a summary of the summit’s project showcase – case studies of eight open access multimodal digital monographs presented by cross-organizational teams
Michael Elliott, the dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences and the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English, opened the summit as a space “to advance the work we all have in common.” He acknowledged the organizers, including Lisa Flowers and Sarah McKee at Emory University, and Allison Levy and Joseph Meisel at Brown University. He also thanked the Mellon Foundation, particularly program officer Patricia Hswe and manager of strategic initiatives and planning Michael Gossett, as “tremendous underwriters of the work at Emory” and many other institutions, and acknowledged the contributions of former Mellon senior program officer Donald J. Waters: “Don, in my mind, was a truly visionary leader in thinking about the future of scholarly communications. . . . I became so interested in the questions that he was asking and the vision that he was sharing of a changed and developing infrastructure to support open access publication in the humanities, and the questions that that raised for the potential of humanistic research to have an impact on the world.”
Elliott noted that such questions have a particular relevance in a moment of national debate over definitions of infrastructure and in the wake of a reckoning with social injustice and racial inequity. They relate to the work of building a new infrastructure for scholarship that does not replicate structural inequities. These weighty questions are influenced by such nuts-and-bolts questions as who funds software development and how presses might work with authors and universities to create new scholarly forms and to support access by publics beyond the academy. He observed that the ways in which we “get things done are incredibly important and add up to the big questions of our mission and vision as institutions in the world.”
Finally, he parsed a term used by Allison Levy—"born-digital scholarly work”—noting that we can put pressure on each word: “What forms of scholarship are not born in the digital realm and how does scholarship change when it is born in the digital realm? What do we count as scholarship? . . . a question that goes beyond the work that we do individually but to institutional definitions of meaning and purpose.” He added the word “open” for consideration, asking how we support open scholarship financially and measure its impact, and also how we think about audiences when making scholarship truly open. Noting that some of Emory’s most transformative scholars currently publish under a closed model with trade presses, including Carol Anderson (who had just been named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences), he acknowledged that paid models can coexist with an open infrastructure but expressed hope that open models will offer new options to scholars for communicating with the public, and for the kinds of scholarly work that they do.
He closed by noting that while we have more questions than answers “we are, in the tradition of the Mellon Foundation, humanists at heart and are comfortable being in a place of inquiry.”
Islamic Pasts and Futures: Horizons of Time by Shahzad Bashir, forthcoming as
A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures from MIT Press in August 2022.
Shahzad Bashir, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities, Brown University
Victoria Hindley, Acquisitions Editor, Design and Visual Culture, MIT Press
Allison Levy, Digital Scholarship Editor, Brown University
Jim Crow in the Asylum: Psychiatry and Civil Rights in the American South by Kylie M. Smith, forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press in 2023.
Lucas Church, Editor, University of North Carolina Press
Yang Li, Information Designer and Sr. Software Engineer, Emory University
Sarah McKee, Sr. Associate Director for Publishing, Emory University
Kylie M. Smith, Associate Professor and the Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow for Nursing and the Humanities, Emory University
Allison Levy opened the session with an overview of Brown University’s Digital Publications Initiative, generously supported by the Mellon Foundation since 2014. The initiative is a collaboration between the university library and the office of the dean of the faculty to “support and promote innovative faculty scholarship by catalyzing both the practice and academic recognition of born-digital scholarship.” As part of this work, the library and dean have partnered to update departmental standards and criteria for promotion and tenure. Faculty-led projects are long-form, interactive, and multimodal, and they take full advantage of the digital environment to present research and make scholarly arguments in ways that could never be accomplished in a conventional book. Because Brown no longer has a press, the works are published by leading university presses to ensure that they reach the broadest possible audience for the greatest possible impact. The full portfolio of published and in-development works is available on the initiative’s website.
A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures, supported in part by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, invites readers to imagine Islam anew, as a vast net of interconnected traces that appear to be different depending on the vantage from which they are seen. Complementing narrative with extensive visual evidence, the multimodal digital form enacts the multiplicity of the project's analyses and perspectives, conferring a shape-shifting quality that bridges the gap between sensing Islam and understanding it. Before providing a brief demonstration of the site, Shahzad Bashir noted that while his name appears as author on the landing page, this project and others like it demand credits more “like those of a television show,” given the collaborative nature of their development.
The contemporary artwork by Lara Baladi, featured on the landing page, is integral to the project itself, Bashir explained. The coffee cups, which also appear as details in a section entitled “The Grave of Time,” represent a present (when the coffee was drunk), a past (given the preexisting relationships between people who were part of the event), and a future (since coffee cups are used to tell futures in middle east societies). Baladi’s conceptual artwork inspired both the cover design and the visual table of contents. The book’s contents display first in a networked visual form, with animation that reveals linkages among its various parts. While the chapters may also be navigated through a standard table of contents, the networked table of contents exemplifies the purpose of the book, asking readers to “rethink time, as it pertains especially to pasts and futures. . . . Rather than thinking of time as a line, think of time as a complicated, transformable web.” This interactive interface allows readers to enter Islam through a diverse set of doorways, each leading to different time periods across different parts of the world.
Entering the chapter section “The Skyline of Istanbul,” Bashir explained that all book sections are set up in a two-column format. Text appears on the left and a “visual program” appears on the right, with some significant visual elements spanning both columns. The text and visuals interact to present the argument, with visual elements carrying much more weight than mere illustrations. A magnifying glass allows the reader to explore images in closer detail. The visuals in this chapter include a contemporary panorama of the Istanbul skyline, stacked images from a children’s book about a time machine, and a circa 1700 rendering of the same Istanbul skyline, all guiding readers to interrogate time by exploring the cityscape. Multiple images of a particular mosque, and buildings modeled upon it, are presented alongside the text to demonstrate the “reverberation of form through time,” and to explore how “national entities are tied to forms” in Turkey and elsewhere. The intentional explosion of form that characterizes the book’s overall design makes viable a constant dialogue between the visual sphere and the scholarship. Each transforms the other.1
Victoria Hindley noted her shared commitment to “complex and often difficult questions about our canons of knowledge.” She observed that such canons are never neutral, and asked Bashir how his experience of creating this digital publication “addresses epistemologies, suggests new ways of learning, and opens up the experience for the reader”? Bashir responded that her question “goes to the core of the book in many ways,” and elaborated that the “project comes from the understanding that the only way to subvert the Orientalist paradigm of Islam is to go after the problem of theory. Because unless the notion of time that was developed in the late nineteenth century is subverted, then nothing else really changes that much.” The project critiques existing scholarship, but does so by showing the critique rather than narrating it—for example, including so many forms of a single Ottoman mosque would be nearly impossible in a print book. The digital form allowed Bashir to make a much more complex argument about the nature of knowledge. He also acknowledged the different politics and interpretations that will emerge from individual readers who, because of the open access format, will be able to engage the work from a variety of contexts, allowing the project “to break out of the insularity of academic work.”
