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Archive for June, 2016

Student publishing supported by UCL Press: the story of Object, UCL History of Art graduate journal

By ucwcsnl, on 29 June 2016


I am pleased to have an opportunity to share my experience as an editor for Object 17.

Object is a journal produced entirely by graduate students in the History of Art Department at UCL, which has been produced in print form for the last 16 years. The contents of each edition represent the diversity of issues and methodologies with which graduate students in the department are currently engaged. Drawing upon object and theory-based analyses, the studies within Object indicate a continual questioning and renegotiation of meaning in the visual arts. As with previous editions, the essays and reviews included represent the wide range of historical and theoretical concerns of our current research students.

The seventeenth edition of Object was published in open access form online for the first time this year, with the intention – while maintaining the journal’s core values – of wider distribution, increased readership and public engagement via the department’s growing digital platform. As part of a proud departmental tradition, the relationship between Object and its readers has developed over a long period of time. In order to carry on the tradition, while making full use of the new digital platform, we had to think about how the original print format version could be transferred into Open Journal Systems (OJS). This required numerous departmental meetings to decide interface and customization work with UCL Press, who host OJS for the use of student journal publishing. As our original format was not entirely transferrable to OJS I had to think about the structure of the interface (such as how to reorganize the website to achieve clarity and momentum), focusing on what was best for the journal and for the community the journal serves.

Having now published our journal on UCL Press’s OJS platform, the impact of our articles and reviews has become more visible. On the website, our contributors and readers can check the most updated information on where, internationally, their journal has been downloaded. It is wonderful to see that Object is attracting readers from all over the world, which made us more passionate about our research activities.

Offering open access to an art history journal that had previously circulated mainly within universities and museums meant that copyright became an important issue. With a limited budget, I had to think about various ways of persuading the image copyright holders to contribute their images for free. This was challenging because revenue from copyright is an increasingly important source of income for museums and estates. Through constant communication, we eventually received lots of generous contributions.

Apart from dealing with designers to prepare the interface, and ensuring that each article was set within the OJS system, my own duties included setting the schedule for authors to complete manuscripts and have them reviewed, engaging proof-readers to check the articles and helping choose the cover image. Therefore, an eye for detail and building strong collaborative relationships between parties were vital. In discussions, I learnt a lot about editorial policy, the revision process as well as practical matters such as intellectual property rights and formatting.

As an editor, it was my responsibility to participate in the decision whether to accept or reject an article for publication in the journal. Sometimes it required an open and honest discussion and feedback in order to produce a common understanding and outcome that was in the best interest of the authors, the journal and the community. I discovered how to make an objective assessment of a manuscript from an editor’s perspective.

I was lucky that, as an editor for this issue, I could be involved in the initial conception of the project, managing production while working closely with my co-editor Tom Snow, our editorial board, various faculty and staff in the department and UCL Press. It was a rewarding experience to read and edit the many interesting manuscripts from contributors. Overall, I learnt that producing an academic journal is about effective communication between individuals with different kinds of expertise and valuable experience. I genuinely appreciate all the members of our department who were willing to contribute their time, knowledge and brilliant ideas for the publication. Particularly, Prof. Frederic Schwartz and Prof. Rose Marie San Juan, as they know Object‘s unique traditions well and have had long experience working as members of the editorial board of Oxford Art Journal. They helped the team to define and resolve issues for the project. Through the whole process, I learnt how to make good, effective editorial judgments and decisions for serving the needs of the academic community.

As an academic field, art history has abundant resources of invaluable discussion around visual images and culture that can help the wider public internationally to enrich their contemporary understanding. In this respect, open access is crucial, and thinking about the digital platforms was a small step toward that great, distant goal.

During the process, I had to invest a considerable amount of time and effort. But it was extremely rewarding because I could attain a more comprehensive perspective on the practical workings of the academic world. I came to see how my study can be positioned in a larger academic context and how I can grow as an academic who can contribute to the future academic world.

We all worked hard to produce Object online for the first time and had a wonderful departmental celebration during which we could share all the challenges we encountered over several glasses of wine. Although it feels like an important turning point to be launching online, I am fully aware that this is just the beginning of a journey. The new digital platform offers a glimpse of the potential yet to be explored. Fellow students liked the interface. And perhaps due to its enhanced visibility, the proposal for submission has increased this year so we now have two editors and three deputy editors working on the new edition.

Sena Lee

Co-editor, Object 17, History of Art, University College London

Social media and Brexit

By Daniel Miller, on 28 June 2016

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 14.22.03One of the common claims made about social media is that it has facilitated a new form of political intervention aligned with the practices and inclinations of the young. Last week I attended the launch of an extremely good book by Henry Jenkins and his colleagues called By Any Media Necessary which documents how young people use social and other media to become politically involved, demonstrating that this is real politics not merely ‘slacktivism’, a mere substitute for such political involvement.

