transient as the news

I typically come to journal articles through JSTOR or emailed PDFs, the consequence being that I have not (yet?) developed a sense of familiarity nor a particular relationship with any single academic journal.  In some ways this resembles the way Napster changed the experience of listening to music in my late days of high school.  No longer were songs associated as parts of an album or handcrafted mixtape, but presented singularly, with their historical or cultural context somehow more effaced.  When such a significant amount of music became instantaneously available, the experience of consuming recorded music lost its time-specificity, or that indescribable memory sense (nostalgia?) that develops when one listens to particular music at particular moments of time. It flattened. Maybe it was more an effect of age rather than technological change, but it’s around that time that music started feeling like one more thing to keep up with rather than an engagement that could be moving.  Exhausting rather than replenishing.

In the same way, I consume articles without much more than a general sense of how the article stands in relation to the rest of the issue’s content nor why it appeared at that moment in that journal.   The relationship that I might have had with a journal, I have with JSTOR.   The role of content-selection typically played by editors of a certain journal is now replaced by the suggestions of peers, course assignments and my own abilities to imagine and sort out what might of interest to me in the infinite-seeming sea of articles.  It’s impersonal, disorienting and sublime and on bad days, makes intellectual consumption feel as transient as the news . For better or worse, it exaggerates my interdisciplinary tendencies and makes it almost impossible to create a coherent sense of what exactly it is that I’m studying and how exactly I’d like to add to that tradition in some sort of consistent, focused way.

But another consequence of my relationship with JSTOR as a graduate student with access to much of its content, is that my appreciation for open access journals at this moment is mostly theoretical rather than practical.  As a student, I have still not yet experienced any significant limitations to access, and so, practical experience has not driven me to seek out open access journals or keep tabs on what traditional journals are considering.

And so, receiving a hint from Ashley Dawson’s article, I checked out the Open Humanities Press (a collective of 14 open access journals with a sort of critical theory bent).   Their listed goals are:

  • Advocate Open Access in the Humanities
  • Foster Community
  • Promote Intellectual Diversity
  • Improve the Experience of Academic Publishing
  • Explore New Forms of Scholarly Collaboration

All great goals! I even clicked around and found some articles I’d actually like to read (who wouldn’t want to take a look at “Nihilism, Nature, and the Collapse of the Cosmos”?).   But inherent in any sort of excitement about the potential of new-ish media ventures is the sense of despair at yet more content to somehow filter. I think this problem relates to their second goal of “fostering community,” for it’s community, that can, in many ways filter the endless possibility of content into a meaningful, focused and engaged conversation.  As much as the capabilities of the web create potential for new forms of community, its frictionless and infinite (-seeming) space also makes it hard for enough people to engage long enough in one place for a community to actually form.  The question, then, to me, about how to make the open access journal more than just more Internet noise is the question of how to build community around such publications.  The answer, I think, lies as much offline as on.


I’m not sure how many sociology journals are online. I found this one through searching google for “online sociology journal.” It was the 9th item in the search, so that seems to be evidence that they are rather rare. This is what they say about their mission:
“Founded January 28th, 2010, the Socjournal is a new media journal intended to offer sociologists a window into the world of new media communications. Recognizing that traditional scholarly publication in traditional scholarly journals is limited, slow, and isolated (i.e. sociological research remains hidden behind an academic wall that is impenetrable to most people), the Socjournal aims to bring sociology to the world by providing blog space, regular columns, and academic reports designed to popularize and disseminate the fascinating world of sociological research.”
As this blurb states, this journal started online, and as far as I can tell it is completely open access. This journal is intended to popularize sociology. In their submissions section they have many tips on how to write for this journal. Here is an interesting tip:
“If your paper has an “abstract” and an “introduction” and maybe a “discussion” and a “methodology” section, use it for toilet paper. Papers like that are designed to turn readers off and obscure what you have to say behind a rhetorical wall of pompous and overcomplicated verbiage. The goal here is communication and not obfuscation or ego aggrandizement.”
The submissions are also supposed to be 2-6 pages long. So this isn’t an academic journal. Here is a snippet from the first article on the site:

