Scaling Small; Or How to Envision New Relationalities for Knowledge Production

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    Within the field of open access (OA) publishing, community-led publishing projects are experimenting increasingly with new forms of collaboration and organisation. They do so by focusing on setting up horizontal alliances between independent projects within a certain sector (e.g., scholar-led presses), or vertically across sectors with other not-for-profit organisations (e.g., through collaborations with libraries, universities, and funders), in order to create multi-stakeholder ecologies within scholarly publishing. Yet at the same time, imaginaries for future modes of OA knowledge production are still controlled through demands for ‘scalability’ and ‘sustainability’, which are both seen as preconditions for scholarly communication models and practices to succeed and to be efficient. But they are also prerequi­sites to receive funding for publishing projects or infrastructure development. The scalability of open models is perceived as essential to compete in a landscape dominated by a handful of major corporate players.Drawing on our work with the Radical Open Access Collective, the ScholarLed consortium, and the Community-led Open Publishing Infrastructures for Mono­graphs (COPIM) project, this article outlines an alternative organisational prin­ciple for governing community-led publishing projects based on mutual reliance, care, and other forms of commoning. Termed ‘scaling small’, this principle eschews standard approaches to organisational growth that tend to flatten community diversity through economies of scale. Instead, it puts forward the idea that scale can be nurtured through intentional collaborations between community-driven pro­jects that promote a bibliodiverse ecosystem while providing resilience through resource sharing and other kinds of collaboration. Following Anna Tsing’s recom­mendations to keep in mind how reimagining our knowledge practices requires we pay particular attention to articulations between the scalable and the nonscalable (Tsing, 2012), what is needed to enable this is, first and foremost, a rethinking of existing systems and infrastructures and how they currently function – systems that have historically developed and been continuously remade to encourage fur­ther scalability. We further explore the possibilities of scaling small with particular reference to Anna Tsing’s work on the ‘latent commons’ and Massimo De Angelis’ discussion of ‘boundary commoning’, examining how these concepts are on display within the Radical Open Access Collective, ScholarLed and the COPIM project. As we will argue, reimagining the relations within publishing beyond a mere calcula­tive logic, i.e., one that is focused on assessing the sustainability of alternative models, is essential in not-for-profit OA publishing environments, particularly if we want new forms of collaboration to arise and to redefine the future of scholarly publishing in communal settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27-45
    Number of pages19
    JournalWestminster Papers in Communication and Culture
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2021

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the
    Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


    Funding Information: The research for this publication was made possible with the aid of funding provided to the COPIM project by The Research England Development Fund and Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.


    • Care
    • Commoning
    • Open access publishing
    • Scalability
    • Scholarly communications
    • Sustainability

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Communication


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