And yet, currently I am seeing social media buzzing with young people advocating a petition to revoke the Brexit vote, which only highlights the absence of a similar ‘buzz’ prior to the vote. I await more scholarly studies in confirmation, but my impression is that we did not see the kind of massive activist campaign by young people to prevent Brexit that we saw with campaigns behind Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

The failure to create an attractive activist-led mass social media campaign to get young people to vote for Remain is reflected in the figures; although 18-24 year-olds were the most favourable segment towards Remain, only 36% of this group actually voted at all. As such, Brexit represents a catastrophic failure in young people’s social media, from which we need to learn. Being based in ethnography, our Why We Post project argued that we need to study the absence of politics in ordinary people’s social media as much as focusing on when it does appear. But the key lesson is surely that just because social media can facilitate young people’s involvement in politics doesn’t mean it will, even when that politics impacts upon the young.

One possibility is that social media favours a more radical idealistic agenda. By contrast, even though the impact of Brexit might be greater and more tangible, the remain campaign was led by a conservative prime minister, backing a Europe associate with bureaucracy and corporate interest, and was a messy grouping of people with different ideological perspectives, that made it perhaps less susceptible to the social media mechanisms of aggregated sharing.

At the same time I would claim that our work can help us to understand the result. My own book Social Media in an English Village is centred on the way English people re-purposed social media as a mechanism for keeping ‘others’, and above all one’s neighbours, at a distance. I cannot demonstrate this but I would argue that by supporting Brexit the English were doing in politics at a much larger scale exactly what my book claims they were doing to their neighbours at a local level: expressing a sense that ‘others’ were getting too close and too intrusive and needed to be pushed back to some more appropriate distance. And it is this rationale which may now have devastated the prospects for young people in England.

About the author

Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at UCL and author of 37 books including Social Media in an English VillageThe Comfort of Things, Stuff, Tales from Facebook and A Theory of Shopping.  Find out more about the Why We Post series at  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/why-we-post.

This post originally appeared on the Global Social Media Impact Study blog, using the title ‘Social Media and Brexit’. It has been re-posted with permission.

Books on the Web, about the Web

By Alison Fox, on 27 June 2016

Today’s guest post is written by Ralph Schroder and Niels Brugger, authors of the forthcoming UCL Press book The Web as History: Using Web Archives to Understand the Past and the Present.

The World Wide Web has now been with us for more than twenty years. From its early incarnation as the Mosaic browser, to today’s ubiquitous uses of the Web as a source of information, entertainment, and much else, the Web has become part of our daily lives. It is therefore curious that scholars have thus far made little use of the Web as a source for understanding historical patterns of culture and society. Future historians and social scientists are bound to look to the Web, its content and structure, to understand how society was changing – just as they have used letters, novels, newspapers, radio and television programmes, and other artefacts as a record of the past in pre-digital times. What can we learn from the Web so far?

Our forthcoming book, an edited volume entitled The Web as History: Using Web Archives to Understand the Past and the Present (eds. Niels Brügger & Ralph Schroeder) will present a series of chapters about how culture and society has evolved with the Web. It will include a number of histories of national Web spaces, accounts of different domains such as government and media websites, and case studies of topics such as religion, and education, the online community of GeoCities, and the evolution of the abortion debate in Australia 2005-2015.

We believe that Open Access is a good policy: it has been shown to increase audience reach and access. Our book can also have plenty of images – pictures of websites: very important, for obvious reasons, in this case. Our book is about the Web, and will have a diverse readership, who can hopefully also find it easily online.

UCL Press has published an impressive set of books in internet research, especially How the World Changed Social Media, and other books in the Why We Post series by Daniel Miller and colleagues. The fact that the book can be both in print and online is the best of both worlds. Finally, they have a helpful team, good to work with!

About the authors

Ralph Schroeder is MSc Course Director and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute. Niels Brugger is Professor in Internet Studies and Digital Humanities at Aarhus University, Head of NetLab, part of the Danish Digital Humanities Lab, and head of the Centre for Internet Studies. Their book, The Web as History, will be published by UCL Press in spring 2017.

1st Birthday Party for UCL Press

By Alison Fox, on 24 June 2016

Today’s guest post is posted on behalf of Paul Ayris, Director of Library Services at UCL and CEO of UCL Press.


16 June 2016 was an auspicious day for UCL Press. This was the day when we held  a Birthday Party to celebrate 1 year of publishing activity.

