Sneak Peek: Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays

Next week, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is really excited to publish Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays.

As a bit of an appetizer, we’re making the introduction to the book available this morning as a download.

Failing Gloriously and Other Essays documents Shawn Graham’s odyssey through the digital humanities and digital archaeology against the backdrop of the 21st-century university. At turns hilarious, depressing, and inspiring, Graham’s book presents a contemporary take on the academic memoir, but rather than celebrating the victories, he reflects on the failures and considers their impact on his intellectual and professional development. These aren’t heroic tales of overcoming odds or paeans to failure as evidence for a macho willingness to take risks. They’re honest lessons laced with a genuine humility that encourages us to think about making it safer for ourselves and others to fail.

A foreword from Eric Kansa and an afterword by Neha Gupta engage the lessons of Failing Gloriously and consider the role of failure in digital archaeology, the humanities, and social sciences.

If you want to read more about this book, check out Quinn Dombrowski’s Review on the Stanford Digital Humanities blog.

“I intend to keep a copy on my office bookshelf, and a second under my desk, in order to promptly replace the bookshelf copy when it’s been given away to a grad student, staff, or faculty colleague who happens to come by. If you’re a digital humanities “veteran”, you’ll laugh and cry and shudder alongside Graham’s tales of failure. If you’re a grad student or newer to digital humanities, Failing Gloriously and Other Essays provides a rare, honest, inside look into many facets of doing digital humanities. … There is much more work that needs to be done, on many fronts, to encourage, support, and reduce the personal risk associated with thoughtful analyses of failure, for everyone […] Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays is one step towards that better future.”

If this sounds interesting to you, go and download the introduction to the book now!

Wide-Ranging Wednesday: ASOR, Alcatraz, and Failing Gloriously

I’m heading out west today to the annual meeting of ASOR in San Diego. As per usual, I’m pulling together a gaggle of books to keep me company on the flights and during down times at the conference.

For the flight, I’m going to read Joyce Carol Oates On Boxing as I prepare myself for a winter of rather remarkable fights starting on Saturday with the Wilder vs. Ortiz heavy weight tilt, December 7th with Joshua vs. Ruiz, and on December 14th with Bud Crawford, Mick Conlan, and Teofimo Lopez in action. I’m pretty excited.

I’ve also packed along a copy of François Hartog’s Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time (2015) as I think about the practical, methodological, and ethical time of legacy data. Along similar lines, I’m carrying with me the intimidating works of Reinhard Kosselleck, but I’ll probably start with Niklas Olsen’s History in the plural an introduction to the work of Reinhart Koselleck (2012) before dipping my toes into Futures Past: on the semantics of historical time (2004) or Sediments of Time: On Possible Histories (2018). This was mostly prompted by Laurent Olivier and Marek Tamm’s Rethinking Historical Time: New Approaches to Presentism (2019).

As per usual, at the 11th hour I added David Staley’s Alternative Universities: Speculative Design for Innovation in Higher Education (2019) to my Kindle on the recommendation of Richard Rothaus.

The flight to San Diego will also be a great chance to think through some strategies to promote the newest book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota that is set to be published on December 1. Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays is a series of reflective pieces on his life as a digital archaeologist and a digital humanist in the first decades of the 21st century. The book is part archaeological autobiography and part commentary on ways to make academia a safer place for failure.

Advanced copies of the book are in the wind and the feedback has been really positive (which I’m sure is as much a relief to Shawn as it is to me!). We were both really excited to read Quinn Dombrowski’s thoughtful review of the book on the Stanford DH blog. Check it out! 

And stay tuned to this page for a sneak peek of the introduction next week.   