“Common as it has been for humans to segregate their societies on the basis of barely perceptible racial and ethnic distinctions, has there ever been a dog park that discriminated on the basis of fur color? EX: No black dogs allowed!?Judging from the human infatuation with canines of every size, shape and color–not to mention zoos, conservatories, and pet stores stocked with every imaginable critter–it is safe to conclude that humans are perhaps the world’s most enthusiastic supporters of, with one caveat, genetic diversity. Of course, that one caveat is highly consequential. Remarkable as the human enthusiasm for diversity may be among non-human species, among our own species, humans tend to deplore diversity. That is, to put it mildly, a rich irony.”
This seems like a pretty interesting line of reasoning. What is lost in this journal, it seems to me, is the credentials. I’m willing to guess that writing for this journal is not seen as quite as impressive as getting published in a more standard academic journal. I’m not privy to the debates about sociological rigor, but I can speculate that there aren’t enough citations, numbers, and jargon in these articles to be considered rigorous academic work. This, of course, is the whole point of the journal, to popularize insights that get muddied in the process of turning interesting ideas into sociology. It seems to me that these kinds of formats will become more popular in the future.

Linguistics Journals

Progressive as Linguistics sometimes thinks it is – it’s still rather formal.  All of the major journals are online, but none are open-access, and all are double-blind peer reviewed, and EXTREMELY expensive (which is funny since linguists are supposed to study language – a freely available object of study).  Note: I’ve only looked at American Journals – there are lots of European journals, a couple Canadian, but they follow a different kind of linguistics (Chomskian vs. non-Chomskian) , and the African journals are split between open databases and closed publications – somehow following the American model.

Anyhow, there is one open access American (Chomskian) journal, Snippets.

Snippets is an open-access, online journal with a 3-6 month turn around for publication.  Snippets isn’t exactly for full length articles – it’s for what linguists call a SQUIB.  SQUIBs are very elaborate footnotes, thoughts, interesting points that contradict the theory or should be investigated with respect to the theory as “the theory” is being developed today.  It’s interesting if only because the biggest collection of open-access material in Linguistics is actually the questions – not the solutions.

The best, most fun linguistics resource, though, is Language Log.  This is where many Lingusitics teachers take examples from because it’s not exactly formal and too often turns towards grammar (which is NOT language as defined by linguistics – grammar and punctuation are a social construction quite separate from human language), but is fun and interesting observations about language.


Journal Research

I have to admit that almost every journal article I’ve read since about 2008 has been from an online source, save for a handful I have accessed as a selection from a later collection of articles published in book form. Going back through my Zotero citations, I have equal parts Open Access Journals and journals I access through Mina Rees. This is acutally a huge score for the Open Access side of the table, because there are far fewer of these journals, however the ability of editorial teams to control the distribution of content I think makes for easier exploration, even when you have high level access to databases like JSTOR.

An Open Access Journal I read more than I cite (Because I read it regularly (because it isn’t a pain to open the link)) has to be “Game Studies: The International Journal of Video Game Research.” The Journal’s super-minimalist and clean interface makes it a really nice, in-depth read, even in this brave new world of RSS feeds and Twitter lists filling academic dashboards. The articles are styled with HTML and CSS instead of a deeply embedded collections of PDF files.

I can link to an article very easily like this: Adapting the Principles of Ludology to the Method of Video Game Content Analysis

With proprietary journals I only have the patience to peruse through one article at a time.  It is such a headache to move onto other portions of a full journal within the locked-up databases that I tend to print a PDF and move back to scholar search queries.  It can also be a pain to share articles between collaborators:

The best I can do when linking this Oxford Journals’ SCREEN article is this: ‘Paranoia, paranoia, everybody’s coming to get me’: Peep Show, sitcom, and the surveillance society

By clicking the Oxford Link you may or may not be able to read this entire article. Even though as a student at CUNY you have access to it, if you don’t pull it up through the proper channels you may not initially realize you have access to it at all. When accessing through Google Scholar and clicking through several login screens I was able to open the page. When making an attempt at opening the page without going through the CUNY proxy, I was unable to even access a login screen that would take my CUNY information.


Education Journals

Online, open access journals abound in education. A simple search brought two large (somewhat overlapping) lists of online, open access journals:

  • This list is courtesy of the Education Research Global Observatory.
  • This list is courtesy of onlinecollege.org.

