Scholars, It’s Time to Take Control of Your Online Communities

-Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities at Michigan State University, Project Director for Humanities Commons

A couple of years ago, I got a bit fed up with the ways that certain for-profit networks were purporting to provide scholars with opportunities to share their work openly with one another, and I decided that it was time to mouth off about it a bit: about the fact that their “.edu” address was deceiving many into believing that they were an academy-driven initiative, about the ways their uncertain business model endangered the future of the work being shared there, about the damage that network was doing to genuine open access.

Not long after, Sarah E. Bond issued a direct call to action: “It is time to delete your Academia.edu account.”

And many scholars did, taking their work to networks like Humanities Commons. And they told their friends and colleagues to do so as well. Since that time, Humanities Commons has come to serve more than 16,500 scholars and practitioners across the humanities and around the world. Those members are building their professional profiles, depositing and sharing work via the repository, and creating a wide range of websites to support their portfolios, their classes, and their other projects.

But where we’ve been less successful has been in attracting groups of scholars to engage in active discussion and collaboration. The Commons has a robust groups structure, permitting communities of a range of types and sizes — from private committees to public subfields, and everything inbetween — to host threaded discussions, to share files, and more besides. But that feature of the network remains somewhat underutilized, despite the extent to which many scholars today want to be able to communicate and collaborate with one another online.

The heart of the issue, I’m pretty sure, is that those scholars already have communities that seem to be functioning pretty well for them, a ton of them on Facebook. And the problem is, as I noted in my original Academia-not-edu post, is the gravity that such existing groups exert, especially when, as with Facebook, everybody is already there. (Or so it often seems, at least. People who are not on Facebook might be quick to tell you how annoying it is when we assume that everyone can be reached that way.)

If it’s hard to convince individual scholars to change their ways of working and take up more equitable, open, and transparent systems, it’s all but impossible to convince groups of scholars to do so.

And yet: it’s time.

Part of the argument I made for abandoning Academia.edu in favor of non-profit, scholar-governed alternatives, alternatives that were not out to surveil or data-mine their users, was based on my assessment that “everything that’s wrong with Facebook is wrong with Academia.edu, at least just up under the surface, and so perhaps we should think twice before committing our professional lives to it.” The inverse is even more true: everything that’s wrong with Academia.edu is wrong with Facebook, and then some.

I’ll leave it to Siva Vaidhyanathan to delve into the details, but it should be apparent from recent headlines that Facebook is at the root of a tremendous amount of personal unhappiness, violent conflict, and political turmoil today. The company has routinely sold its users’ data to advertisers, to companies, and to highly damaging political agents like Cambridge Analytica. Facebook engages in deep surveillance of users and their activity both on the network and elsewhere on the internet, an activity that is not just being exploited by corporations but also by governments. Given that Facebook’s entire business model depends on selling us — our presence, our information, our clicks — to other entities, every interaction we engage in there supports that model, whether we like it or not.

Most of us know this already, and yet we use the network anyway, even if begrudgingly. Our distant family members and friends are there, and we don’t know how we’ll keep up with them otherwise. And our scholarly communities, too: there are active discussion groups on Facebook that we’d miss if we left. So we watch our privacy settings and try to be careful with what we share — and yet no amount of such prophylaxis can really protect us from malfeasance. Assuming that our ostensibly private groups are actually private is setting ourselves up for abuse.

On top of which, working in proprietary spaces like Facebook does ongoing damage to the scholarly record; we cannot control, preserve, or migrate the archives of our discussions as desired.

It’s extremely difficult to move an entire group of people, I know, but I hope that some of you might be willing to try. There are other non-profit scholarly networks grounded in academic values available out there, of course, but if you’re in or adjacent to the humanities, I hope you’ll consider moving your discussions to Humanities Commons. And if you’re not in the humanities, maybe come join us anyhow? We want to open the network up to all fields in the near future, and your involvement would help us chart a path toward doing so.

Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Open Peer Review

A central goal for Humanities Commons has always been to provide humanities scholars with a platform for communicating, sharing work, and collaborating. Beyond simply facilitating these processes––a significant task in itself––we strive to innovate on them, pushing for scholarship that is more open and engaged with communities. Often, this means rethinking the assumptions and practices that produce our work.

