Notes from Flow:  Academic Publishing for the Digital Age

Notes from my session at Flow, below the fold. I’ll be cross-posting these at making MediaCommons shortly.

saturday, 28 october

session 3: academic publishing for the digital age

moderator: namsu park

me, chris lucas, avi santo, marnie binfield, matt payne, erin hill, alex juhasz

chris lucas: little bit of precociousness and presumption involved in getting flow off the ground; floated the idea, got warm receptions, invited some writers–but then realized they’d short-circuited the traditional patterns of academic publishing; somewhat presumptuous to decide who they wanted to see published. digital publishing produces reconfiguration of issues of credentialing; sense that group at conference is created of overlapping, preexisting communities–as we move forward, how can we open up those communities even further?

avi santo: changing our frameworks of who gets to participate in scholarly discourse; some concern about whether these new modes will provide the credentialing required for getting tenure; excited about potentials, but need to think about what, as scholars, we should be bringing to these questions of the digital; many possibilities for the future; need not only to be using different kinds of technologies, but also doing different kinds of writing

me: idealism tempered by the realities of institutional pressures

erin: reality check provided by her experiences of founding mediascape–responses from senior academics: this is great, we love this project, you should all publish in print. a pat on the head, but not sufficiently serious. also reluctance of people to submit “real” articles, only easy stuff. general discomfort with publishing digitally among our peers–fear of putting something out online where it’s completely mixed in with stuff that lacks “authority”; decisions about how to run electronic journal too often temper the really exciting possibilities that the digital presents with choices that retreat from those possibilities (pdfs, for instance)

alex: has published in paper in the past; had trouble placing her most recent book in print because of the economics of the project, and so decided to try to publish via mediacommons; can be one of those senior scholars who needs to forge the way into the digital publishing future; media praxis project–wants digital publishing to learn from the radical history that has arisen around cinema theory; idealistic: we’ve fought for these utopian ideals for a long time–perhaps this will be the medium that helps make these ideals come into being; utopian ideas: not interested in neutrality, but rather wants to make strong and bold statements about culture; not afraid of theory; wants non-specialists to participate; wants merging of theory and practice; platform for writing and visual material; wants work to be formally challenging; wants work to be ethical and to understand power relations; wants critical reading practices to become critical production practices; wants to imagine new kinds of communities and new kinds of people

marnie: has been involved with flow from outset; attracted to it not because of particular interest in digital community, but rather community in general; also very interested in speed–get work out quickly, get response quickly; big question: how do you know when you’re succeeding? can see that we’re getting good comments and feedback, but much response comes in terms of numbers (hits, etc), which doesn’t tell you much in terms of real community; how to grow the community, but still maintain certain kinds of control (spam!); issue of sustainability in these kinds of technological limitations–attention that they want to pay to community has been diverted into technological problems

matt: loves studying new media, but hates the fact that new media keeps changing! loves the utopian promise of new media and its constantly changing landscape–how do you protect the things you’re done really well while helping to eliminate problems? wants to develop, while still nurturing the things that are working

question about senior academics’ perspective of disdain for publishing online?

john hartley: editor of ijcs; distributed by sage, so scholars will find out about it and it makes it into libraries; very traditional if transparent model of peer review–which he makes an argument is still necessary (if it’s not peer-reviewed, it’s journalism); on the other hand, there are great experiments like wikipedia that we’re not making sufficient use of; what can the net do that print can’t?

avi: three categories of academic work (research, teaching, service) seem separate but are vastly interconnected; doesn’t want to get rid of print, but wants to think about what the technology can add–not in competition with print, in dialogue

me: a somewhat lengthy comment asking what about reimagining peer review?

dana polan: responding to john hartley–on the one hand, flow is great; on the other hand, things could be better; on the one hand, academics need to adapt to new media; on the other hand, new media could be better adapted to academics; on peer review, what if an author could decide whether a submitted article should be peer-reviewed; on the one hand, wikipedia is great; on the other hand, the democratic impulse can often become anti-intellectual, and many academics have found themselves unwelcome on wikipedia

avi: what often doesn’t get forwarded on wikipedia is the tracking of changes–the ways that articles evolve should itself be an object of study; what if in addition to being able to decide whether to have an article peer-reviewed, we were able to decide who those peers are?

michele: frustrations in internet studies career requirements including print publications–many scholars have wound up publishing their work on their own websites, which has in fact been the primary way people got to know them; how does the early presence online of certain scholars wind up defining the field? are we misreading the ways that young academics actually get known, not through print but through the internet?

