Announcing the Digital Edition of Pyla-Koutsopetria 1: A Free Download

Over the past three years, I’ve been working with the good folks at the American Schools of Oriental Research (especially on the Committee on Publications) and Sarah and Eric Kansa at Open Context to produce a linked, digital version of our 2014 book in the ASOR Archaeological Report Series, Pyla-Koutsopetria I: Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coast Town that I edited with my friends David Pettegrew and R. Scott Moore. 

Here’s a link to download the book. All you have to do is to become a friend of ASOR which free. Do it! 

Scott Moore and I worked to insert hundreds of links throughout the book to our data which we published on Open Context at about the same time as the book appeared. These links are permanent, persistent, and unique which is super cool. This allows a reader to “drill down” into our data. I blogged about this a couple of weeks ago, but I’ll expand some of the main points here This is good for our data and for our readers for a few reasons:

1. Every Sherd. Ok, well, not technically EVERY sherd, since we did group identical artifacts together into batches. But since the batch is the smallest level of archaeological analysis for our project, a reader can look at exactly those sherds that led to to make a particular argument. Here is a sample of the batch table, and here’s a link to a Roman period kitchen ware rim.

2. Every Unit. Our batches coincide with units which is the smallest spatial division of our survey area. Over the last couple of years Open Context has become much slicker in dealing with spaces in a survey project. So it’s now possible to attach particular batches of artifacts to particular spaces or to query particular places for the artifacts present there. Here’s Unit 39, and here’s Batch 29 (a Late Roman 1 Amphora handle).

3. Every Type. We organized our artifacts using the Chronotype system which provides a local typology for each artifact recovered during the survey. This typology can be extraordinarily broad (for example, a Medium Coarse Ware, Ancient History which is a sherd datable only to the historical period (i.e. 700 BC – Today) with a medium coarse fabric)  or rather more narrow (like a Late Roman 1 type amphora). These can then be viewed across the units in the survey area.

This kind of linked archaeological publication, however, is just the start. There are a few things that a future model for this kind of publication could do.

1. Links from Data to the Book. At present, it is easy and useful to drill down from the rather traditional archaeological monograph into the data. It is not possible, right now, to drill up (?) from the data to our arguments. 

2. Beyond the Book. There are also precious few opportunities (yet!) to go from our work and Chronotype typologies into other bodies of published data. One low hanging fruit would be the Levantine Ceramics Project data which could be linked to our PKAP finds data to expand both datasets. As we look ahead to publishing data from the excavation at Pyla-Koutsopetria and Pyla-Vigla, we hope to be able to link to both our survey and excavation datasets in a born digital publication.

3. Better Digital Circulation. Right now, this is a trial balloon designed to show what is possible leveraging existing platforms and a little DIY elbow-grease (like, inserting a bajillion links!). In the future, we need to look toward a better way to circulate the digital manuscript and to ensure it’s stability and persistence. Obviously, the friction of having to add your email and join a list is not terribly great, but it remains a barrier to access. More significantly, ASOR’s Archaeological Report Series does not have a standard way to distribute digital content and to make it discoverable on the web, and this makes sense, since this is a proof-of-concept type project, but in the future, we hope for a more robust method to make digital publications available from ASOR with as low a barrier to entry as possible!

Anyway, these are all exciting prospects for digitally publishing of archaeological data and reckon that this is a great way to celebrate “Love Your Data Week 2017

ARS 21  PKAP Linked SM Page 003

A Facebook Live Event: Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is continuing to experiment with digital and new media by hosting a Facebook Live event with Eric Burin. He’ll discuss his recent edited book, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College which brought together over a dozen scholars from across the disciplines to discuss this history of the Electoral College and how it worked in the most recent election. Dr. Burin will be on Facebook Live to talk discuss the book and to take general questions and comments about the history and significance of the Electoral College in American politics.

To make this happen, we’re teaming up with our friends at the North Dakota Humanities Council. They suggested it, I’m working on figuring out how to do it, and we’re both going to promote it. A little prodding by the NDHC folks in Bismarck, and we’re moving into the social media world. Check it out, Picking the President has its own Facebook page now!