It was this desire to reimagine scholarly practice that led us to host a Twitter chat last month titled “Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Open Peer Review.” Twitter chats are synchronous social media events where moderators guide discussion of a topic using a particular hashtag. At the set time, everyone logs in to Twitter and follows the hashtag, answering questions and responding to each other’s thoughts as they’re shared through tweets. The goal of this Twitter chat was to generate community discussion of emerging peer review structures that are open, meaning the authors and reviewers of a work know who each other are and communicate about the work, usually with the facilitation of an editor or editorial team. While what this exactly looks like varies from publication to publication, most journals and organizations using open peer review put the author and the reviewers in contact with each other using a digital platform, allowing reviews to make comments and the author to respond to them in the process of revising the work for publication.

As the handful of questions and tweets below reveal, the discussion of open peer review covered many aspects of scholarly communication and how review contributes to clear and effective scholarship. Open peer review is a significant departure from traditional peer review, often described as double-blind or single-blind peer review (ableist terms that Cheryl Ball points out could be replaced with “double anonymous” and “anonymous”). Whereas double anonymous or anonymous peer review can often seem opaque, exclusionary, and even arbitrary, especially to early career scholars, open peer review makes the review process about a conversation that focuses on improving the work. As several participants argued, particular values and guidelines should shape that conversation with an emphasis on community and mentorship.

The tweets below are just a small sample of the Twitter chat. To view the rest of the chat, as well as check out more resources about open peer review, search for the chat’s hashtag, #OPReview, on Twitter.

  • Q1: What does open peer review look like in your experience? Which practices and tools are involved? #OPReview #Q1

 

  • Q2: Which values should guide open peer review? How should these values be enacted and communicated? #OPReview #Q2

 

  • Q3: How does open peer review affect the quality of reviews? Of the final publication? #OPReview #Q3

 

  • Q4: What are the limitations of open peer review? What are the barriers to more journals and scholarly communities adopting it? #OPReview #Q4

 

  • Q5: What are the future potentials of open peer review? How could it be improved in the future? #OPReview #Q5

 

The Twitter chat generated lively conversation about the values of scholarship, and collectively imagined what it would look like to publish our work as the result of open, transparent, and ongoing conversations between scholars. Of course open peer review isn’t a cure-all, and there are a number of institutional considerations (tenure, power, and workload, to name only a few) that limit what peer review can be and do. Still, open peer review can be one tool for research and scholarship that is more accessible and inclusive. This Twitter chat is not the last word on open peer review–far from it. Rather, it’s a point in an ongoing conversation that we can and must have together as we work to build the institutions and research practices that can sustain our communities.

Thanks to Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Cody Mejeur for moderating the chat. Kathleen is Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University. Her most recent book, Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University (John Hopkins University Press, 2019), argues for a mode of scholarly engagement that emphasizes listening over speaking, community over individualism, and collaboration over competition. She is also project director of Humanities Commons. Cody is a PhD candidate in English at Michigan State University specializing in new media, narrative theory, queer and feminist studies, and digital humanities. They have published on games and education, representation in games, and the narrative construction of reality. They are currently graduate lab lead for the Digital Humanities & Literary Cognition lab at MSU and work with the LGBTQ Video Game Archive, founded by Adrienne Shaw at Temple University.

Most Downloaded in CORE, January 2019

an assortment of letters for a press

The most downloaded work in CORE in January 2019 ran the gamut, from Led Zeppelin to letterpress.

