Peer Review

Yesterday morning, as part of the new regime, I sat down and did half an hour of uninterrupted, undistracted writing, beginning the process of blocking out the new article I’m working on, focusing on the history and future of peer review. And not a moment too soon, apparently. This morning, via the Chronicle (and if:book) comes the announcement of Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s peer-review experiment: Noah’s publishing his book manuscript, Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies, in a modified version of CommentPress on the Grand Text Auto blog, at the same time his editor, Doug Sery, sends it out for traditional peer review.

Noah’s interest in this experiment has its origins in his desire to have as his primary peer reviewers the social network that has developed around his blog, feeling certain that those readers are the ones who will provide the greatest insight into his project. Doug Sery, for his part, agreed, while remaining somewhat skeptical:

He insisted on running the manuscript through the traditional peer-review process as well. “We are a peer-review press–we’re always going to want to have an honest peer review,” says Mr. Sery, senior editor for new media and game studies. “The reputation of MIT Press, or any good academic press, is based on a peer-review model.”

The origins of that “traditional” model of peer review, its presumptions of honesty, and the lock that it has on current models of academic authority are precisely the subject of the article I’m now working on, so I’m looking forward to watching Noah’s experiment develop. I’m also watching with great anticipation to see what this experiment bodes for MediaCommons, where we hope to develop a new model of “peer-to-peer review” that might not simply exist alongside traditional blind peer review but in fact augment and surpass it as a mode of creating and measuring authority in the age of the network.

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