Doing Public Humanities: Open Access Publishing/ Minimal Computing / Digital Scholarship

The first time I came across the topic of public humanities was by reading the book Doing Public Humanities edited by Susan Smulyan. I learn that public humanities happens in collaboration and engages diverse public audiences. But as put by Robyn Schroeder in “The Rise of the Public Humanists,” digital technologies could be seen as disruptions that “have undermined the traditional source of authority for researchers and archivists.” (20) Fitzpatrick’s proposed ideas in “Working in Public” encourages me to think further how to engage openly and explore widely together to create, support, and promote projects/works toward the public good, particularly in a digital age.

The most complex challenge in doing generous thinking I learned from her writing is understanding and balancing the interests of diverse and sometimes even competing stakeholders within and outside of your fields/organizations and facilitating good conversations. Coping with uncertainty and unfamiliarity in conversations and collaborations is undoubtedly not easy. In the session on public access, she mentions the advantages of OA journals (which I read further explanation in Suber’s piece “What Is Open Access?”). She uses OA journals in science as good examples that help sciences progress. And systematically speaking, publishing costs are also said to be included in grants in the sciences, which aims to promote knowledge transmission and public engagement. However, I also see difficulties in balancing interests in the OA publishing in science. There is an article titled “Why I think ending article-processing charges will save open access,” published last week in Nature written by Juan Pablo Alperin.

Alperin explains how difficult it is for Latin American scholars to publish in well-funded top journals in Europe and North America due to increasing APC (Article processing charges) payments. I learned from scientists I follow on SNS that they currently need to pay around $4,000-5,000 for the APC per article. Scientists could pay the APC from their grants, and as Fitzpatrick writes, “those tenured, and tenure-track faculty and other fully employed members of our professions who can and should contribute to the world the products of the labor that they have already been supported in undertaking.” (157) But there is also the issue of geographical inequalities, even among tenured faculty and schools. Thereby, I am excited to find out that Fitzpatrick also addresses “the dominance of standard English” (164) in this chapter. Echoing her, I also think translation works are not valued enough as scholarly contributions. And ultimately, I ask for a critical reflection on how the world beyond the US’s boundaries is taught and learned and how we could combine the DH and regional studies to help the students/the public understand the rapidly changing world. Geographical inequalities, as well as inequalities in race, gender, and age, requires us to consider general questions like the role of public intellectuals but also look into some invisible questions regarding capabilities in utilizing technologies during the development of technologies, as addressed by Risam and Gil in “The Questions of Minimal Computing.”

And lastly, let us revisit the idea of public intellectual and public scholarship. Speaking and writing to the public is not enough to become a public intellectual. I notice some scholars do public scholarship by formulating their beliefs and arguments on fighting against what they oppose. However, some fail to discover what they inherently support and give good guidance in questions outside their disciplines but relate to global social and cultural issues. I would argue for consciousness and self-awareness in the process of producing public goods

1 thought on “Doing Public Humanities: Open Access Publishing/ Minimal Computing / Digital Scholarship

  1. Benjamin Moerch (he/him/his)

    Thank you Mialong Xue for bringing up this perspective. It is important and relevant also in the context if trying to decolonizing knowledge production. It seems like this is one of many structural changes that needs to happen too.

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