Why experiment? A critical analysis of the values behind digital scholarly publishing

Last month I presented a paper entitled ‘Why Experiment? A Critical Analysis of the Values Behind Digital Scholarly Publishing’ at the 9th International Conference Crossroads in Cultural Studies, Paris, France, July 4th, 2012, hosted by Sorbonne Nouvelle University and UNESCO. This presentation was part of the panel: ‘Publishing Cultural Studies, Now and in the Future’, with excellent papers by Ted Striphas and Mark Hayward, and by Clare Birchall. Striphas and Hayward studied the publication practices of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (BCCCS) during its heyday in the 1960s and 70s for their paper “Working Papers in Cultural Studies, or, the Virtues of Gray Literature“, which is available as a working paper (and open for comments) on the Differences & Repetitions Wiki. Clare Birchall explored the relationship between publishing, transparency and secrecy in her paper entitled ‘Liquid Theory TV: Publishing, Publicity and Secrecy’ which was based around a screening of the latest installment of Liquid Theory TV entitled ‘The Post-Secret State’ (see underneath).

The paper I presented is a preliminary working through of some concepts related to my current research on alternative forms of open, digital, scholarly publishing—-more in specific of the concept of experimentation and what it means (or better said can mean) from a Cultural Studies perspective. In my paper I have juxtaposed this perspective with the increased focus in the neoliberal knowledge economy on innovation, were research is pushed the create better results that increase economic growth and enlarge knowledge capital.

Why experiment? A critical analysis of the values behind digital scholarly publishing

Digital scholarly publishing and the Humanities—their relationship can hardly be perceived as a classic love story. However, after an initial period of distrust and apprehension, digital publishing—although not yet ubiquitous—is gaining ground fast in the Humanities. The publishing practices that have been dominant in the Sciences, Technology and Medicine fields for some time now, are being explored and adapted in this context too. Increasingly Humanities journals are available online, and, although still lagging behind, books are following at a swift pace. Commercial publishers, not-for profit presses, libraries and academics, platforms like Google and Amazon; a variety of old and new players in the field of scholarly communication are experimenting with new publishing and business models to make Humanities research available online.

However, the motivations behind these experiments with communicating research result online, differ substantially. In this paper, I will argue how experiments with digital publishing in the Humanities, and especially with respect to making knowledge available for free on the web, without barriers to access and reuse, are increasingly being accompanied by a neoliberal rhetoric pertaining to the knowledge economy and its demand for continual innovation. Following the demands of innovation, sustainability, and transparency that this rhetoric relates to, experimenting with making research results available online is seen to aid the search for new sustainable business models, to help the creation of competitive advantage, and to sustain the successive testing of new products to satisfy consumer demand. Experimentation with digital, open, online publishing increasingly takes place with a specific result, or outcome already in place: to ensure that a new publishing or business model is sustainable, that it is effective, in order for it to become a model which can be monetarised with the ultimate goal to increase return on investment.

However, as I will argue here, not all experimentation in digital online publishing abides to this discourse. This paper explores the motives underlying a series of radical experiments in the Humanities—in cultural studies more specifically—that endorse and promote an alternative set of values, based on different underlying ethics. Here experimentation is understood as a heterogeneous, unpredictable, singular and uncontained process or experience. Mostly academic-led and centered, these experiments with making research available in Open Access, with new formats such as liquid monographs, wiki-publications and remixed books, and with the establishment of new, alternative institutions and practices, try to challenge and reconceptualise scholarly communication. This paper shows how their approach towards openness, exploring new formats and stimulating sharing and re-use of content, can be seen as a radical alternative to and a critique of the business ethics underlying innovations in the knowledge economy.

As the time I have available to present this paper is limited, I will only give a short general overview of the influence of neoliberal rhetoric and ethics on higher education and on experiments with digital academic and Open Access publishing more in general, referring specifically to the recent Finch report.[i] After that I will explore the idea of experimentation more in-depth from a specific cultural studies perspective, where it has been re-conceptualised in very interesting and important ways, offering an alternative reading to the neoliberal focus on experimentation as a force to drive innovation. I will end with giving some examples of experiments within cultural studies and humanities digital academic publishing that try to abide to and expand these alternative concepts of experimentation, based on a different set of values.