  1. Oscar Martinez-Peñate, El Salvador Sociología General. Book.
  2. Nicholas Rinehart, “Black Beethoven and the Racial Politics of Music History.” Article.
  3. Ayesha Majid, “Marketing strategy of Lenovo laptops.” Report.
  4. Shazia Sadaf, “Colour Play in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.” Article.
  5. Matthew Kirschenbaum, ENGL 759C BookLab: How to Do Things with Books. Syllabus.
  6. Brigitte Fielder, “Animal Humanism: Race, Species, and Affective Kinship in Nineteenth-Century Abolitionism.” Article.
  7. Daniel Sherer, “Heidi on the Loos: Ornament and Crime in Mike Kelley’s and Paul McCarthy’s Heidi (1992).” Conference proceeding.
  8. Titus Stahl, “What is Immanent Critique?” Article.
  9. Ilana Gershon, “Media Ideologies: An Introduction.” Article.
  10. John Brackett, “Examining Rhythmic and Metric Practices in Led Zeppelin’s Musical Style.” Article.

CORE’s Most Downloaded in 2018

Plato, Seneca, and Aristotle in an illustration from a medieval manuscript, Devotional and Philosophical Writings.

Happy new year! From infographics to books, here are CORE’s most downloaded works in 2018:

  1. Ayesha Majid, “Marketing strategy of Lenovo laptops.” Report.
  2. Oscar Martinez-Peñate, El Salvador Sociología General. Book.
  3. Nicholas Rinehart, “Black Beethoven and the Racial Politics of Music History.” Article.
  4. José Angel García Landa, “Aristotle’s Poetics.” Article.
  5. Titus Stahl, “What is Immanent Critique?” Article.
  6. Geraldine Heng, “The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages I: Race Studies, Modernity, and the Middle Ages.” Article.
  7. Edith Hall, The Return of Ulysses: A Cultural History of Homer’s Odyssey. Book.
  8. Nicky Agate, Rebecca Kennison, Stacy Konkiel, Christopher P. Long, Jason Rhody, Simone Sacchi, Humanities Values Infographic. Image.
  9. Ilana Gershon, “Media Ideologies: An Introduction.” Article.
  10. J.P. Alperin , C. Muñoz Nieves, L. Schimanski, G.E. Fischman, M.T. Niles & E.C. McKiernan. “How significant are the public dimensions of faculty work in review, promotion, and tenure documents?” Article.

Top CORE deposits in December 2018

photograph of water lilies

The most downloaded work in CORE in December 2018 included articles, a syllabus, and a book, on topics ranging from literature to music history to biblical studies.

  1. Ayesha Majid, “Marketing strategy of Lenovo laptops.” Report.
  2. Nicholas Rinehart, “Black Beethoven and the Racial Politics of Music History.” Article.
  3. Oscar Martinez-Peñate, El Salvador Sociología General. Book.
  4. Shazia Sadaf, “Colour Play in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.” Article.
  5. Titus Stahl, “What is Immanent Critique?” Article.
  6. Ilana Gershon, “Media Ideologies: An Introduction.” Article.
  7. Corine Tachtiris, Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Translation. Syllabus.
  8. Brigitte Fielder, “Animal Humanism: Race, Species, and Affective Kinship in Nineteenth-Century Abolitionism.” Article.
  9. Victoria Addis, “The Musicalization of Graphic Narratives and P. Craig Russell’s Graphic Novel Operas, The Magic Flute and Salome.” Article.
  10. David Armitage, “Detaching the Census: An Alternative Reading of Luke 2:1-7.” Article.

Groups Best Practices

Making the Most of Your Humanities Commons Group

Once you’ve created a group on Humanities Commons, you may find yourself asking a number of questions:

  • What do I do next?
  • How do I get people do join my group?
  • How do groups promote exciting academic activity and collaboration?
  • How do I encourage members to post more?
  • What else can I do with my group besides sharing CFPs and CORE deposits?

To help you answer these questions and make the most of your Humanities Commons group, we’ve compiled a list of best practices for group moderators. Please be sure to first visit the collection of pages within our groups guide and FAQ. Each of these pages outlines the basic instructions and features for using our groups.

Continue reading “Groups Best Practices”

HC User Spotlight: Kendra Leonard

Humanities Commons member Kendra Leonard is the Executive Director of the Silent Film Sound and Music Archive, as well as a musicologist and music theorist. Kendra designs and maintains a personal site and two project sites on Humanities Commons: Spirit Films and Shakespeare in Early Film. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, not only about her project sites but also about her own experience in working on Humanities Commons. 

