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Posts from the ‘Open Education’ Category

Reflections and Reports on Open Access Published in the New Issue of Cultural Anthropology (@culanth)

The new, May 2014 issue of Cultural Anthropology is out now. It is the second issue of the journal to be made freely available online, which means anyone with internet access can read it. (Hurray.) In support of the journal’s commitment to understanding and pursuing open access approaches to scholarly communication, the new issue has a dedicated section of peer-reviewed contributions focused on open access in the journal publishing realm.

I am happy be one of the contributors to this section. Ryan Anderson and I revised and updated an earlier interview on open access that we did together. We calibrated the new version to contemporary circumstances, included specific discussions of the Cultural Anthropology case, and sketched a critical anthropology of contemporary scholarly communications practices. It was exciting not only to revise the interview but to improve it on the basis of appreciated peer-review. We think of the piece as an experiment in genre too, as the interview was a textual co-construction in which we revised and altered each others’ words with the goal of creating the most useful resource that we could. It began as a true interview, but did not end there. (In this, its inspiration was an earlier Cultural Anthropology piece on open access “Cultural Anthropology of/in Circulation.”) The interview’s primary function among the other pieces is as an introduction to open access practices. We hope that it is useful in this role. We appreciate everyone who has already expressed kind appreciation for the piece.

There are many great pieces in the open access section (see list below). I am only now reading the other articles in the issue. Charles’ Briggs’s “Dear Dr. Freud” is compelling.

A key thing about the way that the Society for Cultural Anthropology is doing its journal and website is that the site is a rich hub for content both in support of the journal and extending well beyond it. Articles are often richly supplemented with interviews, images, and media and there are also opinion pieces, shorter works, photo galleries and much additional content. While Chris Kelty is present in the open access section of the journal, I want to call attention to his even newer opinion piece, which was published today. In it, he makes a strong case for the adoption of Creative Commons licenses for Cultural Anthropology going forward. I share his views.

There is lots to read in the new issue. Here are the open access pieces.

I really like the Glossary. It allowed me to get a definition of FUD into the pages of Cultural Anthropology! (Learning the term was the only good thing about the PRISM fiasco, an episode that seems so long ago now.)

The issue is receiving a good bit of discussion on Twitter but, as so often happens, there will probably be only a tiny amount of commenting on the journal site–even though there is great infrastructure in place to allow for it. I invite everyone to prove me wrong. Be brave and leave a comment on any of the papers.

Thank you to @culanth editors Anne Allison and Charles Piot for their hard work and for including the piece that Ryan and I did. Thanks as well to @culanth Managing Editor Tim Elfenbein for his hard work on the issue.

Last but Not Least: Hacking the Academy–the Print and Ebook Editions

I am pleased to note that the University of Michigan Press has now published the print and ebook editions of Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities. This volume was organized and edited by Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt and is part of the press’ Digital Humanities series.

Followers of the project will know that this is just the latest iteration of a multimodal effort. The history of the project is narrated in numerous places, including in the preface to the free open web version (made available earlier by the Press’s Digital Culture Books unit). Very instructive is the more primordial version (inclusive of much content not in the book) at

I was trilled to participate in the project with an abridged version of a blog post that first appeared here (still a best seller after several years). That original post was called “Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five East Steps” and it promotes resisting the increasing enclosure of scholarly publishing by large multinational firms. (In the new book, it appears on pages 13-14.)

Everyone reasonably wonders about the point of a print edition of a “book” born out of twitter links and weblogs posts. Here is how the editors address this point.

Finally, the reader may legitimately ask: Doesn’t the existence of Hacking the Academy as a book undermine its argument? Why put this supposedly firebrand work into a traditional form? The answer is that we wanted this project to have maximal impact and especially to reach those for whom RSS and Twitter are alien creatures. Moreover, one of the main themes of this volume—and of digital technology—is that scholarly and educational content can exist in multiple forms for multiple audiences.

A review of the book edition, but someone new to the effort (who missed the earlier instances), has been published on the Education Technology and Change (ETC) blog.

Thanks to all of the editors, contributors, readers, and publishers involved in this experimental work.

Open Research and Learning: Collaboration, Connections, and Communities

I am very happy to be again visiting the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Over the weekend, I participated in a wonderful conference on the “Anthropology of Performance” organized by the industrious undergraduate students in the Department of Anthropology here. The conference included work in all four of anthropology’s four sub-fields, plus folklore studies and social psychology. The student presentations were outstanding. The number of soon to finish students reporting on nearly complete senior theses was amazing and the quality of their research and presentations was very impressive. Congratulations to the students and to the faculty and advisers who are supporting them.

Today I get to reconnect with my friends at the library here. I will be participating in a very promising event on “Open Research and Learning: Collaboration, Connections, and Communities.” The event includes an amazing group of people. David Ernst, Director of Academic Technology in the UM College of Education and Human Development will discuss open textbooks. Astronomer Lucy Fortson will discuss open data, and University of Minnesota Press Director Doug Armato will discuss open publishing projects at the press. Copyright librarian Nancy Sims–whom you should certainly be following on Twitter (@CopyrightLibn)–will be the moderator. I will be talking about the ways that open access projects foster richer forms of scholarly collaboration. I am really looking forward to it and I am thankful that the kind invitation from the anthropology students has allowed me to reconnect with the scholarly communications community at Minnesota. Thank you to all of the faculty and researchers who have signed up for today’s event. Information on the event is online here.

Open Access Interview Part Two @savageminds

Thanks again to Ryan Anderson for working with me on an interview exploring the basic issues relating to open access in anthropology and folklore. The second part of three has now been published on Savage Minds. As always I appreciate Savage Minds for hosting such considerations of these issues.

Matthew Guterl on The Future of the Library/Libraries

A fellow faculty participant in the November 2, 2011 “Faculty Discussion on the Future of University Libraries” held at Indiana University under the sponsorship of the Dean of Libraries and the Provost was my Department of American Studies colleague Matthew Guterl. Matt is Rudy Professor of American Studies and History and the Chair of the the Department of American Studies. A historian of race and race-relations in the Americas, he is the author of numerous key works in American Studies, including The Color of Race in America, 1900-1940 (Harvard University Press, 2001) and American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation (Harvard University Press, 2008). This site does not have a flashy title like The Edge of the American West, Crooked Timber, or Savage Minds but it is fun to welcome such a talented guest contributor to the blog part of my website. Rather than see them filed away unread, here are Matt’s thoughtful reflections on the future of libraries at IU and everywhere.

“The Future of the Library/Libraries”

Matthew Pratt Guterl

I haven’t been to the big limestone box on Jordan in over a year, but I use the library every day.

Once I needed to use the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature; now I use Google.  I used to check the stacks; now I just search by keyword on Project Muse, or wait for a Google Scholar alert to arrive in my inbox.  I used to store my handwritten notes and copies in fireproof boxes or plastic crates; now I have digital reproductions of the entire archive of my current project stored on my phone.

The last time I was there, in the Wells Library, it was for coffee and donuts.

Maybe the future of the library is not the same thing as the future of that building.

Wells Library, Bloomington, Indiana. Courtesy of Indiana University.

After all, even if I’ve been absent physically, I’ve clicked on the IU Libraries link more times than I can count, and trolled through its rich databases with great delight.  I have more need of the library-in-the-abstract than ever before.

The big limestone box – and all that it includes – is still important.  But ours is not the Fitchburg State library, and IU isn’t a second tier, branch campus.  When I wonder about the short-term future of “real” academic libraries with walls and windows and floors, my thoughts race to Rutgers-Newark, to IU-East, or Washington State-Tri-Cities, or Lincoln University, the places most likely to be first erased by budget cutting and spatial reallocation.  I think about small town libraries in places less well off than Bloomington.  I think about corporate libraries and law firm libraries and museum libraries.  I think about the impending extinction of the bookshelf at the old ski lodge, or the hotel lobby, where the accidental discovery of some old Faulkner text, or some Philip K. Dick collection, encourages a new thought. Our research library – the Wells Library – may be safe, for now.  These other, less secure sites, are not.

I worry, after thinking about all of this, about the right now, and about short term access for the less fortunate, confronted with the boxing up of the local library stacks, however meager, or the end of the hard copy, however scarce, and about the corresponding absence of laptops and ipads and wifi, which we imagine as open substitutes, available to anyone, in this age of receding material reality.

Yes, the Wells Library will survive for some time, much like the 42nd Street Branch of the New York Public Library, or the Library Company in Philadelphia.  The scale of the architecture ensures that, as does the vastness of the collections and the professionalism of the research faculty.  Such places, awe-inspiring and beautiful, still generate new knowledge, even while they also encourage new and necessarily generous donations, and serve as delightful backdrops for critical fundraising campaigns.  But eventually, perhaps inevitably, as the library becomes ever more disembodied, even these historic buildings may become repurposed reliquaries, like old Masonic temples turned into state office buildings, or old movie theatres turned into restaurants, or old plantations turned into museums and beds and breakfasts.  Or, like abandoned factories, they will simply be emptied of content and left to fall apart, or turned into loft apartments.

Of course, for those of us caught up in the past, it is easy to get nostalgic about what is lost in this transition.  I remember the smell of my first public library, nestled in a retrofitted old fire station next to my childhood home.  I remember reading Santayana on the steps of the New York Public Library, waiting for the doors to open, and excited about what might be revealed within.  I remember the pleasure of waiting for something to arrive, for my call number to light up, or of finding something unexpected, and of the pervasive smell of glue and paper and ink.   I remember discovering a letter, misfiled under the wrong name, proving what I thought to be a powerful point.   In my most troubled moments, I grow concerned that all of this – this set of possibilities, this travail – will be lost.

Nostalgia, though, is the conservative reflex of those confronted by rapid change.  And so I push back against it.  I imagine what is possible in our future.  And I think, instead, of how cool it will be when the poorest person in the world can press a button – even if the button is worn, and the screen is dingy – and call up the complete works of Toni Morrison, linked to every video interview she’s ever given, and joined with her correspondence, archived in public and for free.  As a public university now more indebted than ever to a bigger, more global “public,” we have a big role in making this future possible.

I’m not sure that this utopic vision includes the bricks-and-mortar of the Wells Library, though it surely includes research librarians.  In many ways, it is the antithesis of this place, which has more in common with the Royal Library at Alexandria than it does with Google books.  And I remember that when the College’s Strategic Planning Committee met a few years ago, we half-joked about creating a rooftop biergarten, with crystal slides to the ground floor.  But this vision most certainly includes the library as a liberal ideal, with a social function worth expanding, a political mission worth protecting, and a research agenda that deserves better articulation.

Open Access Proposals Made at an IU Faculty Forum on the Future of Libraries

What follows are the remarks and proposals that I offered during the libraries-focused event held today at Indiana University. Hosted by IU Provost Karen Hansen and Dean of the Libraries Brenda Johnson, the event was framed as “A Faculty Discussion on the Future of University Libraries.” I was one of eight members of the faculty invited to offer 5 minute reflections on the questions before the assembly. I took the opportunity to suggest that the time has come for the IU faculty to get moving toward a green OA mandate. A proposal towards that goal, and two related ends, are expressed in my comments, which I share here for those who might be interested. The opening remarks and slides by the Provost and the Dean did a nice job framing the issues and my fellow panelists all offered important reflections and goals. The event was very well attended and I thank everyone involved in organizing and attending the gathering. I think that the event was a good step forward towards additional discussions and the work ahead.

I want to thank Dean Johnson and Provost Hansen for their kind invitation to participate in today’s discussion. This afternoon, I wish to carefully offer three proposals while keeping to the allotted five minutes. This context explains my pre-preparation of these remarks.

I am not speaking on anyone else’s behalf, but my suggestions are conditioned by my past experiences, present commitments, and the collaborative projects on which I am working. My efforts as a curator, teacher, researcher, journal editor, library committee member, scholarly society board member, and collaborator working with disadvantaged communities still dealing with the legacies of colonialism, all shape my concerns and motivate my efforts as an activist for scholarly communications reform. My knowledge of the current scholarly communications system and its prospects have been profoundly shaped through my collaborations with librarians and technologists at the IU Libraries and I appreciate the many ways that they have supported and taught me. I have tremendous appreciation for all that the Libraries are doing to support my work and that of my students and colleagues.

I look forward to our discussions of the full range of topics surveyed by the Provost and the Dean, but my proposals focus on the activity that we once called publishing and the changing ways that the libraries engage with it. My hope is to provoke the faculty to take greater ownership in the work of scholarly communication and thereby to partner more meaningfully with our library in fostering a more equitable, ethical, sustainable and sensible communications and learning environment for ourselves, for the communities that need our work, for our debt-crushed students, and for every lifelong learner, regardless of their ability to pay to access our scholarship.

Later I will be very willing to provide needed background, but the most economical approach for me now is to just offer my three proposals for the faculty to consider. The IU Libraries are contributing in a number of key ways to an international effort to protect and improve the scholarly communications system, but without broader leadership here on our campus, there are limits to what can be accomplished. I have tremendous hope for what we might do by working together. Here goes:

  1. I propose that the Bloomington Faculty Council, in consultation with the Dean of the Libraries, the Office of the Provost, and the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, begin formal work towards what is known as a green open access mandate for faculty on the Bloomington campus. With mandates already in place at Harvard, MIT, California, Oberlin, Kansas and hundreds of other institutions worldwide, we are prepared to take advantage of the experiences of those who have preceded us on this path. Our leadership in IT, our international commitments, the prominence of our scholarship, and the stature of our library insure our success in such a venture. Delay wrongly suggests that we are not an institution of the first rank. Read more

Why Michael Wesch’s “Blogging” Should Count

In his essay “Blogging for Promotion: An Immodest Proposal” anthropologist Greg Downey outlines a clear set of actionable proposals for reform at the intersection of scholarly communications practices and academic tenure and promotion practices. I commend his essay, which was published today (10/20/11) on Neuroanthropology, a compelling and influential PLoS (Public Library of Science) weblog that he runs with Daniel Linde. Rather than discussing this important contribution here in depth, I am going to try enacting one of its proposals. (For reference, see especially the discussion that follows Downey’s section heading “An immodest proposal (not an indecent proposition)”.)

First the set up. I am working extensively right now preparing a new course for spring 2011. This course was devised as part of my participation in a two year think-tank funded by the Teagle Foundation (a funder supporting projects designed to foster innovation in undergraduate teaching and learning) and organized by the American Folklore Society. The AFS project was built around the theme “What is the relationship between lay and expert knowledge in a complex society?” Colleagues teaching in a range of institutions, from community colleges and private liberal arts colleges to large research institutions gathered to explore the frontiers of research-based teaching, changing curriculum practices, and the wider contexts of our work in a small border discipline bridging the humanities and the social sciences, as well as the academy and the public sphere. As part of our work, we developed plans for new courses and teaching resources. Part of my work focused on working out plans for the course that I will initially teach next spring (it opens for enrollment today).

I have mentioned the course here previously. In a nutshell it uses the toolkit of folkloristics (and by extension my other field–cultural anthropology) to consider human responses–including aesthetic, expressive, customary, and communal responses–to a range of recently emergent and highly contested human social problems. Called “The New Social Problems: Communal and Expressive Responses” the new problem domains to be considered include such things as the digital divide, genetic engineering, intellectual property contests, and nanotechnologies. I am sure that I will be discussing the course further as it moves forward. The important point in this context is noting the influence that one colleague–whom I do not know and whom I have not yet met–has had on the shaping of my plans for this experimental course.

Michael Wesch, on his website/weblog Digital Ethnography (which is a key node in the digital infrastructure of his undergraduate-based research group), has regularly and effectively documented the pedagogical experiments and research work that he has been pursuing (over many years) with many successive groups of Kansas State University students. Wesch has been appropriately recognized and celebrated for the innovative work that he and his students have been doing. What I want to highlight here is that the manner in which he has documented and explained this work has made it richly available for the wider scholarly community. Because he has used as a venue for reporting on his work, his strategies and experiences are openly and immediately accessible to me (and to my students) as well as to everyone else able to surmount the digital divide. Essays like “Our Class on How We Run Our Class” in which Wesch and his students describe (and enact) the technical and intellectual strategies through which a standard U.S. undergraduate course is turned into a deeply meaningful research collaboratory for social scientific investigation are just not available in the conventional published literature in our field. It is on the basis of the inspiration provided and the information conveyed by Wesch and his students that I am able to imagine a very different kind of course to pursue with my own students in January.