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t nudge folks to read Gayatri Devi’s short essay on the North Dakota Quarterly blog on the 50th anniversary of the Native American occupation of Alcatraz. For many reasons, this event has not garnered the same public awareness as other episodes of protest in the late 1960s. That it occurred at the same time as protests by African Americans, anti-war protestors, and other movements that exposed the hypocrisy in late-20th century American political, economic, and cultural life, offers a clear reminder that the story of Native Americans remains deeply entangled in the complex critiques of contemporary America. It is hardly surprising then, that Tommy Orange’s There, There (2018) which is set in the Native American community of contemporary Oakland, looks back to the occupation of Alcatraz as a key moment in both the novel and that community’s story. Reading Tommy Orange or Dean Rader’s Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI (2011) over the Thanksgiving is a nice way to ignore the white-washed portrayal of Native Americans so closely associated with that holiday.  

Short Writing: A Book Cover, a Class Description, and a Random Thought

This week, I’m grinding away on a conference paper that I have to give next week. I’m also trying to wrap up a few odds and ends as the end of the semester and the holiday conference season approaches. These little odds and ends, tend to be short writing projects mostly (aside from the usual administrative trivia that goes along with publishing, editing North Dakota Quarterly, serving as my department’s director of graduate studies, and being a generally good doobie around campus.

Here are two short writing projects and some editorializing:

First, I’m trying to teach a little 1-credit class on Montgomery Hall. The course will be called Making Montgomery Hall. Here’s the blurb:

Making Montgomery Hall is a 1-credit class focusing on the now-abandoned building on the UND Campus. This will be the last class held in one of the oldest standing buildings on campus before it is demolished next year.

This class will support a wide range of engagements with the building from archival work, to the study of archaeology, material culture, campus history, and architecture. The class will also encourage students to consider opportunities for creative approaches to an abandoned building on campus. The goal of the class is to think together about how we remember, preserve, and mark campus history while simultaneously celebrating innovation, progress, and change.

NOTE: Because we have to get special access to this building, we do not have a scheduled meeting time. Once students enroll in the class, we’ll work out a meeting time or times that work for everyone.

Second, I’m putting the final touches on Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays which is due to drop on December 1. One the hardest things to do (and one of the things that I never feel very good about) is writing the back cover description of the book. I think this one is pretty decent:

Please, you gotta help me. I’ve nuked the university.

Failing Gloriously and Other Essays documents Shawn Graham’s odyssey through the digital humanities and digital archaeology against the backdrop of the 21st-century university. At turns hilarious, depressing, and inspiring, Graham’s book presents a contemporary take on the academic memoir, but rather than celebrating the victories, he reflects on the failures and considers their impact on his intellectual and professional development. These aren’t heroic tales of overcoming odds or paeans to failure as evidence for a macho willingness to take risks. They’re honest lessons laced with a genuine humility that encourages us to think about making it safer for ourselves and others to fail.

A foreword from Eric Kansa and an afterword by Neha Gupta engage the lessons of Failing Gloriously and consider the role of failure in digital archaeology, the humanities, and social sciences.

Here’s the cover:

Failing Gloriously Cover Draft 2 01

Finally, I’ve been thinking a bit about some of the recent vogue for “short work week” movements and the persistent buzz about work-life balance. A recent report from Microsoft Japan suggested that a four-day week improved productivity by 40%. While not doubting Microsoft’s research based on anything substantial, I often wonder how much the miracle of the short work week rests on the years of long work weeks that helped employees discover the efficiencies, processes, and practices that made shorter work weeks possible. In other words, short work weeks are great for employees who focus on well-established processes (which make measuring productivity meaningful) and perhaps those who do work in a highly modular way. They probably are not as ideal for folks whose work is more episodic, unpredictable, and irregular.    

In Production: Failing Gloriously and Other Essays

It’s International Open Access Week which means it’s a good time to talk a bit about The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. It just so happens that we have a new open access book in production even as we speak: Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays which features a foreword from Eric Kansa and an afterword from Neha Gupta. 

IMG 4395

It’s an intriguing volume that updated the venerable academic memoir for our contemporary situation and, at the same time, offers personal commentary on the digital humanities, archaeology, teaching, and our changing professional landscape.

FAILING GLORIOUSLY DRAFT1 10 21  DRAGGED

The table of contents don’t really do it justice, but if you’re interested in an advanced copy and would consider blurbing it, drop me an email! 

Here’s the table of contents:

FAILING GLORIOUSLY DRAFT1 10 21 TOC

From a design perspective, I used Miller Text for the body of the book for the first time ever. It’s a “Scotch style” font that often appears in newspaper and periodicals. I thought that it fit the short essays in this book and communicated their contemporaneity and vibrancy. The use of Miller style fonts in magazines like The New Yorker also ensured that it communicated an accessible seriousness of purpose. For the titles, I used a compressed version of Akzidenz-Grotesk because it echoes the balance between the significance of this book in the present (Akzidenz-Grotesk being famously favored in early 20th-century emphemera) but also a kind of historical weight. Despite it’s modest origins, Akzidenz-Grotesk has become a serious font that harkens to a day before the ubiquity of Futura, Helvetica or other mid-century san serif typefaces. Age does that to a font!  

Flow and the Digital Press, Part 2

Last week, I presented part of a final, albeit working, draft based on a paper that I gave last spring at the annual IEMA conference at Buffalo. It’s due at the end of the month, and right now, I’m starting to feel deadline pressure.  

Here’s the final 1000 words or so of the paper, where I try to bring The Digital Press into conversation with the larger conversation about workflow and flow in a digitally mediated environment. It’s starting to take some shape.

As the fluid world of digital archaeology is creating new opportunities and challenges for publishing the results of our work, it also seems likely that it will transform entrenched attitudes toward publishing in our discipline. Digital Press at the University of North Dakota offers one example of how new boundaries between publishing and research emerge from the growing interest in digital workflow and its impact of the social organization of disciplinary practice within the field. To be clear, scholar-led projects such as the Princeton/Stanford Working Papers (Ober 2007) offered models for publishing that depended upon the digital affordance of production and distribution. The emergence of platforms like University of Minnesota Press’s Manifold which supports the transparent and interactive production of academic work likewise relies on the interoperability of digital flows from author’s laptop to the print-on-demand book. The digital affordances of our current scholarly workflow can be as simple as the practice of most academic papers taking shape in word processing software which can be easily converted for distribution on the web. Scholar-led platforms such as Open Context, which publishes peer-reviewed archaeological data, essentially makes artifacts of the digital flow susceptible to review through close attention to metadata and linked data standards.
The Digital Press is a rather more conventional project in comparison, but perhaps the conventional character of its work reflects the maturing of digital practices and a tipping point in how these practices shape professional relations within our discipline. Our current publishing model is fluid, but follows certain relatively consistent conventions. First, we use digital tools to produce and distribute our books at a low cost using print-on-demand printing for paper books, we distribute also through PDF downloads on a low cost website running WordPress, and finally, archive our books at UND’s institutional repository and the Internet Archive. Second, we publish mainly under various open access licenses. This eliminates some of the institutional friction that limits the circulation and distribution of our works. Finally and most importantly for this paper, we strive to collaborate closely with authors on all aspects of a publishing process. While none of these things are particularly radical or innovative, we feel like we are harnessing the flow of the the digital world and territorializing it as a conventional and familiar looking book. The involvement of archaeologists in the production of publishable data at the edge of the trench opens the door to a more dynamic model of archaeological publishing.

The Digital Press is almost entirely run by academics who lay out manuscripts, prepare marketing materials, use their own and their colleagues’ social media reach to promote the books, and manage acquisition, peer review, and copy editing. We even try our hand at cover design (with varying results). Our ability to perform these functions is possible largely because the basic publishing tools common to most presses – Adobe InDesign, the PDF format, Adobe illustrator – are available for relatively minor costs and they are increasingly simple to use. It is now possible to link descriptive text to discrete pieces of archaeological data, to create familiar and portable media rich documents, and to produce and archive these digital objects easily. In short, the development of digital infrastructure allows archaeologists to extend their workflow from trench side to final publication while remaining involved in all aspects of knowledge making. To be clear, my work at The Digital Press does not, necessarily, emphasize the creation of standardized, linked data. We leverage the kind of interoperable data the flows freely across the discipline only inasmuch as our works are largely open access and available for disaggregation. Instead, it leverages the breakdown of certain barriers present within the discipline, particularly between research and publishing, to expand the process of knowledge making and complicate the traditional black boxing of the publication process.
In short, we emphasize to our authors the opportunity to see knowledge making as extending from the earliest work in the archive or in the field all the way to its final presentation as a publication. In some cases, the Press is invited to participate as a publisher from the first efforts to conceptualize a project in much the same way that data archiving or publishing is now an expected part of a data management plan for any new research project. This integration allows us to work with authors to understand how best present their research and acknowledges that issues of presentation often have a direct impact on the perceived value of academic work.

