Three Things Thursday: Ruins, Books, and the Quarterly

Things are a bit busier than usual these days, so I thought I’d share some of the stuff rattling in my office with a little Three Things Thursday.

Thing the First

I’m pretty sure that I won’t write it, but someone should really pull together a review essay on recent books about ruins. I’m hoping to finish a short review of Martin Devecka’s Broken Cities (2020), which I’ve drafted here, and a few weeks ago, I read and enjoyed Filipe Rojas’s The Pasts of Roman Anatolia (2019). I read and found useful parts of Simon Murray’s 2020 book, Performing Ruins, which stands at the intersection of archaeology, drama, and social critique. It wouldn’t be difficult to add Rodney Harrison and Colin Sterling new edited volume Deterritorializing the Future: Heritage in, of and after the Anthropocene (2020) or the massively collaborative Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices (2020) volume to the list. Lynn Meskel’s  A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace (2018) fits the theme on the basis of its title alone (I’ve blogged about it here) and Francisco Martínez’s and Patrick Laviolette’s book Repair, Brokenness, Breakthrough: Ethnographic Responses (Berghahn 2019) would fit into a larger conversation about ruins and ruination as well. Finally, Susan Stewart’s book, Ruin Lessons (2020) has been languishing on my “to read pile” for most of the year and I just need to suck it up and read it.

Obviously not all of these books consider ruins in the same way which perhaps makes a kind of comparative review a bit awkward. On the other hand, the range of different approaches to ruins could make a kind of oddly compelling essay in the right hands. 

Things the Second

It’s always great to get some media coverage for a book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. This week the Williston Herald published a nice interview with Kyle Conway about Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota, 1958-2018. One thing that struck me about this article is that not only did it do more than just rely on the book’s press release, but it also — and perhaps more importantly — drove traffic to the book’s webpage. More than that, this traffic resulted in downloads. For an open access press like mine, downloads are a pretty precious commodity because they mean books are getting into people’s hands.

The Digital Press is also excited to announce that One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920 is now available from The Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Proceeds from the books sold there will go to support the maintenance of the Commonwealth Monument. If you’re thinking about buying this remarkable little book, now is a great opportunity to buy it and make a difference.

Finally, over the past six months, Eric Burin’s edited volume, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College (2018) has become a surprise best seller for The Digital Press. Following on this success, Dr. Burin was invited to host one of Humanities ND’s “Brave Conversations” about the electoral college. The event is online and, frankly, a bit pricey at $50 for a non Humanities ND member, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it! You can check it out here.

Thing the Third

This time of year is, for the foreseeable future, NDQ time. This means I spend hours processing contributions to the Quarterly, organizing paperwork, and putting the volume into some semblance of order. I detailed my process here.

What makes this all tolerable is that I also get a chance to spend time again with our accepted submissions. This means re-reading the poetry, fiction, and essays that make their way into each issue of the Quarterly.

My excitement usually gets the better of me and I begin to share some of the content from the issue on the NDQ blog. This morning, I shared two of John Sibley Williams’ poems. Go and check them out here.

New Book Day! One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920

It’s new book day at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota!

We’re very proud and excited to announce the publication of One Hundred Voices: Harrisburg’s Historic African American Community, 1850-1920 edited by Calobe Jackson, Jr., Katie Wingert McArdle, David Pettegrew with a forward by Lenwood Sloan. You can download the book for free or purchase it via Amazon.

This book is a companion to the new Commonwealth Monument in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania which will be dedicated on August 26, 2020. This monument is dedicated to the significant African American community in Pennsylvania’s capital and its historic struggle for the vote. The monument consists of a bronze pedestal that will feature the names of one hundred change agents who pursued the power of suffrage and citizenship between 1850 and 1920 in Harrisburg. This book tells the story of their unique and lasting contributions to the standing and life of African Americans—and, indeed, the political power of all Americans—within their local communities and across the country.

This book emerged at the intersection of the Commonwealth Monument Project (for more on that go here) and the Digital Harrisburg project (for more on that go here). This work is continuing. For example, check out the work of the Digital Harrisburg team discussing the region’s difficult history of racial injustice.


On a more personal note, I was really honored to be asked to help make this remarkable book possible. As readers of this blog know, David Pettegrew and I have been collaborating for over two decades now on various archaeological projects in the Eastern Mediterranean. Over this time, we’ve also developed our own interests and commitments to our local communities as well. It was really fun to be able to work on a project related to these non-Mediterranean projects especially this summer when it wasn’t possible to travel and do field work. 

