Thursday, July 12, 2007

PKP and its Digital Humanities "Readership"

PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference
12 July 2007
1:45-2:45 SFUHC Canfor Policy Room



Cara Leitch, PhD Candidate, University of Victoria.

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Ray Siemens, University of Victoria.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

John Willinsky
, University of British Columbia.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Karin Armstrong, ETCL Administrator, University of Victoria.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.


"It May Change My Understanding of the Field" New Reading Tools for the Scholars

Caroline Leitch spoke on the outcomes of a project to evaluate reading tools for scholars in the humanities. Each participant in a study of scholars at the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia selected an article from an OJS source and answered a question set developed by Leitch and her colleagues. The reading tools available for scholars to make use of through OJS works are designed to:
  • Evaluate and place the author's work within a larger field
  • Gain a better understanding of that field through contextual material
  • Locate research material
  • Access material that readers already have
Reputation played an important role in respondents reaction to on-line reading tools. While some scholars were skeptical of on-line resources that were not peer-reviewed or traceable to an established institution, the peer-reviewed OJS sources were noted as providing:
  • Up-to-date information
  • An informal atmosphere
  • A sense of community and dialogue
The opportunity to read "cutting edge insight" of scholars involved in the discipline through OJS comments or forums allows for access this up-to-date information instead of relying on the scholars last formally published work.

A key aspect that participants in the study noted was the two-tiered access to information based on institutional and geographic location. The free databases available to academics at their universities or homes via proxy are not as complete as those databases available to non-academics or those researchers who are traveling. The development of a framework that enables readers to access their own reading tools from within whatever reading network they might be using would address some of the geographic disparity.

The benefits identified through the study include:
  • Supporting online research
  • Augmenting existing tools (providing greater context without replace existing tools)
  • Increasing the understanding and engagement in both experts and non-expert reader
The reading tools are a valuable resource for connecting ideas and people.


One of the terms Leitch used in her was “folksonomy” – an individual’s ability to create his or her own tags and labels as a way of organizing data (see Adam Mathes essay for a discussion of folksonomies). Leitch revealed that users of the OJS articles wanted to be able to input their own search terms without being limited by the parameters of others.

The ability to create a reading environment that is particular to the individual must be balanced with the need to create a platform that multiple users can communicate across an established common ground. Participants in the study noted the importance of discipline-relevant search terms that can set helpful organizational boundaries when sorting through data.

Who sets the tags for an article then becomes an important aspect of on-line publishing. Authors and editors may select particular tags that classify an article a certain way, but these discipline-specific terms may be unknown or confusing for the reader who has an interest in the subject without having a scholarly background in common with the creator of categorizer of the work. The editor with the task of publishing past issues of print articles on-line may be a generation or more removed from the author and the terminology of the creator’s time.

Making scholarly work available via OA not only means increasing the circulation of knowledge, it also transmits information to an audience that might never have been imagined with a print publication. Tags should not be designed to “down-dumb” information for a lay reader, but include labels that open up the scholarly ground and invite people from a variety of backgrounds who can make use of and contribute to development of knowledge.


Learn more about the OJS Reading Tools.

Other sessions involving these presenters: Professional Reading Environments and Online and Print Journals through XML.

Read about the Electronic Textual Cultures Laboratory at the University of Victoria.

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