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Business Models for Open Access Journals in Cultural Studies and Humanities

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Slanted Art Type magazine, December 19, 2013 | © Courtesy of Slanted Publishers.

As online archives, library collections and collaborative projects become increasingly prevalent, open-access cultural and regional studies journals gain visibility.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


The emergence of Wikipedia, topic-oriented wikis and non-profit publishing initiatives has enabling harnessing the potential of digital publishing and distribution technologies for shared research on emergent cultural topics, such as new media. From these roots a multitude of initiatives have sprung up. Growing from a wiki resource, Monoskop has evolved into a point of bibliographic reference for open access and offline, proprietary academic sources in humanities, art and cultural studies. However, similar to Wikipedia, serving as its prototype, Monoskop is largely based on volunteer contributions of effort.

A different tack is taken by e-flux that, while acting as a go-to web resource for news and current events in the world of art and architecture, also relies on business relations with art galleries, journals and institutions that form the basis of its operations model, such as its art agenda and art & education portals. This enables e-flux to publish its journal that appearing in open access online is also distributed in print to art galleries, cultural centers, art museums and book stores internationally. In other words, its e-mail- and Internet-based art-related information dissemination model ensures the continuity of e-flux journal that straddles the conceptual space between an art magazine and an academic journal.

Into the latter category falls Flusser Studies, as an electronic, peer-reviewed open access journal that encourages multi-lingual and interdisciplinary explorations of Vilém Flusser’s oeuvre across humanities and social sciences. Given that its editorial and advisory board is composed of academics with expertise in this area of cultural studies, this positions the journal as a primary source of reference for scholars producing Flusser-related work, while serving as a rationale for the support it receives from the academic institutions, such as web-hosting by USI Università della Svizzera italiana.

A similar model is followed by Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies that, while applying rigorous academic review standards, appears in open access. As its operations are funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and its website is hosted by the University of Alberta, this journal does not require article processing charges (APCs), while being positioned at the interdisciplinary edge of visual culture research. As a venue for exhibition, book and event reviews, multi-lingual scholarly contributions and visually rich narratives, Imaginations explores the interface between the blog and journal formats through the fluidity of its design.

Thus, the institutional support that these cultural studies journals receive, such as from associated universities, culture-related ventures and scientific foundations, forms the primary basis of their sustainability, especially due to their no-APC approach that fits well the globally distributed academic communities they serve. By contrast, emergent open access academic journals, such as Open Cultural Studies, need to balance scholar- and reader-facing accessibility with practices standard in domains of academic journal publishing other than culture-related subject fields, e.g., in relation to APCs and academic review procedures, given that their hosting and operating expenses are not covered by external foundations, public or private funds or academic institutions.

This is likely to contribute to a variety of operational models among open access journals in cultural and art-related studies.

By Pablo Markin.


Featured Image Credits: Slanted Art Type magazine, December 19, 2013 | © Courtesy of Slanted Publishers.

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