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Capturing Virtual Verse: A Needs Assessment on Access and Preservation of Online-Only LIterature


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Capturing Virtual Verse: A Needs Assessment on Access and Preservation of Online-Only LIterature

  1. 1. Capturing Virtual Verse: A Needs Assessment on Access and Preservation of Online-Only Literature Rachel A. Fleming-May University of Tennessee @rachelf_m Harriett E. Green University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign @greenharr DH2015 University of Western Sydney, July 2, 2015
  2. 2. Whither Literary Culture? @greenharr #dh2015
  3. 3. “As glossy magazines die by the dozen and blogs become increasingly influential, we face the reality that print venues…are rapidly ceding ground to Web-based publishing.” —Sandra Beasley, Poets & Writers (2009) @greenharr #dh2015
  4. 4. Changing Landscape The Poets & Writers and Council of Literary Magazines and Presses databases of literary publishers and journals currently feature nearly 800 venues that publish online-only poetry, even if the title has a print counterpart. @greenharr #dh2015
  5. 5. E-Literature and the Role of Libraries? “Though it would be impossible for even a large staff of librarians to track and document everything available electronically, some effort needs to be made. . . . The current challenge seems to be to expand the library’s responsibility beyond information of the past to include information that is being generated in the moment.” —Jake Berry, interview in The Serials Librarian @greenharr #dh2015
  6. 6. While individual poems and short stories published in many print titles are indexed… @greenharr #dh2015
  7. 7. Very few poems that appear on the web only are indexed in standard sources… Even if they are published on the web pages of print publications. @greenharr #dh2015
  8. 8. The Result? Poems published in web-only publications are discoverable only by “known-item” searching: by title and/or author. @greenharr #dh2015
  9. 9. Existing Indexes and Archives •  Electronic Literature Organization (ELO): ELO Directory, Electronic Literature Collection vols. 1-2 •  ELMCIP Knowledge Base •  PennSound •  Univ. of Buffalo Electronic Poetry Center •  UbuWeb •  From the Fishouse •  New Pages •  Organizations: Poetry Foundation, American Academy of Poets, Woodberry Poetry Room •  CELL Project: ADELTA, electronic book review, NT2 Canada, ADEL, PO.EX, Hermeneia, Digital Language Arts Collection, ELO, ELMCIP @greenharr #dh2015
  10. 10. Virtual Verse in the Library •  Funded by 2012-2013 Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Planning Grant •  Investigate viability of creating an index of online-only poetry •  Identify stakeholders and users •  Assess their needs in regards to online poetry •  Define inclusion/exclusion criteria for the index •  Determine features and functionalities that would be needed @greenharr #dh2015
  11. 11. Research Design: Environmental Scan •  Examine current efforts and potential models: ELO Directory, ELMCIP, etc. •  Built index of over 900 publishing outlets •  Sample analysis of publishing frequency and scope: •  Number of issues •  Poems per issue. @greenharr #dh2015
  12. 12. Research Design: Stakeholder Consultations •  Gathered from Poets & Writers magazine database, CLMP online directory, universities’ directories •  Surveys: •  960 Creative Writing Faculty, 12.5% response •  152 Humanities Librarians, 58% response •  945 Literary Editors/Publishers, 13.4% response •  Interviews: 7 creative writing faculty, 7 librarians, 5 editors @greenharr #dh2015
  13. 13. Key Findings •  PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE: The role of online poetry in professional writing and teaching practices •  DISCOVERY AND USABILITY: •  How would they use an index? •  Preferred functionalities that the respondents desire in an index/archive of e-poetry •  DIGITAL CURATION: Preservation and curation strategies for online-only works @greenharr #dh2015
  14. 14. What  Did  They  Say?  
  15. 15. Professional Practice: Finding Works “Usually I search for a poem or poet, either for teaching purposes (poetry from tradition, generally), or to get a brief look at the work of a poet with whom I'm unfamiliar. Very occasionally I look at something like Poetry magazine online. Sometimes I will follow links to work that I'm notified of by e-mail.” (Faculty) “Personal website or just works published online - another bonus of online publication [is] instant gratification for a reader interested in someone's work.” (Publisher) “I tend to peruse the online version of print journals mostly. I do also use search engines. Rarely do I go directly to an author site or some other non-juried (or minimally juried) source.” (Publisher)
  16. 16. Professional Practice: Publishing Online vs. Print “It's not an either/or issue. I submit to quality online journals and to quality print journals.” (Faculty) “I prefer print publications, but with the current massive presence of poetry online, one wants to have a few available there for people who search for my name specifically.” (Faculty) @greenharr #dh2015
  17. 17. Professional Practice: Prestige and Tenure “As an assistant professor, it was made clear to me that on-line publications would not rate in tenure deliberations.” (Faculty) “It’s like the hard-copy book gives you the prestige to ask for the connection with the world that you get by interacting with readers, either in public events or readings, or online.” (Faculty) @greenharr #dh2015
  18. 18. Professional Practice: Exposure of Their Work “I want my name to be online and searchable. Most print journals release 500 or fewer issues. That’s ‘most’ of them. I am aware of the bigger journals that release thousands as well. Still, print is not archivable. If my work is online, it stays there until the journals website possible [sic] goes under.” (Publisher/poet) “Online poems reach more readers. It’s that simple. I also think they can go viral in useful ways.” (Faculty) “More and more, if a poem is not online it does not exist.” (Faculty) @greenharr #dh2015