If it’s me, the Humanities Council, Eric Burin, and The Digital Press, then you definitely should participate, and here’s how:

First, go and download Picking the President for free at The Digital Press or if you really want it a paper copy, ordering on via Amazon.

We’ll be broadcasting on Picking the President’s Facebook page starting a 1 pm (CST) February 21st. To ask questions, use the hashtag #PickingthePres on Twitter or Facebook or comment here on this blog or over the blog post on this event on the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota web site.  

Here’s Dr. Burin with Abe Lincoln:

Burin and Licnoln

Convergence: Punk, Slow, and Care in a Digital World

Every now and then I start to worry that my interests are diverging and running away in every direction and leaving me adrift. With budget cuts, possible changing in our teaching/research balance, a shift away from graduate education, and many of my field archaeology projects entire their final seasons, I find myself like many “mid-career” faculty bereft of morale, motivation, and, frankly, direction. So I get to thinking about convergence.

Every now and then, I read something or turn an idea around enough in my creaking, void-filled, mind that I get what other people have often described as an “idea.” This weekend, I had a glimpse of how several tracks in my academic and intellectual development might actually be converging around a theme (or two maybe?) that a few blog posts this weekend helped me to recognize more fully.

I’m going to try to trace these out this morning and to make sense of what my various projects are trying to do and say.

Over the last few years, my colleagues and I have had some entertaining, and I hope useful, conversations centered on three concepts in archaeological research:

1. Punk Archaeology
2. Slow Archaeology
3. Archaeology of Care

I can’t take credit, really, for any of these, but I probably am as responsible as anyone for coining terms to describe them, and promoting the use of these terms.

Punk Archaeology celebrates the performative, DIY, and improvised aspects of archaeological field work and thinking. It has tended to focus a bit more on the archaeology of the contemporary world because this is where archaeological methods and practices have tend to break down when confronted with challenges such as modern abundance leading archaeologists to innovate on the fly, our work is less bound by the formal limits of the site and more publicly accessible, and contemporary observers are more willing to offer dissonant, alternative, and conflicting perspectives. As a result, punk archaeology – at its best – defamiliarized the familiar in everyday life (much like punk takes the basic structure of pop song and makes it something else) and familiarizes the unfamiliar in archaeological practice by putting it on display. In short, it can turn archaeology inside out.

Slow Archaeology is a critique of the role of technology in archaeological practice. I’ve argued that the Taylorist drive for efficiency has produced field practices that tend to fragment both how we describe material culture but also our experiences. At its most perverse, field work is reduced to “data collection” and digital tools are celebrated as ways to make the harvesting of “raw data” more efficient. There is no doubt that field work should be efficient and that technology will improve not only what we collect from the field, but also how we collect archaeological information. Slow archaeology, however, calls for us to maintain a space in archaeological field practice for analysis and interpretation and to be patient with these processes. Moving forward, I’d like to see slow archaeology celebrate integrative practices in archaeological field work that both bring together our fragmented techniques in the field and the information that these techniques produce.

Archaeology of Care. The archaeology of care is a term coined by my colleague Richard Rothaus and, like slow and punk archaeology, it offers a critical reflection on the practice and performance of archaeology. It stemmed from the observation that people who we encountered in the Bakken were genuinely moved by our archaeological and archaeological interest in their world and lives. While neither Richard nor I conceived of our project as a gesture to the people (or objects) that we studied, it became pretty obvious that archaeological work became a medium through which shared understanding of the past and the present are formed. For us at least, the archaeology of care was de-theorized and reflected our very practical experiences doing archaeology of and in the contemporary world.

It has taken me a while to recognize that these three moves in my archaeological thinking have focused on a number of shared themes centered largely on our practices in the field: (1) a focus on archaeology as performance and experience, (2) a tendency to recognize these experiences a bringing together people, data, and objects, and (3) a preference for DIY and an aversion to “technological solutionism” in its various forms.

