Want to work with us? We are looking for nice and intelligent people that contribute to our plans. Now what are these plans? The Hybrid Publishing lab is, among other things, creating an open source toolbox for publishing infrastructures, specifically at the world of academic and independent publishing. And yes, of course we are committed to Open Access.

The team you will join is a group of 18 alert and curious researchers that are interested in the change of publishing and meet regularly in Lüneburg to coordinate their efforts.

The two jobs open at the moment are covering the area of Design Research and/or Computer Science. These jobs shall help the team with exploring publishing modes, by creating a combination of multi-format distribution, and with considering the role of social media.

Please email your job applications and a CV to the emails you’ll find on the official job descriptions below. And don’t hesistate to contact us if you have any questions. We are looking forward to hear from you!

Official Job description here (english):
Research Associate in Design Research
Research Associate in Computer Science

(Added 2nd March: … as some of you have asked: your English speaking skills are more important than your German speaking skills…)

Official Job description (german):
Wissenschaftliche/r Mitarbeiter/in Designforschung
Wissenschaftliche/r Mitarbeiter/in Informatik

Trailer – Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives.

There are tons of books about how to use social media for media marketing. By contrast, the critical perspective on social networks lacks a bit behind. This brick of a book published today by the Institute of Network Cultures is a statement to change this.

In ‘The Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies And Their Alternatives” you find 43 contributions from people like the philosopher Bernhard Stiegler and D.E. Wittkower, the Digital Humanities theorist David M. Berry, the W3C fellow Harry Halpin, or the media theorist Geert Lovink and Corinna Patelis, who both started this important conference series, of course.
This is, what it is about:

“The Unlike Us Reader offers a critical examination of social media, bringing together theoretical essays, personal discussions, and artistic manifestos. How can we understand the social media we use everyday, or consciously choose not to use? We know very well that monopolies control social media, but what are the alternatives?
While Facebook continues to increase its user population and combines loose privacy restrictions with control over data, many researchers, programmers, and activists turn towards designing a decentralized future. Through understanding the big networks from within, be it by philosophy or art, new perspectives emerge.”

By the way, the Hybrid Publishing Lab has several contributions in there.

  • Yuk Hui and Harry Halpin: Collective Individuation – The Future of the Web
  • Martin Warnke: Databasis as Citadels in the Web2.0
  • Mercedes Bunz: As you like it – Critique in the Era of an Affirmative Discourse.

Please get your copy here, and decide yourself if this is unlike you.
Oh, and come by the next conference in March!

Two weeks ago at Transmediale, Janneke Adema and Gary Hall reminded us that it might be worthwile to investigate past and current artistic engagements with the book in order to reimagine the book for the digital age. In the past, artists have turned to book production as a way of enacting institutional critique, using cheap and widely available production techniques for exhibiting their work via independently produced and distributed art books, thereby circumventing the gallery system. And then, of course, there is the rich history of zine culture and self-publishing rooted in the DIY ethos of punk.

Currently a project on Kickstarter called The People’s Ebook aims to give artists the tools they need for producing art ebooks. Having their backgrounds in visual arts publishing and alternative arts funding, the initiators want to develop a free ebook publishing software with the promise that “what the photocopier was to zines, we hope The People’s Ebook will be to digital books.” With the funding deadline still 16 days away, the project already exceeded its funding goal. The slick mockups and video surely helped. However, I wonder whether the technical constraints that will surely follow from using an easy-to-use WYSIWYG tool might not hinder the medium-specific experimentation we know from paper-based art books and consequently yield homogenising effects. But hopefully someone will soon come up with an ebook as ironic a statement as David Stairs’ Boundless was in 1983.

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…

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…

A recent article published by the Times Higher Education is causing quite a bit of discussion particularly amongst business and management scholars. The article, written by Professor Simon Lilley, who runs the School of Management at the University of Leicester, is based on a contribution – free to download – to a forum of the journal Organization on the future of journals. In that piece, Lilley and his colleagues David Harvie, Geoff Lightfoot and Kenneth Weir scrutinize the business practices of some for-profit academic publishers, with some shocking results. Informa plc, for example, moved to a tax haven in Switzerland, while still turning a large profit on sales of journals to publicly funded libraries. And the practices of large commercial publishers to sell journals in large bundles to libraries (who then get access to many journals they need but also many they might not) means that with squeezed budgets it is independent journals whose subscriptions are cancelled. On profitability, Lilley writes in the THE:

Few would disagree that commercial publishers should be able to cover their costs and reap some profit from their investment. The figures in their accounts, however, give pause for thought. We found companies enjoying profit margins as high as 53 per cent on academic publishing. That compares with 6.9 per cent for electricity utilities, 5.2 per cent for food suppliers and 2.5 per cent for newspapers.

The contribution to Organization ends with a plea to the editors to force Sage to lower subscription costs to to the journal. The discussion on the pages of THE and also on lists such as the Jiscmail list Critical-Management take up these discussion of strategy, with positions ranging from a call for a pledge from academics to not submit work or review for any journals from tax-dodging and profit-hungry publishers to a call for a collective action to dismantle the current publishing practices and establish new ones.

'The Cost of Knowledge' by Guilia Forsythe

Picture by Giulia Forsythe – licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA 2.0)

There are perhaps two questions that impose themselves most immediately for anyone concerned with hybrid publishing and open access in particular: 1) with many commercial publishers establishing open access offerings, does this kind of research on their business practices not seriously undermine them as partners in a scholarly publishing landscape? And 2) what kind of strategies should academics adopt to challenge the excessive profits and dubious business practices of commercial publishers, and how can alternatives be established?

Spending my day in four late trains yesterday that were all held captive by the German winter, I managed to read this very good report on “The Current State of Open Access Repository Interoperability (2012)” from our colleagues from Göttingen, the Coar Initiative.

