“Horrors of Recoding”: Reflections on the 2019 UNCG Scholarly Communications Symposium


Engraving of a large clipper ship approaching a smaller one.
U.S. Naval Brig “Perry” (left) approaching American slave vessel “Martha” (right), 1850. Source: Andrew H. Foote, “Africa and the American Flag” (New York, 1854), p. 286. Accessed on Slave Voyages website 30-Dec-2019.

What a downer!  It has been a while since the 2019 Scholarly Communications Symposium at UNC Greensboro (April 15, 2019), which focused on the long-term sustainability and preservation of digital forms of scholarly communication.  The most striking memory of the day was the opening talk by David Eltis (emeritus, Emory University), who shared his story of long dedication to documenting and mapping twenty thousand slave voyages, first on punch cards, then a CD-ROM, and next a succession of online platforms over decades.  Despite millions of dollars of grant funding, millions of online users, and notable historical and educational breakthroughs, he described his work on the Slave Voyages website as “a tale of woe,” and not in the obvious way one would expect from its horrifying historical content. Apologetically but dutifully, he took the role of a prophet of doom.

The bad news is that no one has found a long-term solution yet.  If you want to keep your online scholarly project alive, open, and accessible to students and other nonspecialist users, Eltis told us, you will need to re-develop it every five years because of changes in infrastructure, software, and usability expectations.  You will need one grant after another, always having to make the case that you are adding something new and innovative worthy of a new round of funding; funders will not pay simply to maintain a site.  After all that effort, you might find, like Eltis, that the book you published based on your digital work is your most archivable production, the only part of your work likely to be preserved for future generations.

And the good news is . . . what?  Eltis offered a “glimmer of hope” in a new collaborative funding model that he is piloting.  As a former publisher, I found it hopeful that the authors of digital resources like Eltis would recognize, based on experience, that publishing is time consuming and expensive, with digital publishing topping the list; sometimes customers and users are so (understandably) upset about pricing that they forget why publishers charge for online resources at all.  For open access resources like the Slave Voyages site, it’s important for funding models to support ongoing maintenance, including technology and labor.

Supporting that point were Liz Milewicz (Duke University), who talked about recognizing graduate student labor on digital projects, and Lee Vinsel (Virginia Tech), co-author, with Andrew Russell (SUNY Polytechnic), of “Hail the Maintainers,” who works to bring attention and respect to the important work of maintenance, whether of plumbing, telecom cables, or websites.  Can’t we value and respect the work of the people who keep things running?  Allen Tullos shared with us that the respected Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, where the multimedia journal Southern Spaces is published, along with more than 100 other digital projects over the years, has 14 full-time staff members.  How impressive, and—for  most other digital projects and centers–how daunting!

Once we can accept that digital publication of all sorts costs time and money on an ongoing basis, then we can move on to find models not only to build projects but also to keep them running and preserve them.  Streamlining publishing workflows by sharing resources among university presses is one solution that was outlined by John Sherer (UNC Press); the importance of sharing information and resources across institutions and in public-private partnerships was a theme emphasized by several speakers. Scholars planning digital projects should not be afraid of standardized technology; unique content is what’s important, and it needs stable infrastructure.

Establishing technical standards to avoid “the horrors of complete recoding” experienced by Eltis would be the ideal.  Unfortunately, as Sayeed Choudhury (Johns Hopkins) pointed out, systems for digital scholarship have not yet cohered into a comprehensive infrastructure.  Nevertheless, it is important to seek out the piecemeal solutions that are out there, rather than reinvent the wheel.  There will always be exciting digital experiments to inspire us, but hurrah for funders who recognize that not every project has to be a hacking, a disruption, or a revolution to be worthy of support.  Projects that clarify workflows and find ways to tie existing solutions together in sensible, practical ways might be less exciting but more fundamentally important for the long term.

I felt that we owed Dr. Eltis a debt of gratitude for his honesty in setting the tone for the day.  In the end, I exited the symposium not elated, exactly, but impressed by the honesty and straight-talking.  It was a downer, but in a good way.  Digital publishing is hard, and that sobering knowledge in itself offers a glimmer of hope.  Facing the enormity of the challenge squarely is what will, eventually, lead us to do online publishing the right way–to make digital scholarly content accessible to all, for the ages.

Global Blackness: A Group of “Think Pieces”

Black and white photo of man on balcony.
Photo from Donato Ndongo’s website; used by permission.www.donato-ndongo.com.

Global blackness has been the subject of a number of the “think pieces” that we have published on the Humanities Futures website. Now we have assembled them as the first in a series of curated sets that will highlight important interdisciplinary themes in the collection.  The six think pieces in this set represent a wide array of topics, from African writers to Latinidad in Italy; they also share with the reader a fascinating variety of theories and approaches, from Afro-Pessimism, which finds intellectual freedom in escaping a tired redemption narrative, to the exploratory, cooperative form of study practiced by the Black Outdoors working group as they seek a new way of being in and with the earth. Together these essays propose important changes to the humanities canon and the way that the humanities are taught and studied.

The think pieces in this curated set are:  (1) Dontao Ndongo, “African Intellectuals in the Face of the Phenomenon of Dictatorship” (also published on the site in its original Spanish); (2)  Edward E. Curtis IV, “Black History, Islam, and the Future of Humanities Beyond White Supremacy”; (3) J. Kameron Carter and Sarah Jane Cervenak, “The Black Outdoors:  Humanities Futures After Property and Possession”; (4) Frank Wilderson, “Afro-Pessimism and the End of Redemption”; (5) Patricia Northover, “Thinking ‘Global Blackness’ Through the Frame of Angelus Novus: An Exploration of Racial Aporias and the Politics of Modern Power, Sovereignty, and Temporality,” and (6) García Peña, “Almost Citizens: Racial Translations, National Belonging, and the Global ‘Immigration Crisis.”

Following is a brief tour of the six essays.

“African Intellectuals in the Face of the Phenomenon of Dictatorship,” by Donato Ndongo

Donato Ndongo Bidyogo-Makina, in “African Intellectuals in the Face of the Phenomenon of Dictatorship,” powerfully insists that we recognize the work of twentieth-century African thinkers, writers, and artists who strove to counter totalitarianism, dedicating themselves to resistance in the form of creative production.  Based on aesthetics, ethics, and utilitarianism, the work of African intellectuals in international conversation originated important concepts such as multiculturalism, the dialogue of civilizations, diversity, and interculturality.  Introducing the reader to several courageous and accomplished writers, he calls for ongoing meeting of African, American, and European minds to continue humanity’s necessary fight against intolerance, particularly in Africa, where today, beneath a charitable discourse, a voracious neocolonialism prevails.

“Black History, Islam, and the Future of Humanities Beyond White Supremacy,” by Edward E. Curtis IV

In “Black History, Islam, and the Future of Humanities Beyond White Supremacy,” Edward E. Curtis IV calls for interpreting Islam as a form of Black history, in order to construct a scholarly framework for reimagining the humanities beyond the white supremacist narratives that have continue to dominate philosophy, comparative religion, and general education courses on Western civilization.  Hegel argued that Africa, especially south of the Sahara, could be omitted from the study of philosophy because there were no texts or sources to study.  Today, there is no excuse to accept such racist assertions, Curtis argues.  From the very beginning of Islamic history in seventh-century Arabia, people who today are recognized and identified as Black played an irreplaceable role in the project of Islamicate civilization, including its literatures, cultural institutions, economies, and polities.

A new canon will recognize this and take into account how people on the African continent participated in translocal exchanges, not only in Africa itself but also across the entire span of Afro-Eurasia.  How Africans became Muslim is a long and complex history, driven by indigenous forces represented by an enormous and rich archive of art, architecture, music, and literature.

“Looking beyond the African continent,” Curtis adds, “There is ample opportunity for scholars of the Asian, European, and American humanities to incorporate Black contributions to human culture.” He shares a fascinating examples from around the world, turning finally to the US, where making sure that Islam is read as a Black tradition is especially important in the context of contemporary Islamophobia. In conclusion, Curtis looks to the future: “When the humanities finally embrace Africa, it will affirm the values not only of Black lives but of all lives” and prepare us all for a future in which the “myth of white normativity” does not govern our lives.