100 people accepted the Press’s invitation to join them at the Party, which was held in Waterstone’s Bookshop. The Guest of Honour was Professor David Price, who spoke of his pride that UCL has established such an innovative publishing programme. UCL Press is the first fully Open Access University Press in the UK.

Following David Price’s speech, I gave a brief summary of the achievements of the Press in its 1st year of operation – over 30,000 downloads in over 160 countries. This is an amazing record for a young Press in its 1st year. I admitted that establishing the Press was my idea, but that it had needed the insight, expertise and support of very many people to make it happen. That the Press has achieved so much so quickly is really a testament to all their hard work.

The audience was then entertained by 6 UCL Press authors, who told us what they felt about working with the Press and why they had chosen UCL Press as their publisher. I was struck by two things. First, a number of authors who have published with us said they wanted to publish with us again. That is real praise. Second, some speakers spoke about the textbooks which they are publishing with UCL Press. I had a long talk with Deepak Kalaskar from the Royal Free about his forthcoming (July 2016) Textbook of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Commercial publishers have been slow to offer textbooks as digital textbooks, let alone Open Access textbooks. In its work on developing an Open Access digital textbook model, UCL Press is being truly innovative.

The audience toasted the 1st year of the Press, and wished it well in the next 12 months, with glasses of Prosecco. Cup cakes with the UCL Press logo iced on the top crowned a generous finger buffet, which was well received by those attending. The evening bodes well for the growing success of UCL Press.

Paul Ayris

Director of UCL Library Services & CEO UCL Press

Audio and Audio-Visual Academic Book of the Future

By ucylpen, on 23 June 2016

On 23 May I was invited to speak at the ‘Audio and Audio-Visual Academic Book of the Future’ event, a symposium hosted by the British Library. The event was convened by Steven Dryden, a sound librarian at the BL, and aimed to bring together publishers, librarians and researchers to discuss the use of audio-visual content in scholarly books. I presented alongside two other speakers: Richard Mason, a novelist who showcased his new co-venture, Orson & Co, a platform that publishes audio-visual books, and Rebecca Lyons, who provided an overview of the Academic Book of the Future project, which she co-investigates.

Following the three presentations, the group engaged in an open discussion where all delegates reflected on their experiences of working with AV content in their careers or in their research. One question, which was pertinent to those attending from the BL, was on the issue of archiving: how do we determine which version of a book is the original when it is published simultaneously in different formats? Are ISBNs enough to identify each version, and how realistic is a future in which copyright clearance will be required for multiple e-formats even though print rights are challenging enough for authors to secure?

The floor was offered to a number of the ECRs in attendance who discussed their practice-based research and collectively emphasised a need for broader publishing options. They also raised the issue of attribution and lamented the difficulty of describing their contributions to online platforms and non-traditional forms of publishing. It was agreed that continued collaboration will be required between authors, publishers, librarians, archivists and coders to build a future in which AV content can be welcomed as a critical component of online publishing rather than viewed as an awkward luxury.

‘Open access will allow us to establish a much closer dialogue’

By Alison Fox, on 21 June 2016

Today’s guest blog is by Edward King, Lecturer in Portuguese and Lusophone Studies at the University of Bristol. His book, Technology, Posthumanism and the Graphic Novel in Latin America will publish in 2017.

Technology, Posthumanism and the Graphic Novel in Latin America will be the first book-length study of the graphic novel form in the region. Latin America is currently experiencing a boom in graphic novels that are very sophisticated, both in the concepts they are exploring and in the way they are reworking the genre. We believe that the graphic novel is emerging in Latin America and elsewhere as a uniquely powerful medium through which to explore the nature of twenty-first century subjectivity and especially forms of embodiment or mediatization that bind humans to their non-human environment. These can be very productively drawn out in relation to modes of posthuman thought and experience, and that is the focus of our book. We discuss a range of recent graphic novels from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay, all of which experiment in exciting ways with transmediality, the topological representation of space in the city, or embodied modes of perception and cognition. They are often concerned with finding a new form of ethics for a posthuman world in which agency is both dispersed beyond the human self and (paradoxically) rooted in the materiality of an embodied existence.

Publishing open access with UCL Press will enable us to distribute our research much more effectively. The community of scholars interested in Latin American culture, graphic fiction and the study of posthuman subjectivities is geographically extremely dispersed so being able to download the book from the internet should be a great help. Researchers and students in Latin America often find the cost of importing books prohibitive, so the open access route will allow us to establish a much closer dialogue with them. Furthermore, as our focus in the book is on texts that intersect with the technologies of the information age in a number of ways, it is appropriate that it bestrides both print and digital media.

About the author

Edward King is a Lecturer in Portuguese and Lusophone Studies at the University of Bristol. He is the author of Science Fiction and Digital Technologies in Argentine and Brazilian Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and Virtual Orientalism in Brazilian Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). UCL Press will publis his forthcoming book (co-authored with Joanna Page) Technology, Posthumanism and the Graphic Novel in Latin America in 2017.  Sign up for more details here.

Housing – Critical Futures: ‘a critical issue at a critical time’

By ucqbgca, on 17 June 2016

research programme led by AMPS (Architecture, Media, Politics, Society) and supported by UCL Press

The Housing – Critical Futures research programme confronts a critical issue at a critical time. In London, a leading capital of global finance, there is a chronic shortage of affordable housing for those that service ‘the service’ sector. The crisis is at levels not seen since World War II. In Beijing, capital of the 21st century’s political powerhouse, the displacement of long-standing communities is a daily occurrence. In Mumbai, thAmps finale biggest health risk faced by the city today has been identified as overcrowded housing, while in São Paulo, football’s 2014 World Cup took place against a backdrop of community unrest and the chronic living conditions of the poor. The private sector, the state and residents themselves are searching for solutions. Whether housing refugees in conflict areas, providing safe water to the households in the developing world, or ensuring key workers can live in the cities they support in the West, the question of housing is not only global, but critical.

In addressing these questions AMPS (Architecture, Media, Politics, Society) has partnered with institutions, organizations, individuals, activists, designers, theorists and, of course publishers. Our key publishing partner is UCL Press which has been fundamental in ensuring that the work of those we collaborate with reaches a wide and relevant audience on an open access basis. UCL Press has worked with us in developing a book series on housing that allows AMPS to bring together the ideas of diverse players internationally around the issue of housing. The Press is supportive of our interdisciplinary agenda meaning together we are able to present an amazing array of perspectives covering a range of issues. Whether it be architects dealing with design-led ideas, residents analyzing participatory processes, planners critiquing models of development, economists explaining financial frameworks at macro and micro levels, or activists campaigning for changes on government policy, UCL Press has worked with us to find dissemination routes.

The AMPS journal, Architecture_MPS is also published through UCL Press and while this is open to an interdisciplinary body of authors and is open to a much wider range of topics, UCL Press has welcomed our use of the journal to promote our housing agenda. We have developed a series of SIPs (special issue publications) with them and our first special issue, which will be published in September 2016, is focused on housing.

About the author

Graham Cairns is Director of AMPS and Executive Editor of the associated journal Architecture_MPS. He is currently based at Columbia University, New York, and is Honorary Senior Research Associate at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

More details:

Architecture_MPS journal: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/uclpress/amps

Housing Critical Futures Book Series: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/series/housing-critical-futures

‘We are all suburbanites’

By ucftlsv, on 16 June 2016

Suburban Urbanities is an edited collection that is the culmination of over seven years’ research into the urban form and social logic of metropolitan suburbs. The research considered the factors that contribute to the long-term success of suburban town centres. In order to do this we studied a century’s morphological evolution and land use patterns of twenty outer London suburbs as well as, more generally, how cities IMAGE 4_Scottgrow and take shape over time. The research took a multi-disciplinary approach, integrating urban analysis (using space syntax) with ethnographic studies of people, organisations and places on the one hand, and historical studies of land uses and urban form on the other. Towards the end of our project we sought out a comparative set of examples from the UK and elsewhere around Europe and the Mediterranean. The book takes these examples and organises these into three themes: Suburban Centralities – which has a focus on city-wide transformations, showing that local places are shaped and formed over time according to their accessibility to long-term patterns of human, social and economic networks of activity across scales; High Street Diversity – which has a focus on the high street, the active centre of urban and suburban centres. The last section of the book is called ‘Everyday Sociability’.  In addition to the case studies themselves, the book has a clear agenda, to challenge the perception that urbanity only exists in the city. Opening with a pair of theoretical position pieces, it argues that urbanity exists in a continuum from urban to suburban. When discussing suburban life it is vital to get away from the binary choice between suburban versus urbane. Indeed, we are all suburbanites in one way or another, given that urbanism is a temporal process.

