OPEN REFLECTIONS

New article: Performative Publications

 

Published in the disrupted Journal of Media practice (more on this collaboratively edited special issue here) is my latest article on ‘Performative Publications’. This experimental and processual article is available in various different versions.

Underneath the abstract and the introduction to ‘Performative Publications’, which explain in more detail the context of this research project and the different versions it has been published in.

 

The online interactive version is available here: http://disruptivemedia.org.uk/thepoliticalnatureofthebook/about.html (make sure to click on the hypothes.is bar in the right top corner to see the article/annotations)

The designed postprint version is available here: https://pure.coventry.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/13428461

And the published version on T&F’s website is here


Performative Publications

Abstract

This article is a print rendition of a web-based publication which reflects upon and at the same time is itself an example of performative publishing. A performative publication wants to explore how we can bring together and align more closely the material form of a publication with its content. Making use of hypothes.is software, the web-version of this article has been written ‘in the margins’ of the performative publication it reflects upon, entangling itself with this project at various points. The reflections written in hypothes.is extend the performative publication both theoretically and practically by examining the correlation between performative publishing and technotexts (Hayles), performative materiality (Drucker), liberature (Fajfer), and feminist design (McPherson), and the ethical and political challenges towards academic publishing these kinds of concepts and practices pose. The web-version of this article stresses the collaborative and processual nature of scholarship, where through hypothes.is both annotators and reviewers have become active participants on this evolving publication, which is both open-ended in time and collaborative in authorship.

Keywords Performative Publications, Experimental Publishing, Practice-Based Research, Processual Research, Performative Materiality, hypothes.is

To cite this article: Janneke Adema (2018) Performative Publications, Media Practice and Education, 19:1, 68-81, DOI: 10.1080/14682753.2017.1362174

Context and Background

This article for the disrupted Journal of Media Practice reflects upon, as well as interweaves itself with, a practice-based project which I initiated back in 2015.[1] I will first outline this project—which set out to create a ‘performative publication’—and the thought processes and design-choices behind it. After that I will present how, both as an extension of and a reflection on this project, I contributed a series of theoretical reflections on the concept of performative publishing, which were published ‘in the margins’ of the original performative publication. The article you are currently reading forms a print or PDF rendition of that inherently web-based intervention, yet in many ways it can also be seen as a further iterative version of this ongoing processual publishing project.

As part of the original project, or, more precisely, the project in its first instantiation, a website and several posters were created, which together offer a different take on the article ‘The political nature of the book. On artists’ books and radical open access’, written by myself and Gary Hall and originally published in the journal New Formations. This article explored issues of access and experimentation in publishing, by comparing and contrasting developments undergone by the artists’ book in the 1960s and 1970s with the changes academic book publishing is facing as part of its current uptake of digital and open access publishing. We argue that access and experimentation are crucial to any future of the scholarly book, if the critical potentiality of the book is to remain open to new political, economic and intellectual contingencies. As such we professed a need for the material, conceptual, and cultural constitution of the book to be reviewed, re-evaluated and reconceived in an ongoing manner.

What we subsequently created was a practical adaptation and in many ways a continuation of the argument made in the New Formations article in the form of a performative publication which reflects on the praxis, ethics and politics of academic publishing. A performative publication thus wants to explore how we can bring together and align more closely the material form of a publication with its content. The term performative publication was coined by Christopher P. Long, who defines it as a publication in which ‘the mode of publication performs one of the central ideas the text itself seeks to articulate and explore’ (Long 2013). Performative publications focus on how the mode in which we produce, disseminate and consume text, influences the content and meaning of the text, or the way we interpret it. Here the accent lies more on the material agency of publications, not merely investigating their own materiality, but actively performing it. In this respect this project wanted to emphasise that we should have more in depth discussions about the way we do research. How can we ensure that, throughout the research process, we focus on the medial forms, formats and graphic spaces in and through which we communicate and perform scholarship, as well as on the discourses, agencies and institutions that shape and determine our scholarly practices? This ‘contextual’ discussion, focusing on the materiality of our (textual) scholarship and its material modes of production, is and should not in any way be separate from a discussion on the content of our work.

The practice-based project this article reflects upon—and is an integral part of—came about out of a collaboration between academics and designers. We created the performative publication in retrospect—after the ‘publication’ was already formally published. The main objective of the project was to turn the original article in New Formations, which focused on the correlations between artists’ books and open access publishing, into a version that would itself be accessible in various forms and which, similar to an artist book, would experimentally reflect on its own nature. As such we wanted to explore both the idea and the materiality of a ‘book’ or a ‘publication’, as well as its ways of dissemination. Focusing on alternative reading paths or contexts, which offer the reader more choice in how s/he can access the text, both on and offline, was key here. In addition, by having different versions of the text available to interact with, we also wanted to focus on the different kinds of engagements these provoke, through their specific (material and technological) affordances. The different versions that we created also questioned the fixity of the text, and its bound/unbound nature. For example, the choice for posters was a clear expression of this, as posters—single sheets of paper—can be seem to embody the ultimate unbound book.

The website that we subsequently created—which as a whole comprises the performative publication—consists of 3 sections, each offering an alternative way to engage with the article, or to access, and/or to distribute it. The first section of the website consists of the text of the original article, which offers a familiar linear reading experience. The second section of the website consists of 28 keywords, which relate to some of the main themes and topics that characterise and structure the article’s content (i.e. access, process, medium, object etc.). These keywords are connected to snippets of text extracted from the original article that relate to that specific keyword. When you click on one of the keywords (either on the main page or highlighted in the article) you will be offered an alternative non-linear thematic route through the article, hopping from snippet to snippet of text. The third section of the website provides an offline engagement with the article. It consists of 7 posters that can be printed off at home, each containing 4 keywords and 4 connected QR codes. The QR code next to each keyword will direct the reader to the corresponding keyword on the website, offering them the availability to access the previously described text snippets via their mobile devices. On the backside of each poster you can find all 7 posters in a reduced size with their accompanying keywords and QR codes. The poster can be folded in such a way (following the provided folding instructions) that it forms a little hybrid booklet consisting of all the miniature posters.

[1] This project is available at: http://disruptivemedia.org.uk/thepoliticalnatureofthebook/index1.html

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