Conclusions

To conclude, The Digital Press – and digital publishing practices in archaeology (and I’d propose in academia more broadly) – offers at least one way to think about the tension between the fragmenting of digital archaeological data and social practices at the core of knowledge making. The concept and practice of archaeological workflow in a digital environment has a social impact on our discipline. In publishing, digital tools and practices have contributed to a collaborative environment that is not grounded simply in the relative ease of using mainstream professional design tools and the basic interoperability of digital wordprocessors, but in the concomitant transformation in the social and professional context for creating new archaeological knowledge. Following the fragments of digital knowledge along the rhizomic streams connecting field practices to final publications challenges some of the traditional forms of organization that define archaeological work. The ease with which objects, human remains, and even buildings can move through digital media demonstrates, at some level, how digital workflows can transform the social and disciplinary limits on archaeological practice. This work to reterritorialize the digital workflows goes beyond producing a digital object with the familiar form of a book and extends to attempting to re-create the convivial spaces of premodern craft in an effort to wrest archaeological knowledge from the flow of fragmented data. In the end, the Digital Press aspires to contribute to the creation of new critical models for digital archaeology that both unpack by the black box of publishing and create a new, digitally mediated model for the production and dissemination of archaeological knowlege.

Flow and the Digital Press

For the last few weeks, I’ve been slogging through a revision and expansion of a paper that I gave last spring at the annual IEMA conference at Buffalo. It’s due at the end of the month, and right now, I’m starting to feel deadline pressure. 

Here’s my revised introduction.

Collaborative Digital Publishing in Archaeology: Data, Workflows, and Books in the Age of Logistics

Over the last two decades, there has been the growing use of the phrase ”digital workflow.” As you might expect, the Google ngram plot for this term looks like the proverbial hockey stick. The term ”workflow” has its roots in the language of early 20th century scientific management, and the notion of “digital workflow” appears to have first emerged at the turn of the 21st century in the field of publishing. In this context, digital workflow spawned a series of “how to” style books that described both the role of computer technology in the production of print media and the new way of organizing practice. Among archaeologists, the concept of digital workflow has emerged in the early 21st century with the widespread use of digital tools, technologies, and practices in the discipline, and, as a result, digital workflow has come to occupy a distinct place within archaeological methodology.

This paper considers the idea of a ”digital workflow” in the context of archaeological publishing. Recent work on archaeological writing and publishing has started to explore the reciprocal relationship between archaeological work and the publication process. Ian Hodder considered how the character and structure of archaeological description and narration shape the kinds of arguments possible in the field (Hodder 1989). This anticipated a growing emphasis on craft in archaeological knowledge production with work on illustration, for example, demonstrating the embodied nature of the processes of translating archaeological knowledge from the field to the published page (Morgan and Wright 2018). This finds ready parallels with recent critiques of archaeological photography that have recognized how media affordances shaped the kind of arguments that archaeologists make from their data (Gartski 2017). With the emergence of digital practices in archaeological field work, scholars have come to understand the data produced through a growing range of digital tools required thoughtful curation and, increasingly, publication under the terms of various federal grants. As a result, archaeologists have started to extend the notion of archaeological workflow from data collection in the field to the archiving and dissemination of data on platforms like Open Context, TiDAR, or the ADS.

