Play is Not The Opposite of Work: Stanford mediaX 2013 Conference

2013-01-08 08.28.02_edit1mediaX is the industry-affiliate program for Stanford H-STAR, the Human-Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute,

This is a curated archive and discussion of the Twitter social-media “backchannel” surrounding mediaX’s 10th anniversary conference, Jan 7-8 in Palo Alto.

1. Introduction: on mediaX, the event and the Twitter “back channel”
2. Conference program
3. Twitter archive
4. Twitter as privately-owned public space: critical use/making
5. Note on methodology, completeness, and archival stability
6. Final Note: Beyond Twitter, Newswires of the Future

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The Print-Academic Complex and the New Regime

Striphas. The Late Age of Print.

Striphas. “The Late Age of Print” (2011). click to get free copy

Yesterday I wrote a post “From Monograph to Multigraph: the Distributed Book,” discussing ideas for more networked, disaggregated modes of scholarly book creation and use. Thank you, but it has already been signed to Univ. Chicago Press as a e-single through BiblioVault for 2014, and is no longer online.  But I jest. Toootally available. 

In today’s incursion, I’d like to follow up with some reflections on three current projects that push boundaries of humanities monograph practice, both in their content and their publishing methods:

  1. Multigraph, at McGill University, 2012-14
  2. Digital_Humanities, from MIT Press, 2012
  3. Debates in the Digital Humanities, Univ. Minnesota Press / online edition, 2013

Together these examples show a field of contesting avant-gardes and notions of what a book is or should be;  a complex mixture of revolutionary boldness, establishment sophistication and recuperation; and continuing deep attachment to the authority of print publishing.

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From Monograph to Multigraph: the Distributed Book


from Multigraph project, McGill University (at

I’ve been thinking a lot about nanopublications recently. This is a concept primarily discussed in scientific scholarly communication. explains:

A nanopublication is the smallest unit of publishable information: an assertion about anything that can be uniquely identified and attributed to its author.

With nanopublications, it is possible to disseminate individual data as independent publications with or without an accompanying research article.

Nanopublications can be…machine readable…opening the door to universal interoperability…data to be analyzed for the discovery of new associations that would otherwise be beyond the capacity of human reasoning.

The nanopublishing idea builds on earlier concepts such as microformats, a way to mark elements within pages (or other content) for machine-readability and reusability:  for example, contact information, geographic coordinates, calendar events, or citation data.

T. H. Nelson's "Literary Machines," a key work in hypertext theory

T. H. Nelson’s “Literary Machines,” a key work in hypertext theory

You might say microformats and nanopublication are simply ways to generalize or extend the “page” model which the World Wide Web and HTML made so remarkably ubiquitous. They point out that it may often be useful to address, describe, and use separate elements within the customary unit of the page or document. More generally, the long tradition of hypertext theory and systems is all about making content more atomicized and networked.

With “nanopublishing,” I’ve been thinking not so much about science and logic/data elements, but about disaggregating books or articles in trade and Humanities/Social Science (HSS) publishing. That is to say, thinking about various ways to pull apart, reassemble books, or their production and use:

  • distributing or gathering content fragments while writing (tweet-writing?)
  • writing as link assemblage, or curation of elements which also exist independently.
  • allowing larger units such as monographs (books) to be used, distributed, commented on, linked down to atomic levels.

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Smart Parking, and Public vs Professional Academia

reflections on academics in public, “public sociology” vs. professional sociology, and Jack Mill’s “Three Differences Between an Academic and an Intellectual.

I. Background
II.  The Cyborgology post and I
III. on Public vs. Professional Sociology, & Intellectual vs. Academic

I. Background:

Parker smartphone app

Parker smartphone app

The New York Times ran a story on Dec 22, “The Learning Curve of Smart Parking” by SJSU professor & writer Randall Stross. It describes new systems to detect and communicate parking-space availability to individuals and authorities, and potentially dynamically alter pricing or monitor payment compliance.

Sociology PhD student Nathan Jurgenson wrote a post in reply, “‘Smart Parking’ and the Robert Moses Mistake,” on a blog he co-edits, Cyborgology, which is part of The Society Pages, a public social-sciences project headquartered in the Sociology department at the University of Minnesota.
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Public Library of Humanities: Envisioning a New Open Access Platform

"Academic Spring" protest image. Elsevier tree, bared

“Academic Spring” protest image. Elsevier tree, bared

Part 1: Background
or jump to Part 2: The Conversation

It’s been a revolutionary year in the academic world. In the UK, key fronts were the “Academic Spring” revolt against commercial subscription publishers, the Finch Report establishing UK government policy in support of Open Access publishing (free for all to access and use), and the Research Excellence Framework establishing social-impact based evaluation and funding for research.

Beyond just the UK, the “altmetrics” movement is championing broader measures of scholarly impact, dovetailing with both Open Access and REF, and the dramatic, Silicon Valley-led expansion of MOOC online learning models became a defining issue, almost obsession, in education. Internet oracle Clay Shirky sounded the death knell for higher-ed status quo, invoking the ghosts of industries lost:“Our MP3 is the MOOC, and our Napster is Udacity.” (translation: Look on your works, ye mighty, and despair.).

A current focal point in this fraught situation, is the question of how Open Access (OA) might work in the humanities and social sciences (“HSS”). That is, as opposed to, in the STEM fields (Scientific, Technical, Engineering, & Math) with which OA is now more pervasive, and for which funding models are better established.

Public Library of Science

Public Library of Science

Recent conversations on Twitter have explored the concept of a “Public Library of Humanities (PLOH)”, or Public Library of Humanities and Social Science (PLOHSS). Meaning, some new Open Access platform and/or organization for HSS analogous to the Public Library of Science, a non-profit launched in 2001 that has been a transformative innovator and now the highest-volume publisher of science research. While “PLOH” is basically a metaphor, for what could be various and multiple projects, it seems the concept resonates with many people in scholarly communication right now. There is a sense that some type of HSS “Great Leap Forward” may be possible now, given the gathering Open Access and REF mandates, the diffusion of better publishing tools and cloud computing, and the rise of altmetrics and social impact measurement.

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Better Communication Through Jargon

a history of Neoliberalism

The Director of Scholarly Communication for the Modern Language Association, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, recently posted two pieces to her blog “Planned Obsolescence” about the term neoliberal. 

In the first post, Fitzgerald expressed her exasperation with how this economic/political term’s meaning has been “dissipated”:

I have come to despise the term “neoliberal,” to the extent that I’d really like to see it stricken from academic vocabularies everywhere. It’s less that I have a problem with the actual critique that the term is meant to levy than with the utterly sloppy and nearly always casually derisive way in which the term is of late being thrown about.

Raymond Williams, Keywords (1976)

The term seems to be tiresomely overused, I would agree. On the other hand, I think such keywords (as Raymond William’s classic work called them) or frames are central and powerful aspects of critical/political communication, which we might look at how to better engage, explore, and leverage, rather than banish.

Along those lines, I propose a project: what if we built a participatory and community-publishedCritical Jargon File,” to provide shared reference points and support more sophisticated, effective, and precise discussion? For the scope, or community, of Humanities/Social Sciences (HSS) scholarly communication, let’s say. Continue reading