Cheryl Ball Digital Dialogue at MITH | October 13, 2015

The Archipelago of Multimedia Publishing

  1. On October 13, 2015, MITH had another packed house for our second Fall 2015 Digital Dialogue talk with West Virginia University Associate Professor of Digital Publishing Cheryl Ball. Ball discussed the forthcoming launch of Vega, which will be a free, editorial-management platform that supports peer review, copy-editing, and publication of multimedia-rich and data-driven scholarship and creative works in all areas of research. With the support of a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Vega is being designed with a unique editorial workflow that recognizes and values the importance of screen-based multimedia research, including digital humanities projects and electronic literature.
  2. Ball is the editor of Kairos Journal, which began in 1996 and is the premiere digital journal in writing studies. It showcases scholarly research publications and projects which utilize 'webtexts' as part of their rhetorical arguments.
  3. Ball demonstrated examples of two such webtext projects published by Kairos. The first, "Wunderkammer, Cornell, and the Visual Canon of Arrangement," is a 2009 Flash-based piece by Susan Delagrange, and is concerned with the juxtaposition of images and how it facilitates the design process. Although Ball recognizes the value of this piece, she pointed out that Kairos rarely encourages the use of Flash due to sustainability issues.
  4. The second Kairos-published piece Ball discussed in depth was "Satellite Lamps," which explores how can designers use invisible technologies (wireless signals, GPS) as part of their design process. The piece is situated around a specific video which focuses on lamps that change luminosity based on the strength of various GPS signals. The video itself is then used to explore ideas of how film functions as a research methodology.
  5. Kairos is far from the only online journal to feature scholarly multimedia projects. Ball spent some time discussing various other journals which feature similar multimedia publications utilizing different approaches and technological underpinnings. Sites like Kairos and Computers and Composition feature 'pure' webtexts, are mostly handmade and feature plain html/ftp files and no underlying Content Management System (CMS).
  6. Kairos specifically resists using a CMS to allow for unique rhetorical designs. But this comes with a preservation/sustainability challenge.
  7. Tara MacPherson's Vectors Journal, which formerly paired authors with Flash designers, also suffer from the aforementioned sustainability issues. Some of Vectors' more recent publications have been developed using Scalr, which was specifically to address this problem
  8. The Journal for Artistic Research (JAR) is fairly new (two years), uses HTML templates for their webtexts, allowing authors to more easily understand the design process for their works.
  9. On the other side of the spectrum are journals which are more likely to utilize a CMS. Journals like enculturation and Xchanges focus more on video embeds within Drupal installations, and Harlot is a public rhetoric journal, publishing some webtexts and some video embeds.
  10. Ball moved on to discuss infrastructures for webtext publishing: Scholarly (ensure your field will accept a multimedia publication as valid), Social (ensure you have a peer review network established), and Technical (ensure your publication can be technologically preserved/archived. These are important because they led to the set of best practices that Ball and her partners used to develop Vega.
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