Author Archives: Julie Fuller

Victorian Literature Journals

Several of the major print journals in my field now offer online versions, including Victorian Studies (Indiana UP), Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP), and Victorian Periodicals Review (John Hopkins UP). These journals are all restricted access, the online versions being a way for the press to earn money by charging institutions to make the content available through their electronic library databases. I remember reading something in Core I about how university presses rely on this income scheme because for the most part they lack institutional funding, so the restricted access to the online versions of these journals is not surprising.

The Journal of Victorian Culture took its publication digital in a noteworthy, though not an open-access, way. Instead of offering digital editions of its print issues, the Journal of Victorian Culture launched an online supplement to the print publication. JVC Online bills itself as an “interactive site for debate and comment on topics arising from and related to the Journal of Victorian Culture.” So the site isn’t really about access to the journal’s content, you can only read snippets about articles, descriptions that are likely included for the purpose of encouraging print subscriptions (users are not really given enough access to be able to “debate and comment on topics arising from and related to” the content otherwise). The interactive intent of JVC Online, opening up the content of the journal to discussion and review by the public, presumes that users of the site would also be readers of (paying subscribers to) the print issue.

One open-access, online-only publication in my field is Victorian Network. This journal is “dedicated to publishing and promoting the best postgraduate work in Victorian Studies.” Can Victorian Network‘s support of publication opportunities for graduate students be connected to its online format? In a print journal, each article accepted means reducing the available space for other articles in the issue. However because an e-journal doesn’t share this spatial constraint, it’s editors may be more willing to accept articles that offer unconventional new takes on primary sources, the kinds of articles that print publications may deem a too risky use of space and that young scholars are perhaps most likely to write. I certainly don’t know of a print journal in my field that expressly devotes itself to publishing graduate student work. Each issue of Victorian Network is guest-edited by an established scholar in the field, while the articles accepted for publication are peer-reviewed by doctoral students (with final input from the guest editor). I wonder about the practice of peer review by doctoral students. Is it the result of established scholars being unwilling to volunteer their time as reviewers for this kind of publication (one they wouldn’t be publishing in themselves)? Although Victorian Network is an MLA-indexed publication, does a student-led review process mean a publication in this journal has less weight with hiring committees? Undoubtedly, grant funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council has everything to do with the journal’s ability to offer its content open access, so I also wonder if the use of doctoral students in the review process was helpful to getting that grant funding. . .

Another open-access, online journal is Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net (RaVoN) which has funding from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The e-journal is peer-reviewed by experts in the respective fields and 35 percent of submissions are accepted (not sure if this is high/low/average?). RaVoN’s “About” page doesn’t offer a high-minded mission statement for itself as an open-access initiative, but I am very interested in a sister publishing initiative to the e-journal started by one of its editors, Dino Felluga. BRANCH: Britain, Representation, and Nineteenth-Century History, 1775-1925, a site “intertwined” with RaVoN, is “an experiment in a new form of publication.” BRANCH promises to offer “a compilation of over 300 articles from some of the best critics writing on the period today,” amassing a peer-reviewed, copy-edited collection of resources on Victorian history and culture that goes beyond the Wikipedia model in both academic reliability and scholarly rigor. BRANCH’s open-access philosophy is clearly outlined: “Using only free, open-source tools (WordPress and the Mellon-funded SIMILE timeline), BRANCH seeks to push the bounds of scholarly endeavor while staying true to our scholarly values, and all without investment from either a commercial provider or even a scholarly press.” It is exciting to see how open-access ideals might be put to real effect to unhinge scholarship from the commercial constraints of the publishing industry. The proof of concept for BRANCH was supported by grant money borrowed from RaVoN and institutional research funds; now, the developer plans to seek more significant grant funding. For now, BRANCH is only accepting solicited contributions for publication, however the site will be opened up to unsolicited submissions in 2015. Despite being peer-reviewed, I don’t expect that a contribution to BRANCH—because the intended audience of the site is students and a non-academic public—would be given the same consideration by hiring committees as a publication in a scholarly journal. However, the site has published 100 articles as of this February (with 300 total promised by solicited contributors), so when BRANCH starts accepting open submissions in 2015, junior scholars in the field may find that the foundation of “expert” research that has accrued paves the way for this kind of venue to be accepted by hiring and promotion committees as a legitimate form of scholarly publication. While I know this probably isn’t exciting to the rest of you since you aren’t Victorianists, I wonder if this is a new model for publication that could work for other fields and disciplines?

