status of electronic journals

Tue, 25 Jun 1996 09:25:28 -0500

Steve et al.,

Concerning the status of electronic journals in the Humanities:
What we already know is that it is going to take a while for our
colleagues to get comfortable with them and accept them. The technology
is certainly changing fast and that should speed up the process. Or only
frustrate all of us .)>= that much more. And I mean both sides--those
for; those against E-journals. But in general, I want to think acceptance
of E-journals will come faster than we think. There are some awfully good
people in our field developing them!!

What I personally did not know, however, was just how bad (or wrong
headed) the attitude of so many in our field is toward anything electronic
in terms of scholarship. I was not able to attend the conference in Logan
because I was in Tucson at the same time for RSA. Besides reading a paper,
I was on a panel of editors who were asked to discuss the journals in the
field and what we each expected in terms of submissions, what our
objectives were, how each of our journals was better than all the
others!!!! blah, blah, blah. I introduced PRE/TEXT as being a "pulp"
journal but that we were starting a totally different electronic version
of the journal. As soon as we made the rounds of introducing ourselves and
our "products," there was a question from an editor of a rather
well-known, much respected journal that both English, Communications,
Classics, and Philosophy types try to publish in. The question was "What
threat" do electronic journals pose to "pulp" journals? His question,
given his wording, was clearly in response to my statement.

It seemed to me that all hell broke lose in certain quarters when the
question was asked. In other words, people agreed with what amounted to a
rhetorical question. People felt threatened by E-journals! I immediately
responded to what was being said by pointing out that not a single Editor
or representative of an electronic journal had been invited to speak or to
introduce his/her venue. The responses were typical in attitude; I will
not repeat what you have already heard too many times. I really thought
that the shelf-life of these pseudo-arguments had long expired! But they
live on .)>= !! What became clear rather quickly when I explained away
their arguments or simply pointed out their mistake in thinking was that
there was absolutely no counter-response...which leads me to believe that
people against electronic publications simply have given no critical
thought to Why they are "agin'em". I think, therefore, what needs to be
done, besides all the suggestions for doing things that have been made
here, is to get editors of electronic journals on those panels. I think
that the time is ripe; I think that each of you would be welcome, though
with much skepticism. What will be specifically difficult, however, is
having to deal with some of the most perverse people that I have ever met
in my life. A number of the people in the audience and even a couple
editors sitting next to me ... just folded their arms and in the most
stubborn way kept saying NO, NO, NO ... in speech and in body language.
Lest I leave the impression that I think less of my colleagues who were
present or that all were against electronic publications, this is not the
case. I think it is just foreign to their everyday lives. And we have to
factor in their (and our) "trained incapacities." E-journals (and
everything about them) just need to be explained to our colleagues. I
think that they are a great bunch of people and do believe in opening up
discussions. And growing. I believe that no editor of an E-journal was
invited because it simply never entered the mind of the person developing
the program at RSA. This blindness, of course, is inexcusable when we get
right down to it. But I hope that we (all of us) can work with it
productively so as to get on down the road to wherever.

The times ... they are ... [still] ... a-changin'!

One other solution is to just wait it all out. I don't think it will take
40 years of wandering around in the pulp desert before the pulpers die
off or retire or whatever; the transition to pixels and the acceptance of
electronic publications will come faster than we think. At least, my
intuition tells me that this is the case. Whether that counts for
anything, I'm not sure, but I'm counting on it and telling my pulp
colleagues to do so as well .)>=

Victor (Vitanza)