Retooling the Monograph: The Manifold Scholarship Project” with Matthew Gold and Douglas Armato

September 9, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski

BRIAN CROXALL: Afternoon all. I’m going to kick us off here. As you, no doubt,
noticed, we have food in the back of the room. So please help yourselves. We’re glad you can be here. My name’s Brian Croxall. I’m one of the digital
humanities librarians here in the Brown
University Library. Really glad to
have today another in our series of lectures
presentations sponsored by our Mellon Grants. This series is on the future
of scholarly publishing. Today we’ve got
two great speakers. Douglas Armato,
and Mathew K. Gold coming to us, respectively,
from the University of Minnesota Press, and
CUNY Graduate Center. I’ll do a, sort of,
short gloss on the bios. And then Doug is going to
speak, then Matt will speak, and then we’ll do
questions, and then we’ll go away, as we
do at these things. So Doug Armato is
director of the University of Minnesota Press
where he acquires books in philosophy, social
theory, and digital media and culture. He’s also worked at Columbia
University Press, Basic Books, Louisiana State Press,
University of Georgia Press, and the John Hopkins
University Press, and has served two terms
on the Board of Directors of the Association of
American University Presses, and was its president
from 2005 to 2006. I can say– I don’t remember the
first time I met Doug, but I see him on an annual
basis at the MLA Convention where Minnesota is always
one of the exhibits I wan to stop by because they
have beautiful book covers, and they tend to publish
really interesting things. And so that’s it. That’s my anecdote right there. [LAUGHING] Yes, that it’s. I can also be
self-serving and mention he just published my book. But I won’t. That’s a rhetorical device
known as a apophasis. OK. So Matt Gold is an
associate professor of English and digital
humanities at the grad center at CUNY where he
holds appointments also in the PhD
program in English, the MA program in
Liberal Studies, and the doctor certificate
programs in Interactive Technology, Pedagogy,
and Americans Studies. He serves as advisor to Provost
for Digital Initiatives, director of the CUNY
Academic Commons, and director of the GC
Digital Scholarship Lab, which is a mouthful. He also is the editor of,
most famously, Debates in DH, which came out from
University of Minnesota Press, and is sort of the
origin of the partnership that Matt and Doug
will be talking about. Sensing he’s also done
the 2016 Debates in DH, and is working on
an introduction to digital humanities
book with Johns Hawkins. I first met Matt
at the 2008 MLA, in which we were on a panel
talking about Twitter. And that was a
funny thing to say when one was at
the MLA, that one is going to talk about Twitter. And life has continued
to be funny since then. So please join me in welcoming
Matt Gold and Doug Armato. [APPLAUSE] DOUG ARMATO: Thanks. So Matt are talking specifically
the Manifold Scholarship Project, which is Mellon
Foundation funded partnership between the Digital
Scholarship Lab, and the CUNY Graduate
School, and the University of Minnesota Press. My part of the talk is devoted
to the publishing context of the project. And also I’ll
apologize in advance, it’s politics, and specifically
university politics. And then Matt will
provide a look under the hood for Manifold, as
it’s developing towards launch later this calendar year. My starting point is the
issue know as the last mile problem, which relates to
our topic, in terms of, why is so much
scholarship still analog? Or more to the point,
minimally digital? And by minimally
digital I mean the PDF. In the growth of the digital
network of the internet, the last mile refers
to how efficient high speed of the
fiber-optic backbone need to slow down to the snail’s
pace of twisted paired copper wiring, or dial-up,
or higher capacity than overloaded co-axial
cable connections that link actual
subscribers to the network. Even today, there’s
less than 10% of US network connection are
fiber-optic network speeds. And I think you can say
similarly that about 10% of scholarship is
at network speeds. As the defining challenge,
the last mile problem has been employed,
not just relating to the digital network, but
also in settings ranging from transportation
policies, to advertising, to humanitarian disaster relief. In the context of
spotty communication, the last mile problem,
as a framework, has been previously utilized
by open access advocate, Peter Suber, with whom I
don’t always agree, but who said, intriguingly,
in a 2008 post that it is a problem for
which no tools yet suffice, and maybe no tools ever will. A strangely pessimistic moment
for the usually Utopian Suber. In that 2008 post Suber
says, perceptively– in my view correctly– that while open
access is only part of the solution to the
overall last mile problem, it is a precondition to most
other parts of the solution. I was with Suber
totally to this point. Where his foresight
failed, I believe, that he saw the
transformation as playing out on a moral, and economic
battlefield of publishers, between emerging open
access publishing, and what he calls toll
access publishing, rather than within scholarly research
and authorship itself. He saw it, basically, as a
problem of dissemination, and not as an issue
of scholarly research, and scholarly authorship. And that, I think, is the
problem with the vision, that it’s an issue of
access, pure and simple, and in that way it stands in
the way of creative change, as economic and morally driven
discourse generally does. Suber’s vision in open
access is, to my mind, more a matter of networking
silos than enabling fully network scholarship. And that’s something
that, in a way, plays in to the
economic structure that we deal with in
universities every day. It’s simply more
economic to do less. And part of the problem
is, I think, the shorthand term, open access, itself, which
as I’ve discussed elsewhere has two lives. One is a description of
the increasingly vigorous environment for freely
shared scholarship. And the other is a political
term, a neoliberal cost cutting rationale, and at
worst, a moral cudgel. Open access as practice, as
in the digital humanities, requires investment to build,
an ongoing funding to sustain. Open access that’s employed
in some university management rhetoric is too often used to
rationalize dis-investments in parts to the research method
mission that do not generate outside funding from government,
industry, foundation, or donors. These parts of the
research mission are what is collectively
known as critique. And they’re closely
bound to the book form. The crisis in scholarly
publishing that began– and this is sort of
sense of– if you look at the height of the
JSTOR stack there– of exactly of key source of humanities,
and social science scholarship costs in a university
budget, as opposed to what the sciences generally run. About the equivalent of a
tenure line faculty position. The crisis in
scholarly publishing, therefore, was
caused, as we know, from a dramatic escalation
in prices and fees from most commercial
scientific publishers. But what isn’t said
as often is that it’s solved by the sacrifice
on the part of humanities, and social science
scholars, and leaders, and they’re largely
non-profit publishers, which is simply a shifting of
economic responsibility. So what about
Manifold Scholarship? This is, I think, an
argument for the role that the liberal arts
and this scholarship plays, critically,
in the university. Manifold Scholarship is, at
its basic, an attempt to ask, what network scholarships
can and should look like if economics
is one factor– cause it will always be
a factor- rather than the dominant factor
