Reimagining the Digital Monograph: Design Thinking to Build New Tools for Researchers

Authors: Laura Brown, Alex Humphreys, Matthew Loy, Ron Snyder, Christina Spencer


Abstract: Scholarly books are increasingly being made available in digital form, joining in the print-to-digital transition that scholarly journals began well over a decade ago. Ten years of innovation have produced tremendous benefits for authors and readers of journal literature, and certainly some of this innovation is applicable to the digital migration of monographs. But the long-form scholarly argument presents some very different challenges, and its online migration is still in many ways in its infancy. The platforms that make monographs available to users often offer little in the way of specialized functionality for the different ways that scholars and students use these books. The JSTOR Labs group, an experimental product development team at JSTOR, undertook a user research and design process in order to better understand the wide variety of needs, behaviors, frustrations, and ambitions users bring to the task of reading scholarly books online, and to explore possible new paths to unlocking the value of the long-form argument in a digital environment. This paper is intended to do three things. First, we discuss the kinds of uses that readers have for scholarly books, and the opportunities for improving the usefulness of books for those purposes in a digital environment. These emerged from ethnographic research we carried out with a variety of readers of digital monographs and with a small working group of scholars, publishers, librarians, engineers, data scientists and user experience designers that we convened in partnership with the Columbia University Libraries in late 2016. Second, we discuss the design thinking process that we used to explore the landscape, how the group identified problems to solve, and how together we selected one opportunity ripe for new feature development that the JSTOR Labs team could prototype. Third, we describe the process we used to develop that prototype, and introduce the tool that we built, which we are calling “Topicgraph.”


Citation: Brown, L, Humphreys, A, Loy, M, Snyder, R, Spencer, C. (2017) Reimagining the Digital Monograph: Design Thinking to Build New Tools for Researchers, A JSTOR Labs Report – DRAFT FOR COMMENT




Posthumanities: The Dark Side of “The Dark Side of the Digital”

Authors: Janneke Adema, Gary Hall


Introduction: In What Is Posthumanism? Cary Wolfe insists “the nature of thought itself must change if it is to be posthumanist.”[1] Our argument, made manifest by this special issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing, is that it is not only our ways of thinking about the world that must change if they are to be posthumanist, or at least not simply humanist; our ways of being and doing in the world must change too. In particular, we view the challenge to humanism and the human brought about by the emergence of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, bioscience, robotics, preemptive, cognitive, and contextual computing, as providing us with an opportunity to reinvent, radically, the ways in which we work, act, and think as theorists. In this respect, if “posthumanism names a historical moment in which the decentering of the human by its imbrication in technical, medical, informatics, and economic networks is increasingly impossible to ignore,”[2] then it generates an opportunity to raise the kind of questions for the humanities we really should have raised long before now, but haven’t because our humanist ideas, not just of historical change and progression (i.e. from human to posthuman, to what comes after the human),[3] but of the rational, liberal, human subject, and the associated concepts of the author, the journal, and copyright we have inherited with it, continue to have so much power and authority.

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The Post-Digital Publishing Archive: An Inventory of Speculative Strategies

Authors: Silvio Lorusso


Abstract: Recently launched, the Post-Digital Publishing Archive (P—DPA) is an online platform that allows users to systematically collect, organize, and keep track of art and design experiences at the intersection of publishing and digital technology. Filling a gap in the discussion, which is generally led by the narrative of innovation, P—DPA focuses on projects that investigate the social, cultural, and economic dynamics of publishing through a DIY approach, custom tools, and the counterintuitive employment of popular platforms. Like every archive, P—DPA embodies a specific attitude that is mainly expressed by the criteria employed to select the works and by the multiple relations among them. How can the materiality of such works be properly defined through a categorization system? What technological, processual, and signifying aspects need to be taken into account? By acting as an inventory of speculative strategies, P—DPA aims to become a reference point for designers and artists interested in publishing and indirectly extend its very notion.


Citation: Lorusso, S, (2016) The Post-Digital Publishing Archive: An Inventory of Speculative StrategiesThe Journal of Electronic Publishing. Volume 19, Issue 2: Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities