Enhancing Scholarly Publications: Presentation in Ljubljana

I have just completed the slides for a presentation on enhanced publications to be given at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences, on 10 June 2011, which are available here. It’s always a pleasure preparing slides for such presentations and I delighted this time in searching for images of Ted Nelson’s notion of hypertext to serve as an entry point for both early and future enhancement, knowing quite well that enhanced publication means more than Nelson had in mind when he first conceived of hypertext in 1963, but also knowing that incorporation of the kind of linkages between the objects of a publication, scholarly or otherwise, then proposed goes a very long ways to achieving what many of us presently mean by enhancing scholarship.

An announcement and abstract for the presentation is available below. Perhaps more appropriate for a blog post than either the abstract or the entire collection of 29 slides would be a short elaboration of three of the images: one on a recent effort to identify the core constituents of Enhanced Publications, one reflecting current innovation (albeit distant from conventional scholarship), and one suggesting tomorrow’s efforts at enhancement.  First, the core constituents. This slide leans heavily on previous work of Woutersen-Windhouwer and Brandsma (2009), which is part of a collection to elaborate the meaning and rationale of enhancement in scholarly publishing. In the conclusion to their essay, these authors establish a checklist of items to consider when enhancing publications (2009: 80).

Check list for Enhanced Publications

Although appreciated, this list fails to distinguish core components from those that are more peripheral. As is common with checklists, the items are either ‘on’ or ‘off’ and, as such, lack variability; no indication is provided as to which or how many of the items are required to satisfy the label ‘enhancement’. As a beginning, such a checklist may be helpful, but I would argue that a more pluralistic vision of enhancement would be more suitable at this stage of development than one seeemingly based in an ‘essentialist’ framework. A modest step I have prepared in that direction is a compact set of features commonly associated with enhanced publications, differentiating core and secondary features.

Core & Secondary Components of EP

The presentation begins with what is perhaps the most impressive site of enhanced publication that I have encountered: the Visualizing Cultures research project at MIT. The site is a paradise for historical scholars and instructors concerned with imagery related to specific periods in Japanese and Chinese encounters with the West. Although the site probably falls far short of the Woutersen-Windhouwer and Brandsma checklist for enhancement, it represents utilization of the Web for facilitating scholarship seldom achieved by the rest of us struggling to incorporate Web features in our publications.

A very recent and innovative incorportion of features is evident in the book / Web publication of Al Gore’s latest foray into environmental issues, Our Choice. This publication involves a conventional printed book, but with a website providing much complementing material: videos, samplings from the chapters, notes with links to additional material, and dazzling illustrations. I know of no established commercial publisher that has attempted such interweaving of the Web with the printed version. This book is not scholarship in the conventional sense and Gore is certainly more activist than academic, but those of us more directly involved in scholarship could learn much from this initiative at enhancement.

Finally, I return in the slides to a homage to Ted Nelson and one of the early drawings based on his pioneering work with hyperlinking, suggesting how a hypothetical history project might interrelate components of the project – the text, the footnotes, bibliography, illustrations, different topics in the ‘argument’.

Nelson's Notion of Hyperlinking & Hypothetical History Project

As acknowledged at the start of this post, I am aware that ‘enhanced publication’ has come to mean much more than hyperlinking, still I continue to feel that few of us have made such a basic ‘first step’ in our efforts to utilize the Web as environment for publishing our scholarship….


Public Lecture

Nicholas W. Jankowski

University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences, FDV-19

Friday, 10 June, 14.30-15.30

Enhancing Conventionally Prepared Scholarly Publications Through Web-based Complements: Reflections on an Initiative

Scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences are increasingly exploring ways to make research available on the Web. Instruments for data collection and analysis, datasets and metadata describing this material, conference papers  and project reports are all finding their way into Web-based repositories. One area lagging behind in this trend, however, is a Web venue that integrates the traditionally published book with the diverse materials related to an overall research project. In this presentation I describe an initiative to construct Web venues to complement four conventionally published scholarly books. Termed ‘enhanced publications’, this initiative is part of a national  program in the Netherlands experimenting with Web-based publishing. I will highlight some of the special features of these Web-based complements to the books and share reactions from publishers and authors to the initiative expressed during the recently held conference of the International Communication Association (ICA). Additional details on enhanced publications can be found on an informational flyer prepared for the ICA, available on SlideShare.

Biographical sketch: Nicholas Jankowski is Visiting Fellow at the e-Humanities Group of the Royal Netherlands Academy of the Arts and Sciences (KNAW). He is co-editor of the journal New Media & Society and editor of the Hampton Press book series Euricom Monographs: New Media & Democracy. He recently edited e-Research: Transformation in Scholarly Practice (Routledge, 2009) and is preparing a textbook on digital media for Polity Press (2012).