January 2013


If you have a chance to visit next week’s Transmediale media arts festival in Berlin (and hopefully drop by at our workshops), make sure you don’t miss Andrew Norman Wilson’s performance Movement Materials And What We Can do.

Wilson’s video piece Workers Leaving the Googleplex made the rounds in the blogs some time ago. In it he narrates his experience working for a subcontractor of Google at the company’s US headquarters, and his encounter with the Google Books ScanOps division which eventually led to him being fired. He found out that the workers who perform the rather repetitive work of scanning books must wear special badges, are kept separate from other employees in the more knowledge-intensive divisions of the company and are denied access to Google’s famed amenities. Noticing how these second-class workers are overwhelmingly people of colour, Wilson approached some of them with a video camera and the intention to find out more about their labour conditions – which quickly led to security intervening and his contract being severed.

As a follow-up, Wilson made the manual labour cloaked by Google’s secrecy visible again through a photo series pulled from Google Books. Scanned fingers of workers flipping the pages of classics like Adam Smiths Wealth Of Nations leave traces of the human labour necessary for digitising our cultural heritage.

To my mind, Wilson’s works are a most welcome reminder of the persistence of manual labour underpinning the knowledge economy, and of the ways this mostly invisible form of labour – precarised and always under threat of automation – is deeply entangled with issues of class and race. In his performance at Transmediale, Wilson will use “corporate, academic and artistic lecture techniques” in order to further interrogate this theme.

Episciences Project to create arXiv open access journals. A group of mathematicians is launching a series of free-of-charge open access journals containing articles from Cornell University's arXiv server, thereby posing increasing competition for academic publishers. (text via heise, Stefan Krempl)

Sarah Kendzior discusses how restricting access to scholarly information leads to worse decisions by expert bodies - with potentially fatal outcomes, as in the case of deciding on asylum claims by refugees from oppressive regimes such as Uzbekistan.

There are some rumours floating around that Elsevier is in advanced talks to buy Mendeley. Mendeley, as most of you will know, is one of the new reference management softwares that includes social media elements, particularly through its online portal. A Wired article from 2011 provides a decent overview of its development, scope and potential. In the meantime, Mendeley has only grown, and now alongside ResearchGate and Zotero – the former focusing more on collaborative tools, the latter although including social elements a more classical reference and citation software – represents the exciting edge of what is happening in this field.  Continue Reading…

Services such as Mendeley, Academia.edu and ResearchGate promise to transform research: they connect researchers in collaborative digital environments, provide venues for publication, and develop alternative metrics for measuring impact and reputation. Backed by venture capital, these services have seen considerable growth during the last years. But will they turn out to be financially sustainable?

We provide a quick glance at the prospective business models of three academic social networking services.

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A series of workshops being held at the Transmediale festival
Berlin 30.1 – 2.2  http://www.transmediale.de/bwpwap

Rue Jacob. Paris, 1910

Rue Jacob. Paris, 1910. Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris. © BHVP – Roger-Viollet

‘The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed’, William Gibson.

Organised by Simon Worthington and the Hybrid Publishing Consortium, the four days of Post-digital Publishing workshops are meant to contribute, even if on a small scale, to a  ‘future re-distribution’ of open source and indy publishing. While an imminent deluge of books is already underway, as the book goes digital and universities open their libraries with Open Access publishing, we will look at the ways in which to engage with these re-distribution processes, as well as explore cyber-librarianship, DIY publishing tools, indy infrastructures and the ongoing battle for the re-imagining of the University in the digital age.
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Ross Mounce, PhD Student at the University of Bath, is building a list of Gold OA journals with all licence details. He already scored 531 out of 985 journals he found here, so there’s 454 left still to score. He has started the task on a collaborative, editable Google Spreadsheet here.

If you have some spare time please help him to fill-in the data on his spreadsheet (sheet called ‘Data’). All data filled-in on the datasheet will be public data for anyone to use/copy/remix CC0.
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Cost Effectiveness for Open Access Journals, a list of 985 journals and their publishers.

We are all struck with a sense of loss, grief and shock since we heard of the death of Aaron Swartz, by suicide. People who have been his friends have written heart-felt obituaries, saluting his dreams and visions and unwavering commitment to a larger social good. Colleagues who have worked with him and have been inspired by his achievements have documented the quirky intelligence and the whimsical genius that Swartz was. His fellow crusaders, who have stood by him in his impassioned battle against the piracy centred witch-hunt have helped spell out the legal and political conditions, which might not have directly led to this sorry end, but definitely have to be factored in his own negotiations with depression. All these voices have enshrined Aaron Swartz, the 26 year old boy-wonder who was just trying to make the world a better place where information is free and everybody has unobstructed access to knowledge. They have shown us that there is an ‘Aaron sized hole’ in the world, which is going to be difficult to fill. These are voices that need to be heard, remembered, and revisited beyond the urgency of the current tragedy and it is good to know that this archive of grief and outpouring of emotional support will stay as a living memory to the legend that Swartz had already become in his life-time. Continue Reading…

