EVIADA and the Future of Scholarly Publishing

I’ve been thinking about the nature of writing that I have been doing for my collections going into the EVIA Digital Archive. As I noted in a [previous post][1] about my time at EVIADA, the challenge has been to switch gears to write to the new form of publication.

As I wrote that last sentence, I wanted to use the word *medium*, but that doesn’t quite work with the web, does it? The web is a kind of meta-medium, as I have noted [elsewhere][2]. The great thing about the web as a distribution channel is that it allows for static print forms, like the scholarly article or monograph (more on the latter later), as well as other media forms — images, audio, video — that are, no matter what dreamy-eyed web prophets prattle on about — essentially static as well. Sorry, static here means the content does not change in relationship to the reader/viewer/user, which is essentially adhering to the terminology already used by most folks to distinguish between static html sites and those sites driven by some sort of web application — like the one, for example, that drives this blog, Word Press, that allows users to tweak the content they see or to interact with the content by creating comments. (Okay, so I haven’t turned the latter functionality on, because I don’t like dealing with comment spam. But if anyone has anything to say, e-mail me and I’ll post it and credit you with it. No one’s reading this, yes? Good. I can keep blathering on then outside these parentheses.)

The danger of the new medium and of the interactivity that makes it possible is that the dreamy-eyed web prophets want everything to be that way. So one can imagine that somewhere someone is tempted to say that the EVIA Digital Archive is *the* way of the future. That in that future scholars will spend less time producing long, tedious tracts often arguing arcane theoretical points and more time sticking close to the very stuff that makes their fields interesting in the first place. (Wow, that sounded pretty convincing.)

Nonsense. (*See also*: balderdash, blather, bunkum, claptrap, drivel, garbage, idiocy, piffle, poppycock, rigmarole, rubbish, tomfoolery, trash, twaddle.)

And I don’t think the good folks at EVIADA mean it that way either. But it does open up possibilities, and in the process of opening up those possibilities, it opens up news of interacting with data, which can only be a good thing. Certainly one of the things that I enjoy about studying material folk culture is that it requires me not only to describe it in words but to photograph it, measure it, draw it. Every time I engage the material with which I work in a different modality, I have the opportunity to see it from, well quite literally, a new perspective. The kind of close attention that the *Annotator’s Workbench* requires of a depositor underlines that. I have glimpsed things in the Mermentau Mardi Gras that I knew were there without really being able to say what they were. And I’ve been following that run for about 10 years now.

One of the things I did notice about the *Annotator’s Workbench* is that it is ideological in nature: it enacts the performance studies paradigm. When I first sat down to work with it this past Monday, I turned to Alan Burdette, who directs EVIADA and who, I believe, led humanist side of the project’s development, with a kind of slack-jawed wonder, and he just smiled at me and said, “I know. It’s everything we talked about in graduate school.”

So, hats off to Alan.

[1]: http://johnlaudun.org/20090613-my-first-week-at-eviada/
[2]: http://johnlaudun.org/20080420-in-the-era-of-the-meta-platform-content-is-king/)

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