Both lists have not been updated in some time. The onlinecollege.org collection is from November 2011. The Education Research Global Observatory’s list lacks updates beyond 2011 as well. Additionally, the Directory of Open Access Journals lists 588 education journals and indicates which journals have a CC license. In order to be connected to the directory, journals must support the rights of users to “read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles.”

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out the open access journal, Theory, Research, and Action in Urban Education (TRAUE), which our department launched online in the fall of 2011. Although articles have been reviewed for a second issue, the journal is on hiatus for a bit. While I can share in class what I know about TRAUE’s development, for this assignment, I’m selecting a journal for which I have no affiliation.

The number of urban-specific OA education journals is obviously much smaller than the number of general education journals. The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education publishes Perspectives on Urban Education, which has been in electronic format since its launch in 2002. The journal’s mission is “to provide an interactive forum to investigate critical issues in urban education.” The board explicitly states that they welcome submissions from “graduate students, practitioners, policy makers, and researchers” and welcome “suggestions regarding the use of this electronic format.” The entire archive spanning from 2002 until the present is freely available on their website, but oddly not through the Mina Rees library, which only offers its patrons access from 2007 through the present.

Oddly, though, I can’t seem to find the words “open access” within the description of the journal. The subscription option is free, and website viewers may read or download any article they wish without even registering. Other journals are more explicit in their open access status and label: Radical Pedagogy, for instance, has a specific copyright tab on its site, which states:

Radical Pedagogy is an academic publication. Its sole purpose is the dissemination of knowledge to as wide an audience as possible. Thus, Radical Pedagogy is free to individuals and institutions around the globe.

Copies of this journal or articles in this journal may be distributed for research or educational purposes free of charge and without permission. However, commercial use is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the publisher.

My field embraced the Web fairly early, and the prevalence of online journals reflects this simple truth. The rock star journals (Teachers College Record, any of the AERA journals, Harvard Educational Review, etc.) will likely continue their hybrid status of online/offline, while less influential journals may simply transition to fully online. Even though the DOAJ lists nearly 600 education journals with an open access policy, the norm is still limited access through the usual channels.

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?

Digital Humanities Journals

For this assignment I chose to review DHQ, a fully online journal known as the Digital Humanities Quarterly, a journal dedicated to digital humanities scholarship. The DHQ offers peer-reviewed scholarship in the forms of “scholarly articles, editorials, experiments in new media, and reviews.” In her article entitled DIY Humanities, author Ashley Dawson raises several valid criticisms of the attempts of scholarly publication to effectively embrace and utilize digital media. Namely, she claims that most online journals do little more than simply recreating the traditional print model in digital form. DHQ falls in this designation and their format certainly represents a basic digital recreation if the traditional print journal. But, unlike traditional print, the DHQ’s online format allows for users to post comments about articles and pieces and engage in discussions with other users via these comment mediums. This furthers the goal of scholarship as initiating a conversation, exchange, or debate over thoughts and ideas.

In terms of content and access, both of which Dawson also addresses, DHQ represents significant progress. First, the journal upholds an open access policy and allows scholars to maintain full ownership of their and redistribute it in any place or means they desire. Additionally, the site claims that as soon as materials “are ready they are posted in the preview section” addressing many of the issues Dawson raises with the significant time lag associated with publishing in traditional journals.

Secondly, speaking more to content, the journal also claims to accept scholarship that pushes the boundaries of what constitutes the digital humanities. For instance, many of the articles contain graphs and various data visualizations which represent a progressive application of data analysis to traditional humanities work. The journal also “publishes” multimedia works that go well beyond the traditional humanities paper. All “published” submissions, whatever their nature, all undergo a traditional peer review process. However, I searched for information about the specifics of this peer review process and couldn’t seem to find anything.

