Please visit Academic Evolution, a blog I've broken out from this one. Discussion at Academic Evolution is focused on changes in higher education and issues regarding access, pedagogy, and publishing in the age of new media.
In the next four posts I will characterize four general types of electronic publishing, moving from that sort which is most like traditional print scholarship to that which is least so.
The first, "Electronic Conventional Scholarship," can be considered the closest to
traditional publishing. It includes online versions of established print
journals (such as Modern
Philology) or, increasingly, journals with no print history or counterpart
(such as Textual
Studies in Canada). Also within this category are the many digitized issues of back issues available through collections such as JSTOR.
One of the effects of the digital age is that it is causing us to rethink things we have lived by for centuries. Take shopping. It would seem adequate to define shopping as "browsing and selecting items for sale." But after doing a great deal of online shopping--even while enjoying its efficiencies--we can feel that we haven't really "gone shopping." It turns out this phenomenon has social or physical elements you just don't get without joining your friends and trotting around the mall. It works the other way, too. After motoring around to several retail outlets to find that SLR camera you wanted for Christmas, this old-school comparison shopping seems ridiculous compared an online experience. Okay, then. We learn that shopping has both meant something more than we thought, and we are finding that (due to the online world) we view and do "shopping" differently.
Publishing compares. As with shopping, the online world is redefining "publishing," taking us back to our assumptions about what this activity is, revealing just how tied this concept has been to printing and paper, and leading us to rethink basic categories such as "book" "periodical" and "issue."
In the previous post I discussed the problems with conventional publishing in the Humanities and referred to The Modern Language Association’s 2002 statement
on the future of scholarly
publishing. That report eyed the digital realm and asked the question, "Is Electronic Publication the Solution?"
Its answer was tentative and appropriately qualified--after all, electronic publishing is still in its swaddling clothes and raises as many problems, perhaps, as it may appear to solve (I'll get into all of that soon enough!). Importantly, however, the report presented the electronic realm not simply as a field of potential opportunity for publishing, but as a field already serving the interests of humanities research: "Online journals are already being used by many scholars in our fields, and this use is likely to increase." Citing a Columbia University report, it stated that "scholars in the humanities have become regular users of electronic
resources such as bibliographies, encyclopedias, concordances, and
databases available through university libraries."No kidding!
Change in Humanities publishing is being driven in part by what has become known as the "crisis in scholarly communication." This refers to a short-circuit in the publication and research cycle upon which scholarship depends. Published scholarship isn't reaching its destined readers who rely upon it for their own work, and scholarship meriting publication is not getting published. Both problems are due to economic woes: Journal subscription costs have escalated astronomically, causing libraries to cancel them, and academic presses "are being forced to reject high quality scholarship submitted for publication,
because they can no longer afford to publish such work" (Cornell, citing MLA).
I offer a series of posts in which I will lay out my understanding of the radical changes that academic publishing is undergoing in general and within the Humanities in particular. This both continues and expands my prior posts and presentations on the Open Access movement. I'll take up each of the following in separate posts--inviting comments from any interested:
The presentation on Open Access that Jeff Belliston and I had previously prepared was well received yesterday by the assembled deans, the Academic Vice President, and the President of BYU. I was impressed by our Academic Vice President's keen interest in the issues. And while this institution is still a long ways off from something like the Harvard Open Access mandate for our faculty, there is clearly interest and awareness at the top.
Religious identity in America may be more deeply partisan than political identity. But as Robert Bellah has convincingly argued, America sustains a "civil religion." The idea, articulated by Rousseau in The Social Contract, is that a few general religious ideas--the existence of God, belief in morality, and especially the rejection of religious intolerance--are held sacred by the people. There is a reverence for religious pluralism in the United States, a kind of civic pride that one's neighbor can be Jewish, Muslim, or whatever flavor of Christian, and good for us.
Katherine Gee's new play, God for President (which premiered at the Provo Theatre Company last night), is a celebration of civil religion.
Primal elements themed the latest installment of the New Play Project's series of short plays, adding to fire and rain the fundamental of faith. These were no morality tales, no Sunday school homilies. As good drama should, these amateur productions explored and experimented. Diverse in theme and approach, they once again proved the viability and growing maturity of amateur LDS theater. (See also my review of their last round of plays from July, 2008)
At a presentation on Open Access to the Academic Vice President's Council at BYU last week we discussed changes in academic publishing and proposed moving toward a Open Access policy for this university comparable to Harvard's.
A key component of the Open Access movement is the rise of institutional and disciplinary repositories. While these are archives, their role will not be purely archival. A repository becomes a de facto publishing platform, and the publishing it will do will not be limited to republishing copies of scholarly articles that have first appeared elsewhere. An institutional repository will be a place where faculty can deposit their teaching materials. Open Access meets Open Teaching.