Michael Wesch’s Digital Ethnography efforts represent the kinds of “blogging” work that deserves to count as a substantive scholarly contribution (bridging teaching, research, and service) in such areas as annual review and tenure and promotion considerations.

Loans and Books: Two Brief Observations Made During the Student Debt Revolt

Many excellent graduate students with whom I have the honor of working receive only modest or no assistantship or fellowship aid. Historically, many have supported themselves in part during graduate school with government-backed student loans. This has always been a source of anxiety for me, but matters grew worse for U.S. students earlier this year when the major federal loan program changed its structure so that graduate students receiving such loans must begin paying them back immediately rather than after graduation. For students studying in the world in which I work, such a scenario is hardly possible. Even students with assistantships are just above the poverty line.

Meanwhile, more and more excellent scholarly resources ideal for the training of these students are being produced. But they are on the market at a price that no starving graduate student can afford and at which most professors would feel guilty assigning them. This reoccurring thought returned to me when I noted the publication of a very impressive looking ethnobiology textbook. It was also on my mind when I spoke last week to an editor of what promises to be the absolutely essential handbook for folklore studies. That volume will be rich beyond measure, but at 680 pages and 29 cents per page how will any of us afford to purchase it? If my library can afford it, I plan to sit and read it cover to cover in the stacks. Excellent scholars are producing excellent work, but the business model fails us, or at least our students.

A glimmer of hope came during the #AFS11 meetings. A group of folklorists have begun discussions aimed at creating an free and open access textbook for undergraduate folklore studies. One possible publication platform being discussed is connexions centered at Rice University. Hopefully folklore studies can become a leading field in the cultivation of Open Educational Resources. I cannot see how we can continue down the path that we are heading.

#OccupyWallStreet Discussion at the American Folklore Society Meetings (#AFS11)

#OccupyWallStreet Discussion at the American Folklore Society Meetings (#AFS11)

Saturday, October 15
12:30-1:15 p.m.
Alumni Hall
Indiana Memorial Union

Want to process the current moment of social protest and global revolution? Want to discuss the prospects for a human economy? Have stories, questions, fears or hopes to share? Does this moment speak to the concerns of our field? Does our field have something distinctive to offer those seeking social and economic change?

Interested folklorists are invited to gather for a lunchtime discussion of such themes. In the spirit of the current protests, we’ll find our path to open-ended conversation in an informal way. Think of it as a potluck, but for ideas, comments, and questions. Everyone is welcome, even those who just want to listen. Bring a box lunch if you want more than food for thought.

This gathering has been organized quickly, informally, and unofficially, but has been put together in consultation with leaders of the AFS and in collaboration with its Politics, Folklore, and Social Justice Section.


Jason Jackson: or @jasonjackson2
Christina Barr or @barrchristina

Streaming Video from #AFS11: Attend a Folklore Meeting Online!

Let the #AFS11 posts begin. The 2011 American Folklore Society meetings will be held here in Bloomington on the campus of Indiana University. This is the 1st time since 1968 that the meetings have been held on a college campus (that 1968 meeting was also here at IU). It may be a record meeting in terms of attendance and many innovative program items are going to be debuted. The first of these to mention, and the one of greatest potential interest to those who cannot attend, is the news that selected portions of the meeting will be accessible online via streaming video. In the remainder of this post (below the fold, so to speak) I will share the details. Highlights include the Opening Plenary Address by Henry Glassie  (“War, Peace, and the Folklorist’s Mission”), The Francis Lee Utley Memorial Lecture of the AFS Fellows by Margaret Mills “Achieving the Human: Strategic Essentialism and the Problematics of Communicating across Cultures in Traumatic Times”, and the AFS Presidential Address by C. Kurt Dewhurst “Museums and Folkloristics: Folklorists’ Legacy and Future in Museum Theory and Practice.” This is just a portion of the events that are scheduled to be streamed. Learn the details on how to do it and what is going to be accessible below. (The first two of these three major addresses relate to the conference theme–Peace, War, Folklore. This theme was chosen to articulate with the IU “Themester” theme of Making War, Making Peace. The full conference program is freely accessible here. It contains abstracts for all events.) Read more

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