MediaCommons as Digital Scholarly Network: Unveiling the Profile System
by Kathleen Fitzpatrick — Modern Language Association
November 10, 2009 – 09:34
Over the last several years, as we’ve worked to establish MediaCommons as a new kind of publisher for scholars in media studies, we’ve been very conscious that what we’ve been building is not, or at least not wholly, a new form of scholarly press. There are good reasons to build such new kinds of presses; the publishers that have served the academy in recent decades find themselves in grave fiscal danger in the current economy, and at least in part due to that danger, they haven’t been able to take on the kinds of experimentation that new fields such as media studies require. The academy desperately needs new forms of publishers, and new publishing models, in order to ensure the ongoing ability of scholars to communicate their research with one another, and in order to ensure the ability of our scholars to access the artifacts produced by that communication.
But we’re also aware that, in the age of digital social networks, we have to varying extents become our own publishers; we blog, we text, we tweet, and in so doing we communicate with one another through an increasing variety of channels, and with an increasing immediacy and ubiquity. Given this proliferation, what we need as scholars may be less a system that will manage our communication for us than a system that will allow us to manage our communication, a system than recognizes that the key aspect of scholarly communication into the future may be less the distribution of the products of our research than the management of the social networks through which our research is distributed.
It’s for this reason that MediaCommons has billed itself since its inception as a “digital scholarly network” rather than a digital press; while we have particular projects we want to publish, our primary goal is enabling scholars to make connections with one another in, through, and around those projects. And for that reason, with the support of an NEH Digital Start-Up Grant, we’ve been hard at work building a robust social network that will serve as the backbone of MediaCommons, making possible the publishing and review that we hope to foster.
We’re thrilled to unveil the MediaCommons profile system today. This system promises to provide members of MediaCommons with a rich set of ways to gather the work they’re doing across the web in one place, to organize their writing in both print and electronic forms in a digital portfolio, to form connections and relationships with other scholars in the field, to keep up with the work being done in their areas of interest, and to create new collaborative projects within the MediaCommons network.
Here’s how it works: any registered member of MediaCommons can create a profile by logging in and clicking on “my account.” (Right now, clicking on “my account” in In Media Res will take you to a separate profile with a link to your main MediaCommons profile, but those two profiles will be merged soon.) You can edit the various aspects of your profile by clicking “edit,” and selecting from the submenu of profile options. Among the most important of those options is “activity stream,” which allows you to bring together the kinds of writing you’re doing across the web together in one place; your activity stream can capture your Twitter and Facebook updates, your last.fm and Netflix feeds, your blog updates, and several other kinds of information, allowing you to archive and preserve the various kinds of writing and interaction you’re engaged in across the web.
You can also capture and organize more formal kinds of scholarly activity as well, through the publications feature; this section of your profile allows you to enter the bibliographic data for your published texts, whether they’re in print or online, thus creating a sort of virtual vita. Citations can be imported from a range of filetypes including EndNote files, BibTex and MARC records, and RIS files exported from Zotero and or other citation managers. Once added to your profile, your citations can be edited, by clicking on their titles. Ensuring that your publications are up to date in your profile will not only enable other MediaCommons members to get an easy overview of your work but will also enable those members to access your publications through OpenURL links, which connect to your library’s holdings, and will allow users to download citations for their use in a range of formats.
In order to ensure the greatest interconnection among your various accounts across the internet, and to prevent MediaCommons from becoming just one more such account, we’ve also enabled OpenID access; by registering an OpenID account here, you will be able to use that user ID and password to log in. In the future, we hope that OpenID implementation will enable us to create further connections between MediaCommons and the many other sites through which you communicate.
To see what a completed profile looks like, you can take a look at mine: Kathleen Fitzpatrick. We still have a good bit of work ahead of us yet, but we hope that you’ll help us build the MediaCommons network by building your profile, by making connections with other members, and by letting us know what other features you’d like to see us develop.
And remember, every member of MediaCommons has not only a profile but a blog here on the site; by writing and publishing here, and by making connections with other scholars in the field, you’ll help us make MediaCommons into the network we’ve envisioned as supporting scholarly communication into the future.