Comments on this experiment — or the Special Issue as a whole — may be posted here.
I’d like to be able to save my comments as drafts, as I read through the piece, then return to consolidate, polish, reconsider before posting. This is communsurable with how I’d handle a print doc, where I take notes as I read, then can synthesize or find the best location for a reaction once I’ve finished. Here, I fear losing my jottings if I don’t “submit,” but reconsidering my views after reading further if I don’t.
Alas, this is one of the costs of CommentPress being built on top of WordPress — it brings some of the biases of blogging along with it. One of those biases is immediacy — there’s no way to draft and revise comments in sequence, really. At best it could be done one at a time with a preview function, but that comment would still have to be published before the next one could be drafted. It’s not ideal — it would be nice for readers to be able to make private comments on the way to making those comments public, but without a pretty significant overhaul of the blog-based platform, there’s not any way for us to do that. But I’ll keep it in mind for future development!
I have a suggestion for the format of the hard copy published version
of this issue. I suggest that each author choose the three most helpful
editorial comments, the ones that substantively changed or advanced the final version of the essay, for inclusion in the print version. These comments should appear in a “Coda” following each essay, so that the authors of the comments/suggestions can have their names appear in print as a public acknowledgement of their labor.
Such a provision would have several benefits: it would encourage contributors to produce well-written, detailed and substantive comments for authors; it would permit authors some agency in highlighting which responses they found most useful; it would give graduate students or other scholars the chance to have their input showcased in print.
There are several things that are exciting to me about this idea.
– it imagined a way for the print version of the journal to reflect its passage through this different medium.
– it directly addresses one of the central opportunities of online scholarly exchange, the opportunity to find new ways to credit the labor of reviewing. That labor is essential to the quality of scholarly discourse; in conventional peer review it is invisible labor. As Kathleen Fitzpatrick observes, open review processes offer a way to rethink how institutions and disciplines acknowledge the crucial role of reviewing — a rethinking the field badly needs precisely because we currently have no way to “credit” the very labor-intensive work of reviewing (see “Credintialing” paragraph 5: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/mcpress/plannedobsolescence/one/credentialing/).
– Linda has homed in with characteristic clarity on the (potentially) democratic nature of open review, where the authority of a review is established in its cogency, thoughtfulness, erudition, and insight, rather than the credentialed status of the reviewer. A key question for this process is what incentive there is for reviewers to take a risk and post genuinely critical comments. For a reviewer, the less institutional status and protection she has, the more risky the act of posting may feel. Here Linda is imagining a potential for reward that might serve to balance the risk.
I like Linda’s suggestion here. I’m not sure that the idea of specifically 3 comments would necessarily work quite so well for the pieces in the reviews section, but i think something like an agreed edited version of my exchange with Jonathan Hope would be a useful thing to include, perhaps cross-referenced to Jonathan’s article.
One of the nice things about this whole process (for me, at any rate) is that we have the freedom to be both scholarly and informal, particularly in those cases where we already know the person whose work we are commenting on. I imagine we will need to cut some of the more ‘conversational’ aspects of our exchanges if we include them in print.
All in all, it’s a fascinating experiment.
I think that this is an excellent idea. It does all the things that Linda, Andy and Kathy indicate in their comments, and it usefully follows up on SQ’s new “Positions” essays, which have comments by readers printed below them.
We would need to think carefully about the format this would take. I take Andy’s point that rather than three comments, it may be a better idea to include an edited version of an exchange. We don’t need to insist on the same thing fro everyone. I’d welcome further suggestions.
Perhaps the printed essays could be followed by a brief, 1- or 2- paragraph ’reflection’ by the author, and indeed by the editors, on how the review process informed the final version of the essay. Alongside the selected key comments/conversations, this reflection would enable the author to acknowledge more general trends in the responses, and also to allude to any brief or tangential individual comments, perhaps not reprinted, that nonetheless encouraged them to make their point slightly differently… For readers of the printed version, this might provide another interesting insight into the online process.
I agree with Andrew that 3 representative comments are not necessary, although it could be up to the author. Certainly including the most intellectually useful, substantive critical exchange in abbreviated form would be good. Apropos of Kate’s thoughtful comment, I would warn against complicating the process too much however. We would want to avoid excessive “metacommentary,” as it is already a lot of work for authors to respond to comments for revision, and open reviewers to post comments. On one hand, to require addition “reflection on process” could be a straw that breaks backs. On the other hand, David, I see no reason why you would have to impose strict “rules.” The idea would be for a Coda to follow each printed essay. The authors/editor/commentators could decide in concert what to include, whether simply a few of the useful posted comments; or a reflection on process, or an abbreviated critical exchange. Each would be limited by space and word count, but the form would be left to the contributors. Linda
Following up on my previous point, since this particular issue is an experiment, if I were Editor (imagination rampant!) I would want to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. For this first e-issue, SHOW the process, rather than “reflect” too much on it up front. I think that people may become excessively self-conscious and fail to respond productively if asked to formulate potential revisions for their own critical commentary! Keep it simple, since it’s already a radical departure from the ‘norm.’