alex: given the state of the world and the closing down of the public sphere, the role of intellectuals is supreme–we speak truth to power in ways that few others can; for that reason, we do other things with our lives other than getting tenure, and it’s important for us to continue thinking about the value of that work in our communities and in our world–important to think about the kinds of blockages that peer-review and prestige create and the kinds of opening that new modes of publishing might open

jason mittell: has been thinking strategically about these questions as a junior scholar coming up for tenure; the ways you put yourself forward and frame your work in your tenure narrative is extremely important–is including, along with his book, his authorship for flow and his work with public-access TV as equally important to his field; trying to not create separation between “real” scholarship and the stuff you do for “fun”

comment about flow as service, not scholarship; about dispersal of authority, not creation of it

chris lucas: if goal of flow and mediacommons are to bring in other constituencies, we have to ask ourselves why they would want to?

complex question from michele about networked authorship and the tensions between a language that allows others in and the ways that the technology might close others out

alex: this kind of work about how to bring people into new modes of writing has been done in other fields; see cinema studies

avi: doesn’t see the issues as being so separate–those of us who have active online presences know that we’ve all got multiple voices; we’re all multimodal; it just takes some work to figure out; ultimately likes the discomforts of having to figure out how to blog, how to develop that casual, concise, insightful voice

michele: if the link is the organizing structure of how we envision the digital expanding both community and work, is the blog really the right form?

me: long rambling comment about where the mediacommons project began, and the blog, and my attempt to use the link in a metaphorical sense in my position paper, etc. (but hopefully not as stupid or tedious as that)

tara mcpherson: what is the relationship between transparency and formally challenging work in the digital? if we want to decenter the privilege of print, what about the privilege of text?

avi: yes, of course, what we want to produce via mediacommons goes far beyond text

john hartley: it would help non-US scholars if we could stage scholarship–for instance, streaming video of interviews or conference presentations

julia lesage: question of how community is created; points to Chuck’s blog–blogs as creating community within film and media studies

chuck tryon: talks about the community that has developed around his blog–both professors and people who are just interested in film

me on blogs and communities and staging scholarship–also mashup being created of audio of my talk with slides as means of streaming talk to those who couldn’t be there

henry jenkins: in fact, the link is not such a remarkable technology in the blog world; the most revolutionary technology is the trackback, allowing for a discovery of how any particular piece of work is being used

me: yes, indeed, though with the caveat that trackback is even more subject to trackback spam than is comments, so work needs to be done, but yes!

chris: on technological limitations

marnie: on technological limitations as produced by institutional limitations!

alex: interest in field formation has produced thought about the ways that the field has decoupled “production” and “studies”–need to rethink discplinary boundaries within the field that are understandable but intellectually limiting

louisa stein: a real pedagogical opportunity, too; allowing students to create visual essays

jason mittell: not trying to criticize flow, but: chief complaint is that it is too lodged in the old mode of print journal with volumes and issues; also being bound to institution is a very old model; why does it have to be institutionally bound? why not take the journal out of the institution, get grad students from around the country to work on the journal, and use whatever software you want!

chris lucas: early decision to embed flow in university of texas; set up limitations; more hopeful note, though: this weekend presents real possibility of leverage for discussion of new resources

erin: exact same problem in mediascape at ucla

dana polan: devil’s advocate question: what digitalization could bring to the very traditional staging of argument in the long scholarly book. long, linear argument of new book required print

me: mackenzie wark & gamer theory, & etc

joshua green: struck by how much the model for flow 2.0 seems to be wikipedia; something about recent articles about wikipedia; has come to conclusion about how wikipedia has revolutionized the peer review process–but we need to look at the nature of the community we’re creating; any community has hierarchies

dana polan: the citizendium model–mistake

john hartley: yes; if we want it to work, we need to go to wikipedia, not make our own

dana polan: reviews of wikipedia suggest that the articles in the sciences are the best, which isn’t surprising given that the sciences already know how to work collaboratively

chris lucas: jeremy butler’s screenpedia

jason mittell: the problem with wikipedia isn’t the wiki part, but the pedia part–encyclopedias are one model of knowledge production, but perhaps not what we’re after

avi: need to think about labor that goes on behind the scenes

me: gift economy model of labor in scholarship; desire to bring scholars into mediacommons in the design and programming stages, not just in the publishing stages

john hartley: why “mediacommons”?

me: names are fraught things (interrupted here by amused applause!); “mediacommons” was a placeholder title attempting to indicate what might happen if we could create a creative commons for media studies, and it sort of stuck. if you have better name ideas–or any other ideas–please come by mediacommons and tell us about them

2 thoughts on “Notes from Flow:  Academic Publishing for the Digital Age

  1. Yes, they do rule (having been there, I can vouch for their accuracy in both what was said & how it was meant). One thing to add that came up concerning how online publishing can help scholars even if it doesn’t “count” for tenure – being a strong presence in a digital community helps establish your identity and (dare I say) “brand” name as a young scholar. People like Avi Santo & Chris Lucas are known names, not because of their peer-reviewed essays, but through the activist engagement in creating Flow. Working in these communities is an opportunity to both add to a commons and advance your own career.

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