Tag Archive for mass collaboration

The Visible College

After having spent the last five weeks blogging about about algorithmic culture, I figured both you and I deserved a change of pace.  I’d like to share some new research of mine that was just published in a free, Open Access periodical called The International Journal of Communication

My piece is called “The Visible College.”  It addresses the many ways in which the form of scholarly publications — especially that of journal articles — obscures the density of the collaboration typical of academic authorship in the humanities.  Here’s the first line: “Authorship may have died at the hands of a French philosopher drunk on Balzac, but it returned a few months later, by accident, when an American social psychologist turned people’s attention skyward.”  Intrigued?

My essay appears as part of a featured section on the politics of academic labor in the discipline of communication.  The forum is edited by my good friend and colleague, Jonathan Sterne.  His introductory essay is a must-read for anyone in the field — and, for that matter, anyone who receives a paycheck for performing academic labor.  (Well, maybe not my colleagues in the Business School….)  Indeed it’s a wonderful, programmatic piece outlining how people in universities can make substantive change there, both individually and collectively.  The section includes contributions from: Thomas A. Discenna; Toby Miller; Michael Griffin; Victor Pickard; Carol Stabile; Fernando P. Delgado; Amy Pason; Kathleen F. McConnell; Sarah Banet-Weiser and Alexandra Juhasz; Ira Wagman and Michael Z. Newman; Mark Hayward; Jayson Harsin; Kembrew McLeod; Joel Saxe; Michelle Rodino-Colocino; and two anonymous authors.  Most of the essays are on the short side, so you can enjoy the forum in tasty, snack-sized chunks.

My own piece presented me with a paradox.  Here I was, writing about how academic journal articles do a lousy job of representing all the labor that goes into them — in the form of an academic journal article!  (At least it’s a Creative Commons-licensed, Open Access one.)  Needless to say, I couldn’t leave it at that.  I decided to create a dossier of materials relating to the production of the essay, which I’ve archived on another of my websites, The Differences and Repetitions Wiki (D&RW).  The dossier includes all of my email exchanges with Jonathan Sterne, along with several early drafts of the piece.  It’s astonishing to see just how much “The Visible College” changed as a result of my dialogue with Jonathan.  It’s also astonishing to see, then, just how much of the story of academic production gets left out of that slim sliver of “thank-yous” we call the acknowledgments.

“The Visible College Dossier” is still a fairly crude instrument, admittedly.  It’s an experiment — one among several others hosted on D&RW in which I try to tinker with the form and content of scholarly writing.  I’d welcome your feedback on this or any other of my experiments, not to mention “The Visible College.”

Enjoy — and happy Halloween!  Speaking of which, if you’re looking for something book related and Halloween-y, check out my blog post from a few years ago on the topic of anthropodermic bibliopegy.

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Feeback, Please!

Earlier this summer Desiree Rowe and Ben Myers, whose podcast The Critical Lede I cannot say enough good things about, invited me to contribute to a journal forum they’re editing on “The Performative Possibilities of New Media.”  Given my interest in the politics of scholarly communication, I immediately jumped at the chance to participate.

Composing the essay took a little longer than I’d expected, but I think I’ve got a respectable version of the piece now in hand.  It’s called “Performing Scholarly Communication,” and it reflects on the origins and possible futures of academic periodical publishing.

This is where you come in.  I’ve posted the draft essay to one of my project sites, The Differences & Repetitions Wiki (a.k.a., D&RW), in the hopes those of you reading this might be kind enough to offer some feedback.  You’ll find “Performing Scholarly Communication” on the site, along with other essays I’ve  worked on over the years.  Don’t hesitate to comment anonymously — I’m completely cool with that — and definitely take some time to poke around a bit.  Oh, and by the way, the piece is pretty short, so it won’t take you very long to read.

If you’re already familiar with D&RW, it’s likely that things will look a little different to you.  That’s because over the summer I moved and totally rebuilt the site.  I used to host it on Wikidot, but the influx of advertising there became so much that I felt compelled to relocate.  D&RW now links directly off of my other blog, Difference & Repetitions, which I also moved this summer from Google Blogger to its own domain.  I guess you could say that “Performing Scholarly Communication” marks the (dant-dant-daah!) GRAND OPENING of the new D&RW.  Enjoy.

Thanks in advance, wise crowd, for reading and commenting on the piece.  I hope you find something in there that intrigues you.

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Where Credit Is Due

Wow!  I’ve been blown away by the response to The Late Age of Print Open Source Audiobook Project, which I launched a couple of weeks ago now.  The project got amazing buzz in its initial days, and generous volunteers have been editing the chapters to help produce a free, Creative Commons-licensed audio edition of my book.  The end product is, as you know, a text-to-speech version, but there’s even some chance that a bona-fide, spoken-word audiobook might emerge at the end of all this.  More on that anon.