  19. 19. Challenges of Online Publishing “I think one of the obstacles for poets, who can be nervous about on-line publication, is their perception that they can easily lose ‘control’ of the poem—that others can not only easily distribute, but also easily change, manipulate, or remix the poem.” (Faculty) “[Online publishing] leads to plagiarism. People have taken my poetry and reproduced it incorrectly, destroying line breaks etc. Pieces of my poems have been taken and used for all sorts of nonsense like advertisements.” (Faculty) “There is also a loss of tactile sensation from book to screen that is changing what well designed typography means.” (Publisher)
  20. 20. Tools for Reading and Access •  “Some sort of 'poetry reading' situations, wherein audio is combined with the written word. A conference of sorts wherein poets could queue up and read their pieces, receive feedback, etc.” (Publisher) •  Social media tools. I think that if you can convince a lot of online journals to work with you, you might be able to develop a badge/button that a reader could click to ‘Add to’ a personalized version of your online archive.” (Publisher)
  21. 21. Discovery and Access: Selectivity “This would be harder to do, but I'd like a curated list of which on-line only journals are most respected. For example, which online journals have been awarded Pushcart Prizes; which online journals have been acknowledged in Best American Poetry series. This kind of selected info would make it far more enjoyable and practical to access poetry on the Web.” (Faculty) “A place for reviews and evaluations of these sources. A way to maybe preserve some of these publications when they go under. I know I have provided links to e-zines only to find out that they closed up shop and there's no access to what was there before.” (Librarian)
  22. 22. Discovery and Access: Challenges “younger students who only read poems online don’t read with the same intensified attention span; the slow, deep attention span you need for a poem.” (Faculty) “Reliable websites. Nothing else, as reputable roadmap is still in print not web - web is even at best (as archive) secondary/ parasitic on publications in the real world, with real editors and publishers. The web, like the real world, is crammed with wannabe rubbish.” (Faculty)
  23. 23. Digital Curation and Preservation “E-Journals are ephemeral and often disappear quickly. I've never had it happen to me, but I know that sometimes, one can publish in an online journal and that online journal will suddenly disappear. Another challenge: among the more powerful literati, there's still a strong prejudice against publishing online.” (Publisher) “There’s a lot of publications online that are like mayflies: they occur for maybe a few issues, and then they go dark. Sometimes it can be really tragic.” (Poet/Faculty)
  24. 24. What Can be Done ? •  Preserving websites of online-only literary journals that fold; •  Preserving individual works in archives and repositories; •  Maintaining the technological infrastructure of long-standing websites— e.g., fixing broken links, maintaining formats; •  Adding records for the journals to library catalogs and electronic resource indexes; •  Authenticating copyright of works by preserving authors’ original works in their online formats.
  25. 25. Analysis  
  26. 26. Diffusion of Innovation “For me it is about an expanded set of artistic tools, presences, venues: diversity and range. It is not about *reducing* the range of these experiences to a digital experience.” (Faculty/Poet) “Both print and digital are important for the future of poetry. Poetry in print is a wonderful cultural artifact, and the materiality introduces physical possibilities and constraints that are different from those in digital form. The two media complementing each other, and each doing what it can do, could be great for poetry.” (Publisher)
  27. 27. Diffusion of Innovation In Online Poetry… Relative Advantage the extent to which an innovation improves upon the previous approach. Ease of discovery, access; incorporation of multi-media; More difficult to identify quality works online due to excess of content Compatibility the extent to which an innovation matches the needs and experiences of the adopter group Sharing and promoting publications easier and more immediate; Disconnect of “One poem-one- author” Complexity an innovation’s perceived difficulty Creating web-based publications can be time-consuming; Trialability Ability to do experimentation or “sampling” with innovation Easier submission process for works online Observability the visibility of changes wrought by an innovation Discovering and accessing specific works easier than in print
  28. 28. Community of Practice “Readership is open to everyone and grows quickly. We have readers and submitters from all over the world. It really is a global community.” (Faculty/Poet) “Publishing online permits greater access to, and for, a reading and writing audience. Not only due to the immediacy of publication release, but to the global nature of the Internet itself.” (Publisher)
  29. 29. Looking  Ahead  
  30. 30. What’s Next? •  Forthcoming articles in JASIST and Journal of Academic Librarianship with in-depth analyses of findings •  How do we build an index of digital literature that integrates into the practices of of creative writing faculty, literary publishers, and information professionals today? “Recognition that the future is now, and it is online - whether to be browsed, downloaded, or archived. Faculty Respondent @greenharr #dh2015
  31. 31. References Beasley, Sandra. “From Page to Pixels: The Evolution of Online Journals.” Poets & Writers 37, no 3 (2009). May, Alan. “Interview with Jake Berry, Editor of Outré, Artifact Collective Texts, Anomaly, The Experioddicist, and Currently 9th St. Laboratories.” Serials Librarian 55, no. 1/2 (2008): 296- 303. Paling, Stephen and Michael Nilan. “Technology, Genres, and Value Change: The Case of Little Magazines.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57, no. 7 (2006): 862-872. Rogers, E.M. (2010). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Simon and Schuster. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Wenger, E. (2005). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved from
  32. 32. Picture Credits •  "the written word,” by palo, on Flickr, •  "Magnifying Glass,” by Auntie P, on Flickr, •  “Poyke,” Noa Cafri, on Wikimedia, •  "Paris: telescope on Eiffel Tower // Teleskop auf dem Eiffelturm” by brongaeh, on Flickr,
  33. 33. THANK YOU! Harriett Green University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign @greenharr DOWNLOAD SLIDES AT: