Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Books’ Category

Improving Access to Scholarship: Material Vernaculars as Milestone and Experiment

First the take away, then the story. While produced in very nice and reasonably priced hardback, paperback, and ebook editions, works in the new Material Vernaculars series are also being made available in free-to-the-reader PDF versions. This is a great thing and, if you agree with me about that, and can afford to do so, I really hope that you will purchase the edition of your choice, thereby signaling your support for making such works freely accessible to those who cannot afford to purchase them. If this seems strange to you, its a lot like community and public radio in the United States. Those who can support these services help make them accessible to those who cannot afford to make their own donations. We all gently nudge those who use them and could, but don’t, support them. (Called free riders.) Its not utopia, but its what we have and its better than the vast majority of people being locked out of non-commercial arts and education programming (and scholarly books). Now you can skip to the end for the link if you are in a rush.

Slide1

Those who know about my work know that I have been focused on promoting free and open access to scholarly work for a relatively long time. My advocacy efforts followed soon after I began work as a scholarly journal editor. At that time, I was drawn into a diverse range of problems, opportunities, and paradoxes that the transformation of scholarly communication was (and is still) engendering. Probably the best place to find the things that I have written on this theme is to look at the interview that I did with Ryan Anderson (published in Cultural Anthropology in 2014)

In 2015, my focus in this work shifted to books when I was a participant in a project funded by the Mellon Foundation. The results of that project were reported in: A Study of Direct Author Subvention for Publishing Humanities Books at Two Universities: A Report to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation by Indiana University and University of Michigan.

Concurrent with such advocacy work, I have tried to build real-world projects that could advance scholarship while testing strategies for increasing public access to research. Now in its tenth year, Museum Anthropology Review (now the journal of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures) is the best example of this. On the book side, there is now the Material Vernaculars series co-published by the museum and the Indiana University Press. In my previous post, I highlighted the series first title—Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and their Makers by Jon Kay and the series’ scholarly mandate. Here I am flagging the series’ relationship to free and open access movements.

Books cost a lot of money to make. In a peer-reviewed article, based on our humanities book research studying publishing work of the Indiana University Press and University of Michigan Press, my colleagues report that the zero copy cost for a typical humanities book is about $27,000. Efforts to increase access to scholarship have to find ways to confront these costs from all sides—finding ways to lower prices but also new ways of funding the professional work that it takes to make a quality book.

For me, for the museum, and especially for the IU Press, the Material Vernaculars series is an experiment. If we get past talking about it and actually begin doing it, what can we learn that will, we hope, help us learn to do it more and better? This is part of what is at stake for IU Press and for the whole world of university press humanities book publishing. I am thrilled to be a part of a new series that has a secondary role (beyond its primarily scholarly one) of finding ways to make scholarly books more widely and openly accessible.

So paradoxically, if you believe (for example) that the communities about whom ethnographers write should have access to what they write, then I call on you, paradoxically, to purchase a copy of Folk Art and Aging and the other other books that are in the pipeline. Your purchase helps support the goals of the series and it demonstrates that paid-for print editions or e-book editions are not mutually exclusive of free-to-readers electronic editions. If it helps, think of the print edition as a thank you gift for your donation to this cause rather than as a commodity that you are purchasing in the marketplace. You can feel particularly good about it if you purchase it directly from the Indiana University Press, thereby cutting out one or more commercial intermediaries.

It won’t always be the technical vehicle of choice, but for now the free edition of Material Vernaculars titles will be freely circulated in PDF form via the IUScholarWorks Repository. When people download the books from IUScholarWorks, there is a download count, which helps us learn how many people, over what time period, showed interest in the book(s). (So, send your friends to the link rather than passing around the PDF…)

If you are wondering how to download the book, see the attached picture for the place to click.

Here is the link. Two actually. The first is durable but enigmatic. The second is more human readable, but potentially less permanent.

http://hdl.handle.net/2022/20906
https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/20906

Happy reading.

Material Vernaculars Series Launches with Jon Kay’s Folk Art and Aging

This fall I will be talking a lot about the new book series that the Indiana University Press and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures are jointly publishing. I am the series’ editor and my friend and colleague Jon Kay is its first author. I will frame the series here, before I conclude this post, but I do not want to bury the lead, which is that there is a great new book in the world and you should buy and learn from it.

Jon Kay is Director of Traditional Arts Indiana, Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, and Professor of Practice in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University. His book is Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and Their Makers. (Jon’s content rich book website is here.) It is the fruit of many years of work exploring the creative lives of older adults in Indiana and in other parts of the United States. Jon has much to say about the ways that material culture and narrative come together in social encounters and in unfolding lives, as well as about about the ways that more attentive scholarship on the verbal and material life, as well as the memory, work, of elders can shape more humane and sensible approaches to what is increasingly referred to as creative aging, as well as to social gerontology more generally. The book is a folklorist’s book, but it also speaks very generatively to a range of neighboring disciplines. Written in a very clear and engaging style, it is the kind of book that lots of people (not just scholars) can read and both enjoy and learn from. At its center are profiles of five incredibly interesting creators of objects, stories, and lives. Jon helps share their stories and their creations in a really engaging way. The book has many beautiful color images and at 133 pages, it never gets bogged down.

9780253022165_lrg

The hardback, paperback, and ebook editions are beautiful and they can be purchased from the Indiana University Press, from Amazon, from Google, and from many other retailers. I’ll tell you next time where to get the free PDF edition, but here I want to urge everyone who can to purchase one of the paper or ebook editions. Why? Paradoxically, because I believe in open access. If those who can do so purchase the modestly priced print or e-book editions, the IU Press will secure the revenue that it needs to produce more books such as Folk Art and Aging and to make them freely available to those who otherwise could not afford to purchase them. More on such questions next time.

Having introduced Folk Art and Aging to you, let me introduce the series quickly. The series précis reads:

The Material Vernaculars series presents ethnographic, historical, and comparative accounts of material and visual culture manifest in both the everyday and extraordinary lives of individuals and communities, nations and networks. While advancing a venerable scholarly tradition focused on the makers and users of hand-made objects, the series also addresses contemporary practices of mediation, refashioning, recycling, assemblage, and collecting in global and local contexts. Indiana University Press publishes the Material Vernaculars series in partnership with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. The series accommodates a diversity of types of work, including catalogues and collections studies, monographs, edited volumes, and multimedia works. The series will pursue innovative publishing strategies intended to maximize access to published titles and will advance works that take fullest advantage of the affordances provided by digital technologies.

The series second title is an eponymous edited volume—Material Vernaculars: Objects, Images, and Their Social Worlds. That collection is due out in a few days (September 5, 2016). In its introduction, I characterize in more detail the goals of the series as well as situate its disciplinary (cultural anthropology, folklore studies, ethnology, culture history) engagements as well as its place in the larger research work of the MMWC. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Congratulations to Jon Kay on his second book of the summer (see Indiana Folk Art) and to all of our friends at the Indiana University Press.

Open Access Book: Indiana Folk Arts

IFA CoverThis year is a big year for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures in a number of respects. Two of these weave together. Its the state bicentennial for Indiana and we are engaging with it in a big way through the exhibition Indiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation. That exhibition is now traveling across Indiana along with with a deep roster of presenting artists and craftspeople. The exhibition and associated in-person demonstrations are happening at state parks and festivals around Indiana and the exhibition will also be presented at the Indiana State Fair, later this summer. The exhibition brings together more than a decade of research by Traditional Arts Indiana and was also an project worked on by the Laboratory in Public Folklore graduate course taught in the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. Working with TAI Director and MMWC Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage Jon Kay, a large number of students have been involved in all aspects of the exhibition and associated programs, products, and events.

