16.241styles of publication

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty (w.mccarty@btinternet.com)
Date: Thu Oct 03 2002 - 01:46:20 EDT

  • Next message: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty : "16.245 new on WWW: EMLS 9/02"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 241.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: Norman Gray <norman@astro.gla.ac.uk> (54)
             Subject: Re: 16.232 MacArthur Fellowship recognizes Internet
                     publisher (fwd)

       [2] From: Willard McCarty <w.mccarty@btinternet.com> (30)
             Subject: styles of publication

       [3] From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com> (40)
             Subject: Re: 16.239 styles of publication

             Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 06:39:23 +0100
             From: Norman Gray <norman@astro.gla.ac.uk>
             Subject: Re: 16.232 MacArthur Fellowship recognizes Internet
    publisher (fwd)


    > Date: Tue, 01 Oct 2002 07:04:45 +0100
    > From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
    > It should also be noted, I suppose, that the Ginsparg mechanism suits
    > physics as it could never suit the humanities. The genius of it lies in
    > that match between tool, material and its social context. Our publishing
    > needs, it seems to me, are a great deal more complex and demanding.


    In the areas which arXiv covers, essentially all publication is in
    the form of articles. In the humanities, publications are, broadly,
    articles, books or editions. Editions require specialised typesetting
    of the sort that doesn't sit on most folk's desktops. But that leaves
    books and articles in the humanities, which aren't importantly distinct,
    from a publisher's point of view, from the articles published in the
    physical sciences.

    What do publishers give us? Typesetting, payment, authority and
    distribution. Typesetting we can generally do ourselves, and significant
    payment few of us hope for. Distribution is what preprint servers like
    arXiv do extremely well, getting articles (and books too, why not?) to
    a hugely larger audience than would be covered by conventional journal

    That leaves authority. Though there is a lot of variation, postings
    on arXiv most commonly appear after the article has been accepted for
    publication by a journal. The actual paper publication many months
    later, and even the journal's own electronic publication, will probably
    be largely ignored. That is, the only important function of the journal
    is to manage its panel of referees, and so build for itself the authority
    to give an imprimatur.

    All of this appears to be as true in the humanities as it is in the

    The MacArthur citation:
    > Ginsparg has
    > deliberately transformed the way physics gets done challenging
    > conventional standards for review and communication of research and thereby
    > changing the speed and mode of dissemination of scientific advances."

    Although conventional standards have been challened by this process, and
    Ginsparg has been particularly vocal in those challenges, the original
    arXiv/xxx project succeeded largely, I think, because it did _not_
    challenge `conventional standards for review'. Particle physics (xxx's
    original area) already had a strong preprint culture, and xxx simply and
    brilliantly speeded that up. It did not and does not review anything,
    and publishers were unable to object to such pre-publication because if
    they dared, they'd suddenly have no authors.

    Thus it succeeded first in particle physics because of, yes, a match with
    the social context, but I can't see any other than social reasons that
    are slowing this movement's success in other scholarly areas. For an
    example outside the physical sciences, see Stevan Harnad's eprint server
    for the Cognitive Sciences <http://cogprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/>

    Best wishes,


    Norman Gray                        http://www.astro.gla.ac.uk/users/norman/
    Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK     norman@astro.gla.ac.uk

    --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 06:40:22 +0100 From: Willard McCarty <w.mccarty@btinternet.com> Subject: styles of publication

    My offhand remark about publishing in the humanities vs in physics provoked peppery & puzzled responses. Let me say quickly, with hopes of further argument, what I had in mind.

    I take it that in physics publications are typically quite short and tend to present a relatively limited number of research results that are quickly assimilated into ongoing work, after which they tend to have only historical interest. Hence paper publication tends not to suit actual communication among working physicists. (Their communication practices prior to the electronic medium tend to show the strain, I've been told.) Electronic publication, e.g. via Ginsparg's mechanism, is just right because it matches the rhythm and style of publication in the field.

    Publication in the humanities is of course quite different than that: longer things, far more slowly produced, tending to present not results but arguments. In general they are meant to be read in a sense or style hardly applicable to the shorter pieces in physics. On-screen publication of things usually meant to be read slowly, whose "content" cannot easily or satisfactorily be extracted from the continuous prose with which it is presented, is not ideal because a screen-image is not (at least not yet) good for sustained, careful reading. Therefore, I argue, the Ginsparg mechanism is not such a good fit.

    EXCEPT for those publications, such as book reviews, for which rapid circulation has always been a good idea but which the paper medium never has supported very well. Hence the genius of the Bryn Mawr Classical Review <http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/>. We might reflect on the fact that the MacArthur award went to a physicist rather than a classicist.

    Yours, WM

    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk | w.mccarty@btinternet.com | www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/

    --[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Thu, 03 Oct 2002 06:41:20 +0100 From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com> Subject: Re: 16.239 styles of publication

    Hi Willard and HUMANISTS:

    At 05:05 AM 10/2/2002, Patrick wrote: > >It should also be noted, I suppose, that the Ginsparg mechanism suits > >physics as it could never suit the humanities. The genius of it lies in > >that match between tool, material and its social context. Our publishing > >needs, it seems to me, are a great deal more complex and demanding. > >In what way are the publishing needs of the humanities "a great deal more >complex and demanding"? > >I have heard this asserted in a variety of contexts by humanities scholars >but other than the bare assertion, I have never heard any principled >justification for the statement. By principled justification I mean one >that uses facts or analysis to support of the notion that publishing in the >humanities is qualitatively different from publishing in physics, for >example.

    I believe Willard's characterization was meant as a way of packing up a very complex problem in a few words, probably (knowing Willard) with at least the unconscious hope that someone would take it up. (Thanks Patrick.)

    One could characterize the difference between Physics and scholarship in the humanities, in this respect, as being in their very different orientations to the institutions of print culture. Since print media, especially the scholarly article, scholarly monograph and academic journal, along with the particular prose genres that have developed with them, have themselves always been in some sense in and of the Humanities (in a way that differs from Physics, whose relation to them has been much more incidental to Physics as such), it is proving to be much more difficult for us to disentangle our work, in both its processes and goals, from these media.

    A cynic might argue this by asserting that articles in the humanities are written to be printed, not to be read.

    Cheers, Wendell

    ====================================================================== Wendell Piez mailto:wapiez@mulberrytech.com Mulberry Technologies, Inc. http://www.mulberrytech.com 17 West Jefferson Street Direct Phone: 301/315-9635 Suite 207 Phone: 301/315-9631 Rockville, MD 20850 Fax: 301/315-8285 ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML ======================================================================

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu Oct 03 2002 - 01:55:43 EDT