Jankowski, ALPSP conference, Enhanced Journal Article, 11Sept.2009


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Jankowski ALPSP conference presentation, The Enhanced Journal Article: Illustrations of Web-based Innovations, 11 September 2009

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Jankowski, ALPSP conference, Enhanced Journal Article, 11Sept.2009

  1. 1. Nicholas Jankowski Co-editor New Media & Society Visiting Fellow, Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences nickjan@xs4all.nl ALPSP conference, 9-11 September 2009 Keynote Presentation The Enhanced Journal Article: Illustrations of Web-based Innovations Abstract Publishers, editors, and authors have been exploring ways to utilize the potentials of Web- based publishing for many years, but concern has accelerated, partly because of the current crisis in scholarly publishing. This presentation reviews some of the rationales for Web- based journal publishing and describes initiatives from publishers and editors, primarily in the social sciences and humanities. Although most initiatives seem to accentuate only a few of the possible Web functionalities, a handful of journals are experimenting with a wide range of Web features. These innovative titles are illustrated in this presentation, along with consideration of the many challenges facing journal publishers and editors interested in developing opportunities for the enhanced article. Two of the innovations examined include the International Journal of Learning and Media, a title recently launched by MIT Press, and the ‘Article of the Future’ initiative announced by Elsevier and Cell Press. [copy of Powerpoint slides at SlideShare] [slide 1: introduction] Thank you, Rhonda [Oliver], and thanks especially for the invitation to be part of what has truly been an ‘enhanced’ and informative conference. As should be evident by the information in the program about me, I am an ‘outsider’ to your profession, someone very much at the bottom of the ‘food chain’ of publishing: sometimes an author and a co-editor of a journal, and someone who is very curious about transformations ongoing in the world of scholarship. That curiosity was the driving force behind a project recently completed, the cover of which is shown on this slide. [slide 2: book beta site] That cover, interestingly, is the only color in the book, and the cover design is one the publisher uses on a range of its narrow-market academic titles, probably more for cost efficiency than for construction of a common brand image. The book, its design and content, reflects is many ways traditional Jankowski ALPSP presentation 1
  2. 2. scholarly publishing, the antithesis of something ‘enhanced’ in the manner I will be sharing shortly. We are preparing a Web accompaniment to the book, which is nearly done, and this slide is an impression of thtt beta version. For all of the hard work we have invested in the site construction, it is also a far cry from the enhancement I’ll be sharing. [Slide 3: overview of presentation] As preamble, I feel it may be useful to share an illustration of past enhancement in the wonderful style of self-publishing from an icon in American journalism. With that illustration as backdrop, I want to quickly ‘flash’ a potpourri of examples from contemporary scholarly journals that reflect, in one way or another, what might be called ‘enhancement’. I will then share a few illustrations that seem to ‘go beyond’ the usual in terms of innovation or enhancement. This flows directly into the last two illustrations that seem radical in approach. Finally, I want to reflect on these illustrations and make a few modest generic comments, some of which may be relevant to journal publishers and editors, especially those in the social sciences and humanities, who may be wondering what to do about all of the seeming dazzle and possibility offered by Web publishing, and desire to create the ‘enhanced article’. [slide 4: I. F. Stone’s Weekly] Some older members of the audience familiar with radical American politics will immediately recognize the publication on this slide and know the position of its author / editor, I. F. Stone. The rest may wonder about the relevance of this ‘rag’ for topic at hand, the ‘enhanced article’. This thin, initially stenciled and later offset printed, newsletter reflects one journalist’s effort to provide an analysis of American politics outside mainstream media, and without the usual conventions of institutional journalism. Stone’s core ‘tool’ was no more – and no less – than critical analysis of political life in American during the 1950s, the era of the Cold War, and subsequently through the ‘60s and the Vietnam War. A biography on Stone was published a couple of months ago, by the way, and there is a series of YouTube videos with the author, noted at the bottom of the slide. Through the decades this newsletter was published, the format hardly changed from the first issue in 1953. Yes, Stone did introduce a two-column spread, and yes, he did occasionally publish a line illustration, but not photographs and certainly not images in color. The enhanced hallmark throughout the two decades of Stone’s pamphleteering was the quality of Jankowski ALPSP presentation 2
  3. 3. the political analysis provided, the presentation of an argument, and the recommendations for policy change. It may seem like a terribly old-fashioned, antiquated, form of presentation and publishing, but it reflects the very best of American journalism and, in a strikingly similar manner, the best of what scholarship in the social sciences and humanities has to offer. That ‘best’ has to do with what is known as the construction of an ‘argument’, grounded in a theoretical perspective and elaborated through empirical analysis of relevant data, sharing insight and drawing conclusions, contributing to what we call ‘new knowledge’, and providing direction for further, more focused and refined scholarly exploration. In a word, this is what we know as ‘an argument’, and the formulation and presentation of that argument constitutes the heart of an ‘enhanced’ publication and, by extension, an ‘enhanced’ article. [slide 5: illustrations of contemporary publishing] Now, with I. F. Stone’s Weekly