When I think of digital publishing, I generally think of websites, or electronic books and magazines. For me, oddly enough, the considerations of scholarly publishing were secondary. I say oddly because I greatly appreciate—and benefit from—online library database access. Although I realized the many upsides offered by digital access to scholarly material, I gave little thought to any of the downsides. Drawbacks of digital content include maintenance costs, copyright protections which may limit availability or access, or lack of context which may diminish the depth of discussion around a particular topic, as pointed out by “the value of the issue as an intellectual form” (“English: The Future of Publishing” Baxter 87). Baxter’s point is similar to one that I find missing with digital delivery of music. Listening to random songs lessens the impact of the artist’s vision for an album as an integral whole.
As Linda Bree points out, rumors of the “‘death of the monograph’” have been greatly exaggerated (“English” 96). Although it seems that academia is shrinking in some ways, and there are barriers (or resistance) to digitization of scholarly materials, open access and digital publishing are not going away, and the internet opens up research possibilities in new and productive ways. White paper access, working papers, conference papers; the “opportunities for experimentation and invention are likely, in fact, to increase” (Baxter 89).
Experimenting and inventing seems to be built into the objectives of the PWW initiative. In the article “Publishing Without Walls: Building a Collaboration to Support Digital Publishing at the University of Illinois,” Green highlights Kim Gallon’s viewpoint: Gallon points out the possibilities for “recovery” that digital access offers and the ability of digital humanities “to restore the humanity of black people lost and stolen through systemic global racialization” (“Publishing Without Walls” 24). Green maintains that it is time to “[c]reate a new model for the conceptual development of scholarly communication” (25).
Often at the forefront of the development of innovative approaches to digital content, libraries are critically aware of the need for new ways to present and organize digital artifacts. Librarians, or more accurately, information professionals are working to remove the implicit bias, inequality, and marginalization of minority populations inherent in the information management systems of the past. The Scholarly Commons, “an interdisciplinary digital scholarship center in the University of Illinois Library,” is one project that is working to overcome the limitations of mainstream cataloging techniques and create opportunities for collaboration built on respect for traditional sources of knowledge, sources that may not fit into categories created by the dominant culture (Green 27). The goal is to support work that is “dynamic, interactive, and always in conversation with the world around us” (33). Hooray for libraries!
Libraries immediately understood the impact that technology would have on the dissemination and creation of information, and the possibilities for access to knowledge that digital content offers. Thus, libraries are continuing to change the information landscape through increasing involvement in digital publication (Melton 95-96). In the book chapter titled “The Center That Holds: Developing Digital Publishing Initiatives at the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship,” Melton states that “library publishing is becoming increasingly common in academic libraries” (96). Melton focuses primarily on the activities of the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) (97). From platforms such as Drupal and WordPress, the ECDS is helping broaden the boundaries of digital scholarship.
One of the most interesting developments which fully utilizes the possibilities of technology, the interactive “mapping initiative” called ATLMaps “offer[s] a framework that incorporates storytelling reliant on geospatial data” (Melton 100). Offering faceted viewpoints and presenting different historical perspectives of locations and the information attached to them, ATLMaps gives new meaning to “place,” linking digital space to real-world locations. With publicly available source code, anyone can contribute: ATLMaps is “a project that invites crowdsourced contributions” (100). To me, it sounds like an empowering opportunity to give marginalized voices a way to be heard that goes beyond “ownership” of property. Zotero, GitHub, Readux and other tools offer almost endless possibilities to expand the horizons of digital scholarship.
Making certain that the rigorous standards demanded by academic scholarship are met, libraries are working as intermediaries between the worlds of academia and the general public to disseminate information in new and exciting ways.