Friday, February 01, 2008

Dissertation proto-proposal: the scholarly mongraph interface

I am imagining this scholarly monograph as a layered kind of thing. I guess I'll use the tabs metaphor for the moment, though that's sort of old. But, for now, the tabs on my interface, which interface I imagine (at this time) would be resident on servers within a discipline environment or an institutional environment (TDL, for example):

1. Project Title page, DOI, other metadata
2. TOC fully hyperlinked
3. text in a format optimized for straight reading
4. html text fully hyperlinked
5. a blog for the project (pre and post publication)
6. bookmarks page with feeds (; blog reader) for all web resources
7. pre-publication peer-review/imprimatur page (info and links to the publisher, if any, and info about peer-review)
8. post-publication commentary and discussion (commentpress version)
9. Bibliography/references, printable
10. Bibliography/references, fully hyperlinked
11. Search page with log of all searches (anonymous)
12. Non-text media arrays or versions (images, sound, video, visualizations)
13. Databases or raw data that underpins the research results
14. POD tab/links to booksellers, if appropriate

Could this be constructed in a blog, with the tabs to static pages being links to pages in the blog, and those not amenable to formatting within the blog linking to free-standing pages in a related or remote directory (for example, the non-text media, the databases or raw data, links to visualization software, etc.)? What about a wiki like the ACRL Scholarly Communications Research Agenda?

What is the experiment? What is the research about? Given the needs defined in studies a, b and c, an interface for presenting research with features x, y and z should meet scholar's and their audiences' needs. How to test that? Just create it, showing how it is responsive to the needs culled from the earlier studies, and then convince a press/library collaborative to offer it as a format for research reporting in the social sciences. I will, of course, report the entire experiment using the format (assuming I can get TDL to host it for me).

So, I am integrating some of Lisa Spiro's observations, particularly, numbers 7 and 8 ( And I am pursuing some of the objectives noted by the ACRL, specifically, Theme 4 about authoring tools: Research and develop authoring tools, publishing templates and open source software packages for scholarly discourse, teaching and publishing. Examine the feasibility and characteristics of registries of such tools.

I also can incorporate into the studies that I consider as sources for the design ideas, the study the Danielle mentioned the other day in response to a blog post: Modern Language Association's Task Force report on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion

This task force report executive summary is at:
My project would be responsive to two of its recommenations:
3. The profession as a whole should develop a more capacious conception of scholarship by rethinking the dominance of the monograph, promoting the scholarly essay, establishing multiple pathways to tenure, and using scholarly portfolios.
4. Departments and institutions should recognize the legitimacy of scholarship produced in new media, whether by individuals or in collaboration, and create procedures for evaluating these forms of scholarship.

And there's Kathleen Fitzpatrick's New (Social) Structures for New (Networked) Texts:;view=text;rgn=main;idno=3336451.0010.305
I need to reread this for its insights. I read and referred to it in my blogs article, but that was a very limited aspect of it. She also has an article at, about the evolution of MediaCommons and its responsiveness to the MLA report.

And finally, copyright. The hypothesis that copyright becomes less important and authors are happy with attribution alone, is an integral part. We absolutely MUST get past DRM. The work has to be open access. That means I can't really avoid the issue of how to fund the dissemination. If no exercise of the copyright monopoly, then funding has to come upfront, not from sales of copies. But what about the POD and bookseller sales? But even those would not be accomplished by virtue of an exclusive right, only a non-exclusive right to provide a service, a printing service. Imprimatur and peer-review would have to be paid for up front. So would hosting and software (maybe these are the same costs). So even if a copyright subsists, its function has changed. It is no longer about excluding others from making or distributing copies. It is mainly about right to perform subsidiary functions for a fee to be paid by the recipient of the service, right to attribution. Rights to create derivatives would be abandoned. Right to prevent copying, distribution, even performance, would all be dedicated to the pd. A very different copyright, a much reduced copyright, in scope. What about length of the term? This is harder to predict. Many people may be willing to give it all up at a period of 14 years, or 28 years. Maybe life of the author. Maybe life + 10 years. But really, that should be negotiable, just like the CC license scope is negotiable. But we need to start having the conversation about what is a reasonable term, in light of Pollock's article that 14 years is optimal. What does it mean to have an optimal or suboptimal term? Personally?

I started doing some research in the Libraries' databases on "interface scholarly monograph" and turned up nada. I talked to Randolph and he suggested I look for stuff on how people are using e-book readers or using e-texts more generally, not just scholarly monographs, but e-books. I had looked at that earlier but was pretty disappointed in it. It seemed like straight translation of books into digital form. No imagination, no exploitation of the medium, no thoughtfulness whatsoever. But I'll look again. There is that fiction project from if:book. I should revisit that.

I do need to get this written up fairly quickly though. I told my committee I was going to draft my work proposal and I've completely ignored it. I need to schedule it or it won't get done. Done.

I wonder if I did a video version of an ethnography, say, of the UT Press, if I could fit it into the final story. Does the dissertation have a place in it for an ethnography of the UT Press, maybe in a video? A whole 'nother interpretation of this little piece of things? Not a story told in prose, but the story told in film. I thought of the ethnography as just helping me to understand the Press world better, but maybe there's a place for the ethnography in the finished product. Since I have all those tabs, it seems like the ethnography can be fitted in even if it's not integral. Maybe that's one of the good things about the tabbed approach. It lends itself to relationships.

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