Fragmentation and Publication in Digital Archaeology 2

It happens sometimes. I’m swamped by a painfully slow going paper, “Collaborative Digital Publishing in Archaeology” for the IEMA conference at the University of Buffalo next month.

I wrote this today; it’s not very good, but it is what it is. I’m blaming the bomb cyclone.

Historically archaeologists have modeled their work on industrial practices with authority typically following a clear hierarchy. In an overly simplified form, archaeological responsibilities and tasks define the roles of project directors, field directors, trench or team leaders, and diggers. This division of labor is designed, at least on one level, to facilitate efficient archaeological work and to produce specialized and precise data. This form of organization allowed for control over a project’s outcomes and the knowledge making process. The formal definition of the site and the recognition that archaeological work involved embodied knowledge reinforced the spatiality of archaeological knowledge making. The long-standing concern for provenience, for example, and the location of the physical archives of a site in a dig house or storeroom near the site’s location further reinforce the connection between space and archaeological work. The connection between the hierarchy of archaeological knowledge making and the spatiality of archaeological place evokes the factory floor (or the prison) and the processes of enclosure that defined regimes of control of the modern ara.

Of course, this conceptualization of archaeological work has seen compelling challenges over the past 30 years. Shanks and McGuire argued that archaeology should return to its roots in craft practices as a way to challenge the industrial modes of archaeological knowledge making. McGuire’s radical efforts to create more a egalitarian and democratized archaeological project demonstrated the potential of such an approach in practice. A few radical projects in the U.K. have likewise sought to introduce democratic processes to field work (the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project (Faulkner 2000, 2009) cited by Morgan and Eddisford 2018). While these projects remain outliers, they demonstrate that the social organization of archaeological practice remains a topic of discussion and, to a lesser extent, experimentation for archaeologists. At the same time, Mary Leighton adopted an STS approach to understanding field work and argued that a certain amount of “black boxing” in archaeological practice masks a diversity of practices that are both more and less hierarchical than the formally reported results might suggest. Morgan and Eddisford (2018) have suggested that single context recording represents a far more decentralized and even anarchic method for producing archaeological knowledge.

The critical attention that field practices (including methods, but also more mundane procedures and unspoken conventions) has shaped how scholars have approached the growing use of digital tools in archaeological knowledge making and their practical, disciplinary, and ideological significance of these changes. My interest in workflow and the rise of logistics in archaeological knowlege making traces a scholarly trajectory that understands the movement, use, and reuse of data in a digital medium as a key element to transforming the institutional landscape of archaeology. The ability to disseminate data from the field, for example, and to repurpose that data for online publication through platforms like OpenContext demonstrates how the fluidity of the contemporary workflow is already challenging the barriers between fieldwork and publishing.

In 2014, a colleague and I founded the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. The goal of this project involved leverage digital tools enter into the world of academic publishing and to experiment with the potential for these digital tools to challenge the structure of the publishing process. Our current publishing model is extremely 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 and PDF downloads on a low cost website running WordPress. Second, We publish mainly under various open access licenses. Finally, we collaborate closely with authors on all aspects of a publishing process.

Publishing Dakota Datebook

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota has a pretty exciting collaboration to announce. We’re partnering once again with David Haeselin from UND’s Writing, Editing, and Publishing (WEP) program who worked with The Digital Press to publish Haunted by Waters: The Future of Memory and the Red River Flood of 1997 (2017) and, for the first time, Prairie Public Radio to produce a book version of their venerable Dakota Datebook radio program.

We chose to announce this today (although keen readers of the Prairie Public’s newsletter probably caught a little notice there), because February 28th marks the 60th anniversary of the death of UND English’s most famous alum, Maxwell Anderson (Sorry, Chuck Klosterman). What’s a bit newer, however, is UND English training editors in the WEP program. Students editors in David Haeselin’s WEP practicum are currently working to assemble an edited collection from the thousands of entries that have appeared on the Prairie Public radio’s Dakota Datebook radio show. 
 
