April 3, 2008

Blog-Based Peer Review: Some Preliminary Conclusions, part 1

by Noah Wardrip-Fruin · , 8:12 am

As many Grand Text Auto readers know, earlier this year I put a mostly-completed draft of my manuscript (for Expressive Processing) through two forms of peer review. One was a review by three anonymous field experts selected by my publisher, The MIT Press. The other was a blog-based review right here on Grand Text Auto. I posted each chapter, section by section, with a new addition each weekday morning — inviting paragraph-by-paragraph comments from the readers here.

For those who like discussions to cut to the chase, here’s what happened, from my point of view. The blog-based review and the anonymous review both pointed to the same primary revision for the manuscript: distributing the main argument more broadly through the different chapters and sections, rather than concentrating the argument largely in a dense opening chapter. In addition, the blog-based review also gave me a great deal of specific feedback on my supporting arguments and examples.

From this we might conclude that anonymous, press-solicited peer review can be abandoned. After all, I gathered the same primary high-level direction for revision from both reviews, plus I got a good deal of more specific information from the blog-based review. But finding a replacement for the dominant model of review was never a goal of the project, and abandoning anonymous, press-solicited review is not something I recommend to others. I’ll explain why, but I won’t be able to finish in one post.

My plan is to break the discussion into three posts, which I hope to be able to complete in the next three to four days (or, failing that, shortly thereafter). I’m posting this from a hotel room, and if all goes well I’ll write the next while on airplanes tomorrow.