Editor’s Note [18.2]
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Even before the birth and wide spread adoption of the World Wide Web, those with interest in things digital were raising questions about–and sometimes conducting early experiments in–how new technologies might affect the ways in which we tell our stories, to entertain, to document and to promote further thinking. With media like CD-ROM’s, tools like HyperCard and unique software development efforts supported first forays into expression other than the linear, printed narrative and argumentation which were standard, and beloved, communication currency. With the advent of the Web, as hyperlinks became a common affordance of information communication there was a speculation, sometimes an urgency, about their deployment in all forms of expression. At the same time, for every optimistic futurist there was probably an eye rolling skeptic saying “nothing new here” – how about Cortazar’s Hopscotch or Borges’ Garden of the Forking Paths? Aren’t those nonlinear? Choose your own adventure stories arguably deploy linked navigation and have been around since the mid nineteen seventies. And . . . aren’t footnotes a rich form of interlinking documents? Yes, rich illustration, it costs you, but nothing new there. While many of the ambitions of digital communication mirror those we have been attempting to realize in print for many years, we are in a time where we have at hand the tools that can help us to further those ambitions in new media and forms.
Witness the rise of online fan fiction, and of novelists like Kate Pullinger, authoring collaborative multimedia digital work. In mid-February of this year, the Association of American Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Twitter announced dates and Featured Authors for the third #TwitterFictionFestival. The “digital storytelling extravaganza” features 22 authors from a variety of publishers around the world. Margaret Atwood, Jackie Collins, Lemony Snicket, and Chuck Wendig and others will share creative works via words, photos, and videos. The authors of those now venerable Choose Your Own Adventure books are now choosing to adventure online. Increasingly, we see the scholarly integration of rich array of primary sources and supporting data, so much so that university presses are now investing in establishing methods for publishing such work. Video games constantly explore new models for both narrative engagement and learning.
It is easy to enter into debate, even argument, about whether the communicative potential of digital media has been fully realized. Although perhaps not yet fully, I believe it’s safe to say we are at a moment where these forms have matured enough to establish a foothold on our work bench of expressive tools. This issue of JEP features the voices and experience of those who have been immersed in deploying and exploiting, in the best possible sense, the expressive and communicative potential of digital technology and networked communication. Bob Stein, through his work with Voyager, among other efforts, has been demonstrating the potential of these new forms of expression from a time predating the Web. In 2004, he founded the Institute for the Future of the Book, with the goal of finding new models for publishing as it moved from the page to the screen, from the enclosed world of the individual reader to the networked one of the Internet. In this issue, in “Back To the Future” he engages us in thinking about how online life changes not just how we communicate with texts, but how we communicate about texts. With tools, like Social Book, the “computer screens become a place for synchronous and asynchronous conversation.” Peter Meyers, a writer and editorial product designer, goes beyond speculation about how books might change to a detailed and concrete inventory of the digital tools that can and should be deployed in books to make them richer and more useful. Scholars too have been keen to understand how digital expression might extend the impact of their work and assist in producing that work. Michael J. Ackerman, Assistant Director for High Performance Computing and Communications at the National Library of Medicine, shares with us in “The Educational Value of Truly Interactive Scientific Publishing” a report on how software, Interactive Scientific Publishing (ISP), has been developed by the Optical Society of America with support from the National Library of Medicine at NIH to allow authors to electronically publish papers which are linked to the referenced 2D and 3D original image datasets. These image datasets can then be viewed and analyzed interactively by the reader. Critical expression is also an intimate and integral part of scholarship. We get a view of changing methods for such critical expression in B. Jean Mandernach’s, Rick Holbeck’s and Ted Cross’ article “Hybrid Review: Taking SoTL Beyond Traditional Peer Review”. Beginning with the premise that “journal publication developments in emergent technology offer innovative solutions for facilitating a hybrid review process”; they examine a unique combination of private-peer and open-public review uniquely relevant for disseminating SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) . Their analysis of the hybrid review process (combining the strengths of traditional peer review with an integrative public review process) revealed substantial reviewer participation that contributed to a well-rounded, engaged review process.
The potential for how we convey the stories that we want to tell and the information that we want to share, for reasons both personal and professional, proliferate as rapidly as the digital technologies which are so prevalent in our lives. We are in early days of deploying the media and methods we understand, and new ones arise frequently. Our expressive repertoire only continue to grow. In this issue we have collected practitioners and thinkers who think widely and well about the effective use of these emerging forms of expression. We hope these articles will inspire you to do the same.