The daily history segment is now its seventeenth year, so the first step was picking the best 365 entries. Luckily for us, there are sixteen students enrolled in the class, so, first, each student read through a randomly assigned year. The next step was deciding what exactly constituted the “best.” This is where the students’ more traditional analytical and interpretative training came in handy. After a series of freewheeling and impassioned discussions, the students agreed that our book should showcase the lesser-known, if not entirely forgotten, moments in North Dakota history. Lewis, Clark, and Teddy Roosevelt are the OG badasses, sure, but they passed through North Dakota. We wanted to showcase the stories of those who have made the state into what it is today by living here. And we think we accomplished just that. 

We recently finalized the table of contents and are confident that our selections highlight the state’s diversity, variety, and uniqueness. In it, you’ll find all kinds of stories: tough as permafrost homesteaders who lived through the worst winters on the continent without down feather coats or even walls made from something better than dirt blobs, proud women demanding their right to vote, the family who built the first mosque on American soil, and even how Grand Forks was founded because of a keg of beer. 

As the students have worked to select and organize content, we have also worked to produce an appealing page that captures a bit of a traditional “datebook” style with the bold day and month in Futura font. The text itself is set in the more traditional Janson-style font which we decided was appropriate buttoned-down for history. We tucked the page numbers on the outside margin to give us a bit more space on the page for text and to accommodate the varying length of Date Book entries. 

DD Feb28 MaxwellAnderson 

You can download the Maxwell Anderson page here.

Keep your eyes open for more updates. We plan for a  May release, with events across North Dakota. And, in the meantime, be sure to listen to Dakota Datebook on Prairie Public

Thinking about Publishing at NDQ and The Digital Press

As my post yesterday probably suggested, I’m thinking a good bit about the practice and theory of academic publishing these days. In particular, I’m interested in how digital media shapes workflow, logistics, and the character of both archaeological and more broadly academic knowledge making. My work with The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota Quarterly have increasingly become central to this research in ways that I had not anticipated.

So this little update today is both an effort to get my thoughts in order about how publishing and editing really works and to keep people interested in both NDQ and The Digital Press in the loop on what’s been going on with these projects.

1. Proposals. Recently I’ve received a couple of pretty exciting proposals to review and we’ve been able to give some pretty positive feedback to the proposers. There has been some pretty interesting recent conversation about book proposals in the field of ClassicsandClassical Archaeology (co-authored by a pair of Digital Press authors!). This got me thinking about the current way that publishers acquire manuscripts and the role of publishers, editors, and authors. I’ve resisted producing a standard questionnaire for prospective authors and, instead, have asked my individuals proposing to The Digital Press to produce “a 3-5 page document that outlines the book’s content, as well as its length, format, audience, relationship to existing publications. It’s also helpful to present the qualifications of the authors (or contributors) and a prospective timeline.” I’m not sure that this slightly more free-form proposal process necessarily produces better proposals, but I like to think that it introduces the relationship between press and the authors as more familiar and a bit less structured by a set of fixed expectations that dictate the value of a project.    

2. From Proposal to Manuscript. In particular, I’ve thought a good bit about the liminal zone between when a proposal is accepted and a manuscript is delivered. As an author currently navigating that zone with my own book, I can attest to the feeling of being unmoored and adrift, but still in the harbor. There’s an expectation that the book “will happen” but at the same time, the anxieties of producing something that the publisher, reviewers, and community finds valuable.

This is a pretty stressful place and judging by conversations with my colleagues, I recognize that any number of book projects find themselves smashed against the shoals long before the final manuscript can be delivered. I wonder whether the structural division between the publisher and the author have something to do with this ambivalent space. I’ve marveled at the generosity, for example, of my editors at North Dakota Quarterly who often work closely with authors during the revision process for articles and stories and feel extraordinary gratitude toward Paul Mullins and Chris Matthews at Historical Archaeology who shepherded my first effort to write an article on North American archaeology through the revision and publication process. My hope is that my press can be aware of the risks of the post-proposal, pre-manuscript experience and work – somehow – to make it easier to navigate. 

3. Peer Review. One of the most exciting things at present is that The Digital Press has three books currently circulating for peer review: two books and one edited volume. All three works represent significant investment on the parts of two authors and the editor as well as the press. As a result, peer review is less about whether the piece should be accepted or rejects, but rather how we can work to improve the manuscript to make into the strongest book possible for the author and the publisher. The reviews continue to be anonymous (or at least the reviewers are not known to the authors), but the review process becomes a chance to develop, improve, and nuance the manuscript.