Sarah McKee provided a brief overview of the Digital Publishing in the Humanities initiative at Emory University, also supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation. The program, directed by Michael Elliott and based at the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry within the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, relies on robust collaborations with the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS), Emory Libraries, and the Office of the Provost’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, as well as with academic presses. The program has two key objectives: to encourage conversations about open access and digital publication across Emory’s humanities community, and to support the development and publication of open access digital monographs with university presses. The initiative supports three main pathways by which faculty might choose to develop a digital monograph: (1) an open access e-book that is verbatim with a print version of the book, (2) an enhanced e-book with content and/or functionality that cannot exist in the print version, or (3) a fully interactive born-digital publication that likely will not result in the production of a printed book.
Jim Crow in the Asylum, supported in part by the National Library of Medicine (NIH) G13 Award 1G13LM013010-01A1, examines the dual impact of the Community Mental Health Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on state psychiatric hospitals in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. The book draws on original records, court cases, and personal testimony to expose the racist ideas that underpinned the treatment of African Americans with mental illness and demonstrates how psychiatric hospitals became political battlegrounds over segregation and patients' rights, setting the scene for mental health care disparities for African Americans that continue today.
Author Kylie Smith explained that she is still very early in the process of composing her book, which falls into Emory’s enhanced e-book category. Her decision to publish the book open access was based in part on timing, coming after the publication of her tenure book, which provided necessary professional stability. But the open nature of her research also responds to the ethical considerations of making her work available to the communities it examines, and of the role that she herself plays in telling the recent story of people’s lives. “It was really important for me that the book be accessible to and for the people who are part of the story.” This openness has allowed Smith to make greater connections with people who participated in that historical moment and paves the way for other creative projects to evolve from the monograph, including a documentary film. “I don’t see the publication necessarily as the end of the work. I feel that there is something much bigger happening here.”
Smith was also influenced by her experiences in the archives, noting that archival sources for this project are often intentionally difficult to discover, and she hopes to work with archives to make more of this material public and accessible. Complicated tables from hospital reports, for example, require interpretation and simplification, so Smith is creating interactive data visualizations to make them legible to nonspecialist audiences. Because the story itself is visually arresting, the project will include historical and current images to recreate the hospital spaces.
After viewing a number of different publishing platforms, Smith, in consultation with Yang Li of ECDS, chose Manifold—an open source platform developed by the CUNY Graduate Center, the University of Minnesota Press, and Cast Iron Coding with the support of the Mellon Foundation—because of its open-source ethos and the accessibility of the design and reader experience. Smith has published early bits of research in the form of blog posts and photo essays on the Manifold platform, where the full project will eventually be published, making iterative her research and writing process. She has also linked from the Manifold site to her other published articles and presentations. Expected next steps were to collect more archival data, film oral histories, develop an interactive map of the spaces, and write the manuscript during a fellowship year at the Fox Center.
A couple of publishers were interested in the project, Smith explained, but tentative about open access and the digital enhancements. At the History of Medicine conference in 2018, however, she met UNC Press acquisitions editor Lucas Church, who “didn’t flinch” at the notion of a public-facing project and expressed genuine interest in her vision. In addition to bringing “flexibility, creativity, and collaboration” to the process, UNC Press also felt like a good fit as a southern press well known for its publications on the South and on race.
As the history of medicine acquisitions editor, Church could see that Smith’s project made sense for his list, even as a traditional book project. But he also “feels lucky” that UNC Press is friendly toward and has already experimented with other open and digital projects, so pitching this book to his colleagues was not controversial. He noted that having the team be all on the same page for these types of more creative projects is key, and he wondered whether other projects yet exist in which a publisher has agreed to develop both a print and enhanced digital edition from the proposal stage, without a finished manuscript. He ended by observing that “it’s a fascinating process, and it’s really helping me to see not only how books are made, but how books might be made in the future.”
Yang Li described ECDS as a “collaborative research center that creates innovative, sustainable models of digital scholarship and publication for public and academic use.” ECDS consults with authors about digital tools and provides various types of technical support. For this project, Li helped Smith choose and set up her site on Manifold. He also noted that ECDS has established collaborations with Quire, developed by Getty. Like Manifold, Quire is a publishing platform that enables authors to seamlessly integrate text with multimedia components to create enhanced digital editions of books.
In the group discussion that followed, Hindley was asked to elaborate on the author and acquisitions editor collaboration. She described the project as a joy. Her first question was “why the MIT Press?”—which is not known for Islamic studies—but then realized that the book was more expansive in its treatment of Islamic history and culture, that it was about “decentering stereotypes and totalizing beliefs . . . and making space for a multiplicity of viewpoints.” Bashir presents through the digital form a “consummate, postcolonialist plurality of viewpoints, sometimes even opposing viewpoints,” such that the book presents “diversity in dynamic action.”
Asked to elaborate on how working in the interactive form affected his expectations of audience, Bashir responded that he wanted to break down some of the presumptions about Eastern and Western audiences. He knew from previous work that the reactions of audiences can be very different, and the open access nature of this work “supercharges” that reality. He was very deliberate about accessibility and translation questions—but he cannot presume a certain audience. So, for example, there are no footnotes in this book. Instead he takes responsibility for explaining whatever he brings up in the narrative, making the book more open to various audiences who will react differently to the claims being made. Levy added that the interactive navigation system allows readers to string together their own narrative in various ways, and that test users responded very positively to the agency provided by the navigation system.
Church was asked about his role and time commitment while Smith’s work is in progress. He responded that producing digital publications requires more time simply because of the new terrain involving different stakeholders. Doing 2-3 of these projects a year would be tough, but he hoped that Jim Crow in the Asylum would help establish a streamlined process that might work for others. Smith and Church check in about editorial questions, with McKee and Li joining as a team to discuss the Manifold edition. While in some ways handling the book feels like developing two projects at the same time, Church sees it as a worthwhile effort.
For Hindley, Bashir’s project did not require more time but rather that her time be directed in different ways. Brown largely handled the development of the manuscript but worked with the Press in collaborative and iterative ways to fine-tune it. Hindley set up an ad hoc committee to determine how the book would move through the Press’s regular system. She noted that reaching the widest possible audience will be a challenge since the marketing framework for books like this is still unknown—how do we get the media to focus attention on the book, and how do we help audiences and media understand the work’s high quality? On the general division of labor, Levy added that Brown takes full responsibility for the technical development and design of its faculty projects and relies on the expertise of the presses to manage peer review, copyediting, and marketing. Collaborating with the presses as early as possible in the process, as was the case for Bashir’s project, is especially important for a fruitful author–editor relationship.
McKee pointed out that she and Levy have often discussed the very different models employed at Brown and Emory, noting that multiple models are producing really good work and that we need to think as a community about which ones are likely to work at scale, while also thinking about faculty who may not have the same level of support at their institutions. Comments from the chat pointed out that there will not be immediate efficiencies with experimentation, and reiterated the need to establish a shared vocabulary for these types of projects.
Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene by Anna L. Tsing et al. (Stanford University Press, 2020).
Jasmine Mulliken, Digital Production Associate, Stanford University Press
Friederike Sundaram, Senior Editor for Digital Projects, Stanford University Press (not in attendance)
Soul Liberty: The Evolution of Black Religious Politics in Postemancipation Virginia by Nicole Myers Turner (University of North Carolina Press, 2020).