This move among archaeologists will have, I propose, wide ranging impacts on the nature of archaeological publishing especially as academic publishing itself has entered a period of considerable change. Most large academic publishers now have digital publishing platforms of various descriptions and have supported various efforts at creating more dynamic and interactive ways to engage with archaeological description, interpretation, analysis and data. The best known and perhaps most innovative of these is the University of Michigan’s recent publication of the Mid-Republican House at Gabii. While this work received some significant criticism from reviewers for the limits of its functionality, the authors have been commendably reflexive in the motivations and processes surrounding its development (Optiz 2018). Publishers have also sought to embrace Open Access publishing models as pressure from authors, libraries, and institutions has sought to make publicly funded research more widely available, remove profit margins from the consideration of academic work, and pushed back against escalating prices for library resources. These initiatives often inform the development of new publishing platforms — like Luminos from the University of California Press, Fulcrum from the University of Michigan Press, and PubPub from MIT. In some cases, such as the Manifold platform from the University of Minnesota Press, these platforms are open to new compositional strategies for authors that expand the character of the academic books as living documents susceptible to revision and to accommodating responses within their fabric. These significant changes to publishing intersect with a growing reflexivity in archaeological workflow to create the potential for new ways of understanding archaeological knowledge making.

This chapter offers my modest contributions to these conversations based on two things. First, I have two slightly unusual points of departure. One is a passage from an article by Michael Given in which he applies Ivan Illich’s idea of conviviality to an understanding of the premodern agricultural landscape of Cyprus (Given 2017, 2018). Illich proposed his idea of conviviality as a way to describe the creativity that arose from the fluid interaction and interdependence between individuals in the premodern world, and he articulated it as a critique of an impoverished modern condition. Toward the end of the article, Given suggested that a convivial collaboration between archaeological specialists from soil scientists to ceramicists, bioarchaeologists, architectural historians, and field archaeologists would produce a deeper understanding of the convivial landscape in which premodern Cypriots lived (Given 2017, 140). My first reading of that passages was relatively uncharitable (Caraher 2019, 374-375). Illich’s notion of conviviality was anti-modern and attempting to reconcile this idea with the assembly line practice of archaeological work and specialization seemed as doomed to fail as the plantation style sugar works established by the Venetian colonizers on Cyprus’s south coast. If convivial relationships mapped the seamless sociability of premodern production, specialization and workflows created Frankenstein creatures which have the superficial appearance of reality, but are, in fact, mottled monsters of recombined fragments (in the vague sense of Freeman 2010).

At the same time that I was thinking about Illich and Given, I read Anna Tsing’s work, The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015) and Deborah Cowen’s work on logistics, The Deadly Life of Logistics (2014). Both books, in their own ways, describe the fluid of movement of people, things, and capital around the world. They explore the tension between the local and the global, places and movement, and the Deluezian “dividual” and the Enlightenment individual (Deleuze 1992). While Cowen’s work is, as the title suggests, practical and pessimistic in tone, Tsing’s work offers the rhizomic world of the matsutake mushroom holding forth the “possibilities of life in capitalist ruins.” She draws freely (and playfully) upon Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas of deterritorialization and flow adding a new conceptual layer to our concept of workflow (Deleuze and Guattari xxxx). While I dread bringing too much theory to this chapter, I do think that Deleuze and Guattari offers a way to understand Given’s use of conviviality as a rather radical way to conceptualize the reterritorialization (perhaps the recoding) of modern archaeological knowledge making. This chapter will swing back and forth between these two poles and offer both an angst-filled critique of archaeological practice as well as some more optimistic reflections on why maybe Michael Given was right (and maybe I knew that all along) and convivial social practices in archaeology are possible, even in our digital age.

The second pillar supporting my arguments in this chapter is my experience founding and operating a small university press, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, which I co-founded about five years ago. At the risk of being solipsistic or self-referential, my experiences talking with authors, book makers, archaeologists, and other publishers has helped me to formulate ways of producing books that bring them closer to the convivial practices associated with archaeological work. To be clear: The Digital Press is small with no permanent staff; our budget is based exclusively on the generosity of donors and a slow drip of paper book sales; and we have no experience in the publishing industry at any level. These things are both features and bugs. On the one hand, we had no expectation for how a press should work other than those that we had acquired as publishing scholars. We have also developed a strong sense of common ownership over the books that we have published with our authors. This has emboldened us to think about the Digital Press as a model for other publishing projects in the digital era. On the other hand, we do rely more heavily on the experiences and energies of our authors than a conventional press and this has not only complicated certain features common to academic publishing, including peer review, but also created a greater professional burden for our authors (and, indeed, our publisher) in an environment already crowded with obligations. In short, this chapter is not offering The Digital Press as the model for the future of publishing, but rather offers our experiences as an example for how the landscape of academic production is changing.

The Digital Press at the Northern Great Plains History Conference

Tomorrow, I head north to Brandon, Manitoba (provided I can locate my passport!) to visit the Northern Great Plains History Conference to talk about The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota on a panel organized by Digital Press author and history department colleague, Eric Burin. The panel will involve discussion of various modes of outreach with Nikki Berg-Burin discussing activist history, Eric discussing writing history in “real time” in his work on Collin Kaepernick, and me discussing the potential of open access, scholar-led publishing and to tell a bit of the story of The Digital Press. The panel is a round-table format so we hope to engage the audience in substantial ways.

This is also one of my early efforts to articulate the story of the Digital Press as part of my larger research program as opposed to part of my service responsibilities. This isn’t really very interesting to folks who work outside the university, but often our efforts at our job are irrationally divided (or siloed) into one of three categories: teaching, research, and service. There are often different funding streams that support work in these different categories and different expectations whereby our work in these categories is evaluated. This is mainly arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but I’m not really going to talk about that.

What I want to talk about, albeit briefly, on Thursday morning is the origin and trajectory of the Digital Press. This is a story that I’ve told many time for different purposes, but this time, I want to think about how scholar-led, open access publishing offers a model for how structural change within the publishing process can lead to works that engage a wider audience, that operate outside of scholarly conventions, and that challenge the role of the publisher, scholar,  and reader.

As for the origin myth, I’m going to introduce The Digital Press, by talking about my blog. In 2007, when my blog started, I wasn’t really thinking about The Digital Press, but I was thinking about new ways for scholars to engage with a wider audience. I wanted to make the knowledge making process more visible to the general public and generate, I hoped, a greater sympathy for the messy work of scholarly production (at least in archaeology). 

These efforts matured (or at least continued) into something that my colleague Kostis Kourelis and I called Punk Archaeology. It started with a co-authored blog that its now largely shuttered. While the definition of Punk Archaeology remains intentionally vague and occasionally contested, for me, it centered on performativity, DIY, and complicating the relationship between publishers and producers of academic knowledge. The first two notions, of performativity and DIY are well within the wheel house of archaeological work where ad hoc approaches to archaeological problems are standard practice and the performance of archaeological work is central to the creation of legitimate forms of disciplinary knowledge. We can punk these up to some extent, but only so far as we respect the historical, epistemological baggage of the discipline of archaeology. We can’t just trash the place and call it punk.

In the Northern Great Plains History Conference, I want to talk briefly about the third aspect of punk archaeology and that’s the work to complicate the relationship between publishers and academics. When enthusiasm for Punk Archaeology was at its peak, we decided to run a small conference and invite some of the most enthusiastic practitioners to come to Fargo, North Dakota, in the middle of winter, to a bar, where we listened to bands, talked about punk and archaeology, and had a good time. When the conference was done, we decided to publish a book based on the papers, and in good punk rock style we decided to simply do it ourselves. (I’ve always been particularly inspired by the anarcho-punk band Crass who set up their own label to manage their own music and the music of like-minded bands in the UK in the 1970s). 

The book, Punk Archaeology, edited by Andrew Reinhard, Kostis Kourelis, and myself, was a success with close to 2000 downloads since its publication in 2014 and a smaller number in sales. It has enjoyed citation in top tier journals and has emerged as a touchstone for panels at academic conferences, special issues of journals, and discussions in surveys. 

