Manifold Beta Now Available

The Manifold team is delighted to launch a public beta of its new publishing platform for interactive scholarly monographs:


Funded through the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Manifold is a collaboration between University of Minnesota Press, the GC Digital Scholarship Lab at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and Cast Iron Coding.

We began work on the project two years ago, aiming to create a responsive platform for interactive books that would help university presses share long-form monographs through an appealing and elegant interface. After many meetings and planning discussions, and following 1300+ commits to our public code repository, the initial version of the platform is ready for review.

On the beta site, you will find a selection of projects from the University of Minnesota Press that may be read, annotated, highlighted, and shared through social media. These include two recently published full-length scholarly books, a selection from the Forerunners: Ideas First series, and four projects just beginning to take shape on the platform:

Published Books

The Perversity of Things: Hugo Gernsback on Media, Tinkering, and Scientification by Hugo Gernsback. Edited by Grant Wythoff

Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames by Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux


The Uberfication of the University by Gary Hall

The Anthrobscene by Jussi Parikka

No Speed Limit: Three Essays on Accelerationism by Steven Shaviro

Mandela’s Dark Years by Sharon Sliwinski

Dark Deleuze by Andrew Culp

The Geek’s Chihuahua: Living with Apple by Ian Bogost

Ten Theses for an Aesthetics of Politics by Davide Panagia

Deep Mapping the Media City by Shannon Mattern

New Projects

The Lab Book: Situated Practices in Media Studies by Lori Emerson, Jussi Parikka, and Darren Wershler

In/visible Archives of the 1980s: Feminist Politics and Queer Platforms by Margaret Galvan

Cut/Copy/Paste: Echoes of Little Gidding by Whitney Trettien

Going the Rounds: Virality in Nineteenth-Century American Newspapers by Ryan Cordell, David Smith, Abby Mullen, and Jonathan Fitzgerald


Each project has a homepage that presents an overview of the text, provides a quick link to the text, aggregates recent activity, showcases the evolution of the project, and shares resources—images, videos, files, PDFs, image collections—that have been added to the text. Images that were part of the print version will appear in-line; resources that have been added for the Manifold edition will appear to the left of the text. Texts are responsive and may be read on any device, though the mobile versions are not yet fully featured. Please note that while we will make an effort to retain annotations and highlights left on the beta platform, we cannot guarantee their preservation.

Though the beta version only includes Minnesota publications, the platform is being designed so that any press or interested scholar can install Manifold, customize the platform with specific colors and logos, and publish work through the administrative dashboard. Manifold is capable of ingesting a variety of formats—ePub, HTML, Google Docs, Markdown, Microsoft Word—immediately transforming them into interactive web publications.

Manifold is proud to be an open-source project. You can find our code on Github, report bugs on our Github issue tracker, check out our progress on our public Pivotal tracker, join our mailing list, read our Building Manifold blog, and follow us on twitter at @manifoldscholar.

For a longer introduction to the project, please read “Building Manifold,” by Project Co-PIs Doug Armato and Matthew K. Gold. To learn more about the technology behind the platform, please read “A Technical Introduction to Manifold” by Manifold Lead Developer Zach Davis.

We hope you enjoy Manifold and we look forward to your feedback!

Manifold Preview!

Manifold is excited to announce the public launch of our in-progress demo next Tuesday, April 4th! In advance of that launch, we’re happy to offer a brief preview of some of the features of this intuitive, collaborative publishing platform for scholars, made possible by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Manifold provides an online, mobile-ready interface for reading and responding to texts. The demo version will be populated by University of Minnesota Press books and projects, but any press or other organization can install the open-source platform and upload their own texts for interactive reading and annotation. For technical details about the build, check out posts by our lead developer, Zach Davis of Cast Iron Coding.

Read on for your first sneak peek!



The Manifold homepage shows the Press’s library — the books and projects that it is offering through Manifold. Featured projects (those you have selected) stand beside the rest of the available titles, which you can browse or sort by category.