Jason Colman, Director, Michigan Publishing Services
Elaine Maisner, Executive Editor, University of North Carolina Press
Charles Watkinson, Director, University of Michigan Press, and Associate University Librarian for Publishing
Feral Atlas invites readers to explore the ecological worlds created when nonhuman entities become tangled up with human infrastructure projects. Seventy-nine field reports from scientists, humanists, and artists show how to recognize “feral” ecologies, that is, ecologies that have been encouraged by human-built infrastructures, but which have developed and spread beyond human control. Playful, political, and insistently attuned to more-than-human histories, Feral Atlas does more than catalog sites of imperial and industrial ruin. Stretching conventional notions of maps and mapping, it draws on the relational potential of the digital to offer new ways of analyzing—and apprehending—the Anthropocene; while acknowledging danger, it demonstrates how in situ observation and transdisciplinary collaboration can cultivate vital forms of recognition and response to the urgent environmental challenges of our times.
Jasmine Mulliken framed her presentation as one about “production considerations for acquisitions”—what production does that acquisitions editors and authors should know. She noted that the process is very collaborative from beginning to end. In the case of Feral Atlas, four project editors compiled the contributions of more than 100 scientists, humanists, artists, designers, programmers, and coders. The atlas contains 330,000 words and 600+ media assets, and had attracted 60,000 unique visitors in the six months between its publication and the date of the summit. The interaction between text and media assets is what makes Feral Atlas a truly “digital-born project,” with no print corollary. Such necessary interactivity is a key acquisitions consideration for Stanford’s digital program.
The acquisitions period for this type of project is sometimes prolonged by the development of the digital platform. From production’s perspective, the whole process benefits from being collaborative as soon as possible to address any technical challenges that might arise. Mulliken gave the analogy of a print book with a large art inventory. Production provided technical consulting and editing for the atlas nearly a year before acquisitions formally transmitted it.
Production conducted a test migration in January 2019 to extract content from Contentful, which also allowed for a full assessment of the entire project to determine what might need to change in the move from the developer’s environment to the publication environment. During the test migration, Mulliken began making code edits for formatting the atlas’s content, establishing styles for poems, colors, tables, and text. She noted that because no streamlined process exists for copyediting these types of projects, which can be built in a variety of platforms, there’s always a choice between editing in context on the authoring or presentation platform or by exporting the text into Word. In the case of Feral Atlas, the decision was made to copyedit with Contentful to make use of the platform’s version comparison feature. During copyedit and technical-cleanup stage, everything in Contentful was converted to static JSON files, which also resulted in some changes to the front-end code. The pandemic upended some of the usual workflows but also provided an opportunity for acquisitions to add something topical about the coronavirus to the atlas, which would not have been possible in a print workflow.
Creative approaches are required for post-production processes, such as copyright and LOC registration. The Copyright Office only accepts certain file formats for registration, and the process also reveals issues of authorship and digital labor for collaborative projects, which might eventually inform how acquisitions presents contracts to authors. Archiving begins during production as well, and archiving work on Feral Atlas continued after publication. The Press contracted with Webrecorder to build a web archive and was also testing emulation of a disk image of the entire atlas running on a server. Both archiving formats preserve high-fidelity versions of the original publication. All code and content were also deposited into the Stanford Digital Repository, and one of the project editors submitted a video documentation screencast, in which she walks through the project and describes its features. The Press archives each of its projects, but because this process cannot begin until late in the production process, much work continues after the publication's release date.
Mulliken closed by offering an analogy of the digital publication process functioning like an orchestration rather than a series of individual performances: “Just as a print book’s linearity is reflected in a very clear and established linear workflow, complete with defined handoff from author to acquisitions to production to design to distribution, the development and production of a digital scholarly work is appropriately iterative. While one voice may be carrying the melody at any given stage of the publication process, there is always a play between the entire symphony of voices, which returns and repeats, and also the coda of post-publication. So it's crucial that all the players hear each other and are aware of what each other brings to the final product.”
Soul Liberty, a history of African American Protestantism and American politics at the end of the Civil War, challenges the idea of black churches as having always been politically engaged. Using local archives, church and convention minutes, and innovative Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, the book reveals how freedpeople in Virginia adapted strategies for pursuing the freedom of their souls to worship as they saw fit—and to participate in society completely in the evolving landscape of emancipation.
Soul Liberty was published by UNC Press on the Fulcrum publishing platform. According to Jason Colman, who leads the Publishing Services division at Michigan Publishing, Fulcrum was “built to meet the needs of authors who want to link digital source materials to book-length interpretations of those materials in a really integrated way.” Developed by the University of Michigan Library and the University of Michigan Press with support from the Mellon Foundation, Fulcrum has evolved into a hosting environment that can be branded for individual client publishers. It also offers a set of publishing services that allow partner presses like UNC Press to expand their capabilities. Colman’s role is to help scope and implement those projects.
Colman demonstrated the Fulcrum edition of Soul Liberty beginning with the “monograph page,” which provides access to the book’s table of contents, usage statistics, and digital resources used by authors in the presentation of their arguments. All digital resources are accompanied by descriptive, searchable metadata. Soul Liberty includes 14 digital resources, mostly high-resolution images and GIS-derived digital maps. Using one image in the book, Colman showed how the Fulcrum viewer allows readers to zoom into image details alongside rich metadata, including permissions information and alt-text. He also highlighted one of the author’s interactive maps and showed how digital resources are embedded alongside the book’s narrative to help support the argument. Going back to Soul Liberty’s monograph page, he toured Fulcrum’s integration with Altmetrics, showing engagement with social and other media outlets.
Fulcrum offers a consistent set of tools to support a large number of books—more than 10,000 are now presented on the platform (not all digitally enhanced)—and to focus on scalability in a sustainable way. Standardization is achieved by requiring authors to provide digitally enhanced content using commonly adopted open standards, metadata for all their content, alt text and long descriptions for accessibility, and a formatted spreadsheet that allows the content to flow into Fulcrum with minimal human intervention. All this represents some extra labor for the author, but they are also closest to the content and generally motivated to make the book a success (with a little hand-holding). Fulcrum extends capabilities for e-books without requiring custom development at the title level.
Elaine Maisner offered background on the acquisition of Soul Liberty, which began as a traditional book project and came to UNC Press because of the Press’s specialty in the intersection of black history, race, religion, and politics. In the book, author Nicole Myers Turner wrote what Maisner described as a manifesto, and a template, for why digital presentation was important for her book (see “Note from the Author about Digital Humanities and This Book”), crediting digital mapping for transforming her understanding of how churches worked as networks to influence the political landscape. Maisner explained that Soul Liberty demonstrates how “digital work is integral and essential to [the author’s] thought, argument, and findings.” Maisner also mentioned several other projects in development, including three titles in Islamic studies with (1) TOME@Emory, (2) UNC Press’s Sustainable History Monograph Pilot project, and (3) MAVCOR at Yale, which allows authors to provide a gallery of images that are cost prohibitive for print books.
