Among the kinds of texts that we’ve repeatedly noted as potential forms for MediaCommons to explore is what I’ve previously referred to as the “digital casebook,” an evolution of the anthology that allows scholars working on a single text, such as a television series, to produce an organically developing repository of scholarly materials about and around their subject of interest. This idea has developed into a proposal for what we’re now thinking of as the MediaCommons Series Casefiles (“files” here intended as a means of escaping the confines of the “book”). The proposal itself is below the fold, but we’d very much like to hear your comments, questions, and other responses over at MediaCommons, in order to further develop the idea as we proceed.
MediaCommons Series Casefiles
One of the challenges of studying contemporary culture is its contemporaneity — the cultural objects of analysis shift even as scholars fix their gaze upon them. This is especially true for one of the most interesting and robust areas of popular culture, the ongoing series. Ongoing television, comic book, videogame, and film series have grown more elaborate and complex in recent years, inviting new modes of analysis and continuing examination. Yet the process of scholarly publishing often works against the serialized tendencies of today’s cultural forms, as new textual material is generated faster than journals and anthologies can bring out academic essays — anthologies on television series, for instance, often seem to be stuck in previous seasons rather than reflecting the latest developments that might deepen, undermine, or transform scholarly arguments.
MediaCommons Series Casefiles offer an alternative publishing opportunity that takes advantage of the temporal immediacy and robust community basis of digital publishing to address an ongoing series through a contemporary mode of address. Each Casefile will explore a popular culture series within or across any medium, whether still ongoing or recently ended, serving as a “serialized anthology” that will build a body of scholarship appropriate to the series form itself. Rather than seeking the fixed format of a book or journal article, a Casefile will grow and shift over time, accumulating new pieces of scholarship that address ongoing developments in the series under scrutiny, as well as creating dialogue among essays in an organic discussion unavailable in print. Casefiles are never to be seen as closed, but as sites of continuing serialized scholarship, as long as interest in any series continues.
The Casefiles are overseen by project co-editors Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Jason Mittell. Proposals for new Casefiles will be considered and approved by the project co-editors and the MediaCommons editorial board, with the understanding that each casefile should strive to take advantage of the digital mode of publication, including potential multimedia work, and MediaCommons’s system of peer-to-peer review. Each Casefile will be overseen by an editor or group of co-editors who will work directly with authors and readers to build the Casefile. We invite proposed Casefiles to cover any contemporary medium or cross-media franchise featuring series format. Casefiles may include material that cannot be produced or reproduced in print, such as video essays, wikis, and other digital native formats, or they may mirror traditional print essays of varying length. The flexibility of Casefiles will allow them to begin with a smaller collection of pieces than a journal issue or book might contain, and to grow well beyond the constraints of such printed artifacts.
All submissions will be reviewed by that Casefile’s editor(s) and a project co-editor; this first review process will strive to be inclusive of a wide range of scholarship, considering a variety of theoretical approaches, methodologies, and modes of presentation. The basic goal of any contribution should be to present an academic argument around the Casefile’s topic; if the Casefile editors feel that a piece succeeds in offering an interesting argument, they will post the piece to the In-Process section of the Casefile. Works deemed In-Process will undergo a 6-week period of public peer-to-peer review, during which any registered member of MediaCommons can offer non-anonymous feedback on the piece and make recommendations for its publication future. Casefile editors will be responsible for soliciting and encouraging reviews from scholars and other members of the community with relevant expertise. During this period, authors are strongly encouraged to engage in public dialogue with their reviewers.
After the 6-week period has concluded, Casefile editors will review the comments, metrics suggesting the online circulation of a piece, and conversations with the author, working to designate the piece within one of four categories: “Ready for Publication” designates a text that requires no further revision. “Revise for Publication” will follow from positive reviews where the author agrees to any suggested minor changes as necessary. “Revise and Resubmit” indicates comments suggesting major revisions that the author agrees to undertake; such a piece will be resubmitted to the In-Process section and undergo another peer-to-peer review. “Dormant” categorization occurs when the peer-to-peer review suggests that the piece does not meet criteria for publication, or the author is not able or willing to make changes necessary to work toward publication. A Dormant piece and its associated reviews and commentary will remain publicly available in a Casefile, and subsequent discussion or activity on the piece may result in its recategorization.
Pieces that are designated as Published will be featured on the Casefile’s site with a clear indication and public record of the project’s peer review status, and will allow for continued commentary, review, and measurement of broader circulation (citation statistics, digital references, etc.). While an author may continue to revise and update a published piece, any major revisions will need to be resubmitted to the In-Process review. Authors are free to submit works published with MediaCommons to other publication venues, though MediaCommons reserves the non-exclusive right to continue to host and publish any submitted work.