Transmission in Motion

Seminar Blogs

“Post-Publishing against the Market?” – Dennis Jansen

Janneke Adema’s notion of “post-publishing,” as discussed in her recent TiM webinar, arrives at the intersection of two notable trends in Western academia. On one hand, the increasing significance of posthumanist and post-anthropocentric thought across the Humanities, which are now said to be transforming into a “posthumanities” (e.g. Braidotti 2013). On the other hand, the rising prominence of the digital as a nearly unavoidable element of contemporary scholarship in the Humanities, often termed as the “Digital Humanities” (e.g. Kirschenbaum 2014). Not to mention what is undeniably occurring in the background—and sometimes in the foreground—namely the “neo-liberal extension of market structures into the education system” (During 2019, 17). This last phenomenon is visible, for instance, in graduate students who are expected to be taught ‘marketable skills’, in faculty being made to compete with each other over ever-shrinking pools of research funds, and in universities seeking to grow their student numbers by thousands every year while the quality of (under)graduate education continues to decline.

As Adema discusses elsewhere together with Gary Hall, much has been made of the potential connections between these trends and the neoliberal university, specifically the ways in which these emerging fields of scholarship are complicit in perpetuating and accelerating the neoliberalisation of higher education. Adema and Hall then criticize the skeptics of especially the Digital Humanities for their blind spot regarding “the manner in which their own arguments are almost invariably performed using the language and writing they are supposed to be moving us on from, or […] the materiality of their own ways of working, acting, and thinking as theorists” (Adema and Hall 2016). Critics of the Digital Humanities insist on the Humanities as a distinctly political and interpretation-driven discipline (a claim I am inclined to agree with), but in their criticisms neglect to turn those humanistic abilities onto themselves. Moreover, these criticisms often come in the form of rather traditional—and rather marketable—publications like books and journal articles with single, well-defined authors.

This is where post-publishing makes a crucial intervention. It constitutes a move away from academic publishing as performed in non-fiction books by single authors who conform to the figure of the (often white/Western/male) rational thinking liberal subject. In my own discipline, one key example of this would be First Person Scholar, a ‘hybrid publication’ hosted by the Canadian University of Waterloo where academics and non-academics alike can have their 2000-word essays or commentaries on videogames featured. Alternative publication forms are also arising in the space of game studies, including so-called “game essays” (cf. de Smale 2016), which could potentially constitute an interactive publishing form that involves its user navigating arguments in a more playful and exploratory manner. Moreover, with open-source platforms, these game essays could be made available for critical modification by everyone, rejecting the neat boundaries of singular and ‘complete’ publications like monographs. Copyright and authorship would then become troubled concepts, and at least the dominant market forces would lose their stifling grip on academic publishing for a little while.