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Weekly Wisdom: Brought to you by the Letter G

BoxesConsider being generous. Awhile ago there was a discussion about Tweeting during conference panels and whether doing so was making scholars’ research public outside of their established intentions. Academics are generally trained to be very protective of their ideas, their data, and their scholarship: there’s a reason for the term “intellectual property.” The inverse would be to apply the ideas of generosity and publicness to scholarship.

Michelle Moravec conducts her scholarly work in open places, inviting engagement and comments from others. She notes: “Writing in Public is my small contribution to making visible the processes by which history making takes place. I draft all my work in documents shared with readers for comments and critique.”

Author and artist Austin Kleon makes a similar pitch. His latest book is titled Show Your Work: 10 ways to share your creativity and get discovered. Kleon encourages readers to “think about your work as a never-ending process, how to build an audience by sharing that process.”

What might you gain from being generous with your scholarship?

When is a Hashtag a Journal Article? by Charlotte Frost
picture by my Dad

hashtag in a squareRight that’s it, I’ve done it, I’ve gone and put my money where my mouth is. Or rather, I’ve put my open access politics where my REFables should be.

I’ve written a journal article on the nature of art historical knowledge and its philosophical relationship to its physical archives. But rather than present that article all nicely peer-reviewed and in a high impact journal, I’m publishing it free online and inviting anyone and everyone to peer review it – publicly. I wanted my first full-length academic journal article to be in line with the online areas of art history that I research, where art and art history are freely shared. Because I am interested in the on- and offline networks that create and support our ideas about art, I wanted other people’s opinions to be integral to the piece. And as I run an academic book series that experiments with the relations between the form and content of art history books, I wanted to dig my own publishing sandpit (or rather, extend the one I already built when created PhD2Published).

As it’s not enough that I’ve gone all open access on art history’s ass, I also wanted to consider – along with the media-aware ideas in my article – what post-digital art history might be. Partly this is reflected in the fact the article is not print-published but it is also reflected in my decision to work with media artist Rob Myers to manifest what might be best described as a physical version of the article. Embedded within the text itself are links to a project where you can order your own version of a 3D printed hashtag of the phrase ‘art history’. This draws attention the fact all art historical writing takes some sort of physical form – whether it’s printed words on pages or tweeted hashtags on Twitter – and re-enforces my argument that art historians need to better understand our own media. It also allows the article to generate a number of new research objects. That is, as #arthistory is interacted with beyond the space of the article itself, it can become new things – crowdsourced things – which also (if not quite directly) support the article’s theories about the value placed on participative modes in online art contextual activity.

So here’s what happens. To read the article itself you can go here: http://www.gylphi.co.uk/artsfuturebook/

Or if that’s too long winded, you can also get the gist of the #arthistory component here: http://hasharthistory.net/

Ideally you’ll then either offer your peer review comments on the article and or you’ll purchase your own hashtag and start sharing photographs of it in use.

And then let’s all meet back here or on Twitter (I’m @charlottefrost) and discuss what we think of this as a project. Does it represent a step in the right direction for open access scholarship, the digital humanities and new forms of publication and research, or does it try to do too much at once? Does the theory at the heart of the article suffer due to the playfulness of the #arthistory project? Should such projects be evaluated and if so, how?

On Independent Arts Scholarship – by Hasan Niyazi

DURERSPThis blog post by Hasan Niyazi (independent art history blogger/originator of the ‘3 Pipe Problem’ blog) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects to share what their intentions were when they established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

In the year 1500, the German artist Albrecht Dürer inscribed the following on a self-portrait:

“I, Albrecht Dürer of Nuremberg portrayed myself in everlasting colours aged twenty-eight years.”

Writers of art history view this work as a significant turning point, or “moment” in Western civilisation.[1] The wildly gifted artist portrayed himself in not only a manner resembling traditional depictions of Christ, but added the force of his own presence to the work with the inscription, including his own “AD” monogram, which to many reading (to this day) recalled “Anno Domini” – the Year of Our Lord. From a perspective perhaps best granted by hindsight, Dürer’s inscribed portrait heralded the age of the individual. Dürer may have been the possessor of a large ego, yet he was also a capable disseminator of his work. His engravings and etchings, mechanically reproduced as prints on paper traveled across Europe, spreading the fame of his skill, and often encouraging copyists.[2]

Dürer not only embraced technology to aid in the distribution of his work, he was also an able networker. Eager to reach out to others, Dürer traveled to meet and learn from other artists. He sought Martin Schongauer and Andrea Mantegna, missing both shortly after their death, but did meet an aged Giovanni Bellini in Venice. By 1515, Dürer sought to exchange gifts with the most celebrated Italian artist of the age, Raphael of Urbino, then at the height of his powers in Rome, his career overshadowing both Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.[3]

In whatever context one seeks to frame Dürer’s life and career, it is evident that he was successful at spreading an awareness of himself and his work across Europe. I wished to introduce Dürer’s use of technology to spread his work, and seeking personal connections to improve his knowledge as a precursor to a discussion about blogging. At the very least, Dürer’s example provides some interesting and relevant historical parallels.

I have been asked by Charlotte Frost to provide an account of my experiences in the blogosphere, exploring Renaissance art history in a level of detail than was not occurring in an open forum on the web. I presently spend my days working as a clinician and most nights reading and writing about art history. In late 2009, after having spent over a decade online, on message boards and advice forums dedicated to technology, I found my mind always wandering back to art history, a topic I had studied at a younger age. Hence, with little more than a vague notion of wanting to write about “cool art stuff” I began “art history blogging.” I created a free blog using Google’s “Blogger” platform, which I found favourable compared to WordPress as it allowed users full access to the blog’s underlying html code, allowing me to learn about this along the way.  Three years on, I find myself pleasantly occupied. My clinical work continues, yet my reading and writing in art history has wrought great changes to me and my writing. I maintain regular contact with important Renaissance scholars, and am working on an ambitious project dedicated to the artist Raphael.

My blog, 3 Pipe Problem (3PP), became a platform to disseminate the idea that a more detailed appreciation of Renaissance art history is not restricted to those who can access universities, expensive books and journals, or belong to a particular community. Many bloggers have a personal motivation. For some, this motivation comes foremost as an intellectual pursuit that captivates the mind. Applying it to art history, I sought to understand its narrative of the past, and the evidence that had formed the common perception of this period in history.

Raphael Uffizi in Frame

Raphael’s famous self-portrait at the Uffizi has a complex attribution history, with a number of scholars disagreeing on it author, and likely date of creation.

This search for understanding – to my mind at least – arrived in its purest form when examining the attribution of a Renaissance artwork. It is a magical experience to walk into a gallery and stand before a work on panel or canvas labelled to be by the great Raphael, Leonardo, Titian or Giorgione (etc). Purchasing the catalogues offered by museums and galleries for these works often brushes past attribution issues entirely. It is only when one is brave enough to wade into the scholarly literature that we find an almost endless procession of heated debate about the authorship of a work. In Raphael studies in particular, this discussion is protracted across many works attributed to an artist whose style dramatically changed across the short span of his professional life.

Because Raphael had acquired great fame during his own lifetime, we are blessed with a greater number of surviving sources on his movements and actions than can be found for other artists of the period. It is the evaluation of these sources, and the physical characteristics of the works themselves that enable us to describe a painting “by Raphael” in full. Indeed in the scope of Renaissance workshop, Raphael’s involvement in a particular work needs to measured against visual evidence gleaned from observation of the work itself, and related technical images and preparatory works  – a mode of analysis traditionally known as connoisseurship.

It is the distillation of these complex quantities of information that I attempt to bring to my posts at 3PP, and inform my work on the Open Raphael Online project. In doing this work online, I found I gained the most when openly sharing my learning experiences as they happened. The most efficient way to do this was via the social media platform twitter, where I encountered a range of individuals with similar interests, including professionals and students engaged in the study of art and history. This resulted in an ongoing exchange of information and resources, and a pleasing type of social interaction that occurs when one encounters kindred spirits.

In November 2012, I was pleased to be awarded the honour of representing “art history bloggers” at the Florens cultural heritage event in Florence. Traveling back to the heart of the Renaissance is a perennially emotional experience, and in my mind the city of innovation and endeavor that Florence once was seeks to regain its place again, with an increasing number of progressive online voices discussing the art and culture of the city.