Neoliberalism and Higher Education

The discourse of neoliberalism, which focuses on amongst others the reshaping of culture and society according to the demands and needs of the market, has infiltrated Higher Education on different levels.[ii] From a mode of production, it has become a cultural logic where economic freedom is seen as the necessary precondition for political freedom. David Harvey, in his history of neoliberalism, describes it as ‘a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade’.[iii] Wendy Brown conceptualises neoliberalism as a political rationality which extends market values and economic rationality beyond the economy into all dimensions of human life, into our institutions, where they become part of our social actions. Neoliberalism can thus be seen a form of governmentality which ‘produces subjects, forms of citizenship and behavior, and a new organization of the social’.[iv] Within this mode of thinking, not only are universities more and more forced to act like profit making enterprises instead of public institutions, but also increasingly the focus of the knowledge economy is on the extensive standardisation and the economic exploitation of knowledge, as a form of capital produced within these universities.[v]

This leads to a situation where, within the knowledge economy, researchers are increasingly asked to produce research that feeds directly into and sustains the neoliberal economy.[vi] Consequentially, this can create situations where experimentation as open intellectual enquiry is being replaced by a rhetoric of innovation. Where researchers are no longer allowed to experiment with new ideas, methods or practices just for ‘experiments sake’, but where these experiments are increasingly supposed to be innovative, leading to outcomes or results that are different and better, meaning that they should serve dynamic economic growth. For, if we abide to a neoliberal logic, we need continual innovation to stimulate competitive mechanisms that encourage this dynamic growth. As Henry Giroux states: ‘In its dubious appeals to universal laws, neutrality, and selective scientific research, neoliberalism “eliminates the very possibility of critical thinking, without which democratic debate becomes impossible”[vii] Critical thought, Giroux argues, has given way to market-driven values and corporate interests. Knowledge becomes a product, a commodity, just another form of capital.[viii]

We can see a situation arise where the elements of unpredictability that accompany experimental scientific methods, are filtered out in favour of risk assessments and contingency plans (risk-aversion), where the notion of critique, of pushing boundaries, of rethinking systems, is replaced by demands for increased efficiency and transparency. The goal is to make experimentation predictable, where experiments are designed to achieve what they were set out to achieve, creating outcomes that are measurable and demonstrable, mirroring a situation where innovation is often closely linked to specific goals and objectives, namely those that encourage economic growth.

Within the knowledge economy, innovation is conceptualized as a collective, collaborative endeavor, as a coalition between education and industry. The OECD report The knowledge-based economy (1996), quoted in Roberts and Peters, and in Olssen en Peters, states that ‘innovation is driven by the interaction of producers and users in the exchange of both codified and tacit knowledge’ and pertains to a model of knowledge flows and relationships among industry, government and academia in the development of science and technology.[ix]

There is a clear emphasis on performativity within Higher Education, on performance indicators, measurable outputs and accountability, and on strategic planning and quality assurance measures as part of the growing academic audit culture.[x] This is visible in the UK and also internationally in the growing importance of league tables that rank university performance.[xi]  The language of the market has become ubiquitous amongst all sectors of research and education. A re-semanticisation has taken place where particular clusters of words are being stretched beyond their normal business or industry context to apply to the academic world as well. As Marnie Holborow illustrates: “‘The market place’ and ‘quality assessment’, courses being ‘competitive’, teaching being ‘quality proofed’, lecturers’ work being ‘benchmarked’, universities ‘service providers’ and needing to achieve high ‘market visibility’ and research being about patents, income generation and property rights are all now part and parcel of university life and language, officially at least.”[xii]

Neoliberalism and Digital Publishing

Academic publishing has not stayed free from this neoliberal discourse, where this has had some major influences on the way we publish our scholarly findings. The forces of the market in an environment where even not-for profit university presses are increasingly forced to act as sustainable businesses, have led to a situation where predominantly marketable and saleable products are being published: i.e. more popular academic titles. Accompanied by ongoing budget cuts in the library world this has created the so-called monograph crisis in scholarly publishing.[xiii] Experiments with Open Access publishing and archiving within the Humanities where amongst others stirred on by these increasingly dire preconditions. However, to cut a long story short, notwithstanding its mostly noble origins, Open Access publishing is not inherently progressive, leftwing or necessary a critique of the neoliberal market economy. Increasingly, Open Access publishing is even featuring in neoliberal discourses in Higher Education and government as a system to promote innovation and transparency of research (fitting in well with the aforementioned audit culture). As Gary Hall has argued convincingly in Digitize this book!, there is nothing intrinsically or inherently democratic or even political about Open Access. Open Access supports the knowledge economy by making the flow of information more flexible, efficient and cost-effective, and by making knowledge and research more accessible to more people. This makes it easy for knowledge, as a form of capital, to be taken up by businesses for commercial re-use, stimulating economic competition and innovation. Next to that the research process, its results and their dissemination can be efficiently monitored and measured and can be better made accountable as measurable outputs as part of the audit culture: think of experiments with bibliometrics for instance, and data mining, which can be used as tools to stimulate greater transparency of research. In conclusion, according to this neoliberal rhetoric, society, or better said, the individual taxpayer, gets improved value for money or return on investment with Open Access.[xiv]

Let me give some examples of how this ‘openness’ of the Open Access discourse has made it easy to incorporate it in a Neoliberal context. To take a recent example, I want to take a closer look at the Report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings – or the Finch Report, an independent study commissioned by the UK government science minister David Willetts, released in June, drawing on the advise and support of a group of representatives of the research, library and publishing communities. Bu B The report recommends the further implementation of ‘author-side’ fees for the open access publishing of journals, a strategy that can be seen as maintaining and favoring the system of communication (or ecology as the Finch report calls it) at it is currently set up, protecting the interests of the established stakeholders, mainly commercial publishers. The report offers recommendations to ensure sustainable and efficient models for future scholarly communication, defining amongst others success criteria of how to reach this goal. They accurately illustrate the neoliberal vision of promoting market mechanisms in Higher Education, and of universities acting as businesses that I discussed before, in the following quote related to article processing charges (APC’s): ‘The measures we recommend will bring greater competition on price as well as the status of the journals in which researchers wish to publish. We therefore expect market competition to intensify, and that universities and funders should be able to use their power as purchasers to bear down on the costs to them both of APCs and of subscriptions.’[xv]

But this vision comes to the fore even more directly when we look at the motivations underlying the wider dissemination of research that the Finch report identifies and supports. According to the Finch report improving the flows of information and knowledge will promote:

  • enhanced transparency, openness and accountability, and public engagement with research;
  • closer linkages between research and innovation, with benefits for public policy and services, and for economic growth;
  • improved efficiency in the research process itself, through increases in the amount of information that is readily accessible, reductions in the time spent in finding it, and greater use of the latest tools and services to organise, manipulate and analyse it;
  • increased returns on the investments made in research, especially the investments from public funds.[xvi]

In short, according to the vision of the Finch Report, ‘these are the motivations behind the growth of the world-wide open access movement’: promoting greater transparency, accountability, innovation, economic growth, efficiency and return on investment. And yes, granted, it also promotes public engagements with research.[xvii]

However, the motivations underlying Open Access, and the reasons to experiment with alternative forms of open academic publishing, are not restricted to the ones mentioned here by the Finch report. This is where I want to turn to an exploration of a selection of alternative conceptualizations of experimentation developed and explored within cultural studies, before looking at some examples of how these can and are practically implemented in radical forms of open, online publishing experiments.

Cultural Studies and experimentation

As I will show in the following part, Cultural Studies has a special relationship with experimentation and because of this it is in an excellent position to put forward a different vision with respect to experiments in open digital publishing. One of the interests of Cultural Studies thinking has been to explore more inclusive forms of knowledge that acknowledge otherness and differentiation, and forms of knowledge that are more affectual and experiential. This exploration by cultural theorists of different forms of knowledge was initiated amongst others by restoring the cleavage between the concepts of experience and experiment.