as backdrop, I would like to share a few illustrations of contemporary conventions in scholarly journal publishing, then a few that might be called innovative, and finally two illustrations that could be considered radical. Given time restrictions, I’ll limit myself to only a few examples, and spend little time on each. [slide 6: Sage Online] Starting close to home, here is the site of Sage Online, a division of Sage Publications providing a Web-based version of its print-based journals. Most major publishers have such an online variant of their print journals now, although the details of the business model differ: some, like Sage, make the full article content available to persons affiliated to subscribing institutions, although the search function and article abstracts are fully accessible to anyone. Sage, like most other publishers, allows individuals to purchase single articles; other publishers provide the option to purchase a ‘day pass’ , and a few give full free access for those articles for which the authors paid a fee prior to publication, covering the costs of open access. [slide 7: Internet & Higher Education] Once inside a publisher’s portal, the layout of the journal articles is strikingly similar. This slide illustrates a typical article, in this case published in a title owned by Elsevier, Internet & Higher Education. This article is typical not Jankowski ALPSP presentation 3
  4. 4. only in terms of format but also as a reflection of what is considered quality content, at least within most of the social sciences. The authors introduce an issue of social and theoretical importance, they review relevant literature about the topic, pose a central research question, sketch the design of an empirical study to address that question, present findings, and draw conclusions relevant to the question and initial theoretical perspective. This is the ‘formula’ for this style of scholarship, and this article reflects that genre well. [Slide 8; Internet Science] Almost the same description could be given for published articles in this recent start-up title, International Journal of Internet Science, which is an online-only, free access journal. A typical article in this title reflects the same high quality scholarship with the same limited utilization of Web functionalities that might provide ‘enhancement’ extending beyond ‘the argument’. Like Internet & Higher Education, Internet Science provides the online version of its articles in a very standard pdf format with few to no hyperlinks, and nothing approaching dynamic visualizations, reader / author discourse, accessibility to datasets or any of the other well-known possibilities of a Web publishing environment. Figures in this journal’s articles do make use of color, something still largely missing in the articles published in other titles. [slide 9; First Monday] Here is a typical article front page from a piece recently published by First Monday, which claims to be one of the first online-only full free access journals. Slight differences can be found in both content and format between this and the previous titles, but it would come close to slicing hairs were I to point out that the layout of First Monday articles includes a sidebar allowing a reader to quickly move to article sections. I could discuss differences in the scholarly quality of the articles in this journal as compared to the previously displayed titles, but that, too, would be an exercise in uninteresting specificity. More than difference, is the considerable similarity between these and most other journal titles in the social sciences and much of the humanities: text-based argumentation presented in a conventional and accepted mold for such articles, with little reliance on visualization, no utilization of dynamic presentation, no opportunity for reader-author exchange, few internal or external hyperlinks, no datasets. In sum, these articles reflect the dominant paradigm for social science and humanities journal publishing. Jankowski ALPSP presentation 4
  5. 5. [slide 10: In Media Res] Now I want to ‘shift gears’, if I may, and begin to introduce some deviant cases or, in more friendly language, illustrations of innovations in journal publishing. I’ll start with brief attention to two very different examples and then look more closely at two other cases. The first example is an initiative that has as its core feature author-reader discourse. Called In Media-Res, this initiative is supported by the Institute for the Future of the Book and is the ‘brain child’ of Katheryn Fitzpatrick who a couple of years ago composed an extensive critique of the state of publishing in a series of blog postings. Almost before she knew it, she had been invited to work out her ideas, and CommentPress is one of the prominent efforts in this regard. Essentially what the site allows is readers to comment on preliminary versions of a text, paragraph by paragraph, and these comments then become visible to others visiting the site, and allow yet another layer of comment. At some point the exchange is ‘locked down’, preventing further comment, and the original text with comments becomes the finalized, published version. This initiative might be considered ‘on the fringe’ of acceptability and do-ability within serious scholarly publishing; I don’t think anyone in this audience would have difficulty detailing the myriad problems to incorporate this approach within the standard parameters of the industry. The interesting challenge, however, is seeing beyond those parameters. [slide 11: Scientific American] A very similar effort in this regard was undertaken by a much more mainstream publication, Scientific American, in January 2008. A regular contributor to the magazine made a draft version of the manuscript available on the Scientific American website and solicited comment, using the ‘Edit This’ functionality noted in this slide. More than a hundred comments were posted on the site in much the same manner as in the Media-Res example. After some weeks the comment section was closed, the author considered the comments, revised the manuscript, and the result was published a few months later, in much the same manner that an author of a journal submission considers the comments from reviewers in the conventional double blind peer review process, but in this case all of us could bear witness to the reviewing and contribute to it. Jankowski ALPSP presentation 5