Big questions that UNC Press considers include equity, in terms of money available for scholars to do this kind of work, and whether all scholarly platforms are equally important within the academic power structures—or “is paper more important than pixels?” This question does not yet seem to be settled, but Turner chose to take full advantage of the digital environment. Maisner described her own purpose as identifying important projects and elevating the author’s work. John Sherer, the director of UNC Press, suggested Fulcrum for this project after learning about the platform from Charles Watkinson. Maisner described her role as that of a ringmaster, working with multiple partners—Turner, Turner’s home institution of Virginia Commonwealth University, the Fulcrum team, and UNC Press staff. (The author has since moved to Yale, so one open question was whether her open data project would go with her.) The digital enhancement layer adds a significant time commitment for an acquisitions editor—especially in communicating with multiple partners. The Press released three final products: the print book, the verbatim e-book, and the Fulcrum edition. The verbatim e-book is listed for free on Amazon to avoid competing with the Fulcrum edition, and is also available on JSTOR and Project Muse. The book had been accessed in these channels 4,152 times by the end of March 2021.
Charles Watkinson observed that Maisner’s curiosity and experience as acquisitions editor shone through in the process of developing Soul Liberty, and he emphasized that collegiality was critical to fruitful collaboration in these kinds of projects.
Following the team presentations, Allison Levy opened a conversation about peer review of digital works. Maisner explained that the peer review process for Soul Liberty happened before the decision to use digital enhancements in the book. While she did not see a clear need to review the digital resources in this case, she noted that the peer review process for born-digital works would clearly require a different process. She added that the review process is influenced by the vision for the audience and the readers—who will be using this work and why?
According to Mulliken, the interaction between text and media is something that is necessarily subject to peer review because the functionality is essential to manifesting the work’s argument. Levy agreed that the integration of content and form is what defines these enhanced, interactive publications, and so reviewing the work within the digital presentation of its argument is crucial.
For a forthcoming project with Stanford using the Scalar platform, Brown submitted first a partial, and then a full iteration for review. Rather than temporarily migrate the work into a form that no one else would ever experience, reviewers received a link so that they would experience the publication as readers would in the digital environment. The reviewers included three content experts with some digital scholarship experience, as well as a reader who was not fluent in reading online to provide a better sense of how well the project was working and where it needed improvement. Constructive criticism at the partial stage helped Brown make adjustments to improve the final version.
Brown had a similar experience working with MIT Press. Victoria Hindley noted that she first sent Islamic Pasts and Futures in Word documents to reviewers who vetted the merit and originality of the scholarship. She sent the second review as a link with different instructions, including pointed questions about how the digital experience felt to the readers, or where they ran into trouble.
Levy noted that Brown has contracted three works with three different presses, and that while the general approach is similar, the questions themselves have varied. Nadine Zimmerli joined to say that UVA Press has a standard lineup of questions for reviewers that was adapted for Furnace and Fugue [discussed later], which went through two stages of review. The questions were revised at each stage for a very bespoke process, which Zimmerli predicted will be necessary for projects on different platforms, acknowledging that the process is time-consuming.
Mulliken was asked to elaborate on adding provisions to book contracts so that all contributing digital experts can be credited for their work. Mulliken responded that all involved experts are always credited within the project itself and in the archival documentation—and that authors uniformly support and insist upon this practice. Because the copyright submission project with LOC involves patching together categories for a format type that is not yet fully accepted as a publication format, Stanford makes liberal use of the LOC’s “Other” field to list various collaborators. An internal conversation is needed to determine how to raise issues of digital contributions at the contract stage.
Watkinson mentioned that the Model Publishing Contract for Digital Scholarship, developed with Mellon support by Lisa Macklin at Emory in collaboration with Michigan and other presses, offers a section for crediting people involved with a digital project. Maisner added that UNC Press also compensates the authors of digital projects via adjusted print royalty rates in the contract. Levy noted that while every Brown contract has been different, the MPC influenced every press she’s worked with. Macklin responded that input from multiple presses to develop the MPC was much appreciated, and that it was designed so that individual presses could adapt it to meet their own needs.
An audience member noted that contracts also raise questions about expectations for maintenance, long-term access, and preservation. Levy agreed and added hosting into that mix, especially for born-digital projects. Brown had agreed to host two of three projects to date, which required expanding workflow and expertise in the Library’s Center for Digital Scholarship. Mulliken noted that the contract stage is the perfect opportunity to discuss roles and responsibilities for the longevity of the project and its afterlife.
Comments noted discussions within AUPresses several years ago to create hubs for the hosting and discovery of digital projects. Despite good collaboration between libraries and presses, more cohesion is needed so that these projects can be discovered, and better metadata is needed to work across projects. Currently everything must be adapted for different vendors when it comes to dissemination and discovery—this will be a next big frontier as digital projects start to mature. Another commenter explained that the AUPress hubs were focused on discovery but hit a wall in trying to be “completist” by getting every press involved. A related concern was that most of the current focus is on project development, while the sustainability of downstream systems that reach readers has not yet been fully explored.
A question was raised about the role of production editors going forward, and whether their place within the publishing workflow will change significantly. Maisner responded that production provides expertise that shapes what acquisitions asks production to do, versus what should go to partners like Fulcrum. New digital editors and production managers would need to be hired before production could help with the creative aspects of projects, mainly due to lack of time. This is currently a friction point for publishing digital projects at university presses.
Mulliken agreed that most other production editors don’t do what she does, with the exception of editors at Minnesota and Michigan. Most production departments don’t have someone getting involved with the project development or editing the code or dealing with the transition to the archive. She also agreed with Maisner’s comment about production contributing recommendations based on what production is going to do, so that a clear delineation still exists. But Mulliken also acknowledged that more overlap is required in the handoff for digital projects from acquisitions because a production editor needs to know about the technologies being used and what might be problematic. Production should be involved in some of those early decisions, especially when the author is selecting tools for the project, which also offers production a unique opportunity to help shape the form and the function and the content.
Sounding Spirit: Scholarly Editions from the Southern Sacred Music Diaspora edited by Jesse P. Karlsberg, forthcoming from the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship and the University of North Carolina Press in 2023.
Meredith Doster, Managing Editor at the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship
Mark Simpson-Vos, Wyndham Robertson Editorial Director at the University of North Carolina Press
The Lab Book: Situated Practices in Media Studies by Darren Wershler, Lori Emerson, and Jussi Parikka, a work in progress by the University of Minnesota Press.
Susan Doerr, Associate Director at the University of Minnesota Press
Matthew K. Gold, Associate Professor of English and Digital Humanities and Advisor to the Provost for Digital Initiatives at the Graduate Center, CUNY
Terence Smyre, Manifold Digital Projects Editor
Sounding Spirit, a collaboration between ECDS and UNC Press, convenes scholars, practitioners, and technologists to digitize collections and to produce annotated facsimile editions of sacred vernacular songbooks published between 1850 and 1925. The project, which marries printed music of the past with digital innovation, makes accessible texts that mediate race, place, and religion in American music history and culture. Sounding Spirit is supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholarly Editions and Scholarly Translations grant as well as a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant.
