Reporting Out: Anvil Full Disclosure

It’s launch day. And with Anvil’s new public face comes the pressing need to dig into and detail what we’re up to, what we hope to be up to shortly, and some of our longer-term goals. And how better to take account of goals that include increased scholarly openness and publicness than to do so openly and publicly? As we move forward, this “Reporting Out” feature of the News and Updates section will be a space for the Anvil team to talk candidly with the scholarly community–to be as transparent about our internal operations as possible.

So, full disclosure. Anvil has some grand ambitions: nothing short of the total realignment of scholarly publishing with the social, cultural, and professional needs of the wider digital humanities community. It’s a tall order, and one we fully recognize as still existing within the realm of the aspirational—especially for what is, at least for now, a compact operation.

We’ve already had some fruitful public conversations about the larger changes we’d like to see in the culture of the academic press. Chief among these is promoting the uptake of web-born DH projects as legitimate scholarship within traditional humanities departments. And I’d point out here that despite the occasional appearance of a sneer at the printed monograph, what we’re really hoping for is the chance to merge the narrative and interpretive capacity of good books with the interactive potential of equally good born-digital scholarship. In other words, it’s a relationship that is not about one-upmanship but productive hybridity, in terms of content, form, and, ultimately, professional and cultural cachet.

While our hopes for humanities publishing are admittedly big, we’re still very much committed to procedural and incremental thinking about scholarly communication reform within the humanities.

A legitimate synthesis of the traditional and the cutting-edge begins by borrowing a page from the tried and true practice of peer review. The gestalt takeaway at our recent board of directors meeting (which convened September 24th at Washington University in St. Louis) was this: right now, in the beginning stages of the Anvil Academic experiment, what we offer the DH community, and the institutions that house its members, is an editorial board that has the pan-academic clout to achieve crossover status for digital scholarship. We will begin marshaling the board to bring needed attention and authority to DH projects that still exist on the periphery of promotion and tenure requirements.

All well and good. The questions that remain–and that we’ll continue to tackle openly on this site–are what exactly “attention” and “authority” will mean and what projects will ultimately constitute Anvil’s core products. A compendium of DH reviews? A more refined series of evaluative guidelines for digital scholarship? Public conversations with scholarly societies, deans and provosts, and other administrative bodies within humanities higher-ed? Fully-realized and fully-vetted web-based projects sponsored in partnership with other institutional presses? The answer, of course, is yes to all of the above. But how we get there in the next six months, in the next year, in the next two years is still being mapped out.

Next week, I will outline our first goals in more detail: specifically, our plans to produce a series of digital scholarship reviews and our procedures for evaluation.

So, full disclosure to be continued….