Politics of Patents, or POP, is a research project headed by Kat Jungnickel looking at 200 years of clothing patents to reveal some of the hidden ideas, practices and histories that are inscribed into people’s dress. Working with over 370,000 patents, Kat and her team have unearthed the stories and designs of many lesser-known inventors who pushed and struggled to change how people’s dress addresses political needs and desires for liberation, safety, containment and expression. The archive of patents in this work is not just a record of what was, but a resource that opens up and expands normative understandings of the world at different times.
One of the project’s questions is how large amounts of seemingly dry and dusty data can be brought into experience, on bodies, to literally craft different bodies and possibilities. They are exploring this by combining research with reconstruction; making and wearing a collection of historic costumes from the archive. The question speaks to the work of Julien McHardy and his colleagues Rebekka Kiesewetter, Janneke Adema, Gary Hall, Tobias Steiner, and Simon Bowie at COPIM’s experimental publishing group, exploring books as intermediaries that can anchor and hold previously published data, text and analysis as well as collectives and practices.
At COPIM’s experimental publishing group, we’re especially interested in the book as a dynamic conduit between archive and interpretation. We think of books that relate digital archival material, and data to interpretation as Data Books. We are interested in where the archive ends and the book starts, and how new technologies and open copyright regimes allow blurring that boundary between data and analysis in productive ways. With that in mind, we experiment with relating databases, previously published sources, narrative and analytical storytelling in new ways. The book, we explore as a site of archive/reading/writing interference; an interface for bringing data into shared experience; transforming data from disembodied information to situated, embodied, relational, and negotiated knowledges.
Digital publishing tools and non-restrictive copyright regimes make it possible to incorporate source texts and data in ways that go beyond conventional citation practices, re-assessing the relationships between publications and their sources while providing full attribution. In the summer of 2021, COPIM’s Experimental Publishing Group hosted a mini-workshop series on ReUsing Data and ReUsing Texts to explore this potential. The ReUsing Data workshop experimented with how scholars and new kinds of data books might assemble, relate, expose and perform data differently.
The ReUsing Texts workshop focused on how scholars might gather, engage, (dis)appropriate, remix and rewrite existing texts. The Combinatorial Books: Gathering Flowers project, set up by COPIM, Open Humanities Press and Gabriela Méndez Cota explores rewriting as a way of writing books. We co-hosted the workshop with Gabriela’s team of scholars, technologists, and students from the Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México and their work inspired the event. Gabriela and her team set out to collaboratively ‘rewrite’ Tondeur and Marder’s book The Chernobyl Herbarium: Fragments of an Exploded Consciousness (Open Humanities Press, 2016).
Adema, J. (2021). Versioning and Iterative Publishing. Commonplace. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.42408f5b
Change-logs or revision histories are increasingly integrated — both in the back and frontend — into platforms that accommodate collaborative and experimental forms of online academic writing in the humanities. A well-known feature from platforms such as Wikipedia and Github or Gitlab, additionally PubPub (the platform that hosts the Commonplace and is regularly used for humanities journal and book publishing) launched its Activity Dashboard recently, which provides a filterable log of changes made to a ‘pub’ or ‘collection.’ A version history remains available for readers to explore earlier releases, while a ‘pub history feature’ allows authors or communities the ability to return to or reinstall previous pub drafts.
Several publishers and platform providers have started to experiment with and accommodate more processual forms of publishing within the humanities. Next to PubPub, The University of Minnesota Press in collaboration with CUNY’s Digital Scholarship Lab, have been doing so for example as part of the Manifold Scholarship publishing program for the production of what they call ‘iterative’ texts or publications, where material such as datasets, sound, video, and other digital content can be added to a publication-in-progress, in an ongoing-way as it develops. Foreseeing as they state ‘an emerging hybrid environment for scholarship, Manifold develops, alongside the print edition of a book, an alternate form of publication that is networked and iterative, served on an interactive, open-source platform.’
In an open access environment, there is both more opportunity for and (perhaps) interest in versioning humanities research and in showcasing revision. Yet this increased focus on accommodating versioning as part of the publishing process is not new, and in many ways, it emulates print publishing workflows. Revised, corrected, and updated editions as well as reprints have always been commonplace in a print context too. Disciplines such as textual criticism have dedicated themselves to the different versions and editions of works as part of the creation of critical editions, to engage with the textual variation of literary and academic works in a print environment.
The next event in the ‘BoOkmArks: Open Conversations About OA Books’ series will be held via this Zoom link on June 29th at 16:00 CEST/ 15:00 BST/10:00 EDT, when we will interview Janneke Adema, Marcell Mars, and Tobias Steiner about their report “Books Contain Multitudes: Exploring Experimental Publishing.” As an introduction to the session, we invite you to read their blog post on the report here.
If you have questions for Janneke, Marcell, and Tobias, please add them to the comments section below so they can be included in the conversation on 29th June — and join us at the event if you can!