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Why experiment? A critical analysis of the values behind digital scholarly publishing

This is the introduction to a paper published at the Open Reflections blog published by Janneke Adema who is completing a PhD at Coventry University. Janneke discusses our own Open Humanities Press amongst other examples in an account of  digital publishing in the humanities as performing an experimental role rather than simply and instrumental one.

Janneke Adema holds an MA in History, an MA in Philosophy (both University of Groningen) and, an MA in Book and Digital Media Studies (Leiden University). She has been conducting research for the OAPEN project from 2008 to 2010. Her research for this project focused on user needs and publishing models concerning Open Access books in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Her current research concentrates on the influence of online information transmission on research practices within the Humanities and on the way the monograph, as an important form of scholarly communication in this field, is being produced and shaped. She will investigate the possibility of the fusion or remix of media in the process of Humanities knowledge production to explore potential new roles and futures for the monograph as a form of scholarly communication on the web.

The full text of this paper is available here:  http://openreflections.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/why-experiment-a-critical-analysis-of-the-values-behind-digital-scholarly-publishing/

Digital scholarly publishing and the Humanities—their relationship can hardly be perceived as a classic love story. However, after an initial period of distrust and apprehension, digital publishing—although not yet ubiquitous—is gaining ground fast in the Humanities. The publishing practices that have been dominant in the Sciences, Technology and Medicine fields for some time now, are being explored and adapted in this context too. Increasingly Humanities journals are available online, and, although still lagging behind, books are following at a swift pace. Commercial publishers, not-for profit presses, libraries and academics, platforms like Google and Amazon; a variety of old and new players in the field of scholarly communication are experimenting with new publishing and business models to make Humanities research available online.

However, the motivations behind these experiments with communicating research result online, differ substantially. In this paper, I will argue how experiments with digital publishing in the Humanities, and especially with respect to making knowledge available for free on the web, without barriers to access and reuse, are increasingly being accompanied by a neoliberal rhetoric pertaining to the knowledge economy and its demand for continual innovation. Following the demands of innovation, sustainability, and transparency that this rhetoric relates to, experimenting with making research results available online is seen to aid the search for new sustainable business models, to help the creation of competitive advantage, and to sustain the successive testing of new products to satisfy consumer demand. Experimentation with digital, open, online publishing increasingly takes place with a specific result, or outcome already in place: to ensure that a new publishing or business model is sustainable, that it is effective, in order for it to become a model which can be monetarised with the ultimate goal to increase return on investment.

Full paper at http://openreflections.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/why-experiment-a-critical-analysis-of-the-values-behind-digital-scholarly-publishing/">Open Reflections.

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