These ideas have started to come together with another couple of “projects” that I’ve been slowly working on over the last few years. As readers of this blog know, I’ve invested a good bit of time and energy into The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. This emerged directly from my interest in punk archaeology (which became the first book from the press). It started as an experiment in DIY publishing and has slowly expanded into a project designed to the traditional fragmentation of the publishing process that separates the authors from the publishers. At my little press, we create an environment where authors, editors, and publishers work together to produce books at a lower cost than traditional commercial publishing, but with opportunities for more experimentation and control for the authors.

I’m pretty upfront with my authors that I am not a conventional publisher. As my more critical colleagues point out, my books tend to be a bit rough around the edges, my distribution channels remain a bit uncertain, and everything is essentially experimental. But for my authors and editors, this seems to work. If anything, I have more than enough books to keep my enterprise afloat, to hold my interest, and to keep me feeling that this is a meaningful extension of my approach to archaeology and archaeological knowledge production.

What prompted this sudden bout of introspection was a little article titled “Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump” by Audrey Waters. Go read it (and comment if you want; there is the start of a little Hypothes.is comment thread). To summarize a complex argument, trends in Ed-Tech data collection are troubling for a number of reasons. First, Waters critiques the basic philosophy that if we collect enough data on our students we can customize our educational practices to produce particular outcomes. Most thoughtful educators realize that this is not how teaching or learning works just as most thoughtful archaeologists do not think that intensified scrutiny and technologies in how we collect “all of the datas” will produce better archaeological knowledge more efficiently. (Do check out Dimitri Nakassis’s refinement of my critiques of data at his blog especially here and here and here.)

At the same time, we are lured by the temptation of easy digital data collection especially in online courses or in courses with substantial online components. Universities have developed sophisticated data collection schemes as their infrastructure has become digital and student interactions with almost all services is mediated by tools that collect data to produce increasingly comprehensive digital profiles of students. Even with the protections offered by FERPA, universities have vast quantities of data on students that can be leveraged internally to encourage practices that “better” serve students. Students are consumers and the university has indulged in all the conceits of online consumer culture. In place of a culture of care grounded in complex experiences of teaching and learning, the university as an institution has fragmented students into bundles and clusters of data that can be arranged to anticipate and serve student and administrative expectations. This has particularly toxic potential as calls to “reinvent education” often look to technologies to create the appearance of doing more with less, while obscuring the reality that less almost always means less in education.

What is more troubling for Waters is that the calls to “reinvent education” or to “innovate” almost always rest on the assumption that current practices are flawed. The temptation is to identify the problems with education through scrutiny of “big data” rather than attention to small, daily practices. With the lure of big fixes residing in big data issues of security and privacy abound. What is more terrifying still is that for public universities, this data could easily fall into the hands of politically motivated leaders either on campus or at the state or local levels who could use students and faculty data for purposes that run counter to many of our values as educators, scholars, and public servants. Waters evokes the always chilling specter of Nazi data collection as an example for how the state can mine “big data” for nefarious purposes.

To be clear, I don’t see slow archaeology, punk archaeology, the archaeology of care, or The Digital Press as a bulwark against Nazism or as explicitly political statements, but I would like to think that the common aspects of these projects represent a kind of resistance to some of the more troubling trends in academic practices and higher education these days. Calling for greater scrutiny of practice in a time of big data, promoting DIY among students and colleagues, and demonstrating how integration, and care, rather than fragmentation and “analysis” can produce meaningful and significant results. 

Picking the President in Paper and Other Press News

I’m happy to announce that sixth (or seventh) book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, Eric Burin’s Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College, is now available in glorious, durable paper from Amazon.com. It’s $8. That’s less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks or a six-pack of “craft beer.” 

The paper version of Picking the President is based on the slightly updated version (version 1.3 for those of you keeping track at home!) which was a general tidying up of the text. It is the same version that the individual offprints are based on just with a slightly different cover.

So head on over to The Digital Press now and download a copy or, if the intoxicating smell of the paper book is your thing, pop on over to Amazon and buy one

Ec project cover2 02cropped

If you’ve had about enough of the Electoral College and its consequences these days, then perhaps digital archaeology is more to your taste. If so, please check out Jody Gordon’s paper at the American Schools of Oriental Research Annual Meeting.

Jody provides a sweeping overview of the contents of a book that he edited with Erin Walcek Averett and Derek Counts, Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology. The book has achieved almost 1000 downloads. If you want the paper version, you can grab it for $20 on Amazon

 

Mtp cover 3dirt

Finally, here is a sneak peak at a project that The Digital Press is assisting with. It’s an open access textbook on the History of Applied Science and Technology being developed by one of our Ph.D. Students Danielle Mead Skjelver and our historian of science here at the University of North Dakota, Hans Broedel. While the exact role for the Digital Press is not entirely clear, they are partnering with the Rebus Foundation to make this happen, and their process got a little positive attention this week. Check it out here.

On Academia.edu

Yesterday Sarah Bond published a thoughtful, short article in her regular Forbes column suggesting that academics abandon Academia.edu and move their research to open access alternatives. Bond argues that academia.edu is a for-profit wolf in .edu-sheep clothing. It’s not a real .edu, in that it’s not in institution of higher learning (which is the current criteria for an organization to use the “.edu” domain name). It is a for-profit company that is looking for ways to monetize academic research further. Academia.edu’s recent offer to boost a participant’s visibility on their increasing crowded site for a small fee would seem to confirm their willingness to ignore academic convention in the name of profit. 

To be clear, I largely agree with Sarah’s critique and when Ethan Gruber and Eric Kansa lend their voices to the call, I’m even more inclined to follow their lead. My purpose of writing this blog post is to force myself to think through the issues at stake rather than necessarily to weigh in with any authority.

That being said, it seems to me that the pros and cons of academia.edu break down like this:

Academia.edu is good at what it provides at present: an easy to use and highly discoverable outlet for scholars to share research. They seem to have very little interest in interfering with what people upload to their site making it a useful back-channel for acquiring articles that would otherwise be trapped behind paywalls. They don’t charge fees for posting content or downloading content. 

There are risks. Academia.edu can mine who looks at our research as well as the research itself and make this data available to people who do not have our best interest at heart (as well as those with shared interests, to be clear). As we have all encountered with Facebook, there is a model for monetizing visibility and discoverability, and it seems clear that academia.edu has in mind to monetize that. Finally, and most boorishly, academia.edu could clutter its interface with obnoxious advertisements, special offers, and other crap diminishing its legibility and utility. 

The risks associated with using Academia.edu are not, to my mind, entirely unique to that platform. For example, the recent panic over the status of climate change data in the U.S. has demonstrated that state sponsored repositories are not necessarily safe from those who seek to undermine the free exchange of information. In state with an emboldened and interventionist super-majority in our legislature, I am not sure that I would trust North Dakota to protect access to my work in a repository. At the same time, private companies who understand their audience, users, and clients, have recently gone to battle with the federal government to protect privacy of their users (while at the same time mining user data for their own purposes). It is likely, of course, that academia.edu sells what they know about us to third parties, but to avoid this practice one would have to stay off the internet entirely. As a user of academia.edu and any number of other commercial platforms and tools from gmail to Facebook, WordPress.com, and my iPhone, I’m familiar with the cost/benefit dance that goes on any time we use a diverse digital ecosystem, and our power as consumers and users of these tools to influence how they use the information that they collect about us.

As an aside, I’m not terribly concerned about academia.edu’s ability to mine our research. Making our research open to the public always exposes it to the possibility of commercial uses. After all, we hope that our students mine our research for their own personal profits, both monetary and, we can hope, humanistic. I also have the feeling that community building in the public sphere will expose us to certain risks. 

The alternatives to Academia.edu do help avoid some of the risks associated with that platform, but they sacrifice discoverability, ease of use, and familiarity. I know the argument that if more people used the alternatives, then they might develop many of the same features and utility as academia.edu and provide a platform that is simultaneously more open and safer. I’m slowly populating my account at the Humanities Commons with my research, but I think I’ll keep my Academia.edu account for a while. For now, the visibility and utility of the platform – much like gmail or even Facebook – outweighs the risks, but as negative vibes around it continues to grow, I’ll prepare my escape route.

More on Digital and Paper Picking the President

I spent a little time this weekend doing some finishing touches on the paper version of the most recent book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota: Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin. With any luck, the paper version of the book should be out by the end of the week.

As readers of this blog know, Picking the President was produced very quickly and as a result, some little infelicities slipped through our editing. Over the past week we were able to tidy up the text and have released an updated version here: Picking the President (v1.2).

We also created offprints of each contribution to make the text just a bit more accessible useful in the classroom where you might want to assign, for example, Eric Burin’s introduction and Allen Guelzo and James H. Hulme’s article arguing for the ongoing importance of the Electoral College. We also made the “Documents” section available as a stand alone download.

So far, we are pleased with the number of downloads of the book with over 170 in its first week. While this is probably not quite enough to secure a major motion picture deal or an eager international translator, we expect book downloads to have a tail over the next 18 months if for no other reason than debates about the Electoral College are a bit evergreen. 

We’re also interested in experimenting a bit with ways to generate digital conversation around this (and other) book projects from the Digital Press. I served on the North Dakota Humanities Council board for nearly 5 years, and we regularly discussed whether digital projects were truly interactive. Those of you know the NDHC recognize that they tend to favor face-to-face events – book clubs, lectures, workshops and the like – to publishing or digital projects arguing that their primary goal is to stimulate conversation. That’s fair enough, I think, but it also pushed me to think about how to make a book or a webpage more interactive.

On Friday I had an intriguing meeting with some of the folks from Hypothes.is. Hypothes.is is an application that allows you to comment and mark up anything on the web including pdf files. You have to create a free account to use Hypothes.is, but that’s relatively painless. Once you get an account, you can join the conversation by using either a Google Chrome browser plug-in or going to a designated link that allows Hypothes.is to run natively in your web browser.

So, I’ve opened up my contribution to the Picking the President book for commenting here and added a “comment” link on the Picking the President download page (although anyone could have done the same thing by dropping the link to the pdf download into the little box on the Hypothesis webpage). I’d love to get some feedback on my paper.

For something perhaps a bit more fun for long-time readers of this blog, I’ve also created an annotatable version of my “Slow Archaeology” article in Mobilizing the Past.

The good thing about Hypothes.is is that it’s easy to use and pretty fun. It allows for comments on both the page level and for comments tied to specific passages in the text as well as highlighting that can be seen by anyone who either visits the page or has the Hypothes.is plug-in installed in their browser. It allows for private groups, which would make it appealing for a teaching environment where a class would mark up a text. I’ve already floated the idea to Eric Burin, the editor of Picking the President, that maybe he could set up a Hypthes.is group for his class and they could comment on the book.

I also have a simmering project where we imagine using a private Hypthes.is group to produce an annotated version of a book. We would then collate these annotations into an expanded edition that we’d publish both as a digital book and print-on-demand. In other words, we’d take the annotations and make it part of the “permanent record” of the book. This fits into some of the ideas that Andrew Reinhard and I bandied about in our article in Internet Archaeology last year: “From Blogs to Books: Blogging as Community, Practice, and Platform.” In this article, we envisioned publishing as not a separate species of work from blogging or even social media posts, but as a part of the same continuum that begins with professional conversations at (say) an academic meeting and (one fork at least) culminates in traditional publishing. By opening up the final “published” product to annotation and comment we both leverage digital technologies to take the book beyond the limits of the page but also look back to the earliest days of publishing when printed books circulated within far more circumscribed communities and were often reprinted to reflect the conversations and annotations offered within the communities. 

So please check out my experiments with more interactive publishing. More important than that, though, let me know what you think about my contribution to Picking the President and the most recent version of “Slow Archaeology”

More on Picking the President

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota’s most recent book, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin is getting some positive attention both around campus and in the local media. 

If you haven’t downloaded the book, do it today! 

Check out Eric Burin’s interview with Prairie Public Radio’s Main Street here.

Our friend Jack Russel Weinstein has posted it to his blog, PQED, which I’m sure gets far more readers than this little outfit!

The book and some brilliant words from me and Eric also appeared today in the local campus outlet UNDToday. 

This weekend, I’ll get it all set for paper publication and with any luck it’ll be available on Amazon by the end of the month.

Announcing Picking the President

It is my pleasure to announce the publication of Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

This The Digital Press’s first effort at a “quick book” that draws together essay from over a dozen authors on the Electoral College. Some were published before and some were written for this book. We combined these essays with historical documents and hope that they provide a platform for thoughtful engagement. The entire project took less than a month from start to finish owing largely to the hard work of my colleague and the book’s editor Eric Burin and the willingness of the contributors to move quickly over the winter break! It was a real rush to get the entire book together this quickly and aside from a few little glitches – like the first page of the table of contents on an even numbered page (which will be ironed out before the book is printed on paper). 

We also collaborated with North Dakota Quarterly to extend the reach of the Digital Press to new readers and a new audience, pushing the book out late yesterday afternoon on the NDQ website

Finally, working on this book was such a welcome respite from winter writing grind. I’ve spent the last few weeks hacking through a long term writing project, and the rush of producing a book in a deeply collaborative way was exactly the tonic that saved me from a total implosion into my own mind. 

Picking the President Cover

Here’s the blurb:

Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. Edited by Eric Burin

The 2016 presidential election has sparked an unprecedented interest in the Electoral College. In response to Donald Trump winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote, numerous individuals have weighed in with letters-to-the-editor, op-eds, blog posts, videos, and the like, and thanks to the revolution in digital communications, these items have reached an exceptionally wide audience. In short, never before have so many people had so much to say about the Electoral College.

To facilitate and expand the conversation, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College offers brief essays that examine the Electoral College from different disciplinary perspectives, including philosophy, mathematics, political science, history, and pedagogy. Along the way, the essays address a variety of questions about the Electoral College: Why was it created? How has it changed over time? Who benefits from it? Is it just? How will future demographic patterns affect it? Should we alter or abolish the Electoral College, and if so, what should replace it? In exploring these matters, Picking the President enhances our understanding of one of America’s most high-profile, momentous issues.

With contributions by Eric Burin, Brad Austin, Bill Caraher, Allen C. Guelzo and James H. Hulme, Mark Stephen Jendrysik, Donald F. Johnson, Benjamin J. Kassow, Andrew Meyer, Cynthia Culver Prescott, Timothy Prescott, Patrick Rael, Andrew Shankman, Manisha Sinha, Mark Trahant, and Jack Weinstein.

~

As you all know, the Digital Press relies on friends and supporters to get our books into the hands of interested readers. We think this book brings together over a dozen short essays and significant historical document in an effort to understand in a more nuanced way the history and arguments for and against the Electoral College in the immediate context of the 2016 presidential election. We also hope that this book will find its way into classrooms both on campus and beyond. It’s concise form, open access status, perspective and provocative essays, and the inclusion of historical documents make a platform for informed discussion.

Here’s a link to the book: https://thedigitalpress.org/picking-the-president/

Here’s (my version of the) official press release for the book:

Announcing the Newest Title from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota:
Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. Edited by Eric Burin. 

No matter where one stands in American politics, the 2016 presidential elections were momentous. After a long and contentious campaign, it seemed somehow fitting that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and Donald Trump won the electoral vote. This touched off another round in the long running debate over the role of the Electoral College in American presidential elections.

The wide range of views on the Electoral College in the state and national media prompted Prof. Eric Burin of the Department of History to team up with North Dakota Quarterly and the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota to publish Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. This volume brings together scholars from across campus, the state, and the US to discuss the history and the future of the Electoral College.

For Prof. Burin, “the Electoral College may be the most momentous and contentious feature of American life. It determines who will be president, the most powerful office in the world. The stakes couldn’t be higher.  That’s why people feel so strongly about it.  That’s also why we need to study it so carefully.”

While all the contributors prepared their essays in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, their perspectives span from the world of antiquity to Early Modern Europe, 19th century America, and the present day. Drawing on disciplines as diverse as math, philosophy, communications, and political science, Burin notes: “Picking the President aims to enrich the public conservation about the Electoral College. The book’s collection of brief, engaging, and insightful essays are not intended to be the final word on the Electoral College. Rather, the goal is to make our discussions on the subject even more wide-ranging, thoughtful, and rewarding.”

The book also includes a series of important documents in the history of the Electoral College including both well-known texts like Article II of the U.S. Constitution which established the Electoral College and documents that might be less familiar to the general public like James Madison’s correspondence with John Hillhouse and George Hay on the issue.

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota leverages a new ecosystem of digital publishing tools, social media distribution, and print-on-demand printing to produce high quality digital publication.  These digital tools allow the Digital Press to bringing together scholars from campus, the state, and the nation to engage thoughtfully in a conversation of immediate relevance. Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Debbie Storrs remarks: “The scholars in this volume represent multiple perspectives and demonstrate in their responsiveness and urgency an innovative deployment, made possible by digital technology and committed scholarship, of disciplinary expertise to engage public discussion, democracy and citizenship. The continued relevance of the liberal arts is revealed in the thoughtful analysis of the Electoral College by scholars.”

The book is available as a free download here.

And will be available at the end of the month as a low-cost paperback on Amazon.com.

 

 

 

Book Making Day: Picking the President

Today is book making day, and, as anyone who has ever worked with The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota knows, this is my favorite day. Today, I’m going to put the finishing touches on Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College, edited by Eric Burin

It’s an exciting project for a number of reasons. First, it’s timely and is a good read! It brings together a nice combination of new works and previously published articles on the Electoral College. It is also well-balanced between UND contributors and contributors of national status, and I think the perspectives offered reflect a range of perspectives. I’m not sure the book is comprehensive, in terms of views on the Electoral College, but I think there is plenty of room for a reader to challenge the perspectives offered in the book and come to their own conclusions on its role in the American republic.

I enjoyed working closely with a colleague in the Department of History to produce something that, with any luck, should offer both our department and the University of North Dakota some visibility at a time when the fate of higher education in the state is being actively debated. 

Finally, and most importantly, this is the first time The Digital Press produced a “quick book.” That is a book length treatment of an issue of pressing and historic significance. Generally speaking conventional academic publishing is a slow process. Publishers queue books up for production and design, copy-editing, correspondence, printing, and distribution all take place on a carefully managed schedule of deadlines. The Digital Press is a very, very small and as a result, we have great flexibility. We also work so closely with our authors and contributors who almost all appreciated the pressing deadlines (particularly the editor of this book, Eric Burin) and got things done on time and to spec.

So stay tuned! With any luck, this book will appear in the next 12 hours.

Here’s a little sneak peek.

 

Picking the President Jan 8 Draft

 

Picking the President Jan 8 DraftTOC

Picking the President Jan 8 DraftTOC2

Picking the President Jan 8 DraftTOC3

Picking the President Jan 8 WRC

Another Book by its Cover

This week I’ve spent some of my free thinking about the cover for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota’s newest book: Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin. In most cases I fuss with book covers and chat with more designer-ly friends or even contract with someone to produce it. Since Picking the President is a “quick book” designed to provoke questions, conversation, and debate about the electoral college in light of the recent presidential election, I don’t really have the luxury of a protracted design process (nor do I feel pushing someone to produce a cover quickly over the holidays is a very nice thing to do). So, I’m doing this on my own! 

I wanted to do two things in my cover design. First, I wanted to use blue and red which are colors now closely associated with the Democratic and Republican parties. Second, I wanted to use an old style font evocative of that used on such 18th century publication. I really like the font Caslon (and its slightly weightier modern variants) because they were historically common and remain recognizable as “olde tyme” fonts.

My first effort set the works “Picking the President” against an outline of the U.S. and bands of blue and red. 

EC Project Cover 01

This cover is decent, I guess, although I thought the text was hard to read against the blue so I made the blue and red a bit opaque. Unfortunately that made the colors look faded and a bit like a bad color photocopy. And the bands of red and blue look a bit like the French flag. The font is Didot which is fine, but a bit contemporary for what I was after.

I messed with a few other designs with more and with less color and finally figured out what the outline of the U.S. needed. It needed a flag!

EC Project Cover2 2 01

I like the Caslon font on this cover too, although I’m never entirely happy with how “P”s work with small caps. There is always some kind of kerning issue. That being said, I think this works a good bit better both in terms of legibility and style. Barring an overwhelming desire to mess with this more or I get some good suggestions from readers!