It also spawned The Digital Press, which seeks to carry on the spirit of Punk Archaeology. Since that 2014 volume, we have published 14 books. In keep with with the spirit of punk, we have sought out an found a range of great collaborators in our authors and in various institutions including the journal Epoiesena journal for creative engagement in history and archaeology based at Carleton in Ottawa, the century-old literary journal, North Dakota Quarterly based at University of North Dakota, the Norwegian publisher, Spartacus Forlag AS, North Dakota’s public radio station, Prairie Public Radio, a Canadian anarchist comic book publisher, Ad Astra ComixUND’s Writing, Editing, and Publishing program, and the American Schools of Oriental Research. 

These partners have ensured that each of the books that we’ve published (or are in production) are cooperative enterprises which leverage the expertise, skills, and energy of our partners. More than that, these groups have helped us find ways to manage the cost and energy of producing and marketing books in a fair and equitable way so that we can offer almost every book in our catalogue as free, open access downloads. For many of these works, the Press was involved from before the first word was put down on the page and throughout the writing, revising, editing, and production process. This kind of “vertical integration” allowed us to build a kind of mutual understanding of the larger publishing project and collaborate in ways that ensure the final product is accessible, while still maintaining high standards and taking opportunities to innovate. These opportunities for collaboration motivate us to continue to  look for new partners as well to get our books into more people’s hands (and on their screens), to complicate our ideas of scholarly publishing, and to contribute to the diversity in knowledge production throughout the academic ecosystem.

The most rewarding and exciting thing about The Digital Press, from its start with Punk Archaeology, to its modest current plateau of four or five books per year, is that it continues to demonstrate that collaborative, scholar-led publishing offers a viable complement to long-standing practices in traditional academic publishing that likewise bridge the gap between academic books and broader public audiences.   

 

Some Little Notes from The Digital Press

While the release of Dakota Datebook: North Dakota Stories from Prairie Public has gotten most of the attention, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota (and our partners) have been doing a good bit behind the scenes work this month.

First, if you’re a Grand Forkler, be sure to stop by the Prairie Pubic table on the Greenway Takeover this Sunday. I’ve been told they’ll have the Dakota Datebook for sale, and this is the very fancy, glossy-paged, and hefty feeling Prairie Public version. If you like to have read what you’re buying or just want the book without all the festival-ness, go here

[As an side, apparently Everclear is playing the Greenway Takeover on Saturday night. Who knew that they still existed (and with their original line-up!)?]

Second, and perhaps more inside-baseball, we have DOIs for almost all of our books now! These are persistent identifiers for digital documents (digital object identifiers) which resolve to our archive in the University of North Dakota’s digital repository. Ideally, UND and their archive partner will keep the DOIs resolving to whatever URL marks their place in the repository ensuring that our books will always be found.

We recognize that UND’s archive provider is part of a firm that is not always a super awesome partner to higher education (despite their mutual dependency). So, we’ve also archived our books in the Internet Archive. We also are happy to notice that many of our titles are also archived in various other institutional repositories around the web. We feel pretty confident that these books are here to stay.

Finally, we have two books that are ready to head to copy editing. This is pretty exciting for my little press because this year is the first year that we’ve started to stack production consistently. This means that we have books at almost all stages from authors who are just starting to write to books well into production. This not only gives us more confidence in the future of the press, but also allows us to plan, strategize, and adapt our workflow so that the author (and ideally, the reader) experience is better. Working with a scholar-led publisher is always going to be a unique and distinctive experience, and we think that our ability to adapt to different projects and contributors is part of our strength. At the same time, we recognize that our ability to be nimble should be grounded in really solid practices behind the scenes. We’re getting there!

Dakota Datebook Launch Party!

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is excited to announce the launch of Dakota Datebook: North Dakota Stories from Prairie Public edited by David Haeselin. Developed in collaboration with the University of North Dakota’s Writing, Editing, and Publishing program and in cooperation with Prairie Public Broadcasting, Dakota Datebook brings to the printed page some of the most memorably, inspiring, and humorous stories from Prairie Public’s iconic Dakota Datebook radio program. Download a digital copy for free from the Digital Press webpage or pre-order your copy from Prairie Public today!