stiegler vs serresLast summer, the popular french journal Philosophy Magazine published an special issue titled “Why do we no longer learn as before?”. This issue covers essays by Nicolas Carr, Marianne Wolf and others working on the same field, and what is most interesting is a dialogue between two philosophers Bernard Stiegler and Michel Serres. Stiegler has been working on the question of digital publication for many years, back to the 90s he worked on a project with the BnF(Bibliothèque nationale de France) on digital books and softwares to assist reading. Based on his own theory of tertiary retention, and inspired by Carr and Wolf, Stiegler proposed to re-visit the condition of reading and writing today in order to bring forth an industrial program. We remind that we talked about two kinds of memory proposes by Carr, working memory and long term memory, Stiegler showed in his previous books especially the three volumes of La Technique et le temps, how these two memories (equivalent to Husserl’s primary and secondary retentions) are in turn conditioned by the tertiary retentions, that is to say technics. For Stiegler the problem today is the one of amnesis, that is also one of the first questions in occidental philosophy. For Plato, amnesis, losing memory, is the possibility of acquiring knowledge. Since it is at this moment of searching, we have to recollect what was forgotten, then fragments can become coherent. Or all simply, facts gain their power in the process of re-organization (which is at the same time re-cognition) and become the foundation of truth. Amnesis in this sense, is also askisis whichpossess the transformation power of the individual. Continue Reading…

Reading about the “revolution of college education” or the “year of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)”, you might think that the MOOC concept has been invented just recently. But as often noticed: concepts evolve from previous concepts. The original idea of MOOCs came up in the 1960s and there were run some successful MOOCs as early as 2008.

Moreover, there are two different schools of thought behind the MOOC idea, they are currently referred to as „xMOOCs“ and „cMOOCs“:

Those initiatives by Stanford and Harvard and their partners (platforms such as Coursera and edX) represent the xMOOC-model whereas the cMOOC-model goes back to the connectivism theory by George Siemens, a professor at Athabasca University in Canada, and has been in practice since 2008.

While in the US the buzz has focused on the top tear universities, in Germany, the latter model seems to obtain a lot of attention and I think there are good reasons for this. Continue Reading…

Picture by cogdog (CC-BY-SA)

Picture by cogdog (CC-BY-SA)

As often discussed, the Creative Commons NC-license can not be considered a true open license. This is because “Non-Commercial” content cannot be distributed widely and easily. In 2012, a group of German copyright experts (irights.info) released the German document “Folgen, Risiken und Nebenwirkungen der Bedingung Nicht-Kommerziell – NC” (Consequences, Risks, And Side-Effects of the license module Non-Commercial – NC) which now has been translated to English.

Overall it becomes more and more obvious, that CC-NC licenses do not comply with the requirements of the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the Berliner Erklärung because among other things both include the entitlement to produce and distribute derivative works. Therefore the NC licenses can also be seen as not compatible to the common understanding of open access or open science.

Here you find a Short summary of the most important Q&A in the document showing why the Creative Commons NC-licenses are not suitable for spreading knowledge. Continue Reading…

Late last year Jeffrey Beall published an update to his list of Predatory Open Access Publishers. The list grew from 23 questionable publishers in 2011 to 225 in 2012.  With his list Beall reminds us that there is not just good in Open Access publishing:

The gold open-access model has given rise to a great many new online publishers. Many of these publishers are corrupt and exist only to make money off the author processing charges that are billed to authors upon acceptance of their scientific manuscripts.

The author pays business model opens the gates for fraudulent publishers looking to earn quick money that researchers are willing to spend in exchange for the publication of their articles. Even worse usually it’s not their own money because the fees are paid for by universities or other funding organizations.  Spending someone else’s money is easy. Therefore generally acknowledged standards for good Open Access publishing are needed.

What could these standards be? Beall gives a number of reasons why publishers are included in his black list. Yet, these are tentative criteria that just allow to identify possibly predatory journals or publishers. So the question remains how good is to be discerned from bad.

Update: Bealls comment encouraged me to take a closer look at his list of criteria for determining bad Open Access publishers. And he is right to a certain extend. I have been both too quick with my judgment and too imprecise. There are quite a few good criteria in place that allow authors and readers to decide whether a journal publisher is trustworthy or not. Nevertheless not all academic disciplines rely on journals as their primary means of publishing. Especially in the humanities there is still a strong emphasis on publishing books. In this realm some of Bealls criteria still apply, but some might be misleading. Even well renowned academic book publishers do not have a formal editorial or review board. What if one of these traditional publishers turns Open Access? Should it be labelled predatory?

carr_hayles_readingPublications expect readers, unless the author ignores the public in his publication. Understanding reading is one of the major conditions for imagining new ways of publishing. The condition of reading also depends on means of writing, writing means publishing, then we enter a circle of reading-writing, that constitutes without exaggeration the social, political, economical condition for acting and thinking. Jack Goody has explored in The Domestication of the Savage Mind, how the emergence of writing, in its most primitive form, transform these conditions in human history. The use of tablets in the Sumerian culture in Mesopotamian as writing system become today we may call the first system of metadata, that record stocks of potteries, cattle, etc. And David Graeber further in his Debt- The First 5,000 Years, showed that such a writing system is actually a book-keeping system, usually a new conquerer destroyed this annotation-writing system to resettle all debts, and restarts a new economic, social and political regime (And it is from this example, Graeber proposed a destruction of the current global accounting system to start anew). It is also true when writing spread out in ancient Greece, it made laws accessible to citizens in the polis, that is also to say the concept of democracy. Continue Reading…