Under the heading of Empiricism, Raymond Williams, in his Keywords volume, explores the etymology of experiment and how it got to mean something different from experience, with which, until the 18th century, it was interchangeable. Experience started to mean subjective or internal knowledge, where experiment came to be aligned with the scientific method of an arranged methodical observation of an event, a theoretical knowledge directed towards the external world.[xviii].

Gregory Seigworth identifies this search for wholeness and a more inclusive knowledge in the projects of a variety of thinkers, most notably Deleuze, Williams, Benjamin and Bergson.[xix] The influence and popularity of these thinkers within Cultural Studies nowadays explains amongst others the boom in Deleuzian Cultural Studies, which Seigworth sees as a renewed attention to empiricism, as a resurgent culturalist experiential paradigm. An empiricism where experience and experiment (or practice and theory) are still one and the same and not split up. Within this paradigm the concept of experience operates beyond the interpretative powers of a beings knowing sensibility. Experience does not belong to the subject, nor is it mediating between subject and object. It is, as Seigworth states, referring to Williams and his concept of ‘structures of feeling’, something that needs a form of autonomy; experience needs to become an active potential, freed from the fixed and the personal it has come to be associated with in daily life. For Williams, experience is crucial to tackle and grasp change, flux, flow, all that escapes our fixed efforts at signification and at knowing. Experience is directed towards process and emergence. The splitting of experience and experiment lead to the distinction between practical and theoretical, between subjective and objective knowledge and between experience past and present. As Seigworth states, Williams wanted wholeness where ‘experience’ was now based upon a set of exclusions (of theory, of creativity, of the present and future) and upon a subjectively centered model of consciousness. Seigworth shows how Benjamin, Deleuze and Bergson all explored how to establish this wholeness. Benjamin’s notion of speculative knowledge, the knowledge derived from experience focuses on the incorporeal, the ephemeral. Unlike a model of knowledge based on representation and resemblance, it is nonrepresentational, belongs to neither subject nor object (inside or outside). For Deleuze experience refers to open intensities and sensations (affect), which are not subsumed necessarily by faculties of knowing and interpretation. Experience is open-ended and emergent, not yet articulated. For Bergson, experience and experiment are linked in intuition, which exceeds or overflows the intellect. Intuition is a lived immediacy, it is mobile, processual; it connects the past, present and future (experience as memory, duration and experiment). This relates to William’s idea of the pre-emergent, the not yet articulated, of a practical consciousness as a creative process. Williams wanted to find space for creative intuition, for an experimental openness to the world beyond our fixing, interpretive consciousness and pre-existent conceptual frameworks towards multiplicities. For every structure is already inhabited by multiplicity. Williams wanted to analyse the flows between process and structure, between a things singularity and its contexts of relations to explore where something new emerges.[xx]

In the context of experimenting with and rethinking scholarly institutions and practices, the work of Samuel Weber is essential, where he connects the search for a different concept and meaning for experimentation that is focused on difference and otherness, directly with the need to break down the modern conception of the university. This conception depends, as Weber argues, on a bias towards universally valid interpretative knowledge, or on a notion of knowledge as well as a vision of the human as unifying, holistic, and totalizing. Weber notices the integral connection between this perception of knowledge and neoliberalism: ‘What lurks behind its ostensible universalism is the message that there are no longer any alternatives to the dominant neoliberal political-economic system.’[xxi] For Weber, hope lies in the experimental method derived from the modern sciences, which is focused on creating replicable sequences, and repetition, and which has an orientation towards the future and the world as open, consisting of a plurality of possibilities. However the scientific method still subsumes the particular under a general conceptual framework. Similar to Seigworth, Weber explores alternative conceptualizations of experimentation that are open for ambivalence. Weber adopts Kierkegaard’s notion of experimenting as a verb. Kierkegaard emphasises experimentation as a notion where the singular gets articulated without letting its particularities dissolve into the universal. This opens up room for that what is different in repetition, for the exception, for transformation in repetition. Using Kierkegaard’s notion, Weber finds a way to introduce uncertainty, unpredictability and ambivalence in our modern conception of experimentation, one that seems to go directly against the neoliberal rhetoric of planned outcomes, risk analysis and contingency plans, designed to filter out the uncertain.[xxii]

