Recent Comments

October 30, 2013 - 08:51

Jamie, thanks for the thoughtful questions. You're correct that several of the Web Writing comments came from other authors in the edited volume. I haven't yet done an analysis on this book-in-progress, but in a similar open peer review for Writing History in the Digital Age, we found: "Of the 71 individuals who posted open-review comments, the majority were general readers (43 percent) and other contributors to the volume (41 percent), followed by the appointed reviewers (14 percent) and the book co-editors (2 percent)." See WHDA "Conclusions" paragraph 22 for more details. Not all WHDA authors participated in the open peer review, but this did not necessarily guarantee or hurt their chances of being accepted for publication in the final volume. Still, I believe that authors recognized that commenting to improve each other's essays improved the book as a whole, and therefore increased the chances of their work being seen and read by general audiences.

Both Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Jason Mittell have observed that readers are more likely to make page- and paragraph-level comments than global ones on books as a whole. That's not surprising, given that it takes more cognitive energy to synthesize a broad evaluation on 300+ pages than a quick comment on a particular essay. But that's one reason why we work with publishers to commission expert reviewers to do this meta-level work, and for Web Writing, we obtained half of the funds from our campus for Michigan Publishing to pay $250 each to four appointed reviewers. But there's more we can do to encourage general readers to write book-level comments. First, in WHDA and Web Writing, we customized and highlighted the General Comments on the Book section of CommentPress, which is hard to find in the default theme, and also inserted "manuscript review questions" at the top of the page. As a result, we received 45 general comments in WHDA (of which only 7 were written by appointed experts). So far, there are 15 general comments on Web Writing, and I'll analyze those after the open peer review phase concludes.

October 30, 2013 - 08:44

I definitely see what you're saying here, Matt. When I think of webcomics, I generally imagine a format closer to a comic strip with shorter story arcs. As this develops from print comics (trying to create a feminist Batman) it takes on many of those print conventions. I wonder if more than anything, though, people enjoy a convergence of media. Something almost doesn't feel real until it has a print presence, an online presence, and maybe some kind of merchandise. Current consumption models seem to have us looking for these multiple outlets. 

I think this post is very much in conversation with Tim Stinson's from yesterday, where in Will Brooker has become author, editor, publisher, and financier. However, in this instance, this text has become a sustainable model as it has borrowed business techniques. If we could do this for academically minded comic books, could we also do it for more academic texts? I don't think scholarly writing lends itself to this model. We would have to find different models, or really rethink the genre of scholarly writing. 

October 30, 2013 - 08:25

This week's contributions have been great at looking at the very applied realities of publishing online and this is no exception. One of the points that really sticks out to me here is that contributors get to see the whole book together during the draft phase and are able to edit their work to put it into conversation. In this way, an edited volume starts to take on even more collaborative tendencies, and can be seen more as a whole than a collection of different articles on a similar topic. 

Looking through Web Writing, the technology itself is comfortable to read within and the citation technique used here makes a lot more sense for the web. As I look through comments, I see a several conversations starting in the comments, and many of them seem to come from other authors publishing within the same text. Is that where you see the majority of these comments coming from? If so, is this kind of publishing making peer review editing more transparent (as we put our names on our comments)? In an academic setting among digitally minded scholars, I can see the value of this, along with the ability to respond/converse with a reviewer.

Jason Mittell, who is doing a similar project with Complex TV on MediaCommons Press, visited our campus last spring and mentioned he received a great deal of local comments, but didn't see as many global comments on his work. Have you seen similar kinds of commenting patterns in Web Writing and Writing History in the Digital Age?

October 30, 2013 - 07:22

Hi: Nice to make the acquaintance of another Virginia prof. Haven't actually visited your campus yet (too busy earning tenure the past six years).

True, what you say about ad clutter. Perhaps just adding more white space between ads and editorial matter would go a long way.

Not sure what you mean in your last sentence (question). If you mean, is it worth adding clutter if it consists of more reader voices, I don't think it's an either/or choice. I think you can avoid clutter while still adding more voices.

October 29, 2013 - 22:25

Well, I was going to start this comment about 45 minutes ago, but MSCSI wouldn't let go of my attention.

After having spent some time with the comic, I can see why people might crave a hardcopy. The artwork, especially, struck me as very warm and like something that would feel more at "home" on the printed page. There is a host of psychological research and the mind's reaction to art that I'm not familiar enough with to comment on here, but the artwork and writing of the MSCSI certainly step outside of the notion we have of a "webcomic." There is probably something about our Western idea of "ownership" tied up in that desire as well.

October 28, 2013 - 16:01

 I will admit that I do not know much about or have experience with digital publishing. I was drawn to the presentation of the production of scholarship as business transactions. The system worked the way it was before, and there isn’t a clear-cut path to generating revenue from scholarly projects, academic presses, and libraries; however, there was a time when the business model for higher education was unclear. As to whether or not scholarship should generate, I am unsure. If nothing else, I find that, once again, where I thought things going digital would increase access the opposite occurs. I saw Creative Commons as the future of digital scholarship, which goes completely against what seems to be happening.

October 23, 2013 - 17:38


Thanks for your comment.  Self-training and time are two major hurdles in creating a visual essay.  The good news is that once you train yourself with the software (I use a Mac, so Handbrake, MPEG Streamclip, and MacX YouTube Downloader are the main asset collection tools I use to bring footage into Final Cut or - now - Adobe Premiere CS6), it becomes second nature and it helps give you a deeper understanding of the tools that the subjects of our studies utilized.  Moreover, given that many Assistant Professor positions are now asking for a combination of practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge, this can be a great way to elaborate upon your skill set and position yourself on the job market.  The trick, with anything, is moderation (keep doing articles while exploring VEs!).  

