Post written by 7 minute read
May 12, 2011

The intersections of digital scholarship, new media, and emerging publishing technologies

Contributed by Cindy Selfe

From my point of view,starting a digital press is relatively easy, but sustaining it, and making sure that it publishes great scholarship represents a whole constellation of ongoing challenges.

Over the past three years, most of Gail’s and my attention in setting up Computers and Composition Digital Press(CCDP) has involved getting the mission and the goals of the CCDP just right so that we can serve the computers and writing community in the way we envision. With regard to mission, we have been determined to create a press that publishes e-projects with the same intellectual gravity, reach, and scope of more conventional scholarly books, but also one that recognizes and celebrates multimodal/multimedia texts that live fully only in digital contexts. Our goal is to provide authors of digital/multimodal projects the professional and scholarly recognition they deserve by insisting on peer review by eminent scholars who value the intellectual significance of good scholarly work and can judge excellence in both content and design. We have also worked closely with our own Editorial Board and with Michael Spooner at Utah State University to make sure all CCDP projects enjoy the imprimatur of a widely recognized academic press. These particular characteristics, we believe, will make the projects we publish most valuable for readers and, importantly, for authors as they face tenure and promotion decisions at their home institutions and circulate their work in the wider arena of their profession.

But, now that we, as a field of specialization have a born-digital press, what can we dowith it?

In part, this question emerges from in the productive tension that rests at the heart of the CCDP effort: although we want the e-projects we publish to be recognizable as extended intellectual projects to the various audiences scholars must address, our job is also to encourage and support continued digital experimentation in the computers and writing community. Given this productive tension and the pragmatic context from which it grows, the scholarly e-projects that the CCDP has published thus far, have retained many of the characteristics of extended scholarly projects (and often sport some of the artifactual characteristics that make them book-like, but we also selected these projects precisely because take important steps away from book-ness. In 2009, Heidi McKee’s, Danielle DeVoss’ and Dickie Selfe’s Technological Ecologies & Sustainability began this process by including some video and audio content in its exploration of the physical spaces, hardware, software, and networks which students and teachers have come to use and depend on for communicating in the twenty-first century. In 2010, John Scenters-Zapico’s Generaciones Narratives broke new ground by focusing on video-recorded interviews with Latino/a students who talked about the rise of technological literacies across generations and within the marginalized populations on the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2011, Deborah Journet, Cheryl Ball and Ryan Trauman will extend the effort of scholarly experimentation by publishing The New Work of Composing, an e-project that grew out of the 2009 Watson conference at the University of Louisville and that focuses the profession’s attention on the new forms, approaches, and challenges attendant to composing in digital environments.

By the time the first two projects were published and the third well underway, Gail and I had come to realize just how difficult a task we had set for authors: it is a huge undertaking to re-imagine a form that our profession has lived with for so long, to compose a scholarly e-project with the same intellectual gravity, reach, and scope of an academic book, but that also takes advantage of multimodal/multimedia texts and that live fully only in digital contexts.

As a result, we decided that we had to try such a project ourselves, to take on the same task of re-imagining we have been asking others to do. To that end, we’re now working on two e-projects for the CCDP: with Patrick Berry, Gail and Cindy are authoring Transnational Literate Lives, a project that examines the lifeworlds of students who inhabit transnational contexts; and, with Louie Ulman and Scott Dewitt, Cindy is editing Stories That Speak to Us, a collection of curated exhibits from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN) that authors are examining through the lens of narrative theory. Both of these projects make heavy use of video as a tool for recording interviews and for examining the words and the behaviors of contributors. We also think both projects will help make a strong argument for using video for reporting research as well as conducting it. These projects are well underway, and we hope to have them published by the end of 2011.

But even with all this work done, we continue to be fundamentally shaped by the forms of print and the presence of books. And we have come to have new appreciation for the difficult task of imagining new e-genres and e-forms that can accomodate an extended scholarly examination.

So, we’d like to encourage the scholars out there to join us in this ongoing task of imagining new ways to escape the intellectual gravity of book-ness. This pioneering work is difficult (even when it is the most fun), it entails a great deal of risk-taking (at both intellectual and material levels), and it challenges us to think in new ways about our intellectual labor (which is always a tough task). Such a task is not for the faint-of-heart, but it is the kind of exciting challenge digital scholars and teachers have always embraced.

With this challenge in mind, we want to encourage readers of this marvelous blog to submit possible e-projects to the CCDP editors for consideration. And we provide the following list of ideas as a heuristic for exploring and experimenting:

Think about short form e-projects (with the same intellectual heft as a very small monograph or a chapbook). We’re thinking, here, of something like Katherine Hayles Writing Machines, only born-digital.

Imagine acollaborative e-project. Digital projects demand a range of digital skills and understandings, and a team-based approach is often the very best way of assembling the talent that is needed. Faculty might want to consider collaborating with graduate students, other colleagues, or with students in their classes. Graduate students might want to consider joining forces with folks in their own program or with folks in other programs. People who have plans to attend OSU’s Digital Media and Composition institute may want to use their time to work on a collaborative e-project. We’re thinking, here of a project like Paul Prior et al.’s “Re-situating and Re-mediating the Canons: A Cultural-Historical Remapping of Rhetorical Activity” in Kairos, an extended collective work that focuses on a particularly rich argument that attempts to remap classical rhetorical canons.

• Curate a exhibit of artifacts and analyses, or create an installation, or author a multimedia comic book, or compose a map around a scholarly question/argument/problem set. Each of these forms—if digitally re-imagined as an way of focusing on the intellectual questions that challenge composition researchers and/or teachers—could contribute to our collective ability to escape the gravitational pull of book-ness, and to re-draw the boundaries of our field