DOAB Discussion Digest – Sunday July 15th

Links and Thoughts

Dear all,

Thank you for all your thoughts, comments and insights up to now! Now that we are going into the second week of the discussion I would like to draw your attention to some interesting (and provocative) articles that came out last week and that can be related to our discussion on Open Access books:

I would also like to ask people to share their views on quality control for Open Access books, an aspect that has not been touched upon much in the discussion up to now. What kinds of quality control mechanisms are suitable for Open Access books? Is double blind peer review a necessity? What about new forms of peer-2-peer or open peer review? And what about editorial review, is this simply not authoritative enough or is it perhaps a logical starting point for new Open Access presses? In this respect, what counts as an Open Access (book) publisher?

Looking forwards to your thoughts!

Best wishes,

Janneke Adema

Thank you Janneke for the inspiring articles and your invitation to share our views on quality control for Open Access books.

I would like to share my concern about how to describe the quality control mechanisms of book contents, so that this information is visible within the book, for preparing metadata of the book for institutional, subject and multidisciplinary digital repositories.

In journals, the description of the peer-review process is included within the journal with standardized and specific formats. In scientific and academic books, where and how should be described the quality control mechanism of the book?. Is there a specific format and place in the book to inform the evaluation procedure so that it is visible and clear to include this information in the book metadata in digital repositories? Are there good practices or standardized formats to follow as is the case for journals?

Thank you, Dominique

Dra. Dominique Babini

Regarding peer review of articles, the practices across
different disciplines vary widely. In the Arts especially,
there are many journals that do not practice double-blind
peer review, so I don’t think we can simply transport
journals’ practices across to OA books. Rather, the whole
question of peer review across all kinds of output needs
to be revisited.

But do we need to address this problem right now in
relation to OA books? Printed books almost never
disclose the processes of evaluation that led to their
publication, and in the Arts and Social Sciences a
lot of faith is placed in the reputation of the publisher.
This faith is very often misplaced. Moving from paper to
digital publication doesn’t of itself have any connection
to peer review, does it? I’m not sure I agree that the
OA movement of itself throws up questions about peer
review. Rather, those questions ought to be addressed
no matter what the medium of dissemination. OA just
made us notice that.

Gabriel Egan

OA: beyond technocracy?

Dear All,

Thanks for the interesting discussion so far. I’ve enjoyed reading all
the contributions.

I’d like to return to one of the original questions posed by Janneke
“What is an Open Access book?” – but my answer will also touch on the
discussion as to whether OA is just about reading texts or whether it
can also refer to the process of writing/rewriting them. This will also
touch on issues of quality that the discussion has turned to this week.

I’m a media theorist: my work is situated at the intersections of
philosophy, media practice and cultural theory. And so for me OA is
first and foremost an exciting intellectual opportunity for doing
something conceptually — as well as politically — significant within
the realm of traditional institutional practices (practices of which I’m
critical but of which I’m also very much part). By this I mean our
educational system; the ideas of ‘the university’, ‘the student’ and
‘the scholar’, ‘the author’, the ‘text’ and ‘the book’; the broadly
understood publishing industry in its mainstream and independent guises.

Over the recent years, I’ve been involved in a number of collaborative
OA publishing projects which have allowed me to put some of the ideas
mentioned above to the test in a pragmatic way. I hope the brief
descriptions below can give you an indication of the kinds of
ontological and practical issues entailed in this opening question,
“What is an Open Access book?” , while also raising issues of how to
deal with problems of quality, legitimacy and licensing for OA projects.

(1) Liquid Reader (online teaching)
This is an open access ‘liquid course reader’ I developed, which serves
as a reader for a ten-week graduate theory course, ‘Technology and
Cultural Form: Debates, Models, Dialogues’, taught in a workshop format
to 25 students. This is the second core course on the master’s programme
in Digital Media at our institution, Goldsmiths, University of London.
The course discusses the relationship between various media and
technological forms, their social uses and the cultural context in which
they operate. The ‘liquid reader’ provides a practical case study of a
media form that students can both think about and actively construct.
Using the freely available educational wiki platform, PBworks, a basic
‘skeletal’ course reader was first devised online at the beginning of
the course. It included the key course content, and was subsequently
opened to customisation by students. Throughout the course, students
were involved in adding and editing the reader’s content. They were also
encouraged to experiment with the idea of ‘the reader’ (or, more
broadly, the idea of ‘the book’) through activities such as
collaboratively writing a wiki-style essay (on the topic, ‘Can you use a
Wikipedia model to write and edit books?) and putting together an online
gallery of their photographic works as part of the ‘reader’. The idea
behind this project was to provide an open-access study tool which
facilitates the sharing of knowledge and pedagogic practice. The course
reader is freely available both to Goldsmiths students and to students,
tutors and general users internationally. The project thus promotes
socially significant ‘open scholarship’ and ‘open learning’ under the
open access agenda.

(2) Living Books (academic book series)
Living Books is a series of 20+ edited open access books. It runs on the
same lines as (1) above, but has a slightly narrower remit, in that it’s
concerned specifically with providing a bridge between the sciences and
the humanities in their respective understandings of ‘life’.

(3) Open access journal
I’m also involved in editing the open access journal Culture Machine
(which is in its 13th year now). As well as having an annual themed
issue (we have a new one on attention economy coming out in the next few
weeks), it also offers rolling book reviews — as well as a space called
InterZone, where commissioned topical issues and discussions can be
published all year round.

All of these have been developed with little to no funding — coupled
with lots of goodwill from people from all over the world…

I think there is much need for OA in the arts, humanities, and social
sciences, but, from my experience, for the project to really catch on
widely among the academic body in those disciplines, it has to have
strong intellectual underpinnings: the rationale has to be
philosophically sound; it has to speak about creative alternative modes
of knowledge production; the space for experimentation has to be clearly
articulated and not closed down too early by technicist discussions
about licensing and copyright (even though of course I do recognise the
pragmatic need for the latter, and am very appreciative of the work done
by colleagues in information sciences, libraries, archive collections,
etc. in this regard).

Unless we offer that deeper intellectual justification and don’t
foreclose the debate too early, my fear is that OA will remain a
specialty interest, with most academics in the more critical disciplines
feeling it’s yet another technocratic managerialist solution imposed on
them from above because the funding regimes for the traditional modes of
publication have been found wanting. That would be a shame, as OA can be
much more than that. Indeed, it’s probably one of the most interesting
and potentially radical developments in the academic / publishing world
in the recent decades.

With very best wishes,
Joanna Zylinska

Professor Joanna Zylinska
Department of Media and Communications
Goldsmiths, University of London


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