Spirit Films features Kendra’s book that was reviewed on the site using Open Peer Review. Currently, the project site provides additional information via links and embedded Youtube videos.

Shakespeare in Early Film collects digital materials relating to Shakespearean film adaptations from 1895 to 1929, including still photographs of actors, music, advertising campaigns, and reviews. Teaching resources will also soon be available!

Continue reading “HC User Spotlight: Kendra Leonard”

November 2018: Top CORE Downloads

A snowy mountainside.

The most downloaded work in CORE in November 2018 covered topics ranging from the abominable snowman to Led Zeppelin:

  1. Ayesha Majid, “Marketing strategy of Lenovo laptops.” Report.
  2. Oscar Martinez-Peñate, El Salvador Sociología General. Book.
  3. Nicholas Rinehart, “Black Beethoven and the Racial Politics of Music History.” Article.
  4. Titus Stahl, “What is Immanent Critique?” Article.
  5. Brigitte Fielder, “Animal Humanism: Race, Species, and Affective Kinship in Nineteenth-Century Abolitionism.” Article.
  6. Gregory Afinogenov and Carolin Roeder, “Cold War Creatures: Soviet Science and the Problem of the Abominable Snowman.” Book chapter.
  7. Ilana Gershon, “Media Ideologies: An Introduction.” Article.
  8. John Brackett, “Examining Rhythmic and Metric Practices in Led Zeppelin’s Musical Style.” Article.
  9. Shirin A. Khanmohamadi, “The Look of Medieval Ethnography: William of Rubruck’s Mission to Mongolia.” Article.
  10. Michael Bryson, Love and its Critics: From the Song of Songs to Shakespeare and Milton’s Eden. Book.

HC User Spotlight: Daniela Avido

 

Humanities Commons member Daniela N. Ávido designed and maintains Fauna 3D and was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, not only about the project, but also about her own experience and advice about working on Humanities Commons. 

 Fauna 3D is the public face of a project, “Generation and utilization of 3D models for the study of archaeofaunas,” directed by Marcelo Vitores, which was accredited by Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA), where Daniela is a student. Actually, all the members of the team are either graduates from or students at UBA. The purpose of the project was to experiment with free-open-source software for creating virtual replicas of bones from reference collections (which are used to ID bone fragments from archaeological sites).

If you would like to contact Daniela, or the team behind Fauna 3D, you can do so through her Humanities Commons profile, or via @danavido on Twitter.

3d mesh of a bone in the reference collection, being processed with Regard3D

Continue reading “HC User Spotlight: Daniela Avido”

CORE’s Most Downloaded in October 2018

Painting by Master of Frankfurt, Festival of the Archers, 1493. An outdoor festival scene.

October’s most downloaded CORE deposits include articles, books, and a dissertation:

  1. J.P. Alperin , C. Muñoz Nieves, L. Schimanski, G.E. Fischman, M.T. Niles & E.C. McKiernan. “How significant are the public dimensions of faculty work in review, promotion, and tenure documents?” Article.
  2. Ayesha Majid, “Marketing strategy of Lenovo laptops.” Report.
  3. Oscar Martinez-Peñate, El Salvador Sociología General. Book.
  4. Nicholas Rinehart, “Black Beethoven and the Racial Politics of Music History.” Article.
  5. Titus Stahl, “What is Immanent Critique?” Article.
  6. Luís Henriques, “A nova capela-mor setecentista da Catedral de Évora: Uma abordagem ao seu impacto na atividade musical de Pedro Vaz Rego e Ignácio António Celestino.” Article.
  7. Geraldine Heng, “The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages I: Race Studies, Modernity, and the Middle Ages.” Article.
  8. M. Selim Yavuz, Dead is dead: Perspectives on the Meaning of Death in Depressive Suicidal Black Metal Music through Musical Representations. Dissertation.
  9. Michael Bryson, Love and its Critics: From the Song of Songs to Shakespeare and Milton’s Eden. Book.
  10. Brigitte Fielder, “Animal Humanism: Race, Species, and Affective Kinship in Nineteenth-Century Abolitionism.” Article.