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," http://vimeo.com/64695910), 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. ;)
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?
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.
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?
I agree with much of what you have to say here I think we—the editors of web content—have yet to find the best way to display multimedia content and I think work that incorporates text, video, images, and sound can be some of the most frustrating. Ads are another problem as the clutter up a site, or worse pop up, or even worse, are included in the content of a blog post. Projects like Scalar, however, are really raising the bar to what interactive mulitimedia online content can be.
As the editor of an online open source publication project, I’m very aware of the balance between usability and readability. We (MediaCommons) invite many different contributors to the site who bring with them different levels of experience in publishing and publishing with technology. Every layer of work we add to that process is an collaborator that we might lose. Since some of our contributors may only post to the site once (though that seems to rarely be the case) we cannot expect them to be trained in our interface. So, while digital publishing should continue to improve, do you think that there is a justification in taking a hit at readability for the opportunity for more voices to be heard in online publication?
You make a very good point here, and one I admittedly never thought of. One of the things I've been increasingly interested in studying is how hyperlinking is settling into our digital culture. There was a rash of great scholarship on hyperlinks from the late 70's to the early 90's, and then not much. A lot of people poo-poo Ted Nelson's project Xanadu, but it seems that his project may have been a solution for pages going down. The reality though, is that Xanadu didn't take off, and won't. I am quite interested in looking at the direction that hyperlinking is going, if anyone else is interested in having further conversation about this.
The fact that the NEH Project and ETD privilege text is not shocking, but has me asking questions about the structures of these sites. MediaCommons itself is a completely digital publication that also privileges print. There are several reasons for this, but I think that overall our ability to maintain and structure multimedia sites remains problematic and I think many sites are still trying to figure this out, both in private and academic ventures. I am also considering what a primarily visual/interactive dissertation would resemble.
It has come up several times throughout various surveys, but how do we change the environment? Doing the risky thing as Katleen Fitzpatrick has described it, demands that the PhD have a supportive board, institution, and department to head into. Does the PhD limit his or her job market if he or she publishes in primarily digital formats? Or are we about to hit a point where that won't be the case (We have had several contributors mention that they have counted digital scholarship towards their tenure packets)? Finally, how do we begin to train PhD students in best practices for digital dissertation publication?
There are some interesting ideas at play here but the one thing that stands out to me more than others is how caught up in the moment everything seems to be when talking about digital. While it is true that technology is changing at a pace so fast that it makes it difficult to keep up with we still need to slow down and think about some of the issues that all these changes present to us. Your example about works cited is a great place to start. In a world where web journals and blogs are becoming increasingly more crucial to our research and writing what do we do when those sites go down? If one of your articles hinges on arguements from a online journal and that site gets shut down it makes it much harder to go back and reference those articles down the road. Online spaces are still very volatile and we need to consider how to make these things last in the long term and not just the current moment.
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Doug, you have obviously brought up some of the biggest questions in digital publishing. Of them the one I am most interested in is the question of infrastructure, specifically in how we make the information we have accessible and how we show connections along years worth of content? If your publication isn't something that would be archived through traditional databases, and/or traditional, stable publication volumes, then how do you create a way for individuals to search it through the interface itself? I obviously don't expect you to have the answers to these questions of structure and usabiity, but they are on my mind.