Those principles seem sound to me. They also have the virtue of not forcing premature assessment into a process that may take more months to unfold, as we see the full trajectory of an issue that passes through this dialogic medium on its way to a more fixed format.
Some impressions about using the site. It look pretty and is well designed, but I was surprised to discover that I didn’t like reading stuff on it. It is much easier for me to read pdfs with clear page turns. I found scrolling through long sections distracting, and it’s harder, at least for me, to go back and find something.
Apparently, you can’t edit your comments. That’s bad for me because I’m a poor typist and always need to go over something and fix the worst errors.
Also, the built-in editor behaves weirdly when you try to scroll to the bottom of a longish comment. It doesn’t hold its position at the bottom.
And I find lining up the paragraphs with the comments difficult.
All this is really trivial stuff, but it also shows how deeply embedded our reading and writing habits are.
The dissatisfaction with not being able to edit ones own comments is shared by many participants. As you say, it goes to how deeply embedded scholars are in specific visions of our words in print.
The emerging protocol for sites like this seems to be to record all changes; nothing is altered without that alteration being shown. That said, I’m happy to invisibly fix typos for anyone who asks. This seems to me one of the moments where the discursive demands of a field require flexibility in the decorum of a medium, rather than vice versa.
Presumably the performance context (commentary on scholarly journal submissions) intensifies our desire for precision in our own language. One of the hallmarks of SQ as a journal is the care it takes with all aspects of printing. The pages are combed and re-combed, for clarity and elegance of style, to ensure the print version accurately reflects the MS, to eliminate typographical and image layout errors.
In this process I have come to value that editorial care and precision much more than I did before. I think that’s because it makes for an “unimpeded” reading environment, where the only things that catch me up and make me work as a reader are substantive, not mechanical.
Just a quick general comment. Email alerts seem only to be sent out specifically to authors, when someone writes a comment on their article/review. You don’t get an email alert when someone comments on something that you have commented on. It would be helpful if, for the future, this could be changed, making it more like the Facebook model where, when you comment on someone’s status, you receive an alert when anyone else also comments on that status item. It would help in maintaining the immediacy of the dialogue.
I completely agree, Andy, but unfortunately this is a limitation of WordPress as it’s installed here. It’s possible that there’s a plugin out there that will provide that functionality, which is a core function of several other blogging engines, but I’ll have to check and see. It would, as you point out, certainly help keep dialogue going!
(Okay, that was quick: I found one. I’ll have to experiment with it on our development server and be sure it works, but this could be a very nice addition!)
That’s great, Kathleen — it gets hard to keep track of all the threads that you’ve contributed to & so is easy to miss a reply to something you’ve written. if you can get the plug in to work, it’ll be a good addition to the system.
One final comment before we shut up shop here. I just wanted to say again how very much I’ve enjoyed participating in this trial. It’s been fascinating really for two reasons: firstly, I’ve enjoyed the exchanges I’ve had on here with various other people, both in relation to my own review and to some of the articles. Secondly, it’s really got me thinking about how we have traditionally approached the business of scholarship and how this really is now changing. Part of what the trial demonstrates is the fact we might, in the future, think of research as including conversations, feedback, the modifications of one’s views, instead of simply consisting of the bald presentation of findings.
So: a very big thank you to Kathy and to everyone at SQ and Mediacommons who have made this fascinating experiment possible.
Some authors are wishing for a way to print out the essays with comments. Kathleen, is that possible here? I’m assuming not but thought I would register the question here, as one mode of use that this platform solicits but does not (appear to) accommodate.
Hi, Kathy. Alas, no; I’ve tried and the template simply does not print out well AT ALL. This is another shortcoming that we’re going to have to look into at some length, I’m afraid.
I’m working through all the comments and emails aside to me to list the various functions authors and reviewers wish they had in this platform. I’ll post a comprehensive list here.
This comment is from Adele Seeff, Director of the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies, University of Maryland
I tried to post to the blog and kept getting an error message but I
wanted to get my observations to you and perhaps they could be posted to
I know that emailing you defeats the real purpose here but I wanted to
applaud SQ for the experiment, which, in my view, demands courage
because the reviewers are in turn being reviewed by readers, authors,
and other reviewers. This egalitarian process thus flattens out the
usual hierarchic process of peer review followed by rejection or
acceptance to an academic print journal, and mirrors the creative
anarchy of the web. As the Fitzpatrick piece points out, the nature of
authority is shifting (has shifted?) but the nature of ownership is also
shifting, and we could argue that we, the online collectivity of
readers/reviewers, jointly own these essays with their authors.
A final more personal comment: I have always preferred the delivery of a
paper that is a work-in-progress because it is open, unfinished, and in
process of becoming to the finished paper in print because it is closed.
This online review reminds our students that writing is revising.
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