of reconfiguring scholar communication? It is, by its
nature, open access. It literally doesn’t
work if it isn’t open. But its genesis is from
works scholars increasingly want to do, and the
need to make that work interoperable with other
forms of scholarly discourse, rather than technologically
isolated from it, to bridge that last mile
between static scholarship, whether it analog, or
minimally digital form, and the mainstream
of the network. So as a starting
point, we asked, what are the characteristics
of network scholarship? What features should
network scholarship have? And this is the list that,
really, we started at the point that we were writing
the grant for Manifold. That network scholarships
should be fast. It needs to prioritize
discoverability. It needs two-way communication,
and to be shareable. It should be built
on shared structure. It will experience
multiple entry points. You won’t always come
into it from one position. You’ll come into it
from search very often. It should have source linking. It should be iterative. It should grow in sight. You should be able to
see it as it’s happening, as the scholarship is happening,
from research, all the way forward for full dissemination. And again, it needs
to be open access, because so many of
these things simply don’t work if you put a
wall around something. But before network
scholarship, we need to look a little
bit more closely at those silos that are
the predominant landscape of scholarly
communication, and may be so for the foreseeable future. For the past decade
university presses have been determined and engaged
in the process of digitizing their new titles, and
increasing their back list, as well, into the primary
formats of the PDF, which is preferred by
libraries, and compatible with current
bibliographic practice, and EPUB MOBI, the dominant
format for consumers. My press, for instance, we
digitized our entire back list back to 1925 into PDF
through a program called Minnesota Archive Editions. We now have about 27
titles in that format. And we’ve been
gradually converting our active back lists
into EPUB, where it has begun to replace print as
a preferred format for student course purchases. Movement in the PDF and EPUB
editions by university Presses has been enabled by
their compatibility with, both current
publishing practice, and scholarly publishing
economics with those formats. Fixed formats,
economically, basically are something we know how to do. But these are formats
that extend, but do not transform the nature of
scholarly communication. We call these phase
one digitization, putting silos online. And that’s basically what
we’ve achieved, thus far. Phase one digitization has
been a tremendous success, in terms of, yes, access,
that sort of super idea, because we’ve seen
that work’s begun to expand their
circulation dramatically in the digital environment. These are figures from my press. And you’ll immediately note that
the increase in digital assets revenue is dramatic. But you’ll also note
that it still only makes up around 12% of the
total economic life of my press, which begins to give you a sense
of what’s out of bounds here. That we’ve been able to expand
the access, but at this point there’s still an
incredible residual use of print, which is
something we simply have to intake into account. If we’re seeing
access grow digitally, but print is still that
strong, there’s a divergence. And one way to get at that
divergence, as I’ll show, is through some sources
that are out there. Phase one digitization,
is a big success, in terms of access, at
least if you work or study in a major research
institutions. University presses,
for a long time, have been criticized
with data that showed that scholarly
monographs do not circulate, that no one is
interested in them. As early as 1969,
amazingly, a study at the University of
Pittsburgh library found 40% of new monographs
never circulated even once over seven years. The methodology and motivation
of that study was challenged, but its basic conclusions
have been repeated often. A 2010 Cornell University
report, for instance, stated that 55% of the
monographs acquired since 1990 had never circulated. As phase one digitization
has made university press books more accessible,
through shared monograph infrastructure,
such as UPCC, Project Muse, and books
at JSTOR, as well as through commercial
compilers, such as Ebrary, Net Library, EPSCO, it has
also made them more accessed. In 2014, Project
Muse, just one segment of the scholarly
e-book universe, reported that 80% of the 28,000
University Press monographs had been downloaded, and
subscribed to universities. That 80% access number
is a dramatic change from those print
monograph circulation, or non-circulation
numbers we saw before. So again, we’ve really
achieved something here. The nonprofit, E-book
Consortium, Muse, and JSTOR, had enhanced access by making
their collections DRM free, allowing unlimited
simultaneous usage, copying and pasting,
enable inter-library loan. What’s basically
happening is that we’re beginning to see that this
material will be accessed when it is more regularly available. The rub is that university
budget constraints placed on libraries have actually still
kept a lot of this material out an awful lot
of institutions, especially below the level of
the top research institutions. So the work still doesn’t
circulate as well as it might. But we’ve actually made
some progress here. Similarly the bi-annual
survey on scholarly behavior from Ithaca, indicates
an increasing percent in scholar’s access to digital
editions of monographs. And this increased
readership shouldn’t surprise us, given the
success and pervasiveness of the non-profit, JSTOR,
the core of which is made up of scans of journal
back files, which when they were held
in library stacks received little use,
consulted as little as print monographs are today. JSTOR now serves more than
73.5 million article downloads a year. So something which
was seldom consulted has become a mainstay
of scholarship. But here’s the problem, phase
one digitization has not brought a paradigm shift, much
less an economic windfall. Print still works
digital access, perhaps for reasons of
reading practices, as the Ithaca report
further suggests, but perhaps its
e-book collections, while increasingly
sharable, remain walled off from the web, depressed
in the advertising driven Google search algorithm, and
a low priority for libraries struggling with
decreasing budgets, the costly demands
of STEM materials, and a realization that
increasingly scholars start their research
outside the library. And another problem here is,
as I said about, you know, reader practice, is
that no one likes the current format of e-books. This is a Twitter exchange
between two people, basically, sort of,
snarking about having to use an e-resource, when
they would much rather have the print resource. And it’s basically
digital [INAUDIBLE]. So you begin to see part
of the problem here. That table over
on the other side indicates that,
for the most part, people, increasingly, led to
institution e-book collections would rather not be led there. Still only 20% of scholars
really want to give up books. And this is sort of why. Basically scholars
find, to this day, that print is still preferable
for certain functions. This is, again, from
the Ithaca survey, and this is from the
updated 2014, 2015 data. And what it basically
shows is that scholars prefer print for the
arc of activities that stem from reading– reading full text,
reading partial text. But they like digital for the
arc from discovery to analysis. What this led us say, in
looking at these figures, and talking about Manifold,
is that what we really needed was a hybrid form. That we needed a form
that could somehow answer this kind of problem. And also another issue,