Abstract Design: Some Project-Related Concerns

I am having a design-related issue with my project that overlaps with a lot of what we were discussing yesterday during class, so I thought I would try blogging about it. My problem has to do with how to present a set of images in a way that dynamically shows the differing relations between the representations in those images. While my design concerns largely have to do with information architecture and how I am going to stage my analyses of the images for viewers, crafting the aesthetic experience of my gallery is also important for how I want users to engage with it.

What I am running up against is how to convey abstract concepts through design. (Ashley, I really appreciated your post directing our attention to Maria Ebner’s use of “images as metaphors” because of how it speaks to this issue). My project brings Victorian illustrations and advertisements depicting female bodies together in varying visual configurations as a way of demonstrating how the shifting contours of these representations interact to form ideological spectrums. The abstract concept I am trying to figure out how to render through design is a spectrum. This concept is helpful to me because along a spectrum, the elements shift in prominence and blend in relation to each other, which is how I see different forms of female embodiment operating across the Victorian period. In my project brief, I proposed using a sliding image reel (see the image gallery of this website for what I have in mind) to render the concept of an ideological spectrum because “the sliding action across items in the reel mimics the blending that occurs within a spectrum and registers the changing prominence of forms across the period of a spectrum.” However, on the level of information architecture, I’m not sure whether a sliding image reel is really the clearest/most engaging way to relay my idea.

I can’t think of how else to convey a spectrum using images, but I worry that I am stuck on this because it is an aesthetic template I am already familiar with from web design. Along the lines of what Ben was suggesting in class, it is possible that that design aesthetic is affecting my thinking in a way that prevents me from conceiving another (perhaps more effective) approach.

Thoughts on Publicizing Work-in-Progess

Before addressing some of our readings for this week, I just wanted to include a few thoughts about the digital elevator pitch. It seems apropos that we are doing these pitches (and making them more or less public as we choose) during the week we discuss sharing work at an undeveloped stage. In discussing the parameters of our pitches last week, the issue of presenting our nascent ideas in a coherent way came up. I think this points to one of the major worries that arises with sharing undeveloped, perhaps even slightly incoherent, ideas publicly: how will our ideas—and thereby ourselves—if exposed in all  their messiness, be assessed and judged by others? I also found it interesting that many of us (including myself) had some anxiety about using a digital medium to present the pitch. To the question of how comfortable we are, or should be, with presenting our work in incomplete states, we might want to add the question of the pros/cons of presenting our work (at whatever stage of development) in formats we are not entirely comfortable with.

Now, on to this week’s readings. Rather than a single motivation, I offer some disconnected (though hopefully thought-provoking) comments about each piece:

Thoughts on Fitzpatrick & conference tweeting/blogging:

Our guiding questions for this week all focus on making the choice to take your work public, which you obviously do whenever you present a paper at a conference; however, it seems to me that the issue of conference tweeting/blogging is more about how other people might be taking your work public, or at least mediating that work to the public. Fitzpatrick writes, “While I have a hard time imagining giving a talk that I didn’t wish more people could hear, I know there are other scholars who are less comfortable with the broadcast of in-process material.” For me conference tweeting/blogging is not just a matter of how comfortable I might be with broadcasting in-process work, but how comfortable I am with someone else broadcasting (and perhaps misrepresenting) my in-process work. I get Fitzpatrick’s point that we should want as wide an audience as possible for our work. But is there not a big difference in presenting your own work to an audience, then responding directly to inconsistencies they may see in it via question/answer versus having someone else represent your work via tweet/blog and then you respond to that representation after the fact? Or does this even matter, meaning is there a way to see the latter as being just as productive for our process?