Dakota-Datebook-WRC-Draft8_Final6x9_3-01.jpg

On Saturday at 8 pm, The Digital Press and Prairie Public are hosting a launch part on board the Lewis and Clark Riverboat on the Missouri River in Bismarck. Various media personalities will be there, as will David Haeselin and some Dakota Datebook contributors. It should be a great time. To get tickets for the boat ride and to come and hang out with us go here.

For more on the boat, the book, and the party, check out Aaron Barth’s interview on Prairie Public’s Main Street on Monday.

datebook2019enews2-1

~

A few more things from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

1. Busy Year! This will be one of the busiest years yet for The Digital Press with as many as five titles queued up to hit the website over the next 8 to 12 months. Late this fall, we’ll see the arrival of Shawn Graham’s Failing Gloriously and Other Essays. Stay tuned for a sneak preview of this. A book of essays from last fall’s Digital Approaches to Teaching the Ancient Mediterranean conference at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU and edited by Sebastian Heath should appear by year’s end as well.

In the spring, we’re looking forward to publishing Kyle Conway’s innovative edited volume, Sixty Years of Boom and Bust which juxtaposes the 1958 Williston Report with perspectives on the 21st century boom penned some 60 years later. It’s a fascinating read. There should also be volume 3 of our collaboration with the journal Epoiesen and maybe some previews from our 2020-2021 season.

2. Subscriptions? So far, The Digital Press hasn’t done much to connect personally with our readers. We’d like to change that some. I’ve been tempted to offer a subscription service of sorts through an email list that will distribute our newest publications and occasional news direct to your inbox (as the kids say). I’d run it through MailChimp or some other service that would make it easy enough to unsubscribe or to opt out. I wouldn’t share your emails with anyone (although I might be tempted to use it to plug for my other little publishing venture, North Dakota Quarterly).

3. Promoting Open Access. I’ve been thinking a good bit about the larger mission to promote open access publishing in academia. One thing that I would love to do this year is to pay more attention to open access publishing in general (whether from mainstream academic presses or from more specialized open access publishing houses). I’d love to do an “Open Access Book of the Week” that highlights some of the high quality open access work appearing these days.

I’d also like to start to build another project. It’s called Cite Open Access. It would promote citing open access scholarship across all forms of scholarly publishing. My fantasy idea involves getting various artists to design simply, legible posters that say Cite Open Access on them (and I’d urge folks to use open access fonts and it would go without saying that the posters would be free downloads). Ideally, I could get libraries, open access publishers, “fellow travelers,” and other supporters of open access scholarly work to co-sponsor various posters. I’d then distribute digital copies of these posters and encourage folks to display them prominently on their campuses. Who’s in?

4. Internet Archive. Finally, I’ve uploaded almost all the content from The Digital Press to the Internet Archive this weekend. One of the many great things about the Internet Archive is that it automatically converts our PDFs into multiple formats. The automated system isn’t perfect, but it works well enough to make our content available for text mining or ebook readers!

Sneak Peek: The Dakota Datebook Project

For the last six months, David Haeselin, his students, the folks at Prairie Public Broadcasting, and the folks at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota have been working on creating a book version of the popular Prairie Public radio program, Dakota Datebook.

Dakota Datebook WRC Draft8 Final6x9 3 01

The students in David Haeselin’s Writing, Editing, and Publishing class identified and copy edited the 365 of over 3000 potential essays available to include in the book-length version of Dakota Datebook. They copy-edited these texts, standardized the language, and made sure that the book version reflected the diversity of the radio program. The Digital Press did layout and design and worked with local artist Jessie Thorson for cover art. 

The book is finally done and we really want to share it with everyone. In fact, we’re so excited about the release of this book and the collaboration that produced it, we’re inviting everyone to a book release party aboard the Lewis and Clark Riverboat in Bismarck on August 24th at 8 pm. Register to attend the book launch or preorder the book from this website. For more on the book go here.

If you want a sneak peek of the book, click here, but don’t tell anyone because the book doesn’t drop officially until late August!