So here we can see how a re-conceptualisation of experimentation within the discourse of Cultural Studies towards iterability, towards difference in repetition, has opened up possibilities to explore and imagine Cultural Studies itself as a space of experimentation. Simon O’Sullivan offers an interesting Deleuzian reading of Cultural Studies as experimentation, breaking with a focus on the interpretation and representation of culture, and breaking through the idea of an object of study (culture) that gets interpreted by a human subject. This idea works as a mechanism to fix and define culture, as well as fixing the subject and knowledge, however fragmented they are. O’Sullivan proposes a cultural studies as a pragmatic experimental program away from fixity and stability, affirming cultural studies as a critical process.  Using the metaphor of the rhizome, he envisions Cultural Studies as a dynamic, fluid, open and interdisciplinary system, capable of creating the world differently. This enables multiplicities and the thinking of virtual potentialities. O’Sullivan notices how Cultural Studies, through its actual institutionalising mechanisms freezes, stabilises and through experimentation creates new lines of flight. Cultural Studies is thus both programmatic and diagrammatic. O’Sullivan argues that in the project of experimental Cultural Studies, the outside, the fringes, remain important for new inspiration. And this means that what is actually outside or on the fringes of academia might be the source of inspiration for an experimental Cultural Studies.[xxiii]

Now that we have taken a closer look at the way Williams, Seigworth, Weber and O’Sullivan, have re-conceptualist the concept of experimentation with and for a Cultural Studies discourse, we can make some general remarks about a Cultural Studies experimentation. Experimenting in CulturalStudies means, according to the thinkers mentioned, to welcome the possibility of new thinking, to explore the conditions where ideas and phenomena that escape the formulations of previous conceptual paradigms emerge. To create and think new forms of knowledge, experimentation is reconciled with experience, to include speculative forms of knowledge, and difference in repetition, providing room for ambivalence, for the ephemeral and for failure, for that that does not fit. Experimentation becomes part of the project of cultural studies, where it can be used to explore what new forms cultural studies will take, and how it will continue to transform itself, ourselves, and our understanding of the world we live in.

Experiments with Cultural Studies

In this part I want to look at how such an emphasis on an experimental Cultural Studies works out, both theoretical and practical, in a number of experiments with open online academic publishing. I want to suggest that these experiments with Cultural Studies publishing, which, as Ted Striphas has noted, in many ways have taken place at the fringes of Cultural Studies (where Cultural Studies publishing has been ignored, and undervalued as a subject of exploration[xxiv]), that these experiments embody the kind of lines of flight through which cultural studies can be seen to reimagine itself. As I will argue, these experiments with online, digital scholarly publishing follow a different concept of experimentation than the one propagated by neoliberalism. The motives underlying their experimentation with open, digital publishing are based on an alternative value system. They celebrate difference, emergence, uncertainty, and unpredictability, and promote non-market focused forms of exchange. They share a critique of structures, of established institutions and practices. And with that they can be seen as a critique of or a resistance to the neoliberal focus on innovation, where they argue for a more inclusive vision of experimentation, open for ambivalence, open for failure.

I will analytically divide these experiments in those that try to reimagine scholarly institutions and systems and those that try to rethink established scholarly research practices. I want to emphasise here however that there is no clear distinction between institutions and practices, they merge and overlap, and practices are at the basis of institutions and can be seen to solidify into them. However, they can be seen as a metaphor for the singular and the general, for the flow from process to structure, and in this sense they form two sides of the same continuum that these experimental digital publishing projects are trying to reimagine.


