INTO THE WILD? FILM STUDIES AND TRANSITIONS INTO «OPENNESS» (PART 1) — An Introduction & Open Publication I: First Movers – Workshop Report by Cinepoetics and the AG Open Media Studies (GfM)
This three-part blog entry recapitulates the conceptual background as well as the six presentations and respective discussions of the online workshop «Into the Wild? Film Studies and Transitions into ‹Openness›»; a workshop which was held as a collaboration between the Center for Advanced Film Studies, Cinepoetics, and the Scholarly Interest Group Open Media Studies in early February 2021.
With the present entry, Part 1, we give an account on first movers in the field of open publication in film and media studies, which has developed in the wake of increasing digitalization in and outside of academia. After an introduction to the workshop’s overall background and aims, the emphasis will be on the importance of developing new modes of publication, as it was thematized by Catherine Grant in her talk about the history of Open Access Journals. And it also resonated with Sarah-Mai Dang’s plea for a plurality of publishing methods with a stronger emphasis on preprints (see also Sarah-Mai Dang’s and Alena Strohmaier’s OMS blog entry «Offenheit» in der (Medien-)Wissenschaft for further information on this subject).
See the report’s Part 2 (coming up next week) for a recapitulation of Franziska Heller’s and Eileen Rositzka’s contributions to the workshop section «Open Publication II: Politics and Practices in Transition».
See the report’s Part 3 (coming up soon) for a recapitulation of Matthias Grotkopp’s and Anna Luise Kiss’ contributions to the workshop section «Further Routes: Dissemination, Open Data, Citizen Research and Participation» as well as for notes on the workshop’s final open discussion.
Open science/scholarship describes a wide range of various scholarly practices that aim to make every step of the research process as accessible and transparent as possible, meaning to «open it up» to the academic and non-academic community in promoting an attainable production and dissemination of knowledge. Striving for «openness», scholars work on making their research data available for subsequent use in different research projects and publishing research results open access. This goal is also sought to be achieved by developing research questions together with communities and citizens and by collecting, evaluating and interpreting data in participatory research processes.
In film studies, too, there have long been efforts to work in the spirit of open scholarship. Media studies repositories such as the German media/rep/ or the international MediArXiv seek to help disseminate and find publications; the Scholarly Interest Group Open Media Studies of the German Society for Media Studies was founded in 2018 to conceptualize, raise awareness for, and experiment with open scholarship; the new initiative NFDl4Culture is intended for making research data available in transdisciplinary contexts, and more and more publishers are embarking on open access strategies – to name just a few examples.
However, as an academic discipline, film studies face particular challenges in arguably «opening up» its research processes. The very fact that film studies work relies on (commercial) moving images and stills often prevents research data from being published freely. For many researchers, open access publishing still raises questions in terms of aesthetics and economic, social, legal, cultural and technical infrastructures. There is also still very little experience in open peer review procedures, and «citizen research» is by no means part of the repertoire. All in all, there is still room for discussions and further initiatives in the practical, methodological, infrastructural and habitual implementation of this new «openness».
Against this background, the Berlin-based Center for Advanced Film Studies, Cinepoetics, together with the Scholarly Interest Group Open Media Studies decided to cooperate for carrying out the workshop «Into the Wild? Film Studies and Transitions into ‹Openness›». This online workshop took place on February 9th, 2021, and sixty scholars as well as publishers participated in what turned out to be a very vivid event. The aim was to discuss current developments in open scholarship by presenting a number of different approaches by film and media studies scholars, including current publishing platforms and research practices that often reveal difficulties in transitioning from one paradigm to the next. The workshop discussed the following questions related to open scholarship: How did film studies begin to «open up»? How does the publication of monographs in open access relate to existing publishing traditions in (German-language) film studies? Which aesthetic dimensions and disciplinary features must be taken into account in open access publishing? How do preprints and blogs contribute to open scholarship? How can «open data» look like in film studies and how can it be collected and evaluated in participatory research processes?
The topics thus included problems of data management, evaluation, and visualization, as well as the interrelation between academic text and audiovisual material. An overarching question of the workshop was to identify and discuss numerous ways in which film studies could be made more publicly available by focusing on criteria such as accessibility, approachability, reliability, translatability, sustainability, and affordability. Finally, the aim was to discuss how film scholars can expand existing networks and foster communication about and for their respective research: How can open scholarship also be about creating a productive and critical forum for scholarly ideas and practices?
The present report is based on the minutes Alena Horbelt and Maximilian Grenz took of the event.
Open Publication I: First Movers
Catherine Grant: Film Studies for Free (Open Access Journals since 2008) – a «Historical» Perspective
Catherine Grant set the scene by giving a historical account of the development of digital open access film and media studies. Being one of the most prolific scholars in the field herself, she described the huge impact of the growing availability of academic online resources during the 2000s. But knowledge was not bound to specific places like libraries anymore, and an exchange between scholars became possible on a global scale. Inspired by other scholars who experimented with new communication forms such as blogging or using hyperlinks, Grant started to explore new possibilities offered by digital open access formats.
