Blog Post

From the Margins to the Center: Academic Publishing in a Social Scholarship Age


All fall I’ve been reading the thoughts of HASTAC Scholars (and others) who have insisted that academic scholarship, production, and activity move, echoing bell hooks, “from the margin to the center.” Many would agree that our work as beginning scholars would lend itself beyond the confines of academic journals and the narrowness implied therein—we want to have an impact beyond our impact factor; we are hopeful that our work may cause others to have hope, etc. In one of my Educational Technology classes, we’ve been reading Hypertext 3.0  by George Landow, and many of his ideas about how hypertext implies a shifting nature of authorship, writing/reading, and context—away from a static notion of what knowledge is (one that is rooted in authorial intention, greatness, etc) to one that incorporates different reading paths while allowing for the potential of many texts to be incorporated into that which is being reading.

It’s fascinating because while I generally don’t get excited about the “standing on a mountaintop” sort of proclamations—if education embraced initiative X, we might be ____ (fill in the blank)—I think there is something to Landow’s argument, especially in the light of social media. Why isn’t there some sort of Facebook for the Academy, that retained the social, linked nature of that social network, that allows scholars to share their work with their public. In my mind, the articles/writing/work wouldn’t take the form of 20-30 page articles, but would be shorter (5-10 pgs, more probably) that invited participation (co-writing) alongside/on top of/next to the “original” writing—or with links (videos, photos, etc) referencing the ideas “within” the text.

The idea would be to share academic work in a way that invites deep, rich participation (and echoing @KFitz ‘s idea of shifting the mode of academic production to one that values collaboration and various forms of coproduction) in an authentic, social way. 



I have no association with, but it seems like it has the infrastructure to help with a lot of these things. And if it got more in terms of critical mass of users, I think it would grow more useful! I hear that science folks get a lot of good out of the social features of Mendeley, but it also doesn't have critical mass among humanities scholars.


Marta, thanks for the great response. I think that Academia and Mendeley are great ways to encourage scholars to share their work-- but outside of those currently studying in an official capacity (undergrads/graduate students/faculty), how many non-academics currently participate in those conversations?

It would be fun to have the conversation happening in a more vibrant social setting (and I'm not sure FB is *it*, but I think we have to start where the people are, whether it's on FB, Twitter, Tumblr, etc) so that a lot of people (including those who usually don't participate in these conversations) might want to comment, include links, include photos, include thoughts on a given article. For example, I'm working on an article about the #Occupy movement-- how great to use that as a template, with links out to other articles and create a pastiche space where others can co-create with me?


The sites with the good infrastructure to do the kinds of things we'd want to do don't have the critical mass of people. And the sites with the critical mass don't have the infrastructure!


Hi Benjamin, Thanks for the interesting post.

You should definitely re-post this as a comment in the current forum!

Pixels & Print: Redefining Academic Publishing & Scholarly Communication

And...we're obviously not Facebook, but when we redesigned the HASTAC site last summer, your thoughts were one of our guiding principles. How can we increase conversation between interdisciplinary scholars? How can we encourage organizations and folks *not* in an academic environment to join and share their own ideas and knowledge?

One of the solutions was using Drupal Commons, which supports the development of Groups. We've had such a busy few months (with a super tiny staff) that we haven't had time to help individual scholars or other organizations build out their group here. Basically, the dynamic structure of Drupal allows content to be posted to multiple places at once. Say, for example, that I write a blog on a new media art exhibition. That blog could be posted in a "Museum Studies Group" and the "New Media Art Group" as well as our group for my local university. This ensures that people interested in a specific topic don't have to try to wade through the increasing posts on HASTAC. We used to get *maybe* one post a day. We can barely keep things on the front page anymore! So there has to be some kind of filtering built into the system, and not just in terms of search filtering, but in being able to build a community of like-minded scholars and others. 

Anyone can start a group, based on any theme you'd like. You can make it open to others, invite-only, closed, etc., and can use it for a variety of conversations.

When imagining what this site *could* be, or what I might hope it to be, and especially when talking to non-academics, I've said that my vision is like a cross between Facebook, Metafilter, open source academic journals, the Huffington post and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

As a means of encouraging people to post their own work here, one easy reminder is that you can re-blog posts from your own personal blog here - it introduces your work to many new people, and starts a conversation going. 

Anyway - this comment is really not meant as self-promotion, and is rather a voice of support that yes, there are other folks thinking along the same lines! We believe that there has to be, can be, and should be more forums for interactive engagement like you describe. 

Where we may differ in opinion is that I don't read the HASTAC Scholar posts (and other bloggers here) as primarily trying to rescue the fabled manuscript in printed form. I actually think that by joining a group like the Scholars, you're inherently looking for new ways of engaging discussion and meeting interesting folks. 

If you re-post your comment in that forum, I'll do the same, as a follow-up. 



Back in the 17th/18th century there were a community of individuals who exchanged letters, papers and conversation by "mail" since there was no internet. Many of the members would/should be familiar to this group. When the British Royal Society was formed there appeared to be a split between those who were within the walls of the Ivory Tower and those in the world at large. The turning inward to one's academic colleagues has only become more focused and narrower. Lindsay Waters' book, Enemies of Promise: Publishing, Perishing and the Eclipse of Scholarship makes it clear that few academics are "public intellectuals"; most remain narrowly focused. Kathleen Fitzpatrick's volume: Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology and the Future of the Academy is a rather academic book which weakly touches on the e-pub area as a potential- in many ways a cautious toe in the  electronic publishing water with, seemingly, the idea of an alternative to the rapidly diminshing number of published "books", the gold standard, particularly for the humanities, for pub/perish/promotion.

If one is looking for "conversation", or to revitalize the idea of the Republic of Letters, step outside the walls of the Ivory Tower.