4. Workflow. I’m completely invested in a publishing workflow these days, particularly for North Dakota Quarterly. The movement of an accepted manuscript through the pre-production process is neither completely automated or completely person. The accepted manuscript hits my desk, goes out to my copy editor (at least for non-fiction and poetry, our fiction editor handles his own copy editing as part of the revision process). While manuscripts are out at copy editing, I produce publication agreements – by hand – for each contribution. This can take a few hours. When I get the copy edited manuscripts back, I return them with a publication agreement to authors and  for a short (<50 word) bio and the mailing address for their author copy of the Quarterly. With any luck, I get both of those documents, but in about 30% of the cases, I don’t. I have to ask (again and again) for a bio, negotiate challenges associated with signing a digital document, and beg for mailing addresses to send author’s copies.

Because we won’t run a piece without a contract and a bio, I can’t finalize the order of the issue. The entire issue gets sent to our publisher, University of Nebraska Press, with all the finalized author agreements. They do layout and then return the proofs to me to circulate back to my authors for final approval. I compile any edits on the proofs and return it to the publisher. Then the volume goes to print.

The process of publishing involves constantly reinforcing the roles of publisher and author through our separate roles and the different timelines in which our work proceeds. The biggest challenge for me, for example, is managing the rapid progress from final manuscripts to final proofs. The different times of engagement and expectations complicate and humanize the workflow. Authors have delays associated with travel, internet and email access, challenging editing issues, and the need to arrange the content in the issue in a way that makes sense. It goes without saying that a small number of contributions take the most time.

5. Sales and Subscriptions. I’m incredibly fortunately to have a bit of cushion for both The Digital Press and NDQ. It’s not enough to allow me to ignore sales and subscriptions, but it means that they aren’t a daily worry. That being said, I’m excited whenever The Digital Press makes a sale (or two) or ticks over a particular benchmark for the number of downloads. Right now, for example, we’re chasing 500 downloads for Eric Burin’s Protesting on Bended Knee, and we’re doing all we can to maintain a steady stream of sales. The goal there is one book per day. 

With NDQ, we simply have to have subscribers. The subscribers will fund production, and with any luck, will eventually generate revenue that will help the Quarterly expand and innovate. We’re coordinating some email blasts, a subscription drive (particularly to ensure that folks who have historically subscribed to the journal renew their subscriptions, and also looking to some other ways to generate revenue

Yesterday, I thought a bit about how the commercialization of digital creative content can become exploitative, but how it is also a strategy toward sustainability in a world with fewer resources for the humanities and more and more competition. Considering new models for publishing that combine new ways to work with authors, contributors, and publishers might be the way toward a more sustainable future.    

 

 

Unlocking the Commons: Tim Carmody, NDQ, Amazon, and the Digital Press

There is a ton of tech writing on the internet these days and some of it is really good. None is better, I think than Tim Carmody who wrote really great pieces for The Verge and Wired back in the day, and now partners with one of the original bloggers, Jason Kottke, to produce a regular newsletter called Noticing that blends content from Kottke.org and the rest of the web. He also has a Ph.D. in Comparative literature from Penn.

What’s more interesting to me lately is his interest in the economics of good writing on the web. As a writer, editor, and a publisher, I have long relaxed in the relatively luxury of academia which has given me the security to do creative work — whether through my professional writing, my blog, my editorial role at North Dakota Quarterly, or my work as publisher at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota — without having to get too far into the weeds of funding and finance. At the same time, I do realize that if these projects are going to have a life beyond my own energies and attention, some kind of sustainable model will have to exist to support them.

Carmody has proposed and developed a model that he calls “unlocking the commons.” It is predicated on the idea that a project – like his new newsletter on Amazon – needs a certain amount of support to exist. Carmody is a freelance writer and, from what I gather, he earns his income from his writing. At the same time, Carmody is aware that locking content behind a paywall or the like makes it difficult to demonstrate the value of the content and difficult for supporters and authors to share their work. In fact, it actually reduces the impact of any content produced by making it less visible and less likely to influence a larger community. In this way, Carmody is following arguments long held by the open access community who see the value of creative work not in its narrow and immediate monetary value realized through subscribers, but in its expansive potential to inspire and influence a wide range of audiences. By unlocking the commons, subscriber support allows Carmody to develop his ideas, write, and produce his work, and once it is supported, the work is available freely to anyone who wants to read it. He and Jason Kottke modeled this approach with Kottke.org’s membership program, which apparently worked.