which was the issue of, what scholars do
with their resources, and what they do with their
data, and what goes into it. Because what you’re
seeing in this chart right is that by
and large scholars manage their own archives. They keep their own materials. And the material is very seldom
accessed by other people. It doesn’t necessarily
appear in books. They would like to share it,
but there’s no place to put it. So these were two
issues we looked at when we were
addressing Manifold, which brings us to the,
sort of, publishing genesis of the project. So to us, where we’re going
is phase two digitization. Something that really
goes beyond the idea that, sort of, close, siloed sealed
work that links to other work, and to other
conversations on the web. And it will emerge out of, sort
of, a chrysalis stage, which is a midway point
between analog culture and, sort of, the social
media blogs, Facebook updates, and Twitter posts
that we all see. And we’ll be able to make
this conversation happen not, sort of, around books, in
which books are walled off, but have it actually happen
on the site and through books. This is, sort of, the way
that evolution we know works. That, basically, you’d have
this process, by which there’s, sort of, gradual evolution,
which happens slowly, but then is punctured at these moments,
these, sort of, crisis moments. And what we’re going through is
a moment when a lot of things are happening, a lot
of it Mellon funded, and what we’re
creating are a series of morphs, which is what
happens as evolution goes on. That certain projects,
certain species emerge, which have a little
bit of everything. And so Manifold is, we
think, one of these morphs, but one that we
hope will actually survive through the
evolutionary process. And it should be a familiar
idea to think of culture as morphing, because here we
see how media succession has very often warped. So, for instance, you
had, on the right, the Discman, which
was a medium point between truly analog, and
between online music serving. Similarly, in the history of
movies, you brought sound in, and you brought color
in, and eventually it turned into being, basically,
television, and then the internet. But the key thing in this is
that the other forms always survived. There still is
fixed medium music. There still is movies. There still is television. Things don’t necessarily go
away in the media succession. What I next want to
talk about, briefly, as the time is
running out, is sort of the path of projects that
led to Manifold at my press. And it’s a series
of experiments, which began, really, in
2006 with something called, Quadrant, which was more
of an analog project. But this was an attempt
to really bring presses into the discussion of
projects when they were still in the research
phase, and actually to draw on local faculty in
order to help isolate and guide those projects
developing so that they were seen as research projects,
not simply as publication projects. So Quadrant, which was
funded from 2006 to 2012, was a cooperative venture
on our campus with faculty. It created what we thought
was local area networks on the Minnesota campus. It focused on areas where the
press wanted to develop work. And where we also saw an
opportunity for our campus, because there were
current issues there. And we used the website
to archive public events, working papers, and
research materials so that they were
available more broadly. We found out
something when we did that, which is that
scholars actually didn’t like the
idea of the works they archived in their
research materials being detached from the
works they were publishing. In fact, they were
reluctant to share things that weren’t directly
related to their work, because they felt that they
lost control of them that way, that other people could use
them without citing them. And so we immediately
saw the problem of creating ancillary materials
that were not actually integrated to the work. And of all the
aspects of Quadrant, which was a very successful
program for the press and for our campus,
one thing we saw was that the digital elements
of it basically failed. We couldn’t convince scholars
that they should really use the archives space of this. And that’s something we
addressed in Manifold. Then this is the
project, as Bryan said, at the outset that
really got things going in collaboration with Matt’s
operation, which is Debates In The Digital Humanities,
which we saw at the beginning as a project which would
be a hybrid of print and digital
publication, and which would use such innovations
as community open review, in order to basically
create a mid-point between online scholarship
and print scholarship, and also begin the
process of allowing people to do social reading
on a book project, and basically sort of
create a dual edition. And this was sort of a
template for something we later decided
to do at Manifold. Meanwhile, Minnesota
launched an idea of trying to get work which
was still in preliminary phase, called Forerunners, Ideas First. And these were works
where, basically, we said to the scholars
that we were working with on long projects
but were in early stages, well, why don’t you publish
part of it as a small book? We’ll do it in 12 weeks, and
we’ll get your ideas out there. You can basically
mark the space. You can get some feedback. And then, as the full book
comes out this will still exist. But we’ll have a more
iterative sense, that you won’t have to wait to get feedback. A lot of this work was going
on in blogs, a lot of this work was going out in keynotes,
conference presentations. But there was no way to
really get broad feedback. And we found Forerunners,
which is now up to 19 volumes– actually, we just
acquired the 20th– to be a great way of getting
scholar’s work circulating before the work out. It was right after Forerunners
that Mellon put out the call for projects
that related to long form scholarship. And that was where
we came to Manifold. And Manifold was a
project that we sort of came together around all of
these ideas that we’d built up. But also, we thought that
when we came up with the term Manifold that it really spoke
to this, because it speaks of combining many things, having
different forms or elements. It appears flat
but has dimension. It branches, which is something
else that Manifold does. It’s self duplicating. And finally, it’s the
sum, in particular. So Manifold seemed to be,
in a way, the perfect name of getting at all these
things that we wanted to do, that try and make a book more
dimensional than we currently have. But before that,
I do admit that we went through a lot
of possible names. [LAUGHING] Before we came up with that one. So this is basically,
conceptually, where we started with Manifold. And this traces back to
the earliest problematics of the siloed environment. Manifold, we wanted
to be networked, linked to online
sources, and archives, including, within
itself, rich media, integrating scholarly
conversations through social media, and
incorporating social reading practices. We also wanted a Manifold
project, specifically, to be iterative. That it would make visible
its own process of creation from drafts, and
resources, all the way through to the final texts. That it was versioned,
but with access to prior iterations, that we
would hold there, because they would have comments on them. They would have been shared. They have a scholarly life. That it culminates– and this
was very important to Mellon– in a formal peer
reviewed release version, that there is an authorized
version of the Manifold text, and that we would be
open to further releases as the scholarship advances. That a scholar could go
back, and add a chapter, or continue to annotate
their own work. And so the idea is that
Manifold would basically start with what you see on
