Stealing Science?

Synchronicity seems to be on my mind a bit lately, for a variety of reasons. As very few people know, I have begun to play with writing what my colleagues might call a “commercial novel.” The protagonist is a retired university researcher who once published an article in a scientific journal that now, for reasons that surprise everyone, suddenly has a great deal of currency, among some very wrong people. The backstory I am playing with is that the nation’s security services are constantly monitoring a variety of data streams, which we know they are. One of those streams is, of course (at least in this version of reality), scholarly/scientific publishing. They are on the lookout for “coincidences” between things appearing in the pages of journals and events in the world. (If you are thinking “shades of _Three Days of the Condor_” I am sure that film played some role in this scenario.)

And so it was with amazement that I read in the _Chronicle of Higher Education_ about [the traffic in illegal access to scholarly and scientific journals][che]. From the article:

> Now on sale in some online marketplaces: cheap, illegal access to SciFinder, an extensive database of scholarly articles and information about chemical compounds run by a division of the American Chemical Society. The sellers are pirates, hawking stolen or leaked SciFinder account information from college students and professors.

> “There are reseller Web sites in China where we’ve purchased access to our own products for pennies on the dollar,” says Michael Dennis, vice president for legal administration and applied research at the Chemical Abstracts Service, the division that publishes SciFinder. “We’re shutting down hundreds of these every couple of months,” he says, though in some cases the publisher has trouble taking effective action against sites in other countries.

> He says sellers use Taobao, a Chinese service similar to eBay, and other online marketplaces to sell SciFinder access, giving buyers hacked user names and passwords and instructions on how to remotely log in to a college Web site so that they appear to be on the campus. The database is popular with companies as well as with academics, though exactly who is buying the access is not clear.

[che]: http://chronicle.com/article/Academic-Publisher-Steps-Up/128031/

Anthologize

Anthologize is a tool for content creators to turn their website, and other materials they have syndicated I believe, into a book. It was produced by the Center for History and New Media’s “One Week, One Tool” project. They used a number of extant ideas and projects as their starting points:

UPDATE: Further along in the traditional publishing workflow comes editing and I just came across a website that allows for a kind of crowdsourcing of editing: it’s called BiteSizeEdits. Fascinating.

UPDATE 2: There’s a commercial site doing this: http://leanpub.com/.

Digital Humanities and Publishing Reading List

I have a bunch of these links stored up, and I need to begin organizing them. They will get moved to a page one day. For now, I’m collecting them in a post. All of these are summative documents in some fashion:

* From the UK, there is the [Communicating knowledge: how and why UK researchers publish and disseminate their findings report](http://www.rin.ac.uk/communicating-knowledge), which explores “how researchers publish and why, including the motivations that lead them to publish in different formats and the increase in collaboration and co-authorship. It also explores how researchers decide what to cite and the influence of research assessment on their behaviours and attitudes.”

The Road to Digital Considered

*A recent [posting on Ars Technica][at] about the American Chemical Society’s “road to digital” publishing spurred an interesting discussion, but a surprising number of posters fumed about the loss of print. I took a moment to write about the issue, using what little I know about how things work for my own society, the American Folklore Society:*

I, too, enjoy serendipity and have profited immensely in my intellectual and professional development from reading the card behind the one for which I was searching while in the card catalog or from seeing the title of a book on the shelf above the one for which I was looking. That said, that notion of browsing is not really lost in the digital realm. These things are called “browsers” after all and the rise of the multi-tab interface that allows one to open multiple other texts while one stays focused on another speaks directly to the ability to browse easily in the digital realm.

I am the editor of a website for a small scholarly society in the humanities, the American Folklore Society, that is about to make its premiere on October 1. We are deploying this new/additional communication platform in addition to our journal of record, the Journal of American Folklore. JAF already exists in print and digital form: as a paper product produced and shipped by the University of Illinois Press and as an electronic product available through Project Muse (5 most recent years) and through JSTOR. Having had a chance to talk some with the CIO for JSTOR through the Project Bamboo workshops, I have to say that JSTOR is really trying to do this right. And I would bet that they, too, are looking for some better format than PDF that is, in some ways, too heavily focused on print as an eventual outcome. (You would think in this era of XML and XSLT we would be there already, but, alas, we are not.)

Our society is not alone in being somewhat dependent on the revenue generated by subscriptions to the journal. Like any number of scholarly societies, subscriptions are considerably larger than the active members in the field and are largely dependent upon libraries around the world. In some way, libraries subsidize small scholarly societies as well as, perhaps, large ones. Perhaps that is as it should be. The true cost of running a scholarly society, as opposed to a professional society which can probably charge more for membership, can probably never be born by its members — unless, perhaps, they agglomerate into larger and larger groups for economies of scale. E.g., the American Anthropological Association. (Which now has a number of breakaway groups and journals because the views of the center cannot encompass the many views of its many edges.)

At the same time as all this is happening, libraries have been bearing the costs of both print and digital editions of scholarly products like journals. That kind of expansion of costs for, ostensibly, the same product was bearable when money was less of a concern. But it’s a concern now and likely to remain one for a while. And so, libraries now have to begin making choices that perhaps should have been made a long time ago. Not surprisingly, they find digital more cost effective across a number of fronts.

The obvious needs to be said here: digital production in no way inhibits users from printing out materials and reading them the old-fashioned way. It’s just that the cost of doing so, and the hassle of it to some degree, is now directly born by the print user and not by the larger economy. Pay as you go, as it were. With any luck, some of the hassle will get removed as print-on-demand devices become more common and more available so one could download an entire copy of a journal and have it printed and bound — that’s one of the satisfactions of hoisting a book that I don’t know the digital realm will ever replace.

I should be clear: I love books. I love the way they feel, smell, look. I paid my way through undergrad and parts of grad doing graphic design work. I love the printed page. But I’m also a realist, and we’re in serious need of a re-think about how all this goes. I know some will lament the loss of page numbers for citations, but what need the page number when you can search the text for the quotation yourself and get to it faster than flipping through pages and scanning paragraphs?

[at]: http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/08/publisher-were-somewhere-on-the-road-to-pure-digital.ars

The Cult of the Author in the New Economy

The writers at [Wired][w] are regularly wrong — the “long boom” anyone? — but they are usually thought-provoking in the process. At the very least, folks like Kevin Kelly and Chris Anderson are prolific, practically living embodiments of what is sometimes called Google’s approach to doing business: “Have a lot of ideas; fail often.”

Chris Anderson is, of course, most famous — if one ignores his current infamy for suggesting that everything should be free — for describing [the long tail][tlt], which suggests, as per the diagram below, that there is a reasonable income to be made in the “long tail” of sales that occurs over time. The high “head” on the left of the graph is where hits live. Anderson’s argument is that there is more money in the long tail and that retailers like Amazon.com, Netflix, and iTunes have already discovered this and can, thanks to lowering costs by having an internet storefront and centralized, and efficient, inventory systems (or digital inventory in the case of iTunes) take advantage of the overall scene.

The Long Tail

Chris Anderson’s “Long Tail”

This is, as Kevin Kelly points out, extremely good news for two groups: the retailers who occupy these markets and the consumers who shop in them who now have access to considerably more, and considerably more varied, commodities.

Everyone wins, right?

Well, certainly the mainstream media/content producers continue to win as they stay focused on producing the hits that occupy the head. They spend a lot in order to make a lot. They have an infrastructure for doing so. There may be some settling, and some shrinkage Anderson seems to suggest at times in his argument, but at least in this moment in time there seems little reason to believe that such industries won’t continue to play significant roles in the market place.

But what about individual/independent producers? Do they get to win, too?

While the public may be interested in, and be profiting from, the greater variety of materials available to them, it would seem that the advantage lies with the content aggregators like Amazon and Netflix and iTunes who can successfully ride the long tail, as it were, by selling an obscure novel here, renting an odd film there, or making available a one-hit wonder from two decades ago. That kind of aggregation might make economic sense for the aggregator, but does it work for the aggregated?

Kelly thinks there is a way to make a living in the long tail, and it consists in cultivating and maintain [1000 true fans][kk]. Kelly’s description of a *true fan* is:

> someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

His economic argument for 1000 true fans runs like this:

> Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day’s wages per year in support of what you do. That “one-day-wage” is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let’s peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

It’s an interesting idea. Kelly suggests that some things a content creator is going to have to learn to give away — in the case of musicians it may very well be the music itself — in order to establish a relationship with an audience and sell them other things, e.g., concert tickets, tee shirts, autographed copies of special collections and/or collectibles. The goal is to cultivate within any given audience the true fans who will reside at the center of concentric rings:

True Fans

.

Kelly admits that there will be movement into and out of the circles: creators will “connect” with audience members differentially — with different individuals for different reasons at different moments within their lives. But, he argues, the only way to make that connection, to establish the relationship that will become your economic lifeline that will enable you to continue creating content, is to be open to the relationship, and to recognize its importance, in the first place. Kelly’s argument is quite clear:

> The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. Maybe they come to your house concerts, or they are buying your DVDs from your website, or they order your prints from Pictopia. As much as possible you retain the full amount of their support. You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.

## The Cult of the Author ##

*Stay tuned for an update in the next few days…*

[w]: http://wired.com/
[tlt]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1401309666?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1401309666
[kk]: http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php

Web Publishing Platforms for the Humanities

As I continue to work on the scholarly narratives for Project Bamboo, I have gleaned the following platforms that people are using, or would like to use, in the service of humanities projects:

* [Omeka](http://omeka.org/) is brought to you by the same folks who brought us Zotero and is described as “a free and open source collections based web-based publishing platform for scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, educators, and cultural enthusiasts. Its “five-minute setup” makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog. Omeka is designed with non-IT specialists in mind, allowing users to focus on content and interpretation rather than programming. It brings Web 2.0 technologies and approaches to academic and cultural websites to foster user interaction and participation. It makes top-shelf design easy with a simple and flexible templating system. Its robust open-source developer and user communities underwrite Omeka’s stability and sustainability.”
* [CONTENTdm](http://www.contentdm.com/) is described as *digital collection management software*. Its blurb is “CONTENTdm® makes everything in your digital collections available to everyone, everywhere. No matter the format — local history archives, newspapers, books, maps, slide libraries or audio/video — CONTENTdm can handle the storage, management and delivery of your collections to users across the Web.”
* [Pachyderm](http://pachyderm.nmc.org/) is “n easy-to-use multimedia authoring tool. Designed for people with little multimedia experience, Pachyderm is accessed through a web browser and is as easy to use as filling out a web form. Authors upload their own media (images, audio clips, and short video segments) and place them into pre-designed templates, which can play video and audio, link to other templates, zoom in on images, and more. Once the templates have been completed and linked together, the presentation is published and can then be downloaded and placed on the author’s website or on a CD or DVD ROM. Authors may also leave their presentations on the Pachyderm server and link directly to them there. The result is an attractive, interactive Flash-based multimedia presentation.” It appears to be available in three versions: hosted, as a managed deployment, and as a DIY open source download.

Publications in/on/among the Digital Humanities

A recent issue of the [Humanist Discussion Group][hdg] noted the following publications:

* the [_Digital Humanities Quarterly_](http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/),
* the [_Digital Document Quarterly_](http://home.pacbell.net/hgladney/ddq.htm),
* and the most recent issue of the [Journal of Scholarly Publishing On-line](http://utpjournals.metapress.com/content/mp27547344h1/).

*Side note*: Underlining titles and linking them presents interesting style issues, n’est-ce pas?

[hdp]: http://digitalhumanities.org/humanist

Apple’s On-Line Seminars

A number of vendors, like Apple and Adobe but I’m sure others as well, provide a range of free on-line seminars that not only are instructional in how to create content — and even think about content creation — but are examples of that creation themselves. A good example is [this pairs of presentations][bs] by Brian Storm of Storm Media that is directed at photojournalists and how by adding audio then can not only enrich their content but also potentially reach new markets, and thus new revenue streams. The first presentation focuses on why someone might want to do this and the basics of gathering inputs and the second on working in Final Cut Pro.

[bs]: http://seminars.apple.com/seminarsonline/richmediafcp/apple/index1.html

JASO Revived On-line

The [_Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford_][jaso] was not necessarily a ready reference or me, but its evolution — it lived from 1970 to 2005 in print and is now being brought back as an on-line publication — is interesting:

> The Journal of the Anthropological society of Oxford (JASO) was originally launched in 1970 as a hard copy journal; it ceased publication in that form in 2005. It has now been re-launched to coincide with the Centenary of the Oxford Anthropological Society in 2009. The new online journal, called JASO-Online, will be a joint collaborative project between JASO, the Society, and the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, which is hosting the website. Thus we hope it will appeal to all branches of the School, staff and students alike, and that it will be an active forum open to all for the discussion of anthropology and issues of interest to anthropologists. For the time being, at least, JASO-Online will be available as a free download, though we reserve the right to levy a charge at any time in the future. Contributors will not be paid for their contributions.

What I’ve been thinking about is how easy it is to publish a journal on-line. As numerous commentators have pointed out over the past decade: the costs of printing and distribution acted, at the very least, as a kind of test of resolve. Now, one only needs a connection — numerous publishing platforms are free. And so, the real problem is to have a readership, an audience. I think this will be the strength of learned and professional societies going forward. In creativity studies, this is described as the *field*, and within those studies the field is test bed for ideas introduced into the *domain* by an *individual*. (This is the DIFI model.) The conventional understanding is that the field in some way is the test for innovation, that an innovation is that which is not already in the domain but is still recognizable by the field as being a relevant extension or revision of the domain.

But, clearly, you have to have a field. I just wonder about the number of journals popping up that don’t have a field, an audience. They may describe a new domain, and it may be better than the extant domains, but without a field, one is perhaps talking quite loudly with no one around really to hear.

[jaso]: http://www.isca.ox.ac.uk/publications/journal-of-the-anthropological-society-of-oxford/