Social Knowledge Creation/Shifting Future
What is the role of the humanities in social knowledge production? How can academics harness new tools and modes of scholarship to productively engage with each other and with other members of the public? How can the humanities actively reflect on and proactively repurpose the history of scholarly communication? How can the digital realm foster social knowledge creation from within the academy? Approaches to answering these questions are found via approaches from rethinking literary criticism, to imagining future digital libraries, to politicizing the digital humanities. The most stimulating and notable intersections occur when the social and the scholarly overlap.
Collaborations in the Meaningful Creation of Electronic Journals and Monographs
This section explores the thoughtful development of online reading environments to enable social knowledge creation. Employing three articles by Alan Liu, Daniel Cohen, and Rowland Lorimer, the ideas surrounding online reading and researching platforms are manifested in discussions of the achievements and shortcomings of electronic journals and monographs. Liu reviews three online reading platforms for journals and digital archives and explores how the ability to manipulate and to analyze text with digital tools changes the essence of “bookishness.” Shifting from the delivery of texts to the consumption of them, Cohen examines the audience’s role in the social contract of scholarly publishing and argues for the necessity of adaptation in humanities scholars’ perception and acceptance of academic work published online. Finally, Lorimer provides a framework for collaborative work between libraries, scholars, and publishers in the creation and dissemination of digital journals and monographs. He proposes that the future of digital scholarly publishing involves an evolution of university presses, building upon the successful models that first brought journal publication into the fold of academic libraries.
In his article “The End of the End of the Book: Lively Margins, and Social Computing,” Alan Liu analyzes three online reading environments for scholars: Collex, Open Journal Systems (OJS), and PreE. Collex, developed by NINES (Nineteenth-Century Scholarship Online), offers a platform for searching across multiple library catalogs, journals, and digital archives. The results may be tagged and managed in a number of ways and organized into personal collections. OJS, created by the Public Knowledge Project, provides an open-source platform for publishing scholarly journals and managing editorial workflow. In the user interface, reading tools identify supplemental online materials that provide additional information about the author, related research, and online discussion groups. PreE is a scholarly reading and analysis environment under development at the University of Victoria’s Electronic Textual Cultures Lab. Using the REKn repository of primary and secondary Russian literary resources, PreE draws upon TAPoR (Text Analysis Portal for Research) for on-demand visualizations, text analysis, and data mining. Liu compares these research environments to mainstream digital environments, such as Google Books and Amazon, which allow for robust searching and navigation but limit control over more sophisticated computation actions.
Liu further posits that “research environments devoted to the thoughtful online use of books—ironically provide even more advanced ways of making books go away” (p. 505). With the digitization of books, a series of document files are created, which function as endlessly remixable modules. The added capabilities of the research environments provide more operability and increased ability to manipulate the text with aggregation and pattern recognition. The “bookishness” then, the concept of the book, goes marginal, and the extra dimensionality of the book provide by sampling and analysis becomes its most concrete identifier. Literally at the margins of the digital page, the sidebars of the reading interface step beyond their functionality as digital bookshelves to hold or organize static collections and increasingly link out to various social media sites and the online forums. Moving away from merely the storage and retrieval of information, digital libraries increasingly facilitate collaboration and interaction among like-minded researchers.
Daniel Cohen’s chapter “The Social Contract of Scholarly Publishing” in Debates in the Digital Humanities further considers the audience’s perception of online publications. Cohen divides the social contract of scholarly publishing into two sides—the supply side and the demand side. The supply side is the well-established path for creating a scholarly work, including drafting a manuscript, proofreading, editing the text, and laying out the final product. The demand side is less well-defined but essential for the “consumption” of research. The audience must willingly enter into the social contact as an engaged reader and give credit to the ideas put forth by the author(s) or editor(s) of a scholarly work. With the reenvisioning of academic work through digital tools and online delivery, the traditional form of the book is undergoing experimentation and evolution. While much consideration has been given to the supply side in reimagining academic projects, the assumption remains that the reader is largely unchanged. However, the social conventions enveloping printed scholarly content should also be reconsidered. Cohen questions if humanities colleagues are willing “to recognize outstanding academic work wherever and however it is published,” be it a blog post or open-access journal or other online forum (p. 321). On the demand side, curation may be important for the perception of value in online publication, as well as thoughtful web design and a logo of endorsement from an institution or university press.
Reiterating the importance of maintaining the university presses and strengthening their ties to established institutions, Rowland Lorimer in his article “Libraries, Scholars, and Publishers in Digital Journal and Monograph Publishing” endorses the necessity of expanded collaborations in the scholarly publication process. In response to the steadily increasing prices of academic journals in print and digital formats, libraries in the early 2000s began establishing institutional repositories for the organization and dissemination of digital materials. Although not part of the original vision for institutional repositories, there was untapped potential for the development of locally hosted publishing processes to answer the mounting concerns of journal and monograph publication. Imaged as a point of access, rather than a parallel publications system, consideration was not given to key issues, including the lack of peer review, the absence of editorial oversight, and the relocation of publishing services to university libraries. Partly because these concerns were never fully addressed, institutional repositories remain largely underutilized, but they did set the stage for library journal hosting and open-source journal publishing platforms, such as OJS.