2016 is also slated to be a big year for book publishing at MMWC. We have a number of books in the cue for fall. The first to become available is the catalogue for Indiana Folk Arts. Edited by Jon Kay with chapters authored by a large and talented group of graduate students, the volume enriches the exhibition while also standing alone as a contribution to scholarship on Indiana craft and art. At exhibition events and here at the MMWC, the book is being distributed for free in a beautiful full-color print edition. In keeping with our institutional commitment to increased and open access to scholarship, the volume is also available electronically and permanently via the IUScholarWorks Respository. Licensed under a CC-BY license, it can be found online here: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/20893. Its the first MMWC publication for which we obtained an ISBN number (two actually, one for the print edition and one for the PDF edition), which is also pretty neat.IFA Front Page

Congratulations to Jon Kay, the volume’s editor, to all of its contributors, and to the talented artists, craftspeople, and tradition bearers featured in the book. Welcome readers–72 beautiful pages await you, wherever in the world you live. If you like the book and support the work behind it, spread it widely. Tell your friends and colleagues so that they can enjoy it too.

Theories of Material Culture: Three Highlights

I am now concluding my graduate course Theories of Material Culture. I have taught this course several times previously and I always enjoy it. This year, the students who gathered with me were more diverse than usual. Beyond the normal folklorists and cultural anthropologists, there were practicing artists, a learning scientist, a fashion scholar, and an ethnomusicologist. In comparison to past instances, this made the course simultaneously more interesting and a more challenging exercise in translation. I am thankful for the chance to work with students whose interests intersect with mine in such stimulating ways. Interacting with these students was a big highlight of my distractingly busy semester.

k10581
Intentionally, I have made the Theories of Material Culture a weird course. In response to students who rightfully complained about constantly noting how key book-length works were often mentioned* in our courses but not assigned, the only readings in the course are books. Many books. Experience shows that, as part of a more diverse reading diet, this course pattern helps students in noticeable ways later–during qualifying exams, research planning, and dissertation writing. Some works have reappeared in different versions of the course, but some are always new to the course and occasionally some are new to me. This semester, I added two titles that, while I had not yet read them because they were brand new, seemed like sure bets. And they were. The were most beloved by the students and they provoked particularly rich discussions. These were Pravina Shukla’s Costume: Performing Identities Through Dress (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015) and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015).

9780253015778_lrg
I cannot spare the time now to comment properly on these two excellent books, but I note here that they were highlights for me and for the students. I eagerly recommend them to you. Of reviews of Costume, I like the one written by Brandon Barker for JFRR. For The Mushroom at the End of the World, I note Eugene N. Anderson’s review in Ethnobiology Letters. (These two journals are both wonderful open access publications, by the way.)


* Particularly unnerving to students is the faculty habit of mentioning canonical books as if everyone in the room had not only heard of them previously but had read them and long ago assimilated their lessons. (I know I to am guilty of this tic too.) Books do of course get assigned in our classes, but usually a smaller number are balanced with a mixture of works in other genres. This normal pattern is true of my other courses too.

Contemporary International Basketmaking by Mary Butcher

I mentioned in my previous post purchasing a number of basketry books in route to catching up on neglected topic of longstanding interest. Among those in my recent haul is Contemporary International Basketmaking by Mary Butcher, with contributions by Laurel Reuter and many artists contributing to the 1999-2000 UK exhibition for which this book was the catalog (London: Mary Holberton Publishers with the Crafts Council, 1999). I have not read it cover-to-cover yet, but I can note here that it is a fine publication–well produced and image/object rich. Along with a long essay on the past and present of international basketmaking and a collection of overviews of basketry techniques, the Artists’ Voices section is particularly compelling. It is useful as a research document because it presents individual artists’ answers to a range of fixed and compelling questions. While asked here of basketmakers active on the contemporary craft/studio craft/critical craft ends of the basketmaking spectrum, these questions (or a parallel set) could similarly be asked of basketmakers working less individualistically within particular vernacular/local/historical basketry “traditions.”

In the latest issue of Museum Anthropology Review, I published a review of Basketry: Making Human Nature. Readers of that review will notice that I gave special attention and praise to the long essay therein on East Anglia basketry written by Mary Butcher. It was wonderful and now I find that she is also the scholar-maker-curator behind the older catalogue being discussed here. It has been a pleasure to learn from, and engage her fine work as a basket scholar.

Mary Butcher’s website is here: http://www.marybutcher.net/
Her blog is here: http://marybutcher.wordpress.com/

Good News Roundup

There is way too much stuff going on in my life and work these days. Most of it is really good stuff, but it is hard to keep up. Before moving on to new reporting, here are some good news highlights from recent weeks.

Colleagues and I shepherded into print the 50th volume (=golden anniversary) of the Journal of Folklore Research, for which I serve as Interim Editor. JFR 50(1-3), a triple issue (!), is a special one titled Ethnopoetics, Narrative Inequality, and Voice: The Legacy of Dell Hymes and is guest edited by Paul V. Kroskrity (UCLA) and Anthony Webster (Texas). The guest editors contributed a post about the issue for the IU Press Journals Blog and the triple issue itself is can be found on the Project Muse and JSTOR digital platforms. Thanks to all who have supported JFR over its first five decades.

The Open Folklore project recently released a new version of the OF portal site. The new site incorporates a range of new features and is built upon the latest version of Drupal. I hope that it is already helping you with your own research efforts. If you have not seen it yet, check it out at http://openfolklore.org/

In September, two scholars whose Ph.D. committees I chaired finished their doctorates. Congratulations to Dr. Flory Gingging and Dr. Gabrielle Berlinger!

I noted the award quickly previously, but I had a great time attending the Indiana Governor’s Arts Awards where Traditional Arts Indiana, led by my friend and colleague Jon Kay, was recognized.

The new issue of Ethnohistory is out and it includes a generous and positive review of Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. The reviewer is Marvin T. Smith, author of several key works on the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Native South. Find it (behind a paywall) here: http://ethnohistory.dukejournals.org/content/60/4.toc

A while back, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures opened a fine exhibition curated by IU Folklore graduate student Meredith McGriff. It is Melted Ash: Michiana Wood Fired Pottery and it is a sight to behold. If you have not seen it, stop by the museum and check it out.

Open Access week just kicked off and there are a lot of activities planned for the IUB campus. To get things started my friend and collaborator Jennifer Laherty did an interview with WFHB. It is about 8 minutes long and it can be found on the station’s website: http://wfhb.org/news/open-access-week/

The very talented Bethany Nolan was kind enough to talk to me about Yuchi Folklore and to write about our discussion for her Art at IU blog.

The Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians just held its 17th (!!!!) annual Heritage Days festival. A few years ago a Miss Yuchi/Euchee was added to the festivities and the young women chosen have been great representatives of their nation. This year another awesome young woman was selected. Congratulations to A.S. on being selected for this big honor and big responsibility.

If robots write one of these biographies about you, will you purchase it?

Its crazy stuff like this that makes my senior colleagues so dubious about the internet in general and the changing publications landscape in particular.

I follow a twitter feed called Anthropology Books. I have never investigated who put it together and I do not know anything about it except that it has been useful to me. Using some kind of automated approach, the person or software behind Anthropology Books has been very usefully telling me (and about 1000 other folks) about “All new anthropology books posted on their publication day.” If a title seems interesting, there is a link that takes one to the book’s Amazon.com page.

Today, books with the names of famous and not-so-famous anthropologists (and folklorists) started showing up in the stream today. Alan Dundes was one that caught my eye first. He is very important figure in folklore studies and a very good candidate for a proper biography. Other names started showing up, including those of active colleagues who are basically my own age! They all had unfamiliar to me authors and publishers.  There was a flood of them today.

Looking at the books on Amazon.com, one is (sometimes) confronted with the information that “the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online.” I took this quote from the book on Dorothy Eggan. This 84 page book is selling for $47.00 and has been published by Lect Publishing. The book is credited to the editorship of Nuadha Trev. This editor shows up in Amazon.com as the person behind about 3000 books. Lect Publishing is only one of several names associated with the same basic project and Nuadha Trev is only one of several editors.