  6. 6. [slide 12: Vectors] These two examples were mainly text-based and emphasized exchange / interaction; the next example is mainly visual and illustrates incorporation of multimedia functionalities into the published presentation. The title, Vectors, Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular is up-front about its embracement of multimedia and, quoting from its statement of purpose, the journal “…features submissions and specially-commissioned works comprised of moving- and still-images; voice, music, and sound; computational and interactive structures; (and) social software…. Vectors doesn't seek to replace text; instead, we encourage a fusion of old and new media in order to foster ways of knowing and seeing that expand the rigid text-based paradigms of traditional scholarship.” End quote. This slide fails to do justice to that purpose. On visiting the site, it seems to be in constant movement, and for those of us more accustomed to the layout and presentation of conventional scholarly social science journals, Vectors resembles postmodern architecture found in Los Angeles shopping malls where visitors hardly know where to enter or exit. [slide 13: IJLM] I have two more illustrations that I want to share, each suggesting a different form of emphasis for the ‘enhanced’ article. The first is an online- only title launched by MIT Press, the International Journal of Learning and Media, IJLM, in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation. The maiden issue is available online for free and can be easily examined. Various features seem innovative and contribute to what can be called an ‘enhanced’ journal and ‘enhanced’ articles. IJLM has a number of the conventional characteristics of a scholarly journal, including a stellar group of editors and editorial board, and peer review of submissions. One difference in approach of this initiative is that the content is intended for both practitioners and academics, and as a consequence the content is more diverse than the usual categories for published material found in titles only intended for academics. IJLM plans on soliciting contributions to a range of five categories: Keywords, Missives, Formulations & Findings, Knowing & Doing, and News. I suppose I would be inclined to call this an ‘enhanced’ editorial policy because of such diversity, but it certainly is an approach that will be demanding and challenging for the editors and board. For example, what constitutes scholarship that is worthy of publication in an academic journal very quickly becomes a topic for debate. In the first issue this problem already seems evident, at least as I look at one of the published pieces in the category Knowing & Doing. Jankowski ALPSP presentation 6
  7. 7. [slide 14: IJLM, YouTube videos] This contribution to the maiden issue amounts to reproduction of a series of YouTube videos prepared by the author, admittedly about an important topic but in a manner devoid of interpretation or context. It is as if the ‘raw data’ were published without analysis, without theoretical grounding, without indication of ‘where next’ in terms of study or policy. Although this may resonate with teachers struggling to find a way of integrating YouTube in the classroom, I doubt that the academic readers of the journal will understand or appreciate this presentation. [slide 15: Article of the Future: 1] My final illustration of innovation is what Elsevier calls the ‘Article of the Future’, an initiative announced mid-July. Basically, Elsevier is planning, together with its subdivision Cell Press that manages about 20 journals across the spectrum of biology, to totally revamp the journal article. Elsevier terms it an “an ongoing collaboration with the scientific community to redefine how the scientific article is presented online.” The objective of the innovation is to, quote “take full advantage of online capabilities, allowing readers individualized entry points and routes through the content, while using the latest advances in visualization techniques,” end quote. Elsevier and Cell Press have prepared two prototypes of this ‘Article of the Future’ and we could easily spend the rest of the morning clicking through the pages of these dummy models. I encourage you to take that the time and do this on your own, but here all we can do is show a couple of the features. On this slide is the opening page of an article, and it should be immediately evident how this page differs from those I presented earlier of contemporary journal articles. In this mock-up there is not only an abstract, but bulleted highlights from the article, an audio interview with the lead author and, most strikingly, a visual that accompanies the conventional 150- word abstract. [slide 16: article of the future: 2] This page is from the results section of the article, which can be reached via the tabbed divisions. Here, again, the visual plays a prominent role and the reader can click on it to create a full screen image. Note the considerable use of hyperlinking in the text. [slide 17: article of the future: 3] Jankowski ALPSP presentation 7
  8. 8. This slide shows all of the figures related to the article in a separate tabbed division. And, again, the reader can click on each image for increased size and detail. [slide 18: article of the future: 4] This slide is from the reference section of the article. In addition to the conventional hyperlinking of entries, information is provided about the citation ranking of each entry. Note the analysis of references provided in the right-hand graph, which is meant to provide real-time updating of reference citations. I probably am not doing justice to the myriad functionalities available in the prototypes, but I hope that it is evident that this innovation is essentially chucking the linear structure of the scientific article and what I earlier called the ‘argument’. Here, emphasis is on the visual, the multimedia, the real- time updating of information. Readers are encouraged to browse, to ‘dabble’ through an article rather than to read the publication from beginning to end. [slide 19: reactions to the prototypes] Initial reactions in the blogsphere to these prototypes has been mixed. Some commentators suggested that all of features noted have been around for a long time already; others wondered what it will cost, quote “pulling apart a traditional article and putting it back together with tabs, bullets, JavaScript, clickable images, audio interviews, live citation counts, and other bells and whistles,” end quote. This commentator predicts necessary involvement of web designers, graphic artists, audio engineers “to turn a simple manuscript into eye candy,” in his words. His prediction of reader behavior is that they will “Locate the article, print out the pdf, and leave.” In some ways, such criticisms are easily made. Yes, much has been possible in Web environments for a long time, but seldom does a journal publisher incorporate the available features. Elsevier should, in my estimation, be complimented for undertaking the experiment, for exploring how titles within its stable might become more than they presently are. As with any genuine experiment, the results are not known in advance and that is most certainly the case with regard to these prototypes of the ‘Article of the Future’. Although I have personal reservations about deconstructing the ‘argument’ as is done in these models, and I seriously doubt that it would work for the areas of the social sciences with which I am familiar, the features may ‘work’ within the scholarly community for which the prototypes have been prepared. Jankowski ALPSP presentation 8
  9. 9. In addition to reactions among bloggers, Elsevier is conducting its own survey, soliciting feedback from persons visiting the two prototypes. Preliminary indication is that, overall, reactions have been very positive, according to the person at Elsevier respon for the launch. Within a couple of weeks after the prototypes were announced, several hundred survey forms were returned, most with extensive comments to the open-ended questions and generally positive reactions about the functionalities of the sites. According to Elsevier, the ‘Article of the Future’ may not be very far away at all: Cell Press is planning on operationalizing some of the features in the prototypes before the end of this year. [slide 20: Concluding remarks] It is time to distill some concluding remarks from this panorama of innovations in journal publishing, particularly as related to the so-called ‘enhanced’ article. First and foremost, I hope I have demonstrated that there is much disciplinary variance in the kind of innovations developing, and it would be erroneous to imagine a linear scale for enhancement: more is not necessarily better, and what may be enhancement in one field may be ‘old hat’ in another. Second, it is important to understand that the ‘enhanced’ article does not stand alone, but is a component within a larger enterprise involving a wide range of players: publisher, editors, editorial board members, authors, and certainly not in the least, readers. All of these players in some mysterious manner constitute a scholarly community, and the journals of that conglomeration serve as the formal communicative conduits for the community. There are many other avenues for communication, including social media, but the journals of a community are perhaps the most formal and crystallized modes of communication, together with the scholarly monograph, at least for the social sciences and humanities. This means that the ‘enhanced’ article must be contextualized within that community, and takes on meaning therein. Third, the challenge is to be open to experimentation, to be willing to explore the possibilities within a particular community, much in the manner Elsevier and Cell Press are doing for biologists. If I could advise publishers of Jankowski ALPSP presentation 9
  10. 10. social science and humanities journals, I would strongly urge them to embrace such exploration, in close collaboration with members of the respective scholarly communities, in order to enhance its conduits for formal communication in a Web environment. Fourth, enhancement is not primarily related to exterior appearance of the journal article. Instead, enhancement should be seen in conjunction to journal objectives, which may vary between editors and publishers and other players in the field. The ‘e-article’ should not be an end in itself, but a vehicle through which explicitly stated journal objectives can be achieved. The character of the e-article should relate to these objectives. Fifth, the place of social media in the mix is undetermined. What is the relation between social media and the enhanced article? Is there a place for blogs, for wikis, discussion lists, for microblogs, in the context of the scholarly journal and the enhanced article? I hope it is evident why I would answer this question with a qualified ‘it depends’. It depends on the context, on the objectives of the journal, on the communicative nature of the scholarly community in question. We should not forget that scholarly discourse, a subunit of public debate and the more general sociological notion of a public sphere, is not equally embraced across disciplines, and for many areas in the social sciences, such lofty objectives often have lower priority than, say, career advancement, one of the frequent considerations for entering the publishing game in the first place. To come to a close, would I. F. Stone Twitter? He might, but I am doubtful because there is little argument, little analysis that can be conveyed within the 140 characters Twitter allows. Would he blog? Most certainly, and I am equally certain that were he to launch a newsletter today, it would be online- only, rich in internal and external hyperlinks; it would include color and dynamic visualizations, and have videos and sound recordings. But in all cases, these features would be utilized when supportive of the analysis, the argument. In that respect the I. F. Stone Weekly of today would be the same as that of 50 years ago: a vehicle for critica analysis, and in that sense, both very old fashion and very modern simultaneously; an enhanced publication. Thank you. Jankowski ALPSP presentation 10