in music archives. The fist case study deals with segmentation reuse in an archive of early electronic music. The second with meta-data reuse in an archive of a public broadcaster containing digitized commercial shellac disc recordings with many duplicates.

Duplicate detection being the main topic, I decided to title the article Duplicate Detection for for Digital Audio Archive Management. It is easy to miss, and not much is lost if you do, but there is a duplicate ‘for’ in the title. If you did detect the duplicate you have detected the duplicate in the duplicate detection article. Since I have fathered two kids I see it as an hard earned right to make dad-jokes like that. Even in academic writing.

It was surprisingly difficult to get the title published as-is. At every step of the academic publishing process (review, editorial, typesetting, lay-outing) I was asked about it and had to send an email like the one below. Every email and every explanation made my second-guess my sense of humor but I do stand by it.

From: Joren
To: Editors ASMT

Dear Editors,

I have updated my submission on easychair in…

I would like to keep the title however as is an attempt at word-play. These things tend to have less impact when explained but the article is about duplicate detection and is titled ‘Duplicate detection for for digital audio archive management’. The reviewer, attentively, detected the duplicate ‘for’ but unfortunately failed to see my attempt at humor. To me, it is a rather harmless witticism.



Anyway, I do think that humor can serve as a gateway to direct attention to rather dry, academic material. Also the message and the form of the message should not be confused. John Oliver, for example, made his whole career on delivering serious sometimes dry messages with heaps of humor: which does not make the topics less serious. I think there are a couple of things to be learned there. Anyway, now that I have your attention, please do read the author version of Duplicate Detection for for Digital Audio Archive Management: Two Case Studies.