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Monday's Agenda

Our instincts are to spend a good deal of the meeting, at least through lunch, being fairly expansive and open-ended. If possible, forget constraints for a few hours and consider what you would really want as the components of an electronic press. We do understand that there are serious constraints, including time, money and institutional conservatism, and that any enterprise of this sort involves compromise, but let's first identify what is most crucial to such an endeavor, and what it is we value most highly, in order to be conscious of the compromises we may have to make and why. This is the dreaming portion of the day.

Questions to discuss in the morning:

-- What problems are we aiming to solve by establishing an electronic press?

-- How might peer review be re-imagined in a peer-to-peer network environment?

-- How might academic publishing be reinvented as a gift culture? What are you willing to do for free? To give away? What do we stand to gain by taking an open source approach?

-- How much does accessibility have to do with the overall value of scholarship?

-- How might an electronic press help redeploy intellectual capital to the world beyond academia in ways the current print-based system is unable to do?

-- What kinds of projects would you like to see this press take on? What new forms of scholarship can you imagine taking flight from a born digital press?

After lunch we'd like to explore some concrete questions that we know we'll have to have answers to if we're going to be as innovative as possible while also being sustainable, and without losing the reasonably broad acceptance necessary to make a difference. This is the pragmatics portion of the day:

-- When we talk about establishing a press, are we talking about something that will conform to current scholarly conventions and processes such as peer review, tenure and promotion criteria, or something that will challenge -- even reinvent -- those conventions? If the latter, how do we make such change palatable to basically conservative bureaucratic systems? What else is out there that is already challenging those conventions? What is to be learned, borrowed, improved?

-- Many different approaches have been taken toward the notion of publishing scholarly work online, ranging from venues that distribute electronic versions of texts that maintain all of the structure and format of print, to those that aim at the production of new forms of critical discourse. Among the virtues of the former is a kind of backwards compatibility, easing a nervous academy into a new mode of publishing; among the virtues of the latter, of course, is radically opening the academy to new forms of work altogether. How might we reconcile or combine these approaches in the most productive way?

-- This press needs to be at least largely self-sustaining. What kinds of financial models should we consider as we move forward?

-- What kinds of workflow and production models should we consider establishing? Very pragmatically: how will the work get done? What will the role of the editorial/advisory board be? Whom should we ask to join us?

Please feel encouraged to challenge, reformulate or add to these questions. We've only got one day and want to make the most of it.


I've been thinking about a recent presentation by a prominent Information Architect -- a fellow who regularly consults for Fortune 100s about Internet communications strategies. He noted that his business has changed quite a bit recently under the impact of evolving technology, as more Web designers begin to use tools like Flash and XML less for linear exposition and more for sophisticated, dynamic configurations. So I asked what this fellow saw coming next, and he had a very ready answer, having thought it through: more user (or as we would say, reader) control over information, and GREATER DEGREES OF PARTICIPATION in what we might call a TEXT. I wonder how and if we're ready to respond to a trend like that, as we think about next-generation scholarly presses.