By comparison, electronic publication of monographs through university presses has been slower to evolve. Given the operational identity of a commercial business functioning within the university infrastructure, most academic presses must retain independent financial viability while operating separately from the university’s core activities. Their reluctance to embrace electronic scholarly monographs is a direct result of challenging profit margins on academic e-publications. As the market for scholarly monographs is currently over-served with limited sales for published works, Lorimer suggests that the authors’ and institutions’ demand for publishing services actually serves as the primary market rather than the readership. There are, however, some examples of university presses, such as Bloomsbury Academic, that successfully generate sale revenue alongside open-access resources.
Research libraries have begun to step forward as an alternative venue for academic publishing, but they typically see themselves as a replacement rather than a partner for the university press. Embarking a more collaborative relationship between the existing university presses and libraries would benefit for the expertise of the editorial staff and build upon the successful models for journals publishing already in place in academic libraries. Lorimer also strongly advocates for bringing scholars into the equation, not just as authors and reviewers, but to manage the publications process and to set publishing priorities. However, in making the roles of “scholar” and “editor” mutually exclusive, he neglects to consider that editorial work is indeed an alt-acc career, where scholars with deep content knowledge are publishing professionals. In a description of the notable innovations in journal publishing, Lorimer writes, “seemingly, a significant difference is the involvement of the scholars, rather than publishing professionals or commercial companies in positions of control” (p. 13). He overlooks the fact that the roles of scholar, librarian, and publishing professional often intersect and overlap; editors are already forming this proposed conduit between presses, libraries and scholars.
Exemplary Instances and Open-Source Tools
- Bloomsbury Academic, an academic division of the press that offers open-access digital publishing and also generates retail sales: http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/academic/.
- Collex, a digital reading tool that allows for searching across peer-reviewed resources and managing results: http://wiki.collex.org/index.php/Collex.
- CommentPress, “A WordPress plugin for social texts in social contexts”: http://futureofthebook.org/commentpress/.
- Dspace, an open-source digital repository software: http://www.dspace.org/.
- Open Journal Systems (OJS), an open-source platform for publishing scholarly journals and managing editorial workflow: http://openjournalsystems.com/.
- Érudit, a Canadian journal hosting and online publishing service: https://www.erudit.org/.
- SEASR (Software Environment for the Advancement of Scholarly Research): http://www.seasr.org/.
- Solomon, David. “Digital Distribution of Academic Journals and its Impact on Scholarly Communication: Looking Back after 20 years.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship.
- Synergies Canada, a platform for publishing journals and infrastructure for disseminating scholarly research in the social sciences and humanities: http://www.synergiescanada.org/.
- TAPoR (Text Analysis Portal for Research): http://www.tapor.ca/.
- Transliteracies Project explores online reading practices: http://transliteracies.english.ucsb.edu/.
- Zotero, a tool for organizing and search research results: https://www.zotero.org/.
- Cohen, Daniel J. “The Social Contract of Scholarly Publishing,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities. Ed. Matthew K. Gold. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012, p. 319–321. Available at http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/27.
- Liu, Alan. “The End of the End of the Book: Lively Margins, and Social Computing.” Michigan Quarterly Review 48, no. 4 (2009): 499–520.
- Lorimer, Rowland. “Libraries, Scholars, and Publishers in Digital Journal and Monograph Publishing.” Scholarly and Research Communication 4, no. 1 (2013):1–17.
E-Publishing in Pedagogy and Public Humanities and Cultivating Collaborative Histories
History is collectively lived, remembered, and reflected upon, but can history (or perhaps more accurately, histories) be collectively written? As Lisa Gitelman concludes in Always Already New, “history comes freighted with a host of assumptions about what is important and what isn’t—about who is significant and who isn’t—as well as about the meanings of media, qualities of human communication, and causal mechanisms that account for historical change” (2006: 2). Or as Rosenzweig posits, “History is a deeply individualistic craft” (2006: 117) Open-source, collectively written documentations of historical events, people, institutions, movements, arts and culture, and so forth, account for the plurality of individual experiences and perspectives that make up each moment in time.
In “Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past” Roy Rosenzweig details how scholarly convention values, and considers reputable, sources that are characterized by “possessive individualism” where individual ideas and accounts of the past are cited and owned, and where different ideas, conceived by different historical interpreters and lived historical bodies are unable to intermingle and coalesce. He writes, “A historical work without owners and with multiple, anonymous authors is thus al- most unimaginable in our professional culture” (Rosenzweig 2006: 117).
New authorial models that suit a contemporary public are needed. These models must reflect the diversity of society as well as the diversity of past societies, voicing and piecing together the histories of those underrepresented in current models of composing historiography. “This extraordinary freedom and cooperation make Wikipedia the most important application of the principles of the free and open-source software movement to the world of cultural, rather than software, production” (Rosenzweig 2006: 117-18). New authorial models are actively resisted and challenged by scholarly institutional structures because scholarly communities resistant to change continue to be uneasy with Wikipedia’s open-source mode of production and distribution that values and publishes verifiable knowledge contributed by an international public with varied educational backgrounds. Although the information published on Wikipedia is vetted by the same community of peers who contribute and modify entries, its identity as a reputable source of information is argued against because the system of social knowledge construction that generates content on Wikipedia differs from the systems of scholarly peer-review and publishing upon which the academic community is built upon and continues to promote.
Wikipedia serves as an example of how the general public can become more involved in the production of knowledge and the writing of histories. The practice of writing, recording, producing, and preserving history is democratized when the hierarchy of who decides what is remembered and how is broken down and leveled. However, is good historical writing sacrificed when democratic collaborative knowledge production is instituted?
The difficulty of writing about new media, digital projects, and collaborative ever-changing texts is that these forms of information presentation and knowledge production are in a constant state of iteration, revision, and transformation, slowly working towards a definitive final version that may only remain a fantasized goal and never an actual scholarly reality. What scholars write about these forms of collaborative knowledge creation, like all histories, is temporally contingent; the story is always changing. Open-source collaboratively authored sources like Wikipedia are culturally important because they often cover subjects ignored by more academically formalized historical accounts, particularly current cultural events and the newest forms of popular culture.
Collaborative e-publishing projects create opportunities for students to develop fruitful collaborative scholarly exchanges with students and professors at other institutions and consider how they want to present their ideas, scholarly analysis, and prose to a wider public audience through open-source publishing formats. “E-Publishing in the Undergraduate Music History Classroom: The University of Guelph Book Review Project” by Kimberley Francis (University of Guelph) and Travis Stimeling (West Virginia University, but at the time of the project Millikin University) reflects on their experiences implementing a collaborative open-source book review project where students developed peer review skills, writing for publication best practices, ethical scholarly publishing behavior, and engaged in process of social knowledge production for open-source publication formats.
How can forms of collaborative social knowledge formation enrich the undergraduate experience? In this article, Francis and Stimeling present their model for undergraduate publishing and peer-review education so that it can be adopted and adapted to various undergraduate educational models. Critical Voices: The University of Guelph Book Review Project is a collaborative knowledge creation project that combines open-access journal technology (using Open Journal System [OJS], a free online template developed as part of the Public Knowledge Project) with the dynamics of peer-review publication that has instructed undergraduate musicologies studies in critical thinking, writing, and editing in a format where scholars can see their work published in an accessible open-source format and participate in contributing new knowledge and criticism to the important conversations taking place in current musicologies discourse. As Francis and Stimeling explain, “Unlike many of the leading student-produced e-journals in musicology and music theory, Critical Voices is unique in its dual focus on undergraduate writing and critical engagement with contemporary scholarship in the field” (2013: 3). The authors detail their iterative process, reflecting on the challenges, successes, benefits, and necessary methodological adjustments with each versioning (or publication issue) of the project, and how other institutions can adapt the project and/or become an institutional partner in Critical Voices.
Pedagogical approaches like Critical Voices illustrates how the value of undergraduate writing instruction that incorporates different e-publishing formats and technologies can take cues from design theory and digital humanities methodologies, which value prototyping, versioning, iteration, and productive failure. It is an experiential learning model where students learn to equally value the development process and the final product/assignment. Incorporating learning activities and technologies that foster a collaborative cultural and aesthetic value of music results in meaningful learning experiences and research that can have sustained use in the public sector after the end of the course. These digital projects extend in-class research, writing, and scholarly products outside the walls and conversations of the classroom and into the community.
Pedagogical e-publishing projects guide students through best practices for writing and presenting their ideas for a public audience, a form of writing actively cultivated in the sciences and social sciences, but to a lesser extent in the humanities. At a time when humanities departments are facing increasing cutbacks in resources and financial support, Francis and Stimeling suggest “that collaborative, student-driven projects such as this offer valuable, low-cost opportunities for music students to engage in international collaboration, an increasing need in an era of decreasing resources” while also increasing students technological literacy and academic professionalization in musicologies programs (2013: 4). “Consider that, although many music history courses include peer review and paraprofessional writing as key components of the curriculum,” Francis and Stimeling explain from pedagogical experience, “seldom does that work move into a public forum such as an online journal, and students’ openness to such a process can differ depending on exposure and enthusiasm” (2013:8). Digital humanities e-publishing projects targeted toward a public audience aid in the measured cultivation of a student’s individual authorial voice because the student and their fellow student peer-reviewers are keenly aware that their writing will be accessible, open to public view and critique, and their engagement with current musicological work will be on display even to those authors they enter into dialogue with through their reviews. The sense of “publicness” and “accessibility” make students accountable for their writing, their authorial voice, and the knowledge they have collaboratively cultivated through peer-review processes that they are now contributing to the world.
As digital humanities methodologies and projects become increasingly popular in the fields of musicology, ethnomusicology, and sound studies, scholars are exploring ways in which they can write about and curate sounds in open-source digital spaces. The review article “Musical and Sonic Sustainability Online” highlights some of the recent digital endeavors that texturally and sonically explore the relationships among music, sound, and sustainability. Noel Lobley identifies the scholarly, social, and community impact of four websites and research blogs that connect practical sustainability (environmental, musical, community) projects with online and community engagement: Jeff Todd Titon’s “Sustainable Music” research blog, and the websites for Smithsonian Folkways (SF), the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE) and the London Sound Survey (LSS).
