The following reflection was submitted as part of my Digital Publishing & Editing module.
Reflective Portfolio for Digital Publishing & Editing
For my introduction to this course I began by reading two pieces that gave a overview of contemporary practices in publishing and editing, with a particular focus on the role of the editor. Dissemination as Cultivation: Scholarly Communications in a Digital Age (O’Sullivan, Long & Mattson, 2016) and The Impact of Social Media on the Dissemination of Research (Terras, 2012). A key point for me from the O’Sullivan piece is that academics must ‘remain responsible for ensuring that, where the process might change, the product, even when re-envisioned, retains its scholarly value’ (p386). It is important therefore that both Digital Humanities practitioners and academics in the field ensure that the content and not the format indicate the quality of the work. I would argue that Digital Humanities is at the forefront of re-envisioning spaces for academic discourse – the widespread adoption of social media and the willingness to engage with emerging platforms is key to the discipline’s visibility, but it must also be noted that ‘for many academics the idea of making public a treatise or thought process that has not undergone the validation of peer-review can be a frightening experience’ (p394). The Terras piece is almost a decade old and I think that the question she was asking then – what is the impact of social media on research dissemination – is close to being redundant, particularly in areas such as Digital Humanities. Social media and the dissemination of research are now inextricably linked across all disciplines – the process has changed beyond recognition in the past decade but, as O’Sullivan contends, what is key is that the output must retain its academic value.
To appear in a peer-reviewed academic journal has always been seen as the pinnacle of research dissemination but there are many barriers to accessing material in scholarly publications, barriers that do not exist across other less traditional publishing platforms. In many cases research is kept behind prohibitive pay-walls by academic publishers, despite the fact that much of the research undertaken, and the salaries of the researchers, are paid for from public funds. The most important realisation for me from these readings is that social media is now a valid platform within the academic publishing process. Prior to this I would always have felt that social media was an inferior means of communication and that peer-reviewed academic journals were the ‘correct’ way for the academy to present itself. I have a number of concerns around publishing on the web such as, at what point does the digital presence warrant structuring, and to what standards should it conform ? When does the informality of a blog become part of the academic canon ? Should we, as content consumers decide this, or should it decided for us by editors and librarians and publishers – the ‘gatekeepers’ of the academy. The challenge here is how the editorial role is translated as we move away from the old paradigm. Reading O’Sullivan the notion of ‘thick collegiality’ (p389) struck me as a useful descriptor for the type of peer support that needs to exists if the formal roles of editors and gatekeepers are to successfully evolve. I think it is only a matter of time before the arguments for open research that comes from the sciences apply across all of academia. It was a significant realisation for me to understand that the accessibility of knowledge is far more important than the mere publication of knowledge.
The next topic that I examined was that of digital scholarly editing. As an introduction I chose to read Susan Schreibman’s 2013 blog post on Digital Scholarly Editing and I was surprised at how stimulating I found the article and how revolutionary its definition of a text seemed to me. She quotes McKenzie who defines text as “…verbal, visual, oral, and numeric data, in the form of maps, prints, and music, of archives of recorded sound, of films, videos, and any computer-stored information, everything in fact from epigraphy to the latest forms of discography” (McKenzie, 1999). I have always worked in different media, mostly audio-visual archives, yet I have never considered a sound recording as a text and I think this was/is a threshold concept that changes how I see the world and the work I do within it. This very much ties in with some of the work happening on other modules of this course where I am being pushed to think beyond my analogue comfort zone. I felt when reading this piece that I had finally found the missing link for me between the humanities and computer science.
Having sat on working groups trying to evolve a sector-specific metadata standard I can bear witness to the level of complexity that is often revealed by the task. Hierarchies and codings that seem on the surface to be entirely logical and extensive, once examined at the more granular levels, often become unworkable. Very quickly you find yourself moving from organising data by genres (in itself subjective) to considering much more philosophical issues as how many attributes are required to create an entity, and how is that entity unique ? As Schreibman notes ‘harvesting objects from a variety of sites into new compilations in which the object’s original context is lost’ is now a very real occurrence. I think that a lot of work that was done in this area in the early years of this century focussed on using propriety software to ‘lock’ the content to its publication platform but in the past 10 years this is no longer a reasonable expectation. It is only by using open, interoperable schema that the potential of all data points (whether that be a word, a metaphor, an image or a sound) can be realised. Schreibman goes on to note that ‘this new medium allowed an exploration of textuality beyond the printed word, creating editions of other cultural objects, such as images (still and moving) and audio’. And that is how I see digital scholarly editing – as a way to realise the potential of the text. The work being undertaken by the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) to provide guidelines for specific text encoding methods is key to the development of the digital humanities, as the provision of ‘clean’ data is a fundamental requirement for the analysis of such bodies of text.