For now, I need to publicly thank a bunch of folks without whom this project would have fizzled right from the start.  For blogging about it I owe my gratitude to Burku Bakioglu, Ryan Chapman, Cory Doctorow, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Jason Jackson, Liz Losh, and Timothy Vollmer.  For Tweeting, a tip of the hat goes out to Burku Bakioglu, Mark Bell, Ryan Chapman, Ron Charles, Kathleen Fitzpatrick,  José Afonso Furtado, Jason Jackson, Henry Jenkins, Kembrew McLeod, Richard Nash, Howard Reinold, R. C. Richards, Brian Ruh, Siva Vaidhyanathan, and Timothy Vollmer, in addition to a bunch of people whom I don’t know but who I understand kindly retweeted the news.  I owe a special thanks to my publisher, Columbia University Press, and especially to my talented and amazingly-willing-to-go-there-with-me editor, Philip Leventhal.  Finally, let me thank all of the extraordinary individuals who’ve already shared their time helping to prepare The Late Age of Print audiobook, as well as those who will do so in the future.

(A thousand pardons if I’ve accidentally left anyone off the list.  Please email me if if your name should appear here.  I was in touch with so many people the week I launched the audiobook project that it was easy to have lost track.)

The Late Age of Print OS Audiobook Project is still up and running, by the way, and continues to need your help.  If you want to know more about what we need to do to make an audiobook out of the raw text of Late Age, scroll down to the next entry on this blog or click the link at the beginning of this paragraph.  Either will tell you everything you need to know.

Remember: you don’t need to do much at all to help out the cause.  Even a couple of minutes of your time, combined with that of lots of other contributors, will get this thing finished — and finished well — lickety-split.  That’s the power of mass collaboration, and the wonder of wikis.

After this post it’s back to my regular commentary on the past, present, and future of books and book culture, although I may share some brief updates on the audiobook project from time to time.  I’ve actually learned a great deal about collaborative audiobook production in the process of launching my little experiment, so you can expect to hear more about that soon.

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The Late Age of Print Open Source Audiobook

I’ve been hinting for the last few weeks that I had a big announcement brewing.  Well, at long last, here it is: together we’re going to make a free, Creative Commons-licensed audiobook of The Late Age of Print! First, some background on what inspired the project, and then a word or two on how you can help.

Listening to Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price on a long car trip got me thinking: why not make an audiobook out of The Late Age of Print? And why not, like Anderson, give the digital recording away for free? The thought had barely crossed my mind when reality started to sink in. “You’re no Chris Anderson,” I told myself. “You don’t have the time or the resources to make an audiobook out of Late Age. Just forget about it.”

Well, I didn’t forget about it. I figured if I couldn’t make an audiobook myself, then I’d do the next best thing: let the computer do it for me, using a text-to-speech (T-T-S) synthesizer. The more I thought about the project, the more convinced I became that it was a good idea. It wouldn’t just be cool to be able to listen to Late Age on an iPod; an audio edition would finally make the book accessible to vision impaired people, too.

And so I got down to work. I extracted all of the text from the free, Creative Commons-licensed PDF of Late Age and proceeded to text-to-speech-ify it, one chapter at a time. I played back my first recording — the Introduction — but it was disaster! The raw text had all sorts of remnants from the original book layout (footnotes, page headers/numbers, words hyphenated due to line breaks, and whole lot more). They seriously messed up the recording, and so I knew they needed to go. I began combing through the text, only to discover that the cleanup would take me, working alone, many more hours than I could spare, especially with a newborn baby in my life. Frustrated, I nearly abandoned the project for a second time.

Then it dawned on me: if I’m planning on giving away the audiobook for free, then why not get people who might be interested in hearing Late Age in on it, too?  Thus was born the Late Age of Print wiki, the host site for The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project.  The plan is for all of us, using the wiki, to create a Creative Commons-licensed text-to-speech version of the book, which will be available for free online.

There’s a good deal of work for us to do, but don’t be daunted! If you choose to donate a large chunk of your time to help out the cause, then that’s just super. But don’t forget that projects like this one also succeed when a large number of people invest tiny amounts of their time as well. Your five or ten minutes of editing, combined with the work of scores of other collaborators, will yield a top-notch product in the end.  I’ve posted some guidelines on the wiki site to help get you started.

I doubt that I have a large enough network of my own to pull off this project, so if your blog, Tweet, contribute to listservs, or otherwise maintain a presence online, please, please, please spread the word!

Thank you in advance for your contributions, whatever they may be.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project, don’t hesitate to email me.  I’d love to hear from you!

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