C-Search, the Cultural Studies e-archive, is a free, open access archive for Cultural Studies research literature and related materials, and is provided as a further supplement to the Culture Machine e-journal.[xxv] According to Gary Hall these kinds of archives offer an alternative model to the, as he states ‘increasingly market- and profit-driven nature of the academic publishing industry’.[xxvi] It operates according to other criteria, according to different modes of exchange following a model of sharing and exchange of knowledge at comparatively little cost, where texts are not judged according to their market or financial worth, but according, amongst others, their intellectual value and quality.

These archives can be seen as an experiment with digital, online, open texts, to explore some of the possibilities these have beyond merely replicating print in the online world. With their lack of fixity, stability, and permanence, with their undermining of traditional intermediaries and roles, and their use of and incorporation of different media, they have the potential to fundamentally transform the content they transmit, and with that, to change our relationship to knowledge. This provides us with radical ethical and political questions with respect to authority and legitimacy in a digital age. Hall’s clear intention is to experiment with these latter, more uncomfortable issues, and the kind of impact open publishing has on these.[xxvii] Hall argues that C-Search is amongst other motivated by a need to creatively experiment with the invention of new institutional forms, to think the university differently, to helps us conceive a different future for the university.[xxviii] Another example of how to reimagine our institutions is Open Humanities Press, an online, open access and academic-led press, committed to produce high-quality research based on its intellectual, and not on its market value. It also experiments with publishing work in non-traditional formats, such as liquid books and living books, wiki-books that re-use and repackage existing material, and that are open for collaborative editing, questioning our notions of authorship, legitimacy, quality assessment and the idea of research as processual.

These kinds of institutions, as Hall argues, are structurally open. As a form or experiment, this makes it easier for them to be incorporated into a neoliberal discourse, as I have for instance tried to show with the example of the Finch report and Open Access publishing. But it also gives them their force as forms and sites of resistance. It gives them ethical and political force to create something different, an alternative, a critique and a resistance to the neoliberal discourse and its hegemonic project. And echoing Bergson, Hall argues that these kinds of experimental archives and institutions can be seen as, as he calls it, singular, different, alternative instances of a kind of experimental, creative militantism form the side of Cultural Studies.[xxix] These institutions, like Weberian experiments, are never finished, nor do they know the answers to the theoretical and practical questions they pose or the outcomes of the various experiments they are conducting. In this sense they can be seen as emerging institutions.[xxx]

Performative practices

The performative dimension of scholarly communication has been explored, both in theory and practice, by amongst others Ted Striphas. This performative dimension becomes visible in the ways in which we perform scholarly communication through our practices, our socially constructed habits and established or honored ways of doing things, that lead us to engage with repetitive practices, such as for instance the way we read, write, do research and the way we publish and assess our research findings. Striphas is interested in exploring how we can perform these practices differently, to rethink those practices that are pertinent today. We need to think more creatively and expansively, he argues, about the fixtures in scholarly communication and how they might work differently like for instance peer review and authorship.

The differences & repetitions wiki is a site for open source writing—set up by Striphas—which contains fully editable projects or working papers. As a personal (though at the same time collaborative) archive of writings, Striphas explores what it means to publish scholarly findings in a different way, to experiment with new, digital, collaborative writing practices, that try to not give in to the compulsion to repeat. Challenging the idea of property/ownership of works and ideas, and the idea of authorship, exploring scholarship as process, collaborative contributions, questions of quality establishment etc. As Striphas argues, this experiment has thought him, and with that can teach us ‘a great deal about the types of questions we might ask about our performances of scholarly communication in general, and of academic journal publishing in particular.’ For him the wiki experiment is not a model, nor a new type of institution but a thing to think with, ongoing, changing, uncertain.[xxxi]