Meredith Doster opened the session by providing an overview of Sounding Spirit’s methodological approaches as they bear on production considerations. Edited by Jesse P. Karlsberg, the project aims to translate an established print-heavy genre—annotated scholarly editions—into a born-digital environment. “What is the purpose of reproducing the bibliographic history of a text or series of texts? What is the value of tracing variants across issues and editions? How and why might that work matter today? And how might the genre need to continue evolving to matter more?” Alongside these questions, the project team is committed to acknowledging the politics within the work, which “means training our gaze to look for evidence of race, place, religion, and culture, as it shows up across a given work.”
Transitioning to a shared conversation with Mark Simpson-Vos, Doster called the ECDS–UNC Press collaboration “a logistical feat that requires a healthy appetite for adaptation.” Structuring their remarks around questions of relation, translation, creation, innovation, consternation, and publication, the pair used this heuristic to delve into processes ongoing and emergent.
Their term “relation” calls up new models of collaboration, either between an acquisitions editor and members of an institutional support staff or among platform designers, software designers, and Press designers. Sounding Spirit aims to translate a known genre into both a new form (digital) and a new distribution model (simultaneously open access and print). On translation, Simpson-Vos referenced the linguistic concept of the known-new contract. “The basic idea is that anytime you're communicating, whether it's with an individual or about a new idea, you're going to be most effective if you can start with something that is already known to get your audience grounded and then pivot to the new idea. This is true when you're connecting published work with its intended audience, but it's also true as project partners communicate with one another.” While the production of scholarly editions of primary texts is not new, the intellectual work involved in such a publication takes a different shape when one considers the social relationships of data or the annotation of sound, for example.
Innovation is a shared endeavor. ECDS is creating content and building the platform, Readux, that will host the content. Meanwhile, UNC Press is providing the scaffolding and benchmarking that help keep things on track, drawing on existing production workflows while remaining nimble and flexible. Most of the innovating on the Press side—on aggregations, metadata standards, and marketing—will take place during the last stage of the publication process.
Simpson-Vos outlined three main challenges and frustrations. First, meeting deadlines becomes especially complicated with a project like Sounding Spirit, in which content creation is tied to ongoing platform and technology development.
Second, resources are scarce. UNC Press is fortunate to be able to piggyback on funds received from the Mellon Foundation and other organizations, but it is not receiving any direct funding from the NEH for this project. These resource challenges manifest in a number of ways. As one example, “it can take twice as much time to produce a work that doesn’t have the conventional returns on investment that university presses expect. How do we balance this? What are the systems that will sustain this work going forward?”
Third, publishers are very used to working in a linear fashion, from content development to peer review to contracting to production to publication to marketing. In the case of Sounding Spirit, that conventional system doesn’t work. UNC Press and ECDS have to be working in parallel, with a much more integrated project team. While there is some consternation around the unfamiliarity of a new, shared workflow, developing that workflow together also happens to be one of the most pleasurable things for the team. As workflows continue to iterate and evolve, what publication will look like for Sounding Spirit in the context of these paired print and digital editions (simultaneous or staggered release?) remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Doster offered in closing, the project team must hold tight to its core values—“people matter, access matters, justice matters”—as all else remains open-ended in the interest of completing the project.
The Lab Book offers a new approach to the study of historical and contemporary laboratories, bringing into focus the critical but often misunderstood work that is being done in labs on behalf of the arts and humanities. An iterative work-in-progress project, The Lab Book is taking shape on Manifold.
According to Susan Doerr, the University of Minnesota Press is using Manifold for three types of digital publications: (1) E-editions, which match exactly the print edition and the e-book edition; (2) enhanced editions, which reproduce the text of the print edition enhanced with media resources; and (3) iterative work-in-progress projects. Of these, the balance is on E-editions. To date, the Press has produced only five or six iterative projects, which can take quite a bit more time than the standard E-edition or even an enhanced edition.
Terence Smyre elaborated: Because Manifold is built to be very intuitive and organic, he can create an E-edition in under an hour, including everything from loading the epub to branding the visual identity of the project. By sharp contrast, enhanced and iterative projects might require anywhere from 10 to 30 hours, depending on the kinds of materials authors bring to the project, the desired degree of reader engagement, and, of course, the editorial vision. To this end, Smyre stresses, mapping expectations for all stakeholders is critical.
Doerr and Smyre next described a dual-faceted creative process, in which authors develop the intellectual content that Smyre then loads into the system either as texts or resources that are delivered at select moments in the project’s development. Manifold can support a range of content, from multiple types of texts (chapters or interviews, for example) to videos to maps to data visualizations and more, which are organized in modular, customizable content blocks. The platform also offers interactive reader tools and metrics to assess user engagement. In terms of workflow, Manifold production staff work with colleagues across the Press. Smyre explained, “I'm working hand in hand with the acquisitions staff right from the beginning of the process. Effectively, when the proposal comes in, or right after the contract is signed, we’re usually in a Zoom meeting scoping out what the expectations are around the project, then communicating regularly with the authors to make sure that we have a shared vision as well as a plan to enact it well.”
One of the challenges with The Lab Book, Smyre noted, is ensuring effective and consistent communication within the Press, which is producing both print and e-book editions along with the iterative Manifold edition. “As we march through the different steps, I let colleagues know how the process is playing out or where there might be pain points for the other editions. Likewise, I need to be made aware of permission concerns or other issues coming to the fore.…Even though we are working in parallel, it's super important to make sure that we have clear lines of communication established between us.”
The Lab Book has been in the iterative phase since 2017 (an advance contract was issued after peer review of the proposal) and includes a range of resources, from interviews to draft chapters. It is now in the full peer review phase, the point at which, as Doerr pointed out, a Manifold project moves into the Press’s standard production process. “It definitely has been a work in progress in terms of the workflow,” according to Doerr. “Everybody has been willing to try things—and to try again when things don't work out. That empathy for one another is so important—really understanding that we're all learning together.”
Matthew Gold spoke to a key advantage of the iterative publication process, namely the ability to build audiences for scholarly work from a much earlier point in the authoring process. “These projects can be cited before they're even officially published. The iterative process opens up the text for feedback from readers, creating a kind of conversation that's not possible if dissemination only begins at the end point of the polished text.”
Doerr added that the marketing team needs to be in communication with the authors, who might tag the book but not always the Press in tweets and other social media posts. “These are things that we've been learning as we go: how to best engage our marketing department, and when to bring them into the process.” For now, Minnesota leaves early marketing efforts largely in the hands of authors, though this practice is evolving for iterative publications.
Publishing as process, not as product emerged as an important theme running through this session, Charles Watkinson noted at the start of the group discussion. “Having just heard about The Lab Book, can we think of our individual and collective practice as lab work?” Smyre responded affirmatively, referring to Manifold as something of an R & D space. The specific use of Manifold at CUNY, for example, which focuses on publishing open educational resources, has prompted a reconsideration of the components as well as the users of publications, and has opened up new forms of collaboration between authors, academic digital humanities centers, and university presses.
Simpson-Vos is also thinking about new ways of knowledge production and sees great value in thinking across traditional disciplinary lines. “What we do in the humanities has its own traditions, for good reasons, but we're also adapting a lot of processes.…In the for-profit sector, we're doing things that certainly bear comparison to lab settings in the sciences and similar collaboratives within the academy. How do we map those ways of thinking onto our work?” Simpson-Vos referenced the journals publishing workflow, which is at once linear like book publishing but also more iterative, capturing different moments in the publishing process with pre-prints and post-prints, for example. Doster added that because the work of Sounding Spirit is related to many social considerations that aren't necessarily driven by a publication model, the team thinks of the project/platform as a “research lab” rather than strictly as a publishing portal.
Doster and Simpson-Vos were asked how they coordinate responsibility between production and publisher, and to what extent the UNC Press design department informs the look and feel of the digital presentation. The Press tries to focus on the things that publishers do uniquely well, such as conducting peer review or working with copy editors, yet digital publications can challenge established practices around when and how to do that work. In terms of design, every university press has a certain aesthetic as well as expertise in the visual presentation of information, if not from a web design perspective. The partners continue to question whether or not the digital and print editions need to mirror each other, and how to honor the full affordances of both formats.
Both teams were asked to reflect on new opportunities for community engagement, specifically around the use of annotation: how does reader feedback inform or even become part of the final work? Gold spoke to the challenges of building community around scholarly work online, pointing to the pitfalls of certain popular practices, such as the wide sharing of draft materials and the crowdsourcing of comments that can “throw the text into a kind of void.” On the other hand, when draft texts gain useful annotation and conversation around them it is often because there is a community that has cohered around a certain topic or idea that is vital in the moment. This challenge, then, is also an opportunity “to think about the future of presses and the future of publication—how do you set up a text for vibrant conversation? It’s something that really has to be cultivated and thought of in terms of community.”
Doster agreed that engaging with community matters deeply. Sounding Spirit leans heavily on the communities that its volume editors bring to the table. Part of the selection process was to make sure that the editors are practitioners of the sacred song tradition, so that their scholarship is actively in conversation with the communities formed around song books. “Although it’s not a multi-vocal process at all stages, it is certainly a good first step.”
Active conversation around the lab-like approach to developing enhanced publications and the question of sustainability continued in the chat. The logical extension, it was argued, is that experimentation with new publishing formats should be recognized as central to the humanities research infrastructure, and that university presses and other developers of digital scholarship should be funded like labs through a revised grant structure.
Honing in on the sustainability question, Simpson-Vos offered that UNC Press is seeing lots of evidence that making open access content available can actually generate interest in a print purchase. Those revenue streams are not eliminated, he noted, “but they are substantially changed—and changing. Supporting the infrastructure for this sort of knowledge production is critical. Even in the best of circumstances, even with a hybrid OA model utilized by a well-capitalized university press like UNC Press, the revenue simply isn't there to cover the expenses associated with this kind of innovation.”
Moreover, Simpson-Vos argued, “There are small presses that are simply stellar in a very specific field of knowledge and, unfortunately, that knowledge creation is just not supported in the same way in terms of these open access and digital environments. That's a huge equity and inclusion concern around information and knowledge, and we have to find a way to address it.”
Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary by Tara Nummedal and Donna Bilak (University of Virginia Press, 2020).
Crystal Brusch, Digital Publications Designer, Brown University
Jason Coleman, Marketing and Sales Director, University of Virginia Press
Tara Nummedal, Professor of History and co-editor of Furnace and Fugue, Brown University
Nadine Zimmerli, Editor, History and Social Sciences, University of Virginia Press
As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder by Elsie Paul with Davis McKenzie, Paige Raibmon, and Harmony Johnson (University of British Columbia Press, 2019).
Darcy Cullen, Assistant Director, Acquisitions, University of British Columbia Press and RavenSpace Founder
Beth Fuget, Grants and Digital Projects Manager, University of Washington Press and RavenSpace Liaison for University of Washington Press
Brown’s first born-digital publication, Furnace and Fugue, supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and, at Brown, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Social Science Research Institute, features: 1) an edition of a 17th-century alchemical musical emblem book, Atalanta fugiens, which consists of a collection of 50 multimedia emblem sets, each made up of an image, a musical score for three voices, and interpretive text in Latin and German, and 2) a set of newly commissioned interdisciplinary essays about the enigmatic early modern text.
In her opening remarks, author Tara Nummedal focused primarily on the ways that the digital format was able to make an otherwise opaque text accessible for modern audiences, including scholars, musicians, students, and alchemists. “The form was also crucial in terms of making our argument, namely that the original book was not meant to be read from cover to cover in a linear fashion, but rather 17th-century readers were meant to explore connections among sound and word and image and then use those links to jump around among the emblems in search of hidden secrets. We really wanted to capture that ludic dimension.” The digital edition makes the book accessible and newly operable, demonstrating its playful capabilities in a variety of ways. It includes an English translation and modern music notation as well as new recordings of the 50 fugues presented in an innovative format that enables users to listen to all three voices together or separately. User agency is also extended to the images, which can be sorted, stored, and shared in order to encourage new interpretations of the early modern emblem book.
Nadine Zimmerli noted that from the very beginning she and her colleagues thought at length about the audience for Furnace and Fugue, which appears “very deliberately” in the UVA Press series Studies in Early Modern German History. “We wanted this really rich digital project to reach the same kind of audiences that a print book would attract, whether picked up for classroom use or for one’s own scholarship.” Post-publication Zimmerli has used Furnace and Fugue as a prototype to attract similar types of born-digital work to the Press, and also to speak about the value added or the unique contributions that university presses can bring to the process: “How do we make this type of project legible not just to reading audiences within and outside of the academy, but also to hiring committees, tenure and promotion committees, prize committees? That's where peer review, rigorous copyediting, and the imprint of a series all come in.”
Nummedal concurred, adding that as she was working on Furnace and Fugue a number of her colleagues would ask for updates on “‘the website’—people didn't know what to call it. They couldn't conceive of it as a peer-reviewed university press publication until they saw it.” Nummedal is now very interested to see book reviews, and to learn how people are reading the scholarly essays. “Are they reading them too quickly? Are they really taking the time that they would with an article on paper? Or, alternatively, are they reading the scholarly essays in an even more engaged way?” Nummedal reflected on the role of digital publications for online teaching. “When we first conceived of this book, we obviously never anticipated the global pandemic and the ways in which it would make us rethink how we learn and teach, but Furnace and Fugue was published right as so many of us were desperate for ways to teach effectively from home. Figuring this out … brought the pedagogical potential of digital publications to the fore and made it seem the most urgent thing to think about.”
Moving to marketing, Jason Coleman discussed what a university press can bring to a project like Furnace and Fugue, “which is different, of course, but we don't want to treat such projects as exotic to the point that they aren’t being promoted the same way a print work would be.” As a title in the Press’s respected German history series, for example, Furnace and Fugue appears on the series page with blurbs from leading scholars. But the title was also given special treatment, taking advantage of its visual richness, in a two-page catalog spread and in the form of a special web page on the Press website. “Crucially—and this is one way it totally differs from a book—we had to provide a portal to the work itself. You always have to ask, how are people going to find an online resource that is not for sale?”
