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Open Access in the Field of Cultural Studies: The Performance and Prospects of Open Cultural Studies

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VPL Glass Roof (Again), Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, March 12, 2006 | © Courtesy of Imran Ali/Flickr.

Prof. Toby Miller, the Editor-in-Chief of Open Cultural Studies, discusses how this Open Access, per-review journal has evolved since its launch, its positioning as a mega-journal in its academic field and its prospects in the years to come.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


The administrative, executive and governance involvement of Prof. Miller in the work of the Cultural Studies Association of the United States provides an apposite vantage point to consider the progress that Open Cultural Studies has made from its launch in 2017. In this context, Pablo Markin has conducted the following e-mail interview with Prof. Miller for OpenScience.

Prof. Toby Miller, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, February 24, 2015 | © Courtesy of Prof. Toby Miller.
Prof. Toby Miller, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, February 24, 2015 | © Courtesy of Prof. Toby Miller.

Pablo Markin: How would you describe the performance of Open Cultural Studies to date?

Toby Miller: These things are difficult to judge. There are the numbers of readers, authors, and citations to consider, plus how international they are and how interdisciplinary their work is—which is no simple assemblage of data, either to construct or rate! And there are less quantifiable issues, such as people mentioning the journal—showing interest in it—and whether it is appealing to both the venerable and the novitiate. It takes a lot of time to build a reputation in so diverse a sphere as cultural studies. This is no overnight project. After so short a time, and especially in this field, the usual figures are not reliable guides to the future. In terms of production, the publisher De Gruyter has been efficient and sensible in its dealings with me, and we have been fortunate to benefit from the excellent work, both intellectually and managerially, of Izabella Penier, its Managing Editor.

Pablo Markin: Could you please elaborate on how the journal differs from other outlets you have been involved with in your field?

Toby Miller: I have edited several other journals, which had both print and online presences—the Journal of Sport & Social Issues (1996-99), Social Text (1997-2001), Television & New Media (also a new journal, from 2000-10), and Social Identities: Journal of Race, Nation and Culture (since 2004)—plus some book series and special issues of other journals. The journal and book publishers of these endeavors (Sage, Duke, Routledge, Minnesota, and Peter Lang) have been good to work with. Sometimes things became complicated when they got cold feet, or hot ones, or took sudden, often irrational decisions without consultation. Needless to say, I have always been blameless…

But more seriously, Open Cultural Studies varies from my other experiences in several ways. Like the publishing house itself, its tendency is to face towards Europe, whereas my experiences have been in the Americas. Plus, it is an Open-Access journal, which is good intellectually and politically—and complex economically. Everyone in publishing is running around working out how to comply with governmental and scholarly wishes for openness while turning a profit, or at least breaking even. Open Cultural Studies is at the forefront of these issues within cultural studies. Its marginal costs are potentially lowered due to the absence of printing and transportation, but the absence of subscription income, particularly from institutions via libraries, presents a real issue to the publisher.

 

Pablo Markin: How would you assess the collaboration prospects of Open Cultural Studies, as a mega-journal, with scholarly associations and centers?

Toby Miller: I think there is a real prospect of such collaborations, though I realize I don’t know what a ‘mega-journal’ is. There are certain cultural studies associations, for example, the American Cultural Studies Association, with which I am involved. But the field is different from economics, botany, or communications, which are longer-established domains of knowledge that relate directly to departmental affiliations and other elements of the university apparatus. Cultural Studies, as a field of academic inquiry, is fresh, lively—and complex to pin down institutionally! We need to do some traveling and talking in order to set up potential collaborations. Hong Kong, Mexico, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, and Oceania are potential sites, inter alia.

Pablo Markin: What limitations and opportunities Open Access has, in your opinion, for Cultural Studies as a field in the United States and internationally, such as funding issues and Open Access policies?

Toby Miller: My prior remarks above regarding the difficulties provide a partial response to this. States and regions will adopt varying policies on Open Access, to which we must be alert. In countries and areas where Cultural Studies is eligible for grant funding (in the European Union, Canada, and Australia, for example, as opposed to the United States) it may become a norm to include publishing costs in such grants—which is already the case in some territories and disciplines. In the United States research sector, some contracts for tenure-track assistant professors now include subvention to support publishing, which is a further potential source. The big issue is how to manage this in the Global South and among the large and growing precariat of Cultural-Studies scholars in the Global North. These potential authors are unlikely to luxuriate in such forms of assistance. It is crucial that we involve them in the project of Cultural Studies, regardless of their economic status. In addition, scholars in Latin America and Asia are under increasing pressure to publish in English, which helps us—but they are expected to do so within the narrow confines of what their governments and education-system bureaucrats deem to be ‘top’ journals—which is something they typically derive from conventional rankings rather than consultation. Such norms have been eschewed by both the relevant panel of the United Kingdom’s Research Excellence Framework and Excellence in Research for Australia, but they continue to fascinate and lure decision-makers in many other places. Because of Cultural Studies’ hybrid, emergent status, its most interesting publications (frequently anthologies, edited collections, or journals of tendency) often do not appear in bourgeois bibliometry.

Pablo Markin: How do you envision the outlook for Open Cultural Studies for the next year and beyond, when authors will need to cover article processing charges?

Toby Miller: This relates to the previous question. The journal has an opportunity to make a name for itself as a good-faith enterprise if it finds ways to navigate the need to run a business, while appreciating that structural poverty can militate against diversity and quality.

I really like the journal; admire the publisher’s initiative in starting it; and appreciate the work of the staff who put it all together. I want Open Cultural Studies to continue and to thrive. As you and I suggest in the questions and answers above, that calls for an array of tactics to defray costs to all concerned. These include negotiations with professional associations and research centers; investigations into Open Access publishing costs’ insertion into grants and start-up packages; and perhaps additions to bundled deals with libraries for more conventional journals, in which this journal could become a part of wider contracts and, hence, included into institutional membership arrangements. As authors in the Global South face increasing pressure to publish in English, the corollary is that their employers and governments will confront the need to help finance such achievements, which could be useful. But the issue of indexing Open Access journals and publications rears its head again.

 

Prof. Toby Miller is Research Professor of the Graduate Division, University of California, Riverside; Sir Walter Murdoch Professor of Cultural Policy Studies, Murdoch University; Profesor Invitado, Escuela de Comunicación Social, Universidad del Norte; Professor of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University/Prifysgol Caerdydd; and Professor in the Institute for Media and Creative Industries, Loughborough University London, the United Kingdom. Prof. Miller is the author and editor of over forty books. His work has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish, German, Italian, Farsi, and Swedish. His most recent volumes are Greenwashing Culture (2018), Greenwashing Sport (2018), The Routledge Companion to Global Cultural Policy (co-edited, 2018), Global Media Studies (co-authored, 2016), The Sage Companion to Television Studies (co-edited, 2015), The Routledge Companion to Global Popular Culture (edited, 2015), Greening the Media (co-authored, 2012) and Blow Up the Humanities (2012).

Edited by Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: VPL Glass Roof (Again), Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, March 12, 2006 | © Courtesy of Imran Ali/Flickr.

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