Manifold organizes around the idea of projects — a project includes both the text of the book and the array of materials the author chooses to publish with it. In addition to providing access to the reading interface and allowing readers to add projects to their reading lists, each project page links you to the Press’s print book, the project’s social media, and supplemental material.


The interface is made for readability and usability. You can change colors for higher-contrast, and adjust the margins of the text:


Or adjust the typography.



While reading a text, you also have the option to access supplementary materials and annotate both the text and ancillary materials, as well as add comments to other reader’s annotations that haven’t been made private. When you select text, a menu pops up with options for highlighting, annotation, citing, and sharing.


You have the opportunity to comment on text in the reader interface right in your browser. While designing the platform, the Manifold team considered the expectations scholars have of digital texts. Blending personal reading habits, scholars’ wishlists, and successful aspects of comments in projects like the previous collaboration between the CUNY Graduate Center, Cast Iron Coding, the University of Minnesota Press — Debates in the Digital Humanities the team developed a user-centered annotation system. Moving beyond the sentence-level annotation of Debates in the Digital Humanities, Manifold lets you leave comments on any selection of text.




As you read, you have the option to highlight passages with your cursor.highlight01-optimized


Manifold also helps you share passages from the text via social media. Choosing “Share” from the dropdown links the passage in a post to your Facebook or Twitter accounts.



These are only a few of the features of Manifold — get ready for filtering by categories, favorites, search, and more. We look forward to sharing the fruits of collaborative effort, thoughtful design, and hard work. 

Please check it out for yourself next Tuesday, April 4th! Stay tuned to the Manifold blog, sign up for our mailing list, and catch updates @ManifoldScholar.



Starting Points with the Manifold Digital Projects Editor

As Jason indicated in this space earlier, Manifold is not simply an endeavor to create a better publishing platform; it is an answer to the challenge of rethinking and reframing the concept of scholarly publishing. In broad strokes, scholarly publishing is very much still a print-centric enterprise. Despite the vast libraries of electronic publications available, the systems, mindsets, and expectations of the greater university press culture—including those of authors and the academy—are engineered specifically for print.

In terms of production, while many presses have augmented their procedures over the past two decades, those alterations tend to simply mirror print methods instead of refashioning them to account for digital materials and platforms. For other presses, third-party service providers, or packagers, handle the creation of electronic editions in parallel with print or as an afterthought to it. That is to say, even when print isn’t to be the only medium of publication, it still receives primacy over all other editions. When a question of formatting comes up, it’s a question to be resolved for print first. When internal elements are being scrutinized, they are done through a lens that foremost anticipates a static physical object.

We’ve reached a moment, however, when we need to step back from print and see it in the proper context among the myriad means of expression scholars now have at their disposal. And it’s time to grapple with the fact that scholarly publishing involves more than books, more than journals, more than print. It’s not tied to paper; it’s not a function of the software it passes through. Instead, it’s the expression of content in the most meaningful and impactful ways possible. In that context, university presses must become adaptive and able to treat materials that aren’t always easily categorized or codified just as well as they do traditional vehicles like a journal or monograph.

That is no small thing. The print paradigm has been refined and honed for generations. It is deeply ingrained, predicating the workings of every department within a press. Reengineering it is not something that will happen overnight. Nor should it. But nor should we let the print mold stand as a boulder, cordoning off those modes of expression that weren’t possible a few years ago or those just over the horizon.

Exploring those opportunities is the commitment of the Manifold team. We bring together the perspectives of the university press, the scholar, and the technologist to hone in on new ways presses can present scholarship, realistically adapt existing procedures to account for a broad spectrum of publishing output, and technically deliver those varied means of expression to the readership in ways they are expecting as well as in ways they are not.

As the Manifold digital projects editor, I am working closely with the platform developers at Cast Iron Coding, our partners at the GC Digital Scholarship Lab, authors, and press staff across departments here at Minnesota to help craft, test, and document replicable processes that will allow presses to shift from a publishing plan with a very specific terminus to one that celebrates projects as a spectrum of scholarly publication. In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll be returning here to talk more about the implications of that and the challenges we’re working through as we move from platform wireframes into more robust test cases.