Thoughts on Coates & blogging:

The reason that I don’t read blogs, have a Facebook page, tweet or receive tweets is because the returns don’t seem to be worth the time these activities consume. We are all incredibly busy as students and thus have to be smart about what we put our time into. In his post on Hobbes’s Leviathan entitled “Western Thought for Dun Linguists and Schoolmen Reformed,” Coates gets stuck on a passage and writes “This totally lost me and its my hope that some of you will be able to help decipher.” Plenty of people respond with extensive comments doing just that, which results in a lot of material to wade through. I am part of an informal student reading/working group in my field of study and this is the kind of thing we do when we engage with scholarship—but we do it together for the hour or so that our meeting convenes, have rousing discussions about the text, respond directly to each other’s comments and questions that come up in the moment, grapple with it for the hour and that’s that—we move on because none of us have a ton of time to take away from our own writing, research, teaching, etc. Perhaps I’m just a slow reader, but it takes me a huge amount of time to wade through the extensive comments that Coates received in response to his query, not to mention the time that would be spent engaging with these comments in order to have some kind of back-and-forth discussion. I get why one might use a virtual forum if he/she didn’t have a “live” setting in which to have these kind of discussions, it just seems so inefficient to me. Perhaps the difference is that Coates holds a position as a senior editor at The Atlantic, whereas I am a grad student being pulled in a bunch of different directions as I try to produce publishable work, pursue research for larger projects, pass program examinations, do departmental committee work, fulfill teaching obligations, etc. I have the advantage of being part of an academic community where I can engage directly in the kinds of discussions one might otherwise have in a virtual space, so I’m just not convinced that blogging is the best use of my time. I’m wondering if any of you might be able to convince me otherwise?

[Side note:] In my student group we also share our work with each other—often in very early stages—and provide each other with direct feedback, which I have found to be an indispensable part of my process. We build trust with each other and gain familiarity with each other’s work which is part of why I find my group members are able to give me such helpful feedback. When the group workshops a piece of my writing, I don’t come away with just a bunch of disparate comments to take into consideration, as one might get with a blog—yes, each person gives individual comments but then we address, build upon, and work through those comments together. I could blog my work and get commentary that way, but I’m not convinced that this forum (though wider—that is, if anyone actually read this hypothetical blog of mine) would be as helpful. Anyone have any actual experience with blogging work and getting virtual feedback? I have been in classes where we had to blog regularly throughout the semester and one of those posts included sharing our idea for the final research paper and providing each other with feedback. I found this virtual feedback to very helpful, but by that point we had also had a semester of face-to-face discussion time in class together to build familiarity with each other’s interests and approaches, and to recognize connections/overlaps between our interests and approaches. I think there would be something inherently different about going to the public at large with nascent work because, for me, familiarity is key—but is this the case? Is there a way that unfamiliarity might allow for more objective commentary? (And of course, I realize it is possible to build familiarity over time in a virtual community of bloggers and commenters, but I don’t see it happening readily, especially for someone like myself who would be entirely new to the public blogging scene.)

Thoughts on DeLong:

So this motivation has become a very long one (that perhaps does more to expose my personal anxieties than anything else) but I just wanted to point to a few of the things in the DeLong article that make me (even more) nervous:

1.) “Web logging is an excellent procrastination tool. Don’t feel like grading? Don’t feel like writing that ad hoc committee report or completing the revisions demanded by clueless referee X? Write on your Web log and get the warm glow of having accomplished something.” Yes, it is an excellent procrastination tool and no, I don’t have the luxury of pretending like I’m accomplishing something when I’m procrastinating, even if it’s in an intellectually fulfilling way. Maybe if I was a tenured professor at Berkeley I could…

2.) “Plus — and this is the biggest plus — it is a play in the intellectual influence game.” Perhaps everything we do as part of publicizing our own ideas makes us players of this sort, but I find it alarming to think of what we do as competing in a game of intellectual influence. For DeLong and his 20,000 page-views that may be a gratifying thought, but as a junior scholar, I find it incredibly exclusionary. The notion of an “invisible college” seems like it should be some kind of utopian intellectual community; the reality of an “intellectual influence game” sounds really distopian to me. And, in relation to the question of sharing work at an undeveloped stage, if we are all competing for intellectual influence, I for one would be less likely to publicize work before it’s “done,” in other words, before it’s ready for competition.