I want to end with saying something very shortly about my own research, which I have conceptualised as a critical praxis. My research amongst others explores a new experimental approach to conducting and performing a PhD dissertation within the (Digital) Humanities. It focuses on establishing a digital, open and collaborative research practice by looking at the possibility of remix, liquidity (updateability and versioning) and openness in the dissertation’s conduct and format. This method not only serves to critique established notions and research practices of how to write and conduct a dissertation within the Humanities that have become ‘normalised’ or have become the dominant standard, it also helps to develop new digital research practices that enable sharing, openness, and remix of the research during its ongoing development. By making use of digital platforms and tools, all the main research for my thesis—notes, drafts, chapters, etc.—will be made available online, as it progresses, via multiple outlets. This critical praxis will thus follow the idea of open research, by which anyone can track what has been done (openness), can comment on the research (social), and can add to it (collaborative, remix, liquid). Hence, in the form and conduct of this thesis I will be arguing for a new future for the dissertation as an emergent and evolving form within scholarly communication.

[i] ‘Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: How to Expand Access to Research Publications, Report of the Working Group on ExpandingAccess toPublishedResearch Findings’, June 18, 2012.

[ii] Mikka Pekkola, ‘Neoliberal Politics of Innovation and its Opposition at the University: The Case of Finland’, in: The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring 2009).

[iii] David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) 2.

[iv] Wendy Brown, ‘Neo-liberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy’, Theory & Event, 7:1 (2003).

[v] Gary Hall, Digitize This Book! The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

[vi] Mark Olssen and Michael A. Peters, ‘Neoliberalism, higher education and the knowledge economy: from the free market to knowledge capitalism’, in: Journal of Education Policy, 20:3 (2005).

[vii] Henry A. Giroux, ‘The Terror of Neoliberalism: Rethinking the Significance of Cultural Politics’, in: College Literature, 32.1 (2005) 10.

[viii] Henry A Giroux, ‘The University Debate: Public Values, Higher Education and the Scourge of Neoliberalism: Politics at the Limits of the Social’, Culture Machine (November 2010).

[ix] Peter Roberts and Michael A. Peters, Neoliberalism, Higher Education and Research (Rotterdam, 2008), Olssen and Peters, ‘Neoliberalism, higher education and the knowledge economy’.

[x] Hall, Digitize This Book!, Olssen and Peters, ‘Neoliberalism, higher education and the knowledge economy’.

[xi] Hall, Digitize This Book!

[xii] Marnie Holborow, ‘Language, ideology and neoliberalism’, in: Journal of Language and Politics 6:1 (2007) 60.

[xiii] For a more elaborate exploration of the monograph crisis see amongst others: Janneke Adema and Eelco Ferwerda, ‘Open Access for Monographs. The quest for a sustainable model to save the endangered scholarly book’, LOGOS: The Journal of the World Book Community, Volume 20, issue 1-4 (2009).

[xiv] Hall, Digitize This Book!

[xv] ‘Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: How to Expand Access to Research Publications, Report of the Working Group on ExpandingAccess toPublishedResearch Findings’, 11.

[xvi] Ibidem, 5.

[xvii] Ibidem.

[xviii] Raymond Williams, Keywords. A vocabulary of culture and society. Revised edition (Oxford University Press: New York 1983).

[xix] Gregory J. Seigworth, ‘Cultural Studies and Gilles Deleuze’, in: Gary Hall and Clare Birchall (eds.), New Cultural Studies. Adventures in Theory (Edinburgh University Press: 2006).

[xx] Seigworth, ‘Cultural Studies and Gilles Deleuze’.

[xxi] Samuel Weber, ‘The Future of the Humanities: Experimenting’, in: Culture Machine, vol. 2 (2000).

[xxii] Ibidem.

[xxiii] Simon O’Sullivan, ‘Cultural Studies as Rhizome – Rhizomes in Cultural studies’, in Stefan Herbrechter, Critical studies Vol. 20. Cultural Studies, Interdisciplinarity and Translation (2002).

[xxiv] Ted Striphas, ‘Acknowledged Goods: Cultural Studies and the Politics of Academic Journal Publishing’, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 7, no. 1 (March 2010).

[xxvi] Hall, Digitize This Book!, 8.

[xxvii] Ibidem, 19

[xxviii] Ibidem, 10.

[xxix] Ibidem, 207.

