¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The editors have taken our feedback on an earlier proposal seriously and incorporated changes informed by self-critique of a first round in 2010 as well as Fitzpatrick and Rowe’s experience with Shakespeare Quarterly.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The need for this book remains clear and strong, given how slow historians in general have been to exploit digital media in their work, the dominance of traditional scholarship, and corresponding lags in scholarly recognition. The unique contribution of this book is its focus on the “workcraft” of the digitally-supported thinking-writing process in an innovative web-born format that incorporates open peer-review process.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 We support an official advance contract at this point, with the following contingencies meant to enhance our series goal of providing a rigorously defined space for innovation.
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Call for Papers (CFP)
The current version of the Call for Papers begins with several framing questions. They are good, but the focus on writing could be worded more precisely in the CFP. The editors should use some of the language in their revised prospectus specifying the thinking-writing-decision making process and implications of both the process and the tools being used. While not wanting to pre-determine results in a generative process, they could also provide more examples of topics that would address the overall thematic focus. The editors intend to foster a good “fit” between their goals and submissions at a later date, with their own open comments. Yet, more detailed specification in the CFP at this crucial first point could spare them added editorial time later eliminating submissions that didn’t “fit.” Given that participants will need to plan their time, it would also help to specify the length and required formatting features of the invited “full digital drafts” scheduled at the July 30th point in the timetable.
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Timetable and External Review
The timetable is tight, although the editors have constructed it with sensitivity to the rhythms of academic calendars and will be engaged with the entire process of composing the volume at their Trinity College hub. (They could find themselves, though, quite busy in early Fall semester when resuming classes at the same time they are managing feedback, as well as communicating editorial feedback to each contributor in the latter part of the November 1 – December 15 period when end-of-semester teaching duties mount.) One of the biggest dangers in any edited volume is a slowdown when participants do not respond in a timely manner. However, the dynamic nature of an open forum could alleviate that problem, a flow pattern verified in the online HASTAC Scholar Forums. The editors indicate that they will select six candidates for expert reviewers then consult with the Press and Series Editors (“who may wish to draw up their own lists”). Their experts would then commit to writing online comments on essays during the six-week review window, as evaluators appointed by the Press. We should clarify at this point whether any external reviewers we might add will present closed or open reviews. Because this project is an experiment in transparency, I support asking any external reviewers we invite to do open review. We should also ask the editors to report back to the Press when they are making their decisions about inclusion on the website and further consideration for the volume during the Preliminary window of August-September 15, 2011. And, we need to indicate now whether we expect to give the volume a final critical overview when the full manuscript is submitted to the Press in the period of February-March 2012.
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Introduction and Conclusion
The plan to invite “three of the most thoughtfully engaged online commentators” to submit reflective essays for the book’s conclusion is a refreshing innovation for published “last words” (stemming from a suggestion by Fitzpatrick and Rowe). However, if the editors are not offering their own wrap-up too, the Introduction must take on some conclusive force. To reiterate suggestions made in our review of the first proposal, given the reluctance of many historians to be involved more fully in digital scholarship, at least one section of the Introduction should perform the benchmarking function of situating this and related projects within the evolving discourse of writing digital history, noting (even briefly) pertinent literature, models, and practitioners. Novices and veterans alike would benefit from such context, and knowing where to take next steps themselves. In addition, although the audience in the field of History is large and wide, discussions of the writing process, collaboration, digital scholarship, and public scholarship extend well beyond that discipline. It would still behoove the editors to acknowledge parallel discourse in other fields, including Digital Rhetoric and Composition. Doing so would signal awareness of a wider expertise on the nature of digital writing, while acknowledging the multidisciplinary importance of this book’s theme. Such a parallel addition could be handled at the end of the Introduction or perhaps as the editors’ own last words accompanied by questions for future research and approaches to education.
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As a result of their reflective process, the editors have shifted their core WordPress technology from digress.it v2.3 to CommentPress v3.2, better suited for reading and commenting on book-length texts with multiple sections and chapters. They have also made small enhancements to improve reader navigation between the “Table of Contents” and “Reader Comments.” And, by Fall, they anticipate that a forthcoming version of the WordPress plugin Anthologize will facilitate repackaging dynamic web content (such as draft essays with linked comments) into a static format (such as a PDF file). These changes will simplify the revision process for authors while generating archival products readable into the future. Furthermore, the editors will provide authors an online tutorial to insure uniform formatting style (as well as a video guide for visitors to the site). It will be important, though, for the editors to stay in touch with Shana Kimball about technological features of graphic design and web technology. It is not too early, either, for discussing what happens ultimately to both dynamic and/or archival content from the Writing History in the Digital Age site, as well as the URL link. Will they all transferred to University of Michigan servers? How long will they be sustained?