- Scenes:Open Humanities Press: an interview with Sigi Jöttkandt
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Could you briefly describe your press's history?
Like all good mythical beings, OHP has two stories of origin. The first is that Gary Hall, David Ottina, and I founded Open Humanities Press (OHP) in 2006. We had met at the Rhetoric, Politics, Ethics conference in Gent, Belgium, where the question of access to scholarly research became part of the conference's wider conversation about language, politics, and the ethical imperatives of the day. At the White Horse Pub in Portsmouth, in the wake of another conference that year, the idea of a high-prestige open access publisher in Critical and Cultural Theory was born. OHP's Editorial Board was drawn in part from the Gent conference attendees—J. Hillis Miller, one of the conference keynotes, was our first board member, followed by Tom Cohen (who, with Claire Colebrook, founded our Critical Climate Change/Chaos Irreversibility book series), and then by other important thinkers who have gone public on academia's profound social responsibility to make research freely available: Alain Badiou, Graham Harman, Ortwin de Graef, Stephen Greenblatt, Lawrence Grossberg, Donna Haraway, Andrew Murphie, Bruno Latour, Gayatri Spivak, Henry Sussman, and many others.
But OHP's prehistory comes a year earlier when David Ottina entered into a mad project to try to grow pre-formed furniture in vats. Researching cellulose-producing bacteria, he easily found many pertinent scholarly articles freely accessible in OA repositories such as arXiv and SciELO. The Public Library of Science had also recently launched, and he wondered why wasn't Humanities scholarship following suit? This started us down the path of theorizing both the challenges confronting open access in the Humanities and what the Humanities might contribute to the OA debates of the day.
How would you characterize the work you publish?
We are carving out some of the most dynamic new editorial directions for academic monographs with eight book series where our scholar-editors have full editorial control. We're able to do this because OHP operates entirely on an academic "gift economy" basis, enabling us to publish highly specialized, experimental, inter- or trans-disciplinary research unconstrained by commercial considerations (we have no paid staff). Thus the New Metaphysics series seeks the traces of "a new metaphysical 'sound' from any nation of the world." The Critical Climate Chaos offers "a platform for experimentations outside of the ghost of left / right prescriptions and exculpatory dialectical villains ('Capital')." The goal of our newest series, Media : Art : Write : Now, is to "recalibrate how we see, hear and feel in the contemporary mediated environment—to intervene in it, right here right now, and to challenge the unified 'we' of aesthetic and political experience." The Technographies series "aims to encourage investigation of a wide variety of writing 'about' technology." The Fibreculture book series explores the strange new world of "media" or "communications" and asks "what comes next?" The DATA browser book series "explores new thinking and practice at the intersection of contemporary art, digital culture and politics."
We also have around twenty of the key open access journals of various Humanities fields such as continental philosophy, literary studies, media theory, postcolonialism, feminism, and psychoanalytic ideology critique. Being a part of OHP means that a journal has been recognized in the meta-peer review process of OHP's editorial board as being an OA publication of a very high scholarly calibre.
Who is your audience, and in what ways are you trying to reach them?
OHP's series editors—Tom Cohen and Claire Colebrook, Bruno Latour and Graham Harman, Andrew Murphie, Steven Connor, David Trotter and James Purdon, Joanna Zylinska, Geoff Cox and Joasia Krysa—are all deeply auratic thinkers, so the books will draw people who follow their work. But in keeping with OHP's philosophy of "data resistance," we never track readers so we don't really know who is reading our books and journals, all of which can be freely downloaded without registration. What we do know is that open access is particularly important for people who have left the academy and no longer have access to library...