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An experiment in writing in public, one page at a time, by S. Graham, I. Milligan, & S. Weingart

The Backstory to this Volume

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Previous Section: Structure of the Book

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Shawn was approached in March of 2013 by Imperial College Press (ICP), with the idea of writing some sort of volume exploring ‘big data’ and history. Big history is almost by definition something that cannot be done by one scholar in isolation, and Shawn turned quickly to Ian Milligan and Scott Weingart. Together, the three of us wrote a proposal over a shared Google doc, and submitted it to ICP’s commissioning editor, Alice Oven. ICP sent the proposal out to four anonymous peer reviewers, whose quick and constructive feedback allowed us to develop a much better proposal. That proposal was accepted by ICP’s board in the middle of the summer of 2013.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 One key element in our discussion with ICP was the idea that we wanted to do this work in public, that we wanted to live-write, test-drive, and bounce our work off the wider digital history community. There was a very understandable concern that this approach might cannibalize sales. After much discussion, we all of us agreed to a clause that we would clearly state that the final published product would be different in structure and coherence than what might appear online, and that we would provide a link to the purchase site for the physical and digital versions of the final product. If it can be demonstrated that sales are harmed by the web version being available, we have agreed that the web version will be shuttered. This seems reasonable. Good editorial guidance has already made this project better than it might otherwise have been, and neither we nor you would want you citing and building an argument on our work if that version contains flaws. Indeed, we think it a good thing to make our mistakes in public, so as to rapidly iterate to a better version (a key point in open source software development, as it happens). We are inspired by the success of projects like Dougherty and Nazrawtoski’s Writing History in the Digital Age which have opened up the writing process – Shawn certainly feels that his work was manifestly improved by participating in that experiment – and we are excited to see what will happen next.[1] The website continues to grow and respond to its users. We are delighted to see that it has already, before the draft is even complete, appeared on graduate level syllabi in digital history courses in the United States. We encourage feedback at our site, themacroscope.org/2.0/forum and we promise to respond to questions, new developments, queries and comments! And if the unthinkable happens and the website disappears, we will make sure that it is preserved with the Internet Archive at archive.org.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 It came together very quickly, and from inception to first delivery of the manuscript took about one year. The question of how fast to work was always at the forefront of our minds, but in this ever-changing research field, one does need to move relatively quickly. We have tried to stick to general principals as much as possible, but even these are often situated within particular software environments or tool that humanities scholars use. One cannot write a book like this over a five-year period. We had to make speed, but not haste.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Next Section: Who is this volume for?


6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 [1] Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki, Writing History in the Digital Age (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013). It is available at https://www.press.umich.edu/6589653/writing_history_in_the_digital_age.

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Source: http://www.themacroscope.org/?page_id=589