Digital research blogs and websites provide scholars with a flexible presentational space to present, reflect on, and juxtapose research materials in different formats to generate multi-modal research products. Different forms of research (e.g. recorded environmental sounds, music, text and aural interviews, paramusical resources) incorporate the voices of the subjects, people, events, and art forms, making them more present and viscerally experienced by academic and general public audiences. Digital projects and multi-modal open-source forms of research presentation and dissemination are particularly attractive to the newer field of public musicology and applied ethnomusicology, fields that link critical discourse, sociocultural musicological study, public sector work, and community development and outreach. Scholars continue to question how music and sound can engage with important social, economic, and environmental questions and issues, and perhaps contribute to education, awareness, and ultimately solutions and problem-solving. Lobley identifies particular digital resources that can be labeled as forms of public musicology, applied ethnomusicology, and public sector sound studies scholarship where text-, visual-, and sound-based information and resources are presented to both an academic and general public as a mode of education, awareness, and dialogue with issues of musical and environmental sustainability. The most obvious way that these resources contribute to the construction and preservation of musicological knowledge for a general audience is that they preserve and curate the everyday acoustic environments, sounds, musical practices, music genres, expressive cultural traditions, and voices that are endangered, or may become endangered, and ultimately unheard in real-time in the future, but are digitally remembered and archived. By drawing the public’s attention to potential instances of cultural, aural, and environmental loss, and presenting information concerning complex sustainability concepts in an easily digestible and more accessible format through sound and music, a broader and more diversified audience can engage in the contemporary conversations concerning global and local environmental change and sustainability.
E-Publishing and Peer Review
With the advent of online scholarly publishing, academics are beginning to move their work from print-based publications to online forums. Recent technological advances have made this process even easier; journals can format and publish scholarly work online free online platforms such as WordPress at a fraction of the cost of print publishing. Furthermore, online forums possess a myriad of affordances absent in print, including the ability to publish non-traditional scholarship like images, audio, and videos. Such developments have led scholars to question traditional models of academic publishing and to posit better methods of producing and disseminating their work.
In their article, “Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Building the System that Scholars Deserve,” Sompel, Payette, Erickson, et al., argue that there are two central issues with traditional academic publishing: “The first, known as the ‘serials crisis,’ addresses the often prohibitive prices of journal publications that impeded access to scholarly materials. The second, known as the ‘permissions crisis,’ addresses the restrictions on use of publications once access has been obtained” (1). To redress both of these issues, the authors advocate a new model of online publishing. In this model, the authors stress the importance of interoperability, or the compatibility of the publication platform with other online forums, and scope, or the types of works that these forums publish. Specifically, they advocate for online forums to publish datasets, software, complex docs, preprints, raw data, and prototypes in addition to academic articles.
Additionally, the authors believe that online systems should have the following five functions: registration, certification, awareness, archiving, and rewarding. Registration is the acknowledgment of work in its early stages — drafts, preprints, incomplete pieces — so that authors can share work in progress without losing their intellectual property rights. Certification is a validation of the work, particularly an acknowledgment that its claims and premises are appropriate. Awareness is the promotion and advertising of materials in the forum. Archiving is a record of all pieces and communications within the forum. Rewarding is the conferral of awards to scholars whose work receives the most acclaim—greatest readership, most views, most citations, etc. Combined, each of these elements produces a new system of academic publishing and review that better support the goals of scholarly work.
Sompel, Payette, Erickson, et al. believe that the most functional model would have many interoperable nodes that can be combined and utilized in a variety of ways. These “nodes,” which would enact the functions listed above, would be run by separate companies competing for scholars’ business. They envision this system as one “in which many distributed hubs exist, and where each hub is a service that performs a specific scholarly communication function in a particular way. These hubs may then be composed in multiple combinations to form different pathways through which a unit of scholarly communication may proceed.”
Jo Guldi, by contrast, believes that corporations need to be removed from academic publishing entirely. Hinting that the corporate model is incompatible with academics, Guldi suggests that the most effective system would be organized and managed by academics themselves. To make this task less daunting, she seeks to eradicate the conventional academic journal and replace it with social media platforms. She lists sites like Delicious, LibraryThing, and Twitter as possible forums for publishing and disseminating scholarly work. Twitter is particularly suited to this function due to its use of hashtags, which make it possible to create a subject catalogue of posted work.
Such a platform also allows academics to publish a wider variety of materials including syllabi, comprehensive exam lists, digital tools, blogs, audio essays, and videos. Furthermore, social media platforms do not demand exclusive rights to content, so scholars could post their content in multiple locations, thereby making their work more accessible to readers. The success of each contribution could be evaluated using a variety of metrics, including number of clicks, duration of time on page, number of shares or retweets, and/or number of unique visits.
Although there are many disagreements about what constitutes the ideal publishing platform for academic work, scholars largely agree that peer review needs to be crowdsourced. According to Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “Crowdsourced review can improve on traditional review practices not just by adding more readers into conversation with one another and with the author, deepening the relationship between the text and its audience.” She believes that crowdsourced review allows for the inclusion of many voices and opinions, resulting in deep engagement with both the text and the author.
She goes on to posit the benefit of opening peer review beyond academic circles. She notes, “many of us would benefit from discussions with readers located outside the academy. Most academic fields, and the work produced within them, would benefit from the kinds of aeration that exposure to other perspectives can provide.” Doing so also expands the reach of scholarly work beyond the academy, allowing for mass dissemination online.
Furthermore, mass publication leads to new methods of evaluating the impact of scholarly work. Fitzpatrick states that “[l]iking and linking both enact a new kind of selectivity in creating a mode of community-based authorization, a selectivity that is imposed at the point of consumption rather than production.” Other ways of measuring consumption of texts includes number of pages views, number of visitors, inbound links, time on page, and unique visits. Although Fitzpatrick acknowledges that none of these methods is perfect because the impact of scholarly work cannot be measured by solely quantitative means, she does suggest that these measures may provide a foundation for understanding the impact of scholarly work.
Scholars largely agree that the existing structures for the publication and dissemination of scholarly work need to be changed. While there is some disagreement on how to best do so, most acknowledge the need to create more competition among publishers, to reduce the power and authority given to publishers, and to expand peer review beyond academic circles, and to move peer review and the dissemination of work online. These goals allow for academics to produce and share their work in more meaningful ways and to have a greater impact on their audiences.
Exemplary Instances and Open-Source Tools
- Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. "Beyond Metrics: Community Authorization and Open Peer Review." Debates in the Digital Humanities. Ed. Matthew K. Gold. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012, p. 319–321. Available at http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/7.
- Guldi, Jo. "Reinventing the Academic Journal." Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities. Eds. Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.
- Sompel, Herbert van de; Payette, Sandy; Erickson, John; Lagoze, Carl; Warner, Simeon. "Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Building the System that Scholars Deserve." D-Lib Magazine. 10.9 (2004) Available at http://www.dlib.org/dlib/september04/vandesompel/09vandesompel.html
Opening Peer Review
With the advent of digital publishing and online scholarship, there is an emerging scholarly interest in the promise and potential of opening peer review. In "Beyond Metrics: Community Authorization and Open Peer Review" (2012) Kathleen Fitzpatrick identifies a fundamental disjuncture between traditional peer review and contemporary structures of digital scholarly engagement. Similarly, Roopika Risam in “Rethinking Peer Review in the Age of Digital Humanities” (2014) argues that digital scholarship demands a fundamental revision of how we review and assess of the value of scholarly work online. Both Risam and Fitzpatrick discuss the potential of opening the peer review process, which Emily Ford contextualizes and characterizes at length in “Defining and Characterizing Open Peer Review: A Review of the Literature” (2013). By considering these perspectives on the changing field of digital scholarly publishing, this section will discuss some of the potentials for knowledge production presented by open models of peer review that strive to embody values of openness, accountability, and community.
Fitzpatrick articulates a need to reform peer review to keep up with the affordances of digital publishing networks so central to fields like digital humanities (DH) and digital media studies (DMS). Fitzpatrick is concerned with the question of authority as it shifts from a relationship to material scarcity in print publishing and peer review to one of scarcity of attention and time on the internet. She argues that the “problem with the online reproduction of the systems that govern print publishing is that the internet operates within completely different understanding of the creation of authority.” Instead of being conferred by the publisher’s imprimatur, selectivity is conferred by community. Community imprimatur, for Fitzpatrick, manifests in the form of likes and links. For example, when someone in a network recommends an article, the recommendation lends the article a mark of value in the limited economy of online attention. Fields like DH and DMS must take the lead to “consider the ways that field-based community models of authorization might more accurately reflect the innovations taking place in the field.” She suggests that the guiding principles for these fields, like the network technologies that govern them, should be openness.
Crowdsourcing peer review has potential to disrupt the conservatism that the exclusivity of traditional peer review fosters. For example, crowdsourced review might supply as many as twenty community readers’ perspectives as opposed to two or three from within the academic elite. Crowdsourced review not only supplies more readers, it places them in conversation with one another and with the author “deepening the relationship between the text and its audience.” Crowdsourcing, for Fitzpatrick, takes place within preexisting communities of practices, what Katherine Rowe terms “our-crowd sourcing.” This allows members of a scholarly field to enter dialogue together. Beyond these scholarly dialogues, Fitzpatrick argues many would benefit from engagement with readers located beyond the academy. Still, scholars must ask how they can get a communal process of evaluation to count in the academic sense. Scholars in DH and DMS should contribute to the development of improved models of peer review by striving “to work with rather than against the internet’s open architecture and social modes of producing authority.”
Like Fitzpatrick, Risam begins by noting how peer review has long been the standard of what she describes as scholarly value, a term that resonates with Fitzpatrick’s description of authority. Similarly, she agrees that digital scholarship must be considered in terms of its distinctness and not simply treated as print scholarship gone digital. She argues “the principal differences between digital and print scholarship in the humanities require a radical revision to how we review and assess scholarly production and how scholarly work accrues value: digital scholarship is often collaborative, digital scholarship is rarely finished, and digital scholarship is frequently ‘public.’”
Risam notes the collaborative nature of digital scholarship challenges the image of the solitary print academic. Collaboration is often a function of platform and knowledge sharing among a wide range of skills in digital scholarship. Digital scholarship is also rarely finished in the traditional sense of a monograph or peer reviewed paper - this requires new approaches to linear conventions of scholarly time. Finally, Risam describes how digital scholarship is frequently public in contrast to traditional scholarship, which relies largely on private labour. Digital scholarship is often public and easily available without pay-for-access, in contrast to print scholarship which is usually behind paywalls to gain capital for the distributor. In turn, the “publicness” of digital scholarship often marks it as less valuable within academia. Risam concludes that scholars cannot assume the standards of traditional scholarship — like peer review — will map neatly onto digital scholarship, but rather, must attend to the particulars of the digital publishing and the subsequent reconfiguration of academic value.
In contrast to Risam’s and Fitzpatrick’s explicit interest in the affordances of publishing platforms and networked communication, Ford argues that the process of open peer review, while often facilitated by technology, is not determined by it. Over the past two decades of technological innovation, changes in scholarly publishing have shifted towards openness through which new, open models of peer review emerge, yet there remains no established definition and a lack of uniform implementations of an open peer review process (311). Ford notes there were fewer articles discussing the humanities and social sciences than science and interdisciplinary papers. She discusses the wide range of definitions of open peer review — ranging from broad to fine-grained and concludes “its general treatment suggests that the process incorporates disclosure of the authors’ and reviewers’ identities at some point during the article’s review and publication” (314).
Ford identifies eight key characteristics of open peer review: signed review, disclosed review, editor-mediated review, transparent review, crowd-sourced review, pre-publication review, synchronous review, and post-publication review. Transparent review, for example, is marked by complete openness to a community or public, allowing the public community to watch the peer review process unfold. Similarly public facing is crowd-sourced review, a public review process in which any community member may contribute with no limit of comments or reviewers. Most open peer review implementations have more than one characteristic, and some incorporate many. Ford takes the example of Shakespeare Quarterly which used a hybrid workflow where editors pre-select articles, open them for public peer review, and then finish with a closed phase of revisions and editing (316). Ford argues that editorial mediation should remain central to scholarly publishing in open peer review as it ensures consistency. She contrasts open peer review processes, such as editor mediation, crowd-sourcing, and disclosure, from traditional peer review. Crowdsourcing, for example, strengthens community in a way that traditional peer review cannot by enabling interaction between reviewers, authors, and the entire community (318). In this way, “crowd-sourced review generates and disseminates new ideas that strengthen communities of practice” (318). The most abstract benefit Ford identifies of open peer review is that is can help achieve social justice in publishing, flattening hierarchies by challenging elitism and replacing it with robust discussion.
The movement towards opening peer review is deeply tied to larger issues of openness, accountability, and community in scholarly communication. There remains a reluctance in some academic circles around relinquishing traditional modes of peer review, yet, fields like the digital humanities and digital media studies demonstrate a pressing need for the development of new processes for measuring scholarly value and authority.
Exemplary Instances and Open Source Tools
- Ada: A journal of Gender, New Media, & Technology is an open-access peer reviewed journal created by the Fembot Collective featuring scholarship on gender, new media and technology. “Ada is committed to a transparent, productive, and rigorous peer review process. Ada‘s peer review process asks a great deal of reviewers and community members who participate in the open peer review process”: http://adanewmedia.org/
- Anvil Academic: “Our chief aim is to provide peer and editorial review to pre-existing and in-development digital products”: http://anvilacademic.org/about-anvil-academic/
- The Journal of Digital Humanities “is a comprehensive, peer-reviewed, open access journal that features scholarship, tools, and conversations produced, identified, and tracked by members of the digital humanities community through Digital Humanities Now”: http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/
- Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. "Beyond Metrics: Community Authorization and Open Peer Review." Debates in the Digital Humanities. Ed. Matthew K. Gold. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012, pp. 319–321, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/7
- Ford, Emily. “Defining and Characterizing Open Peer Review: A Review of the Literature.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing, vol. 44, no. 4, 2013, pp 311-326, doi.org/10.3138/jsp.44-4-001
- Risam, Roopika. “Rethinking Peer Review in the Age of Digital Humanities.” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, no.4, 2014, doi:10.7264/N3WQ0220
(Inter)disciplinary Accountability and Transforming the Digital Humanities from Within
This section addresses the various scholars and collaboratories that work to hold the digital humanities accountable to matters of social justice and broader humanistic values. In doing so, this section questions how both formal and informal modes of social and scholarly communication can help us to productively reimagine the scholarly disciplines, interdisciplines, and communities that we participate in.
In the past decade, the digital humanities have been increasingly criticized for their oftentimes apolitical nature. In a 2010 blog post, Tom Scheinfeldt categorized the digital humanities as a “nice” field of scholarship that values method over theory, and is therefore, less likely to engage with contentious sociopolitical issues. Others echoed and expanded his concerns. In 2011, a group of early-career scholars including Moya Bailey, Fiona Barnett, Anne Cong-Huyen, Alexis Lothian, and Amanda Phillips started #transformDH as a way to publicly voice their concerns about the interdiscipline’s lack of attention to race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, and intersectionality. #transformDH started as a small group of engaged scholars who were trying to reposition humanness and criticality in the digital humanities.
The following year, the University of Minnesota Press released the first open-access issue of Debates in the Digital Humanities. In this volume, many scholars responded—both directly and indirectly—to #transformDH’s call for politicizing the digital humanities. Alan Liu’s “Where is Cultural Criticism in the Digital Humanities?” argues that the digital humanities’ generally lack the self-reflexivity and cultural criticism that is intrinsic and necessary to scholarly work in the humanities (para 16). Liu suggests that digital humanists reorient their praxis to bring more of the humanities (specifically cultural studies and new media studies) into digital humanities, and that this should all be done in a public-facing and accountable way (para 17). Jamie “Skye” Bianco, on the other hand, insists that DH “is not one” but plural (para 6). She emphasizes that the digital humanities cannot and should not be treated on any essentialist or universalizing terms (para 6); doing so erases difference and reinforces oppressive systems of power.
