The Transformation of Academic Writing, or What Do We Want from Enhanced E-Texts?
In the CHAE Report (Spring 2016), Dr. Weiland explores the role of "enhanced e-texts" in scholarly communication in the digital age.
Written by Alex Gardner, doctoral student
Professor Steve Weiland is interested in scholarly communication in the digital age, including the advent of what are now called “enhanced e-texts” in journals and as books. His interest began with recognition that campus attention to online teaching had the effect of obscuring an equally dramatic transformation taking place in academic research and publishing represented, for example, in the Open Access movement (Mittel, 2013). He found additional support for this interest in probing scholarship in the information sciences and in the work of innovative organizations and projects like the Institute for the Future of the Book and The Library Beyond the Book.
Over the past few decades, the microcomputer has had a profound influence on scholars in how articles and books are planned, drafted, reviewed, revised, published, and circulated (Porter, 2003). The impact of advances in technology has been a topic of research and debate, including what the transformation of work habits, for many scholars, means for “information practices” (as librarians say) and interactions with colleagues. Still, most academic scholars have not capitalized on the opportunity to incorporate interactive elements in their publications. To a degree, journals and book publishers have discouraged scholars from experimenting with digital formats (Jakubowicz, 2009). Weiland follows the work of advocates for “enhanced” scholarship who believe it would offer more freedom for writers and readers alike. Enhanced scholarship creates a new form of academic composition and sense of empowerment (Bath & Schofield, 2015).
A publishing “game changer”
Enhanced e-books present information similar to e-books, but they offer readers additional resources in audio, video, and graphically enriched text. Enhanced e-book authors can also connect directly with readers through video clips, making the enhanced e-book a more interactive and immersive experience. Scholars such as Jacob Wright are probing the prospects for innovation. Wright is an associate professor of theology at Emory University and the author of an innovative enhanced electronic study, King David and His Reign Revisited (available from iTunes), based on his conventional print book on King David (published by Cambridge University Press). He believes that “the enhanced e-book format is a game changer. Now we can … more easily disseminate our work in art history, archaeology, and many other fields that have presented high hurdles to print publishing” (Wright, 2014).
Over the last decade, some of the most innovative scholarship in
the humanities has come from those investigating the history of
the book. The digital transformation is a complex interdisciplinary
phenomenon essential for understanding emerging technologies
such as the enhanced e-book (Bath & Schofield, 2015). As
technology has advanced, few scholars have looked at the enhanced e-book. To date, little inquiry has been done on this new
expressive form of scholarship and academic prose, which presents
an excellent opportunity for timely research with implications for
scholarly communications and academic careers.
Bath, J. & Schofield, S. (2015). The digital book. The history of the book (pp 181-195). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Jakubowicz, A. (2009). Beyond the static text: Multimedia interactivity in academic journal publishing in the humanities and social sciences (not). In B. Cope & A. Phillips (Eds.), The future of the academic journal (361-76). Oxford, England: Chandos.
Mittel, J. (2013, Mach 4). The real digital change agent. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle. com/article/The-Real-Digital-Change-Agent/137589/.
Porter, J. (2003). Why technology matters to writing: A cyberwriter’s tale. Computers and Composition, 20(4), 375-394.
Wright, J. (2014, April 21). What enhanced e-books can do for scholarly authors. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/What-Enhanced-EBooks- Can-Do/14596