Stay tuned. The fun is just starting!

—Terence Smyre, Manifold Digital Projects Editor

Thoughts from Editors and Authors on What Makes a Good Manifold Project

As Manifold Scholarship progresses through its first rounds of wireframes, editors at the University of Minnesota Press are already discussing the platform with authors and considering book projects. Manifold will have an impact on the full span of a project, from the early stages of researching and collecting data for a book, to the drafting of a proposal, to peer review and press evaluation, and across the iterative stages of a manuscript’s organic development leading to the peer reviewed, published edition. Just as Manifold is designed to transform the nature of scholarly publishing, we are also asking scholars, from their earliest articulations, to think elastically about the ways in which Manifold can expand their project beyond the static, physical book.

As I’ve been asking editors and press authors to describe what makes a project suitable for publication on Manifold, I’ve found myself reflecting on the limitations the traditional print book can impose on scholars.

One could argue that the traditional print scholarly monograph isn’t an accurate record of a research project. The fixed form of the book, for example, doesn’t reflect the long duration of research, the months of ethnography, the full compliment of data collection and archival deep-dives. The monograph doesn’t record the full chorus of voices that help shape a project, such as the feedback of colleagues and peers. Research is already iterative, benefitting from community dialogue and from interfacing with an array of media. It’s just that the current way of disseminating that research doesn’t reflect those pre-publication engagements.

Up to now, when authors have wanted to share with readers materials that can’t fit into a print book such as audio and video files, teaching tools, or archival materials, they have often had to host them on a disconnected website. There’s often little travel between the website and the physical book, and these websites quickly fade away, disconnected by link rot or taken down from university servers when a scholar switches institutions. But these objects are never ancillary—they are part and parcel of the work itself. One potential Manifold author remarked to me that the traditional book doesn’t offer readers the chance to review the primary materials and say, “I disagree.” Manifold will allow authors to embed these objects within or alongside the text so that readers can chart their own course through all the elements that make up a scholarly book and research project.

This feature is especially important to Manifold author Mara Mills, assistant professor of media, culture and communication at New York University. Mills was initially attracted to Manifold because it provided an opportunity to develop an accessible multimedia publication:

My manuscript-in-progress,“Print Disability and New Reading Formats,” examines the century-long history of electronic reading by those excluded from the inkprint book. The research for this project has involved the digital transfer of hundreds of historical sound recordings: shellac Talking Book records; open reel tapes of early text-to-tone and text-to-speech reading machine output; demonstration cassettes of early time stretching technology for “speed listening”; recordings of audio-described films and graphic novels. My book, about multimodal reading and the multiplicity of “the book,” simply cannot exist in inkprint format alone.

Often, authors finish a book project that distills hours of audio interviews into a handful of block quotes, or a gallery of scanned images from which they draw fifteen or twenty to produce in black and white on the printed page. The traditional monograph doesn’t always account for the labor of discovery and archiving that is a part of research. When copyright and ethics allow, authors will be able to share these archives with readers through Manifold.

Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux are currently authoring their first book, tentatively titled “Metgaming: Videogames and the Practice of Play,” which studies a critical practice and form of game design philosophy in which playing games, making games, and thinking about games occur simultaneously. The Manifold edition of their book will include original, playable games designed by the authors, but they also see the Manifold project as archiving a genre of media which is often elusive:

Given the kinds of practice-based research both documented and performed in the volume, we’re very excited to begin “Metagaming” with the Manifold team. Manifold not only offers the possibility to hyperlink to sources outside the text, replace figures with HD video, and embed our original games directly within the text, but could also function as a repository or archive for unique and hard-to-find software discussed and used throughout the book. We also hope Manifold will help to make “Metagaming” more accessible for students by offering additional educational resources like a podcast we are in the process of planning in which we interview metagamers featured in the chapters and 20-min video summaries discussing the content of each chapter.

