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ClassAss 2007

March 31, 2007

I’ll be talking at the Classical Association conference at Birmingham in a few weeks. I was told there’d be a session on publishing, so I get to be Bora for a day.

ClassAss 2007

The plan is to talk about Peer-to-peer publishing and the creative process. The other speakers seem to be talking about publishing finished work. There’s an space which you could drive open access into, but I’m only intending to talk for about ten to fifteen minutes. Given I’ll be scheduled alongside someone from a publisher and established academics, I don’t think that raising this here would be a viable and could do more harm than good. Instead I’m going to be a bit more subversive – is publishing about publishing finished work?

This is a session for postgrads, and I accept that help is needed to get something published in a timely manner. But I also think that another thing that can help grad students is feedback. This is why many students will be giving papers at the conference this year.

I’ll open by switching my dictaphone on and explaining why. If the recording is ok, then it will be uploaded as a podcast. A typical audience for a talk will be 50 people. If it grows, then the audience for my talk will be the largest of this year’s conference. Even larger than the plenary session. With luck if I make a fool of myself then I’ll be making a fool of myself in front of hundreds or possibly thousands of people. Why would I do this? It’s because I genuinely don’t know what I’m talking about, and things like podcasts and weblogs can help get feedback.

The main thrust of the talk will be about weblogs. I want to talk about how they can have a positive use for academic work.

  1. They get audiences.
    An example I’d like to give here is Tony Keen‘s paper from last year: The ‘T’ stands for Tiberius: models and methodologies of classical reception in science fiction. I couldn’t get to Amanda Potter’s talk Classics and sci-fi last year, so I don’t know what she said. I came in part-way through on Tony Keen’s talk. It’s a fact of life that at any good conference talks will clash. By putting the text online Tony has put up a paper for discussion and increased the possible audience.
  2. They enable discussion.
    Mary Beard’s weblog A Don’s Life is an interesting read because it tackles a variety of issues, some of them quite ephermeral and not really suited to being delay for a year or two in a publication queue. I could pick out The Stasi… and Emperor Commodus, but there’s almost certainly going to be something else equally interesting if you visit the site and see what’s up.
  3. They enable collaboration.
    On my ever-expanding ‘to-do’ list is to find a friendly medievalist and then see if in collaboration with an Early Modern Historian we can put out a paper on Ghosts as Classical Reception in a Serious Journal. This came about as I was writing about something similar to another person, who was writing about ghosts as tools of providence in the theatre.
  4. They appeal to interdisciplinary audiences.
    If you’re a slave to one topic, that’s not a problem. Recently I’ve been working on statistical methods which have to appeal to classicists and mathematicians. Now I could stand up and give a talk on probability, but this isn’t the venue. Putting up a post on a weblog did find an audience with helpful comments.
  5. They build reputations.
    I was surprised to see me quoted by Archaeology magazine on the Bosnian Pyramid fiasco, just for doing to basic reading. I’ve asked to write a review for an archaeological journal this summer by someone who knows me only through this weblog. I’m also published in this fine book.

There are drawbacks.

  1. Putting ideas up leaves them open for other people to take them.
    Yes it does, but if you’re that bothered then it’s also the sort of thing that you wouldn’t want to deliver as a talk to a bunch of classicists, many of whom need publications to keep their jobs. Putting up on a weblog has the added advantage of it being an accesible public record of you having the idea. But there’s no imperative to put all your research into the public eye.
  2. Pre-publication will bar your work from being published in a peer-reviewed journal.
    Observational evidence suggests this is not the case. Physicists and mathematicians and so on upload their pre-prints to arXiv for distribution, but they still appear in peer-reviewed journals. The key is that these are not final papers, they’re work in progress. They get finished passed to a publisher who then does all the value-added stuff that justifies the subscription fees and lack of payment to the author. Then it gets published. A good journal will recognise that there isn’t competition. A journal which makes a principle of interfering with the creative process may not have a long term future.
  3. I have a life, I don’t have time to learn how to use blogging software.
    The simplest stuff like or Blogger is as easy to use as Microsoft Word. If you can create and save a file in that, you already have the skills to use blogging software.

Computers and weblogs are not going to render journals obsolete any more than they’ve rendered books obsolete. What these tools offer is in addition to traditional methods of publication. Just as email has made communication easier, so these tools make the presentation of work in progress easier. The first question I think anyone should ask when they’re publishing work is “Why am I publishing?” This method brings us back to one of the earliest reasons, to exchange ideas and to aid research.

In addition to the talk I’ll have a handout with the URLs of some classical blogs. If the blog is associated with a named author then I’ll list it, so Rogue Classicism for instance is getting listed. More problematic are pseudonymous weblogs. I’m wary of listing them because I assume they blog under a pseudonym for a reason. For instance one very good weblog I know of is of a graduate student at a UK university. I’m not sure that I should draw attention to that if it’s going to cause him/her problems.

Below is the list of Classics weblogs I’ll be listing, and I’ll also see if I can write a Blogging for Classicists entry to go with it. If you’d like your blog to be added to the list then leave a comment. So long as it has something relevant to classics recently I’ll add it.

Rogue Classicism: Classical news and frequent links to other classical weblogs.
A Don’s Life: Mary Beard (Cantab)
Ancient Transportation: Kristian Minck (Århus)
ARLT: Association foR Latin Teaching
Blogographos: Debra Hamel and anyone who signs up.
Bread and Circuses: Adrian Murdoch
Curculio: Michael Hendry
Classics in Contemporary Culture: Mischa Hooker (Memphis)
Greek colonial pottery in Italy: Søren Handberg (Århus)
Iconoclasm: Troels Myrup Kristensen (Århus)
Kenodoxia: James Warren (Cantab)
The Latin Zone: Gin Lindzey
Laudator Temporis Acti: Michael Gilleland
Mediterranean Archaeology: Ioannis Georganas
Memorabilia Antonina: Tony Keen (Open)
PhDiva: Dorothy King
Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean: Philip Harland (York University in Toronto)
Roman History Books and More: Irene Hahn
The Stoa: University of Kentucky
Sympotica graecolatina: Andrew Dalby
Tradición Clásica: Gabriel Laguna
Thoughts on Antiquity: (various)
Tria Corda: Dan Diffendale
Zenobia: Empress of the East: Judith Weingarten (BSA)

  1. March 31, 2007 4:43 pm

    My paper from last year’s CA got cited twice in the conference on SF and the Canon which I attended last week (three times if you count me including it in my bibliography). That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t put it on my blog.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t really had time to put any other papers up there, though there are a couple I keep planning on doing so.

  2. April 1, 2007 5:57 am

    Alun, considered:

  3. April 12, 2007 11:15 am

    Also added About Ancient / Classical History and Philolog to the handout.

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