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11/4/13 Kathleen Fitzpatrick: “Open Review, the New Peer, and the Future of Scholarly Communication”

A talk with Kathleen Fitzpatrick sponsored by the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative and the Digital Praxis Seminar at the CUNY Graduate Center November 4, 2013.

Recent experiments in open peer review, as well as a recent study of open review practices jointly conducted by MediaCommons and NYU Press, suggest that online scholarly communication may be changing the nature of the “peer,” as well as the shapes of scholarly communities. This presentation will explore the history and future of peer review as a means of thinking through the issues that open review raises for communities of practice online.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick is Director of Scholarly Communication of the Modern Language Association and Visiting Research Professor of English at NYU. She is author of Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (NYU Press, 2011) and of The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Vanderbilt University Press, 2006). She is co-founder of the digital scholarly network MediaCommons, where she has led a number of experiments in open peer review and other innovations in scholarly publishing.

New Ideas for Old Systems

Kathleen Fitzpatrick begins the introduction of Planned Obsolescence with quote by Clay Shirky: “The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place.”

I love this quote because it addresses an ever-present issue in the Digital Humanities: there will always be broken systems, and there will always be new tools that can help us improve them. This mindset (and the sense of adventure and experimentation that seems to come with it) is one thing I’ve really enjoyed about the Digital Praxis Seminar at the GC. It is not always easy to have this mindset, of course. It requires that we be honest with ourselves about what is not working, even if (or especially if) it has been this way for a long time.

Although no one has yet worked out all the kinks of a digital system of peer-review, Kathleen cited numerous projects and individuals (not the least of which being her work with Media Commons) that are tackling the issue head on. Perhaps we don’t have a perfect solution yet, but let’s get to work and come up with one!

I’ll end with a quote by one of my favorite artists and thinkers, John Cage: “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”