Florens Reserved Teampic

Being part of the team of bloggers covering the Florens2012 event was a rewarding experience, providing insights into the great potential for new media to inform and promote a deeper experience of Italian culture than is presently being achieved.

What is blogging and where is it headed?

It is at times daunting finding oneself working in a space populated by very few others, and without a real sense of the activity being viable as anything other than an intellectual exercise. The blogs I admire the most are mostly written by academics as an independent exercise that fed off their experiences in teaching and research. Although I had started blogging “for fun” I quickly found myself wanting to occupy a similar space as far as the quality of detail and critical analysis being offered at blogs such as Thony Christie’s The Renaissance Mathematicus and Monica Bowen’s Alberti’s Window. Hence, each post became a research project in its own right. I would often start at scratch, or from an idea sparked by another blog post or discussion on twitter and develop a post from there. This process allowed me to further develop my own style, and improved my research skills – which of course are still evolving.

There is an increasing amount of discussion about the roles bloggers have in the space traditionally occupied by specialists and journalists. A recent post at the London School of Economics (LSE) Impact Blog specified “academic blogging” as defining a new space between academic writing and journalism.[4]

With specific reference to art history, the 2012 Kress Foundation report into digital art history and its research centers also identified the role of an “instigator”:

“A more radical suggestion is to bring in “instigators” or individuals from outside the research center who possess a unique set of technology, humanities, and people skills. Their role would be to push against institutional barriers without being intimidating to others nor easily thwarted themselves.”[5]

These descriptions seemed to describe blogging being recognised as a new space, and sought to address why blogging exists and whether it is important. It also became apparent that communicating ideas within the context of a blog also demanded a new mode of language, where the individual acting as “instigator” must be able to address both specialists and the interested public alike. This form of writing has no real precedent in art history, the closest analogues being reviews of exhibitions or publications penned by art critics/historians in newspapers and magazines.

Anthropological excursus

Of the various academic disciplines that are bravely experimenting with or observing blogging, that which tended to more completely grasp the “what and why” or meta of blogging was the field of media anthropology, and the related area of cyber-anthropology.[6] This relatively new branch of study, which seems to have forged its presence somewhere between media studies and the social sciences has burgeoned into a thriving discipline, with a proliferation of case studies demonstrating use of blogging and social media being used in social activism. The events around the Arab Spring and Occupy movements seem to be of most enduring interest to the media anthropologists I have encountered, with those tracing the impact of blogging in a broader, cultural sense quite rare.[7]

While many studies/books (of varying quality) can be found on the impact of blogging in a political sense, primarily in the American context, there is at present no study that seeks to track the impact of blogging on elements of cultural discourse, which is arguably the most globally inclusive human activity.[8] From art and archaeology, to regional variances in customs and language, the definition of “culture” is now so broad and complex, that such a study would be daunting to any investigator considering tackling its interaction with the forms of new media represented by blogging and social media. Until such studies are completed, this small excursus, embedded within this account of my role as an art history blogger, will hopefully be a marker for the consideration of new media’s impact on cultural discourse in an anthropological sense.

Conclusion – evolving beyond the primordial ooze

We are still in the primordial ooze of blogging and social media acting to serve a mired field of study, which art history can unfortunately be described in certain contexts. In some cases, quality blogs are helping to demystify aspects of cultural discourse to a global audience.

It is always pleasant to hear from readers who have been to museums and have questioned the assigned label of a work, and have been unsatisfied with the explanations offered in their catalogues. This desire to seek more detail in an independent sense is the true blessing of the information age. This gift of access to knowledge the web can provide recalls the famous, if not grandiose point made by Timothy Leary in Pataphysics in 1990,

“Today the role of the philosopher [and the artist, we might add] is to personalize, popularize, and humanize computer ideas so that people can feel comfortable with them…In every generation I’ve been part of a group of people who, like Prometheus, have wrestled with the power in order to hand it back to the individual.”[9]

Comparisons to mythological titans aside, what can be taken from Leary’s statement is that those with experience navigating the seemingly disparate fields of technology and cultural historiography are ideally suited to analyse and interpret the seemingly rapid changes being experienced by all disciplines defined by large slabs of text and images, traditionally locked within the confines of books. Blogging is just one of many available means of re-purposing and amplifying these images and texts to a more global, and potentially dynamic audience.

I would like to emphasise that my example represents a combination of circumstances that has occurred naturally, and is only a snapshot taken at this point in time. At present, art history blogging exists because it does, and discussing it from the perspective of becoming a viable business model seems a point no one is yet prepared to deliberate on. For academics and students trying to figure out how a blog may fit into their workflow, there is no easy answer other than trying it and finding what works for you, and ruling out what does not.

Ultimately, blogging does not need to supplement anything else. It is its own form of expression,  requiring a mixture of skills. Blogging is a mode of communication where any individual with a passion to work hard and have their voice heard can participate in a global dialogue that attracts scholars and laypersons alike. Art, culture and knowledge transcends boundaries, and so does the web. As such, they are a perfect match.


1. Koerner, JL. The Moment of Self-Potraiture in German Renaissance Art. University of Chicago Press. 1997. pp.40-46 preview available at Google Books link ; the author is aware of the antecedent self portrait by van Eyck and its comparatively boastful frame inscription. Less is known about Jan van Eyck’s travels and how widely his work was disseminated.

2. Pon, L. Raphael, Dürer and Marcantonio Raimondi – Copying in the Italian Renaissance. Yale University Press. 2004. pp.62-68.

3. Nesselrath, A. Raphael’s Gift to Dürer. Master Drawings. Vol. 31. No. 4. Essays in Memory of Jacob Bean (1923-1992). Winter, 1993. pp. 376-389 JSTOR link

4. Carrigan, M. By opening up a distinctive space between academic research and journalism, a thriving academic blogosphere mediates between them. London School of Economics Impact Blog. February 4 2013. Accessed March 6 2013. link

5. Zorich, D. Transitioning to a Digital World: Art History, Its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship. Kress Foundation website June 1. 2012. Accessed March 6 2013. link

6. Rothenbuhler, E. Media Anthropology as a Field of Interdisciplinary Contact. E-Seminar October 22 – November 05 2008, European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), Media Anthropology Network. http://www.media-anthropology.net nb. An excellent overview of media anthropology and its history as a field of study. (pdf link) ; another recommended overview paper is presented by Mihai Coman (pdf link) ; A foundational article introducing the concept of “cyber-anthropology” was published in 2005 by Libin and Libin: Cyber anthropology: a new study on human and technological co-evolution. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics. 2005. 118. pp. 146-55. (link)

7. There are a number of well known blogs dedicated to anthropology – Savage Minds, and its blogroll is a great starting point (link). Less prevalent are blogs dedicated to media anthropology, with the site maintained by Dr. John Postill a notable source of information and resources (link). Blogs exploring specific examples of culture and their impact in a new media and anthropological context are more rare at this stage. Some quality examples include:

  • University College London has an project index(link) and blog(link) exploring the anthropology of social media.
  • Cyber Anthropology – a blog maintained by Diana Harrelson, exploring the anthropology of social media, gaming and online communities (link) ;
  • The Cultural Magazine (link), primarily in Italian, with articles in French and English, maintained by Melissa Pignatelli. Explores cultural anthropology and social media’s impact on contemporary society.

8. Baldwin, J. (ed.) Redefining Culture: Perspectives Across The Disciplines. Routledge. 2006. This landmark publication identified over 300 prevailing definitions of “culture”, highlighting the challenges in demarcating the parameters of culture as a field of study.  For more on this in a new media and reporting context see Niyazi, H. The convergence of culture and new media – Florens 2012. Posted at 3 Pipe Problem. November 22 2012. (link)

9. Leary, T. Pataphysics quote is included in premable of Chaos and Cyberculture. 1994 edition online at archive.org  (link)


A Scholarship of Generosity: New-form Publishing and Hybrid Pedagogy by Jesse Stommel
Image from Mochimochiland.com
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Jesse Stommel (Co-founder and Director of Hybrid Pedagogy) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects to share what their intentions were when they established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

The idea for the name of Hybrid Pedagogy came from a job talk I gave in October 2011. The thesis of that talk now sits on the journal’s homepage: “All learning is necessarily hybrid.” The line is inspired by a blog post from February 2010, in which I write: “The teacher 2.0 must shift the focus from individual learners to the community of learners, drawing new boundaries that reflect a much larger hybrid classroom.” This sentence also describes the work of new-form academic publishing, which draws new boundaries by upsetting the distinction between scholarship and teaching — between the work we do in journals and the work we do in classrooms.

When Pete Rorabaugh and I began discussing what would become Hybrid Pedagogy in early 2011, we wondered if what we were describing was a “journal” or something else entirely. At various points, we flirted with calling the project a “symposium,” “colloquium,” “collective,” or “school.” It was clear to us, from the start, that what we were creating was not a traditional academic publication. What we wanted to build was a network, a community for engaging a discussion of digital pedagogy, critical pedagogy, open education, and online learning. At the same time, we wanted to build a collection of resources to help facilitate conversations within that community.

We worked from the start to develop the journal openly, gathering together an advisory board that had virtual “meetings” on the web via the discussion forum on the site. The goal was to interrogate academic publishing practices by making them transparent — to lay bare our process while it was in formation. We published articles about peer-review before we had established our own peer-review process, inviting feedback and commentary. We crowd-sourced the majority of our initial decisions, down to the layout and design of the site.

Hybrid Pedagogy has become a publication that combines the best aspects of an open-access journal with the best aspects of a group blog (timeliness, a nimble publishing schedule, and direct engagement with readers). Through the articles we’ve published and events we’ve hosted (like MOOC MOOC and regular #digped chats), we’ve brought together higher education teachers, K-12 teachers, the open education community, students, and lifelong learners. We’ve worked to disrupt the conventions of academic publishing, while still maintaining a careful attention to detail, context, and critical engagement.

Based on input from our initial advisory board, we’ve developed what we call “collaborative peer review,” in which editors engage directly with authors to revise and develop articles, followed by post-publication peer review. Once an article is accepted for review, we partner a new author with an editorial board member (myself, Pete, Sean Michael Morris, and Robin Wharton) and a guest editor (usually someone that has already published an article in the journal). Editorial work is done both asynchronously and synchronously in a Google Doc that evolves through an open dialogue between author and editors.

We fully expect our process will continue to evolve. Kathleen Fitzpatrick argues, “Peer review is extremely important — I want to acknowledge that right up front — but it threatens to become the axle around which all conversations about the future of publishing get wrapped.” Going forward, I think it’s vital that every academic publication continuously (and even publicly) interrogates its own practices. Given how rapidly education is changing, we need to keep pushing ourselves to innovate — to learn from our mistakes — and to stay nimble in our approaches. We need to actively overturn the existing hierarchies and power dynamics that fuel unethical practices like blind peer-review, the proliferation of overpriced and barely read monographs, closed-access publishing, and business models that rely insidiously on the free labor of contingent faculty.

I’m glad Pete and I ultimately decided to describe Hybrid Pedagogy as a “journal,” exactly because this designation allows us to push on the boundaries of what, when, and how academic work gets published. The notion of an “academic journal” needs dismantling and reimagining. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t continue to have traditional academic journals, but that we need to considerably broaden the landscape to make way for dynamic collaboration, new media, and participatory culture.

Since launching Hybrid Pedagogy in January 2012, we’ve published 94 articles by 17 authors. The majority of these have been peer-reviewed by at least two reviewers (all but the earliest articles and #digped announcements). We’ve worked especially hard to encourage collaboration; 21 of the 94 articles we’ve published was written by two or more authors, including one article by five authors, one article by twelve authors, and one article by hundreds of authors. Articles have covered a wide range of topics, from MOOCs to digital writing — from intellectual property to personal learning networks.

Shortly after we launched Hybrid Pedagogy, Pete and I wrote an article about the changing nature of citation in the digital age — an article in which we made nods to the various sources for our work on the journal. In that article, we write, “In digital space, everything we do is networked. Real thinking doesn’t (and can’t) happen in a vacuum. Our teaching practices and scholarship don’t just burst forth miraculously from our skulls. The digital academic community is driven by citation, generosity, connection, and collaboration.” I believe generosity is what will drive the future of digital publishing.

Check out the most recent articles on Hybrid Pedagogy: Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1 and pt. 2 and follow @hybridped on Twitter.

Questioning the legitimacy of new-form digital projects: An autoethnography of #AcWri and PhD2Published by Anna Tarrant
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Anna Tarrant (aka PhD2Published’s Managing Editor and co-instigator of #AcWri) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship projects and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects what their intentions where when the established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

When I first contacted Charlotte just over a year ago asking if I could become the Managing Editor of PhD2Published, I never suspected what kind of new doors it would, and could, open for me. In this blog piece I reflect on the role PhD2Published has played for me in the early development of my academic career and muse about how online spaces such as this are integral to an emerging movement that is transforming academic knowledge production and empowering contemporary academics. While my personal experiences are fairly unique, one of the ways in which I think we can learn about and understand the position, increased uptake and legitimacy of online academic spaces is by adopting autoethnographic methodologies; reflecting on our own positions in these new online participatory cultures.

I found PhD2Published while looking for some guidance and support for my newly forming publishing plans. I was on a short, fixed term contract as a Senior Teaching Associate at the time, which meant that the majority of my thinking and time was dedicated to teaching plans, maintaining relationships with my students and marking. While I maintained a fantastic mentor in my PhD supervisor, I felt adrift. It wasn’t part of my paid role to publish at this point, but I was conscious of the need to develop personally in order to competitively pursue the career I so long for (something permanent that combines both teaching and research – note I am currently in my third short-term academic contract since Oct 2010). At this time, I knew that I had to have a publishing strategy and some personal goals to become established in my field. Feeling lost in my institution and disconnected in terms of my research aims and development, I went in search of something else; support, community, the ‘how to’ of academic publishing. In the end, I turned to the Internet for this support and PhD2Published couldn’t have provided a better opportunity.

In the past year or so, since being involved with the site as a Managing Editor, I have learnt so much. In brief, I have learnt how, and where to publish to maximize my impact. I have had two traditional style journal papers accepted, I have contributed to various blogs, including the Guardian Higher Education blog, I have learnt how to use Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms to enhance my professional profile and have set up my own professional blog, which has even attracted attention from people outside of academia. I have also up-skilled; not only have I learnt how to run and manage an academic blog, I have networked much more widely on a variety of social media platforms to the point where I am recognized for my work at conferences. I have learnt a great deal from others – having also collaborated on #Acwri, the monthly live chats Dr Jeremy Segrott and I run on Twitter. And I have continued to publicly share my experiences in order to support others.

The #AcWri live chats in particular were established by myself and Jeremy after PhD2Published’s writing initiative, AcBoWriMo (now AcWriMo), when Jeremy was publicly searching for a community for academic writing discussion. It was quickly recognized that a much larger community of academics (of different disciplines, career stages and nationalities) wanted support with the emotional, as well as practical elements of one of their main crafts. Jeremy and I decided to collaborate and run fortnightly live chats on Twitter focused on different aspects of academic writing under the hashtag #AcWri. The intention of this was to establish an on-going, online participatory community, an open platform for sharing knowledge about academic writing (empowering each member as experts in their right) and to generate useful resources in the form of sumWwri has been successful in these goals so far, but what does this mean for academic knowledge production and has this changed our ways of working?

The establishment of the #AcWri community has emerged from, and aligns with PhD2Published’s (and other sites’) ethos of open, participatory learning but it has also contributed to changing the ways we work/research, publish/share and network/support each other. It allows a diverse group of researchers to connect and share their knowledge beyond the physical boundaries of institutions and to publish in new ways that are available to others beyond academia. It has allowed for a more engaged and open conversation about the ‘hidden injuries’ (Gill 2009) of neo-liberal academia (in this case through frank discussions about writing, a key part of the publishing we need to do, or risk ‘perishing’). It also allows us to share our successes and failures, to support and to network with one another in ways that have been less available to us before. The need for these spaces is evident in that the community, in size and quality of contribution, has flourished and is also self-perpetuating without the need for Jeremy and I to intervene beyond the live chats.

Importantly, the increased use and uptake of these online academic sites indicates broader changes, both within, and outside academic institutions that cannot be ignored. What is (not) happening within institutions that is encouraging more scholars to go online? Is this indicative of an absence of support in contemporary academia for its staff, particularly those who are Early Career? All of these questions are beginning to be raised and I am really excited to be part of a group of scholars (who have also written for this series of blogs) who are reflecting on, and even theorising about the increased uptake of online academic spaces where academic knowledge production is taking place. Through my involvement with PhD2Published and #AcWri I have personally developed essential and empowering skills that are required by the contemporary Early Career academic and yet for some reason these spaces still lack legitimacy

“You make me want to throw up”: why do some academics hate blogging? by Inger Mewburn
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Inger Mewburn (aka The Thesis Whisperer) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship projects and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects what their intentions where when the established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

Recently I changed jobs, moving on from RMIT University to The Australian National University (ANU). For those who are unfamiliar with the pecking order of Australian Universities, this is like moving from an obscure Polytechnic in a regional town to somewhere like Oxford or Cambridge.

It’s hardly suprising then, that my move sparked a lot of, what one colleague called, ‘corridor talk’. I had many curious emails and phone calls from my RMIT colleagues along the lines of “Did ANU employ you because of the Thesis Whisperer blog?”

Well, yes.

And no.

If the only thing I was capable of was blogging I’m sure ANU wouldn’t have been interested in me – certainly not interested enough to fly me in and out for a year until my son finishes primary school. The blogging merely made my many years of experience in research education visible.

The Thesis Whisperer blog enabled the right people at ANU to notice my expertise at the right time. The fact of the matter is, had I continued to plod away, teaching and publishing in respectable journals (ie: the conventional career strategy advocated in many a workshop), ANU management would never have known I existed.

The move has caused me to reflect on the passive – and occassionally active – resistance I have encountered from other academics about blogging. “A waste of time,” some said “not scholarly” others opined. I’ve noticed that blogging is often framed in this everyday talk as mere self promotion and not the serious, scholarly work I believe it is.

So I hope you’ll forgive me for admitting to feeling a little bit smug about how it all turned out.

Those years of invisible – and unpaid – work have finally paid off, and in the most delightful way. I now have a new job, one which has more scope for me to do the work I love – helping research students finish their PhDs.

When the benefits of blogging to the individual are so clear, why don’t more academics do it?

Many academics tell me they just don’t have time. As Pat Thomson wrote on the LSE impact blog said recently, the question “how do you find the time to blog?” is often a way non-bloggers can indulge a bit of stealthy criticism on the bloggers amongst us. Which is why, perhaps, bloggers like me feel they need to write pieces like this. We feel moveed to defend ourselves about a practice that is seen as a little… unsavoury.

I agree that institutional paperwork can be onerous, research is time consuming and students are demanding, but this has been the case since I started as an academic in 1995. Today we have advantages that were still the stuff of science fiction in 1995: extremely light-weight computers, ubiquitous wifi, tablets and smart phones, google scholar, cloud computing.

While I can understand not writing a blog (sort of) I really can’t understand people who don’t read blogs, take part in Twitter or otherwise take part in the scholarly dialogue which is happening online.

I notice that those who complain about time are usually those who haven’t even tried to integrate this technology in their daily routine. In vain I try to point out that we all have odd bits of time in our day which can be put to use: at the bus stop, on a train, waiting an appointment, a solitary lunch time here and there. All of these moments are an opportunity to fire up an RSS reader on our phone or laptop and learn something new online.

No doubt you, as a blog reader, know this already. I don’t have to point out the benefits to the converted. The question I have for you is, how many of your colleagues are doing the same? And more importantly – why don’t they? It’s a question that is beginning to fascinate me and one which I don’t have a ready answer for.

When Charlotte asked me to write a post about how we can legitimise and encourage this new kind of scholarly practice she gave me a couple of words: hybrid, ‘outstitutional’, feral. I like these words because they make me feel a bit edgy and special. At the same time I think it’s a bit worrying that words like this are used to describe my Thesis Whisperer work. Interesting or not, such words tend to situate blogging as ‘other’ to mainstream academic practice. It’s not the way I want my work to be viewed.

As Martin Weller pointed out in a recent paper about digital scholarship and tenure (and on his blog) blogging is unlikely to become a mainstream academic practice if there are no insitutional incentives to blog. Weller highlights that academics don’t just blog (or research for that matter) to gain monetary reward, but that institutional attitudes to rewarding blogging (or not) have the capacity to influence behaviour.

In a recent article on the Guardian Education network Claire Warwick put forward one of the best explanations I have heard to date. She talked about her friends who don’t tweet and pointed out: “They know Twitter exists, but they are either too busy; can’t be bothered; prefer traditional forms of academic interaction – face to face or via conventional publication; or think that Twitter is too ephemeral a medium for considered scholarly debate: ‘The talk-radio of academia” She goes on to comment: “I think academics, perhaps even more than most people, are driven by the herd mentality, especially when it comes to questions of prestige.”

This is quite true, but I still think the incentive structure is only part of the answer. Reluctance and determined avoidance may have multiple causes. The emotions that surround scholarly work are rarely attended to, but they are complex; ranging from curiosity and excitement to fear and envy and every stop in between. This volatile mix extends into online spaces.

We need to listen carefully to the way people express their reluctance to social media in order to understand what is going on. Recently my friend Joyce Seitzinger, better known as @catspajamasnz, told me about something that happened to her when she was helping to run a seminar on social media. One of the academics seemed very upset, even angry, so Joyce took her aside to ask what was wrong.

“You people make me want to throw up,” the academic said.

I was struck by the violence of this reaction. It is so other to my own attitude to social media, which has always been dominated by emotions of excitement and curiosity. Why would one want to throw up – anxiety? Anger? Or both?

I remember feeling similar, complex emotions at high school towards the cool kids. I was a nerd and I liked being a nerd, but they made fun of me for being who I was. Getting visibly upset or angry only made me more of a target, so I tried treating the cool kids with derision or ignoring them. Inside however, I felt angry and inadequate. I hated that I cared what they thought of me. I didn’t want to be them – not really – but they certainly made me want to throw up.

I wonder: have I become the cool kid? Am I witnessing a similar set of complex emotions, but from the other side?

It is not really up to those who do use social media to try to therapise others. If others don’t want to partake, whether from fear, or disinterest, there’s not much we can do to convince them otherwise. We can only model other ways of being an academic and hope others may follow our lead. So I have changed my standard line on blogging and tried to be less defensive.

When people tell me they don’t have time to blog I point out the time they can save because of the good work being done on so many blogs, Patter, Explorations in Style, The Research Whisperer and LitreviewHQ just to name a few. I highlight how much free labour goes on to produce these blogs. Then I ask: “what do you have to give? How can you make a difference?” Because making a difference, surely, is what being an academic and a teacher is all about.

So I’d be interested to hear what you think. Why do you think academics are reluctant to blog? Are any of the explanations and suggestions here useful? Do you have more ideas?

What Does Writing a Writing Lab Look Like? by Charlotte Frost
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Charlotte Frost (aka PhD2Published’s founder/director) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship projects and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects what their intentions where when the established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

People tend to think that PhD2Published is simply a blog about academic publishing. Well, that’s true, but there might be some in which it helps promote an understanding of publishing that you hadn’t realised about.

PhD2Published was set up as a research tool. What I mean is that I started the blog as a way to get myself published. I thought that by running a resource on publishing I would learn a lot about academic publishing that I could pass on. I could build a career platform for myself that would allow me to directly network with academic publishers. It functioned in a way that was like simultaneously writing and testing a ‘how to’ guide.

In addition to this, in order to run the site, I was having to learn about other publishing platforms as I went along. These were the publishing platforms of social media including WordPress and other blogging platforms, Facebook Pages, Twitter, YouTube, Google + (I still haven’t nailed Google + by the way) etc etc. Although not yet legitimate modes of publishing academic work, they are an increasingly important way in which we can do research and share our ideas. Jesse Stommel and I have referred to this open way of working as ‘public scholarship’ and even if the REF doesn’t officially recognise it, many of us recognise the strength it gives our work.

PhD2Published was designed as a public way of learning and sharing ways of being public with our work. However, knowing the framework I had built for going on this public learning journey, I wanted the site to be used by others in the same way. It might share all of its articles and advice for free, but my feeling was that it should also be free for people to use the same way I had. This is where the role of Managing Editor comes in.

Managing Editors are people who get to come on board and use the site to learn the same things I have – more, hopefully. They can publicly investigate the parts of academic publishing most relevant for their own career paths. For example, I was told I needed to get a book published but in many other areas of academia the journal article reins supreme. So a PhD2Published Managing Editor can use the project to compensate for what they didn’t learn at grad school and, like me, they can do this in a way that shares this knowledge and allows others to make use of it. They can also network directly with – say – the journal editors most likely to publish their work and find out well in advance of submitting, what the editors are looking for and what mistakes they must avoid making.

Likewise, they get to learn about how to use and write for all of the public ‘publishing’ platforms that the site functions on and that interest them. Twitter is increasingly used at conferences but if you’re someone used to having a Facebook account just for keeping in contact with close friends, it is a confusing realm to make sense of. Having to use all of these social media on behalf of PhD2Published and with all the archives of how they’ve been used in the past for the project as well as my advice and support, Managing Editors can quickly make appropriate use of social media.

In addition to all this, from the start, I have kept files on how PhD2Published operates which I give Managing Editors complete access to. This means that not only does a Managing Editor come on board and learn how to get published by expanding their knowledge of publishing and networking with prospective publishers. Not only do they learn how to use and write for a range of social media. But they also learn how to set up and run a resource dedicated to public scholarship. In a sense then, PhD2Published is like its own own little publishing laboratory.

I cannot emphasise the importance of this last aspect. It is more and more the case these days that an academic is required to handle certain public-facing aspects of their research. For many, this will mean having a web presence. It is all very well learning how to write a research paper, and it’s great to compare this with blogging and nail the art of writing a good blog post too, but what about building a community around your work? How much do you really know about doing that? And how much do you know about setting up an online project not just to showcase your work but to actually do quality academic research?

There may well come a point at which in addition or perhaps even instead of writing journal articles or a book, a researcher will be required to demonstrate their research-community-building credentials. Right now, institutions in the UK want to see cold hard REF-ables, but I believe it is only a matter of time before a successfully run knowledge-engagement-community itself becomes a REF-able output. What resources like PhD2Published do, therefore, is not just help early career academics consider what is required of them now, but it allows them to explore the future of academic research and publishing models and develop valuable transferable skills.

PhD2Published is a resource on and model for contemporary modes of knowledge generation and transfer. And yet I don’t know how to describe it. Recently I’ve taken to calling it ‘new-form scholarship’. If I had the time to write up all the things I learn from running it, I could argue that it forms part of a practice-based research model but in truth its just one part of my on-going research into publishing in the arts. I also lack the time and sometimes also the vocabulary to describe the benefits of being involved. Apart from anything else, it’s deeply empowering to set up your own project outside of an institution and build not just a knowledge resource but a dedicated community of participants. And it’s extremely rewarding to make a quite mystifying part of academia more transparent. It also takes a lot of work. Even when I’m not editing the site myself I’m working on it and last year’s AcWriMo (our off-shoot writing project) cost me (wait for it) over 100 hours of unpaid work to keep the information and motivation flowing.

So now what? How can we continue to harness the benefits and skills of these open and collaborative ways of working? How can we consolidate what is being learned this way and prove its academic credentials? Can we and should we fight for this work to be more legitimate or do we risk pinning the proverbial butterfly to the board and stilling the dynamism that makes it what it is?

Publishing as Pedagogy by Jesse Stommel


Publishing and teaching can both terrify new academics, often to the point of paralysis. Their mutual support for one another is often frustrated by institutional demands. For example, the traditional workload split for full-time faculty at R1 institutions in the US is: 40% teaching, 40% research, 20% service. This division and its usual inflexibility highlights the ways that teaching and scholarly production are kept separate and distinct as forms. Yet, by looking at how publishing is teaching and teaching is publishing, we can lessen the anxiety around these activities and begin to notice how they are, in fact, co-constitutive practices. More than that, we can start to think about the open ends of these aspects of our work. The word “publishing” often implies some sort of finality, research that is finished or complete. This misses something vital about academic work.

This article on PhD2Published, “Publishing as Pedagogy” by Jesse Stommel, is both implicitly and explicitly linked to “Pedagogy as Publishing” by Charlotte Frost on Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal on Teaching & Technology. As publishing venues, both PhD2Published and Hybrid Pedagogy, work to build scholarly community by creating open and ongoing conversation.These twinned articles, which were written together in a Google Doc, combine to introduce communities, points of convergence, and to create a collaborative dialogue on publishing and pedagogy from two complementary perspectives.

Since I first started teaching in 2001, I’ve spoken the words almost like a mantra, “my scholarship and teaching are married.” And it isn’t just that the academic writing I do is influenced by the work I do in the classroom, even though I’ve put some version of this statement in nearly all of the 200ish academic job applications I’ve submitted. Here it is, right out of my mouth (er, fingers), in the job letter that led to my recently being hired as an Assistant Professor at Marylhurst University: “My research has considerable influence on my teaching.” To speak frankly, this line is bullshit, something I felt pressured to write by colleagues and in a half-dozen academic job search workshops.

And by “bullshit,” I don’t mean that what I said was false. I mean that the phrasing was disingenuous. Put simply, my research is my teaching. For me, the two practices are inextricable from one another. When I was finishing my PhD, I didn’t “teach to my dissertation” as so many academics recommend. My dissertation was born out of my teaching, out of interactions I had with students and out of my witnessing countless interactions between students.

It would be an oversimplification, though, to say just that my teaching is a source (or even the primary source) for my published writing. I would go even further than this to say that teaching itself has become, for me, my most important act of writing and publishing. There is a way in which I author myself and my work in the classroom, but I also produce countless tangible artifacts in the service of (or as part of) the act of teaching. The syllabi I publish to the web (like this or this) are an example, living documents that evolve over the term (and hopefully even after the term is over).

I will even go so far as to say that my syllabi are peer-reviewed, not only approved by the various department chairs I’ve worked for but also reviewed by the colleagues I share my work with and by the larger scholarly community that use (and sometimes cite) the work I’ve done. The syllabi I create also evolve through careful work with students (who I consider my closest learning community peers).

The scholarly work I produce in collaboration with students doesn’t stop there. I create class projects that have students working closely with each other and with me. In 2011, while teaching multimodal composition at GA Tech (a required course for Freshman), I had classes of 25 students working together to produce a short horror film. One student, Ben Lambeth, chose to continue working on his class’s film after the semester was over, and I worked with him as an assistant editor (not as his teacher but as an artistic collaborator). Here’s a preview for the finished film, Zombie Proof, and a short behind-the-scenes documentary about its creation. At the same time,  I also worked on GA Tech It Gets Better, a documentary film I co-produced with yet another former student, outside any assigned class project.

As I’ve continued to evolve as a scholar and teacher, I’ve become more and more concerned with thinking about ways to make what I do in the classroom and what I do in the safe confines of a word-processing window more public. The impetus for my scholarly work and publishing is to do my pedagogy in much larger and more open spaces. I teach, because I have to, because it’s in my bones. I write, because it allows me to teach more and to teach more people.

One way I’ve worked to bring my teaching and scholarly lives into closer public conversation is to have my CV and Teaching Portfolio exist alongside one another on my personal homepage. I’ve also begun publishing more about pedagogy and my teaching practices, something I’ve formalized through Hybrid Pedagogy. Finally, I force myself to build my scholarly writing out of the work I do in the classroom and to share my scholarly work in the classroom. This is particularly possible when I’ve taught writing, where I am able to work with my students as part of (not just facilitator of) a community of writers. It is students in writing classes I’ve taught, in fact, that I credit for the completion of my dissertation.

It’s important for me, as a teacher and scholar, to be open not just with my intellectual and pedagogical products but even more so with my academic process and pedagogical practices. This intention has been the driving force behind my most recent scholarly writing / pedagogical project, Hybrid Pedagogy: A Digital Journal on Teaching & Technology. An open-access networked journal, Hybrid Pedagogy creates meaningful connections between discussions of critical pedagogy, digital pedagogy, and online pedagogy. The journal also invites its audience to participate in (and be an integral part of) the peer review process, and thus makes transparent (and interrogates) academic publishing practices. In this way, Hybrid Pedagogy is a journal about pedagogy while also taking a pedagogical approach to publishing, by allowing its readers to peek behind the proverbial curtain of the publishing machine. In the wake of rapid changes in publishing, education, and technology, this kind of openness and transparency is becoming less and less an experimental indulgence and more and more a brunt necessity.

[Charlotte Frost’s companion-piece (“Pedagogy as Publishing”) offers a peek into the process of the creation and publishing of this article by Jesse and the one Charlotte wrote simultaneously for Hybrid Pedagogy.]

Blind Spots: Using Collaborative Open Peer Review to Support PGR Publishing. Part 1 by Sarah Pett
The editors, taken by Imke van Heerden on 3 February 2012, University of York. From left: James Fraser, Ben Madden (postcolonial hanger-on), Isabelle Hesse, Anna Bocking-Welch, and me (Sarah Pett).

The editors, taken by Imke van Heerden on 3 February 2012, University of York. From left: James Fraser, Ben Madden (postcolonial hanger-on), Isabelle Hesse, Anna Bocking-Welch, and me (Sarah Pett).

Four PhD students at the University of York are currently piloting an innovative peer review process for developing postgraduate conference papers into an edited collection. In the first of a series of posts, Sarah Pett (whose has her own blog and Tweets as @essiepett) discusses the project’s ethos, as well as the practicalities of turning an ambitious idea into a successful reality.

Prompted by a shared experience of the difficulties inherent in positioning our individual research projects in relation to postcolonial studies, in 2010 Anna Bocking-Welch, Isabelle Hesse, James Fraser and myself established Postcolonial Perspectives, an interdisciplinary reading group for postgraduates at the University of York. From the beginning, the group focused on unconventional approaches to the postcolonial, with an emphasis on contexts that troubled its paradigms. It soon became apparent that we were not alone in our frustrations – discussions with postgraduates from across the UK revealed that we were grappling with an issue of increasing relevance and concern to PGRs working in a range of disciplines, periods, and contexts. Thus the Living Beyond Theory: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Postcolonial postgraduate conference was born. The event was a resounding success, and highlighted an emerging body of research into contexts that trouble the established paradigm of postcolonial studies. But how, we wondered, to sustain the dialogue that shaped the event, and disseminate the wealth of ideas it generated? Given the different stages of our projects, it will be several years until our individual monographs appear, while their disciplinary and contextual diversity means that our shared concerns would inevitably be diluted. With the help of Dr Jason Edwards at the University of York, as well as funding from the Postcolonial Studies Association and York’s Centre for Modern Studies, we decided to keep the momentum generated during the conference going by developing a selection of the papers into an edited collection.

Why open peer review?

“Blind peer review is dead. It just doesn’t know it yet.”

Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik begins his report on the Future of Peer Review session at the 2012 MLA convention with this provocative statement from CUNY’s Dr Aaron J Barlow. As Barlow points out in his paper, “The Bearable Light of Openness: Renovating Obsolete Peer-Review Bottlenecks”, the rise of digital publishing has brought traditional peer review procedures into question. For Barlow, its impression of “quality control” is no longer a fair exchange for the publication delays and complex, occasionally unethical, personal and institutional agendas blind peer review entails – a foible I know all too well. Full of the bravado of youth, I thought I’d try my hand at academic publishing soon after completing my BA. Without any knowledge of established protocol, I made the mistake of submitting my paper to two journals simultaneously. Not a wise move, but it did open my eyes at an early stage to the inconsistencies of the field. One journal returned my article within the fortnight, accompanied by a largely positive review that recommended only a handful of minor revisions. Several months later, I received a two page review from the other journal, which included an ultimatum: significantly shift the focus of the paper, or it won’t be published. The recommended shift seemed to reflect the reviewer’s research interests, rather than my own, which was an unpleasant and demoralizing experience for a young researcher. More importantly, however, it was disabling, leaving me with no platform from which to respond to the reviewer’s diktat.

Clearly, this is not something we wished to replicate in the preparation of the edited collection. What’s more, as postgraduate researchers, we have been aware from the outset that the collection has to be tip-top to stand a chance with a “proper” academic press. And finally, with an editorial committee made up of four researchers in the final stages of their PhDs, we simply couldn’t afford to commit to providing each participant with the level of feedback and writing support we hoped to offer. To optimize what we could do in the time available, we opted to select and improve articles via an intensive, collaborative process based around realtime participation. To do so, we designed a series of open peer review workshops that allowed our authors to participate in providing and responding to feedback over the course of several months: a model that closely resembles that employed by Kairos, whose editor Cheryl Ball appeared alongside Barlow at the MLA. Kairos—a journal of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy—employs a three tier review process. In tiers one and two, submissions are evaluated by individual editors before being forwarded for discussion to the editorial board as a whole. In tier three, a staff member is assigned to mentor the author in implementing revisions for up to three months. The Postcolonial Perspectives publication workshop series sought to emulate and even build on this process. In stage one, the editorial committee selected papers from the conference to invite as contributors; stage two involved refining the ethos of the project and requesting that contributors develop their papers with this in mind. Stage three is when the realtime workshops came into play, allowing contributors and reviewers to meet and discuss feedback over the course of a day.

The first workshop, which took place at York on 16 January 2012, was extremely successful—one academic staff member said he was keen to adopt our model in his own work—and demonstrates how a collaborative open peer review model can be implemented at a grassroots level to support the career development of PGRs and ECRs. The second workshop is scheduled to take place in early May, during which participants will go over the final revisions and collaborate in refining the book proposal and editorial introduction as a group. We are also looking into using an open source manuscript management and publishing system such as the Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal Systems as a means of continuing the workshops’ collaborative format remotely. While the project’s aim—publication with an academic press—is ambitious, the workshop format means that, at worst, our contributors can walk away with a carefully revised paper for submission to an international peer reviewed journal, a committed mentor, and a handful of supportive peers with shared research interests and career goals.

Workshop One: From left: Dr Jason Edwards (York), Professor David Attwell (York), James Fraser (York), Anna Bocking-Welch (York), Rebecca Jones (Birmingham), and Katherine Ebury (York).

The radical in me would love the project to culminate in a high profile open access publication, accompanied by a creative and thought-provoking social media campaign to raise awareness about postcolonial studies, its contributions and its limitations. For the time being, we’ll continue to play it safe, but it won’t stop me thinking about the possibilities for reform in academic publishing, and the instrumental role PGRs have to play in changing the game. Hopefully before too long there will be a copy of Beyond the Postcolonial Paradigm: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Parapostcolonial on a library shelf—or Kindle—near you…

Should You Make Your Thesis Available Online? Part 6: On the outside of Academic Publishing by Kathryn Allan

The final post in this series about posting a thesis online is by Kathryn Allan. Kathryn completed her PhD (English) at McMaster University in 2010. Her doctoral thesis, Bleeding Chrome: Technology and the Vulnerable Body in Feminist Post-Cyberpunk Science Fiction, is awesome and available online for free here. She operates an (academic) copy editing and dissertation coaching business, Academic Editing Canada, as she pursues independent scholarly research into (feminist/cyberpunk) science fiction. Dr. Allan is currently putting together a collection of essays that deal with the representation of disability in science fiction. She tweets under @BleedingChrome.

When I finished my PhD in English Literature in 2010, I also said good-bye to the ivory tower. Frustrated with the current funding and work environment of academia (in North America), I set out on my own – and I took my dissertation with me. While my committee members encouraged me to consider publishing my thesis the old-fashioned way, I felt like it wasn’t the right option for me. Instead, I decided to publish my dissertation in pdf format and make it freely available on my professional blog to anyone interested in reading it.

At first, I was slightly worried that someone might plagiarize my work, but after a minute of thought, I remembered that nothing stops students who want to plagiarize from doing so, regardless of the medium of the text. With confidence, I made my thesis available on my blog. It shows up in relevant Google searches and I have repeatedly shared the link over email and Twitter with people who share my research and reading interests.

I share my thesis online because: (1) I believe that publicly funded work (like my Canadian graduate education) should be publicly accessible; and, (2) as an independent scholar who studies feminist and cyberpunk science fiction, I want to easily share my work with the science fiction fan community.


When I state that I believe academic work should be accessible, I mean it in all aspects of the word. I put in a good deal of effort into writing my thesis in language that can be followed by non-academic readers, so putting my thesis online is a natural extension of my dedication to open research and communication.

My PhD thesis is available on ProQuest through the university where I studied, but access to that database is still limited to people with university library access or who are willing and able to pay. Since I don’t believe that anyone should have to pay to read my thesis, simply having it available on academic marketed sites like ProQuest is not a good enough solution to accessibility.

Independent Scholarship

My thesis was a labour of love and passion for the subject matter. I want to share the knowledge I gained with as many interested individuals as I can. Admittedly, I also enjoy operating outside of the formal academic system. Science fiction, particularly the feminist science fiction of my interest, has generally been a marginalized field of study, so it felt right to pursue a more marginal and independent approach to publishing my dissertation.

One of my goals as an independent scholar is to connect with fans in the vibrant and diverse science fiction community. If my thesis was only available through one university and a pay-to-read internet platform, then most fans are not going to read it (or even know that it exists). While I could have arguably sought out a publisher to reach this fan audience, I am also aware that “free” and “online” appeal to far more readers. And it has.

It’s All Good

It has almost been a year since I made my thesis available online and the response I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people – some are academics, some are science fiction fans – have emailed or tweeted me about my thesis. Most of the comments I get are “thanks for sharing” or specific nerdy questions about something I’ve written. To date, I can’t think of one drawback from having my thesis online. Not a single one. I don’t intend on applying for an academic position, nor am I pursuing independent scholarship for financial gain. For me, there is simply is no downside to having my thesis online.

Should You Make Your Thesis Available Online? Part 5: Where Can I Make My PhD Thesis Available Online?

If, having considered all of the issues, you still feel that you want to make your thesis available online, the question you may now face is where to post it? This blog post explores where you can publish your thesis online and what options there are.

Library and university archives for E-Theses

According to Emily Kothe on Twitter (@emilyandthelime) some universities already require students to post their thesis online upon submission, along with paper copies. When I submitted in July 2011 I was not required to do this, but having contacted the librarian at the university where I conducted my PhD, I learned that it has now become a requirement for students submitting their thesis from 2011/2012 onwards to submit a further digital copy. I missed out on this but have been informed that if I want to, I can make it available through this outlet. At present I am uncertain who is aware of this service, other than students who submit their thesis to it from now on, or who can access the service beyond the university, if at all. According to the online deposit for Lancaster University (which you can view here) there are benefits to both the student and the university itself:

For the student

  • Increased visibility for your work
  • Easier access to your thesis
  • Raise your personal profile
  • Can use digital services such as links to datasets, videos etc.

For Lancaster University

  • Raise institutional profile
  • Showcase successful graduate research

There are several of these services now available and visible through a simple Google Search that PhD students in particular may find useful if they are looking for ways to structure their thesis and want to look at some examples of theses that have passed. Durham University depository and Nottingham University depository are good examples. It may be important too inform academic book publishers if your thesis is available in this way; these issues are discussed in Part 3 of this series.

Ethos – British Library

Rob Myers on Twitter (@robmyers) initially drew attention to Ethos, an electronic online thesis service run by the British Library (see Part 4 of this series about EThOS by Sara Gould). This is a site I had actually used myself when writing my PhD. I downloaded some theses in order to explore how they were structured and to access additional research in my topic area. My university does subscribe to the service and I was informed that “if a thesis is only available in print form, we send it to the British Library to be digitised, and the person making the request has to pay the British Library £40 towards the cost of digitisation”, not entirely free but eventually Open Access. There are now 44,000 online theses available, and to download a copy you first need to register so that records can be kept and to ensure the intellectual property of the author is protected.

Personal Blog Site

I have also considered posting a copy of the thesis to my own personal blog. Before I posted it online however I wanted to check copyright right and intellectual property issues, something that RuthFT (@RuthFT) warned me of and that I discuss in Part 2 of this series. Some universities hold intellectual property rights to the thesis even if you have written it and conducted the research for it so it is essential that this is considered before rushing ahead to do it. A librarian at my university informed me that because my thesis is an unpublished piece of work it can be uploaded online on my personal blog, as long as I respect and observe the rights of those who participated in the study, which of course is part of ethical research practices anyway. It is highly recommended that you check with your own institution first though because rules may differ.

There are therefore several places where the unpublished PhD thesis can be deposited online, if you deem the issues detailed in previous posts to be outweighed by the benefits of disseminating your research more widely. These are just a very few of those I have explored (in repsonse to Part 3 for example user moorbi, introduces us to GRIN, a free German publisher). Having researched this in greater detail, I am still concerned that by posting my thesis online I may face additional challenges in publishing a monograph. This ultimately has become an issue of Open Access and I have to admit I find it encouraging that universities (in the UK at least) and EThOS and the like, are making it easier for PhD researchers to make their PhD research available online.

I’d love to hear more about this issue, particularly if anyone is against doing this or has critiques of it (most people I have spoken to support onlinethesis). Please do get in contact if you want to add, or contribute any ideas and do let us know if you plan to submit your thesis online (#onlinethesis).

Should You Make Your Thesis Available Online? Part 4: Introducing EthOS by Sara Gould

Today’s post, which contributes to our series about publishing dissertations and theses online is written by Sara Gould. Sara is the EThOS Service Manager at the British Library, UK. She is managing the transition of this e-theses website to a sustainable Higher Education shared service.

Anna has been wondering whether to publish her thesis. Or if not ‘publish’ then put it online somewhere to share the results of her work more widely, and gain the benefits she mentions, like raising the level of interest in her research and making connections with like-minded researchers.

EThOS is the UK’s e-theses website that gives instant access to 55,000+ doctoral theses. Pretty much all UK universities have their theses listed in EThOS so there’s around 300,000 records in all, with a variety of routes to get hold of the full text if it’s not already available.

That’s a fantastic resource for students and all researchers, not just to be able to dig deep into research that’s already happened, but to see who’s researching what and who the key players are – individuals, departments, institutions, even funders.

It almost goes without saying that open access to research theses is a ‘good thing’ for new researchers, for those looking for source material. But what about for thesis authors themselves? Should Anna try to make sure her PhD thesis appears in her university’s repository and/or EThOS, or not?

Here are a few frequently expressed concerns:

1.    It’ll spoil my publication chances later

Well, it might, but in a recent survey only 7% of institutions cited this as a frequent concern amongst their students, and no concrete examples were found of publication being refused because the PhD thesis had been added to an open access repository. If reassurance is needed, then an embargo period can be applied, with may be the record plus abstract still being available to all.

2.    My work will be plagiarised

It’s possible, but then again people can plagiarise from printed theses too, and in those cases there’s no automated way to detect the crime.

Allowing open access to your thesis does open it up to all sorts of people who may come along and use the content in whatever way they like. But plagiarism detection services can help to mitigate the risks, and in EThOS at least, users have to register their details, so we could if necessary track all users of a particular thesis. So far that’s never been needed. And as people get more and more used to open access and theses become increasingly available in institutional repositories, it may be that the login process is becoming a tiresome deterrent to use and has had its day.

Brown J. (2010) Influencing the deposit of electronic theses in UK HE: report on a sector-wide survey into thesis deposit and open access. UCL. http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/116819/

3.    All that hassle with third party copyright

We do need to take copyright ownership seriously and it can be really time-consuming to seek permissions from any third party for permission to publish. Some university libraries are able to support their students to make sure any third party copyright is managed properly, but most don’t have the resources to undertake such a massive task. Take-down policies and embargoes come into play here, and digitisation services, whether through EThOS or another route, will carefully redact any sections, diagrams etc that aren’t copyright cleared on instruction from the institution.

List of redactions from a 2002 thesis held in EThOS.

The world of repositories and open access is moving fast. EThOS celebrated its third birthday last month. When it launched – on the same day as another auspicious event – theses were held in paper format in the university library and a microfilm copy held by the British Library. Now those microfilms have been packed away, and an average of 450 people a day download a copy of a full-text thesis from EThOS. With possibly the same number again accessing copies held directly in university open access repositories, it appears that full-text open access is here to stay.

Should You Make Your Thesis Available Online? Part 3: Thinking about Publishing

You have made your thesis available online, but does that affect whether or not it will get accepted for publication as a monograph? Academic publishers have varying opinions about this…

This is a very important issue for postdocs who are planning how to disseminate and publish the findings from their PhD research and an increasingly common question that academic publishers are now being asked. It was this question that originally kick-started my desire to run this blog series and start this conversation (#onlinethesis). I know that I am not the only one who has been dealing with this question either. One of the comments made in relation to Part 1 of this series was that a thesis that is available online is something that may be seen as problematic to publishers if a monograph based on a PhD is proposed. Others on Twitter are also interested in how publishers responded to this question. I contacted several publishers to find out more about this and these were the responses.

Jay Dew of University of Oklahoma Press informs me that this is a question he is frequently asked and his response is in favour of making theses online:

“On the whole, I don’t believe that having a dissertation or thesis available online works to the detriment of publishing a monograph. Indeed, more and more dissertations and theses are available online through library databases such as Dissertation Abstracts, etc. A dissertation and a book are two different things, with two different and distinct audiences. The revisions that are almost always necessary to bring a dissertation into book manuscript form are usually substantial enough that one need not cannibalize the other. There may be exceptions, of course, especially in the hard sciences, but at least for my press and the kinds of books we publish, this is not a problem.”

John Yates of University of Toronto Press extends this debate further arguing:

“I believe the situation in North America is different from yours [in the UK]. I understand that here all PhD thesis are licensed to ProQuest. I also understand that in Canada, theses are posted on-line by University libraries. Consequently scholars have quite a bit of work to do to convert their thesis into a scholarly monograph since libraries are not interested in purchasing titles that are effectively a thesis with minor revisions.

In your situation, if there is no requirement to post the thesis on-line and you’d like to have it published it as a monograph, I would think by not posting it on-line you’d be able to have the monograph published sooner, since fewer changes would be required than if the full thesis was publicly available on the web.”

The responses I have received in relation to this issue support the idea that making a thesis available online is generally acceptable to academic publishers, as long as the proposed monograph is substantially different to the submitted PhD thesis. Nonetheless, concerns are still evident amongst authors and researchers and it is recommended that potential publishers are contacted in advance of proposing a monograph to find out how they view this because opinions may vary depending on discipline and research topic. A more specialised research topic for example with a smaller market and audience may be seen as more problematic for some publishers if the material is already accessible online. It is possible to embargo the publication of your thesis in university depositories if this is considered an issue and you plan to propose a monograph but it is increasingly important to make this decision before the thesis is submitted, and made available electronically.

The key message then, is that the monograph based on a PhD thesis should be in substantially different format to the submitted PhD. Publishing houses from different countries are in agreement about this as presented here but it is important to be aware that making it available in an online depository may slow down the process of writing a book. It is also important to check the position of publishers who you wish to write book proposals for, to ensure that your decision is well informed. In a period of increased debate over open access to research, making the thesis online should not be, and doesn’t appear to be, a barrier to publishing a monograph but is certainly a consideration.

Should You Make Your Thesis More Widely Available Online? Part 2: Fear of Idea Theft

Following my first post that introduced my musings on the debate about making a PhD thesis or dissertation available online, this blog explores the issue of fear in relation to the theft of your ideas. This is an issue that is fairly central in Alex Galarza’s article for @GradHacker. The student in question feared that their ideas may be more susceptible to being stolen if they were to be made available online; a reasonable assumption given that, if the intention to put your thesis online is to make it more widely accessible, then the more likely it is that the ideas can be accessed and potentially lifted.

For me, this fear is not altogether unfounded and essentially boils down to a lack of knowledge about how online material is managed and regulated. In university teaching in the UK at least, students are taught about plagiarism, or the use of someone else’s work without acknowledgement, and are warned of the need to avoid doing it. Not only is it considered bad academic practice, but a plagiarised essay or piece of coursework is more likely to be of poor standard. As academics this becomes deeply ingrained in everyday working and writing practices, and is currently regulated through the processes of peer review and assessment. How this may be regulated online however, is less clear and the boundaries of citing and discussing the work of others is increasingly blurred.  Similarly if the aim of publishing online is to reach broader audiences, there is potential that those audiences are unfamiliar with referencing practices or maybe unwilling to use them.

A research paper about electronic theses by Copeland et al (2005, pg 195) suggests however that ‘it is easier to detect instances where this activity [plagiarism] has taken place when the material is published on the web. Electronic detection software is available’. My university in the UK uses Turn-It in for student essays for this purpose.

While this is comforting to know to some extent, an important thing to do before making your thesis available online is to check the copyright regulations of the archive you post to and to ensure that you own those rights as primary researcher. This should discourage any potential theft, protect your property rights and discourage the potential for idea theft by others. Where you make the thesis available online is also a consideration. The chances of having your ideas stolen and reproduced online or elsewhere are much less likely if you post to a university online archive than a personal blog for example because these are better regulated. It is also recommended that you seek advice from your PhD supervisor before posting online to check if there are any issues with copyright that you hadn’t thought of (especially important if the work is funded). You could also protect your work using a Creative Commons license. These allow ‘everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work’ (Creative Commons website).

Fear of theft of your work when making it more readily available online is reasonable, and was something that led me to research and produce this series of blog posts. However there are frameworks and laws in place that are designed to protect your ideas and your intellectual property, as well as new technologies that are detecting plagiarism online. Make sure you are aware of these before you make your research outputs available online however. If you want to disseminate your work more widely to broaden its impacts, you should be able to, and it is important that academic work is accountable but also used in appropriate ways.

A recent hashtag on Twitter that has been used in relation to these ideas (and also Will’s post) is #notopenenough (thanks @ThomsonPat). Publishing online is becoming more popular, and hopefully fear of theft won’t stand in your way in your quest to make your research more widely known.

Join the conversation at #onlinethesis.


Copeland, Susan,  Penman, Andrew and  Mime Richard (2005) “Electronic Theses: The Turning Point.” Program: Electronic Library & Information Systems 39, no. 3 : 185-197.

The Now Frontier: Posting Dissertations Online

A note from Anna: As part of a series of blogs on PhD2Published about Online Theses, Will Deyamport, III explains why he will definitely post his dissertation online. To engage in this conversation on Twitter please use the Online Thesis hashtag #thesisonline

Will Deyamport, III is an Ed.D student in Educational Leadership and Management at Capella University. He is the founder of peoplegogy.com, a blog that focuses on life and career developments. He is a monthly contributor to MyPathfinder Career Blog, where he writes about higher education. Currently, Will is writing his dissertation on how Twitter can support the professional learning needs of teachers.  You can follow him on twitter @peoplegogy.

This digital world we live in isn’t going anywhere. We pay bills online, we shop online, we make phone calls online, we date online, and now we’re streaming movies and going to school online. So why wouldn’t I post my dissertation online?

Has the academy become so insular that it has failed to understand and embrace the realities of this digital age? Has it become so arrogant that it believes that it can remain the sole guardian of academic knowledge? Or has the academy so blindly held on to its beliefs of what scholarly work is that it refuses to see this work being published on a daily basis on blogs around the globe?

Whatever its reasons, I plan to publish my dissertation online and here’s why:

  • I happen to have a passion for digital media and most of what I read is read online.
  • What I do and want to do for a career is done online. I’ve been a social media strategist, I blog, and I am earning my doctorate online. So for me the online space is a place of isn’t some separate entity. It’s a part of who I am and how I express my ideas.
  • I am a digital citizen. As such, I see the online world as the way for mobilizing the world towards a common humanity.
  • I routinely seek out information online. Whether it is via Youtube, LinkedIn, or my personal learning network on Twitter, I am able to gain access to experts from a variety of fields and disciplines.
  • I believe that academic knowledge belongs to the masses and should be made available and given freely to those who seek it.
  • My dissertation is on teachers using Twitter to support their own professional development.  The topic doesn’t belong is some bound book. It was meant to be posted online and shared with scholars and practitioners alike.

The ivory tower and those who worship at its feet need to understand that education is no longer insular. Holding information hostage does nothing for the academy or the betterment of society. In order to truly build a thriving academic knowledge-base and further the continued and expansive research expected in academia, technology has to be a part of how that research is shared and disseminated. Using emerging technologies, schools have the capacity to expose its students’ research to every corner of the globe. It is with this type of free exchange that the academy can reinvent itself and lead the way in today’s growing global economy and workforce.

Moving forward, I would like to see every doctoral student publish their dissertation on ProQuest or some other online platform. Just like TED has revolutionized the conference model, as current and future scholars, we have an opportunity to revolutionize the way people think, learn, and are taught about academic research.