These efforts to deconstruct and critique the digital humanities are far from over. In the 2016 Debates in the Digital Humanities, Elizabeth Losh, Jacqueline Wernimont, Laura Wexler, and Hong-An Wu, explicitly argue that scholars adopt an intersectional feminist approach to digital humanities—an approach that creates space for embodied, affective, and situated humanness in public scholarship (para 8). These scholars contend that the digital humanities would benefit from the feminist theoretical notion of “mess,” which counters the DH tendency towards the “neat, clean, and hyper-rational” instead of the genuinely messy worlds of politics and identity (Dourish and Bell, qtd. In Losh et al para 8).
The articles published in Debates in the Digital Humanities took great strides in politicizing and reimagining a field that was veering in a problematic direction. It is important to note that, while some of these ideas circulated in formal academic journals, they also took a more open, grassroots, and public form. #transformDH uses the popular blog platform, Tumblr, and also operates as a Twitter hashtag. Scholars at digital humanities conferences such as the Digital Humanities Summer Institute have, in past years, have turned small “what if” discussions about dream DHSI courses with a social justice spin into a reality. Often, these result in open-source Google Docs that list both resources and best practices for implementing change. The community efforts to transform digital humanities from within its structures can flow through multiple communication channels, both formal and informal. Whether in peer-reviewed journals, at conferences, or on social media and Google Docs, scholars have been (and are) imagining new and better futures for the digital humanities; together, they are taking pragmatic steps to build those futures.
Exemplary Instances and Open-Source Tools
- #transformDH. http://transformdh.org/about-transformdh/.
- #transformDH defines itself as “an academic guerilla movement seeking to (re)define capital-letter Digital Humanities as a ford for transformative scholarship” (“About”). It is an inclusive working collective and a broader social justice movement. #transformDH has its roots in hashtag activism; it began in 2011 by a group of early-career digital humanists at the American Studies Association conference.
- Cong-Huyen, Anne. “Thinking Through Race (Gender, Class, & Nation) in the Digital Humanities: The #transformDH Example.” Anne Cong-Huyen, 2013. https://anitaconchita.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/mla13-presentation/.
- “Thinking Through Race (Gender, Class, & Nation) in the Digital Humanities : The #transformDH Example” is a blog post that represents the transcript and presentation slides from Anne Cong-Huyen’s talk at the 2013 MLA Conference. Cong-Huyen’s conference talk is a concise and engaging introduction to the perceived differences between Digital Humanities (capital D, capital H) and the broader, messier, plural, and intersectional digital humanities.
- Digital Humanities Summer Institute. http://www.dhsi.org/.
- The Digital Humanities Summer Institute is an annual event that features week-long courses, short workshops, symposia, colloquia, and other forums for generative scholarly engagement. It is hosted at the University of Victoria. DHSI encourages its members and the digital humanities community to identify shortcomings and propose changes to the institute and its offerings. A number of new courses on social justice issues in the digital humanities—for example, Feminist Digital Humanities; Queer Digital Humanities; and Race, Social Justice, and DH—began as informal member-initiated unconference sessions.
- Henseler, Christine, Alan Liu, Geoffrey Rockwell, Stéfan Sinclair, Melissa Terras. 4Humanities, 2010. http://4humanities.org/.
- 4Humanities is “an advocacy initiative for the humanities focused on placing the value of the humanities before the public” (“About”). The group is not explicitly “digital” in nature, but it was created by digital humanists and its members frequently highlight the ways that the study of technology and digital media inform the humanities. Alan Liu, Geoffrey Rockwell, and Melissa Terras cofounded 4Humanities in 2010.
- Bailey, Moya. “All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave.” Journal of Digital Humanities, vol. 1, no.1, 2011, http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-1/all-the-digital-humanists-are-white-all-the-nerds-are-men-but-some-of-us-are-brave-by-moya-z-bailey/.
- Bianco, Jamie “Skye.” “This Digital Humanities Which is Not One.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, U Minnesota, P. 2012, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/9.
- Liu, Alan. “Where is Cultural Criticism in the digital humanities?” Debates in the Digital Humanities, U Minnesota, P., 2012, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/20.
- Losh, Elizabeth, Jacqueline Wernimont, Laura Wexler, and Hong-An Wu. “Putting the Human Back into the Digital Humanities: Feminism, Generosity, and Mess.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, U Minnesota P., 2016, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/61.
- Scheinfeldt. Tom. “Why Digital Humanities is ‘Nice’.” Found History, 2010, http://foundhistory.org/2010/05/why-digital-humanities-is-nice/.
Crowdsourcing as an Open Access Movement
The future will be digital. There is no question in that anymore, it is a fact of life, a reality for those who will usher it in. The question that budding academics face now is what kind of future will that be? At the forefront of many conversations about the digital future of academics is the question of tradition. Will we carry on as before? Do we create technology that reproduces traditional modes of scholarship? Or do we try something new? And, if we do, where will our priorities lie? Starting with Jean-Claude Guédon’s overview of the changes that technology has created within the concept of the “critical edition”, we will then look at an example which challenges the traditional model of editorial authority outside of the academic journal – the crowdsourced book.
