Screenshot of the Vectors project Technologies of History by Steve Anderson Design by Erik Loyer

With the demise of traditional gatekeepers and the introduction of new modes of publishing and distribution, conventional distinctions between publishing (as the activity of making information available to the general public) and diverse forms of research and writing are blurring. Increasingly, writing – be it critical or creative – is being made public, in print and on screen as well as in hybrid forms, as part of the various stages of its development. Via collaborative Google docs, blogging sites, working papers, conference presentations, social media and tweets, and with the aid of self-publishing software and Print-on-Demand, writers are getting accustomed to sharing their research and writing in public settings as it develops. In this context, publishing, as an activity, becomes less about ‘making public’; instead, emphasis starts to be placed increasingly on the diverse and multiple reasons why we publish (i.e. for communication and feedback, for impact, for career-progression etc.). In other words, the blurring of boundaries between research/writing and publishing have contributed to a raised awareness of when and why we publish (and for what reasons). At the same time, the digital environment and the apparent seamlessness of publication means that publications as bounded and final objects are becoming less fixed and stable. Traditional post-publication elements such as comments, highlights, discussions, reviews, updates etc., now become part of the ‘original’ publication; i.e. the process of post-publication becomes that of publishing itself. In this environment the choices that we make for where to publish become ever more important (i.e. in print or on a wiki) whilst at the same time making us more aware of how the form of our publications is inherently shaping the publication itself and is an active agent in how it is produced, disseminated and consumed. If we take this as a given, we can see how publishing is inherently implicated in the writing and research process, again further breaking down barriers between writing and publishing.

In this project we take interest in this transformation and the new centrality of post-publishing in contemporary publishing practices. Tools and collaborative platforms such as wikis, annotation software, and libre licenses allow the publishing community to take up and further develop publication-in-process as publication-as-process. In academic publishing, platforms such as Manifold, but earlier also the authoring and publishing platform Scalar, demonstrate how publications—reformulated in the words of McGann as events, as processual, iterative and living—themselves actively produce and perform our scholarship: witness how people talk about a ‘Scalar book’ just as they talk about a ‘Manifold project’. In creative writing and experiments with publishing as an artistic practice, iterative projects such as Tom Philips’ A Humument – now in its 6th edition – or Jonathan Safran Foer’s iterative re-reading of Bruno Schultz’s Street of Crocodiles in his Tree of Codes, evoke a similar sensibility and a similar experimentation with processes of writing and publishing. In Post-Publishing we are interested in exploring ways in which such moves to iterative forms of publishing not only erode the clear distinctions between research and publishing that we have institutionalised, but logically also between publishing and research. We explore ways in which thinking about publishing as post-publishing highlights how publishing itself, and in particular the platforms on which we publish, should be conceived as an integral part of the research and writing process, as inherently shaping it.