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.