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The Eroticism Of Paper


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Presentation held at the Virtual Knowledge Studio's research colloquium in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on 7 May 2009 ( Thank you to Sara Kjellberg for initiating our exchange of ideas, Anne Beaulieu for inviting me and to everyone at VKS who attended!

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The Eroticism Of Paper

  1. 1. The Eroticism of Paper: (how) can we imagine Humanities scholarship beyond the printed text? Cornelius Puschmann University of Düsseldorf [email_address] 7 May 2009
  2. 2. Scholarly publishing in 2009
  3. 4. The economics of scholarly communication in 2009 <ul><li>in 2004 top twelve publishing corporations had combined annual sales of ~$65 billion and employed roughly 250,000 people (Peters 2009)
  4. 5. universities spend between 05. percent and 1.00 percent of their budgets on journals subscriptions (Phillips, 2009)
  5. 6. academic journals have been the fastest growing media sub–sector of the past 15 years (Morgan Stanley, 2002)
  6. 7. the number of scholarly journals increased from 39,565 in 2003 to 61,620 in 2008
  7. 8. approximately 5.7 million people work in research and development worldwide, publishing on average one article per year, and reading 97 articles per year. </li></ul>
  8. 9. Challenges in the Humanities: economics Even as they face growing economic problems, university presses are receiving ever more submissions as a result of increased expectations for promotion and tenure in our disciplines and at our institutions of higher learning [..] Academics who think of a monograph as a particularly musty, narrowly focused tome [..] need to realize that for the scholarly press director today, monograph also describes virtually every book written by junior professors in the humanities seeking tenure [..] The term [..] applies to any book lacking in crossover sales potential . MLA Report: The Future of Scholarly Publishing, 2002
  9. 10. Challenges in the Humanities: access It is attractive to see these problems rooted in economics, and even more attractive to see the electronic world as an easy solution[..] However, the root problem is the centuries-old academic publishing model that insists upon restricted access to scholarship . This model requires scholarship to be a commodity within a market whose economics are based upon selling access [..] But in the electronic age [..] knowledge does not have to be sold . In fact, it shouldn't be. It's value increases with access and use , and the restricted-access paradigm is keeping Humanities scholarship quarantined. Burton, 2008
  10. 11. A (simplistic) comparison of different areas of scholarship Natural Sciences Humanities raison d'être “ discovery” “ reflection” signature method empiricism hermeneutics publishing: typical form journal article monograph publishing: critical aspect speed length & breadth publishing: prestige criterion ranking/IPF press/series name
  11. 12. Arguments for Open Access/digital publishing Natural Sciences: <ul><li>faster
  12. 13. cheaper, because monopoly corporate publishers are sidestepped </li></ul>Humanities: <ul><li>more accessible
  13. 14. cheaper, because marketing, printing, packaging, shipping costs can be avoided </li></ul>Both: <ul><li>new modes scholarly discourse are possible
  14. 15. but : changes in the Natural Sciences are largely pragmatic, in Humanities more fundamental and philosophical </li></ul>
  15. 16. Digitization of research and publishing not uncontroversial in the Humanities <ul><li>growing number of 'Digital Humanities' initiatives, especially in the English-speaking world (Project Bamboo, DARIAH, TextGRID, ...)
  16. 17. support and interest from funding agencies and foundations (NEH, Mellon Foundation, DANS, DFG, ...)
  17. 18. but also skepticism: Heidelberg Appeal, conflation of legal issues (author rights), digitization, Open Access etc regarded as threats </li></ul>
  18. 19. Characterizing the problem <ul><li>writing and publishing are not merely the distribution of research findings in the Humanities, but central methodological components of reflexive study
  19. 20. a change in the medium we write and publish in will naturally bring about change in Humanities scholarship in general </li></ul>
  20. 21. Challenges of digital scholarly communication
  21. 22. Where do we go from here?
  22. 23. Paper-based and digital information Paper <ul><li>bound to objects
  23. 24. permanent/immutable
  24. 25. author-controlled
  25. 26. non-(real-time)-communicative
  26. 27. better suited for monodirectional distribution, archival and storage of information than communication -> stability </li></ul>Digital <ul><li>incorporeal
  27. 28. mutable
  28. 29. not fully controllable
  29. 30. potentially communicative
  30. 31. suited well for communication, but mutability makes 'archival' potentially problematic -> versatility </li></ul>
  31. 32. Consequences <ul>As a result of its potential for communication , digital information <li>anticipates feedback
  32. 33. presupposes context/situational frame
  33. 34. is less concerned with permanence
  34. 35. tends to rely on interlinked sources
  35. 36. is personalized rather than objectified </li></ul>
  36. 37. What is a piece of academic writing (monograph, article) from a communicative and informational perspective? <ul><li>planned, uninterrupted speech
  37. 38. depersonalized, frequently objectified
  38. 39. cohesively/logically/argumentatively (but usually not chronologically) structured
  39. 40. tries to be minimally context-dependent
  40. 41. “informational speech act” -> commitment to be accurate, inclusive, discursive </li></ul>
  41. 42. There is no reason why we can't have both, but digitality poses cognitive and cultural challenges <ul><li>digital genres are idiosyncratic , i.e they reflect the author's subjective and flexible interpretation of the genre's function and status (Is a blog “serious” publishing? Are individual posts in it, but not others?) [before, this was determined by the cultural context and object]
  42. 43. situational instability, mutability, loss of author control and dependence on other sources all translate into a loss of authority
  43. 44. the impact of this loss is felt most strongly in the Humanities because they lack a reproducible and objectifiable fundament </li></ul>
  44. 45. Observations and predictions <ul><li>scholarly information can no longer be identified with the objects used to transmit it
  45. 46. more horizontal (vs. vertical) reading and writing
  46. 47. scholarship likely to become more person-centric
  47. 48. ...and conceptually (more) oral
  48. 49. … and a pastiche of genres and forms
  49. 50. authority and trust must be established in different ways </li><ul><li>attribution, authorship
  50. 51. new, more holistic forms of peer review and evaluation
  51. 52. collaboration! </li></ul></ul>
  52. 53. Thanks for listening!