Peer Review as Dialogue

One of the most exciting parts of Planned Obsolescence for me has of course been the open review process we’ve been conducting at MediaCommons; it’s been fantastic getting speedy, focused feedback from scholars already invested in new digital modes of communication. And NYU Press has been extremely supportive of my desire to test out that review process, to see how it might affect the ways I revise, and the ways the project is received.

But of course the press has some understandable questions about that open process; will the scholars who participate in it be willing to take the same critical risks that more traditional, blind reviewers take in approaching the project? Will they be able to create the same kinds of thoughtful, synthetic response that traditional reviews provide? Will they be better at responding to certain kinds of details than at probing the broader logic of the argument as a whole?

In part as a result of these questions, the press sent the manuscript out to two readers for traditional peer review, first sending them the book proposal and sample chapters prior to extending me an advance contract, and then sending them the completed manuscript at more or less the same time it went up online. Those external reviews are now in, and they’re great, carefully reading and responding to the manuscript as a whole, and pointing the way for some of the revision I’ll be doing in the coming weeks.

The press’s editor-in-chief, Eric Zinner, had a fantastic further idea, though; what if we could get the external reviewers into dialogue with the open reviewers? He asked the reviewers if they’d be willing to participate in our online process, and happily, one of them agreed; Lisa Spiro’s preliminary and second-round reviews are now up alongside the manuscript, available for reader discussion.

Lisa, for those of you who may not know her, is the ideal reviewer for this manuscript; as director of the Digital Media Center at Rice University’s Fondren Library, author of the blog Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, and developer of the Digital Research Tools wiki, she’s been at the forefront of research and practice in new modes of scholarly communication for some time. I’m thrilled to have her response to the manuscript, which is extremely thoughtful and thorough, and even happier to have her agree to engage with the project’s online reviewers.

Many thanks to Lisa and Eric for making this possible, and to the many readers and commenters at Planned Obsolescence for making the project so exciting thus far.

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