For his new newsletter on Amazon, the threshold for unlocking the commons and making supporting Carmody to produce one newsletter per week was 200 subscribers at $5 per month. If he manages 400 subscribers at $5 per month, he’ll write two articles per week. You can subscribe and support the newsletter here.

This project is interesting to me for two reasons.

First, NDQ has a money problem. Right now, it’s not existential, but it is limiting. We have a great publishing partner in the University of Nebraska Press, and moving forward, they will handle subscriptions and most production for the Quarterly. The goal is that as we rebuild our subscriber base, we can break even for UNP and, then, with a little help from our community, generate some revenue. In the meantime, we rely on three sources of revenue: a small endowment that provides us with enough to copy edit the journal, a funding “backstop” provided by donors and income generated by The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, and surplus energy provided by our editors and editorial board. This is enough to keep our head above water and to survive the occasional emergency, but isn’t really enough to innovate in a sustainable way. 

Recently, several editorial board members suggested that we install a reading fee for submissions. Other members of the editorial board pushed back arguing that the submitters and contributors MAKE the journal and they shouldn’t be charged for that privilege. While I’m not entirely convinced by this argument, I share its broad sentiment that submissions should remain free as a way to encourage the widest possible range of potential contributors. Moreover, ideologically, there’s something democratic about allowing anyone to contribute and, practically, I think even a modest reading fee might discourage contributions from marginal writers especially in the global south.

What if instead of a reading fee, we included a link to a Patreon or Memberful account or created a formal NDQ newsletter using Substack subscription. To be clear, these wouldn’t be subscriptions in a formal sense — that is money provided in exchange for a product — but they’d unlock the commons and make more of the same creative content that typifies NDQ. More than that, the synergy between a funded newsletter and the regular publication of NDQ will be complementary. After all, the print version of NDQ is what makes us NDQ.

The second interest that I have in Carmody’s new project is that we built The Digital Press, in part, on Amazon’s print-on-demand infrastructure. Whether we like it or not, the world still loves paper books, and the ability to distribute our paper books from the nearly global Amazon marketplace is a massive advantage to a small press like ours.

At the same time, we realize that using Amazon is problematic. First, it limits our reach to small book sellers in the region who have not really warmed to Amazon’s direct sales to retailers. Second, Amazon’s labor practices and corporate culture are in many ways antithetical to the values that we have at The Digital Press. Thirdly, our relationship with Amazon’s production system, platform, and marketplace is completely outside of our control. Of course, as our catalogue expands, we will likely have other opportunities to partner with distributors, but at present, we’re stuck with Amazon whether we like it or not.

Carmody’s regular columns exploring Amazon as a company will offer us insights into both the present and future of the current distribution model for The Digital Press. 

New Book Day: Epoiesen Volume 2

The best day at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is always New Book Day.

The Digital Press is very pleased to announce the publication of Epoiesen, volume 2. Epoiesen is exactly what it says on the box: a journal for creative engagement in history and archaeology. It is edited by Shawn Graham at Carleton University in Ottawa in collaboration with  an impressive editorial board. The library at Carleton hosts digital side of the journal and The Digital Press publishes an annual paper and pdf version of articles.

Cover Epoiesen2 DigitalFinal

This issue includes a model for creating interactive, immersive historical texts using twine, an experiment in interactive mapping, and a graphic novella that explores the experience of 17th century witch trials in East Anglia. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this volume includes an editorial essay by Shawn Graham titled “Citation as an Act of Enchantment” which reminds us that citation isn’t simply a professional responsibility or stylistic formality in academic writing, but a form of engagement that can “broaden the possibility space for what our research and engagement could be.”  Or, as the volume says on Katherine Cook‘s cover image: who you cite matters. This is important and very much in keeping with the spirit of Epoiesen.