“The Black Outdoors:  Humanities Futures After Property and Possession,” by J. Kameron Carter and Sarah Jane Cervenak

In “The Black Outdoors:  Humanities Futures After Property and Possession,” J. Kameron Carter and Sarah Jane Cervenak (“C2“) remember and reflect on the activities of a working group that sought a new ecology and a concomitant reorientation of the practice of study; to interrogate questions of propertied personhood and racialized, sexualized, ecological enclosure, they aspired to another kind of environmental ethos, seeking “intellectual, ecological, and aesthetic innovations.” Meeting in a church with sunny windows, “a space that makes and unmakes the outdoors,” the group found insights in metaphors of music and air as they discussed the Black tradition of producing the outside while inside, finding a way where there is no way: a way out into the “black out,” “outside the normative gaze of the white man.” To deepen their “study against enclosure,” they devised a set of events with scholars working across the fields of Black studies, Black feminist theory, Native studies, theology, queer studies, critical urban studies/ecologies, postcolonial theory, and law.

Their essay is like several essays wrapped into one as they share the insights of the various speakers; some of the mulitfaceted and evocative topics introduced are maps that lie, prison-cities, the concept of maroonage (the always-unfinished reach for connection that is also “a mysticism of sociality”), juxtapositional conjunction (a kind of irreducibility), Blackpentecostal noisemaking as a noise uprising, endurance and its connection to faith, the concept of “Mu” (outness, outsideness, outsiderness), and the ocean as black outside.  Three esteemed poets, M. NourbeSe Philip, Ed Roberson, and Nathaniel Mackey, whose poems “illumine the earth in a way that tells us of the wreckage and the other ecologies that sing and bloom alongside,” concluded the series with a set of readings in which “blackness’s ecological unfetteredness was poeticized as a form of sacred practice.”

“Afro-Pessimism and the End of Redemption,” by Frank Wilderson III

In “Afro-Pessimism and the End of Redemption,” Frank Wilderson identifies “a largely unconscious consensus that Blackness is a locus of abjection to be instrumentalized on a whim, often by so-called allies for postcolonial, immigrant, feminist, LGBT, and workers’ redemption narratives,” whereas Blacks are barred from redemption and even from having their own narrative.  In this view, Blackness is not an ensemble of identities, cultural practices, or anthropological accoutrements but rather a paradigmatic position inseparable from slavery, with no before and after; Wilderson calls this state “social death.”  Social death is larger than any particular story of enslavement or manumission; violence and dishonor result, with no identifiable causal event in the past and no therapeutic remedy.

Wilderson compares two poems, Simon Ortiz’s Sand Creek, on Native American genocide, with his own, “Law Abiding,” on the killing of Oscar Grant. In the latter, the reciprocity, utility, contingency, and ultimate humanity that Ortiz’s poem takes for granted are absent.  When writing the poem, he explains, “I unconsciously realized the futility of asserting something within Blackness that is prior to the devastation that defines Blackness.”

Afro-Pessimism offers a corrective to “Humanist assumptive logic,” providing a theory that “allows Black people to not have to be burdened by the ruse of analogy—because analogy mystifies, rather than clarifies, Black suffering.”  Wilderson offers a tinge of hope that outside the confines of the tired redemption narrative might lie a new landscape of intellectual freedom.

“Thinking ‘Global Blackness’ Through the Frame of Angelus Novus: An Exploration of Racial Aporias and the Politics of Modern Power, Sovereignty, and Temporality,” by Patricia Northover

In her “Thinking ‘Global Blackness’ Through the Frame of Angelus Novus: An Exploration of Racial Aporias and the Politics of Modern Power, Sovereignty, and Temporality,” Patricia Northover explores a “globalizing ‘blackness,'” a “race assemblage” generated via “a stitching together of a certain timespace—a when and where” of contradictory forces, especially power and sovereignty.

Using Walter Benjamin’s reflections on Paul Klee’s painting Angelus Novus as a guide to thinking about global blackness, Northover asks why “the world remains beset by terrible scenes of racial haunting and an unraveling of political settlements.”  In a conclusion that is both profound and alarming, she suggests that the generative processes that assemble a globalizing blackness constitute a gale force that continues and even gains momentum into the future.

“Almost Citizens:  Racial Translations, National Belonging, and the Global ‘Immigration Crisis'” by Lorgia García Peña

The terms that define blackness in Italy (negraneradi colore) are part of a complex national identity narrative that includes the internal northern-southern dynamic, Lorgia García Peña tells us in “Almost Citizens:  Racial Translations, National Belonging, and the Global ‘Immigration Crisis’.”  Founded on the turn-of-the-twentieth-century eugenicist theory used also to justify fascism, Italianness (Italianità) can never be acquired; it can only be inherited.  She reminds us that Italy has its own history of colonization that informs its notions of citizenship and national identity.  Citizenship by bloodline maintains the exclusion of racialized citizens; as we learn through an anecdote about the filmmaker Medhin Paolos and a street vendor, “racialized people can neither be uninhibitedly transnational nor securely national.”

Taking into account the relationship of the 2015 “immigration crisis” and twentieth-century colonialism of the global South, García Peña proposes to expand the definition of Latinidad beyond Latin America to Italy and Spain, arguing that it is important to broaden our comparative approaches to race, ethnicity, and migration. Black Latin American migrants grapple with different—and often oppositional—racial systems to assert belonging and representation within the nation(s) that excludes them, she observes. Interestingly, hegemonic U.S.-mediated concepts of race are shaping the experiences of racialized people across the world; for example, while Dreamers in the U.S. use the language of civil rights, a young activist in Italy appeals for italianità but also claims Latinidad and blackness, categories produced and disseminated by the United States.

The Humanities Futures Project

Over the past five years, the Humanities Futures project has invited Duke Humanities departments and interdisciplinary working groups to bring speakers from all over the US and the world to Duke to reflect on the present and future of the humanities in all of their facets–traditions, trends, topics, and theories.  To record and preserve the events and presentations for future reference and continued conversation, we have posted videos and published papers based on the talks on the Humanities Futures website.  Currently there are more than 100 papers and videos on the site, and we continue to add to the collection. The project is generously funded by a grant to the Franklin Humanities Institute from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sylvia’s List: Publishing New (Digital) Forms of Scholarship

Three VARDHI participants wearing Virtual Reality Glasses
Sylvia Miller, Paolo Borin, and Shane Denson visiting Duke DIVE, a Virtual Reality space. Photo by John Shelton.

During the summer of 2018, Duke hosted a two-week institute called V/AR DHI, which convened a dozen scholars from across the US and around the world who are working in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to share ideas and techniques. It was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and planned by faculty members Victoria Szabo (Art, Art History, and Visual Studies) and Phil Stern (History), who asked me to research where the cutting-edge work of these scholars–in art history, archaeology, artistic practice, electronic music, Rap, American history, among a fascinating variety of fields–might be published.  This list is the result.  I have already received many useful additions and comments on it, and I hope that it will continue to develop; please consider it a work in progress.  Following is the version dated July 27, 2018.  Last updated April 9, 2019.

This list focuses on venues in which digital, non-traditional scholarship might be published, published about, or otherwise shared in scholarly and professional settings. Together these venues might be seen as pushing the boundaries of scholarly publishing.  In fact, this list is growing so long that it clearly represents an expanding landscape of its own, which is exciting.

Click here to jump to sections of the list:  Evaluating Digital Scholarship | Journals | Book Publishing in Digital Humanities | Tools and Platforms for Multimedia Publishing | Organizations and Conferences | Funders

Evaluating Digital Scholarship

MLA Guidelines:


AHA Guidelines:


Broadcast Education Association:

BEA’s Festival of Media Arts states criteria for faculty work in multimedia formats to win a festival award or an Award of Excellence.


CAA (College Art Association) Guidelines:


CCCC (Conference on College Composition and Communication)


Middle East Studies Association (MESA)


University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Summary of April 2018 symposium on peer review at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro:


Possible Publishing Venues


[This section will need subdivisions.]