Repositories are indeed becoming an interesting alternative to the knowledge distribution by academic journals. That is why in August Elsevier, the publisher of 2,000 scientific journals, acquired Atira, the company who developed the full text repository PURE.


There is much to be thought about and a lot needs to be debated, though one thing is clear: more and more universities make their researchers file their writings in a repository (indeed, the Hybrid Publishing Lab’s researchers will have a track&trace session with PURE during our next big meeting). So who is interested in Open Access needs to follow this development, and this report gives quite a good overview on Open Access Initiatives dealing with them.

Download: “The Current State of Open Access Repository Interoperability (2012)” from “The Confideration of Open Access Repositories”.

RobinHood_OA_OERIn looking at how books can be remixed, cut-up, recompiled, augmented I decided to enquire into a specific area of educational publishing the standardised textbook. Specifically I wanted to see what European examples of Open Educational Resources (OER) services were available in this area.

So far I’m still on the lookout, in the universities and HE sectors there are a good number of services but as yet I haven’t found any European commercial OA providers. One example educational research body which covers textbooks is the  Joint Information Research Council (JISC) in the UK, which has been supporting ground breaking OER research across at least fifty institutions. You can see the results of this three year programme which is just coming to an end this October (2012) on their Evaluation Toolkit site.

When you look over to the US you see a completely different picture with commercial providers adopting OA open business models and state legislatures passing bills to make Community College (pre-degree two year study HE colleges) textbooks as free or low costs CC textbooks.

The shift over to OA on textbooks is so complete that a US educational standards body (State Instructional Materials Review Association SIMRA) has renamed its oversight committee from the ‘textbooks’ to ‘instructional materials’ group as an indication of the digital switch over.

In California, State Governor, Jerry Brown, recently signed a bill (27 Sept) to support free and low cost textbooks licensed under Creative Commons.

In the private sector Flat World Knowledge have developed a business around OA textbooks (oops instructional materials) for the Community College sector, with free to use books online and minimal charges for purchases and college licenses. Books are on average 80% lower in price than high profit margin commercial publishers.

What is clear is that the scarcity economic model practiced by publishers is over and that in a European context we’ll be seeing a further wave of universities, educational bodies and private companies offering OA instructional materials textbooks.

News source on the US textbook changes
SIIA – The Software & Information Industry Association is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry.

Other links
PIRG 2010 report found open textbooks reduced prices by 80%. PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups).

The innovative University of Innsbruck Press has recently published a quite interesting book with essays “On Media, Knowledge and Education: Cultures and Ethics of Sharing”


Opened by an introduction of my colleague Volker Grassmuck – “The Sharing Turn” -, the texts focus among others on learning with videos, the new value of the quote, and sharing as educational practice with a case-study from University of Udine among others. The book has three parts, “Social Dynamics of Sharing”, “Communities and Institutions” and finally “Theorien und Praktiken des Teilens” (theories and practices of sharing).

Quite a good one. And the best, you can buy the printed copy for € 27,90, or download it here for free: Wolfgang Sützl, Felix Stalder, Ronald Maier, Theo Hug (Eds.): Cultures and Ethics of Sharing / Kulturen und Ethiken des Teilens, 2012, innsbruck university press • iup ISBN 978-3-902811-74-5


Picture by Daniel Mietchen – licensed under a Creative Commons (BY 3.0)

In Feburary 2002 the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) launched a worldwide campaign for open access (OA). Even if they did not invent the idea, the initiative did the first major international statement and a public definition of open access.

Now, ten years later, they made new recommendations for the next ten years. The new recommendations count more than 2500 words and are pretty detailed on what has to be encouraged and done to get open access from a concept to a sustainable process. However, the original definition of open access has been reaffirmed:

By “open access” to [peer-reviewed research literature], we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

In order to make the important document more accessible, I summarized the 2012 recommendations in five points and less than 350 words::

  1. Repository: Every institution of higher education should have access to an open access repository (participate in a consortium or arrange to outsource repository services) and every publishing scholar in every field and country, including those not affiliated with institutions of higher education, should have deposit rights.
  2. Policy: Every institution of higher education, public or private research funding agency should have a policy assuring that all future scholarly articles by faculty members and all future theses and dissertations are made open access as soon as practicable and deposit these in the institution’s designated open access repository. We recommend Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) or an equivalent license as the optimal license for the publication, distribution, use, and reuse of scholarly work.
  3. Tools & technology: Research institutions, including research funders, should support the development and maintenance of the tools, directories, and resources essential to the progress and sustainability of open access. Open access repositories should provide tools and APIs, already available at no charge, to convert deposits made in PDF format into machine-readable formats such as XML and the used repositories should acquire the means to harvest from and re-deposit to other repositories, make download, usage, and citation data available to their authors and to the tools computing alternative impact metrics.
  4. Impact Factor: We therefore discourage the use of classic journal impact factors as surrogates for the quality of journals, articles, or authors. We encourage the development of alternative metrics for impact and quality which are less simplistic, more reliable, and entirely open for use and reuse.
  5. Advocacy & coordination: The open access community should act in concert more often and we should do more to make universities, publishers, editors, referees and researchers aware of standards of professional conduct for open access publishing. We also need to articulate more clearly, with more evidence, and to more stakeholder groups the advantages and potentials of open access

If you want to know more about the recommendations read the full version here or watch the talk at the BOAI 10 conference about “The Budapest Open Access Initiative at 10 – Recommendations for the next ten years“ (by Alma Swan, Director of European Advocacy, SPARC Europe and Key Perspectives):

Disclamer: The Hybrid Publishing Lab translated also the long version of the BOAI 10 recommendations into German language.