As an early adopter of open access through UCL’s repository, UCL Press seemed like an ideal choice for Suburban Urbanities, given that it is a university press dedicated to full open access. A surprising bonus has been the fast turnaround, from submission in April 2015 to publication in November 2015. At the same time the visual and material quality of both online and print version is excellent – indeed, one of the book’s reviewers commented that it is “a book that looks and feels beautiful”. Most important for me has been the immediate impact of the book. Alongside its thousands of downloads (3750 at last count) in eighty eight countries, it has had impact in all sorts of unexpected places: featuring in The Atlantic in its CityLab blog and an activist in New Zealand has been tweeting excerpts of the book at his local planning authority to raise various policy issues. My hope is that it will continue to resonate far and wide as we continue to battle with the complexity of suburban urbanity in future years.

About the Author

Laura Vaughan is Professor of Urban Form and Society at the Space Syntax Laboratory, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, and editor of Suburban Urbanities. In addition to her longstanding research into London’s suburban evolution, she has written on many other critical aspects of urbanism today. Follow her on Twitter at @urban_formation.

Why one Early Career Researcher decided to publish in open access

By ucldnpi, on 15 June 2016

I’m delighted to be working with UCL Press on the publication of Four Histories about Early Dutch Football 1910–1920: Constructing Discourses. This work will use some of the research I conducted for my doctoral studies, combined with new research and approaches, to provide four new histories about football in Dutch life in the early part of the twentieth century. The work interweaves concerns about the role and purpose of history today, with questions about the nature of modern sport and its interaction with culture, politics, and society. A central aim of the book Piercey 800pxis to promote a new form of history that acknowledges that the subjectivity of the author (and reader) is not only inevitable, but also useful in the development of history as a democratic tool for the future.

I was particularly keen to work with UCL Press because of their commitment to Open Access publication, which I see as a revolutionary development in academic publishing. Free online publication means that my work and ideas will be available to as many people as possible, without the barriers often in palace in traditional academic publishing models. I’m pleased to be taking part at an early stage in this change in academic publishing. In addition, Open Access publishing has given me the opportunity to provide additional data and content online which will encourage other individuals to create their own histories about the past – which is a central theme of my work.

As a young academic, and first time author, I have loved the encouragement given by everyone at UCL Press in this project, from the initial proposal to the final stages of publication. At every stage the team has always been ready to listen to suggestions and to guide me through the difficulties and surprises involved in bringing my ideas to a wider audience. While the staff are UCL Press are ambitious in developing an ever increasing number of titles, I have always felt that the team has taken a hands on approach to the process and both understand and value the deeply personal nature of their authors’ contributions. Happy Birthday!

About the author

Nicholas Piercey is Honorary Research Associate in UCL’s Department of Dutch in the UCL School of European Languages, Culture & Society. His first book, Four Histories of Early Dutch Football, 1910-1920: Constructing Discourses (UCL Press) will be published on October 2016. Find out more at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/four-histories-about-early-dutch-football.

‘We needed a Press with vision and ambition’

By Daniel Miller, on 14 June 2016

How the world changed social mediaFor our particular project, Why We Post, the creation of UCL Press was simply the perfect answer to a key question. We had already committed to open access. This is something I am personally very committed to and had previously published a paper advocating open access in an anthropology journal. I was very disappointed with the current models of Green and Gold and wanted what I think of as genuine open access, which inevitably means publication being taken back into the university system and thereby saving huge sums for libraries. I feel this strongly as anthropologist since we need to make our findings accessible to low-income people in low-income countries which are the populations that we typically study.

The additional headache was that we were committed to publishing 11 books. Having carried out nine different 15-month ethnographies we knew we had a vast amount of important new material about the use and consequences of social media, a topic of huge public interest. For us open access also means writing in an open and accessible style. But taking on 11 volumes is quite a commitment. So we needed a press with vision and ambition.

At this point we could not be happier with the result. We launched the first three books at the end of February and within a month we had over 10,000 downloads, which is almost unimaginable in traditional publishing. As people who work on digital technologies it’s great to see online books with hyperlinked chapters and endnotes that we can link to directly from our freeSocial Media in an English Village FutureLearn e-learning course and our Why We Post website. In addition, a topic such as social media is about the rise of visual communication and it was essential for us to have many colour images included.

We feel we have been supported throughout this adventure by UCL Press, especially with regard to advertising and marketing. I have published 37 volumes and was particularly impressed by the fast turnaround from submission of final manuscripts. We are happy that there are also relatively inexpensive offline paperbacks for those who prefer physical books. But if I was to pick out one particular achievement which matters to an anthropologist it is that our books are being read in 132 countries with over 100 downloads recorded for countries as diverse as Turkey, Russia, Poland, Japan and Mexico.

About the author

Daniel Miller is Professor of Anthropology at UCL and author of 37 books including Social Media in an English VillageThe Comfort of Things, Stuff, Tales from Facebook and A Theory of Shopping.  Find out more about the Why We Post series at  https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/why-we-post.