The following list includes a mix of journals that are interested in publishing articles about digital scholarship, which may vary in their willingness and ability to incorporate multimedia, and journals that aim especially to incorporate multiple formats.

Archive Journal focuses on the use and theory of archives and special collections in higher education.

arts.code is a platform, bimonthly digitaljournal and annual printed publication focusing on multiple forms of art with computational and algorithmic underpinnings. It includes digital/emerging media applications while also indexing historical works built with mathematical systems. arts.codes presents interviews with artists of all stripes, and reviews of exhibitions, performances and compositions. It is also a platform for open source distribution and creative sharing. Lead in curation and project development by Margaret Schedel and Melissa F. Clarke

Critical Times, launched in May 2018, is a peer-reviewed, open access online journal published by the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs with the aim of foregrounding the global reach and form of contemporary critical theory. the journal publishes essays, interviews, dialogues, dispatches, visual art, and various platforms for critical reflection, engaging with social and political theory, literature, philosophy, art criticism, and other fields within the humanities and social sciences.

Digital Applications in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage publishes 3D models.

Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ) is an open-access, peer-reviewed, digital journal covering all aspects of digital media in the humanities. Published by the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO), DHQ is also a community experiment in journal publication, with a commitment to experimenting with publication formats.

Digital Medievalist is an international web-based community for medievalists working with digital media.  The project is hosted at the University of Lethbridge, and overseen by an international executive of medievalists with extensive experience in the use of digital media.

Digital Philology links peer-reviewed research and scholarship with digital libraries of medieval manuscripts. It includes scholarly essays, manuscript studies, and reviews of relevant resources such as websites, digital projects, and books.  Published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (DSH) is an international, peer reviewed journal which publishes original contributions on all aspects of digital scholarship in the Humanities including, but not limited to, the field of what is currently called the Digital Humanities.  Published by Oxford University Press.

European Journal of Media Studies is open access and lists video essays among the content formats accepted.

Humanist Studies and the Digital Age, starting with a basis in the study of Petrarch, encourages new theoretical engagements based on comparative media studies, translations and interdisciplinary approaches to a new humanist philology, made possible by digital technology. Published by the University of Oregon Libraries.

Humanistica is a francophone journal.  (See below for the association.)

Hybrid Pedagogy: An Open Access Journal of Learning, Teaching, and Technology seeks to interrogate and investigate technological tools to determine their most progressive applications. The journal uses an open, collaborative peer review model.

Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures is a peer-reviewed, open access journal specializing in electronic literature, new media criticism and net art.  The editors welcome submissions of electronic literature, new media scholarship and criticism, and reviews of media-related books, exhibitions or blogs.

In Media Res is dedicated to experimenting with collaborative, multi-modal forms of online scholarship to promote dialogue about contemporary approaches to studying media.  The journal is a MediaCommons project at New York University.

[in]Transition is a collaboration between MediaCommons and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ official publication, Cinema Journal.  It is the first peer-reviewed academic periodical specifically given over to videographic film and moving image studies.  They accept submission of videographic work.

International Journal for Digital Art History is a new journal that has video capabilities and plans to include full multimedia in the future.

International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing is a multi-disciplinary, peer-reviewed forum for research on all aspects of arts and humanities computing.  Published by Edinburgh University Press.

Journal of Cultural Analytics is a new open-access journal dedicated to the computational study of culture. Its aim is to promote high quality scholarship that intervenes in contemporary debates about the study of culture using computational and quantitative methods.  Note that they plan to publish both articles and datasets.

Journal of Data Mining and Digital Humanities is concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities, with tools provided by computing such as data visualization, information retrieval, statistics, and text mining and aims to publish scholarly work beyond the traditional humanities.  DMDH is a joint project of CNRS, INRA and Inria (international science and mathematics organizations).

Journal of Electronic Publishing aspires to document changes in publishing, and in some cases to stimulate and shape the direction of those changes. The articles present innovative ideas, best practices, and leading-edge thinking about all aspects of publishing, authorship, and readership. Published by Michigan Publishing at the University of Michigan Libraries.

Journal of the Japanese Association for Digital Humanities.  See below for the conference of this organization.

Journal of Media Education is a journal of the Broadcast Media Association (see below) that accepts creative work in audio, interactive multimedia, narrative and documentary film/video, news, sports, and scriptwriting.

Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative publishes the proceedings of the annual TEI Conference and Members’ Meeting and special thematic issues: state-of-the-art reports on electronic textual editing, current trends in TEI [XML] encoding, and new use cases for TEI.

Journal of Videoethnography, a venture of DePaul University, publishes film in a peer-reviewed, Open Access online journal.

Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy is a refereed open-access online journal exploring the intersections of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy. Its mission is to publish scholarship that examines digital and multimodal composing practices, promoting work that enacts its scholarly argument through rhetorical and innovative uses of new media.

Leonardo is an international peer-reviewed journal on the use of contemporary science and technology in the arts and music and, increasingly, the application and influence of the arts and humanities on science and technology.  Founded in 1968, the journal is published by MIT Press. 

Oc-ca-sion  is a journal that is part of Stanford University’s Arcade project; it publishes special issues on cutting-edge topics.  [Stanford also has the Arcade project’s “Colloquies”; these don’t seem to be open to outside submissions, however.]

On_Culture is an Open Access refereed journal focusing on conceptual and methodological approaches to the study of culture. It publishes original scholarly articles and essays biannually, as well as “perspectives” in a wide range of genres and media formats on a rolling basis. Published at Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany.

Resilience is a journal is a digital, peer-reviewed journal that provides a forum for scholars from across humanities disciplines to speak to one another about environmental issues and about what the humanities contribute to living and thinking sustainably in a world of dwindling resources.  This journal from the University of Nebraska Press that began with an editorial policy of openness to different forms and media. [It would be worth finding out how that aspect has turned out.]

Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge promotes experimental work located outside current disciplines, work that has no proper location. The editors encourage migrations into new conceptual territories resulting from unpredictable juxtapositions.

Southern Cultures is a multimedia journal edited by the Center for the Study of the American South and published in print and online by the University of North Carolina Press.  It is one of the oldest and most established multimedia journals. The print version of the journal is sometimes accompanied by a CD.

Thressholds is a creative scholarly journal that allows varied graphic layouts and embedded media to create provocative collisions of art and ideas.  There is a possibility that the platform upon which it is based will become available for creating new journals, as well.

Umanistica Digitale is the journal of the Italian digital humanities association (see AIUCD below).

Book Publishing in Digital Humanities

Amphio, Ltd. publishes interactive, multimedia book apps available on iTunes.  So far, they are mostly on classical music; Arcadia is a novel with multiple story threads.

[Anvil Academic: a platform for the digital publication of nontraditional scholarly work in

the humanities was launched in 2014 but is no longer active.]

digitalculturebooks, and imprint of Michigan Publishing, publishes innovative work in new media studies and digital humanities.

Computers and Composition Digital Press (CCDP) is committed to publishing innovative, multimodal digital projects. The Press will also publish ebooks (print texts in electronic form available for reading online or for downloading); however, we are particularly interested in digital projects that cannot be printed on paper, but that have the same intellectual heft as a book.  This is a collaboration of the the University of Colorado Press and Utah State University Press.

Computing in the Humanities, now called Language Resources and Evaluation – https://eadh.org/publications/language-resources-and-evaluation-previously-computers-and-humanities

Digital Research in the Arts and Humanities is a series published by Routledge.

Electric Press publishes Hyperrhiz Electric, a monograph series for born-digital multimedia and digital humanities projects, is an imprint of Punctum Books.  The editors value the strange, the partial, the particular and the experimental: scholarship that might be held to exist outside the increasingly regularizing archival and metrics-driven tendencies of the academy and that excites a passion for overlooked and orphaned ideas and source material.

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, the respected literary publisher, has an experimental publishing imprint, MCD Books featured in a Publisher’s Weekly article. The slightly disorienting website includes books with animated online covers and related film trailers and information about other activities of the imprint such as a light installation in a gallery/performance space. Do any of the books include embedded or linked multimedia?

