Future-forming interdisciplinary research

Open Futures: The politics of academic book publishing

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Funded by an ISF Small Grant, this project will create a new network of academics and practitioners concerned with the futures of academic book publishing. It will bring together those working in both academic-led subject-specific Open Access presses and the new wave of Open Access university presses.

We are at a pivotal moment in debates about Open Access, seen by various agencies as a mechanism for democratising academic knowledge and rendering it more transparent. The Open Futures project will collaboratively explore such claims in relation to the production of Open Access books, focusing on the heterogeneous social, technical, and material networks that make texts possible (or not).

Its particular focus is on working collaboratively to establish new tools, infrastructures, and working practices amongst Open Access book publishers in a context of stretched financial means and the dependence in the sector on academics’ freely donated labour. In addition, it takes the diverse socio-technical methods through which Open Access books are being produced and reconfigured as an object of research and analysis.

The project begins with a one day workshop in late July, followed in the evening by a networking launch event. The latter will coincide with the launch of an Open Access book publisher and registered charity: Mattering Press.

Indicative themes being explored by the project include: how to relate the pasts and futures of academic book publishing; how the social, material and technical challenges of book publishing can be better understood and collectively acted upon; putting into question central, often uncritically mobilised concepts in this field (e.g. ‘openness’, ‘access’, ‘transparency’).

This project is led by Joe Deville (Lancaster University), in collaboration with Uli Beisel (University of Bayreuth), Endre Dányi (Goethe University, Frankfurt), Natalie Gill, Julien McHardy (Martin Luther University), and Michaela Spencer (Charles Darwin University). The project is also supported by the Centre for Invention and Social Process, Goldsmiths, University of London.

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