the left, sort of a project page, which is to say that well
before the book exists we would have a place for the
scholar to work online, and show their work. We would house in
it text, resources, and gradually it
would keep accruing that until you got
to the point where there was a final text, which
we would say was the final text. Manifold, also, from the
beginning, has been designed– and this has been very
important– to work on, computer desktop interfaces,
as well as tablets and readers. We’re trying to bridge the
whole EPUB and PDF, problem which has really plagued
scholarly communication in the digital era. So our goals with
Manifold are, as far as author-reader outcomes
go, publishing support for entering the
digital environment. Not everyone who wants to
work digitally on a project wants to build it themselves
or can build it themselves. We wanted a project where just
as an author would deliver a manuscript to a press,
they would basically bring a digital project to a press. And we would be able to work
with them to make it happen. It’s a streamlined
production workflow– and this is important. That an awful lot of digital
tools, which are out there, authoring tools still are
so highly customizable that you can’t really
replicate them with the same ease as you can a print book. In an ideal world it would
be as easy to do a Manifold edition, or maybe just
a little more complex, than it is to do a print book. And that’s our goal. Fully peer reviewed publication. Integrating publication
and reader interfaces, which is to say that
the very same tool is both what you publish
on, and how people read. And then again, hybrid
publication, which we found is really important, in terms
of what we’ve seen about the way people like to experience
long form scholarship, which is that every
Manifold, basically, does turn into a book,
but then the live version, the web version, has these
other resources and interfaces. So there still is
a print product at the end, which is
the sort of base layer. We were also committed
to open development. There’s a public
project website. The source code is open. We’re sharing preliminary
concepts in work. We’re posting updates as to
where we are on the project. And also, we see
it as a product, which will be adaptable and
extendable by other developers, and scholarly publishers. This will start with Minnesota,
and with the Graduate Center. But then it will go on, we
hope, to be used and become a, sort of, standard for
scholarly publishers entering this area. You’ll see more about the actual
interfaces from Matt’s talk. But again, I just, sort of,
end with Sigfried Giedion, that everything we’re
doing here has basically been done in the analog world,
or the early digital world. We simply have to do it again. Every time the
technology changes, every time the potential
changes, people will want to make that work. And it’s our job to carry
forward the principles that we’ve worked with in the
past, and the good things, but to take advantage
of new technologies. So thank you. [APPLAUSE] MATTHEW K. GOLD:
Thank you, Doug. And thank you, Brian,
Harriet, and everyone, for having us here. It’s really a pleasure to come
and talk to you about Manifold. And I have the fun
job now of, kind of, describing in more detail
what our work processes have been, and sort of,
where we’ve ended up. And I want to just
start by noting that, essentially, what
we’ve been doing, we really started
in our thinking with these ideas about iterative
publishing, and network publishing, that these Manifold
texts would embody these two concepts, as Doug detailed. And in part, this became a
digital humanities project, in which we were trying to
operationalize those terms to [INAUDIBLE] them,
to make them active, and instantiate them in form. So what I’m going
to be showing you as I work through the
platform, and sort of, show you what its features
are, and tell you about some of the thorny
issues we’ve encountered, and unexpected
issues, really relates to this fundamental
issue of trying to take these concepts,
and some of the things we knew we wanted to
build on, and figuring out how to actualize, and how to
operationalize them, and them into a living platform. I do want to mention the
three components of the team, because it’s important
that this project, I think, involves a collaboration
between the university press. And on the university
press you can see how lucky I am
to work with Doug, and how great it is to
have a university press willing to experiment to the
extent that Minnesota is. But what’s been fun about
working with the press is that we’ve been working
with many different members of the team. From people who are in
production, to editorial, to marketing, and a new
digital scholarly editor who’s been brought
on to the project through the grant to help us
think through all of this. So the press is really
bringing a lot to the project, and helping us, sort of, bound
it within press processes. And then in my lab, with the
graduate center, I’m there, and we have a graduate student
working with Muse, helping to publicize the project. And there we’re trying
to ground the project within digital humanities
practices, the open access, opensource ethos
that Doug described. And then we’re also working with
a company, Cast Iron Coding, that’s really been
working with us to create the platform itself. And Zach Davis, their principle,
has been a wonderful partner in this. So I was going to
show you some slides. And I will be showing you some
screen shots of the platform. And I’ll actually be showing
you the platform itself a little bit later
in, I think, what is the first public
demonstration of it. But I also thought, you know,
the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently made much of
its collection openly available on a copyright zero. So I thought maybe I’d
share some art as I talk through some of my slides. So you’ll see some
art as I go through. And there’s not really a
relationship, necessarily, between the art I’m showing,
and what I’m talking about. It’s just something
nice to look at. But one thing to note about
the process, as Doug mentioned, is the commitment to openness. And in practice,
what that means is that as we’re
creating the platform we are doing everything openly. So all of our code is
on the GitHub repository that I will share with you at
the end We are tracking issues through a program
called Pivotal Tracker. And as a team we are
meeting, both in person to talk through issues, but also
through some project management tools, like Slack and Basecamp. And I think that
combination of processes, blogging about our
process, talking about what we’re creating
as we’re creating it, has led others to,
kind of, follow along with what we’re doing. And that’s been important. In terms of our goals for the
platform, we wanted to focus, I think, foremost, on
the reading experience. So manifold as a project,
it’s important to say that we want to create
a version of a text that is readable on the web. So here we’re really, in terms
of the reading interface, we followed the lead
of sites like Medium, which have created
very, kind of, minimal and clean interfaces. So that’s what we’ve
kind of been going for, as far as an interface. And we also wanted to make sure
that there’s an ease of use, that we have a kind
of icon driven design. We wanted to include
annotation and highlighting, ensure that the platform
is mobile friendly. And also, I think, crucially
integrate social networks into the text itself. Doug mentioned very briefly. But we don’t consider the
circulation of the text, and discussion around the
text to be kind of completely ancillary and outside
of the text itself. But rather we want to integrate
that, kind of, discussion about the text
