ClassAss 2007

I’ll be talk­ing at the Classical Association con­fer­ence at Birmingham in a few weeks. I was told there’d be a ses­sion on pub­lish­ing, so I get to be Bora for a day.

ClassAss 2007

The plan is to talk about Peer-to-peer pub­lish­ing and the cre­at­ive pro­cess. The other speak­ers seem to be talk­ing about pub­lish­ing fin­ished work. There’s an space which you could drive open access into, but I’m only intend­ing to talk for about ten to fif­teen minutes. Given I’ll be sched­uled along­side someone from a pub­lisher and estab­lished aca­dem­ics, I don’t think that rais­ing this here would be a viable and could do more harm than good. Instead I’m going to be a bit more sub­vers­ive — is pub­lish­ing about pub­lish­ing fin­ished work?

This is a ses­sion for post­grads, and I accept that help is needed to get some­thing pub­lished in a timely man­ner. But I also think that another thing that can help grad stu­dents is feed­back. This is why many stu­dents will be giv­ing papers at the con­fer­ence this year.

I’ll open by switch­ing my dicta­phone on and explain­ing why. If the record­ing is ok, then it will be uploaded as a pod­cast. A typ­ical audi­ence for a talk will be 50 people. If it grows, then the audi­ence for my talk will be the largest of this year’s con­fer­ence. Even lar­ger than the plen­ary ses­sion. With luck if I make a fool of myself then I’ll be mak­ing a fool of myself in front of hun­dreds or pos­sibly thou­sands of people. Why would I do this? It’s because I genu­inely don’t know what I’m talk­ing about, and things like pod­casts and web­logs can help get feedback.

The main thrust of the talk will be about web­logs. I want to talk about how they can have a pos­it­ive use for aca­demic work.

  1. They get audi­ences.
    An example I’d like to give here is Tony Keen’s paper from last year: The ‘T’ stands for Tiberius: mod­els and meth­od­o­lo­gies of clas­sical recep­tion in sci­ence fic­tion. I couldn’t get to Amanda Potter’s talk Classics and sci-fi last year, so I don’t know what she said. I came in part-way through on Tony Keen’s talk. It’s a fact of life that at any good con­fer­ence talks will clash. By put­ting the text online Tony has put up a paper for dis­cus­sion and increased the pos­sible audience.
  2. They enable dis­cus­sion.
    Mary Beard’s web­log A Don’s Life is an inter­est­ing read because it tackles a vari­ety of issues, some of them quite eph­er­meral and not really suited to being delay for a year or two in a pub­lic­a­tion queue. I could pick out The Stasi… and Emperor Commodus, but there’s almost cer­tainly going to be some­thing else equally inter­est­ing if you visit the site and see what’s up.
  3. They enable col­lab­or­a­tion.
    On my ever-expanding ‘to-do’ list is to find a friendly medi­ev­al­ist and then see if in col­lab­or­a­tion with an Early Modern Historian we can put out a paper on Ghosts as Classical Reception in a Serious Journal. This came about as I was writ­ing about some­thing sim­ilar to another per­son, who was writ­ing about ghosts as tools of provid­ence in the theatre.
  4. They appeal to inter­dis­cip­lin­ary audi­ences.
    If you’re a slave to one topic, that’s not a prob­lem. Recently I’ve been work­ing on stat­ist­ical meth­ods which have to appeal to clas­si­cists and math­em­aticians. Now I could stand up and give a talk on prob­ab­il­ity, but this isn’t the venue. Putting up a post on a web­log did find an audi­ence with help­ful comments.
  5. They build repu­ta­tions.
    I was sur­prised to see me quoted by Archaeology magazine on the Bosnian Pyramid fiasco, just for doing to basic read­ing. I’ve asked to write a review for an archae­olo­gical journal this sum­mer by someone who knows me only through this web­log. I’m also pub­lished in this fine book.

There are drawbacks.

  1. Putting ideas up leaves them open for other people to take them.
    Yes it does, but if you’re that bothered then it’s also the sort of thing that you wouldn’t want to deliver as a talk to a bunch of clas­si­cists, many of whom need pub­lic­a­tions to keep their jobs. Putting up on a web­log has the added advant­age of it being an acces­ible pub­lic record of you hav­ing the idea. But there’s no imper­at­ive to put all your research into the pub­lic eye.
  2. Pre-publication will bar your work from being pub­lished in a peer-reviewed journal.
    Observational evid­ence sug­gests this is not the case. Physicists and math­em­aticians and so on upload their pre-prints to arXiv for dis­tri­bu­tion, but they still appear in peer-reviewed journ­als. The key is that these are not final papers, they’re work in pro­gress. They get fin­ished passed to a pub­lisher who then does all the value-added stuff that jus­ti­fies the sub­scrip­tion fees and lack of pay­ment to the author. Then it gets pub­lished. A good journal will recog­nise that there isn’t com­pet­i­tion. A journal which makes a prin­ciple of inter­fer­ing with the cre­at­ive pro­cess may not have a long term future.
  3. I have a life, I don’t have time to learn how to use blog­ging soft­ware.
    The simplest stuff like word​press​.com or Blogger is as easy to use as Microsoft Word. If you can cre­ate and save a file in that, you already have the skills to use blog­ging software.

Computers and web­logs are not going to render journ­als obsol­ete any more than they’ve rendered books obsol­ete. What these tools offer is in addi­tion to tra­di­tional meth­ods of pub­lic­a­tion. Just as email has made com­mu­nic­a­tion easier, so these tools make the present­a­tion of work in pro­gress easier. The first ques­tion I think any­one should ask when they’re pub­lish­ing work is “Why am I pub­lish­ing?” This method brings us back to one of the earli­est reas­ons, to exchange ideas and to aid research.

In addi­tion to the talk I’ll have a handout with the URLs of some clas­sical blogs. If the blog is asso­ci­ated with a named author then I’ll list it, so Rogue Classicism for instance is get­ting lis­ted. More prob­lem­atic are pseud­onym­ous web­logs. I’m wary of list­ing them because I assume they blog under a pseud­onym for a reason. For instance one very good web­log I know of is of a gradu­ate stu­dent at a UK uni­ver­sity. I’m not sure that I should draw atten­tion to that if it’s going to cause him/her problems.

Below is the list of Classics web­logs I’ll be list­ing, and I’ll also see if I can write a Blogging for Classicists entry to go with it. If you’d like your blog to be added to the list then leave a com­ment. So long as it has some­thing rel­ev­ant to clas­sics recently I’ll add it.

Rogue Classicism: Classical news and fre­quent links to other clas­sical web­logs.
A Don’s Life: Mary Beard (Cantab)
Ancient Transportation: Kristian Minck (Århus)
ARLT: Association foR Latin Teaching
Blogographos: Debra Hamel and any­one who signs up.
Bread and Circuses: Adrian Murdoch
Curculio: Michael Hendry
Classics in Contemporary Culture: Mischa Hooker (Memphis)
Greek colo­nial pot­tery in Italy: Søren Handberg (Århus)
Iconoclasm: Troels Myrup Kristensen (Århus)
Kenodoxia: James Warren (Cantab)
The Latin Zone: Gin Lindzey
Laudator Temporis Acti: Michael Gilleland
Mediterranean Archaeology: Ioannis Georganas
Memorabilia Antonina: Tony Keen (Open)
PhDiva: Dorothy King
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean: Philip Harland (York University in Toronto)
Roman History Books and More: Irene Hahn
The Stoa: University of Kentucky
Sympotica grae­co­lat­ina: Andrew Dalby
Tradición Clásica: Gabriel Laguna
Thoughts on Antiquity: (vari­ous)
Tria Corda: Dan Diffendale
Zenobia: Empress of the East: Judith Weingarten (BSA)


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

3 Responses

  1. Tony Keen says:

    My paper from last year’s CA got cited twice in the con­fer­ence on SF and the Canon which I atten­ded last week (three times if you count me includ­ing it in my bib­li­o­graphy). That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t put it on my blog.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t really had time to put any other papers up there, though there are a couple I keep plan­ning on doing so.