Shawn reflects:

“After two years, I am excited by the range and variety of creative engagement we’ve seen in Epoiesen; but I’m more excited by the range and variety of voices we’ve heard. Nevertheless, we have work to do. We have to make it a daily, ordinary, occurrence to make space for others. As I say inside, ‘let our citation be a gift. Let it be an act of enchantment. Find the wonderful work, the uplifting work. Cite it. Build on it. Let your creative engagement with history and archaeology echo with voices you haven’t heard before.’”

We’re proud to partner with Epoiesen to make their content available in paperback form and as free downloadable pdf. Check out both volumes for free and their website.

Also, check out our new catalogue page!

A Book by its Cover: Epoiesen Volume 2

We’re getting pretty close to having Epoiesen 2 ready for publication. Followers of The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota may remember that we published Epoiesen 1 in early 2018. It’s a collaboration between The Digital Press and Shawn Graham and colleagues who publish Epoiesen: A Journal for Creative Engagement in History and Archaeology. If you haven’t checked out Epoiesen 1, you really should. It really showcases the range of creative ways that thoughtful and critical folks are engaging with the past. You can even buy a paper copy for $6.

The process of publishing Epoiesen has been a particularly fun challenge for The Digital Press because it involves transforming content published in a digital format into paper. In some sense, the act of mediating between the born digital and the paper (or the ersatz paper in the case of the PDF) is an example of creatively engaging with the past. 

There are just a few tweaks to the text and a quick scan of the paper galley proofs, and it’ll be released into the wilds. While are plan was to make it available for everybody’s Christmas wish lists, the end of the semester and some delays caught up with use and now it should be available in early 2019.

That being said, we do have the cover ready, though! Katherine Cook provided the cover image, and we continued with Andrew Reinhard’s basic cover design. Katherine Cook’s illustration evokes Shawn Graham’s editorial in the volume, “Citation as an Act of Enchantment,” which discusses the role that citation plays in I stuck with bright, non-primary colors and decided to go with this rather pastel purple.

Stay tuned both here and to The Digital Press page for publication!

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Three Things Thursday: Epoiesen, The Bakken, and NDQ Supplements

It’s the end of the semester and that means a time to look back, but also to look ahead to the break and beyond to various little projects on my slate for the next couple months (and beyond!).

While I have a good many odds and ends of my own to wrap up in the near future – including a peer review, an article draft, and the first words of a new book – I’m also looking forward to doing some work with projects from The Digital Press. 

Here’s what’s going on in that department. 

1. Epoiesen 2. Last year, I had the privilege of publishing a paper version of the first volume of Shawn Graham (and co.)’s journal Epoiesen. I thought of it as the Epoiesen annual and it is a total gem of a volume. (Download it here or buy it for $10 here). Over the next month or so, we’ll complete layout of Epoiesen 2 which will include this brilliant comic, Sympathy for the Devil, by H. Laurel Rowe.  It’ll also push us to continue to explore the relationship between print media and digital media in how we think about academic and artistic content and to consider the work of mediation to be part of the creative engagement with the content as well as the field of publishing archaeology and art in a digital/analogue hybrid world. We already have a great piece of art for the cover of the volume thanks to Katherine Cook

2. Sixty Years of Boom and Bust: The Impact of Oil in North Dakota, 1958–2018. Kyle Conway and an impressive gaggle of scholars are working in this project right now. It is a republication of the 1958 Williston Report, a relatively obscure, but nevertheless significant report on the impact of the first Bakken oil boom on communities, the economy, and infrastructure across western North Dakota. The book itself will interleave chapters from the Williston Report and updated chapter from a range of authors on related topics recontextualized in light of the 21st century boom.

3. North Dakota Quarterly Supplement 2. I’ve started to think a bit more seriously about the North Dakota Quarterly supplement series. 2018 saw the publication of a small poetry collection call Snichimal Vayuchil as the first NDQ supplement. For 2019, we’ll have another small volume of translated Maya poetry thanks to Paul Worley connections in the region and tireless energies. This should appear in early 2019 as NDQ Supplement 2. 

