Our Digital Scholarship, Our Networks, Our Corpus: Why are we giving it all away?
Joseph Tabbi, Department of English
In December of 2015, Open Humanities Press founder Gary Hall and his Coventry University colleague Janneka Adeema organized a conference titled, “Why Aren’t We Boycotting Academia.edu.” The $17.7 million, capital venture funded, for-profit commercial corporation (not, as their url would suggest, affiliated with any university), now serves up some 16.9 million scholarly books and essays to its membership of over 46 million registered users (that is, well over ten times the number of jobs listed last year in actual academia, by the Modern Languages Association). Google, after patiently dragging out and then quietly settling federal law suits questioning the practice, continues to add to its store of more than 30 million books scanned from the freely available stock in lending libraries throughout the United States. JSTOR, while protecting copyright of its extensive holdings in all fields of the Humanities, makes our scholarship available, one work at a time to subscribers. The assumption is that users will know in advance which essays from which journals they wish to access, and the inability freely to search across journals and databases, or just to browse, tends to prevent the kind of essay to essay, text to text movement that was the promise of the internet.
As researchers in the Humanities conjure ever more innovative ways to deploy digital affordances, and commercial entities conjure false hopes for professional advancement, should we perhaps be thinking of ways, with the help of our own institutions and libraries, to access and store our own scholarship and have it linked seamlessly to the creative and critical writing that defines our work as part of a robust, collaborative and (not least) relational field of research?
Joseph Tabbi is the author of Nobody Grew but the Business (2015) a literary biography of U.S. novelist William Gaddis. His edited Handbook of Electronic Literature is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press in October 2017 and will be followed by two collections of essays from the electronic book review, which Tabbi founded in 1995.
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