[The Institute for the Future of the Book: has sponsored various projects investigating the evolution of intellectual discourse.  It developed CommentPress, a platform for online commenting on books, based on WordPress, and Sophie, a multimedia authoring tool (2008). It has not been active in recent years.]

Lever Press plans to publish digital-first books in the Fulcrum platform (see below).  The scholarly leadership of Lever Press is exercised by an Editorial Board of faculty drawn from its supporting consortium of liberal arts colleges, in partnership with the Amherst College Press and Michigan Publishing.

Luminos is an Open Access imprint from University of California Press.  In addition to offering the same scrutiny and peer review as their traditional titles receive, the imprint offers flexible formats and rich media capabilities.

Open Humanities Press publishes open access e-books and journals.  An international community of scholars, editors, and readers with a focus on critical and cultural theory, OHP has its central office in London and has operated as a independent volunteer initiative since 2006, promoting open access scholarship in journals and books and exploring new forms of scholarly communication.

MIT Press has published on digital scholarship and publishes Leonardo and might be willing to experiment with format.  [Will look into this more.]

Michigan Publishing, NYU Press,  and Northwestern University Press have used the Fulcrum multimedia publishing platform (see below).  NYU Press in particular has a long history of experimenting with online publishing formats.

Stanford University Press has a project dedicated to publishing digital scholarship, funded by the Mellon Foundation; they have published books with connected Scalar projects.

Touch Press publishes iPad apps that reimagine science, literature, and other educational themes through interactive multimedia including 3D photography.

Topics in Digital Humanities is a series published by the University of Illinois Press.

WAC Clearinghouse #writing series publishes open-access and print books in digital rhetoric, new media studies, digital humanities, techno-pedagogy, and similar areas of interest. The open-access publications can have interactive media elements, as needed, while the bound imprints will be designed with static screenshots that refer readers to interactive elements in the online version. They are interested in books that require a few examples of multimedia within an otherwise linear argument, not screen-based books.

Tools and Platforms for Multimedia Publishing

ARTECA is an online collection of books, journals, podcasts, and videos at MIT Press.

Editoria is a recently launched all-in-one workflow platform for scholarly monographs, aiming to reduce interoperability challenges among editing, typesetting, and semantic content for the web (PDF, Epub, and print). Developed by the University of California Press and the California Digital Library under a grant from the Mellon Foundation.  It is not designed specifically to accommodate multimedia, but note that normally an Epub can include embedded video and outbound links.

Fulcrum is a publishing platform developed at the University of Michigan that helps publishers present the full richness of their authors’ research outputs in a durable, discoverable, and flexible form.  (Funded by the Mellon Foundation.) Fulcrum recently incorporated Hypothesis for annotation functionality. Other university presses are experimenting with it (see above).

iBooks is the venue for some multimedia books.  Books are available for download on a Mac or iOS device. Multi-touch books can be read with iBooks on a Mac or iOS device. (Books with interactive features work best on the latter.)

Kindle e-books from Amazon can include outbound links and audio and video excerpts. However, only the Kindle app for iPhone and iPad can play the embedded multimedia; Kindle has not developed that capability for Mac and PC (!).  Note that the Kindle uses a version of the Mobi format, not Epub. Another drawback is that audio and video have to be uploaded through a publisher’s account and cannot be done by individuals (according to Bookarchitects in Austin, TX).

Kobo is an online book retailer with millions of ebooks available; most US publishers submit e-book files to Kobo as well as Kindle and Nook, although the latter two are more well known.  Because their ebooks use the Epub format, it is possible to embed and link to multimedia content within the books.

Manifold Scholarship is an initiative to develop a platform for publishing networked, iterative, media-rich, and interactive monographs on the web. A joint partnership between the University of Minnesota Press, the GC Digital Scholarship Lab at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and Cast Iron Coding (Portland, OR), the open-source platform was released in March 2018.  (Funded by the Mellon Foundation.) suitable for a wide range of projects, from media enriched to text-only.  Currently it is being used by the University of Minnesota Press. The aim is to have other university presses, libraries, and scholarly organizations, DH Centers, academic programs, professional associations, and individual scholars install and use the platform to publish works. The application process has closed for the first round of installations and training; they will begin accepting applications in April 2019 for the second round, which will run from August 2019 through March of 2020.

Nook from Barnes & Noble uses the Epub format for enhanced ebooks (for example To Kill a Mockingbird with audio and video enhancements).  Presumably any device that can read an Epub can play the multimedia. [NEED TO TEST.]

Omeka: an open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions.  Libraries use it to host online image galleries, for example, and it does accommodate video.

Public Knowledge Project (PKP) is a multi-university initiative developing (free) open source software and conducting research to improve the quality and reach of scholarly publishing.  PKP has created open source publishing workflow environments, including Open Journal Systems and Open Monograph Press, to make starting up and running a publishing program more efficient and cost effective.

Racontr is a subscription service that allows creation of interactive video and 3D/VR projects; the interface is fairly user friendly.  Upload videos, text, images (directly from Photoshop and other popular programs). You can download your entire project to publish it online and it will work independently on your website (Drupal, WordPress, etc.).  It does not need separate video hosting or other libraries.

Scalar is open-source software enabling born-digital, media-rich, scholarly publishing.  Especially good for nonlinear narratives. Note that the related journal, Vectors, ceased publishing in 2013, but some university presses are willing to feature a Scalar project or even include links in an ebook (Duke University Press, Stanford University Press, and the University of Minnesota Press have done this, for example).  Scalar is based at the University of Southern California.

Vega is a project to develop a new workflow for open access books, based at Wayne State University.  Vega will offer flexibility in peer review and editorial workflows, making it the first editorial content management system to accommodate both traditional and multimedia publishing processes.

Other Venues – DH-Related Organizations, Conferences, and Programs

3D event: 3DUI 2016: IEEE Symposium on 3D User Interfaces Summit, Greenville, SC.  2017 version is in L.A.  http://3dui.org/

AIUCD is the Italian Association – http://www.aiucd.it/ -they have a conference in Italy every year and they have journal, Umanistica Digitale – https://umanisticadigitale.unibo.it/

Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO)

The Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO) is an umbrella organization whose goals are to promote and support digital research and teaching across arts and humanities disciplines, drawing together humanists engaged in digital and computer-assisted research, teaching, creation, dissemination, and beyond, in all areas reflected by its diverse membership.




Augmented Reality conference: Salento AVR 2017: 4th International Conference on Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Computer Graphics, Ugento, Italy, June 12-15.   Papers will be published by Springer. http://www.salentoavr.it/

Augmented World Expo 2016, June 1-2, 2016, Santa Clara, CA.

Wearable computing, etc.    http://thearea.org/augmented-world-expo-2016-santa-clara-ca-june 12-2016/

Broadcast Education Association has an annual conference that now includes a competitive Festival of Media Arts offering peer review of creative submissions; separate competitions for faculty and students cover the range from dramatic narratives, through non-fiction documentary and news, to the frontiers of interactive multimedia.  The 2017 BEA conference included more than 250 events and research sessions, including a Research Symposium dedicated to video games. (Their quarterly Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, published by Taylor & Francis, does not appear to include multimedia, although its topics include the technological, social, psychological, cultural, historical, political, economic, legal and policy dimensions of multimedia.)

Canadian Society for Digital Humanities has an annual confereTnce.

CenterNet is an international network of DH centers that holds its annual member meeting at the DH meeting.

Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) is the association for academics and professionals who research digital games and associated phenomena. It encourages high-quality research on games, and promotes collaboration and dissemination of work by its members.  It has various chapters around the world. The University of Turin hosted a 2018 conference: http://digra2018.com/ and another conference will take place in China in September 2018.

Digital Heritage: FH&I   C/iRLN: Special Track on Digital Heritage and the Immersive City

@IRLN 2017, June 26-29, 2017, Coimbra, Portugal.


