1.i History of Social Knowledge Production

Bazerman, Charles. 1991. “How Natural Philosophers Can Cooperate: The Literary Technology of Coordinated Investigation in Joseph Priestley’s History and Present State of Electricity (1767).” In Textual Dynamics of the Professions: Historical and Contemporary Studies of Writing in Professional Communities, edited by Charles Bazerman and James Paradis, 13–44. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Bazerman studies the role of early literature reviews through a thorough discussion and analysis of Joseph Priestley’s The History and Present State of Electricity (1767). If, as Bazerman argues, literature reviews represent potent sites of knowledge-sharing and dissemination in a community, then Priestley’s volume represents the first literature review, since it details the history of electricity research and experiments. Priestley created a comprehensive, open-ended document that summarized the accepted state of the field as well as anomalies, discrepancies, and failures. Bazerman applauds Priestley for his active service in democratizing and disseminating knowledge.

Biagioli, Mario. 2002. “From Book Censorship to Academic Peer Review.” Emergences 12 (1): 11–45. doi:10.1080/1045722022000003435.

Biagioli details the historical and epistemological shifts that have led to the academic peer review system as it is now known. Contrary to its contemporary role, peer review began as an early modern disciplinary technique closely related to book censorship and required for social and scholarly certification of institutions and individuals alike. The rise of academic journals shifted this constrained and royally-mandated position; no longer a self-sustaining system of judgment and reputation dictated by a small group of identified and accredited professionals, (often blind) peer review now focuses on disseminating knowledge and scholarship to the wider community. Biagioli also states that journals have moved from officially representing specific academic institutions to being community owned and operated, as responsibilities, duties, and readership are now dispersed among a group of like-minded scholars.

Burke, Peter. 2000. A Social History of Knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Burke expands on the various agents and elements of social knowledge production, with a specific focus on intellectuals and Europe in the early modern period (until ca. 1750). He argues that knowledge is always plural, and that various knowledges concurrently develop, surface, intersect, and play. Burke relies on sociology, including the work of Emile Durkheim, and critical theory, including the work of Michel Foucault, as a basis on which to develop his own notions of social knowledge production. He acknowledges that the church, scholarly institutions, government, and the printing press have all had a significant effect on knowledge production and dissemination—often affirmatively, but occasionally through restriction or containment. Furthermore, Burke explores how both “heretics” (humanist revolutionaries) and more traditional academic structures developed the university as a knowledge institution.

—. A Social History of Knowledge II: From the Encyclopédie to Wikipedia. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Burke develops his research from the first volume (A Social History of Knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot) by expanding his scope from the early modern period into the twentieth century. He continues to rely on certain foundational notions for this volume: knowledge is plural and varied; knowledge is produced by various institutions and conditions instead of solely by individuals; and the social production of knowledge is intrinsically connected to the economic and political environments in which it develops. As with the first volume, Burke focuses mainly on academic knowledge, with brief forays into other forms or sites of knowledge.

Eagleton, Terry. 2010. “The Rise of English.” In The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, edited by Vincent B. Leitch, 2140–46. New York: W.W. Norton.

Eagleton argues that the development of English literature was an ideological strategy used, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, as a form of suppression and control to educate lower classes only “enough” to keep them subservient. English literature, moreover, was actually scorned and primarily directed at women when first introduced as a field of university study. Eagleton concludes that literature “is an ideology” (2140) due to its historical role in social development and nation-building in England and elsewhere.

Fjällbrant, Nancy. 1997. “Scholarly Communication—Historical Development and New Possibilities.” In Proceedings of the IATUL Conferences. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Libraries e-Pubs. http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1389&context=iatul.

In order to study the widespread transition of scholarly communication from print to electronic formats, Fjällbrant details the history of the scientific journal. Academic journals had emerged in seventeenth-century Europe, and the first of these, the Journal des Sçavans, was published in 1665 in Paris. The first learned societies formed at this time—the Royal Society in London and the Académie des Sciences in Paris—were primarily concerned with the dissemination of knowledge, and the scholarly journal developed out of a desire by researchers to share their findings with others in a cooperative forum. Following the lead of the Royal Society, some of whose members had read the Journal des Sçavans, other societies established similar serial publications. Although there were other contemporaneous forms of scholarly communication, including the letter, the scientific book, the newspaper, and the cryptic anagram system, the journal emerged as a primary source of scholarly communication. It met the needs of various stakeholders: the general public, booksellers and publishers, libraries, authors who wished to make their work public and claim ownership, the scientific community invested in reading and applying other scientists’ findings, and academic institutions that required metrics for evaluating faculty.

Gitelman, Lisa. 2006. Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Gitelman relates media history, with a focus on contextual social processes, in order to examine human experience, communication, and cultural history. She argues that media are plural, socially recognized communication structures that evolve with surrounding publics. Gitelman rejects contemporary notions of media as a singular, ubiquitous force—“The Media.” Instead, she examines two contrasting technologies, the phonograph and the Internet, envisioning media as active, multiple, historical subjects. Gitelman briefly extends her argument into the materiality of media subjects, digital versus non-digital textual materiality, and the necessary omnipresence of both form and content.

Jagodzinski, Cecile M. 2008. “The University Press in North America: A Brief History.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 40 (1): 1–20. doi:10.1353/scp.0.0022.

Jagodzinski describes the history of the North American university press, beginning with the first presses at Cornell and Johns Hopkins Universities, which debuted in the nineteenth century. From the beginning, the primary function of the university press was considered to be the dissemination of knowledge. Twentieth-century growth in the number of colleges and universities led to a corresponding growth in the number of university presses, and the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) was formally established in the mid-1930s. As is well known, the last quarter of the twentieth century heralded major systemic changes and obstacles, and the university press was not immune to these challenges. Jagodzinski discusses in detail how university presses have responded, pragmatically and creatively, to the (largely financial) issues burdening contemporary scholarly communication.

Johns, Adrian. 1998. The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Johns, a self-professed historian of printing, seeks to reveal a social history of print: a new, more accurate exploration of how print, and thereby knowledge, developed. His account of print includes acknowledging the labours of those actually involved with printing, as well as their contemporary understandings and anxieties surrounding print and publication. With a distinct focus on the history of science, Johns explores the social apparatus and construction of print, as well as how print has been used socially. Notably, Johns constructs his argument in firm opposition to Elizabeth Eisenstein’s earlier work on print culture (1979). He argues that there is no singular “print culture,” as such; rather, there are various print cultures that are all local in character. For Johns, the wide-ranging influence of print is manifold, multiple, and not implicit in a deterministic cause and effect relationship with any single historical factor or trigger.

Liu, Alan. 2013. “From Reading to Social Computing.” In Literary Studies in the Digital Age: An Evolving Anthology, edited by Kenneth Price and Raymond G. Siemens, n.p. New York: MLA Commons. https://dlsanthology.commons.mla.org/from-reading-to-socialcomputing/.

Liu presents an impressive short history of both social computing and literary theory. He develops the argument that literary scholars must take social computing seriously, as it is the current mode of cultural and personal expression. Liu suggests that literary scholars engage with social computing through two distinct methodologies: those of the social sciences and of the digital humanities. As he argues, social computing must be considered not only as an object of literary study, but as a practice of literary study.

Manovich, Lev. 2001. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Manovich distills both abstract and assumed theories concerning the history and present state of computing and media. In doing so, he attempts to contextualize, categorize, and develop a relevant vocabulary of new media. Concurrently, Manovich explains the technical development of new media, situating it in the twentieth-century media trajectory—with one eye to cinema and the other to print. His contextualization reveals how new media and previous media mutually define and inform each other. Manovich discusses the transformations that cause the digital computer to act as a cultural processor and a “universal media machine” (4). He further defines new media by enumerating five principles: automation, numerical code, access, variability, and transcoding. Of note, Manovich proposes the opposition of database and narrative due to differences in form and linearity.

Siemens, Raymond G.  2002.  “Scholarly  Publishing  at  its  Source,  and at Present.” In The Credibility of Electronic Publishing: A Report to the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada, compiled by Raymond G. Siemens, Michael Best, Elizabeth  Grove-White, Alan Burk, James Kerr, Andy Pope, Jean-Claude Guédon, Geoffrey Rockwell, and Lynne Siemens. TEXT Technology, 11 (1): 1–128.

Siemens’s introduction to this report focuses on the rethinking of scholarly communication practices in light of new digital forms. He meditates on this topic through the framework of ad fontes—the act, or conception, of going to the source. As he argues, scholars should look at the source or genesis of scholarly communication. For Siemens, the source goes beyond the seventeenth-century inception of the academic print journal to include less formal ways of communicating and disseminating knowledge—i.e., verbal exchanges, epistolary correspondence, and manuscript circulation. In this way, scholars can look past the popular, standard academic journal and into a future of scholarly communication that productively involves varied scholarly traditions and social knowledge practices.

Streeter, Thomas. 2010. “Introduction.” In The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet, 1–16. New York and London: New York University  Press.

Through a distinctly sociological method, Streeter analyzes the connections between computing, the rise of the Internet, capitalism, and social life. Instead of framing his examination through the Internet’s effect on society, Streeter looks at how the Internet has been socially constructed, and at its role in myriad complex historical, personal, and political networks. Rather than speculating on its possible future, he questions why and how the Internet was built. Moreover, Streeter discredits essentialist conceptions of technology and the Internet; he articulates that various historical and cultural contexts have fostered the openness of the Internet’s networked state.

Turner, Fred. 2006. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Turner’s sociohistorical narrative of the development of the Internet makes the argument that the counterculture movements of the 1960s—specifically those under the leadership of Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Network— have played an integral role in both the principles and practices of contemporary personal computing. He posits that the New Communalists (those who flocked to communes in the late 1960s and early 1970s) assisted and influenced the widespread network of computing as we know it today through their embrace of cybernetics and a technology-based ideology. Turner elaborates on the social construction of modern computing, as well as on how computing influenced numerous American social groups, movements, and citizens in both abstract and tangible ways.