Blog Post

"Shakespeare and New Media": An Experiment in Open Review

Cathy recently blogged about Duke's proposed open access policy, which would create a freely accessible digital archive of work by Duke faculty. This cracks open one end of the academic publishing process, giving the public access to a wealth of knowledge usually locked in commercial databases.

I'd like to bring another experiment in "open access" to the HASTAC community's attention: the open review process going on right now at Shakespeare Quarterly. Hosted by MediaCommons and built using the CommentPress plugin for WordPress (the same tool used by Noah Wardrip-Fruin when soliciting comments on his manuscript Expressive Processing), the open review process invites the Shakespeare and Media Studies communities at large to comment on work proposed for publication in a special upcoming issue, "Shakespeare and New Media." Guest editor Katherine Rowe explains the process:

For Shakespeare critics and scholars, among the most significant consequences of media change will be transformations in how we communicate about our work and publish new research. In keeping with the topic of its special issue, Shakespeare and New Media, Shakespeare Quarterly is conducting an experiment in open peer review which will apply only to the special issue. After the initial editorial evaluation, authors will be invited to opt into the open review process. For those who do, their essays will be posted online for public commentary and feedback by the journals readers at this site. Authors may respond to this feedback before submitting their revised essays for final selection by the editors.

Authors may opt out of the open review, and commenters are asked to use their real names, since, as Katherine points out, "it may be important for untenured scholars whose work is being reviewed here to show that experts in the field participated in this process." While an enormous amount of effort has gone into soliciting work and preparing the drafts for CommentPress (thanks, Katherine and Kathleen!), the open review process places the work in the community's hands, letting participants shape the direction of the issue. In this way, the final product -- the completed issue -- actually *does* in some way represent the shared views of the participants, without squelching the hierarchies of expertise, diversity of opinions or independent voices in the process.

This strikes me as a remarkably civil, even (if I may use this word in this context) mature way of sharing scholarly research, and stands in stark contrast to the wild-west-of-the-web rhetoric of, for instance, Jaron Lanier.

In the future, scholars may use this archive to better understand the ideas of this particular moment by observing the debates that shaped them; for the present, it provides an opportunity for us to reflect on our own methods of composition and critique. I encourage fellow HASTACers to check out the website and participate.

(PS: A short review I wrote of some Shakespeare-related Digital Humanities sites is entered in the open review. I end the piece by inviting others to add DH sites they've found useful. Please add your favorites!)


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