This past week, I received an email from an author inquiring whether I might be interested in publishing a collection of short stores. This got me thinking about whether I should formalize the NDQ Supplement series as annual volumes that either expand or focuses in some way what the Quarterly already does. I’m sketching a plan out in my head that could include collections of stories, essays, poems, or even complete novels or non-fiction works that are available in a range of different (and varying) formats from open access to more limited, print-on-demand formats. 

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share more on all these projects over the next few weeks as I get some momentum. I can’t promise that any of them will be available for the holiday season, but there’s always a chance a few of those industrious elves can help me get more done than I expect!

Book Release: Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent, and Patriotism in 21st Century America

My friend and colleague Richard Rothaus has this thing called “New Book Day!” I’m stealing it for today to announce the publication of Eric Burin’s Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent, and Patriotism in 21st Century America.

3_Protesting_CoverThis book brings together The Digital Press’s commitment to the public humanities, to innovative and responsible digital, open access publishing, and to our collaborative publishing model. The book brings together a wide range of perspectives on history, philosophy, ethics, and practice to bear on protesting, race, and patriotism. Eric Burin’s expansive introduction is cited almost exclusively with over 300 hyperlinks to articles on the media, which have all been made permanent using Perma.cc to prevent link rot. Moreover, the book is available for free and almost all the content is available under an Creative Common CC-By 4.0 license. Finally, this book would not have happened without the time, energy, and encouragement from our contributors and, in particular, Eric Burin, who pushed and, at times, pulled this book into its present form.

Below is the official press release. We hope that you enjoy this book!

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Press Release

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is excited to announce a timely, relevant, and path-breaking new publication edited by University of North Dakota History professor, Eric Burin.

Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent, and Patriotism in 21st Century America spotlights the demonstrations associated with Colin Kaepernick, a professional football player who in 2016 began kneeling during the national anthem to draw attention to discrimination and injustice.

The volume opens with an extensive Introduction by Burin that situates the Kaepernick-inspired protests within the context of the distant and recent past, and then carefully analyzes the demonstrations themselves, the causes they symbolized, and the disparate reactions to them.

Bill Caraher, the publisher at The Digital Press, remarks: “Burin offers historical perspectives both on Kaepernick as an activist and on issues of racism, mass incarceration, and criminal justice reform, and this sets the book apart from treatments in the media that tend to focus on the contemporary response to the protests. To my mind, Burin’s Introduction is the definitive work on Kaepernick and the protests at present.”

The volume continues with thirty brief essays penned by a diverse array of authors, including scholars, veterans, sportswriters, coaches, and others. Each describes what he or she sees in the protests. Some view the demonstrations as part of the quest to secure the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Others discuss the legal landscape of dissent, the revival of athlete-activism, the tactics of protesters, or counter-tactics of their opponents. Still others share their perspectives as individuals literally “in the arena.” These observations, together with Burin’s far-ranging Introduction, provide a panoramic and contemporaneous account of the latest chapter in a freedom struggle as old as America itself.

Protesting on Bended Knee is a first draft of our history,” observed Burin. “It’s history written in real time.”

Burin added that the volume seeks to foster civil dialogue about important issues. “By offering diverse viewpoints and historical perspectives on the protests, the book provides common ground for constructive conversations about race, dissent, and patriotism,” explained Burin. With this goal in mind, the Digital Press at UND has made Protesting on Bended Knee available for free as a download at https://thedigitalpress.org/protesting or as a low-cost paperback from Amazon.com.

Protesting on Bended Knee officially launches on October 16th, the fiftieth anniversary of John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s famed protest at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Burin said the timing was not coincidental. “The book has a bifocal perspective, with one eye on the present and the other on the past. Like the publication date, the section headings, artwork, and even fonts have historical significance,” noted Burin.

In 2017, Burin edited another anthology with contemporary relevance, Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. That volume was also published by the Digital Press at UND, which serves “to publish timely works in the digital humanities, broadly conceived. Whenever possible, [it] produces open access, digital publications, that can attract local and global audiences.”

Eric Burin is available for interviews.

