A Response to “Publications,” from The Emergence of the Digital Humanities

The larger premise of Steven E. Jones’s The Emergence of the Digital Humanities has to do with the blending of the networked and non-computational worlds into a “mixed reality arena” (14), or, as Jones puts it — following author William Gibson — the “eversion” (14; emphasis his). The eversion accounts for the feedback loop between the digital realm and meatspace (to use another Gibson term), which has become so circular that it is nearly impossible to claim with confidence that a certain political, artistic, physical, or social movement was initiated or resides in a solely analogue or digital format. In the chapter “Publications,” Jones zooms in on the relationship between the digital humanities and publishing, and considers the possibilities of this relationship during these everted times. He argues that digital humanities practitioners are well-positioned to explore the opportunities of digital publishing in particular, as they can “serve as subjects in their own experiments in publishing, and especially when it comes to exploring the relationship between print and digital forms” (147).

To support his claim of the suitability of digital publishing for those who work in the digital humanities, Jones details DH activities directly related to scholarly communication: digitization, editing, metadata generation, and content management system design and use (147). But he is quick to point out that there is more to the relationship between digital humanities and publishing than applicable practitioner skills and activities; current digital publishing practices — both within and outside of academia — are also inherently networked (another example of the eversion), and therefore provide the opportunity for sociality at a scale hitherto untenable. As Jones writes, “We’re often in denial about the fact that what we make as scholars is always inherently social” (166), insofar as scholars research and write with the intention of sharing their findings and ideas with a broader community and contributing to the common pool of knowledge. In keeping with Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s arguments in Planned Obsolescence and elsewhere, Jones advocates for an increase in the uptake, use, creation, or repurposing of digital publishing platforms for humanities knowledge mobilization, in no small part because this can constitute and reinforce the value of the social in academic work.

Jones’s ruminations in “Publications” are exceptionally relevant to my own research inquiry regarding the connection between digital publishing and open scholarship. Jones cites the “platform thinking” inherent to the academic use of sites like GitHub or Wordpress, and considers this as evidence of the contemporary drive toward sharing research more widely, and more openly, on platforms that cross discipline, institution, and community lines. Jones references Fitzpatrick’s emphasis on producing texts not only in the technological network, but also in the social network (167), and champions the creation and use of new publishing platforms to accomplish this objective. In doing so, he advocates for the importance of experimenting with digital publishing practices in order to create and disseminate scholarly output within and beyond academia.

Works Cited

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2011. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. New York: New York U Press.

Jones, Steven E. 2014. “Publications.” In The Emergence of the Digital Humanities, 147–77. New York: Routledge.