Building Manifold

Welcome to Building Manifold, a blog that will document the process of creating Manifold Scholarship, a project at the University of Minnesota Press in partnership with the GC Digital Scholarship Lab at the Graduate Center, CUNY and Cast Iron Coding. Manifold Scholarship is funded through a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of a series of 2015 grants made to university presses.

Manifold Scholarship is composed of two parts:

1) The creation of Manifold, an intuitive, collaborative, open-source platform for scholarly works. With iterative texts, powerful annotation tools, rich media support, and robust community dialogue, Manifold will transform scholarly publications into living digital works.

2) Rethinking the print-focused mode of scholarly authorship and university press editorial procedures and production workflows to accommodate the differences in creating content for iterative, networked publication.

Creating Manifold

Over the past decade, university presses have made substantial progress toward the first phase of making scholarly books digital—converting monographs into pdf and epub editions. This has been enabled by the compatibility of current publishing practice and scholarly publishing economics with these fixed formats—formats that extend, but that do not transform, the nature of scholarly publishing. Digital humanities projects, on the other hand, are designed to be iterative in nature, with the potential for revision and expansion as knowledge of a subject evolves.

Integrating university press publication with emerging practices of digital humanities scholarship, Manifold Scholarship breaks from the prevalent format-based terms “print,” “ebook,” and “enhanced ebook,” defining scholarly work instead as either “iterative” or “static,” with the latter term encompassing both print editions and their replicated, fixed ebook editions. In doing so, publishing conceptions and practices are productively reoriented toward a hybrid-publishing model of Open Access iterative books while simultaneously producing traditional, static formats, meeting the needs of many markets and distribution channels.

Rethinking Authorship, Procedures, and Workflow

Web-based iterative publishing requires a new understanding of what constitutes an author’s manuscript, and new editorial procedures to standardize and streamline author and editor workflow in a way that makes it manageable and sustainable for the scholarly community.

In past editorial models, scholars created a manuscript for print, and sometimes created an accompanying project website for ancillary materials. We are asking authors to consider, from the very beginning of the research process, developing and sharing their project iteratively. Research materials, filmed images, field notes, ethnographic materials, sketches, maps, audio recordings, interviews, and other forms of research that are used to write the monograph will have a place on Manifold so that scholars can share their work as it is being researched and written.

One of the greatest strengths of the university press is creating efficient and replicable publishing procedures; as a part of Manifold Scholarship, we will work collaboratively with authors on pilot projects, establishing a set of procedures and best practices for preparing the materials for web-based publication, while refining the production workflow needed to publish Manifold projects while simultaneously producing static formats.

The Next Steps

We are excited about Manifold Scholarship and about sharing our progress and our thinking as the project develops. We’re building Manifold on Rails 5, with Node and React; come back next week for a post by Cast Iron Coding partner Zach Davis, as he discusses our technology stack choices. In early November, Minnesota Editorial Director Jason Weidemann will discuss what makes a scholarly project suitable for publication on Manifold, and then CUNY Graduate Fellow Jeff Binder will discuss annotation.

We hope you’ll join us, and we look forward to your feedback.

— Doug Armato and Matthew K. Gold, Co-PIs

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