July 17, 2006
In a recent blog post, the wraps were taken off the initial plans for MediaCommons, an exciting forthcoming project of The Institute for the Future of the Book. They plan
a wide-ranging scholarly network — an ecosystem, if you can bear that metaphor — in which folks working in media studies can write, publish, review, and discuss, in forms ranging from the blog to the monograph, from the purely textual to the multi-mediated, with all manner of degrees inbetween.
Their current plans encompass electronic monographs, casebooks, journals, reference works, forums, and more. One of the most exciting ideas, from my point of view, is their desire to focus on the process of development of scholarly ideas. It seems as though this is one of the areas where blogging has already shown significant potential. As they put it:
openness and interconnection will also allow us to make the process of scholarly work just as visible and valuable as its product; readers will be able to follow the development of an idea from its germination in a blog, though its drafting as an article, to its revisions, and authors will be able to work in dialogue with those readers, generating discussion and obtaining feedback on work-in-progress at many different stages.
I think the real trick here is going to be how they build the network. I suspect a dedicated community needs to be built before the first ambitious new project starts, and that this community is probably best constructed out of people who already have online scholarly lives to which they’re dedicated. Such people are less likely to flake, it seems to me, if they commit. But will they want to experiment with MediaCommons, given they’re already happy with their current activity? Or, can their current activity, aggregated, become the foundation of MediaCommons in a way that’s both relatively painless and clearly shows benefit? It’s an exciting and daunting road the Institute folks have mapped out for themselves, and I’m rooting for their success.