This willingness to think beyond the book is what acquisitions editors are looking for in Manifold projects. Press director and acquiring editor Doug Armato explains:

With Manifold, I’m looking for publishing projects that can’t be fully realized in the fixed, single-dimension of the page. This is not just a matter of adding multi-media or live links, but of seeing a scholarly work in its context of a longer research project, making its archive visible and accessible, and enabling the reader feedback and discussion that shape a book’s creation and reception. Not every scholarly author will want to work this way, but some do and I want Manifold to provide a publishing home for them—and one they don’t have to build themselves, as with the authoring tools already out there.

We are developing Manifold to not only expand what can be included within the book, but also to break down the temporal barriers that separate years of research from the book’s publication for authors who want to engage their readers at an early stage, share drafts of chapters in order to try out ideas, and receive feedback and dialogue as a form of open peer review. Danielle Kasprzak is Humanities Editor at the press and also acquires and oversees the press’s Forerunners: Ideas First program, which publishes thoughts-in-process as digital works and as affordable print publications. Forerunners aims to collapse the current publishing timeline to twelve weeks, so timing is often on her mind. Kasprzak is most excited about getting ideas out into the world more quickly than the traditional publication schedules of print books:

Part of the reason why authors are attracted to Forerunners is the speed at which texts are released. I’m pleased that scholars from diverse disciplines have seen publishing their ideas in a speculative, early way as beneficial to their thinking process.

Mara Mills is also excited by the pre-publication aspects we are building into Manifold. For Mills, this pre-publication aspect of Manifold will be “a way to curate my sound materials, write a few introductory provocations, and invite others to think with me about what it means to read.”

This notion of curation is critical to what I am looking for in a Manifold book project. Manifold will track a work as it is conceptualized, researched, written, and read, giving readers access to primary research documents and data, links to related archives, rich media, social media, and reading tools. Taking advantage of these tools, an author will also become a curator, shaping archives, providing context for readers, and illustrating the varied parts that make up her book and larger research project. It will ask authors to collaborate with the press on questions of copyright and ethics, peer review and evaluation, and to consider how best to connect with readers (both within the academy and general readers) in meaningful ways.

Manifold will recode the very definition of the scholarly monograph. To realize that goal, we are looking for authors whose vision for their scholarly projects extends beyond the limitations of the traditional book.

— Jason Weidemann, Editorial Director

Opening Access: The Reinvention of the Academic Book

On Tuesday, November 10, I was very happy to participate in an online conversation convened by the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) on the topic of “Opening Access: The Reinvention of the Academic Book.” During the session, which was moderated by Jennifer Howard of the Chronicle of Higher Education, I discussed the Manifold Scholarship project and issues related to digital monographs with my fellow panelists Frances Pinter (Manchester University Press/Knowledge Unlatched), Peter Suber (Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet & Society), and Augusta Rohrbach (author of Thinking Outside the Book). An archived video of the session is below, along with descriptive information about the event. I’m grateful to the AAUP for this opportunity to discuss the project!

From AAUP:

Streamed live on Nov 10, 2015
How to publish the best possible scholarship in the best possible way is at the heart of AAUP members’ consideration of the value of university presses and the future of the academic book. There are two parallel streams of technological and cultural change that drive these debates: the model for access to scholarship (we might think of this as “who pays?”) and the format or process for “publishing” scholarship (particularly in the long-form focused fields of the humanities and social sciences.) As University Press Week is celebrated, and as part of the Academic Book Week Great Debate series, AAUP is sponsoring an online discussion between thinkers and practitioners swimming in both streams.

Moderated by Jennifer Howard (Chronicle of Higher Education), the conversation will include Frances Pinter (Manchester University Press/Knowledge Unlatched), a publisher of both traditional print and innovative Open Access monographs; Peter Suber (Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet & Society), one of the foremost theorists of Open Access; Augusta Rohrbach (author of Thinking Outside the Book), a scholar of book culture embedded in a world of digital communications; and Matthew K. Gold (CUNY Graduate Center), who, with the team on the Manifold project, is transforming scholarly publications into living digital works.

— Matthew K. Gold

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


UPDATE: The Manifold beta is now available!!