into the way we’re presenting the text itself. We also want to be sure that
the texts are accessible, and also that we are using open
source tools and development practices. A key thing that
we decided early on is that our primary
audience for our project, at least at first, is the
university press community. So what we’re doing– and
this round of Mellon grants funded a range of different
types of projects– our grant really focuses
on university presses, creating a platform that
we think and hope they’ll be able to use to get
their texts online in an interactive format. That doesn’t preclude
other audiences, like individual scholars,
but that is where we’ve been going with this. We also had some
editorial goals. We wanted to ensure that the
tool that we were building was integrated into
university press practices so that the platform
we were building could integrate with those
processes of production that were already in
place, because we know that those processes are
unlikely to experience a completely hard shift away
from existing practices. We wanted to build a, kind of,
bridge into the kind of work we wanted to do. We also, as part
of this project, the University of
Minnesota Press is working on revised
manuscript guidelines. And when you start
publishing books you realize how deeply these
manuscript guidelines given to you by the press are really
grounded in print production. Even something as simple
as how to handle links becomes very
complicated when one is thinking about a print
context, versus a web based context. And then we also wanted to
think about hybrid scholarship. So our approach
with this project has not been, as Doug
mentioned, to produce an e-version of the text
that is completely separate. We want the Manifold edition–
and that’s, kind of, how we’re talking about it is as
another edition of the book, or the project itself– to be part of the regular
print production process. So that, in other words,
it’s not, necessarily, an either or for the press. It’s not that we will produce
a print or a web based digital version of the
book, but that, in fact, we can have both. So one of the first
kind of thorny– [PHONE RINGING] Is that– [RINGING STOPS] OK. Thought that was me. One of the first thorny
questions we faced was, where to put the fork? In other words, as a
manuscript is working its way through the press
production process, when does it kind of branch
off into the Manifold edition, and where does it continue
to the print process? And what we decided
was to put that as late in the
editorial– really, almost after the editorial
process for most books that are going through
Manifold, as possible. So in most cases, text that
enter Manifold will already have been through copy
editing and editorial work for the book. In some cases, as
Doug mentioned, we have these projects, as
opposed to text or books. And those may start
with earlier drafts. So there is that,
kind of possibility. But for most text
we think they will go through the full
editorial process. It’s important to
say, as we describe Manifold, what it is not. And I have two samples
up here of projects that are have some similarities
to what we’re doing, but in other ways
are very different. So we are not, Manifold
is not like Scalar, which is a project
out of USC attempting as its primary
intervention to create multi-mobile
scholarship, scholarship that takes a, sort of, born
digital, non-linear form. Not because we don’t think
that’s valuable, and important work, it’s just not
the sort of area which we’ve decided to focus. So we are, in some
sense, carrying on some linear
aspects of the book, and putting them into
the medium of the web. And I think the web has really
been our grounding medium. We really want the
projects to, sort of, be browser friendly,
and mobile friendly. The other thing we’re not doing
is, like WordPress, Manifold, is not primarily an author
driven editorial tool. So if one wants to
write blog posts, for instance, you know,
a tool like WordPress will allow one to easily
kind of write and publish. And we are more
publisher focused, I think, than a
tool like WordPress, which really
focuses on, kind of, individual
self-publishing authors. So then we come to the question
of, well, what is Manifold? And these are really
the major features of Manifold scholarship. So first they’re– and I’ll go
through each of these in some detail. The first issue is ingestion. How do texts get into Manifold? We then fix the problem of– especially for a press- how to
share its catalog with texts. So we focus on elements of the
interface on how a press could display all of its texts. We then, as Doug
mentioned, wanted to create text and project
landing pages so that, whether it’s a project
that’s just beginning with early drafts, or a
book that’s fully published but then is available
in web Manifold form, to give it a sense of place,
a shared news, and updates. We did focus a fair amount
on the reading experience. We wanted to include
annotation and highlighting, and then also, to
provide resources, which might be images, movie
clips, PDFs, documents. So those are that. And we’ve had many
interesting discussions about the nature of those. So the first tool we
built for Manifold is an EPUB ingestion system. So EPUB is a file format
used by presses often. It’s the most
conventional file format once the book has, sort of, been
through the editing process. So the EPUB will include CSS. It will include images, often. So this kind of enables
you to create the book. And it sort of has gone
through the production process. But once we started
working on that, and after we had created
the EPUB ingestion system we actually, kind of,
expanded the types of text that can be brought
into Manifold. So by the time we launched, and
actually right now, Manifold can ingest not just EPUB, but
also Markdown, which is a very popular formatting system. Often used by digital
humanists, but many others. But also HTML, Microsoft Word
documents, and Google Docs. This is an example of an EPUB
being ingested into Manifold through the command line. So you start from the
command line, that’s the unformatted text,
and this is, sort of, a real time example showing a
text that is now in Manifold. And what’s exciting is
that once the text is in Manifold it’s live,
it can be highlighted, it can be annotated. So just from the command line
within a matter of seconds you can run one command,
ingest the text into Manifold, and suddenly have it in
this, kind of, annotatable, highlighted form. Of course, there are many
other ways to get text and to add more
structure into that. But this is just
an example of a way that a text could, sort of,
be brought into Manifold. The other things, so
this is the landing page. Doug touched on this. So I won’t spend
too much time on it. But just some of the features
of the Manifold landing page, or project page, is that
one can start on the home page, can choose a kind
of background image that’s kind of emblematic of the
text, can link to social media, as you can see over
there, also, establish a hashtag for the book that
can then be brought in. I’ll show you in a
second how it can be brought into this page itself. And on the start
reading button, which I’ll show you in a minute, you
can actually just jump right into the text. You’ll see, also,
and importantly, Buy The Print Version is here. And it’s not just about sales. It’s the fact that we think
that many readers may want both the print and the Manifold. And that the Manifold
editions, one of the reasons we think they’ll
be attractive to presses, is that they will help spread
the word about the text, but also, hopefully, lead
to sales of print editions. If I were rolling
on the page, this is the recent activity section. And the reason I
wanted to show this is that once the hashtag
is set, this section could be set to pull in