[xxx] Ibidem, 227.

[xxxi] Ted Striphas, ‘Performing Scholarly Communication’, Text and Performance Quarterly 32(1) (2011).


  1. I think given the experimental mode apparent in the OHP experiments amongst others and the interesting historical link between arXiv.org (which pretty much made journals obsolete in the fields it serviced) and the current rash of Gold OA presses and publishing models in the sciences – its interesting that the ‘Journal’ model is still pursued so actively by the open source movement – particularly in the humanities. So much open access publishing in the humanities is tied/built on systems like the Open Knowledge Projects Open Journal System (and now the Open Monograph System). These relatively closed ‘one size fits all’ systems seem to negate the spirit of experimentation you identify in order to provide a unified service. I wonder if its unfair to critique these apparently admirable projects as unduly shaped by the neo-liberal imperative you identify. Certainly I’ve noticed an increased number of commercial presses mobilising OKP tools…

  2. Hi, sorry for my incredibly late response to your very thoughtful comment. Well, to reply to your first remark/question first, why is the journal system still so important for the OA movement? I think this is related to the larger underlying value system which governs scholarly communication that is build amongst others around notions of trust, quality and accessibility. The reasoning followed by many OA proponents is that to achieve open access to research materials is already an enormously important step forward (to which I agree). In order to achieve this step (increased accessibility), they argue, we need not needlessly ‘upset’ the rest of the communication system. Even more, some people feel this might be detrimental to the OA cause. Where OA still suffers from the perception which a lot of digital publishing and open media suffer from too, i.e. the perception of a lack of quality control, a lack of branding and a lack of sufficient preservation policies, many OA proponents want to ensure that there publications are just as qualitative, trustworthy and ‘normal’ as other print on paper publications. Hence their reliance on double blind peer review, and traditional journal and monograph publishing (tools) amongst others. Another reason why the PKP tools are so popular is because most of the Open Access journals are very small endeavors, set up by a handful of academics. The OJS (and OMS) software offers them the possibility to create qualitative and trustworthy OA content without having to spend much time and money (both of which they don’t have, especially not in the Humanities).

    Now to try and answer your second and I think more complicated question: Don’t these ‘relatively closed ‘one size fits all’ systems negate the spirit of experimentation’ that I argue for? Well. First of all, both OJS and OMS are tools, and to be more specific, they are open source tools. This means that we can tweak them and use them in different ways. In this sense these tools themselves do not have to stand in the way of experimentation at all, more over, they can form an important ingredient in new forms of publishing experiments. But to be even more clear about the argument I am trying to make, I am not direclty condemning any OA publishign that makes use of ‘traditional forms’ of scholarly communication. Open Access is in my vision a plural, fluid, variable, critical and experimental method, meaning that it is not one thing, and it shouldn’t be. It is important that people argue for access firstmost and try to work on the OA ‘branding issue’ and fight the battle on that end, it is important to argue for the importance of self-archiving and new models for scholarly publishing, just as it is important to argue for more experimentation on the other end of the spectrum, as I have tried to do in this paper. These are in many ways different facets of a multidimensional OA movement (or process). In that sense there is thus no ‘one size fits all’ Open Access.

    I do think however that we need to continue to look critically, as I have tried to argue more in detail in this paper, at the value system that is adhered to by those involved in OA publishing. Again, if we look at the PKP’s website, the thinking behind the PKP’s tools is very much influenced by John Willinsky’s writings and focuses on an enhancement of the public sphere and on a democratization of knowledge (see http://pkp.sfu.ca/about). However, the problem we need to acknowledge, which Gary Hall has analysed more in depth elsewhere, is that there is nothing inherently democratic about Open Access, Open Access can also be neoliberal, as I have tried to show in my short reading/critique of the Finch report. For me it is therefore important to argue for a different ethics and value system when it comes to open publishing, and for a spirit of experimentation that is open to otherness, failure and ambivalence, in order to show that there is a different kind of open access and different forms of open access publishing, than the ones increasingly being adopted within the neoliberal rhetoric.

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