In 2008, she created the site Film Studies for Free, where she collected and combined extensive lists of existing e-journals or e-books newly published with open access, while also curating and summarizing current trends and recurring themes in academic work on her site. This method of online curation also allowed her to bridge the gap between film criticism and scholarly work by equally referring to sources from both sides in her articles. Furthermore, digital means of publication allowed her and others to experiment more freely with different forms of communication, for example by directly implementing audiovisual works into written texts. Grant is also one of the pioneers of academic video essays, a format that has become more popular on the internet and can be viewed in e-journals which specifically focus on audiovisual formats, as for example in The Cine-Files and [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Image Studies (of which Grant was one of the founding editors). Recent developments like microblogging or platforms such as Twitter or Instagram also allowed for new and creative ways to generate and mediate academic knowledge, but they are subject to growing commercial interests, as well. Another important trend is the vastly improving quality of automatic translation tools, which could facilitate a better translatability and accessibility of academic work in different languages.
A lot of questions were asked about various developments in digital film studies mentioned during the presentation. Scholars use new formats like podcasts or social media platforms creatively, but it is also often difficult to maintain a constant output over long periods of time while having to adapt to technical developments. One problem for researchers is the increasing number of dead links on websites that were not updated for a long time, even though there are useful methods like internet time machines to reconstruct lost data. Ideas were expressed to better integrate digital and open access practices into seminars and other forms of academic research.
Sarah-Mai Dang: Plural Publishing: Preprints and Postprints in Film and Media Studies
In her talk on plural publishing, Sarah-Mai Dang drew attention to the multifaceted digital publishing possibilities we have thanks to the many initiatives and infrastructure projects in film and media studies, and beyond. She made the case that we should take much more advantage of the many new possibilities – not necessarily instead of but at least in addition to journal articles and traditional monographs. Particularly, she drew attention to the potential of postprints and preprints.
A preprint is a version of an article – or a book – that precedes a formal peer review – in contrast to a postprint that has been peer reviewed and accepted but not typeset and formatted. The preprint is deposited by the corresponding author on a preprint server. Postprints can be released immediately or after an embargo period (usually one of 6-12 months). Publishing policies can vary to a great degree. The Sherpa/ Romeo online database, which collects license terms of most academic journals, provides a helpful overview in this regard.
Sarah-Mai Dang argued that preprints can offer a variety of unique possibilities for academic research. Preprints can be published faster and are therefore more representative of current developments in scholarly thinking. Scholars are able to quickly respond to short-term trends in their respective fields. They are free of charge and free to share, without any embargo periods or restrictions by publishing houses. There are also no costs for the authors (APCs – article processing charges). Furthermore, the publication of preprints allows for a variety of versions and text formats beyond the legal restrictions of a publishing house. Preprints can present academic work in progress to a broader audience, which is then also enabled to engage with the authors more easily by offering different forms of early feedback. Preprints would therefore allow for an academic culture in which failure and experiments are not prohibited but rather encouraged.
Sarah-Mai Dang pointed to the large number of websites where preprints can be published. These sites, among them MediArXiv and Zenodo, share the advantages of being nonprofit and community-led (in contrast to platforms such as Academia.edu or ResearchGate). They also offer the possibility of independent uploads while providing infrastructures in which every text has a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), which makes scholarly work permanently identifiable, thus citable and trackable, and sustainably retrievable.
In conclusion, Sarah-Mai Dang argued that ideally, preprints reflect and embrace the situatedness of knowledge. They can cultivate an open, process-oriented form of academic publishing. They are thereby more accessible to the public and younger researchers like students. The talk ended with a critical note. It was emphasized that when aiming for opening up scholarship, we need to consider open access both in terms of dissemination and knowledge production. Therefore, we need to critically scrutinize what «openness» in film and media studies means – and above all, what it should mean: Open for whom, and why? Who benefits from what we consider «openness», and who doesn’t? The question of «openness» needs to be addressed not only in terms of technical or financial issues but also with regard to our community’s values and practices, and how these are shaped by history, inequality, and privilege. In this regard, preprints can only be one tool – among many – to actively intervene in current transformations of digital scholarship towards a more open research environment.
The discussion revolved primarily around the problem of citing preprints. Questions were raised about how to keep track of the different versions of an article without creating confusion. One suggestion was to organize the data not as «versions of record» but more like a «record of versions» with consistent identifiers like DOIs. On the flipside, such methods run the risk of using up too much resources when one has to maintain a constantly expanding database. Another point of interest was the concept of online crowd reviews as opposed to traditional peer reviews..
1. An Introduction & Open Publication I: First Movers. Part 1 of the Report on the Workshop «Into the Wild? Film Studies and Transitions into ‹Openness›».
2. Open Publication II: Politics and Practices in Transition. Part 2 of the Report on the Workshop «Into the Wild? Film Studies and Transitions into Openness›» (coming up next week).
3. Further Routes of Film Studies and Transitions into «Openness». Dissemination, Open Data, Citizen Research and Participation. Part 3 of the Report on the Workshop «Into the Wild? Film Studies and Transitions into ‹Openness›»(coming up soon).