mediastudies.press: A conversation with founder Jeff Pooley

This post, written by Jeff Pooley (professor of media & communication at Muhlenberg College and director of mediastudies.press), is an introduction to the next event in the ‘BoOkmArks: Open Conversations About OA Books’ series. A live session, open to all, will be held via this Zoom link on Tuesday 26th January at 16:00 CET/ 15:00 GMT/10:00 ET, when we will interview Jeff about the founding and first year of mediastudies.press. If you have questions for Jeff, please add them to the comments section below so they can be included in the conversation on 26th January — and join us at the event if you can! A recording will be available afterwards via our YouTube channel.

by Jeff Pooley

I’m looking forward to joining the BoOkmArks conversation next week. In advance of the discussion, I thought I would introduce the main project that I’ll be talking about, mediastudies.press.

An OABN card with the details of the event described in this blog post
By Agata Morka, CC BY.

First, a note about myself. I’m a media scholar by trade, and tend to write on a rather obscure topic, the history of media studies. My driving interest in that work has always been in the sociology of academic life, including how and why certain ideas “win” out over others. In recent years I’ve taken some of that sensibility to issues of scholarly communication. So I started to make the case for OA within media studies, and related arguments about versioning and the field’s flattened journal hierarchy. I began to write on how media scholarship might apply to academic publishing—the parallel oligopolist ownership regime, for example, or how academia.edu and ResearchGate reflect the likes-and-comments culture of social media. Most recently, I have taken a concerned interest in OA’s drift toward profiteering and income-based exclusion, arguing against read-and-publish deals and the APC, in favor of collective funding models and nonprofit infrastructures.

All of that thinking and commenting was prelude to the founding, in late 2019, of mediastudies.press. I had admired, and closely followed, a handful of academic-led initiatives, among them punctum, Open Book Publishers, the Radical OA collective, and Open Library of Humanities, that taken together posed an alternative to the corporate OA model then gathering steam. The establishment of the ScholarLed group, and the announcement of what would become COPIM, were additional spurs.

My basic thought with mediastudies.press was to put my principles into practice, in a field-specific way. So the press is not just nonprofit and scholar-led, but also committed to a robust set of open access principles (adapted from Jean-Sébastien Caux). Among the most important of these are a fee-free funding model and operational transparency. Other priorities—like multi-modal publishing and support for versioning—are grounded in the conditions of media studies as a field.

We just wrapped up our first COVID-inflected year. Every step of the process of setting up the press has been fascinating—an education in publishing on the fly, with support from the Advisory Board and others in the community. Our process of landing on MIT’s open source PubPub foundation is among the topics I would be excited to discuss in next week’s event. Relevant, too, are the memberships, metadata standards, registrations, and other unsexy desiderata of the OA monograph process—as we limped through each step this last year. I am interested to talk about our decision to publish across formats and platforms, and the ongoing challenges of establishing a BPC-free library partnership model. Perhaps the struggles of balancing life as a working academic and publisher will strike participants as worth discussing. More than anything, I plan to convey how building the press has served as a second education—in some ways more thrilling than the first.

If you have any questions for Jeff, please add them to the comments section below so they can be included in the conversation on Tuesday 26th January at 10:00 EDT / 15:00 BST / 16:00 CEST. Join the conversation then via this Zoom link. All welcome!

CC BY 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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