tweets that use that hashtag, or it could be set to display
tweets that have been tweeted by a certain account. And it also tracks, sort
of, recent activities. So as the text is published,
as a new version is added, they could be added there. And then this is an
example of the catalog, or the press landing
page where, as a press, you can share all texts
that are being added. And you can see, you
can also, sort of, search through
different categories, and sort of, easily
find new texts. Resources are a, kind of,
multivarious category, again, because they could
include anything from image collections,
to maps, to videos. And the approach
we’ve taken here is some images that,
let’s say, will be part of the book itself,
and are part of the EPUB will be displayed in
line with the text. So on a Manifold
publication you’ll see some images right in
the middle of the text. But in the Manifold
edition, authors and editors can add other kinds media. And they will show up, sort
of, on the left margin. And I’ll show you an
example in a little bit of how they can be clicked. But when they are clicked they
sort of bring up an overlay, and our developers are
big Star Trek fans. So they tend to use all these
images for their examples. You can see, sort of,
provides you some detail, and allows you to download
the image, et cetera. OK. And then the other
thing to note is that these resources,
or images, can, kind of, be grouped into collections. So as an example,
there are some books that I know Minnesota hasn’t
pressed, where anthropologists have gone out to do
field work, and come back with hundreds of photos. Those could be grouped
into different collections, displayed in particular
places alongside the text, but also shown
through the reader in a way that, kind of, allows
them to explore that material. And the crucial thing,
as Doug mentioned, is it’s not as a, kind
of, separate website. But it’s integrated
into the text itself. So one, kind of, thorny
question we ran into, a kind of unexpected
one, is where to put comments on resources. We wanted to allow
resources to be annotated. But if you think
about someone who wants to comment on
a resource, there’s the question, should that
comment appear on the resources itself, of the image itself,
or should it appear on the text by which the image
appears, and where it may have been first encountered. So there are all these
questions around the interface that we’ve been thinking
through, and working with our developers on. There have also been questions
about the types of resources. Minnesota has a book
about video games. And we’ve been asked whether
video games could be included, or embedded in Manifold. And our basic solution,
at least for now, is that anything that can be
embedded from another service can certainly be
used within Manifold. So any kind of video,
any kind of map that has a kind of embed code
can easily be used in Manifold. I mentioned the
reading interface. And that is where we spent a
significant amount of time. Not only is the reading
interface, we think, very clean, but
it’s also adjustable so that contrast can
be changed easily. The, sort of, size of
the text, whether it’s sans serif, or serif. So we really focused a
lot on the interface. I mean, this is a screenshot
from my iPhone of it on a mobile device. So we really also want to,
kind of, catch mobile readers. This is annotation
and highlighting. This is actually a
screenshot from Debates In The Digital
Humanities, which was our inspiration,
or beta version, in some ways, of
what’s become Manifold. And you can see
that in this version we had annotation
and highlighting. But the way this system worked
is that it took that text, and when the text was ingested
it divided it into sentences. And then comments could be added
but only at the sentence level. One of the things that’s
different about Manifold is that users will be
able to add sentences, and highlights to
portions of sentences, or portions of words. And that, in fact,
has kind of led to another interface
challenge, which is, kind of, how to display
comments of overlapping, or, sort of, slightly
proximus comments. And these are some of
our napkin sketches of how we’re going
about solving that. We’re still working on that one. But basically, on
Manifold, users can select any amount of
text. and comment on it. There’s also a
publisher’s dashboard, so this is kind of
the back-end, what users will use to add
their text to to Manifold. You see that there’s some
metrics about activity. And there’s a great
deal of information, and context that
presses will be to add, including, who are the
authors, and information about the resources,
or metadata. So our next steps are in March. Actually, at the
end of March, we will be doing a public data
release of the platform. And I’m going to give you a
preview that in a little bit. But right now we’re expecting
at the very end of March we’ll be doing an
announcement to share the Manifold as it stands. The code itself is, again,
publicly available on Manifold. And then, I wanted to mention
a couple of the features that we are continuing
to work on before I show you Manifold itself. Things that we are
continuing to work on include continued
DOI creation so that every text, and every
resource has a, kind of, addressable location on the web. We are working on some
e-commerce functionality, because we think that
some presses may– although our
primary presentation is really open access, and I
think we believe very firmly in that, as Doug
described, there may be presses that
want to, kind of, put a pay-wall on this. So there will be some
functionality, we think, to have that work. There will be a lightweight
recommendation engine that is able to suggest texts,
because users can create accounts, and follow texts. So there may be some
way to sort of suggest, if you’ve read
this one, you might be interested in that one. There will be a citation system. And we’re also working
towards a, sort of, single project
version of Manifold. So this goes a little
bit against what I’ve seen saying so far, in
terms of the focus on presses, in the sense that we are going
to be creating a version, we think, or a way to have a
Manifold edition that consists, basically, of a single
project, in case there are some scholars
who want to give it a shot for a single product. So let me now quickly show you. This is our staging
application of Manifold. It’s a live version of it. And one of the things, as I
kind of click around here, that I’d like you just
to notice is, kind of, the speed, and the
responsiveness of the site. We’re very excited about
what the developers have been able to do,
in terms of making Manifold very responsive. And I’m going to
try and show you– here’s an example
of the resources. You can see you can download it. You can visit the resource
page, or close and go right back to the text. And there are going to
be built in mechanisms that when you move off of the
page, we’ll always, kind of, bring you back to
where you were. There’s going to
be highlighting. We’re still, kind
of, working on that. But other parts of
text are still ongoing. And what’s kind of
exciting is that when these texts are ingested
they really, kind of, have all of these features. The resources need to be added
after the text is initially loaded into the system. If you have an EPUB, or an
HTML document, a Google Doc, or a Microsoft Word, it
sort of automatically is ingested into this form. One of the other
things we’re working on that I should have
mentioned is a way for presses to customize their
version so that if we go back– oh, and this is
the project page I should have shown, showing
recent activity, text, and then, sort of, you could
go right into the resources, if you want. And this is the home page,
showing featured projects, or if I only wanted to