I really hope that you take the time to download and check out this book. It is a remarkable document situated at the intersection of community activism and academic historical research. But more than that, so many of the stories in the book are really engrossing and paint a rich picture of the African American community in Harrisburg over the course of the 19th and 20th century.

One Hundred Voices Cover FINAL ONEPAGE SM 

Some More Thoughts on Book Layout

The next few weeks will be particularly exciting ones for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. We have a book release tomorrow and then another on September 1. 

But over the last week or so, I’ve been focused on a book that will come out on November 1. I’ve just started design work and layout and have had the fun of working closely with authors who have clear ideas of how they want their book to work. It was also my first opportunity to produce an archaeological catalogue, which has turned out to be a bit of a learning experience. 

As a result, the basic page design went through a few iterations that I thought that I’d share.

The initial page design was set in 11 point Miller Text which the authors felt was just a bit too big. The also felt like the catalogue organization was not hierarchical enough and that the indent after the various subheadings made the text too narrow.

Test Template Chapter 3 2Conc pdf  page 6 of 37 2020 08 17 07 27 33

Test Template Chapter 3 2Conc pdf  page 8 of 37 2020 08 17 07 28 03

I didn’t disagree with this and thought maybe that they’d prefer a text set in Chaparral rather than the more open Miller Text.

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Test Template Chapter 3 2Chap pdf  page 8 of 26 2020 08 17 07 31 16

I really like Chaparral and thought that it gave the text block a bit more of a buttoned down and traditional feeling. Alas, my authors did not feel the same way and still felt that the catalogue lacked a bit of visual ordering.

I went back to Miller but dropped the size to 10 point and carried the style of headings from the rest of the text into the catalogue to create more clear divisions between the various parts of the catalogue entries. I also made the line spacing a bit denser to make the text feel a bit more serious.

Test Template Chapter 3 2 10Miller pdf  page 6 of 10 2020 08 17 07 35 07

Test Template Chapter 3 2 10Miller pdf  page 8 of 10 2020 08 17 07 35 27

I also added one of the 3D models to the catalogue so it would be a bit more clear how this would look. I also made the hyperlinks a dark, royal blue largely because I hate the “hyperlink blue.” It makes them a bit less obvious in the book, but to my mind, that’s fine. They’re visible if you’re looking for them and not obtrusive if you’re not.

Most of the hyperlinks will be joined by an endnote that will include permanent urls for each link in the text.

While I’m up to my eyeballs in design and layout, my cover designer, Dan Coslett (get his new book!) has prepared an almost final draft of the cover which I’ll share here.

VVP cover final

Thinking a Bit about Publishing and ASOR

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking a bit about publishing and ASOR. I serve as editor of the Annual of ASOR (AASOR) which is the organization’s longest running book series. It stands alongside ASOR’s Archaeological Report Series (ARS) as the two book series published by ASOR. The ARS is currently looking for a new editor and once the new editor is named, we hope to have some conversations about how to distinguish the AASOR from ARS a bit more clearly.

Traditionally, the ARS features volumes dedicated to recent field work. For example, my survey on Cyprus, the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, published in the ARS. For some historical reasons, the CAARI Monograph series also appears as part of the ARS. The AASOR, in contrast, tends to consist of the results of legacy excavations (variously defined), edited volumes, and festschrifts. The blurry division between the ARS’s role in publishing current field work and the AASOR’s role in publishing legacy projects is something that we’d do well to define more clearly. But the work of defining the purpose and scope of the AASOR is also an opportunity to think more clearly about ASOR’s priorities in academic publishing more broadly.

Instead of firing off a long email, I decided to write a blog post and see what people think before burdening my colleagues with my half-baked ideas. To be clear, these are just my musings and they don’t reflect anything official! 

It goes without saying that the landscape of academic publishing is changing very rapidly these days. At the same time, we are encountering rapid changes in the professional and academic landscape in our disciplines (e.g. rise of contingent faculty) and at our institutions (e.g. the decline of research libraries, reduction in research funding). As a result, it feels like this might be a good time to think critically and carefully about the needs of our authors (and prospective author), our readers, and our institutions.

First, I got to wondering what kind of books ASOR members want to and are expected to publish?

I know that the edited volumes are received a bit ambivalently by most academics these days. They can be easily derided as grab-bags of vaguely related content brought together mostly through common social ties or a shared desperation to expand one’s CV. I’ve heard more than one scholar boldly assert on social media that they will NEVER edit another edited volume again. Having worked in a few of these in my life as editor, contributor, and publisher, I can confirm that they’re often really difficult volumes to bring together, and, at least by some accounts, they have limited value for tenure and promotion committees. 

