The conference “Post-Digital Scholar: Publishing between Open Access, Piracy and the Public Sphere” turned in a good scorecard with nine sessions, three workshops, about 130 participants and 950 tweets. Organized by the Hybrid Publishing Lab, the conference took place in Lüneburg from 12 to 14 November 2014. In this report you can read more about the topics discussed by international scholars, publishers, researchers, programmers, artists and business managers. Publishers, entrepreneurs, librarians, artists and scholars came together in the Lüneburg Music School from 12 to 14 November 2014 to discuss the challenges and chances for scholarly communication in the digital age. How are the writing of academic texts and the book format changing? What role should libraries play in the future? How can the demand for open access to scholarship be satisfied in an economical and academically responsible way? And how can traditional academic publishing houses keep pace with these developments? These questions and others were intensely discussed and sometimes hotly debated in nine panels and three workshops at the conference “The Post-Digital Scholar: Publishing between Open Access, Piracy, and the Public Sphere”.
The conference was organized on by the Hybrid Publishing Lab of the Innovation Incubator at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. The 130 participants largely agreed that open access to academic knowledge should be supported. As Felix Ebert from the publishing house Walter de Gruyter and the Professor of Book Studies Christoph Bläsi made clear, these days the making of high-quality publications is not necessarily any simpler or less expensive than in the time of pre-digital book publishing. In this respect publishers continue to provide an important function even when their role sometimes shifts into the realm of a publication service provider’s.
Concerns were frequently expressed over the increasing concentration in the publishing market into the hands of a few globally active publishers. This development, combined with the shrinking budgets at university libraries, means that scholars are increasingly operating in a legal gray zone when they publish their own texts online or when they gain access to literature. Gary Hall of Coventry University advocated a “Pirate Philosophy” that could take on the tasks of questioning established structures and trying out new forms of academic communication and publishing. Given the great diversity of knowledge, a vital and versatile publishing landscape is indispensable.
The approach advocated – which may also serve as a summing up of the conference – involves having scholars develop new formats and publishing models jointly with publishers, libraries and entrepreneurs and together create the future of scholarly communication. A high degree of technical and economical expertise is undoubtedly needed to meet the challenges of digital technologies like enhanced books and to exploit their potential (Bläsi). As Kathleen Fitzpatrick stressed in her keynote address, readers and academics were the major contributors to the development of the book in the past and will continue to be in the future. It doesn’t matter if the books are digital, “mega-digital” (a term used by Amsterdam media expert and publisher Geert Lovink) or post-digital.
Proof that the conference tapped the pulse of the digital age can be seen in the extensive feedback it got on the Internet. Even during the event nearly 1000 tweets were devoted to the conference. A selection from each day is on the conference Website at http://www.postdigitalscholar.org/. There you can also call up interviews conducted with participants prior to the meeting and blog entries posted afterwards. The video documentation of the conference will soon appear on the site.