Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Blog

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What Happened?

So… funny story.

You know how you get those email messages from your hosting provider, saying "hey, we're going to upgrade some things on your server"? And you think "Bonus! Upgrades are good!"

We are here to tell you that sometimes upgrades are not so good.

The result of the upgrade that was conducted on the MediaCommons server over Tuesday night was, not to put too fine a point on it, a debacle. ... read more »

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Updates to "In Syndication"

We’ve recently added a few new particpants to our “In Syndication” feature (which you can see in the left column). “In Syndication” aggregates the work being done in a range of media studies blogs around the internet.

Our most recent addition is Nick Mirzoeff’s For the Right to Look, a blog he’s launched in conjunction with his forthcoming book, The Right to Look. ... read more »

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Digital Campus

The newest episode of the Digital Campus podcast, #44 - Unsettled, is up, and I’m thrilled that it mentions Planned Obsolescence. Digital Campus, produced by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, is a fantastic resource for those thinking about the future of technology and academic work, and I’m honored that Planned Obsolescence is included.

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MediaCommons Press

Today I have the pleasure of unveiling MediaCommons Press, a project we’ve been working toward for several months now. MediaCommons Press is the second major project hosted by MediaCommons, and it is dedicated, as the header has it, to open scholarship in open formats. MediaCommons Press hopes to promote the digital publication and discussion of texts ranging from article- to monograph-length, in forms ranging from the traditional to the experimental, serving all areas of scholarship in media studies.

Today’s also the day that I put my money where my mouth is, in more senses than one: I’m serving as the test case for MediaCommons Press by releasing, as our first major publication, the book that I’ve been working on for the last year and a half. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy will, if all goes according to plan, come out in print sometime next year from NYU Press, but it’s available online right now, for open review.

And that’s the second way I’m putting my money where my mouth is. One of the key arguments that I make in the book is that the peer review of digital texts must be an open, conversational process, one that draws on the wisdom of a far greater number of readers than the usual two or three anonymous reviewers, one that focuses on discussion among the reviewers, and between the reviewers and the author, and one that allows the multiplicity of responses to a text to become part of the text itself.

I hope you’ll come by and join the discussion. And I also hope you’ll consider joining in by publishing with us. MediaCommons has developed into a thriving community network in media studies; we’re excited to take the first steps today in transforming that network into a viable, community-based scholarly publishing system.

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SCMS Best Practices in Fair Use for Publishing

Via Jason Mittell today comes news that the Society for Cinema and Media Studies has released a statement of “best practices” in fair use for publishing in media studies, to complement its previously released statement on best practices for fair use in teaching.

This is an extremely important step for the field; the fair use concepts SCMS argued for in teaching have not only affected the ways that many of us in media studies use these texts in our teaching, but they’ve also been looked to by a number of other fields and organizations seeking to educate themselves about fair use. Many such fields are likewise facing questions about permissions and fair use in the publication of scholarship, and this statement promises to serve as a starting point and an important source of support for their own investigations.

More immediately, however, this statement has an immediate impact on the ways that we work at MediaCommons, as our disciplinary organization has now announced, plainly, that “Media scholars believe that uses of copyrighted works in multimedia scholarship are transformative, and so constitute fair use.”

Thanks are due to the SCMS Public Policy Committee for their work on this statement. We at MediaCommons look forward to discussing these best practices and to seeing them come to be accepted as part of the way that scholarship in the twenty-first century is conducted.

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Updates on the Future of Scholarly Publishing

A couple of interesting things in the inbox today:

First, a story about a new site in the physics world designed to challenge what is seen by some as the in-group exclusivity of the arXiv e-print server. The new site, called viXra, removes any restrictions on the kinds of papers that can be uploaded. Coming from the humanities, where traditional black-box peer review still holds sway, arXiv’s model already seems more or less like radical openness: the first time a scholar uploads a paper in a particular field, he or she needs to obtain the “endorsement” of an already-established scholar; once uploaded, each paper is scanned to make sure it’s not nonsense. But the folks associated with viXra allege that some scholars have been blocked from uploading papers based on the moderators’ sense that their work is too speculative, or that their papers have been “dumped” in the generic “physics” category, where they’re unlikely to be found and read. viXra’s developers make an interesting argument for the necessity of their counter-arXiv; it’ll be fascinating to see how the new site develops.

Second, the folks at Scribd have announced that Harvard University Press is releasing 1000 electronic texts via their site. Ars technica asks whether this is the future of scholarly publishing. The money quote here:

My personal hope is that other cash-strapped publishing houses will bite the bullet, move their entire libraries to digital, and send their authors a complimentary, book-shaped box of tissues to cry into when they contemplate the loss of their name on a hardcover.

I can hardly disagree with that. But I’m not entirely sold on the HUP/Scribd model of the future; we’re still essentially talking about the same system, and the same textual model, just digitally distributed. The future of scholarly publishing, I can only hope, will involve a much more radical rethinking of the role of the press and the form of the text than this model suggests.

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DH2009 and THATcamp

The coming week promises to be a flurry of activity; I’m heading east early tomorrow morning to begin a week of conferencing in the DC area. The week begins with Digital Humanities 2009, hosted by the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland, College Park, followed by THATcamp 09, hosted by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. I’ll hope to post from those venues, where I’ll be talking about MediaCommons and issues related to digital scholarly publishing; if you’re there, be sure to say hello.

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Tenure in a Digital Era

Following up on my last post: Inside Higher Ed reports today on the HASTAC/MLA partnership working toward the development of new modes of thinking about tenure in the digital age. Most compelling there is Cheryl Ball’s comment about her own experiences in the early stages of putting together her digital tenure portfolio

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Must Read: HASTAC/MLA Rethinking Tenure Guidelines

Cathy Davidson has an excellent post up at HASTAC thinking about the meaning of tenure and ways of imagining valid tenure standards for an increasingly interdisciplinary future. Along the way, she announces that HASTAC will be working with the MLA on reimagining tenure guidelines, and that they hope to work with other disciplinary organizations as well.

But the key moments of her post come after that announcement, as she ponders what the basis for tenure decisions ought to be:

The basic question is not have you published that book. The fundamental question is, based on one’s first six or seven years in the profession, is one likely to be a lifelong, energetic, idea-filled, responsible, creative, innovative contributor to the profession, even when the Damocles’ Sword of tenure is no longer swinging above.


How in the world can a “floor” requirement ever predict future performance? That is, if you establish a quantitative measure, such as one book for tenure, two books for full professor, what in the world are you saying about future contributions? You achieve the measure and then you stop? Really? Is that the ideology of tenure?

The point of the tenure evaluation is supposed to be using a scholar’s past performance as a predictor of continuing performance — on some level, the existence of the first book is meant to stand in for all the future books that will follow. For too many scholars, though, the book requirement becomes a literal end in itself, a finish line that, once crossed, leaves the scholar without future direction or motivation.

So what if we were to say, forget the book, or whatever number of articles one were to set, and instead focus the standards for tenure on the demonstration of an active, ongoing research agenda? How many different forms might meet these new standards? What new kinds of scholarly engagement might we foster?

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MediaCommons is at Media in Transition 6 this weekend. I presented this morning on the changes required in peer review in digital publishing spaces, a 15-minute condensation of the first chapter of my book in progress, a draft of which is available here. (I’m hoping to post that chapter, as well as the subsequent chapter drafts, in a discussable format on MediaCommons soon.) ... read more »