Digital Humanities annual international conference, sponsored by the ADHO.  Utrecht 2019 and Ottawa 2020.  Note the “AV in DH” group that has met at recent conferences (Montréal 2017 and Mexico City 2018).

ETIS   2017: European Tangible Interaction Studio, June 19­­–23, 2017, aiming to bring young scholars together with more established scholars.


Future of Storytelling Festival, October 6–9, 2017.  500 attendees apply to attend. Includes workshops, presentations, and Story Arcade, “the very best in interactive and immersive storytelling projects and technologies.”

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) is an interdisciplinary community of humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists, and technologists changing the way we teach and learn. 16,000+ members from over 400+ affiliate organizations share ideas, news, tools, research, insights, pedagogy, methods, and projects–including Digital Humanities and other born-digital scholarship–and collaborate on various HASTAC initiatives.

HASTAC Groups offer members a space where you can network, organize, plan and report on your work with the help of a suite of tools, including a group calendar, forums, wikis and access to group-only communications. For example, see the group Publishing Makerspace, which is dedicated to redefining scholarly publishing to include all the forms of work that scholars are producing today.

Humanistica (www.humanisti.ca) is a Francophone association. They have a journal: http://www.humanisti.ca/revue/

Humanities Commons is a nonprofit network open to anyone; a project of the office of scholarly communication at the Modern Language Association (funded by the Mellon Foundation), its goal is to serve as a place where humanities scholars can create a professional profile, discuss common interests, develop new publications, and share their work.

i-Docs is a the three day event dedicated to the expanding and evolving field of interactive documentary.  On their website they publish news, analysis, and dialog between practitioners, researchers, students, and enthusiasts; it runs on a community model and welcomes submissions.  i-Docs is based at the Digital Culture Research Centre at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

International Documentary Association holds Getting Real, a biennial conference on documentary media. This three-day conference will attract over 800 participants and is the only gathering of its kind in North America. The 2018 edition will take place September 25–27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

International Society for Virtual Systems and Multimedia, http://vsmm.org/

ISMAR: 16th IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality, October 9- 13, 2017, Nantes, France.  Nothing about art history or cities or storytelling mentioned; this might be typical of more scientific/comp sci events.  https://ismar2017.sciencesconf.org/

Japanese Association for Digital Humanities has a conference: https://www.jadh.org/node/8  that people can give English talks at.   (See above for their journal.)

Radical Open Access Collective http://radicaloa.disruptivemedia.org.uk/ includes a directory of scholar-led presses, many of which have some creative/critical or digital leanings.

THATCamp, The Humanities and Technology Camp, is do-it-yourself “unconference” in which humanists and technologists of all skill levels learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot. They are organized around the country following guidelines on the central website.

Virtual Prototyping Summer School, July 11-15, 2016, Milan. Industrial engineering focus.  



The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Scholarly Communications section has funded many publishing experiments.  (However, they do not accept unsolicited proposals.)

The Getty Foundation, together with the Kress Foundation, has supported institutes on digital art history to urge broader disciplinary inclusion as well as further engagement with multimodal materials.

The Kress Foundation gives grants for research projects on European art from antiquity to the early 19th century.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has funded institutes on digital scholarship, including VARDHI at Duke University.

Non-Traditional Scholarship and Peer Review

Picture of Titanic sinking in ocean with caption "It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others."
This “Mistakes” poster available on despair.com introduced John Unsworth’s talk. The caption reads, “It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.”

This is a brief summary of takeaways from a Scholarly Communications Symposium on the topic of peer review, held at UNC Greensboro on April 2, 2018, based on 16 pages of notes typed on the fly; any errors are my own, and corrections for accuracy are welcome (sylvia dot miller at duke dot edu).

Click here to jump to the main sections of this post:

Digital Humanities – Community Engagement – Transdisciplinary Research and Education – Last but Not Least: What Counts

Three flavors of non-traditional scholarship were addressed at this valuable all-day symposium: (1) scholarship characterized by digital methods and outputs and (2) engaged scholarship, i.e., public humanities and the work of scholar-activists in communities outside of the academy; and (3) transdisciplinary research and education. The focus, however, was mostly on the first two, because neither is easily represented in the form of written narrative that traditionally flows into the kinds of publications that tenure-review committees prefer to evaluate, whether by force of habit, unwillingness to change, lack of appreciation for the new work, and/or absence of established evaluative criteria. The symposium aimed to provide a way forward by sharing practical examples in which peer review of non-traditional work had been successfully accomplished.  Takeaways from the three individual talks and two panels that might be instructive follow.

Digital Humanities

Both Andrew Torget, Department of History and Digital Humanities Lab, University of North Texas, and John Unsworth, University Librarian and Professor of English, University of Virginia, candidly related stories–long, detailed, complicated, and even dramatic–about their struggles to gain recognition for their work.  Here I have attempted a mashup of lessons they imparted:

  • It is a special challenge to have digital scholarship evaluated in the medium in which it is best understood and appreciated; ideally, additional outside reviewers would be added to the tenure-review faculty board who are experts in the medium. In one case (Andrew Torget, University of North Texas), five additional outside reviewers were added to evaluate the digital aspects of his work.
  • A practical if imperfect approach for reviewers who want to see a traditional portfolio is to write a précis for each project, including careful delineation of the candidate’s role in collaborations as well as links to the digital work.
  • Respect for new work cannot be gained all at once; winning grants, speaking at conferences, and having one or two vocal faculty and/or administrative supporters are helpful. Added to these, ongoing meetings and conversations to share the work can familiarize colleagues with it along the way and cultivate relationships. Humility (“I need your help”) is effective.
  • Framing digital projects as nodes on the way to a book can be effective, if that fits the researcher’s plan.
  • Once a scholar working primarily in digital media gains tenure in a department, it is easier the next time, for the next candidate. Nevertheless, the first time should not be an exception to the rule; to move the department, the institution, and the profession to a new place for future scholars, the tenure guidelines must be changed.
  • While statements from societies such as AHA and MLA have a positive influence, changing guidelines locally is a monumental task (in one case, it necessitated a meeting of 35 people). The goal is to list “digital projects that have been favorably reviewed” on par with books and articles as work that will satisfy the requirements.
  • Both speakers expressed awareness that all of the above might have been even more challenging if they were not white males.

Unsworth concluded, “In universities and fundamentally traditional humanities departments, change is so slow that it could be mistaken for stasis, unless your frame of reference is decades. . . . The digital humanities have changed what we write about and have started to change what we consider an interesting research project.”

Community Engagement

Emily Janke, Director of the Institute for Community and Economic Engagement and Terri Shelton, Vice Chancellor of Research and Engagement, UNC Greensboro are working with a task force that includes James Albright, Director of Guilford County Emergency Services, to write “community-engaged guidelines.” The panelists argued that quality is validated by long-term relationships, ongoing contracts with local organizations, and tangible measures such as fewer deaths and safer streets in the communities where they are working to reduce gangs and domestic violence. In ongoing community work, evaluation and implementation inform each other iteratively and happen simultaneously; legally approved structures form that can make it easier for government agencies, communities, and academics to collaborate on other projects in the future.

Guidelines will place value on open data, not only for ease of community access to information and services but also to enable reproducibility and scalabiity.  Later in the day, the theme of openness was central to a panel on community-engaged scholarship given by Stephen Sills, Director, Center for Housing and Community Studies, Somya Mohanty, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, UNC Greensboro, and Evan Goldstein, Assistant Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, UNC Chapel Hill.  The audience was especially taken with a rainbow chart of ways to make one’s workflow more open (by Jeroen Bosman and Bianca Kramer of Utrecht University).

Sills said that his department (Sociology) is rewriting their tenure and promotion guidelines to include community engagement in the category of scholarship.  They are trying to write the guidelines in a way that is open and flexible; he mentioned “scholarly products” as a potentially useful term that might include, for example, a documentary with a million views on YouTube as well as scholarly articles.

Transdisciplinary Research and Education

Sharing exciting examples about new anti-microbials, “smart plants,” and prosthetics, to name a few, Daniel Herr, of UNC Greensboro’s Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, emphasized the importance of encouraging the convergence of disciplines (such as  nanoscience, physics, math, chemistry, and biology) and entrepreneurial creativity.  Herr did not address tenure and promotion directly but indicated that the quality of the work is evidenced not only in publications but also patents and inventions that benefit society.

