RAAK – Making Public

  • Client: RAAK – Making Public
  • Jaar: 2018-2019
  • Functie: Onderdeel onderzoeksgroep Periodicals en ontwerper en concept ontwikkelaar
  • Link: www.networkcultures.org

studio MEGAN was betrokken bij het RAAK project Making Public. Een 2 jaar durend onderzoeksproject naar oa urgent publishing.
Het ontwerp en concept zijn van studio MEGAN, in samenwerking met ontwikkelaar Arjen Suijker. In het ontwerp van de website en de parameters voor de uiteindelijke zine, waren zines en (het gebruik van) academische teksten een inspiratiebron.

Making Public, geleid door het Institute of Network Cultures in samenwerking met 1001 Publishers, Amateur Cities, Amsterdam University Press, ArtEZ University of the Arts, Hackers & Designers, Mind Design, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Open!, Open Set, Puntpixel, Studio BLT, Valiz, en de Willem de Kooning Academie.
Uit https://networkcultures.org/Here-and-Now-Explorations-in-Urgent-Publishing-__-online.pdf

Het project bestond uit verschillende deelnemers uit diverse werkvelden. studio MEGAN was betrokken bij de sub-groep Periodicals. Met deze groep is onderzoek gedaan naar periodieke publicaties en wat urgent publishing of de toekomst van publiceren kan betekenen voor deze subcategorie.

Een van de focuspunten van de groep was de After Life van een publicatie, de vraag: wat gebeurt er na het publiceren? Ook het parasitair publiceren was onderdeel van gesprek: wat betekend dit en hoe zijn gebruikers hierin betrokken? Zo kwamen we als groep op de academische zines, iets wat veel potentie bied: maar nog weinig wordt gebruikt. Onderaan deze pagina staat de omschrijvijng van het project uit de eind-publicatie.

Schetsen voor de Zine. De schetsen zijn gemaakt in InDesign, waar louter gebruik is gemaakt van coding en paragraph styles. Zo kon het ontwerp worden omgezet naar de geautomatiseerde versie.

A lot of the older content in periodicals winds up in a metaphorical wasteland. Old content is often not easily accessible from a journal’s homepage or it can only be found in (paper) issues that are no longer available. All the while, the content that is unavailable can still be very relevant for new and existing audiences. Most publishers will agree that there is still a lot to gain when it comes to the long-term positioning of their publications and the connection between the publisher, platform or publication, and the public. Therefore, the recurring question in our research has been: How can we prolong the afterlife of a publication, or, how can publishers prevent publications from taking permanent residence in the wasteland and instead give them new life?

The periodicals group had a focus on journal publishers. Amsterdam University Press is a publisher of academic books, journals, and textbooks in the Humanities and Social Sciences that releases academic books and journals for Open Access immediately after publication. The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision is an institute in the field of media culture and audio-visual archiving. Sound and Vision publishes two peer-reviewed, open access scholarly journals on the topics of media and television history and culture (VIEW and TMG) and maintains an online publishing repository for staff writings.
ArtEZ Press is the publisher of ArtEZ University of the Arts. ArtEZ Press recently launched the online journal and platform APRIA, which publishes high-impact essays and image and sound contributions that examine art and interventions of the arts in relation to science and society, and encourage dialogue around themes that are critical and urgent to the futures that we will live in.
As publishers of periodicals we all share a common goal, namely facilitating the exchange of knowledge and making research readily available to a wide audience. In many ways, we can say that we have achieved this goal by publishing innovative and high-quality research in our open access journals. However, we realize it is not enough to only make the research available, we must also ensure that we connect readers to the content most relevant to them.