I know that others have been writing a lot recently about Amazon’s publishing toolkit. Also at issue here is the CC licensing of Wikipedia etc. content. The student publishing group that I work with here at Indiana–Trickster Press–makes great use of CreateSpace+Amazon for the publication of real peer-reviewed monographs and I am certainly appreciative of, and in debt to, the Creative Commons. These resources are not to blame for the creation of this kind of spam-like books, but I think that they represent a problem on several fronts. Perhaps it is enough to say that they give the Creative Commons, Wikipedia, Amazon, remix, and scholarly communications reform a bad name.

I would love to know who would purchase one of these books. Maybe some of them are traps designed to extract cash out of their living subjects. Here is an example. The publisher “Fedel” has just published a 108 page/$54 book on ethnomusicologist/linguist/anthropologist Aaron Fox. (He and I know people in common but are not yet acquainted.) Would Professor Fox feel like he had no choice but to purchase this book to see what it said about him? Would I feel similarly compelled if one were published on me? His is one of about 3000 titles edited by “Christabel Donatienne Ruby”, but does Christabel Donatienne Ruby actually exist?

I would also love to know about the technical infrastructure that automatically (?) assembles these books and feeds them into Amazon. Anybody understand this stuff?

Update:  Thankfully the people behind the wikipedia article for VDM Publishing seem to understand it pretty well. For background, see the entry here. See also the discussion on slashdot here.

Book News: Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era

I just discovered a nice sign of progress on a long simmering book project for which I am the editor. (Its long simmering status was my fault, not that of the authors or publisher.) Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era is presently being copy-edited by The University of Nebraska Press. I am looking forward to reviewing the edited manuscript next month. Looking for something else, I was pleased, just now, to discover that the book now has a page on the UNP website. I had not know the format that the press was going to choose, so I am very pleased to see that it is slated to appear in paper. Thanks to everyone who has worked on this project. More news here as it develops.

How to Hack Academic Book Publishing in Two (Not So) Easy Steps – IHE #hackacad

A wonderfully engaged, positive review of Hacking the Academy by Barbara Fister is in today’s issue of Inside Higher Education. Thank you Barbara.

How to Hack Academic Book Publishing in Two (Not So) Easy Steps – Inside Higher Ed.

On Hacking the Academy #hackacad

I am very pleased to note that the edited book version of Hacking the Academy appeared online today. The online version lives on a site built by the volume’s publisher Digital Culture Books, an imprint of the University of Michigan Press. The volume has been edited by Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, both of the Center for History and New Media. It is based on contributions submitted during one week–May 21-28, 2010.

I am very pleased to have been included in this volume and I want to thank the editors, the publisher, and all those who supported the project, including the many readers and cheerleaders who offered encouragement to the effort.

My chapter in the volume is based on an essay that originally appeared on this site (where the longer, older version can still be found). In the book, it is the first chapter of the “Hacking Scholarship” section. As with the earlier version, it is titled “Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps” and it offers an argument for withdrawing, where possible, from entanglements with commercial academic publishing in favor of lending energy, support, and resources to the strengthening of the existing public-sector scholarly communications system and to the building of a more democratic, ethical, sustainable, and open one for the future. It thus relates directly to my more recent post on the enclosure of scholarly journals in anthropology (and to other things that I do, including working on the Open Folklore project and editing Museum Anthropology Review.

I am so thankful to everyone who has engaged not only with the essay but with me in the larger work of understanding and reshaping the ways scholars share their work with the world. The biggest shout out of all, in this regards, goes to my colleagues at the Indiana University Libraries and the IUScholarWorks program. They have been my teachers and tremendous partners in the work. They are awesome!

The old-fashioned version of Hacking the Academy will be published next year. Find the online version here: http://www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy/

Dan Cohen’s reflections on the project can be found online here: http://www.dancohen.org/2011/09/08/some-thoughts-on-the-hacking-the-academy-process-and-model/

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,916 other followers

%d bloggers like this: