I’m always surprised when i hear people attack open access publishing. There are no rational arguments as to why print based texts and journals are superior to open access texts, but there are plenty of rational reasons for open access publishing. Some seem to think that open access publications are less reputable and should count less towards tenure. Personally I think if you’re writing and speaking for tenure you might be in the wrong line of work, but that’s another matter. Such people seem to forget that Harvard went open access back in 2008. Perhaps Harvard is a second rate institution, but that seems like a difficult case to make. All that should matter is the peer review process. Are the editors qualified to peer review the material handed their way and do the directing editors only elect others to peer review articles who are qualified to do so? If so, there’s no difference or issues here. This is certainly a more rigorous process than the one involved in some of the vanity presses some academics publish their books with.
Others argue that digital print can easily be lost. This is an odd argument, as books can be burned (Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura was reduced to one copy by Christians that sought to destroy the book), and 2) most open access texts are released in both print and digital formats.
The arguments for open access publishing are obvious: open access books are ecologically friendly, reducing damage to trees and damage produced by carbon emissions due to shipping, they significantly reduce the cost of publishing, and they allow ideas to circulate freely, rather than be locked away in journals that are difficult for many to access either because they are extremely expensive or have small print runs. Opposition to open access publishing indicates both a lack of ecological awareness as well as an economic classism that approves those with little means (often graduate students, but also people outside the academy) being denied access to thought. In other words, the expensive price of print journals and articles is a material mechanism that re-produces certain class and social relations in knowledge production (those that have the means or a good library available get to participate, those that don’t don’t).
From a sales angle, however, I’ve been surprised to discover that open access publishing actually seems to increase sales. The Speculative Turn has been a wild success. It crashed Re.Press’s server the night it was released, and has hovered around the 40-60 thousand sales rank on Amazon consistently since it was released a year ago. This is extraordinary for an academic text, especially given that anyone can access it for free. Graham’s Prince of Networks has done similarly well. It’s difficult to yet say how The Democracy of Objects will do in print form, but so far the internet traffic has been very promising.
I’m very eager to see how O-Zone does once it is up and running over the next couple of years. Eileen Joy’s Postmedievalism, an open access journal, has been tremendously successful and is internationally recognized both in the field of medieval studies and outside of it. Some have griped about the advisory editors of O-Zone, expressing ire over the fact that the undergraduate Marisol Bate is on the team. First, they fail to realize that it was Marisol who first approached Kris and I with the idea of developing the journal. Second, the credentials of the editors both within the world of OOO and in academia as a whole are outstanding. All of the people involved in the journal are people who have made significant contributions to OOO in the form of publications, organizing conferences, and who have made significant contributions to “thingly” thought. In putting together the advisory board our considerations revolved around representing a number of different disciplines and practices, insuring good gender parity, and depth of accomplishment. We selected people with whom we have closely worked or whose work we are intimately familiar with.
Third, our philosophy seeks to honor a variety of different perspectives both from within academia and from a variety of different disciplines in academia, and outside of academia. In many respects, this goes back to the original disciplinary attude of Graham, me, Morton, and Bogost. Graham and I are philosophers, Morton is a lit person, and Bogost researches technology, video games, and digital humanities. All of us have worked intimately at conferences and online from a variety of disciplines and practices ranging across artists, ethnographers, architects, novelists, musicians, geographers, historians, lit people, activists, poets, etc, etc, etc. Moreover, in the blogosphere we have cultivated a space that sidelines academic rank or belonging to academia at all, and that instead engages other in terms of the quality of their thought, work, and contributions. We have sought to capture that spirit in our editorial board, including people from a variety of disciplines as well as artists and activists. Marisol, an extraordinary thinker and person, falls into this category of activism, and is someone who fights human sex trafficing (in ways that have actually caused risk to her life and damage to her person), figts on behalf of her indigineous Hawaiian people against colonial invasion, and is involved in fighting capitalist exploitation with OWS. That’s a pretty qualified person to comment, with others, on certain political and activist submissions that come our way.
As I’ve argued before, there’s a very nasty tendency among proponents of each discipline to treat their own discipline as a master-displine that is the foundation of all other disciplines and everything else. The rhetoricians cry that everything involves rhetoric and therefore rhetoric is “first philosophy”. The historians retort that everything involves history and therefore history is “first philosophy”. The philosophers claim that everything involves being and knowledge so therefore their discipline is first philosophy. And so it goes. Kris, Eileen and I are involved in trying to create something called post-disciplinarity where it is recognized that all of these disciplines are local knowledges, partial views on the world, where it is recognized that the artist, engineer, designer, and activist create knowledge and thought every bit as much as the scholar, and where a space can be opened where these divergent lenses can come to resonate with one another and generate new innovation in thought, art, design, and political engagement. We’re tired of talking with authoritarians that want their discipline or practice to be the master-science and who wish to subordinate everything else to their master narrative. Instead we want transversal forms of communication where delight and inspiration can be taken from the work, inventions, amd discoveries of others and where there’s no longer a question of foundational disciplines.