Knowledge Production Beyond The Book? Performing the Scholarly Monograph in Contemporary Digital Culture

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This thesis explores the potential futures of the scholarly monograph in an increasingly digital environment. By positioning the medium of the book as a major site of struggle over the future of scholarly knowledge production within the humanities, this thesis argues for the importance of experimenting with alternative ways of thinking and performing the academic monograph. In particular, it argues for the importance of experiments that go beyond simply iteratively reproducing established print practices of knowledge production, dissemination and consumption. This is especially important when the present print-based arrangements tend to sustain the interest of established stakeholders, inhibiting wider access to scholarly research and experimentation with new forms of scholarship and scholarly communication.

This thesis will examine some of the forms a politics of the book based on openness, remix and liquidity might take. It will draw on some recent experiments in scholarly book publishing—from liquid and living books to anonymous authorship and radical open access—that try to challenge and rethink the book as a fixed and stable commercial object, as well as the political economy and scholarly practices surrounding it. These experiments do so by cutting the book together and apart differently and by exploring experimentation as a specific discourse and practice of critique.

In order to re-envision the future of the scholarly monograph, this thesis will argue that it is essential that we rethink historically constructed concepts such as scholarly (book) authorship, the commodification of the book as object, and the perceived material stability and fixity inherent to the book, as this thesis has set out to do. This will involve an ongoing critical investigation of our academic communication practices, our systems of knowledge production, as well as the debates that surround both scholarly publishing and the past and future of the academic monograph. This thesis will therefore claim that in order to say things about the book’s future, we need to explore the material-discursive development of the book, where the book should be seen as a process of mutual becoming: a form of intra-action between different agents and constituencies (human and non-human).
The performative materialist vision on the past and future of the book put forward in this thesis ,is very different to how the book has traditionally been perceived and historicised within book history, based predominantly on representationalist and dualist (technicist and culturalist) perceptions of media.

This thesis itself can also be seen as an experiment in developing a digital, open research practice through the exploration of the possibilities of remix, liquidity and openness in the thesis’s production and format. Starting with the long-form argument that is the thesis itself, it has aimed to actively critique, in form, practice and content, the established print-based notions, politics, and practices within the field of the humanities, in a performative way. This thesis thus imagines the book itself as a space of experimentation, to intervene in the fabric of our scholarship, and to question the hegemonies in scholarly book publishing with the intent to perform scholarship differently.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorGary Hall (Supervisor) & Sarah Kember (Supervisor)

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