In “Dissemination as Cultivation: Scholarly Communications in a Digital Age,” James O’Sullivan, Christopher P. Long, and Mark A. Mattson link form to content in the context of publishing. That is, they argue that the digital realm allows for scholarly content to be presented in more representative forms than print publication can offer. Although this may not ring true for all fields, it can for the digital humanities, which is often characterized by its openness and collegiality (as Elika Ortéga and Alex Gil note in the same volume as the article in question). These qualities–openness and collegiality–are much more readily demonstrated in digital publishing than print publishing, as research output can be shared more broadly and in more flexible ways.
O’Sullivan, Long, and Mattson aim to “introduce readers to the underlying principles of scholarly communications and publishing in the digital age, uncovering the affordances and limitations of online public scholarship” (384). In doing so, they share various examples of online scholarship, or at least of scholars participating online: digital publishing platforms, open(ish) peer review, and social media. There are a couple of instances where assumptions are made about the intentions behind digital scholarship; for instance, the authors write that “At the heart of scholarly communication in the digital age is the notion of ‘open access'” (384) — O, how I wish this was true! Sadly, much digital scholarly communication is simply not open access. O’Sullivan, Long, and Mattson also paint digital scholarship as inherently participatory; again, this is not really the case. Although digital publishing can be much more participatory than print publishing, the prevalence of online journals that are merely collections of PDFs belies the universality of such a concept. Moreover, the authors suggest that “the emergence of [the importance of social media to academia] is effectively an offshoot of openness which is, as already noted, the central tenant of digital dissemination” (385). Again, I’m not sure that all academics who go online do so in order to become open scholars; there are some who are merely self-promoting, some who have felt peer pressure to open a Twitter account and have remained anonymous eggs ever since, and some who simply lurk. Digital dissemination and social media can be about openness, but openness is not necessarily their “central tenant.”
Overall, the authors offer an interesting overview of digital scholarly communication as a multifaceted approach, and they offer much food for thought by using the term “DH publishing” (390). This could, perhaps, be an interesting avenue to explore: What is “DH publishing” vs. standard academic publishing, or even vs. digital publishing?
Gil, Alex, and Elika Ortéga. 2016. “Global Outlooks in Digital Humanities: Multilingual Practices and Minimal Computing.” In Doing Digital Humanities: Practice, Training, Research, edited by Constance Crompton, Richard J. Lane, and Ray Siemens. London and New York: Routledge, 22-34.
O’Sullivan, James, Christopher P. Long, and Mark A. Mattson. 2016. “Dissemination as Cultivation: Scholarly Communications in a Digital Age.” In Doing Digital Humanities: Practice, Training, Research, edited by Constance Crompton, Richard J. Lane, and Ray Siemens. London and New York: Routledge, 384–97.