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The Joy of Voting

There’s a lot going on over the next month at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. If you want to be in the loop follow The Digital Press on Twitter

This week, the Digital Press kicked off a collaborative project with Dr. Eric Burin in the Department of History at the University of North Dakota and Citizens University, a non profit leader in civic engagement. The project is called The Joy of Voting and it looks to “reinvigorate a culture of voting” or at least remind the public that voting can be a joyous experience. Grand Forks, North Dakota is one of four cities in the U.S. with a Joy of Voting program along with Akron, Charlotte, and West Palm Beach

The Digital Press is working on only one little aspect of the Joy of Voting project in Grand Forks, which focuses on soliciting and publishing online memories of how voting was a joyful experience. Check it out here:

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The Joy of Voting website and Facebook page will be updated daily with a new memory of voting as a joyful experience. Depending on the response to the page, we might put together a little digital book celebrating voting in Grand Forks.     

Three Things Thursday

It’s Thursday and the week is racing toward its inevitable conclusion. I have three quick things on my mind as I struggle to get focused enough to push through teaching and a writing day tomorrow before a weekend full of layout for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota

There’s a lot going on in the world, and most of it seems bad (or frankly terrifying). From the Kavanaugh hearings to Presidential alert buzzing my phone yesterday, it feel like all I can do is bury myself in either esoteric nonsense or projects that I feel like I can control. These introduce enough clutter to my brain to keep me from becoming too preoccupied, demoralized, or panicked. Maybe this kind of escapism, when recognized at scale, is part of the problem with society; maybe, for some of us, it’s the only way to stay sane. I worry that my own inability to deal effectively with what’s going on in society today is symptomatic of the problem.   

That being said, I will keep doing even if it looks more and more like I’m fiddling while Rome burns…

1. NDQ Volume 85. I am excited that the first volume of North Dakota Quarterly under my term as “Editor-in-Chief” has gone off to the copy editor. This will be a interstitial volume between NDQ publishing as an independent publisher and as an independent “little magazine” published by the University of Nebraska Press (UNP) (this is an open secret still and there hasn’t been an official announcement yet). In other words, NDQ is out of the publishing business, but still in the content producing business. This is good for us financially and in terms of workload. University of Nebraska Press has production capacity and economies of scale in terms of printing and distribution. It means that I can focus my attention on working with our genre editors on content and with Nebraska to expand our readership, contributors, and subscribers. 

The publication date for this, if we can get it into UNP’s hands by November 1, will be early 2019, which isn’t too far from the 2018 date for the volume.  

2. Digital Ephemera and the Archive. One of the interesting things that has come out of the conversation with University of Nebraska Press is the digital future for NDQ. As a public humanities and literary journal (as if these two things were really different), I always have felt that it was more than ephemera. As such, I pushed for the digital archive of NDQ to be made available via the HathiTrust and had always seen both paper and digital distribution and archiving to be part of the journal’s future. In fact, I had imagined that digital subscriptions, particularly for our institutional subscribers, might be more appealing and easier to manage. In effect, I had imagined that the digital form of NDQ would be the archival format and the paper format would be more ephemeral.

This, of course, represents a pretty significant inversion of how I’ve seen publishing. It used to be that paper versions of books and journals were for the archive because the material nature of paper made it relatively easy to preserve when compared to the changing nature of bits and bytes. Today, however, paper appears more and more as a novelty or for the sake of nostalgia or for reasons completely separate from its traditional place as an archival medium. People discuss the feeling of a book, its scent, and even the way in which paper helps us engage the text in a less distracted way.

The digital form is the archive, which I suppose makes some sense, as most of our publications today are born digital.  

3. Bakken and The Digital Press. One of the little things that have vexed me about Amazon.com (among the many, but this was a little one), is that it never connected my two books on the Bakken through it’s “Frequently bought together” feature. 

It was pleasant surprise this week, then, when I noticed that The Bakken and The Bakken Goes Boom were finally connected. It is now possible to buy both The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape (2017) and The Bakken Goes Boom (2016) together for less then $30. That’s less than ONE DOLLAR a day or less than your favorite coffee at Starbucks.

I was sort of bummed to hear that The Bakken wasn’t selling very well (or it was selling well, but in very low numbers). I think of it as a kind of accessible experiment in understanding complex, industrial landscapes. Even if you aren’t super interested in the Bakken, maybe you’ll be interested in my approach:

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