Last but Not Least: What Counts

 Opening the day–but shared here as more of a conclusion–was a thoughtful talk by Kathleen Fitzpatrick (MSU Director of Digital Humanities and previously Director of Scholarly Communication for the MLA), who zoomed out to offer a larger, more philosophical view of the challenge. Her talk was about what we value:  what counts, what should count, and why we should give up our reliance on easy quantitative measures to seek more subjective, qualitative judgements about a scholar’s path to intellectual leadership, from establishing one’s voice, to helping other scholars establish their voices, to having an impact on his or her field.  The tenure process, she argued, is and ought to be individual; we need to seek ways to be equitable without imposing an impossible objectivity.

To consider “what we genuinely value,” she warned against the following:  being stymied by the unfamiliarity of the work, trying to turn a tenure candidate into someone different from the person who was hired, doubling the candidate’s workload (adding traditional on top of non-traditional work), relying too much on quantitative measures, disqualifying reviewers with whom the candidate has presented on a panel or served on a board (thus punishing collaboration and professional relationships), marginalizing teaching.

She advocated for the following: evaluator learning (including support of junior faculty as they “mentor up”), engaging with the work on its own terms in in its own medium, recognizing distinct measures of impact across fields, engaging appropriate experts to evaluate the work but not relying on them entirely, balancing objectivity and subjectivity, rewarding collaboration.

“Standards and processes should be considered in light of the ways the work is being read or experienced, how scholarly values are manifested in a career in process,” she concluded.

Her slides are available here.

Resources she recommended were society guidelines and the policies at Emory University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Translation & Publishing in the Global South


Library of Muyinga in Burundi, by BC Architects

This is a summary, with a bit of commentary, of an event that took place at Duke’s Franklin Humanities Institute on January 25, 2018.

Translation—especially the challenge of translating poetry—has always fascinated me because, as a balance of compromises, it is nearly impossible to do satisfactorily, while at the same time it is absolutely necessary for respectful human communication and meaningful cultural exchange:  respectful because not everyone in the world should be expected to master English, and meaningful because human expression comes in so many flavors that are revelatory if we truly try to understand word for word, phrase for phrase, and culture to culture.

A translator tries to offer not only literal meaning but also some flavor of the sound and rhythm, the multiple layers of meaning, and the aesthetics of the tradition within which, or against which, the original author is working. As we took a serious look at translation and publishing in an all-day event entitled Translation & Publishing in the Global South at Duke’s Franklin Humanities Institute, we were thinking a lot about that tension between impossibility and necessity, idealism and practicality. In the spirit of the Publishing Humanities Initiative, I hope that everyone came away with some practical knowledge and inspiration to move forward with their own projects.

An encyclopedic treatment of translation and publishing in the Global South would ideally include many voices from the South as well as information on South-to-South publishing, publishing companies in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, and translation across many different languages other than English. Despite our ambitious event title, we were not able to accomplish quite that much (if only!); nevertheless, we heard informative talks that caused a small but highly engaged cohort to stay all day. Indeed, some of the speakers seemed to learn as much from each other’s presentations as the faculty and graduate students in the audience did.

Following is my attempt to summarize the salient points from each talk.

Juan Obarrio, Johns Hopkins University, “Interlingual Exchange in the Global South: Translating and Publishing Critical Theory.”

In addition to his own distinguished scholarly writing on critical theory and political anthropology, Juan is editor of Critical Times, a new, forthcoming journal from the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs. He is also co-editor, with Nancy Rose Hunt and Achille Mbembe, of Theory in Forms, a new book series from Duke University Press. Originally from Argentina, he has spearheaded efforts to encourage and enable South-to-South translation; notably, he ran a program on critical theory at the University of San Martín for five years. He spoke of how “very difficult” it is to produce joint research projects across the global South; he brings experience of the victories and failures from those ventures to his new publishing projects.

In this talk, he pointed out the limitations of the postcolonial view from the North of the South, where colonial violence, economic imperialism, and the “dynamics of extractive captial” are powerfully present, and he emphasized the importance of sharing humanistic production not only from the North to all countries and cultures that are wrestling with a colonial past, but also disseminating work that originates in (/is “immanent from”) the South. Ideally, the trajectory of such dissemination moves not only North, to the United States and Europe, but also South-to-South, for example from Latin America to Africa and vice versa. The very idea of “theory from the South” is radical, challenging persistent international assumptions about hierarchies and linear flows (North to South) of ideas and information. It “reorients the debate on universals and particulars, center and periphery.”

Theorizing this interlingual exchange in and from the South is important, while enacting it on a practical plane is an enormous challenge that the new journal and book series attempt to take up in different ways. The book series will include both established authors and “young, brilliant scholars from Africa, South Asia, and Latin America”; the editors are receiving many submissions. Financed initially by a three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation, the journal, Critical Times, will present themed issues on “the most important political and intellectual debates that are not part of our conversation here” and include “also arts and performances and the theorization around that.” Over time the plan is for issues to originate in the South as well as include “dossiers” of materials on topics like global women’s movements and Black Lives Matter.

One of many interesting challenges that Juan mentioned is the fact that “theory from the South is produced not only by academics but also by public intellectuals and social movements.” In addition, regions of the South are compartmentalized; global collaborations are needed to share and publish scholarship, perhaps in the form of “triangulations” that might include one Northern institution and two Southern. Not only would Southern work be translated into English, but also translations would move across South Asia, the Middle East, and so on, with translators for multiple languages provided at meetings and events.

In reviewing my notes from this powerful plea, or demand, for the South to be heard, it strikes me that Juan is placing great trust and a heavy and important burden on publishing. Nevertheless, his confidence in the potential of publishing is not misplaced, and these unique new projects could someday be regarded as catalysts for a new wave of global scholarly exchange in the humanities.

David Hansen, Director of Copyright and Scholarly Communication, Duke University Libraries, spoke next on “International Copyright Law and Translation.” David is both a librarian and a copyright lawyer. Note that many research universities have a Scholarly Communications librarian on staff, who is usually a copyright lawyer. Many faculty members do not know that they have the luxury of consulting such an expert on their own projects, free of charge. Typically, at a publishing company, there is no full-time, on-staff copyright lawyer; permission to consult the expensive lawyer is given sparingly. At Duke, David has also trained a fleet of librarians dubbed Copyright Consultants.

David offered a practical review of international copyright law, which is not consistent across all countries and continents. He recommended that scholars handle rights in three steps: (1) determine whether the work is protected by copyright or in the public domain; (2) research whether one can use the work according to any applicable contractual, fair use, privacy, or ethical considerations; and (3) communicate to one’s audience what one knows about the rights.

Starting with item number 1, to translate a work, the translator must first determine its rights status, which is governed by the country where the work was first published. This is important because there are cases in which a work is in the public domain in the US but not elsewhere. He offered several useful websites, including the Cornell University Library Information Center, which offers the best current chart that he knows for helping to determine whether or not a work is protected by copyright or in the public domain.

David showed Section 102 of the Copyright Act on the screen. Several aspects of it are admittedly “very U.S. and U.K. centric,” but it is fundamental to copyright protection in most of the world. It is important to note that since 1989, a creator does not have to include a copyright notice on a work for it to be copyrighted. As long as you have put your ideas into a “fixed form,” the work you have thereby created is automatically copyrighted.

He reviewed the “fair use” doctrine that allows the reasonable reuse of quotations and excerpts as determined by the balancing of four factors including the proportion of the original being quoted and the potential to damage the market for the original work (see the US Copyright Office online).

Many works today carry a Creative Commons license, a legally binding statement whereby a creator can allow free sharing and reuse of their work without additional permission or contracts. There are several flavors of these licenses which always require attribution and are intended to ease the free flow of information. Some CC licenses include a “no derivatives” statement; note that a translation is considered a derivative work.

