Friday, February 8, 2008
A Blog Carnival / Journal Proposal: The Past Discussed Quarterly
The Past Discussed Quarterly will be a journal published four times a year. There’s no intention to compete for the same market as any other journals, nor to replace weblogs. Instead the journal is a bridge between bloggers in the broadest sense and non-blogging academics. The journal will be available as a PDF for free under a CC licence and paper format at the minimum allowed cost via Lulu. The journal will reproduce articles and entries from weblogs, providing a citeable format for people uncomfortable with citing weblogs. Additionally it’s intended that an XHTML or TEI format will be archived, initially with Tom Elliott and hopefully later with ISAW. This will provide a permanent curated archive for webloggers’ work. Submission will be similar to a blog carnival, though the need for permissions to re-print entries adds a little more to the process of submitting.
Deadlines for Submissions will be the ends of February, May, August, November. The entries will be blog posts which are open for comments.* The journal will be compiled starting the second week of March, June, September and December with the intention of being complete by the end of that month.
To enter an article a blogger will email the editorial panel (method to be determined) and display a PDQ button somewhere on the blog entry linked to a page explaining what PDQ is. Use of this button will signify that that the blogger is allowing his or her entry to be in PDQ and released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence. It sounds like a cunning way to gain links to the site, but it also has another function. We’ll need a positive action by the author to show they’re willing to be included. Adding a button is easier than faxing a form to a central point. All entries will be reviewed by an editor and any changes emailed back to the author. Entries may be full-length academic works, though I’d recommend submitting to a more prestigious OA journal, news commentary, reviews, sample photographs of collections available under a Creative Commons licence, opinion or anything that would be of particular interest to an ancient world blogger. That would include The Lost PowerPoint slides, if Mark Rayner is interested in contributing.
The inclusivity is important. Bill Caraher raises several good points in his post Blogging, Peer Review, and Scholarly Publication. Weblogs are anarchic in a positive sense of the word. Making blogs more like academic papers would be a bad thing. We already have academic journals for academic papers, even if the publishing system needs a shove towards Open Access. Blogs are fast, eclectic and interactive. That last point in particular is important. I read weblogs and if they’re anonymous I don’t know if I’m reading a professor’s thoughts, or a students, or an ex-graduate or someone who’s simply interested in the past - and it doesn’t matter. What matters is the writing interesting. The blogs I read take the same view, it’s not the status of the individual, but the argument that matters. That critical approach should be the spirit of academic inquiry. For that reason pseudonymous bloggers should be welcome without having to lose their pseudonym.
Although the deadlines are quarterly, a blog post does not have to have been written in that quarter to be eligible for entry. A blog post written at any time is eligible. Given the journal is based in open accessible material, prior publication is not an issue. However, some bloggers may have many good posts in their archives, so perhaps a limit of two opinion pieces / academic notes per issue may be a useful limit. Multiple reviews and CFP notices are welcome. Just because something has been reviewed by one blogger there’s no reason why another reviewer should not offer a different opinion in the same or later edition.
The refereeing process will include reading the comments posted on a blog entry, so at least some of the refereeing will be transparent. Bloggers will know which editor is working with their entry. It wouldn’t be fair of one of the parties to be anonymous. This works on the assumption that participants are capable of acting like reasonable human beings, which would seem to be justified.
After the deadline for submissions has passed there’ll be at least a week before compilation starts. This means that entries submitted just before the deadline are open to commentary for at least seven days before the post is entered into the journal. During this period entries will be start to assigned to volunteer editors to work on. Any edits will be emailed back to the author for checking and, if accepted compiled into the journal.
The time period and geographical scope could be a problem. I don’t know what the likely submission rate will be. It’s possible that Bronze Age to Late Antiquity in Europe and the Near East would fill out an edition. On the other hand people may be busy. Is ancient anything before AD 800? Or anything before 1492? Would pre-columbian material from the Americas be suitable? My own tastes tend to be pretty catholic and I think anything pre-Renaissance world-wide would be a reasonable range, plus the effects of the ancient world on the modern, like Classical reception. Additionally cross-period discussions are interesting. If there are posts by different authors on the landscape of Classical, Medieval, Post-Med and Modern Italy referencing each other then why not include the posts from the later periods together with the earlier posts as a section? My wariness of being fully open to all periods stems from needing to be able to manage the publication. There’s a lot of 20th century history blogs for example. That could lead to a lot of entries. If the historical blogging world (I refuse to use the word blogosphere) expands, that would add further pressure.
This wouldn’t prevent the information and experience being passed on to other people who might want to set up a Modern equivalent.
The name. I don’t know about elsewhere but in the UK PDQ stands for Pretty Darn Quick. It’s a slightly frivolous name, Ancient Quarterly would be more serious, but this is a journal / blog carnival hybrid. Even though I use the word journal above, there are journals and there are journals. The purpose of this journal is to show off the advantages of blogging. Interactivity is one advantage, the speed of getting ideas out and feedback is another. Rather than trying to emulate traditional journals, this would be an opportunity to offer something new. On the other hand if PDQ really puts people off, then AQ would be the better name to go with.
Editing. In a perfect world, this shouldn’t be much more work than putting together a blog carnival. In reality the proof-reading and confirmation of edits will take time and this is something done in spare time, not as a job. Tom Elliott has suggested a managerial committee of 2-3 people, with an additional 2-3 people working on each issue. The problem with having a lot of editors is that organising them becomes a full-time job. As Tom will be handling the archiving and I expect to be converting the edited blog entries from from text or Word files into PDF and XHTML, I think we’d be obvious initial choices for the management committee with a third member Given the lack of a Late Antiquarian, Medievalist or Biblical scholar I think a volunteer from one of these fields would be helpful. Additionally we’ll need volunteers from any fields to edit the first couple of issues.
Ongoing running. The journal will need a homepage to list the editions and to explain what it is. I thought wordpress.com would be a suitable host for this. It has the ability to have a static front page and host other static pages. The stats package with it should be able to track links using the journal’s button, which might help if people forget to email in their entries in. On a weekly basis a list of submissions could be posted here for anyone who wants to comment on entries before the edition is compiled. Additionally calls for papers and volunteer editors could appear here, so the journal website is for hosting the journal rather than diluting the discussion on this weblog.
Timescale. If you look above I said that the first deadline should be the end of February. If you look at this as a blog carnival, and that older posts are acceptable submissions then this doesn’t sound as mad as setting up a journal in a few weeks. I picked those dates because they’d best fit around the UK terms. If terms in other countries are radically different then it may be better to shift them.
If we keep this under discussion for another week I can set up the infrastructure next weekend and that would leave two weeks for people to submit material for the first issue. That’s about normal for a typical blog carnival. In the meantime if you want to write for the inaugural edition it’s three weeks’ notice.
* Except for David Meadows’ Rogue Classicism. It’s a feature of the weblogging software that he uses that inline comments aren’t possible. It would be insanity to turn him down if he were willing to contribute.
Posted by Alun Salt at 5:21 PM