Now, in terms of time, yes - a VE can be incredibly time consuming.  "From the Panel to the Frame" took me roughly a week to draft when it was a chapter in my dissertation (this was AFTER all the time I spent researching).  The VE took me more than a month to put together (I'd say roughly 100 hours).  However, part of this was because I was refreshing my memory, as I hadn't done one in a few years.  When I started work on my follow up project ("Free Will in THE SHINING,", I had streamlined my process.  I knew how I worked best and - despite doing more technologically challenging transitions and split-screens - my familiarity with the software cut a couple weeks off the process.  

I do not see any reason why a VE artist cannot find a way to segment lit review/methodology into sections with time stamps (or even into discrete videos).  At the same time, I think it is limiting to think about the format purely in terms that are analogous to print.  I would ultimately argue that the author's objective and subject matter should determine the publication format.  Certain subjects may not produce great visual essays.  Moreover, more poetic visual essays may not need a lit review or methodology.  My concern is that drawing parallels between the two can stifle the potential of the form.  I know that lit reviews and methodologies are part of the article/book experience, but think about how those sections are adapted for when it comes to a book.  They're hidden; they become more accessible and streamlined.  My point is that there is variance across print formats and I'm not particularly eager to establish formatting guidelines yet.  ;)  

October 23, 2013 - 15:46

I really enjoy watching well-made VEs ("From Panel to Frame" was great!) and, as a game researcher, hope to try my hand at constructing one in the future. However, one of the biggest mental hurdles for me is both the time and self-training that are necessary for constructing them. What was the process of creating "From Panel to Frame" like for you in these regards?

As academics, we've been writing for our entire careers. And, even if a topic might be better served in the VE format, I wonder if the inclination is to default to the written text due the process of finding the right video editing software, media capture software, recording multiple takes of lines of speech, etc. becomes impractical or overwhelming for people whose time is already stretched thin. I also wonder about the structure of VEs. For all of their shortcomings, traditional academic papers make it relatively easy to find the author's literature review, methodology, and discussion sections. Do you see carrying over a similar structure to VEs? Or do you think audiences would be better served in another way?

October 23, 2013 - 13:10

Anthony makes a keen point that major institutional changes need to happen before the academic world will accept the legitimacy of post-publication review. But I would add the digital critical editions are innately poised to provoke and be on the vanguard of such acceptance simply because critical editions have always been evaluated almost exclusively by post-publication review.

Most scholarly monographs traditionally undergo both pre-publication review and post-publication review in the form of review essays in journals. But critical editions have historically been evaluated only by the latter means. The reason is simple: no one can comprehensively review a critical edition without effectively doing the editorial work themselves. If someone sends me a book manuscript or journal essay and asks me to review it, I can evaluate the logic of its argument, identify lapses or missed opportunities in the sources it cites or methods it uses, and suggest ways to strengthen it, and I can do that in a week or two. If someone sent me the manuscript of a critical edition and asked me to review it with the same degree of comprehensiveness, my only reasonable responses would be: did you fall on your head recently? or, how many decades can you wait? Because it is practically impossible for a single person to review a critical edition, pre-publication review of them has for over a century taken one of two forms: review of a proposal for the edition or group review by an organization such as MLA's Center For Scholarly Editing (CSE), whose review goes only so far as to ensure that the edition includes the fundamental editorial apparati (historical collation, textual notes, etc.) but does not verify the "accuracy" with which those processes have been done, because again verifying "accuracy" would amount to doing the edition over again.

Such pre-publication reviews are valuable and valid, but post-publication review in journals or by users has always been the most comprehensive way of legitimating (or delegitimating) critical editions. In some ways, critical editions have by necessity always been reviewed by "crowd-sourcing" of their users. The proof is in the pudding, in short, and it takes a lot of mouths chewing for a long time to get through and digest the minutiae-thick pudding of a critical edition.

Digital critical editions could greatly expedite, widen, and publicize such crowd-sourcing for example by including comment sections (such as this one) on the edition website. Doing so would supplement vs. replace review essays on critical editions, but since not every edition gets a review essay (i.e., as Anthony notes, Shakespeare more often than Hell upon Earth/Memoirs of John Hall), such "comment wikis" could go a long way toward legitimating editions. 

There will be institutional resistance to valuing such crowd sourcing, since administrators will fret over whether users are "expert" enough to properly evaluate the edition. And there is a danger of letting such comments blur into the kind of reviews on amazon where people trash a cd or complain that the jeans they bought make them look fat. So there are practical problems and institutional arguments to be made before post-publication review will—or should—be accepted. But the traditional authority of critical editions provides a strong example of and argument for the legitimacy of post-publication review. For no one has every seriously thought of refusing to accept the Riverside Shakespeare (or even the classroom edition of W. H. Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard that Manuela Mourao and I published with Broadview Press) as a scholarly publication because it wasn't peer-reviewed before publication.

October 22, 2013 - 10:31

    I have to agree with the capacity of digital publishing to facilitate “open-access, collaborative critical editions,” thereby allowing scholars access to critically-edited texts which might not otherwise be available.  However, as has been noted, there may be problems with legitimizing digital publications.  You suggest that “post-publication peer review/crowd-sourcing peer review” might be viable options for digital editions.  Shakespeare Quarterly’s success in 2010 using online, collaborative peer-review demonstrates that these tools can be effective.  However, it seems unlikely that Hell upon Earth/Memoirs of John Hall would be capable of generating the same furor of participation as a leading Shakespeare journal.  Moreover, some scholars consider peer-review to be a thankless task—uncompensated, unconsidered by tenure committees.  Will significant institutional changes need to occur in order for digital publication to flourish?