On the other hand, there must be a market for them because any walk around the ASOR or AIA book room shows that they continue to be published in large numbers by every publisher from Oxford and Cambridge to Eisenbrauns, Cotsen, Routledge, Oxbow, Bloomsbury, and so on. Indeed, AASOR and ARS have published their share of such books over the last five years. (Curiously University of Chicago Press, which is ASOR’s publishing partner for journals, doesn’t seem particularly keen on edited volumes, as far as I can discern.)

My sense is that edited volumes are popular among publishers, in part, because of the ability to disaggregate content, and this allows for the sale of single chapters to individuals who might not want to buy the entire book. The current vogue of “Handbooks” and “Companions” is a good example for how books that are effectively edited volumes can be disaggregated so that chapters can be sold to individuals at prices cheaper than the often-expensive entire volume but at prices higher than chapter’s share of the volume’s total price. 

It’s notable here that while AASOR often published edited volumes, JSTOR does not present its content in such a way that an individual could download or purchase one article from a volume.

Second, in the past, ASOR published monographs (1978-1981), dissertations (1975-1994), and books (1999-2005). You can get a sense for the range of ASOR book series here

I do wonder how our membership would see a kind of dissertation series (of the kind that existed years ago) or a book/monograph series? Would this fulfill a need in the field especially for early career scholars who might struggle to find a press for specialized research? Or would be redundant with what Eisenbrauns, Brill, Brepols, and various other specialized presses already offer? 

Third, I started to think a bit more about Eric Cline and his arguments for writing and publishing for a general audience.

My guess is that places like Princeton pay the bills with books like Cline’s 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (2016). I was at an AIA panel last year and two of the panelists (Cline and Jodi Magness) were talking about writing for wider public audiences and their NEH Public Scholar grants. Their various publications intended for a general audience obviously overlapped with “ASOR Territory.” Moreover, it seems like many presses have figured out that these books make money. The various “short introductions,” “what everyone needs to know about,” “quintessence series,” “critical thinkers” all follow a similar template. They’re short (<40,000 words), they tend to be prepared for a general audience, and they tend not to feature much original research. They’re published as low-cost paperbacks and presumably meant to be sold at volume to individuals (and students) rather than libraries. These books are the opposite of the Oxford Handbook, Cambridge Companion, et c. series which are clearly designed mainly for libraries (including via digital subscription).

I wonder whether this is a game that ASOR would want to get into to generate revenue for ASOR and maybe for more “serious” publishing? Would this dovetail with what NEA is doing in terms of outreach?

Fourth, I’ve been looking at what Eidolon is doing with their course packets. These are digital bundles of largely repackaged content from Eidolon stitched together with some added commentary. They’re pretty nice if what you’re teaching happens to align neatly with what Eidolon has to offer.

It seems to me that ASOR has content – via BASOR, NEA, ARS, AASOR, Ancient Near East Today, and even LCP – and we have experts. I wonder whether there would be value to producing digital course packets that could be purchased (by students, presumably) for a relatively low cost (but at ideally, a relatively high volume). They could combine material which ASOR owns with commentary, new content, and maybe even digital gewgaws (photos, video, audio).

This would obviously require a more than just a casual operation to work, but it would be interesting to know if this would appeal to our audience.

In many ways, there is a single question behind all these suggestions: what would our members like and support both in terms of producing and purchasing content?

Along these lines, I can’t help but wonder about the following:

1. How will the growing number of precarious and non-tenure track ASOR scholars impact the landscape of academic publishing? What do these scholars need and want?

2. How will the rise in Open Access publishing shape both the expectations of our authors and our readers? How will the global nature of ASOR publishing impact our attitudes toward Open Access?

3. How will the growth of online teaching shape the kind of content that our members want and produce?

4. How will the market for academic books change as library funding declines and new strategies arise for institutional content management? How can we increase the number of individuals who buy ASOR books to compensate for a likely decline in institutional purchases?  

Three Things Thursday

Back-to-back weeks with Three Things Thursday! How crazy can it be here at the Archaeology of the Mediterranean World? 

With the semester looming and outstanding project piling up, I wanted to write some shorter things over the next few week, but when I sat down to 

Thing The First

Here’s a little piece that I wrote for NDQ’s blog that darts and dodges between the past and the present: 

Yesterday, I sent the last pieces for issue 87.3/4 out for copy editing ahead to get a bit of a jump on what will likely be a hectic fall semester here in North Dakota Quarterly-land. 

To celebrate, I had planned to make a short announcement that we would be observing the great European tradition of taking some time off in August to recharge and enjoy the last of the “frog days” of summer. Instead, I found myself reading back issue of North Dakota Quarterly and writing up a short blog post.