see theory and philosophy, or education and
law, I can, sort of, go through it that way. And just immediately
dig into these texts. So that is where
we are right now. And as we move forward we invite
you to follow along with us., is our blog. That is where we are
doing some interviews with members of the team. But also where we have some
technical documentation. We’re on Twitter,
@ManifoldScholar, and then our GitHub account
is So that’s our presentation. I think we’d be
very happy to take any questions you might have. [APPLAUSE] Yes? AUDIENCE: Thanks for
a great presentation. I have a question about the– it seems to me that when we talk
about these kinds of projects, although there aren’t
that many to talk about, but when we talk about open
access and scholarship, for me, I often feel that there
is a kind of slippage between the benefits
that a new model offers to the scholarship
itself, or to the practice of the scholarship, or the
product of scholarship. It’s very clear what
the digital world has to offer for delivery,
and infrastructure, and getting material out there. It’s very clear what the
disruptive possibilities are for traditional
media, print media, and why that would be good,
not only for readers, but also for authors. But there’s a, kind of,
slippage, automatically, that we just, sort of,
assume that the digital also offers apparent benefits to
the process of scholarship, the actual production
of knowledge, of intellectual content. It transforms the process itself
in ways that are patently good. I don’t think there is a
straightforward connection. I think it’s two
different issues that have to be addressed differently. And I wonder if you,
through this process, have come to certain responses
to the question not of why something like Manifold would
be obviously good for getting scholarship out there. But why is it good
for the actual process of scholarship itself? MATTHEW K. GOLD: I think
that’s a really great question. I’ll give it a shot. Maybe Bryan and Doug
have answers as well. You know, I would
say, first of all, that Manifold has these two
types of presentations of book, or book-like objects, right? One is, sort of,
the Manifold text, which will be a finished
work of scholarship, in some ways, in the
sense that the book will have been published. Maybe the Manifold edition
will now be interactive. So that adds
possibilities of responses from readers, potentially new
iterations of the text itself that could take account of
those interactions with readers. But also, I think the addition
of new context and resources. So images. You know, Doug mentioned having
400 images for a certain book, and not being able
to present them. So certainly being able
to provide more background on a certain text. It seems to me that
for a reader who wants to engage with
a text, that reader will be able to have a
fuller appreciation of what the text is about, and
you know, there is now, through the annotation and
highlighting, a kind of, ability to interact the author. I’ve seen in Debates In The
Digital Humanities, which has a, kind of, similar
mechanism of having a finished book that was
then, kind of, created online, one of the interesting
features has been seeing the highlighting
and annotation, especially. So as a scholar, sort of, coming
to one of these articles one can kind of see more easily– although annotations can
be turned on and off– what are the claims
in this text that have, kind of, in particularly
interesting to an audience readers? Now, that kind of
social annotation may or may not have
value to a scholar. But I think the
possibility of it has been interesting
for authors to see. And I know that when I’ve been
looking through debates essays, sort of, after the fact, it’s
been interesting to me to see, which are the arguments that
people kind of gravitated to, are most engaged. And I’ve also seen, kind of,
exchanges between authors and commenters on that side. So I think there’s
a possibility there. The other kind of
Manifold text is what we’re calling the project. And that is the kind
of text that Doug described where an author
may have an early draft, and may want to get it out
for comment and circulation. And those early drafts,
kind of, can still be shown on the Manifold page. But I think, that’s
what, to me, has been really exciting about
the Forerunners project, and other projects
like it, is that we all know that press production
can take a long time. So here’s an opportunity
to get one’s work out in circulation earlier. And yes, someone could
do that by publishing on one’s blog, or
some other format, but here, actually,
there’s a kind of coherence to the
intellectual project as a whole, because the early
drafts, one can sort of see, and trace how they
built towards a more finished project. DOUGLAS ARMATO: And
I guess all I’ll say is that it really comes
down to an issue of authors, and how authors want to work. And, you know, very
often, as a publisher at this moment you’ll talk
to people who, you know, want to work in a more
responsive, iterative, [INAUDIBLE] but don’t have
any way to do it with a press. Just don’t know how to do it. So we don’t see Manifold
as a totalizing entity where everything
will flow through it. But there are certain authors we
just haven’t had an answer for. You know, how do I do this? And so, Manifold gives us a
chance to, basically, work with those projects. So I think that it is
more work for the scholar. It’s significantly more work. It’s more engagement. It’s more for them to keep up
with after the work is out. So scholars just
are basically going to have to make a choice,
as to whether this is what they want to do. But then, as a press, we’re
committing to work with them, and make it happen. Yeah? AUDIENCE: So open access
is such a huge topic. And I’m coming to this more
from a consumer point of view. In fact, I’ve used Debates
as a text in library school, in one of my classes. And I had two versions of it. I had the online version, and
my own version that I owned. The interesting
thing is, as humans we put value on things
that we pay money for. We have less value for things
that we don’t pay money for. And And notice there’s the
online version, and the print version, and you pay
for the print version. You don’t pay for
the online version. Is there a middle
ground where there’s like a print on
demand, or some sort– I did my library degree,
20% of it on the bus. And I would print what I could,
because highlighting on the bus is a lot easier with a
pencil, or a highlighter. Transfer those to a
digital edition, right? So having the ability– I won’t say how I was
able to print e-books, because you can’t do that. Is there is, sort of,
a middle ground where you’re getting that value and
you have agency over this text, right? It’s not someone else’s that’s
online somewhere else that I’m allowed to interact with. But it’s also not
mine in my bag. MATTHEW K. GOLD: I
mean, one feature I should have mentioned–
so on Manifold there will be user
accounts, and I think we’re working on the ability to
sort of be able to see anyone’s annotations, or only
your own, and they can be potentially public or private. AUDIENCE: Can it keep them? MATTHEW K. GOLD:
Well, they’ll be associated with your
account, exporting them– AUDIENCE: But that
disappears someday. MATTHEW K. GOLD: Right. Yeah. Well that’s on our
wish list right now, is a kind of way
for users to export annotations and comments. So we don’t have that
functionality right now. I don’t know if we
will be able to get it into the first iteration
of the platform. But it’s certainly something
we are thinking about. I don’t know think that
fully answers the question about print-on-demand. But I would say that Manifold
is one way to try and split that difference between
