Hot from the Forge: Summer Update

Summer’s dog days are a good time to take a few beats and do a little good ol’ fashioned operational assessment. I’ll make things brief, but I do want this to be an honest appraisal and not just a breezy piece of organizational puffery.

Right now, Built Upon projects are in the draft stage and undergoing peer review by Anvil editors and select outside readers. It’s a rigorous process and, we hope, a productive one for authors and eventual readers. That said, the practice of vetting tends to run counter to the holism and collaborative ideology of DH writ large. We’re walking a fairly narrow ridge: with the traditional demands for publisher-as-quality-assurer on one side and expectations of a more collaborative approach to production on the other. And we recognize that our authors are not simply providing straightforward content for which we, as publishers, manufacture a formal envelope. Anvil authors are content creators, but they’re also designers, packagers, developers, and, in some cases, hosts of the finished (or forever dynamically unfinished) product. The analog equivalent would be something like expecting manuscript authors not only to craft a publicly releasable text, but also to perform typesetting, layout, binding, and warehousing of the finished work.

So it’s a tall order, and we need to weigh the value of experimentation and pure-d chutzpah against the demands of an increasingly savvy audience with increasingly high expectations for how information is transformed into knowledge in a digital context.

Speaking of needs for transparent reviewing of digital projects, Anvil has also recently teamed up with centerNet’s DHCommons Journal. The journal promises, like the DHCommons space itself, to bring together possible collaborators around specific projects. But its central focus will be to highlight reviews of mid-stage digital humanities work…work that is publicly viewable but still in development. Anvil’s role in all of this will be to help orchestrate review of projects and provide overall managerial editing for journal content.

In many ways, we’re shifting focus toward more of this kind of behind-the-scenes editorial work: providing project/editorial management for digital journal projects (our recent partnership with Archive Journal is one example of this); looking for innovative and widely available publishing platforms that authors can take advantage of (we’re working closely with Jack Dougherty at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, to develop sandbox versions of CommentPress and PressBooks—along with more robust backend editorial tools—to make this happen); and working on bringing peer review to deserving digital work in conjunction with other recognized university presses, digital scholarship centers, and academic libraries (there are a few very strong projects in the hopper right now…and once these are finalized we’ll be updating you again very soon).

Cross-posted on the Council for Library and Information Resources (CLIR) “Re-Thinking” Blog.