It can be difficult for publishers to compete in a digital space where content is produced at break-neck speed and where new is implicitly seen as better. For readers, however, it is an even bigger task to deal with the overload of notifications and social media accounts vying for their attention and engagement on a daily basis. So, how can we position our content in such a way that it can compete with the new and how can we keep our audience engaged and connected?
To start, we liked the idea of re-contextualizing content, thereby highlighting new perspectives and connections to broaden the audience. However, re-contextualizing alone only temporarily prolongs the afterlife. We needed to go one step further, which is how we came to value the idea of remediation. This is where we began toying with the medium of the zines, as a form of remediation of the journal that involves active participation of the reader. The idea of making an ‘academic zine’ of our content proved to be the most promising and interesting for accomplishing our goals.
Zines have a long history. They came to be known as non-commercial, anti-authoritarian, and handmade publications that depend heavily on network culture for their distribution. This seems to be in juxtaposition to what we
know about academic publications. But, as Silvio Lorusso makes clear in his blog post The Oxymoron of the Academic Zine, ‘zines have always played a role in spreading and popularising academic writing; think of Deleuze
and Guattari, Michel Foucault and more recently Judith Butler.’
Using the format of the zine as a target for remediation means that we would be able to highlight old as well as new content. In addition, the format opens up vast opportunities for re-contextualizing and personalizing the existing content. The zine is not curated by the publishers, but rather by the readers, so they can create a publication that is uniquely relevant to their personal interests. The tool that we developed to
this end, and the opportunities this tool creates for the reader, lets publishers distinguish themselves from their competition. It makes for a sustainable way of positioning the content and prolonging the content’s afterlife.

During the Urgent Publishing conference, we were inspired by Marc van Elburg’s contribution Parasiting Zineculture. Marc van Elburg is an artist and zinester. He was the founder of experimental DIY noise theatre and zine library de Hondenkoekjesfabriek (The Dog Biscuit Factory), and a curator for Planetart. He is currently looking after the Zinedepo zinelibrary in Motel Spatie in Presikhaaf, Arnhem. In his talk he
stated: ‘The zine today can be seen (…) as the new materialism of online social networks.
What I mean by new materialism is that a part of myself, my memory, my social networks is situated online, and it somehow seems to make sense that this virtual self is looking for some kind of representation in the real world.’
In other words, the concept of the zine does not only function as a way to position content, but for the reader it also works as a bridge between the digital and the real world, and as a way to save content that might have personal meaning for them. Van Elburg also elaborated on the concept of the parasite zine. Traditionally, a parasite zine would look to deconstruct classic hierarchies, such as male/female. But in this digital age, the parasite zine is a selective and binding agent.
The virtual self that is looking for information can construct its own little habitat. This idea of combining the academic and the parasitic zine, or parasitic publishing, resonated with us and inspired us to think of a tool that would allow readers to bypass the publisher’s curation and remediate their own product by selecting from all available content. It was important for us to provide a different experience than what one could expect from simply browsing the website and printing the relevant publications. Zines are usually put together by hand and have low production costs. Inspired by these characteristics, we decided not only to make the zine printable as a booklet, but more significantly, to force the reader to print it in order to properly read all the content. This has added value for the publishers as the zine can easily be shared, gifted, or used in classes.

Our zine-making tool (which is disseminated on the Making Public website) has an interface that allows users to make their own selection of existing content from an online academic journal. This content is laid out according to an aesthetic that combines input from the user, from the journal, and from an algorithm, resulting in a zine-like experience. The laid-out content is then offered as a pdf that must be printed. We decided to go for a format that is influenced by all the parties involved rather than for a format that is
completely curated by an algorithm, because we wanted the user to be able to curate content to their needs, while the publishers still retain some control over the content and design of the zine.
So, the user makes a selection based on the tags that are set by the publisher in the journal, and the algorithm adds content based on a set of predesigned rules.
Developer Arjen Suijker designed the tool itself to be parasitic as well. The tool can be used on any WordPress site. The tool ‘scrapes’ the content from the front end without requiring access to the back end. This would make it relatively easy for other publishers to implement the tool for their content. Designer Megan Hoogenboom has defined a set of rules that determine the design. The tool will also take into account the styling rules from the source journal as well as certain parameters set by the user. In that way, all parties involved make their mark on the resulting zine.

During the development and test phase we became aware of several ways in which we could develop the tool further. In its current form the reader can use content from one publisher per zine. It would be interesting if the reader could choose from multiple publishers. To accomplish this, we have to research collaborative tagging, to prevent the reader being overwhelmed by innumerable tags. Then there is also the question of how to deal with dual language content. One of the options could be to add a filter option of
sorts. As mentioned, the zine has to be printed in order to read it, so how to deal with non-textual content, such as videos and podcasts, is another issue. Such contributions are uniquely digital and cannot be remediated to a textual form. What kind of remediation options lie open for such hybrid contents, is a question that deserves further investigation.