For my third topic I chose to examine the area of copyright and licensing, taking as my starting point the Introduction to Intellectual Property by Manning (2017). Copyright as a tool to incentivise the creation of new works is something I’d never considered before. I have always thought of copyright as belonging to the post-creation realm. It’s a paradigm shift for me to see copyright as something that ensures public benefit in a contractual sense – to see copyright as something that enables access rather than something that restricts access. This change has been enabled by the work of the Creative Commons group. In this context I found the Nowviskie (2014) blog about how she has changed her work from CC-BY-NC to CC-BY to be fascinating. I had always assumed that the NC designation was key to “protecting” one’s intellectual rights but following Nowviskie’s argument I now see how NC serves to discourage dissemination. Once again I am brought back to the value of open data, the notion that knowledge is more valuable when it can be accessed.
I would have considered myself to have a fairly good understanding of copyright before watching the piece but I have to admit being surprised by a few things. I wasn’t aware that patents lasted for 20 years, nor that by granting a patent the inventor must offer full disclosure of how the invention works. The existence of Plant Breeders Rights was also new to me and I saw very clear parallels between the monopolies that control journal publications and those that control seed production and development. The aggressive protection of Intellectual Property rights by seed producers ‘affect… agriculture…by making plant genetics inaccessible to public researchers, farmers, and independent breeders’ (Hubbard, 2019).
Another aspect that the Manning video brought up for me was how virtual realities might be dealt with in the coming years in relation to copyright and licensing. Manning asserts that the similarities between intellectual and tangible property are not because intellectual property is more tangible than we think, but because tangible property is more ephemeral than we think. This, I believe, leaves a chasm in between, where I think the virtual property will reside. It’s safe to assume that IP rights have already been claimed by many actors in the virtual sector, but I wonder which of the mechanisms they use ? Copyright will obviously cover the code but there must surely be design rights and trademarks also ? If, as Jeremy Bentham argued, there is no thing as natural property, and that property is entirely the work of the law, this begs the question as to who gets to create and regulate such laws in the virtual domain.
Bentham, J. (nd) Principles of the Civil Code. Available at: https://www.laits.utexas.edu/poltheory/bentham/pcc/pcc.pa01.c08.html (Accessed: 3 November 2021).
Hubbard, K. (2019) ‘The Sobering Details Behind the Latest Seed Monopoly Chart’, Civil Eats. Blog Post. Available at: https://civileats.com/2019/01/11/the-sobering-details-behind-the-latest-seed-monopoly-chart/ (Accessed: 3 November 2021).
McKenzie, D.F. (1999) Bibliography and the sociology of texts. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Manning (2017) Introduction to Intellectual Property. YouTube Video. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pon55bYqLq8 (Accessed: 19 October 2021).
Nowviskie, B. (2014) ‘Intellectual Property’. Blog Post. Available at: http://nowviskie.org/tag/intellectual-property/ (Accessed: 19 October 2021).
O’Sullivan, J., Long, C. and Mattson, M. ‘Dissemination as Cultivation’, in Crompton, C., Lane, R.J. and Siemens, R.G. (2016) Doing digital humanities: practice, training, research. 1st edition. New York, NY: Routledge.
Schreibman, S. (2013) Digital Scholarly Editing. Blog Post. Available at: https://dlsanthology.mla.hcommons.org/digital-scholarly-editing/ (Accessed: 11 October 2021).
Terras, M. (2012) The Impact of Social Media on the Dissemination of Research: Results of an Experiment Journal of Digital Humanities. Available at: http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-3/the-impact-of-social-media-on-the-dissemination-of-research-by-melissa-terras/ (Accessed: 15 December 2021).
Valeonti, F. et al. (2018) ‘Reaping the Benefits of Digitisation: Pilot study exploring revenue generation from digitised collections through technological innovation’, in. Electronic Visualisation and the Arts. doi:10.14236/ewic/EVA2018.11.