Great Things Happen Just By Making The Work Public

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Sonny Side Up!

A few weeks ago, Prof. Phyllis Niles of the CETLS Center at BMCC invited the Commons team to discuss examples of publishing on the Commons. This was interesting invitation as it would be one of our first presentation requests about a particular use of the Commons, rather than a general description of how the site started and what it offers (something we like to do a lot). And instead of having the team just show examples of work, we decided that it would be a great opportunity to invite members of the Commons to participate on a panel and discuss how they are using the site as a publishing platform.

Luckily there are many generous people on the Commons willing to talk about their work, and we had a great session at BMCC. Sarah Ruth Jacobs and Luke Waltzer discussed their work on the  Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy the first peer-reviewed journal to be published on the Commons. Eric Metcalf shared his work on a site of Lisa Larsen’s Political Campaign Photography, which enabled him to overcome struggles with copyright problems. Vicente Revilla spoke of the community friends and colleagues that has helped him publish Moment: Une Revue de Photo, including converting it to it’s digital form on the Commons. And Hunter Johnson gave some insight on the values of writing about Math in an informal way on the CUNYMath Blog.

Many of the presenters were also kind enough to share some thoughts about their projects as well as participating on the panel which I’d like share with you.

From Eric Metcalf on copyright and Lisa Larsen’s photography:

Within the study of political communication there has been a long-standing interest in the role of “gatekeepers.”  These influential regulators of the mass media are presumed to control the flow of news and shape our views.  Modern copyright laws have extended corporate control of contemporary information into a future so distant as to leap generations.  This is to say we now have minders (and ticket takers) at the gates of history.

Lisa Larsen was a very young photographer at Life magazine in the 1950’s.  Her photographs of the 1952 New Hampshire presidential primary surfaced a few years ago when Time Warner contracted with Google to digitize and display online B rolls of film Life photographers had shot.  They then hired Getty to broker the images.

Fifty-two years after her death, the reproduction of Larsen’s New Hampshire photographs would cost a pretty penny – far more than print journals can afford to spend for academic research, even if they had the space.  CUNY’s Academic Commons provided me an opportunity to share the first study of Larsen’s photojournalism.

From Luke Waltzer on values of the Commons:

Presenting with Sarah, Vicente, Eric, Hunter, and Michael at BMCC was enjoyable for reasons beyond the normal satisfaction one gets from sharing one’s work. This experience was for me a literal embodiment of the stated goal of the CUNY Academic Commons to build community across the vast CUNY system. Here were four entirely different publishing projects that have emerged out of collaboration across the campuses, and here we were: a graduate student, an educational technologist, a librarian, one junior faculty, and two tenured faculty members, sharing our work and our processes with an interested audience, and connecting with each other. One of the great strengths of free and open source software is that it can at once be bent to a range of purposes while also maintaining an overarching coherence. By empowering its users to create and share, the Commons has directly enabled collaboration that has led to connection and the possibility of additional collaboration. It’s easy at a university to feel as though you’re creating knowledge in isolation, and to find community more easily with those in your field at other institutions than with those nearby. What I love most about the Commons is this sense of co-creation that emerges from a wide array of folks at the University building in a space together. Higher education needs more of this.

And from Sarah Ruth Jacobs on deciding to host JITP on the Commons:

The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (JITP) began as an Open Journal Systems (OJS) site. While JITP still uses OJS as a submissions manager, our ambitions soon outgrew the capabilities of OJS. We chose to move our site to WordPress because it enabled us to present a hybrid publication (part issue-based journal, part blog); WordPress plugins were more varied and useful to us than OJS plugins; and overall we had a greater amount of control over the design and functionality of our journal. After a good deal of debate, our Editorial Collective voted to host our site on the Commons. Being situated on the Commons removes the burden of managing our own hosting and overseeing our own WordPress updates; at the same time, we still have all of the freedom that we would with our own installation, the only difference being that adding new plugins or uploading our own theme is reviewed and approved by the Commons team. Additionally, our Editorial Collective uses the Commons’ BuddyPress functions to manage our communication–this includes discussing various matters in a private forum, posting and collectively editing documents, and posting minutes from meetings.

Overall it was a tremendous experience to the community members of the Commons to so willingly contribute and discuss their work on the site. I hope to find other uses of the Commons to focus on and invite members to talk to groups about their experiences.

The title of this post is from Luke Waltzer talking at the BMCC panel describing one of the shared motivations that brings people to the Commons. And there is one more to share from Eric Metcalf who described how he’s been part of a number of efforts to bring together colleagues across CUNY. But he felt the CUNY Academic Commons “is the most unifying phenomena that I’ve ever seen in connection with the university.”

That’s probably one of the most satisfying descriptions I’ve ever heard about the Commons. Thanks Eric, and thanks to a community that bit, by bit is transforming CUNY.

2 Responses to “Great Things Happen Just By Making The Work Public”

  1. Luke Waltzer (he/him) May 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm #



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