having a– for myself, I still read largely in print. But I can’t carry all of my
books with me all the time. So I do appreciate having the
kind of, freely accessible version online. And I think that’s where we kind
of imagine that people will go. You know, they may consult
the full Manifold editions, or come there for
the conversation. Or, you know, it could be that
a class will start commenting, or working on an edition. But that may not be, sort
of, the personal edition, as you described it. AUDIENCE: It seems
like there’s so much more value in the online
version, which you are not paying money for. MATTHEW K. GOLD: Yeah. AUDIENCE: But as a
human being, who’s– DOUGLAS ARMATO: Ironic. [LAUGHING] AUDIENCE: I have my
thing, and it’s mine. MATTHEW K. GOLD: Right. AUDIENCE: I want it to be
able to print on demand. MATTHEW K. GOLD: Yeah. AUDIENCE: So can [INAUDIBLE]. [INAUDIBLE] the room. But I wanted to speak a
little bit to this question, and also hope that Massimo
might join in on that issue. We had previously worked
on another project, a number of us, that
was called Work Top. And it was a kind
of tracing of how your scholarship progressed,
especially for humanists. Scientists often keep notebooks,
and have this kind of tracing. But I think the ability to
write in a digital environment is not just what you
eventually write, but how you convince
yourself, also. And we often hear these
kind of platitudes that this digital environment
helps you ask new questions, or ask them differently. But the truth is, by seeing
this kind of evidence, and shaping the evidence,
what is eventually written? So Ellis’s question
was, how does it change the scholarly process? And I think that is
the very basis of it. The fact that you
put the text first and then the resources second. I mean it doesn’t mean that
the scholar, necessarily, would do that. But Massimo, I don’t
know if you want to add to this conversation. I actually think you’d
be very critical. AUDIENCE: I would have
asked the question that both you and [INAUDIBLE]
asked, because I’m in the middle of
experimenting with writing a digital monograph
using Scalar. And to me, at this point, I’m in
the middle of the translation, let’s say. So it’s still unclear, to
me, whether the bridging between what an
authorial tool can do, and all the possibilities
that can open up, besides the different
way of thinking. Writing, I have to
adapt my writing to the environment in which
I’m writing right now, the platform. Of course, I’m frustrated, I’m
excited, et cetera, et cetera. But then the delivery, the final
product, might not be the same, might have many of the
things that I wanted, and I experimented with. But it might not, also because
of different types of delivery options, you know, some may be– the multitude of, you
know, being sold for money. And so the different models,
or even open access, et cetera. So I wonder how
much of what you’ve so far presented,
very interesting, has to do with creating
also standards. In other words,
standards for the– it seems, to me, that
your reference point are more publishers, as
you said, than authors. Although, authors can be part
of it, must be part of this. Just my question, how to
put authors in the service of creating those standards. And because I see here,
when I write my book, and I think any scholar who’s
going to write a monograph, will have in mind some
sort of ideal type of what a monograph in his or
her field would look. And there are many
possibilities. Either they are according
to the discipline, according to possibilities
of interfacing with text. And I’m writing an
archaeology of media. So it’s really, my text is
marginal to all the media that I’m collecting, harvest,
and putting into this is creation. So I wonder how
much flexibility, and if there is a
tension between creating a standard that will work,
which is mostly web based, and sort of, provide
authors with a platform for experimenting with
a new type of interface, as they know, for the
scholarly process. DOUGLAS ARMATO: I mean our
sense is that authors will still be experimenting. Manifold is a part
of the landscape. It’s not meant to be
a, sort of, solution. And some authors will be
building individual sites. One of the interesting things,
as we’ve rolled it out, we’ve had a lot of
author’s interested. And they’re all different
kinds of authors. Some have very little
technical ability whatsoever. And others are really senior
PIs on major digital humanities projects. And they see Manifold as
a way to, to some extent, disseminate the results
of a larger project. So the larger project still
exists in all their complexity, you know, in all
their heavy, you know, computational resources. But then they can,
sort of, build it towards manifold as
a different outcome. And so that was something I
really hoped would happen. Basically, all these
digital humanities projects would be able to interact
with what we’re doing. And in fact, ideally,
that other scholars would come along
who weren’t part of those digital humanities
projects, and, you know, build their scholarship on it. So the inoperability, I
think, from the beginning was where we went. But there was never
a sense that it’s going to really complex,
innovative digital humanities projects. It really is an attempt
to create something, which can be replicated. Well, we don’t actually
know how many of these we can do in a year. That’s actually the
biggest question we haven’t been able to
answer until we get going. Can we do 6? Can we do 12? Can we do 20? We don’t really know, yet. MATTHEW K. GOLD: And I
would just say, I mean, I think that we’ve been focused. So the reason I started
with that “operatalizing”– it’s a lot! Whatever. Is that we’ve made choices. And the choices we’ve
made have been moving away from the authorial tool. So while an author can
present text on Manifold, we are not necessarily
engaging, necessary, in the writing process,
or compositional process. But as Doug says,
we’ve got DH projects that have their own interfaces. And often what we
find, and what I found, myself, was that DH
scholars, that often, especially in tenured,
and reviewed cases, there was the need for the book. And that’s one of the needs
we’re trying to address, except that we are hoping
that what we’re creating here is a version of the
book that is greatly expanded from how we would think
of it in a purely print object. And I would say the ability
of Manifold to, kind of, ingest HTML, and also to
display embeds of other files, I think, points to
possibilities that we’re really just beginning to explore. You know, this games
book, the book on games, the authors want to
have playable games in the middle of the text. And you know, that’s something– I don’t think we’ve got
that one into Manifold yet, but that’s the kind of thing we
want to, kind of, work toward. It’s a little bit of
a different example than the kind of project
you’re working on, I think. But it points to,
the fact that, A, that Manifold is still,
kind of, evolving. And sure, it’s not
the answer to all, kind of, publishing questions. DOUGLAS ARMATO: We’ve
talked to the authors about building in
podcasts, so that it can be used more pedagogically. And there is a, sort of– I spent a little bit of
time on the, sort of, politics and economics of
this, but really, a motivation for the university press, and
this came up in a conversation with Harriet earlier today,
and part of the motivation is that I really didn’t want
to see scholarship routing around presses of necessity. I thought the fact
that publishers did not have an answer for this need,
you know, was a real liability. And so part of the goal of
Manifold was to, you know, give presses at least a
partial response to this need. MATTHEW K. GOLD: Is there,
perhaps, one more question? OK. Well, please join me
in thanking everybody. [APPLAUSE]