Coleman saw MUSE Open, an initiative supported by the Mellon Foundation with the goal of distributing open access monographs on the Project MUSE platform, as the most important potential partner for discoverability. “We wanted a mutually beneficial arrangement in which MUSE could expose their enormous number of subscribers to Furnace and Fugue, gaining in turn an exciting new resource to offer their users.” As this was a pilot for all stakeholders, the Brown, MUSE, and UVA Press teams met several times over a period of months. In the end, MUSE created a unique web page on the MUSE Open website that presents a single essay from Furnace and Fugue. The MUSE version mirrors the content and offers a rich user experience consistent with the original edition on the project's primary site hosted by Brown, which at the time of the summit had received 6.7K visitors. With links back to the original, the essay provides an additional pathway to discovery.
Another entry point is Virginia Open, the Press’s open access collection on Manifold. The inclusion of Furnace and Fugue among the e-books “enriches our Manifold page,” Coleman explained, “and drives more traffic to the primary site.”
Further to promoting a born-digital open access publication like Furnace and Fugue, in addition to relying on press releases, blog posts, social media posts, online events, reviews, and prizes, Coleman pointed to the importance of getting the work into library catalogs. “Our electronic imprint, Rotunda, … brings us into contact with libraries regularly, and we have a large customer list among the research universities especially.” Regarding online events, earlier in the conversation, Zimmerli described the virtual launch for the book, a 90-minute webinar with more than 100 attendees. “It came about because of Covid, but I think it was actually a lovely way to use digital technology to launch a digital project. We tried to give Furnace and Fugue the best possible push out into the world, and it was also really good to make the behind-the-scenes work visible to a wide audience. The conversation wasn't just about the scholarship but also about crediting everybody who was involved in creating the digital publication.”
As I Remember It offers a rare glimpse into the life of a Coast Salish woman, Tla'amin Elder Elsie Paul, and the history and lifeways of her people. It addresses the legacy of colonialism in Canada, the resilience of First Nations people, the possibilities of reconciliation, and the importance of sharing and listening. A model for collaborative research and digital storytelling, the media-rich, multi-path immersive publication features interactive maps, audio and visual galleries, short animations of legends and events, and instructional materials designed for teachers and students.
Darcy Cullen began with an overview of RavenSpace, developed with Mellon support at University of British Columbia Press with partners including the University of Washington Press. RavenSpace was born from the desire to overcome the limitations of print and extend collaborative relationships between scholars and Indigenous peoples into the publication process. Indigenous peoples are no longer the subjects of research, but are active participants in the design of the research questions and the work. The fruits of community–university research should be made available in ways that are relevant, useful, and accessible for Indigenous peoples and a diversity of readers. It is also critical, Cullen explained, to avoid over-privileging text through including multiple modes of expression and meaning, from ceremonies, songs, archival works, and oral histories to contemporary drone footage of territory, maps, and games.
Further, RavenSpace’s use of metadata structures and customizations of the Scalar platform, which pools different open source tools and software to manage media and metadata, including Traditional Knowledge Labels, enables Indigenous authors to have more agency around how their cultural intellectual property, collective as well as individual, is incorporated in an online environment. Here, Cullen cited First Nations principles of ownership, control, access, and possession—commonly known as OCAP. “Ultimately we're looking at a reciprocal flow of knowledge, ideas, materials, and information between universities and source communities through a digital platform to support Indigenous participation and self-determination in the circulation of knowledge and ideas.”
As I Remember It, originally published in print with a chronological narrative (2015), was ripe for re-development as a digital edition. “A really important goal for Elsie Paul and the other authors was to share her knowledge and local history in order to teach the next generation in the medium that they use, to meet them where they are, and to foster good relations between the Tla'amin Nation and non-Indigenous communities in an act of reconciliation.”
There are a number of different ways in which the work itself organizes and presents material to a broad range of audiences, not only within higher education but the K-12 sector as well. For the latter, and thanks to funding for components from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada the authors worked with a curriculum developer to produce a guide for teachers interested in adopting the publication in the classroom so as to incorporate Tla’amin histories, perspectives, and other resources that can be accessed via an interactive component or a downloadable PDF. The First Nations Education Steering Committee, a policy and advocacy organization, is moving the digital edition through a vetting process in order to recommend it as a certified “authentic resource.” The publication has also been recommended for educators through an educator-curated resource sharing platform aligned with the Ministry of Education curriculum.
On questions of discoverability, Cullen explained the difficulty of creating metadata for a project like As I Remember It, which she described as being at once a publication with an ISBN but also a web resource with its own platform. She also pointed out that libraries tend to think about aggregated content and volumes of content, whereas “what we're offering is a polyvalent resource. Instead of a set of fixed products with a sales transaction, we're looking at investments elsewhere along the way.”
Turning to the education sector, Cullen observed that the existence of open educational resources on the one hand and commercial online textbooks on the other—two very different landscapes—further alters the familiar if rapidly changing ecosystem of academic book publishing. “There's enormous opportunity, a real demand to bring informed, reliable, vetted resources into the classroom and to reach students. The challenge for us is how to break into these different channels.”
In looking at these various mechanisms of post-production, Cullen returned to the purpose of publishing itself, namely dissemination. “How do we invoke the broader endeavor of sharing ideas and scholarship? For us, the answer is access, engagement, building community, participating in different knowledge spheres.”
Beth Fuget spoke about new post-production approaches and opportunities. “As publishers talk about connecting publications with their audiences, we use words like marketing or promoting or dissemination, but sharing is another word that's very much in the spirit of what we and our authors are trying to do….What we hope to create is a space for the reciprocal creation and sharing of knowledge and experiences.” In addition to reaching various reading audiences, publication events have brought together authors from different RavenSpace projects. Editorial workshops scheduled just before or after these events have proven to be especially productive as the more experienced authors share solutions and inspiration with those who are not as far along in the process.
Other activities have included a presentation at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association conference and an exhibition at the UBC Library. Launch events took place on Tla’amin Territory, hosted by the authors, and at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at UBC, hosted by the RavenSpace team. The reciprocity in these events was important. They gave the authors and their community on the one hand and the publisher and university on the other the opportunity of being both host and guest in spaces of acknowledgement and celebration. The different venues were also important in reaching the projects’ different audiences and achieving Elsie Paul’s goals of serving her own community, including many young people who no longer live in their territory, along with non-Indigenous audiences who are now learning about these histories and participating in the reconciliation process.
Fuget concluded with a reflection on comments made during the UBC launch event by Tom Child, N̓a̱msg̱a̱mk̓ala, one of the authors of the second RavenSpace publication, Ḵa̱n’s hiłile (Making It Right). “His words reflect some of the uncertainty and even anxiety that authors can feel around new forms of publication like this—not only because of the creative and technical challenges involved, but also because of concerns about the safety of digital spaces for Indigenous knowledge, which is one of the main concerns driving RavenSpace. But his words also highlight the value of spaces like this that can support peer learning, help develop relationships, help build a community of scholars and readers—and the important role we can play as publishers in helping to create these spaces.”
The group discussion opened with a conversation about the importance of making sure that digital publications are integrated into library collections. This is particularly challenging for a publication like Furnace and Fugue, which is open access and non-bundleable. According to Jason Coleman, finding a solution for all such electronic publications will require a collective, comprehensive effort between publishers and libraries. He referred again to his yearslong outreach to university libraries in relation to UVA Press’s electronic imprint, Rotunda, and saw through those existing communication channels an opportunity for follow-up on how libraries are cataloging works such as Furnace and Fugue—a big undertaking, he acknowledged, but a necessary step in ensuring discoverability.
Cullen and Fuget were asked to expand upon the necessity and process of creating a safe space for As I Remember It and other RavenSpace publications. Fuget began by pointing to the future possibility of incorporating features from Mukurtu, an open source platform developed by the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at Washington State University to meet the needs of Indigenous communities who want to manage, share, and exchange their digital heritage in culturally relevant and ethically minded ways.
Cullen addressed the fact that there are different interpretations of access and use. While RavenSpace employs tools such as TK Labels, it also develops its own tools and technical links informed by conversations with authors, to facilitate choices in knowledge sharing in the digital domain. Built into the RavenSpace platform is a direct connection to the Reciprocal Research Network (RNN), an online tool that facilitates reciprocal and collaborative research about cultural heritage from the Northwest Coast of British Columbia and identifies content as private, public, and culturally sensitive. Material pulled in from the RNN will reflect those designations and carry over any access settings.
In speaking to the importance of contextualizing cultural heritage materials to mitigate the risk of people misreading or misusing them, Fuget cited Ḵa̱n’s hiłile, which rejects processes of salvage anthropology to reunite materials that have been dispersed or otherwise disconnected from their original context. Working within a community-oriented and directed framework, this project restores connections between material objects and intangible rights and belongings, prioritizing the community’s ownership, values, relationships, goals, knowledge, and collective contributions.
In response to a question about the peer review process for As I Remember It, Cullen described RavenSpace’s embrace of a parallel concept of peer review, which for a digital publication is “a form of vetting by bringing in experts, and at the same time it's a form of engagement, a form of audience testing, finding out how to make a project work better for its audiences … what's working, what's not, and using that feedback in moving the publication forward.” Rather than rely on a conventional anonymous review process, a full-day workshop with focus sessions was held with educators and future community leaders that had been selected by Elsie Paul. Questionnaires borrowed from existing peer review models while also incorporating new types of questions unique to digital publications.
A question was raised about the involvement of community in the decision-making processes around the preservation of As I Remember It and similar works. Cullen observed that questions of access are tied to questions of preservation, and there is a distinction between long-term access to an interactive work and preservation of the work and its constituent parts. Who sees? Who holds? She cited the term “data governance” and stressed the importance of keeping community agency at the forefront. “Even though we're trying to standardize a number of practices, where we have to be most flexible and responsive is in the understanding that different community-based author groups are not operating under a single homogeneous set of customs or protocols.” Because each community might approach the sharing and preservation of their heritage and knowledge differently, conversations at the very beginning of the process establish goals and intentions. Publishers are not typically historically archivists or experts in preservation, and the standards for born-digital works are still emergent. Partnerships and collaboration with Indigenous heritage and digital preservationists will help advance practices and approaches to long-term access and preservation.
On the topic of digital preservation specifically, Cullen mentioned the usefulness of collaborating on the Mellon-supported Enhancing Services to Preserve New Forms of Scholarship project led by New York University Libraries. “With better understanding of the technologies, we're better equipped to be able to speak with communities about what is technologically possible and also gain some understanding of their capacity for working with shared archives, their own archives, and so on. With collaborative authorship, as publishers we can work directly with community instead of through a scholarly liaison, so we can start to understand their current capacity and capacity needs for data governance.”
In terms of long-term preservation, Fuget added that people often launch into these digital publications with a lot of questions still unanswered. “But we're also trying to be transparent with our authors about what we know, what we don't know, and what we’ll try to work out in the future….At every step, we will be talking with them about current capability and options. It's going to be a collaborative process the whole way through.”
In his closing remarks, Joseph Meisel, Joukowsky Family University Librarian at Brown University, thanked the day’s contributors for their generative presentations and discussions. He lauded the summit as “a kind of landmark, a huge opportunity to put our own particular initiatives into a much broader context … to help us see ourselves as multiple streams within a larger evolutionary development.” Digital scholarly publication is a landscape in rapid motion, Meisel noted, pointing to the remarkable difference between now and 2014, when the Mellon Foundation first began to catalyze this work through strategic, systemic investments.
Identifying content development as a critical piece of this endeavor but one that has represented a smaller share of the activity to date, Meisel invited the summit participants to consider “what we can learn from this conversation to start amplifying what's happening on the content-driven side.” The summit case studies demonstrate the spectrum and hybridity of innovation in this area, he pointed out, from the accommodation of multimedia enhancements to the advanced meshing of digital form and scholarly argument, and much in between, in response to a wide range of needs, aims, and opportunities among scholars, universities, presses, and audiences. The tension between the need for standardization and the need to take bespoke approaches in order to do justice to the work as well as hard questions around extensibility, systematization, and sustainability ran throughout the discussions and played out at all levels. As Meisel observed, “We’re all wrestling with doing this incredible work and trying to figure it out at the same time.”
Meisel structured his remaining remarks around “multiple intersecting communities, from ideas of community to practices of community, and how these are changing and innovating.”
Communities of creation and production. In light of the lab model as analogous to the work of developing new scholarly forms, and on the nature of collaboration, we are rethinking knowledge creation in relation to new and broader publics beyond the core scholarly mission that is only the starting point for a lot of the work that we are collectively engaged in. As we continue in this work, we must hold in the forefront questions related to equity and justice, and work to ensure that all voices and contributions are credited.
Communities of access and use. On the variegated and dynamic landscape of open access, how do we make sure that the breadth of models and approaches is being appropriately represented? How can we foster greater collaboration between presses and libraries around tools of access, such as metadata, to ensure discoverability? On use, the integration of interactive elements but also the choice of materials that make up a work open up new opportunities to engage communities, but digital publications also raise new concerns about responsibility to communities. Further, what is the nature of the use of these products? Are we reading a scholarly work or are we participating in a process that is being facilitated by what we’re calling a digital scholarly publication? As an important aside, the matter of vocabulary alone warrants much more discussion.
Communities of validation and systemization. How can we catalyze the academic recognition of new scholarly forms? Brown’s approach, at the start, was to think globally but act locally: How can we move the needle by changing our own institution’s thinking and practices around digital publication? As exemplary, fully vetted projects were taking shape, our dean of the faculty worked with the departments to evolve standards and criteria for faculty hiring, reappointment, promotion, and tenure. Generational dynamics and in some cases departmental conservatism remain big factors to overcome, but Brown’s approach is working well. How do we grow this and spread it?
Communities of scholarly training. Looking ahead to the next generation of scholars and the continued evolution of digital publications, it is our responsibility to create opportunities for graduate students to develop in this direction. Several graduate students and postdocs who worked on the case studies or are working on similar projects participated in the summit, eager to better understand this landscape that they will inherit and drive further.
Communities of knowledge sharing. By virtue of this summit, community formation is happening, albeit with a rather small band of people focused on the content side of the equation. How do we get more institutions and communities involved? Native American and Indigenous communities are causing us to think in very different ways, but we need more streams of work into this conversation. How do we encourage and inspire others to take these steps by our example and by the knowledge that we are generating in our many different ways?