An Update from the Commons about our Generative AI Use

In September, Mesh Research, including the entire Humanities Commons team, met for a one-week, in-person retreat at Michigan State University (more on our retreat to come!). 

At the retreat, we spent some time thinking and discussing our use of Generative AI (GAI). GAI tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Bard are increasingly part of a multitude of tasks in our daily lives. We want to let you know how we are currently using generative AI (GAI) in our workflows and how we are thinking about it for the future. As the Commons is sponsored, hosted, and developed at Michigan State University, we’ve taken our initial guidance from the MSU Interim Guidance on Data Uses and Risks of Generative AI. Currently we are not using GAI in the creation of content (images or written) or user experience data collection. We do use GAI to assist in authoring code, using tools such as GitHub Copilot, though always interactively with a human developer. In the spirit of our value of experimentation, we are also starting to investigate the use of GAI, such as ChatGPT, for data analysis. 

Whenever possible, we will use tools or versions of tools that do not train on or learn from our usage. You can always count on us to have a human in the loop; any code or content generated by AI is reviewed by a member of the team before its use. We do not intend to use GAI to outsource our work, but to enhance it.

We will continue to discuss GAI in our meetings and revisit tools and techniques at least quarterly. When and if we do move forward with GAI in other parts of our operations, we are committed to letting you know here on the blog and in the newsletter. We’d also love to hear from you about ways you would like to see HC engage with GAI in the future!

Reviewing, Editing, & Publishing: Open Access and the Public Philosophy Journal

As part of our celebrations building up to Open Access Week from October 23 – 29, we’re featuring a guest blog post authored by Shelby Brewster, the Associate Editor of the Public Philosophy Journal (PPJ). Humanities Commons and PPJ are MESH projects with generous support from Michigan State University’s College of Arts & Letters and MSU Libraries. If you’d like to learn more about PPJ, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Mastodon.

Like the Humanities Commons, the Public Philosophy Journal supports open access scholarly communications. The PPJ is an open access, digital-only journal that offers a forum for the curation and creation of accessible scholarship that deepens understanding of, deliberation about, and action concerning issues of public relevance. The theme of this year’s Open Access Week, “Community over Commercialization,” captures many of the ways that openness manifests in the PPJ. In contrast to many conventional publishing models, at the PPJ community is the foundation of our practices, from review to editing to publishing.

In Review: Community over Competition

At the PPJ, articles go through our Collaborative Community Review process (CCR). CCR sees the relationship between authors and reviewers as one of community rather than competition. In the collaborative review process, all parties come together as colleagues to enrich the work in question. Together with a Review Coordinator who facilitates the process, authors and reviewers engage in a constructive dialogue in which all parties are known to one another. The CCR process is completely open, recognizing that our positionality is part of our scholarship and encouraging a sense of thick collegiality for everyone involved. CCR does not serve a gatekeeping or purely evaluative function. Instead, review is rooted in mutual respect, a shared effort to advance scholarship to make a better world.

In Editing: Community over Elitism

Openness extends into our editorial policies and vision. As we explain on our website, “too often scholarly publishing engages in and reinforces exclusion rather than fostering the diversity of authors, readers, and issues in public and academic communities. Revising outdated ideas of who counts as a scholar and what counts as scholarship requires collective re-envisioning of how knowledge is developed, evaluated, and circulated through peer review and post-publication processes.” And so we maintain an open definition of expertise, recognizing that members of multiple communities that are not necessarily “academic” as such have perspectives and knowledge that benefit scholarship oriented toward the public good.

In Publishing: Community over Commercialization

All PPJ publications are open access, published in accessible formats, and available for reuse under the Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license. We work to make our content easily accessible by communities both within and outside academia, and those that sit in between.

We also carefully consider which tools we use to create our work, as we acknowledge that these too should be aligned with our values. For publishing, we partner with Manifold, an open source publishing platform created by both publishers and scholars. Scholar-led infrastructure, like Manifold and the Humanities Commons, is an important way to value, support, and emphasize community in an ever-increasingly commercial publishing landscape.

To expand our commitment to community and support others who also wish to do so, the PPJ has been working on a new platform for values-based peer review, Pilcrow. In collaboration with Mesh Research and with the support of the Mellon Foundation, PPJ members and a development team have created an environment for a collegial review process that allows publishers and scholars to develop scholarship that aligns with their values, as well as openness and community. In the coming months, Pilcrow will be available, open source, for anyone looking to further integrate a commitment to community into their writing and publishing practice. So openness is an integral part of how the PPJ envisions community, in review, editing, publishing, and beyond. Community-led research infrastructure has the potential to not only give scholars more control over their data, but also support and facilitate innovative scholarship. Alongside our colleagues at the Commons and elsewhere, we’re committed creating community to support “scholarship as a series of collective acts toward advancing a just world.”

Develop Your Digital Presence

On the left side, white text over a green background reads "Develop Your Digital Presence" and "Commons Showcase." On the white side, there three speech bubbles--one with three white lines, one with a heart, and one with three dots.


  • Because of the customizable nature of Commons profiles, they are well-suited to showcase different kinds of work, ranging from traditional academic articles to videos and podcasts
  • Integration with sites on the Commons means users can create content on a Commons site that will automatically populate their profile

Represent your projects & interests.

Whether you’re an independent scholar looking to increase your activity in online communities or a graduate student starting to establish a scholarly presence, it can often be overwhelming to begin building a full picture of your work online. Maybe you have a limited amount of time to create a fully customized website, or perhaps you simply are not sure how to represent your projects in an effective way. 

The four main areas of the Commons—profiles, groups, CORE, and sites—allow users to create a multifaceted digital presence. Think of this as a networked approach. As soon as you create a Humanities Commons account, you will start building your profile. You can add custom text to many of the fields, or simply by engaging in activities on the Commons, your profile will be automatically updated. For example, any groups you join or CORE deposits you upload will show up on your profile. Between the information you provide and your Commons activity, anyone who visits your profile can get a better sense of who you are.

You can also use your profile to compile a digital portfolio–a curated space where you link to projects, conference presentations, and other information about you that goes beyond your Commons activity. Choose a few projects you want to showcase, link to them from the “Projects” section, and then write some contextual information so other users know more about your work.

A Commons user profile with the user's name, title, university, and social media handles. A cover image and profile picture are also featured.
A Commons profile featuring links to social media and projects

As you create sites, they will also automatically show on your profile, in addition to any blog posts you’ve written on those sites. This is another great way to make your work visible—writing blog posts on topics you care about can provide a wide-ranging depiction of your work beyond CORE deposits and Commons activity. Through this multifaceted approach, you can quickly and easily spread the word about your work. 

And if you’re looking for a social media-like platform to develop even more of a digital presence, consider joining our Mastodon server! Scholarly conversations are highly encouraged on, so you’ll feel right at home posting about your projects. Or, if you’d rather just make some new virtual friends and not talk too much about work, you can do that on Mastodon too.

Relevant CORE deposits

If you’re looking for further reading on how you can build an online identity, check out these amazing resources in our CORE repository.


Can I add my CV onto my Commons profile?Yes! When in editing mode on your profile, you can upload your CV file. This will allow users to click on your CV from your profile.
Can I upload separate resumes and CVs to my Commons profile?No, you can only upload one file to the CV section of a profile.
Is it possible to link directly from my Commons profile to my LinkedIn account?Yes! When editing your profile, you can add a LinkedIn URL. This will allow Commons users to go directly to your page on LinkedIn.


A purple web page with "About Me" in bolded white letters

Bonnie Russell ↗

A portfolio site designed fully on Humanities Commons through WordPress.

A Humanities Commons profile page.

Larissa Babak↗

A user profile with links to CORE, publications, and blog posts.


Commons Help & Support

Editing Your Profile

First Steps: Getting Started with the Commons

Frequently Asked Questions

Publish Your Journal

On the left side, white text over a green background reads "Publish Your Journal" and "Commons Showcase." On the white side, there is a a graphic of a green computer window with a pencil on a white background.


  • The Commons offers free WordPress hosting with up to 600MB of storage
  • The repository automatically assigns a DOI and the metadata is fed to aggregators (like Google Scholar) all over the world
  • The Commons community is alerted to the new journal through the activity feed and the ability to tag appropriate groups in deposits

Publishing open access benefits everyone.

Imagine a small group of scholars who see the need for an open-access journal within their discipline. They’ve started on their own with a small WordPress site and a handful of issues. They realize that hosting a website on their own can be expensive, even with a small subsidy from their department. Without a larger network to share their work, they’ve also been struggling to find and engage with new readers.

Fortunately, the Humanities Commons uses WordPress and, if the editor exports their current site, these scholars could work with the Commons team to import the content to a new WordPress site on the Commons. The first step is to create a private or hidden group with a group site. The group will allow them to communicate with one another and keep a calendar of deadlines. 

Once the site is imported, they can work to design the site and begin the process of uploading PDFs of previous articles to the CORE repository. They plan to post online-readable articles as blog posts on their website, using the link created after uploading the PDFs to the CORE repository. While they only have about 30 articles to deposit, if they had over 50, they could work with the Commons team to do a bulk upload to the repository. The deposits are automatically aggregated by Google Scholar, and fed to other aggregators around the world. 

Every time they post and make a deposit, their updates are added to the site’s activity feed. Not only can they tag their own group when they deposit an article to the repository, but they can also tag four other appropriate groups to increase the visibility of the content. With over 50,000 members, this is a lot more visibility than they’ve had previously with only a little added work.


My journal uses a content management system other than WordPress. Can I import the content onto the Commons?While importing may not be possible, copying and pasting content within WordPress using the block editor is relatively easy.
My journal has a dedicated domain name. Can I still use it on the Commons?All Commons sites must have the domain in their URL. However, most registrars allow domains to be pointed to a new host. While your posts won’t be in a format, you can establish a redirect to the new site.


A journal from the Journal of the Northern Renaissance titled, "Witchcraft and Prophecy in Scotland."

Journal of the Northern Renaissance ↗

A journal dedicated to the study of early modern Northern European cultural practices.

A journal from the Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies titled "Entangled Tongues: A Poststructuralist and Postcolonial reading of Acts 2:1-13"

Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies

A journal centered on interdisciplinary, social justice-oriented, feminist, queer, and innovative biblical scholarship.

A journal from the Roman Artistic Journals (1779-1834) titled "Antologia Romana"

Roman Artistic Journals

A database that showcases late eighteenth- to early nineteenth-century Roman artistic journals.

A journal from the Intagalio Journal titled "Volume Number 3"

Intaglio Journal ↗

A journal focused on work related to visual culture, seeking to bridge disciplinary and geographical divides.


Support guides for sites, blogs, and WordPress

Support FAQ

Replace Your Listserv


  • For organizations that have run listservs, the Commons can serve as a fully-featured listserv replacement. 
  • In addition to allowing users to continue to post and interact via email, the Commons offers the ability to collaboratively work on documents, share files, and collect the deposits members make to the repository.
Create a New Topic in "Jewish Music" group on the Commons. Send an email to and a new forum topic will be posted in Jewish music.
Commons group “Jewish Music” posting content that will be emailed to their group, similar to a listserv.

Stay connected with your colleagues.

An organization has run a listserv since 1999, serving around 350 people. The listserv has become clunky and the user who has run it at their institution is retiring, leaving it without a host. They want to move to a host that allows for more collaborative work on shared documents and supports the sharing of files. They also want to begin to gather and keep track of work done by listserv members shared in repositories. 

To start the process of moving a listserv to the Commons, the administrator should create a group with a discussion forum. More information on creating and managing groups can be found on our help and support site. Groups can be public, private, or hidden. For a listserv that is private, users have the choice between a private or hidden group. Private groups allow others to apply to join, whereas hidden groups are invitation-only. If you want to encourage growth a public group will allow anyone with interest to join automatically. 

Activity Section of the "Jewish Music" Humanities Commons Group. User Geraldine Auerbach started the topic "Putting COZ to bed."
The administrator of “Jewish Music” begins the conversation about ending their previous listserv.


  • Let subscribers know that you’ll be moving to the Commons, encouraging them to join the site and join the group. 
  • Consider creating a one-page document with information about the Commons, and the reasons for moving to a web-based discussion from email.
  • Some users may wish to continue to interact by email, and there are instructions for creating a discussion topic and replying by email on our help and support site. 
  • Set a cutover date and announce it widely. Shut down the email listserv on that date. 
Geraldine Auerbach posting "COZ this coming week" and "Putting COZ to bed" on the group discussion for "Jewish Music" on the Commons
The administrator of “Jewish Music” reminds group members of the end of their previous email listserv.


What could I expect as some resistance from my long-time email listserv members?It may be difficult for your long-time listserv members to adapt at first due to the perceived extra steps of logging into a website and taking multiple clicks to access your content. It’s important to remind them that this new format allows everything to be much more organized and collaborative than a listserv of the past.
Do my listserv members need to create a Commons account in order to receive and reply to posts?Yes! Members will need to create an account and be part of the group. If they’re still not receiving emails, make sure they’ve double checked their setting for group notifications.


A journal from the Journal of the Northern Renaissance titled, "Witchcraft and Prophecy in Scotland."

Journal of the Northern Renaissance ↗

A journal dedicated to the study of early modern Northern European cultural practices.

A journal from the Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies titled "Entangled Tongues: A Poststructuralist and Postcolonial reading of Acts 2:1-13"

Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies

A journal centered on interdisciplinary, social justice-oriented, feminist, queer, and innovative biblical scholarship.


Support guides for sites, blogs, and WordPress

Support FAQ

Promote Your Project

A banner with a green and white background. On the left side, text reads "Promote Your Project" in bolded letters, with "Commons Showcase" printed underneath. On the right, there is a megaphone.


  • Sites on the Commons allow for quick setup – users or groups can easily create a blog or site that doesn’t require coding experience
  • Full site editing allows for easy customization, making it possible to create a clean, aesthetically pleasing design
  • The Commons’ high findability in Google’s indexing can make projects more locatable within search results

Share what you’re working on.

Imagine you’re:

  • Leading a research lab of 5 art historians who are creating a podcast on local art within your community. You host your podcast episodes on all the major streaming platforms, but you’d like to create a website where you can link to both your weekly episodes and supplementary content, such as pictures of the artwork mentioned and links to related articles. 
  • Working on your first novel, which you started writing as part of your creative writing MFA program. You’d like to create a blog where you reflect on the process of turning a short story from your portfolio into a longer work.
  • Hosting a mini-conference amongst a group of music theory colleagues. You’d like to develop a website where you can post the Call For Papers and details on how to access the conference.

For all of these projects, Humanities Commons sites are an ideal place to get started. With a variety of themes available, it’s easy to find one that fits with the visual style of the project. Once you choose a theme, you can quickly add content, images, and links to customize the look and feel of the site. The creation of your site can take as much or as little time as you’d like, and part of what makes sites useful is you don’t need to do any custom coding. Using the block editor in WordPress is particularly helpful for creating a nice-looking site quickly.

Screenshot of the WordPress "Themes" browsing page with six different website theme examples.
Selection of current customizable themes available on the Commons

In addition to developing a website, the leaders of these projects may also want to consider how they could leverage other areas of the Commons to enhance awareness of their projects. The CORE repository’s high ranking in search engines (including automatic indexing with Google Scholar) makes it easier for a project to be discovered by a broad audience. So, in order to get even more interest around their podcast and receive a DOI for their work, the team of art historians might deposit a few episodes into CORE. The only caveat is CORE has a size limit of 100 MB, so the team may only be able to upload a few of the shorter episodes.

Screenshot of the page for the CORE Repository on the Humanities Commons Website
The CORE Repository on the Commons

Once you’ve added content to the Commons, you’re ready to share it with the world. The next step in spreading the word is to start with the tools available on the Commons. Posting on the news feed or discussion board in a Commons group is one way to find an audience who is already interested in your topic. For example, the music theory mini-conference site could be shared in any of the music history or theory groups on the Commons. Additionally, leveraging other social networks like Mastodon, Facebook, and Twitter is vital, as this will drive more traffic to your project beyond Commons users. Even just a few regularly scheduled posts with a link to your site and a short description of your posts or updates can go a long way.

Screenshot of the Groups page on the Humanities Commons. Featured is the "Getting Started with MSU Commons" group.
Groups, like “Getting Started with MSU Commons” on the Commons


Is my project right for a Commons site?Overall, Humanities Commons offers enough tools and features so that any project of an academic nature has a place on the Commons. However, for the security of our network, we do have to limit some customization options in WordPress. If you’re looking to create a large-scale project with extensive customization of your site, you may want to consider other options. Contact us at to discuss this further!
Why can’t I add certain WordPress themes or plugins to my site?For security purposes, we limit some of the theme and plugin options available to our users. If you’d like to request a plugin or an added theme, email us at
Can I create a custom URL for my site?All sites in the Commons network contain the domain name. We do not offer custom URLs at this time.
I’ve never used WordPress before and am not sure where to start. Any suggestions?There are many tutorials around the web for users who are new to WordPress. Although full-site editing is relatively new, this help guide on full-site editing is a great place to get started. WordPress’s official tutorials are thorough, and there is plenty of additional support online as well.


Screenshot of the Homepage of L-Pop

L-Pop ↗

A collection of songs and lessons for students learning English.

Screenshot of the Homepage of Graphic Possibilities

Graphic Possibilities ↗

A research workshop that engages with comic studies.

Screenshot of the Homepage of Scholarly Tales

Scholarly Tales ↗

A repository of work by researchers, librarians, and other scholars.


Commons Help & Support

Commons Help & Support: Sites, Blogs, and WordPress

Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Improving accessibility in all areas of our work is fundamental to our ambition to create more just and equitable scholarly communications.  In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we here at Humanities Commons wanted to let you know about some of the work we’re doing behind the scenes to both improve accessibility for site users and to learn and grow as a team. Here are four ways we are putting our commitment into action:

  1. Group Meetings On Topics Related to Accessibility: We’ve integrated accessibility-related topics into our regular working group meetings. This has included watching and reflecting on Axe-Con talks as a team and discussing how to bring inclusive design to all stages of our process.
  1. User Experience Design: From our website to our workshops to our pdfs, you’ll see some design choices and changes coming that aim to increase accessibility throughout the Humanities Commons experience. For example, we will be moving to Atkinson Hyperlegible as our default font. Created by the Braille Institute, this font is designed to increase character recognition and improve readability for visually impaired readers..
  2. User Experience Research: We’ve started whole team conversations about the process of user experience research and integrating a diverse range of voices and perspectives into our testing and conversations. We look forward to working with the community this summer and beyond to learn with and from you about your needs and experiences.
  1. Team Training: Over this coming summer, our team will be taking accessibility fundamentals from Deque University, as well as additional Deque University courses tailored to our daily tasks, and meeting in early Fall to work on integrating what we have learned into our workflows. 

We’re excited to share with you more in each of these areas as we continue to meet and grow as a team. And, of course, we’d love to hear from you if you have ways that you’d like to see our site improve!

Open Access for Teachers: A Reflection from a New Hire

Last week, we celebrated International Open Access Week with guest posts from some of our friends, and we decided to keep the party going a little longer! Today, June Oh, Assistant Professor in English & Digital Studies at The University of Texas at Tyler, shares her thoughts on the joy of an open access syllabus.

Recently, I realized something about open access. It’s not just about those publications I want to get; it’s about the support for the teachers. Previously, I shared my experience as an international student finding joy in open access (“Humanities Commons for International Students and Scholars”). Now adopting from an R1 university to an R2 mentality, and with a few access issues every now and then, what I experience daily isn’t just about research. It’s about teaching—and how open access is a shining light for a busy, worried, and eager instructor.

I’m a new hire with three new class preps and upcoming class pilot proposals for a new minor, a new certificate, and a new PhD program on my radar. As I was entering the job market as an English literature major—18C literature—I learned pretty quickly that all academic jobs, at least for the first several years, will ask me to teach outside my comfort zones and expertise. It does. And I need help.

From class activities and rubrics to syllabus and learning objectives, open access teaching materials available on Humanities Commons soothe my new hire anxiety. Googling works too, but sometimes the promising-looking syllabus sits behind the veil of the university proxy. Other times, I venture into platforms like “Teachers Pay Teachers” but rarely find higher ed materials. As of October 20, Humanities Commons hosts 402 items that are categorized as syllabus. Just looking at the topics and the titles of these courses inspire me. Also, what I love about Humanities Commons’ open access is that it opens space for what I consider teaching-in-progress. I search for “Digital Humanities syllabus,” and I see Kristen Mapes’ syllabi from 2017, 2018, and 2021, among others. What I see in these syllabi are Kristen’s continuing revisions and experiments with her pedagogy, materials, and approach. I know in theory no class is perfect and it’s a work in progress. But the academic plague of perfectionism gets in the way. That’s when actually having access to and reading the syllabi from other instructors through open access platforms is saving my day.

It’s starting to get chilly and the university bookstore is asking for a book request. And tonight, I’ll make some tea and find joy in open-access syllabi.

Finding Joy in Open Access: Reflections from the Humanities Commons Team

As we conclude our celebration of International Open Access Week, we asked our team to reflect on what joy in open access looks like for them.

Zoe Wake Hyde, Community Development Manager

As someone who has worked for many years in open access and open education, I have a somewhat complicated relationship to the theme we chose for this year’s OA Week. I have found genuine joy in doing work that I care deeply about, particularly in the relationships I have forged and the sense of belonging that the open community can inspire. But I’ve also experienced some pretty profound despair when things have gotten hard, progress has stalled, outside influences interfere (hello, pandemic) and our efforts have been co-opted by those who created the problems we’re trying to address in the first place. 

Joy is personal. Open work feels personal. It’s natural and, frankly, wonderful to find joy in this kind of work, but there is also always the risk of hurt that comes along with it. I don’t have any tidy solutions here, but there is a balance I am learning to manage between investing myself in my work and keeping enough distance that I can manage the tough times. I also think we should strive to learn from the incredible social justice movements that have come before us; nothing is ever entirely new and we would be wise to remember that we are far from the first to consider the personal costs of doing purpose-driven work.

What I am sure of is that whatever the risks of embracing joy, my work and my life are better for it. 

I can never resist a good book recommendation, so here goes: Joyful Militancy – Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times 

I also found this in the wilds of Twitter recently and felt it spoke to what I’ve written about here:

Bonnie Russell, Project Manager

As a librarian, I think a lot about how to ensure access to information of all kinds. Prior to joining the Humanities Commons team I spent almost 10 years in scholarly publishing, and I grew increasingly concerned about the sustainability of current publishing models. There is a growing barrier to access for many who are not affiliated with institutions or who are at institutions that simply can’t afford the increasing subscriptions in the current market. 

For me, the joy in OA is bringing information to everyone, regardless of position and financial means. OA allows everyone equal access to information, and at the same time it empowers everyone to disseminate their work widely. OA levels the playing field. It connects global collaborators, and it allows those who want to research and create to build on the work that has come before. 

Scholarship is becoming increasingly multimodal. Undergraduate students in the humanities are taught not just writing, but often work with audio, video, and video games. As these formats continue to grow journals and monographs won’t disappear, but they will come under increasing competition for views. OA offers these students and scholars the ability to share their work widely when many publishers simply can’t find a way to publish these new formats. My joy at this moment is being a part of the Commons and working to think about not just what’s happening now, but how we can support these new formats in the future.

Larissa Babak, User Engagement Specialist

When I think about finding joy in open access, my memory points me back to a collection of “aha!” moments.  

As part of my experience as an instructional designer, I’ve had numerous opportunities to talk to faculty about open educational resources. There are so many incredible OERs available, but often, faculty are not sure where to start when looking for an OER. Joy arrives in the “aha!” moments when a faculty member who is passionate about all the benefits of open access finds the right text for their course. 

As part of the Commons team, I constantly have my own, joy-filled “aha!” moments, too. Regularly, I’ll browse the CORE repository and spot a deposit with a fascinating title, or a colleague will share a deposit I might find of interest. In the user support I provide on the Commons, I’ve had the privilege to meet numerous journal editors who are moving their journals to the Commons in order to ensure their work is available to all. Each of these meetings are inspiring to me in the enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment brought to the cause of open access. 

In these ways, joy feels like the proverbial lightbulb going on inside my brain. Joy can be found in my personal moments of finding open access texts that inspire me, but also in the ability of open access to bring people together.