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Journal Extensions: Specific Applications

Module by: Hilary Ballon, Mariet Westermann. E-mail the authors

The proposal is not to duplicate printed journals with an online simulacrum, but rather to develop extensions of the print journals of record with supplementary materials. Many journals have stepped into the digital realm by replicating the print version online. Given the value placed on image quality in art history and the interactive tools available for image display, it is incumbent on the journals to go beyond replication of the printed page and to take advantage of the special opportunities presented by the electronic environment. It is possible for electronic publication to accomplish things unavailable or unaffordable in print: color illustrations, zooming and panning, search engines, hyperlinks, and tagging, as well as other tools to be developed in the years ahead.

Scholarship comes in various forms, not all amenable to a 20-page article or full- treatment book, the restrictive options prevailing in print. The goal of electronic journal extensions is to open up a more diversified field of scholarly genres and formats: texts of varying length and layered with networked links and new possibilities for active scholarly dialogue. Over time the journals will discover many ways to take advantage of the electronic space, but at the outset four types of material seem appropriate for an online venue.

Research with Digital Tools

The Cultural VR Lab at UCLA produces 3-D computer models of historic environments. Its website (cvrlab.org) allows only a glimpse of their reconstructions of the Colosseum and Roman Forum, and the related publications have mostly appeared in volumes focused on technology and digital imaging. This research should reach the relevant scholarly community as well as digital modelers and technicians. Scholars are now working with fly-throughs, videos, and real-time tools, overlays and enlargements that are optimally viewed electronically rather than fragmented and frozen in a single frame. The proliferation of websites and media labs suggests there is a pent-up demand to publish digitally based research that now has no discipline-wide outlet. Not publishing this new research inhibits the growth of the field and discourages further digital research.

Extended, Networked Articles

The journals have implied word limits on what they publish. Articles average 11,000 words. To maintain wide-ranging coverage and distribute the benefits of publication, the journals limit repeat publication by any one author. Although the editors have wide discretion, traditional policies and parameters discourage manuscripts longer than 15,000 words, large illustration programs, and supplementary material, such as documents or quantitative data. The need for more flexibility is indicated by the following recent submissions at JSAH: 1) an argument based on building dimensions requiring extensive numerical proofs, akin to data sets in a mathematical journal; 2) manuscripts in two parts, each the length of a standard article; 3) an argument dependent on a copious illustration program including a series of stills that should be presented as an animation. The electronic extension could accommodate unusually long texts and supplementary material, including source material and annotated catalogues.

Electronic Monographs

The monograph remains the foundation of scholarship. It contributes new knowledge, regenerates fields, and serves as the training ground of scholars who become experienced in the rigors of research, forceful analysis and clear writing through the preparation of monographs, many of which begin as dissertations. The necessity and benefits of monographic studies continue, even if they are not always viable business propositions for book publishers. Journals should step in and meet this growing need by publishing book-length monographs.1 In fact, many journal articles are based on dissertations. Young scholars often revise a dissertation chapter and publish it as a journal article. In the present publishing climate, their aspirations to publish a book will be increasingly frustrated. Some may give up, and good work will not be published. Some may decide to break a manuscript into parts and publish a series of articles dispersed in different journals over time, which would make it difficult for readers to follow the thread of the argument, and in other cases, the scale of thinking might shrink if authors cannot publish a full-scale argument. Both authors and readers would benefit from publishing the monograph as a whole, not in fragments.

Although the word e-book has passed in common usage, it implies a format that fails to maximize digital opportunities. The British Library's Turning the Pages™ program vividly demonstrates the gap between book and web publication.2 Turning the Pages™ simulates the reading experience; you enact with the mouse the action of turning a page. This presentation creates a marvelous simulacrum of a book, but it also dramatizes the mismatch between the page-turning experience of book reading and the scrolling and clicking modes of digital reading. We have passed the point when posting digitized print pages will suffice. Art history journals should aim to capture opportunities uniquely available with online presentations: plentiful color illustrations; the ability to magnify details and animate and overlay images; search engines and hyperlinks that provide easy access to notes, bibliography, archival sources, and websites.

The College Art Association published a book series known as CAA Monographs, and its demise is relevant to consider here. CAA published 56 titles, roughly one title per year between the start of the series in the 1940s and its termination in 1998. CAA ended the series because of cost and commercial factors: it could not find a press to distribute the books, sales were limited, publishing costs were high, and subsidies were inadequate to cover costs. CAA Monographs aimed to do the same thing as university presses, namely publish books, but it could not compete: the university press conferred more prestige and offered higher production values. The proposal here is not to reproduce CAA Monographs and compete with the university presses but to do something distinct by moving into an arena the presses are vacating and by enriching texts with valuable digital enhancements.

Responsive Projects

Electronic publication opens up new dialogic possibilities that do not now exist in art history. The moderated online forums on the American Historical Review website allow historians to exchange comments on selected topics. This stimulating model drives home Patrick Bazin's point that electronic publication involves "a reconfiguration centered no longer around a founding object [i. e., the book], but around the very process of reading."3 Art Bulletin and JSAH might devote online forums to discuss important exhibitions. One frustration of the long lead time imposed by printing schedules is that exhibition reviews appear after the exhibition has closed. If a review were published online while an exhibition was on the walls, both the review and the exhibition would have greater impact as a stimulus for thought and discussion.

Footnotes

  1. On July 13, 2006, Rice University Press, which shut down in 1996, announced its revival as a fully digital press and targeted art history because the field has been adversely affected by high printing costs. While several presses are beginning to launch electronic book initiatives, to the best of our knowledge, Rice University Press is the first such effort in art history.
  2. See http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/ttp/ttpbooks.html.
  3. Patrick Bazin, "Toward Metareading," in The Future of the Book, 153.

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