David pointed out that the “communication piece” is as important as researching copyright status: note how the Duke Library communicates about sources and what can be done with the material (for example, see the “Rights Note” attached to any of the Radio Haiti recordings). He advised that translators communicate what they know about the rights in a rights note. Without such explicit communication, future potential uses of the work can be inadvertently stifled.

Deciding on what uses are allowed is sometimes a matter of balancing risks (“Where am I likely to get sued?”). It is important to note that law is not the only factor to apply to such decisions; “Good actors try to respect the wishes of the creators,” David said. A translator should acknowledge the original, whether or not that is legally required. An interesting development is the Traditional Knowledge Licensing and Labeling Website, which is a project to create a kind of Creative Commons for traditional knowledge of local and indigenous communities.

Sandie Blaise, PhD Candidate at Duke, spoke first in the afternoon to share her research on publishing in Haiti (“Overcoming Francophonie: A Haitian Case Study”). Having gathered statistics on the publishing industry in Haiti as well as interviewed some twenty publishers there, she underscored the truth of the general picture that Juan Obarrio had painted of publishing in the Global South. Most publishing in Haiti is in French and the books come from France; they serve an elite audience of educated people who can afford to buy books. Meanwhile, most Haitians speak Creole in their daily lives; literacy rates reached a height of 53% in 2003, but only recently have some intrepid local publishing companies begun publishing books in Creole, with an emphasis on poetry and “youth” or Young Adult literature. New publishing companies since 2011 are C3 Editions, Legs Editions, and Association Lève. Run by young professionals, they offer their books on Amazon and publicize on FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter. Although they offer discounted e-versions, paperbacks are more popular. The sales record for a book in Creole is held by a paper version of a poetry collection.

Sandie passed around copies of some of these new books and discussed the economic challenge of keeping prices low while negotiating small print runs and acceptable production quality from printing/binding vendors. Taking these significant practical steps, “local actors have resisted the cultural, linguistic and economic domination of French and France by carving out a space of autonomy for the Haitian book market and promoting Creole as a written language.”

Publishers’ Panel

This panel was intended to highlight what scholarly publishers do to enable exchange of scholarly ideas across national borders.

 Victoria Wells, former director of contracts and Subsidiary Rights, University of North Carolina Press, spoke of book fairs around the world; most have some rights-selling going on at them, but certain fairs are especially focused on rights: Frankfurt, Beijing, Guadalajara. Vicky attended the Frankfurt Book Fair every year for nearly two decades to make and keep contacts with foreign publishers; over three and a half days, she would meet with some fifty people at the UNC Press booth.

From each Fall and Spring list of forthcoming UNC Press books, she would select those that had the best chance of selling in certain non-US markets and create a “rights guide” to promote these books to other publishers, based on her experience with foreign publishers and distributors and the performance of previous translations.

She pointed out how important it is to choose a foreign publisher or distributor who will actually promote the book in their markets; it can be frustrating to see a book be translated but sit on the shelf because there is no marketing push for it.

In working out a fair contract, many details were arranged including permission for illustrations, how the quality of the translation would be evaluated, and payment schedules. She named several examples of books that were translated widely; Hiroshima Diary might be UNC Press’s record, with twenty different translations.

“Most authors sign over all rights to the university press,” Vicky explained, “Because we are best positioned to exploit those rights.” This is an important point, because some writers’ advocates and organizations will recommend that authors retain subsidiary rights; if you want time to work on your next book, it’s reasonable to let your publisher serve as your agent in these matters.

 Elizabeth Ault, Editor, Duke University Press, is Juan Obarrio’s editor for the new Theory in Forms series mentioned above. She pointed out several ventures in translation at the Press, including a new bilingual en face edition of Cesaire’s Cahiers and a longstanding Latin American in Translation Series, a joint effort with the University of North Carolina Press and Duke’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS); interestingly, in choosing one translation per year for the Latin American series from twenty to forty submissions, the publishers assume that most of the potential audience has already read the work in Spanish or Portuguese, so the publishing decision is focused on the potential for the work to “break into the conversation” in English, be taught in courses, or otherwise appeal to a wider audience.

In the World Readers series, each volume includes around fifty pieces chosen by the academic editor, who arranges for the translations while an editorial intern at the Press negotiates permissions. “The Readers,” Elizabeth explained, “are a huge undertaking but extremely successful.”

An investment in a translation is usually a double investment, she noted; first the Press buys the translation rights; then, the translation itself must be paid for. For the translator, there is not much money to be made; it is often a labor of love. Nor is there much scholarly credit gained, although the work is important in a larger sense.

Finally, Molly Hansen, a Marketing Associate for Latin America at Oxford University Press’s office in Cary, North Carolina, told us about marketing Oxford books and journals to Brazilian libraries. She travels to trade fairs and communicates with librarians almost exclusively in Portuguese about books in English that their patrons—Brazilian scholars and students who are proficient in English—will use for their research. Face to face meetings are crucial, she finds, though she also communicates a lot via email and prepares marketing materials that organize new publications by discipline.  Outside of the book fairs, the efforts of her marketing group focus mostly on online resources; the countries they hear from the most are Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Paraguay.

Molly’s role at OUP, part of a larger international marketing and sales operation, gave us a window into the complexity of an international publishing business (OUP is, in fact, one of the largest publishers in the world). The audience also appreciated hearing that she had earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies (Tulane University) and had found this interesting and worthwhile way to make use of her education.

Riot Grrls and Maker Culture at Zine Workshop

Several zines in Sylvia’s incipient collection.

Now seemed to be exactly the right moment for the Publishing Humanities Initiative / FHI Story Lab’s event with Sallie Bingham Center curator Kelly Wooten, Publishing It Yourself: Pamphlets, Zines, and Riot Grrls. The variety of folks who participated in the sold-out event on December 6, 2017 was exactly what one might hope for in a public humanities context. In addition to Duke students, participants included artists, a documentary historian, a public historian, a publisher of an online community newsletter, two high school students, a bookseller from the Regulator bookshop, an activist, an educator who works with junior high kids, a scientist who is also a novelist, and a creator of zines for charities.

Several participants were activists or publishers who wanted to return to the visceral, physical individual-to-individual connection created by zines. All seemed equally interested in both the serious talk on the role of zines in Third Wave feminism and the more playful, creative hands-on workshop that followed, in which we learned to fold a simple zine and then made our own collage-filled zines with scissors, glue, and old magazines to cut up. Hearing about a low-tech  underground movement so relevant to our current odd and crucial moment in the history of feminism was a natural invitation to create and communicate in ways unmediated by digital tools.  Some newly acquainted participants were inspired to invent a zine collaboratively, and some stayed on past the official end of the 2.5-hour event to sew pamphlet bindings.

During her talk, Kelly described Third Wave feminism in the early 1990s; she shared Riot Grrl zines and a map showing how these informal photocopied publications with their edgy drawings carried revolutionary ideas around the United States and beyond via mail and couch-surfing musicians.

Kelly read aloud a quotation from Rebecca Walker’s 1992 essay in Ms Magazine, “Becoming the Third Wave,” penned in the wake of Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas, that is strikingly relevant today:

“To be a feminist is to integrate an ideology of equality and female empowerment into the very fiber of my life. It is to search for personal clarity in the midst of systemic destruction, to join in sisterhood with women when often we are divided, to understand power structures with the intention of challenging them. While this may sound simple, it is exactly the kind of stand that many of my peers are unwilling to take. So I write this as a plea to all women, especially the women of my generation: Let Thomas’ confirmation serve to remind you, as it did me, that the fight is far from over. Let this dismissal of a woman’s experience move you to anger. Turn that outrage into political power. Do not vote for them unless they work for us. Do not have sex with them, do not break bread with them, do not nurture them if they don’t prioritize our freedom to control our bodies and our lives.

“I am not a postfeminism feminist. I am the Third Wave.”

You could have heard a pin drop in the Story Lab as we all absorbed the power and relevance of Walker’s words.  Then we turned to Making–connecting mind to hand, past to present, and new collaborations to the future.

(Click here for more info on Publishing Humanities Initiative events.)

Reflections on DH2017 Montréal

Room in Museum of Fine Arts, Montréal
Video projections of swaying trees and twittering birds in the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts bring back the magic feeling that painted clouds and cherubs might have inspired centuries ago. Photo by Sylvia K. Miller.

By Sylvia K. Miller and Hannah Jacobs

Some new trends emerge as Duke colleagues reflect on DH2017 in Montréal and contrast it with previous DH conferences. Following is a distillation of our observations in the form of a list of takeaways:

  • Collaboration. There was more frequent reference to project partners, indicating more acceptance, even embracing of, collaboration. Many presenters explicitly, fully, gratefully thanked their team colleagues, showed their pictures on the screen, etc. Associated with this positive development for DH and humanities at large is concern over how collaborators are to be formally credited for publication and tenure.
  • Diversity. The diversity workshop, for the first time open to all attendees, was a critical moment indicating that the community remains committed to addressing its diversity challenges.
  • Librarians are more and more taking ownership of their role in enabling and supporting DH. I attended the “DH in Libraries” SIG meeting, and the lecture hall was quite full; I’d guestimate 200+ people. There were a number of projects to classify library/archive collections in new ways.
  • TEI is more synonymous than ever with XML in the library world and world of DH scholarship. This is important for publishers to know if they are collaborating on multimodal projects that will have integrated library or repository components. (XML comes in different established schemas; TEI=Text Encoding Initiative.)
  • “Phygital.” I heard more about the interplay between analog and digital forms, particularly 3D printing. (One paper called multimodal physical/digital projects “phygital,” though it is impossible to predict whether the term will stick!) The phenomenon of 3D printing of historical artifacts is fascinating and problematic: is it right to “copy” an artifact before returning it to the community from which it was stolen? (What if the artifact is a human bone?)
  • Music/art. There was more art and music this year, though the emphasis of the conference is still more computational than artistic.
  • Visualization. The expansion of visualization as an accepted DH practice stood out. There was an increased presence of visualization in its many forms; especially prevalent were node maps showing network relationships and geo-maps showing data sources or trajectories. Some of this work was also self-study (e.g., Taxonomy of Digital Research Activities in the Humanities, TADIRAH).
  • Cultural heritage work was a theme. In Europe it is well funded, but systems developed there are not universally applicable; scholars working with American Indian communities find that digitization challenges and metadata schemas are very different in the US context.
  • Overlaps. Several different teams around the world found that they are developing similar tools. At DH2015 in Sydney, there was a lot of special OCR work and machine-reading of historical texts with special scripts or other visual challenges. At DH2017, there seemed to be a significant amount of attention to adapting face-recognition software to recognition and comparison of other types of visual data (e.g., newspaper layouts, furniture/decorative arts, etc.).
  • Publishing. The conference demonstrated a wide variety of computational, visual, and interactive scholarship that demands new modes of publication. Sylvia has noted some specific, if scattered, developments elsewhere; taken together, they remind us that scholarly publishing in its current form is seen by practitioners of DH as a barrier to growth and innovation.
  • There was some AR and VR at the conference but not as much as one might expect. One exciting AR project stands out in retrospect, a project by Amanda Marie Licastro (Stevenson University, MD) to share the experience of Syrian refugees and create empathy in millennial students, who are, according to research, 40 percent less empathetic than earlier generations(!); in the Q&A session, she told a striking story about a student whose views were radically changed by the VR experience. I also heard about an exciting visualization project from Rachel Hendery of the University of Western Sydney, a projection of a node map inside a dome, where people can experience it together in 3D without having to wear 3D equipment.
  • Funding. Mellon and NEH are the important funders of US work. European work is well funded by governments and the EU.  There is a new government-funded DH initiative in South Africa.
  • Peer review. There were many calls for proper peer review and recognition of DH as legitimate scholarship for promotion and tenure. One speaker mentioned that the University of Florida is the latest institution to create a DH peer review committee; content creators were asked to recommend a level of equivalency in terms of traditional scholarship on which the DH project should be evaluated.  This was considered not ideal but perhaps a necessary interim step. (In this context, the Mellon-funded project at Brown University to evaluate digital scholarship at the department level seems especially interesting and ambitious.)
  • Congenial spirit. There was a great deal of friendliness and mutual appreciation at this meeting; many scholars, especially graduate students, feel alone at their own institutions and appreciate meeting like-minded people. The group Tweeted up a storm! See #dh2017  (and @SylviaKMiller)
  • Attendance. I heard that there were around 1,100 people at the meeting.  I have not been able to confirm this online and have written to the ADHO–Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations, the umbrella organization that hosts the conference.
  • Future meetings. Next year the meeting will be in Mexico City, June 24–30, 2018; in 2019, Utrecht.

Humanities Futures

Screen shot from Papers page of Humanities Futures site at https://humanitiesfutures.org/papers
Humanities Futures Papers page at https://humanitiesfutures.org/papers

Humanities Futures is an interesting example of publishing at the crossroads.  This Mellon-funded project at Duke’s John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute explores the future of humanities and interpretive social science disciplines and interdisciplines through an ongoing series of events such as talks, symposia, and conferences.  The project is unusually well documented, and this is where the publishing part comes in: in addition to posting video of many of the events, the FHI also publishes papers–“think pieces”–based on the talks. Some, but not all, later become journal articles or chapters in books, sometimes in the same form and in other cases thoroughly transformed. The papers are professionally edited and presented, although they are not peer reviewed, making them an interesting hybrid type of publication. Some might be considered “grey papers,” but not all.

Not to beat the metaphor too hard, but the think pieces might be said to represent a few things at a crossroads: (1) scholarly work, captured as it crosses from initial research and draft paper to formal publication; (2) scholarly publishing, as it experiments with a hybrid format combining elements of a searchable online database, an informal online journal, a blog, and conference proceedings; and last but not least, (3) humanities itself, which the project intends to both examine and reinvigorate at a perceived point of endangerment.

Recently I created the site’s first table of contents. The variety of topics covered is quite astonishing, as scholars are invited both to reflect on the future of a discipline or interdisciplinary topic and to demonstrate the future of scholarship through specific, exemplary work.  The most recent think pieces published on the Humanities Futures site are:

“Water Security in the Middle East and North Africa” by Neda Zawahri

“The Black Outdoors After Property and Possession” by J. Kameron Carter and Sarah Cervenak

“Multilingualism as Migration: Remarks on Literature, Philology, and Culture” by Till Dembeck

Hello world! Crossroads, Meeting Streets, and Makerspaces

Why “Crossroads”? If I ever started a publishing company, I would call it Meeting Street Publishing.  It refers to the collaboration that is behind most publishing projects, and it reminds me of many years attending the wonderful Charleston Conference, where librarians and publishers have equal billing. (Of course many towns have Meeting Streets, but Charleston’s is well known.)  “Meeting Street” as a metaphor is related to “Crossroads,” which is a reminder that scholars, publishers, librarians, and technologists will together determine the direction that scholarly publishing will take in the future.  Sometimes we think of publishing as a sort of weather pattern in the sky over which we have no control, but I am interested in how we shape the future through our choices.  “Meeting Street” is about communication and collaboration, while “Crossroads” adds to that the image of roads to be taken and not taken.

Some people say that publishing is changing rapidly, but in my experience over the last few decades (yikes, a long time!), this change is astonishingly slow. The pace definitely gives us time to reflect on what we are doing (or not doing).

The term “Crossroads” is also related to Publishing Makerspace, a working group that I co-founded in 2014.  It is dedicated to encouraging collaboration, supporting multi-modal publishing, and ultimately redefining scholarly publishing to include all the forms of work that scholars are creating today.

I like the idea of liminality–a boundary that is not a line but rather a creative space where categories overlap and recombine.  Whether I am planning an encyclopedia project that will define a field for a generation or sewing a pamphlet to please a friend, I appreciate the sense of “serious fun” and creative possibility inherent in publishing and want to share it.

Update 2022: I am still on Twitter @SylviaKMiller but also now on Mastodon @SylviaKMiller@hcommons.social.  See you there!