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a born-digital, open-review volume edited by Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki

response from Press reviewer 1 (March 2011)

Permalink for this paragraph 0 The proposal for a web-based edited volume Writing History in the Digital Age presents the possibility of expanding current publishing formats in the Digital Humanities series with a born-digital work. Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki are qualified for the task, and their call for an experimental partnership with the University of Michigan Press is in keeping with the series goal of providing a space for innovation. At present the project is premature for an advance contract. However, we urge working closely with the editors to develop the proposal further.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 The following discussion points should be included in continued conversation:

Permalink for this paragraph 0 • The volume would benefit from more editorial contextualization in the beginning, of two kinds.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 -First, the experiment should be situated within the wider discourse on writing digital history, signaling informed awareness of pertinent literature, models, and practices not indicated in the proposal. Benchmarking current thematics, problematics, and theory will also make the contribution to the field more credible and significant, for newcomers and veterans alike.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 – Second, the initial and proposed experiments should be bridged, carrying lessons from the first round into the second. In doing so, the editors can indicate how they are breaking new ground in rethinking traditional practices of researching, writing, and publishing, and its broader implications for the historical profession. Because these are not new claims, the volume will have greater value and appeal if its contribution is situated more fully within the history of this discourse and practice.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 • The partnership with the Press should be clarified in greater detail, not only for technical responsibilities but editorial ones as well.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 –  From a technological standpoint, an experiment in modifying the open-source WordPress plug-in (digress.it) is a good opportunity for the Press to test its horizon in web-published scholarship through a cross- platform “book-in-browser” format, amplified by Creative Commons license. However, the question of who oversees that process and where the final project will be housed needs fuller clarification at this point, to insure feasibility and sustainability.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 – From an editorial standpoint, the responsibilities and time commitments of Press staff and editors needs to be clarified more fully as well, in addition to how and how long the editors will remain engaged actively in the project in its online and dynamic components. Clarification should include responsibility for widening the pool of contributors, even as the editors are already inviting promising contributions. Relatedly, criteria for inclusion (and exclusion) should be defined more fully. Greater clarity need not stifle open peer review, broadening socially networked practice. Yet, members of a partnership – in this case, editors and press staff –  should be working in effective  synchrony.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 • Given the primacy of writing and argument, a final reflective component should be included, whether written by the editors or in a larger collaborative mode. The writing process, collaboration, and public scholarship are topics of growing interest beyond the fields of History and American studies, including Composition and Rhetoric as well as the widening discourse of digital scholarship in all disciplines and fields. The project’s value and contribution will be enhanced by such an addition and a multi-disciplinary reach that would be even more powerful if its interdisciplinary nature is articulated.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 In closing, the proposed project has merit, all the more so because of the prospect of involving pre-tenure scholars. Its successful publication would send a message to the readership that the University of Michigan Press, as the editors proclaim, is a first choice for publishing digital scholarship.

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