Despite the lack of information about the peer review process, the DHQ serves as a good example of the possibility for online, open-access scholarship. By staying within the framework of the tradition peer reviewed structure the DHQ provides an outlet for scholars to release their work in an accessible and progressive way, while still obtaining the necessary designation of scholastic achievement through the peer review process. I believe that more journals emulating this format would go a long way to mitigate many of the concerns rightly raised by Dawson in her article.

big data visualization

Big data is a term juicy and nebulous enough to take on many different definitions and orientations. A reference to scale (of data), speed (of processing and analyzing) and complexity (of the algorithms employed) at minimum, big data is heralded by Forbes as “the hottest sector in IT at the moment” and just as regularly explored as a tangle of political and ethical concerns. But most importantly perhaps for the conversations we have been having over the last two semester, I think big data means something quite different for the humanities and the social sciences. Typically for the humanities, the stirrings of data is seen as an exciting opportunity—as James Grossman notes the techniques and technologies of big data not only offer new opportunities of analysis and collaboration for historians, but also the possibility of non-academic employment opportunities (as well as academic one, one hopes). For the social sciences, and sociology in particular, thinking “data” is familiar territory—indeed as Burrows and Savage note academic sociologists were pioneers in data collection and analysis, particularly in the development of the social survey. One might say that social data collection is deeply methodologically and epistemologically foundational to sociology. Thus some social scientists, most prominently perhaps Bruno Latour, have argued that large scale data mining and visualization can perhaps allow for a reconfiguration of sociological epistemology, away from the levels of structure and individual. Lev Manovich writes of something similar when he critically analyzes the notion that new computational tools might mean that “we no longer have to choose between data size and data depth.”

While some are optimistic about what these new technologies might mean for the social sciences, others see more of a threat than opportunity (Burrows and Savage call it the “Coming Crisis of Empirical Sociology”), in large part because both the collection and analytics of this data has largely occurred outside the academy. Nigel Thrift has written about this as the emergence of “knowing capitalism,” when “capitalism began to intervene in, and make a business out of, thinking the everyday” (Knowing Capitalism, p.1). Indeed, it would seem that in for both humanists and social scientists working with truly big data requires, as Manovich notes, a reliance upon either the state (the military and domestic security apparatus being most data hungry parts of the state) or more likely privately owned, profit minded collections, many of which are only in part publicly accessible. What are the political ramifications of working with data that has been collected and (often) organized for purposes that rarely include critical inquiry (mostly, of course, the purpose is to sell stuff)?

As you probably have guessed at this point, my engagement with the phenomena known as “big data” has thus far been mostly been theoretical in nature, so in the interest of not letting that completely dominate my post here, I’m going stop now and pivot to some more practical concerns.

At their best, interactive web-based visual visualizations open up the possibility of some level of data “transparency” and even manipulation (A notable example being this CUNY designed slider map showing changes in NYC’s racial demographics). As “Tooling up for the Digital Humanities” notes, this allows the possibility of users themselves finding novel patterns and correlations. Unfortunately this level of transparency and interactivity still seems to be rare—more frequently data visualization is an increasingly popular way to tell a particular story, usually a relatively simple one. Tooling Up writes that “many viewers are not necessarily used to reading visualizations critically,” but perhaps there is something about engagement with data through visualization that thwarts criticality, or at least pushes towards simpler rather than complex answers to social questions. I’ll occasionally give class assignments where students will have to find a data visualization around a certain topic that they find particularly compelling, and quite often they bring me well-designed infographics that clearly tell a relatively simple story about a complex topic. Can we beautifully and clearly convey nuance and complexity in data visualizations?

More interesting to me than using visualizations to tell a story are the possibilities of data visualization as a research method for seeing patterns and tracing connections. Simply visualizing data by time or geography can reveal surprising patterns and connections. Mapping is an obvious area where visualizing can help us quickly see interesting patterns and connections in data, but it seem clear like things like googles ngram viewer and even word clouds could be useful tools in early stages of a research project. Has anyone used visualization tools in actually developing lines of critical inquiry?

Anyone interested in utopian/dystopian narratives?

Hey all,

Given the wide range of interests in our class, I thought that I would take the opportunity to (shamelessly) promote the Utopian Studies Seminar at the GC. The Seminars often involve questions of technology and ethics, and I thought some of these things might be intriguing to certain members of our class. There’s a seminar tomorrow evening (4:15 in room 3209) focusing on Nature, Utopia, and the Garden. Here’s a link to the Utopian Studies Seminar blog with more information on tomorrow’s event if anyone is interested: https://utopianseminar.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2013/03/19/april-11-nature-utopia-and-the-garden-with-naomi-jacobs/