Guide to Curating Scholarship from the Open Web: Part 1

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This Guide is part of a series that reflects on three years of research on sourcing and circulating scholarly communication on the open web. In the coming weeks we will share our discoveries, processes, and code developed through rapid prototyping and iterative design: the PressForward plugin for WordPress; the collaboratively-edited weekly publication Digital Humanities Now; and the experimental overlay Journal of Digital Humanities. We hope these resources will encourage and assist others who wish to collect, select, and share content from the web with an engaged community of readers.

An ever increasing amount of scholarly communication happens on the open web. Staying current in a field requires finding journal articles on personal websites, informally published reports in funding agency repositories, and personally published conference presentations shared in blog posts and slide decks. Although it may be overwhelming for individual scholars, communities with shared topical or methodological interests can work together to identify and circulate work they value.

For the past three years my PressForward colleagues and I have been developing methods and technologies to aggregate, curate, and distribute informally published scholarship. Our prototype publication Digital Humanities Now (DHNow) collects, selects, and shares work from an emerging and extremely diverse field that involves the disciplines of history, literature, art and media, and the professional worlds of libraries, archives, cultural heritage organizations, academic institutions, and entrepreneurial startups. I offer this guide to introduce the intellectual and practical considerations for initiating and sustaining a collaboratively-edited publication that sources and distributes scholarship on the open web, including:

  • Identifying Intellectual Goals;
  • Preparing Sources and Publication Venues;
  • Establishing Editorial Criteria; and
  • Workflow and Logistics.

Notes: This guide details the process for using WordPress and the PressForward plugin to collect, nominate, discuss, and republish content from web feeds and websites. If you prefer to use a different platform, the recommendations for establishing intellectual goals and much of the editorial workflow will still apply. If you are new to WordPress, there are free resources online and many universities offer training courses.

Part 1: Identifying Intellectual Goals

The first step is to consider your intellectual goals by asking the traditional journalist’s questions in a particular order: whatwhywhowhere, how, and when?

  • What content do I want to curate? Is it material that is topical or interdisciplinary, or focused within a particular field or subfield? Is there a specific genre I want to highlight? Is there work that needs a wider audience? Perhaps materials without formal outlets, such as multimedia, reports or reflections on methodologies. Conference papers or works in progress also may be important to you. Or maybe you would like to highlight formally published works deserving of a wider audience? Would unique content, such as commentary or reviews be useful?
  • Why do I want to do this? What is the intention behind distribution of this content? To collect valuable work in one place? To highlight a variety of work in the field? To aggregate attention on overlooked material? To gather contributions related to a particular event, conference, or panel? To share announcements and goings on?
  • Who is my desired audience? Is there an an existing community that has expressed the need or desire for a new venue? Or is this readership a dispersed community that doesn’t recognize its shared interests yet? Does this audience have an existing outlet already? If so, how does it differ from yours? If there have been failed attempts at creating one, do you know why have they not continued? Can you learn any lessons from those attempts? And do you know how to reach your intended audience to let them know about your publication?
  • Where is the content you want to distribute? Do you have web feeds for the websites, journals, or repositories you want to include? Can you draw on collaborators or the community at large to assemble or expand the source base?
  • How will you run this publication? Do you have committed collaborators? Can you draw on the efforts of an existing community or will you need to develop a stable of volunteers or employees? How will your website be hosted, by a paid contract or institutional support? Can you confirm any financial or technical support necessary for a trial period?
  • When will you do this? How many hours a month do you realistically have to give this publication? For what initial period of time will you commit to this project?

After you have thought about these questions then you get to focus on preparing the source base and publication venueestablishing editorial criteria, and determining workflow.

Look for future posts to address each of these components!

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