Last fall, we were really happy to publish a piece by Jim Sallis not only because it was a good story, but also because Sallis was a long-time contributor to NDQ from the early 1980s and had returned to the journal’s pages after over a decade away. We posted his story here with links to his other pieces in NDQ.

Issue 87.3/4 will include another such contributor, Priscilla Long. We’ve just accepted her short essay “Holy Shit!” and I can’t wait to share it with our readers in a few months. In the meantime, check out these past contributions by Long to the Quarterly starting in the mid-1980s. 

Her works not only touched me personally, but they also are more than just a little prescient. The first piece she published in NDQ 55.1 (1987). It’s listed in the table of contents as a story, but it clearly draws deeply on Long’s childhood on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It’s called: “Snapshots: The Eastern Shore of Maryland. Having grown up in Delaware, the Eastern Shore has always fascinated me. It was so rural compared to the suburban bustle of northern Delaware and so remote, but it also seemed so close. It was a reminder, maybe, that our past wasn’t really that far away. She alludes again to her childhood on an Eastern Shore farm in a 2002 essay from NDQ 69.1 (2002) titled “Writing as Farming” and, it’s hard to escape Long’s interest in character in her own work as motivating her essay in NDQ 59.3 (1991). Here she critiques Mavis Gallant’s “Overhead in a Balloon” through the lens of Chekhov’s “The Darling.”

In issue 56.1 (1986), she published a poem titled “The Return,” which could serve as an epigram to this post. The opening lines are lovely: 

This sleep will wash me back
to where I used to dream

In issue, 57.3 (1989), she published an essay (or maybe a story) called “Solitude” which speaks so obviously to our current condition that I’ll simply link to it. And in the next issue, published a story called “Old Man.” 

When an author returns to the Quarterly, it reminds me that people submit multiple pieces to the same journal over time (and with each piece endure the risk of rejection) because they feel a connection. And this makes literary journals more than just little magazines. At their best, journals like NDQ create a sense of community (or maybe even family) among their contributors and readers through a shared past that shapes a common present.

As Long wrote in “The Return”:

So I wait to wake
I hardly feel the coldness
of the deep. This night is not
as long as childhood was
As then, so now,

the earth is dreaming darkness
towards the blazing sun.

Thing The Second

I’ve never been a huge Truman Capote fan, but I can’t deny that he represents one of the most fascinating individuals of the 20th century literary scene and he is a key instigator of our 21st-century interest in true crime stories, podcasts, and television.

Capote appeared at the 1976 UND Writers Conference and read from his then recent work, but the long shadow of In Cold Blood still followed Capote and he inevitable responded to questions concerning its influence and morality.

The great thing is that you can watch Capote’s reading and his response to the audience in this digitized and newly released video from the UND Writers Conference archives. 

Check it out here.   

And special credit goes to current UND Writers Conference director, Crystal Alberts, who managed to get these videos digitized and, more importantly, did the footwork needed to get permission to release these videos. I can only imagine how much energy and persistence is necessary to get an author’s estate to approve the release of material like this.

Thing The Third

Over the last week, I’ve been working on some design and layout for book scheduled to appear this fall titled Visualizing Votive Practice edited by Derek Counts, Erin Averett, and Kevin Garstki. It is the first book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota that emphasizes “The Digital” over the traditional form of publishing and will bring together text and 3D images in a fairly convention PDF package that is nevertheless linked extensively to open data from around the web.

A key component (and partner) of this project is Open Context who integrated the ability to view and manipulate 3D images into their linked open data publishing platform. Linking to individual records in Open Context allowed the authors to have stable and persistent URLs for each artifact that they discuss in the book. Check it out here

Individuals seeking to reference these artifacts will be able to cite either the rather more conventional catalogue entry in the book or the stable URI provided by Open Context. It will also allow the reader to move from the linear presentation and arguments offered in the book to a more non-linear movement through the data through integrated hyperlinks.

Stay tuned for more on this project over the next few months!  

Two Book Design Challenges

Over the past few days I’ve been slowly getting to work on a couple projects for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. 

The first project is the cover for Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota 1958-2018 edited by Kyle Conway. The book was initially to appear in the Spring but with the confusion surrounding the COVID situation, we decided to push its release date to the fall. 

The book is now ready to go, but the cover had continued to trouble me. The cover photo was of Clarence Iverson #1, which was the first producing well of the late-1950s Bakken oil boom, and was taken by James N. Holter and generously provided to us by Janet Zander.

The problem, of course, wasn’t the photograph, but the text. And not the entire text, but the “and” between “Boom” and “Bust.” My first, “final version” used an ampersand in red (the same color red as the truck in the photo!) to link the two words. The result was adequate, but the size and position of the ampersand gave it undo prominence on the cover.

Sixty Years Cover AM1 01

Various other versions of the cover were worse (and I’ll spare you). The challenge is that I wanted to keep “Boom” and “Bust” very prominent on the cover because these two words were synonymous with the Bakken oil patch over the last 60 years and created a kind of narrative drama that shaped the book itself. After endless fiddling, I came up with this compromise solution:

Sixty Years Cover AM3

It’s not perfect, but it does the job.

I also adjusted the image on the back which is by Kyle Conway. The grey sky and muted tones offer a nice contrast to the brighter view on the the front of the book. 

The second little design challenge involves a book titled Visualizing Votive Practice edited by Derek Counts, Erin Averett, and Kevin Garstki. It is scheduled for an early November release that is just entering typesetting. The book will have all sorts of interesting features, from our use of 3D images embedded in the PDF to a robust gaggle of hyperlinks to published data and museums. Because the book will only appear as a digital volume and won’t have a print-on-demand version.

As a result, I wanted to be more attentive to how the book will appear to digital readers. For example, I decided not to include gutters on the inside margins of the pages because the book will never be bound. I also have proposed including the title of the chapter and the page number on the “outside” margin of the page to help the reader know where they are in the digital book without the interruption of a running header. I kept the typical 6×9 page size.

Test Template Chapter pdf 2020 08 05 07 35 52

The text of the book is Miller Text and the chapter title is in the ever-so-stylish Proxima Nova (which is evidently a hybrid of Futura and Akzidenz Grotesk).

I’m pretty happy with how the first drafts of the pages turned out even if they feel a bit like a Bloomsbury book (not to say that’s a bad thing). That is to say that they’re a bit more contemporary than my usual page design. 

As per usual, I’m open to suggestions, criticisms, or insults in the comments!

Some Publishing Notes from a Small Press

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a bit about open access and scholar led publishing. None of my thoughts are developed or even really interesting enough for a full fledged blog post, but I decided that I should write some of them down as a little list.

1. Agility and the Small Press. I have been working on one of those “sudden projects” over the last week that dropped into my lap almost completely formed, but needing a publisher. Because I have a very crowded fall schedule that involves not only my own research and teaching, but at least two other books that are deep into production.

It’s been really fun working quickly on this book project, which I’ve blogged about here, partly because with a sense of urgency comes a kind of collegiality that I’ve missed because I’m not doing fieldwork this summer, and partly because the project is really cool (and I promise more on this over the next week or so!). It has also reminded me that very small presses can be particularly agile because we don’t have the same complex production workflows that larger presses depend upon to keep multiple books moving forward simultaneously. In effect, my workflow is always just-in-time, even for projects that have a predictable publishing trajectory.

Of course, this agility has its own social costs and reflects the rather contingent character of labor that supports the smallest presses. My access to surplus time, both in my own life, among my collaborators, and from elsewhere in the publishing infrastructure (e.g. copy editors, printers, et c.) has its own social consequences and reflects, in part, the precarious nature of academic and creative work.

Despite these affordances (or perhaps because of them), books developed quickly can be quite successful. The most popular book in The Digital Press catalogue remains Eric Burin’s edited volume, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College which came together in less than six weeks.  

2. Publishing and Race. Over the last few years, the “syllabus” has emerged as one of the standard responses of academics to a crisis. I jokingly call this almost knee jerk reaction to everything from hurricanes to the recent pandemic, removal of monuments, immigration reform, health care, and BLM as “I’ve got a reading list for that.” 

At their best, these often crowd-sourced (or at least academic, crowd-sourced) reading lists are thoughtful and expansive. Recent popular reading lists on race circulating on social media, however, nudged me to think a bit about how they reflect certain aspects of structural racism. Google 

This most striking thing to me is that most of the books on these reading lists are published by large presses whose catalogues consist largely of books by white authors. Moreover, publishing as an industry is largely white with only about 5% of those working in publishing identifying as black. In academic publishing, it’s worth noting that none of the presses currently members of the American Association of University Presses are based at a HBCU.  Since AAUP member presses represent most of the major academic publishers in the Anglophone world, a black academic requiring a book to receive tenure would almost inevitably have to publish with a university press based at a majority white institution likely run by a largely white staff with a catalogue of white authors. 

What’s interesting, though, is that black publishers do exist. Until 2011, for example, Howard University Press published works focused largely on black and African American culture, history, and society. When it closed, some of its catalogue was to be acquired by Paul Coates’s Black Classic Press (it’s unclear whether this played out). A quick Google search will reveal quite a few other black and minority run presses in the US alone, but very few books by these presses have appeared on various academic BLM focused reading lists.

One wonders as the structure of academic publishing is changing rapidly whether this situation will change over the next few decades. The emerging role of the open access movement, new forms of scholar-led publishing, and print-on-demand and digital technology creates opportunities for historically underrepresented groups to create publishers, practices, and series that reflect their communities and communicate their contributions to a wider audience.    

3. OA Journals. Last week, a colleague asked me whether I had any thoughts about how to fund an open access journal that had reached the end of its initial grant. It got me thinking about sustainable models in OA journal publishing and the shift from journals supported by subscriptions to those funded through article processing charges and fees (APCs). 

In the sciences, this shift follows the logic that researchers often with large grants and at larger, research oriented schools have the resources to fund the publication of their results and to make them available for free to scholars at less well-resourced institutions. For the humanities and social sciences, of course, this doesn’t really work as well. High quality research regularly comes from institutions that lack the resources of major research universities or that privilege teaching over research. Open access journals with high APCs will likely struggle to attract publications from researchers in the humanities and social sciences that do not have high levels of institutional support to say nothing of scholars working outside the academy or graduate students. The potential impact of this model on open access publishing, of course, known and troubling. 

What I was wondering lately is whether any open access journals have pursued approaches to open access publishing that seek to combine subscriptions with open access publishing? A number of presses have started to release open access books in paper first and then digitally later allowing the press to earn some income from book sales, which tend to largely occur within a year of a book’s release, while still making the book available open access for classroom use, for example. 

Would it be possible for a journal to have a trigger, for example, that releases a volume’s open access content when it reaches, say, 100 or 200 subscribers? This would ensure that the journal would have an adequate income to publish (let’s say that each subscription cost $80-$100). Moreover, since many journal subscriptions are bundled into larger packages which are sold to institutions, one could imagine an open access journal being combined with more traditional journal subscription packages to generate some additional sustainable income. Finally, an OA journal could implement variable or even voluntary APCs which would create another revenue stream. When certain funding or subscriber levels are reached, the journal content would become open. 

Maybe journals already employ this kind of hybrid approach, but I’m not aware of them. 

4. OA and OER. Finally, I’m going to apply for a small stipend to develop two new classes that use Open Educational Resources at the introductory level (Western Civilization I and World History I). Both classes will do more than just use an open access textbook, but will bake the ideas of open access publishing into the work of the class.

In particular, the classes will encourage students to understand critically their role as “prosumers” in 21st century society. I’ve written about this recently in Sebastian Heath’s edited volume DATAM: Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean. The goal of the class is to have students dissect, reorganized, and expand the two open access textbooks with an eye toward making them more useful, sophisticated, and responsive to the needs of their particular class and their particular interests. 

Using open access books gives students an opportunity to understand how the next generation of open educational resources is more than just swapping out an expensive textbook for a free version, but a framework both fully parallel with recent moves toward active learning and consistent with larger crowd-sources projects such as Wikipedia, which when realized in their best forms, create dynamic and democratic spaces for sharing of resources and analysis. As our students increasingly contribute to and consumer content from commercial ventures from Facebook and Twitter to Tiktok and Instagram, presenting an opportunity to engage with “prosumer” practices in a more traditional and critical environment will allow them to recognize the limits and potential of open, social, and crowd based knowledge making.   

Three Thing Thursday: A Story, an Interview, and a Map

My grades were submitted on Monday, and I made the mistake of thinking that summer would begin now. Alas, the world had other plans with zoom meetings, deadlines, and an endless stream of emails from various administrative accounts across my university.

The good news is that despite the noise, there are plenty of fun things to keep my occupied this summer, and I thought that I’d share a few on an mid-May “Three Things Thursday”:

Thing the First

If you’re like me, you’ve already started to think about how to adapt your classes to another COVID-inflected semester in the fall. It seem highly likely that digital media are going to play a larger role in what you do in the classroom. 

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota chatted a bit with Sebastian Heath about his recent edited volume DATAM: Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient MediterraneanYou can read the interview with Sebastian here. And you can download the a digital copy of the book, purchase it via Amazon, or from an independent bookstore

Another book that might help you think more broadly about teaching using digital approaches is Shawn Graham’s recently published Failing Gloriously and Other Essays. At a time when it is becoming more and more important that we act in a humane and understanding way toward our students and colleagues, Shawn’s book shines light on failure not as the prelude to triumph, but as a fundamental part of learning and empathy. We also had a long conversation with him that you can read here. You can download it for free here, buy it on Amazon here, or get a copy from an independent bookseller here.

Thing the Second

I’m pretty excited to have posted Shane Castle’s short story “Ursa” at the North Dakota Quarterly blog this morning. During my time as editor, it is one of my favorite stories. 

The thing that makes is so appealing is the ambiguity of it all. Is the story meant to be touching and heartfelt? Is it just an exercise in the absurd? Is it meant to be funny? All these things? 

There’s also something about the story that makes it feel appropriate for our current situation. The story reckons with the experience of coming out of hibernation, memories of our past, pre-COVID life, our efforts to stay connected over distance, and the awkwardness in how we engaged with others. In short, the story is so much of what unusual, non-commercial, and (broadly) experimental fiction can be. 

If you have a few minutes over lunch or while sipping an evening cocktail, give it a read.  

Thing the Third

The final thing this Thursday is a map prepared by a team led by my old buddy David Pettegrew. As I’ve mentioned on a previous Three Thing Thursday, he’s been leading an ambitious project, Digital Harrisburg, designed to create rich historical maps of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This past week, we released yet another update to the maps of Harrisburg’s “Old Eighth Ward” which was an African American neighborhood destroyed to produce the state capital area. Check out the interactive maps here

Needless to say, this project has inspired me to think more critically and dynamically about my own community and how constructing data-rich maps can help us understand our community in the past, but as importantly, in the present. 

NDQ 87.1/2 By the Numbers

I’ve been thinking a good bit about how what we write, publish, edit, and read reflects how we think about the world. Over the weekend, I read Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein’s Data Feminism (which will be “soon” be available open access here). They include in an appendix some statistics on how well their work fulfilled their goals of producing a diverse perspective on data science in keeping with the central theme of their work. They admit that in many cases they fell short of their goals, but this transparency allowed the authors to show their aspirations and come to terms with the limits of their field, their research, and their writing. I was deeply impressed.

I’ve been trying to do a similar thing with each issue of North Dakota Quarterly. We receive thousands of submissions each year and accept far less than 10% of them. This means that our editors exert a significant influence over the shape and character of the issue. At the same time, the world of creative writing and little magazines is a small one, and our contributors influence our readers and ultimately who submits to the Quarterly. In other words, what we publish exerts an influence on who submits and our pool of potential contributors.

Anyway, here’s what I posted today over on the NDQ blog: 

We’ve been thrilled to see that North Dakota Quarterly 87.1/2 has been downloaded over 770 times over the last few weeks! We hope that some of those downloaders like what they read and will consider becoming contributors, subscribers, or at very least regular visitors to our blog.

If you want to download our most recent issue, go here. No strings attached!

In the tradition of little magazines, our contributors tend to subscribe and our subscribers tend to contribute. This reciprocal relationship ensures that the Quarterly reflects our readers and gives our authors and editors an opportunity to create the kind of magazine that they want to read. Each issue, then sits at the intersection of our editors’ and contributors’ tastes. It also means that as editors we can move the needle on the character of NDQ which we also hope attracts new readers and subscribers.

Recent conversation among academic authors concerning the impact of  COVID-19 has given the relationship between readers and contributors in scholarly journals a new sense of urgency. According to reports from across disciplines, there’s been a steep decrease in the number of articles submitted by women to academic journals, or, alternately, there’s been a steep rise in the number of articles submitted by men. The argument is that with stay-at-home orders and the closing of most schools, women’s roles as care-givers in the family have increased, and this has cut into their research and writing time. Limited access to home work space, the increased burden of emotional labor as classes and colleagues deal with pandemic related stress, and the greater number of women who carry heavy teaching loads made all the heavier with the requirement to teach classes online likely also contributed to a decline in submission from women. The COVID-related social changes continue into the foreseeable future, the decline in submissions from women may have long-term significance especially if it’s multiplied by declining number of women who have the time to serve as peer-reviewers, participate actively on editorial boards, and other behind the scenes academic work that shapes the content and quality of scholarly journals.

Our submission data at NDQ can be a bit messy. For example, it’s not too unusual for authors to submit revised manuscripts resulting in multiple submissions by the same author over a period of time. Our poetry and non-fiction editors accept submissions over two designated reading periods per year meaning that some authors may hold their work and the date of submission may not represent the date of composition. Our poetry editor allows for up to 5 poems in a single submission which complicates acceptance rates, for example. Finally, each of our editors deals with their archive of submitted material differently.

Despite these vagaries, we can detect an uptick in submission since the start of the COVID period between March 15 and May 12, which was largely driven by a substantial increase in poetry submission. Fiction and non-fiction submissions appear to have remained relatively stable over the same period in 2019 and 2020.    

Because of differences in archiving practices, our best data comes from our Fiction submissions that remained relatively stable in number between 2019 and 2020. Between March 15 and May 2, 2019, 60% of the submissions came from authors with male names and 33% came from authors with female names. Over that same period in 2020, 70% of the submissions came from authors with male names and 25% from authors with female names. This suggests, with a bit of fuzziness, that there are hints of the larger trend of women submitting less during the “Time of COVID-19.”  Since we accept fiction, essays, and poetry often a year in advance of publication and because we sometimes accept more than we can publish in a single issue, we tend to blend material submitted over a long period of time. It may be that this will help mitigate the impact of any trend in submissions during the pandemic.

NDQ 87.1/2, our numbers reflect, to some extent, the character of our submissions. About 56% of our contributors have men’s names and 43% have women’s names. This more or less holds across all genres with the number of published pieces (poets often have more than one poem published) 53% by authors with men’s names and 47% from authors with women’s names. 

While the gender of our author’s names don’t come close to telling the whole story concerning the content of any volume of NDQ, it does give us one perspective on who reads and submits to the Quarterly. We could add that we published material from authors who live in 26 states and 8 foreign countries. We don’t collect data on the age, race, or background of our authors.  

It would be possible to perform a more subtle quantitative reading of the issue that could map topics, the gender, race, class, age, and ethnicity of characters, their sexual orientation, the identity of speakers, and other meaningful markers of diversity, but, at some point, the best way to understand the scope of our magazine and its contributors is to simply read an issue. I hope you’ll find something that speaks to you in it.

We also recognize, of course, that we still have work to do to create issues that reflect the diversity of creative voices in the world today. 

Have I mentioned that you can download it for free?

We’re also offering a discount on subscriptions with the coupon code on this page.

We’re always reading fiction, and will continue to read essays and poetry at least until the end of the month (and maybe longer in response to the chaos and confusion of the COVID-19 pandemic). It’s always free to submit to the Quarterly.

Work Force Housing, The Bakken, and Photos

Like many people, I’ve been at loose ends over the last 6 weeks or so. While I’ve been trying to remain disciplined, this hasn’t always worked out. This week, for example, I started to play around with the 10,000+ images that the North Dakota Man Camp Project collected over the last 7 years. I learned this morning that it was some kind of Digital humanities day, so maybe I can pretend that I planned to do this to celebrate, you know, the digital or the humanities or something.

I’ll admit that the more I’ve played with little projects like this, the more I’ve thought about starting a little press of my own to publish various vanity projects. For example a couple of years ago, I scanned and compiled a collection of letters written by Edward P. Robertson of Wesley College in Grand Forks, ND from 1935. You can download it here for free.

Along similar lines, I started to compile the documentary photographs that my colleagues and I took in the Bakken. The photos are all from a single camp, which we’ll call Man Camp 11.

Here’s the cover of the book that I mocked up. It’ll probably just be digital.

WFR CoverDraft 1

Most of the photographs are mine which accounts for their rather mediocre quality. In this mediocrity, however, I like to think that there’s a bit of authenticity. I switched after a couple of years from a 35 mm camera to a micro four thirds camera meaning my images changed proportion and requiring me to lay out my pages in a different way. 



I also started to play around with some of the video that Richard Rothaus captured during our time in the Bakken. I converted one of every 100 frames into a still, and I really like how they create a sense of motion.

Layer 52

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I then put them together on the page.


I’m also thinking about collating these photographs with some of the interviews we did.


Because it’s my book, I get to feature my truck:


There are some really great aerial photographs of the county taken almost every year from 2012-2018. I think these could be really great chapter header images. More than that, like the stills from the Richard Rothaus’s videos, these images show the passage of time.

ArcGIS  My Map 2020 04 30 07 31 42

ArcGIS  My Map 2020 04 30 07 32 55

ArcGIS  My Map 2020 04 30 07 33 53

ArcGIS  My Map 2020 04 30 07 34 35

ArcGIS  My Map 2020 04 30 07 35 21

ArcGIS  My Map 2020 04 30 07 36 05

ArcGIS  My Map 2020 04 30 07 36 56

Anyway, I’m not sure what exactly to do with this project other than to keep plugging away on it. There are some basic elements like page numbers that I’d like to incorporate, but haven’t really figured out how to do that in a way that I think looks cool. 

If any of my readers are publishers and interested in this kind of thing, drop me a line…