Guédon’s article, “Digitizing and the Meaning of Knowledge,” provides an excellent overview of the way technology has always altered the concept of the “critical edition.” Beginning with Oriegen and the Hexapla, an early critical version of the Hebrew Bible, Guédon examines not only changed in which this version changed the form but how it moved society towards a more critical form of reading. Rather than writing as “a way to externalize memory,” (23) the form began to change the way writing was viewed. Reading a text as a critical source, rather than as a mere extension of the spoken word, meant that critical dialogues were now created, fostering “dynamic dialogues, not static solidity.” (24)
The concept of a critical edition is central to Guédon’s work. The critical edition, “although it presents itself as definitive, can never be more than a step in a never-ending journey.” (24) Technology changes our relationship to text, as texts are always changing and evolving, and so is technology. The next technological shift Guédon addresses is the one taking place after World War II in Western civilization, as the computer starts to become part of technological advances. As digital scholarship becomes possible, publishers have to decide how digital work will be distributed. In the end, rather than sell it in the same manner as traditional literature, they chose a business model based in licencing, which put scholarship more under their control than that of librarians. “This very first phase in the transition to the digital world reminds us that in any communication system, it is important to look at who can produce documents, who can preserve them, who can organize them in order to facilitate retrieval, who has access, and what can be done with the accessed document.” (25)
Guédon goes on to detail the struggle between publishers and librarians in this context, and what emerges is the direction digital scholarship is heading in: the open access movement. Guédon presents many examples of early open acess movements, such as the Open Society Institute and the Public Library of Science, to more institutional projects like the Wellcome trust and the National Institutes of Health, to academic endeavors like Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. “In the case of Harvard, it was unanimously decided that faculty had to deposit their articles in a suitable university repository. It now looks as if a growing number of faculties and universities are moving in the direction of mandating the deposit of research articles in open access repositories.” (26)
In the conclusion of his article, Guédon expresses the same optimism for the future of digital scholarship that many of us feel: “As open access takes on strength and visibility, new possibilities appear. The capacity to link documents together constantly grows in importance. Linking research articles with their underlying data is also being increasingly discussed. Researchers are not yet used to sharing data with others.” (26) However, his hopes are tempered with apprehension about the future of this movement. It is clear that the traditional methods of knowledge curation are becoming obsolete. But what will replace them? And, in his words, “will scientists and scholars finally recover the control over the tools needed for their great conversation, or will it increasingly be taken over by commercial interests?” (26)
In an attempt to address the possible answers to this question, I would like to bring in a topic which goes to the heart of the discussion of open access and deals with the complicated questions of praxis these discussions are concerned with. Crowdsourcing and knowledge co-exist in projects like The Map of Early Modern London to social media platforms like Twitter, and in countless other spaces. Projects are crowdfunded through sites like Kickstarter, translations for the British Columbia government archives is done by volunteers, and a perfect example of the marriage of academia and crowdsourcing is the book Hacking the Academy by David J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt. In May 2010, Cohen and Scheinfeldt posted a series of questions relating to digital scholarship: “Can an algorithm edit a journal? Can a library exist without books? Can students build and manage their own learning management platforms? Can a conference be held without a program? Can Twitter replace a scholarly society?” (5) Cohen and Scheinfeldt curated the responses into “a collectively produced volume that would explore how the academy might be beneficially reformed using digital media and technology.” (5) They specifically created a process that would highlight the crowdsourcing possibilities of their medium.
The process of creating the edited volume itself would be a commentary on the way things are normally done in scholarly communication, with submissions coming in through multiple channels, including blogs, Twitter, and email, and in multiple formats—everything from a paragraph to a long essay to multimedia. We also encouraged interactivity—the possibility that contributors could speak directly to each other, rather than creating the inert, isolated chapters that normally populate edited volumes. We then sent out notices via our social networks, which quickly and extensively disseminated the call for submissions. (5)
This type of project tests not only the possibilities of digital scholarship, but challenges the binaries of the academic institution – the contributors representing various parts of academia, such as “scholars, educational technologists, librarians, and cultural heritage professionals” (5), transcending the boundaries of discipline. Cohen and Scheinfeldt are challenging the foundations of traditional academia, showing that “new modes of engaging students in the classroom with digital media are, at heart, less about the flashiness of technology and more about the need to move past the stagnation of the lecture into deeper, more collaborative—and ultimately, more effective—pedagogy.” (6)
Exemplary Instances and Open-Source Tools
- Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, a crowdsourced book of stories centering on and celebrating women.
- Zooniverse, a platform for "citizen scientists" to collaborate with professional researchers.
- Remix the Book, an open content platform which applies digital theories to scholarly writing, "remixing" praxis into art.
- HITRECORD, a collaborative production company where various contributors co-create multimedia art.
- Cohen, David J. and Tom Scheinfeldt. “Preface.” Hacking the Academy, the Edited Volume, edited by David J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, University of Michigan Press, 2013, pp. 5-6.
- Guédon, Jean-Claude. “Digitizing and the Meaning of Knowledge.” Academic Matters, 2008, pp. 23-26.