Introducing MediaCommons

As many of my readers will know, Kathleen Fitzpatrick of Planned Obsolescence has been working with the Institute for the Future of the Book on the possibilities for and implications of electronic scholarly publishing, including the potential for new modes of peer review and possibilities for interaction among scholars and texts. After some discussion, they have devised a draft proposal of a “scholarly network” in which media studies scholars 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.” This scholarly netwrok, MediaCommons, looks like a promising resource for media studies scholarship, and I hope other academic bloggers will particpate in this scholarly network.

The focus on media studies scholarship makes a lot of sense (and I’d say that even if I wasn’t a media studies scholar), in part because scholars in that field often explore in their research the very technologies that this network will use. And as KF points out, electronic publishing can be valuable for media studies scholars who need “to quote from the multi-mediated materials they write about” (something I’ve discovered in my writing on new media).

I think I’m most enthusiastic about this project, however, because it focuses on the possibilities of allowing academics to write for audiences of non-academics and strives to use the network model to connect scholars who might otherwise read each other in isolation. As Kathleen points out,

Most universities provide fairly structured definitions of the academic’s role, both as part of the institution’s mission and as informing the criteria under which faculty are hired and reviewed: the academic’s function is to conduct and communicate the products of research through publication, to disseminate knowledge through teaching, and to perform various kinds of service to communities ranging from the institution to the professional society to the wider public. Traditional modes of scholarly life tend to make these goals appear discrete, and they often take place in three very different discursive registers. Despite often being defined as a public good, in fact, much academic discourse remains inaccessible and impenetrable to the publics it seeks to serve.

My initial enthusiasm for blogging grew out of a desire to write for audiences wider than my academic colleagues, and I think this is one of many arenas where MediaCommons can provide a valuable service. In addition to writing for this wider audience, I have met a number of media studies scholars, filmmakers, and other friends, and my thinking about film and media has been shaped by our conversations.

Be sure to read Kathleen’s full post about the goals for MediaCommons, available at both Planned Obsolescence and the Institute for the Future of the Book blogs. This looks like an incredibly cool idea, and I look forward to particpating and hope others will as well.

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