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Amodern Journal Offers Open-Access Poetics Scholarship

By Harriet Staff
Johanna Drucker

Johanna Drucker

In a world where getting a hold of  recent scholarly writing about poetry usually means relying on access to a university library (or asking a friend with access to send us a PDF), projects like Jacket2 are a welcome anomaly. That’s why we’re so excited about  Amodern, “a peer-reviewed, open access scholarly journal devoted to the study of media, culture, and poetics.” The about page elaborates the journal’s mission:

The journal is distinguished by its focus on poetics as a scholarly practice, with particular emphasis on the unruly ways that people deploy media and technology behind, beneath, and despite their instrumental functions. Against the grain of determinism, we hope to attract work that bears witness to media as complex assemblages of institutions, subjects, bodies, objects, and discourses.

And there are plenty of poets and poet-scholars involved in the project: Darren Wershler, Johanna Drucker, Marjorie Perloff, Jeff Derksen, and Sianne Ngai among them.

We recommend that you approach the inaugural issue through Johanna Drucker’s contribution on the future and history of scholarly publishing in an increasingly networked environment. She writes:

Imagine a Talmudic environment, its web of commentary extended to a macro-scale across generations of dialogue. What method of organizing this field of materials would help understand the way any individual author’s interpretations shifted or changed understanding of the texts, or re-set the fundamental questions to be asked? How, to use a repulsive term, do we identify the “game-changers” in such a field? Scale will escalate rapidly to an unmanageable level, so that any and all ways of filtering will be an essential feature of the digital scholarly apparatus. The configurations by which we organized our reading will shift too. Our understanding of the diagrammatic character of thought – its relational organization and semantics of spatialized expressions of thinking and writing – will change exponentially. Screen space, already made porous by the swipe and touch screens, will be a environment that can be manipulated tactilely in which axes of organization will follow multiple trails of association or ordering (thematic, chronological, influential, social, historical, political, economic etc.). Our knowledge of relations, a science invoked by Charles Sanders Peirce and yet to be realized as a method, will be intuited through graphical moves and gestures that spatialize our thinking processes through structures that array, hierarchize, lineate, evolve, graph, and otherwise express a semantics of relational moves in the intellectual game of interpretation and knowledge production.

Reading will be immersive, not in the sense that we think of now, where the seamless virtual skin of a rendered environment creates an illusion of wholeness where only fragmentary knowledge exists, but the opposite, a faceted fragmented world of associated bits, pieces, parts, whose kaleidoscopic reorganization follows a productive tension between lines of composition and interpretation, authorship and re-authorship through the performative acts of reading and viewing. Scholarship in such a world, one in which an economy of excess has long displaced one of scarcity, will be an act akin to that of providing an expert commentary on the experience of walking through the Grand Canyon, the ruins of Pompeii, or an unfamiliar cultural environment. The repurposing protocols will suck relevant bits from these experienced commentaries or imaginative flights of interpretative fantasy, and offer them like motes of insight in the distributed environment of augmented reality. Will authors receive some micro credit for the use of their labors? Like the system that Canadian libraries use to return some remuneration to authors at year’s end that accords with the number of times their works have been checked out? What a thought.

In any case, what lies ahead is a new system of micro-contributions in the macro-scale of an extensible universe of discourse, networked, and able to be processed, searched, and assessed in ways that will augment the human peer review system while also, hopefully, making expertise available and accessible to a broader audience. Specialized research, esoteric and meant for a small part of sometimes very small fields, will go on – also recognized by a kind of isotope of influence meter – but rewards for more popular contributions to knowledge and culture should increase if we can only rid them of the stigma of being degraded for being accessible. The walls of academe might open to more fluid and easy dialogue with the public sphere, and amateur scholarship, developed from love of knowledge and pursuit of specialized expertise, might be recognized on terms more similar to that of the academic world. In a utopian vision, a participatory scholarly environment might support multi-tiered work, just as games support engagement at different levels, with players earning their right of entry through contributions to the field.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, February 21st, 2013 by Harriet Staff.