'Filosofía pirata, edición libre', discussion with Perro Tuerto y Pucho (El Rancho Electrónico) y Gabriela Méndez Cota (Universidad Iberoamericana) for the Mexico city radio station Ibero, September 12, 2019.

Open Humanities Press – The Inhumanist Manifesto

Pirate Philosophy, This Is Not A Pipe Podcast

HyperCritical Theory

Übercapitalism and What Can Be Done About It

Recent publications

Masked Media (limited edition paper-only publication for The House That Heals The Soul exhibition, Tetley, Leeds, 2018) 

 The Inhumanist Manifesto: Extended Play (Techne Lab, 2017)

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here in Media Gifts or in Coventry University's online repositories PURE here, and CURVE here 

Radical Open Access

« Occupy: A People Yet To Come, and The First Sail: J. Hillis Miller - two new books from OHP | Main | Videos from Radical Methodologies for the Humanities: Third Disrupting the Humanities seminar »

Open Humanities Press: Funding and Organisation

At OHP we are often asked about our funding model, how we are staffed, what organizational support we have, and the traditional publishing services we provide to book authors (such as copyediting, layout, indexing). What follows is a version of a reply to one such request for further information.

 Open Humanities Press (OHP) is an international, non-profit, open access (OA) publishing collective specializing in critical theory. It was established in 2006 by Gary Hall, Sigi Jöttkandt, and David Ottina, in collaboration with a wider network of scholars, librarians, technology specialists and publishers. 

Taking the academic ‘gift economy’ as its model, OHP experiments with different, more resilient (we prefer that term to sustainable) ways of working. Most of OHP’s funding comes indirectly: via publicly funded institutions paying our salaries as academics, librarians, technologists and so forth (although not everyone who is part of OHP works for a university – or even a publicly funded institution, for that matter). We are thus simply ‘gifting’ some of the time we are given to conduct research and provide academic services for the profession (peer-reviewing, journal editing etc.) to create open access publishing opportunities for others.  It is worth noting that, as Sigi Jöttkandt points out, ‘this largely volunteer effort is the norm rather than the exception’ when it comes to no-fee journal publishing in many humanities fields, ‘in both OA and non-OA sectors’. Some scholars may be fortunate enough to be offered reduced teaching or administrative loads by their institutions for establishing and running publishing projects such as this one. Others may have PhD students or graduate assistants they can ask to help with some of the work. Still others may even be given an assistant, funded by the academic institution, to help with the editorial labour. Another indirect source of funding occurs via institutions on occasion paying for the hosting of content. (Thanks are due to our OHP colleague Marta Brunner for this last point.)

 Operating on an ‘academic gift economy’ basis can actually be a significant source of strength to many independent humanities publishers. For one thing, it makes it easier to publish highly specialised, experimental, inter- or trans-disciplinary research. In other words, it supports research that, in challenging established disciplines, styles and frameworks, often falls between the different stools represented by the various academic departments, learned societies, scholarly associations, and research councils, and that does not always fit into the neat disciplinary categories and divisions with which traditional and for-profit publishers tend to order their lists – but which may nevertheless help to push a field in exciting new directions and generate important new areas of inquiry.

Yet we are aware the ‘gift economy’ can also be a potential source of weakness. It opens up many such initiatives to being positioned as functioning on an amateur, shoe-string basis.  Compared to a series or list produced by a large, for-profit, corporately owned legacy press, open access presses that use gift economy as their model are far more vulnerable to the accusation that they are unable to sustain high academic standards in terms of their production, editing, copy-editing, proofing and peer reviewing processes. They are also more vulnerable to the suspicion that they are incapable of maintaining consistently high academic standards in terms of the quality of their long term sustainability, the marketing and distribution services they can offer, their ability to be picked up by prestige-endowing indexes, and all the other add-on features a legacy press can often provide, such as journal archiving, contents alerts, discussion forums, etc. As Gary Hall observes, while this also applies to ‘independent’ print journals, it is especially the case with regard to online-only journals, the majority of which are ‘still considered too new and unfamiliar to have gained the level of institutional recognition required for them to be thought of as being "established" and "of known" quality’.

It is precisely this perception of open access in the humanities that OHP is endeavouring to counter by directly addressing these issues. Its explicit aim is to ensure open access publishing, in certain areas of the humanities at least, meets ‘the levels of professionalism our peers expect from publications they associate with academic "quality"'. 

With regard to the ‘traditional’ publishing services we offer to authors (such as copy-editing): in the ‘start-up’ period of the book publishing aspect of our project (which ran from 2009-2014), some of these services were provided by our then collaborator, University of Michigan Library’s Scholarly Publishing Office - which later became MPublishing, and is now known as Michigan Publishing. It is this partnership with MPublishing that, to a certain extent, has enabled OHP to publish open access books without ‘author-pays’ publishing fees or external funding, and to maintain high production standards and achieve a certain level of prestige of the kind one gets from being associated with a legacy print press in the process. We say ‘to a certain extent’, however, because OHP has never been totally reliant on Michigan for these services – and is thus still able to offer them to authors now that we have brought our partnership with MPublishing to a close by mutual agreement.

 Not relying on author- or funder-pays models of publishing is important to us. Indeed, we are keen to explore publishing models that do not risk disenfranchising independent scholars, those in less wealthy institutions, or those with alternative viewpoints which do not necessarily meet institutional approval, be it at funding agency, university vice-chancellor or provost, research head or author processing charge (APC) committee level.  For this reason, we do not normally speak in terms of a funding model for OHP per se. Eileen Joy, who runs an independent open access publisher called Punctum Books, captures the spirit of this approach in the following terms:

rather than building one particular type of digital platform and asking authors to shape their work within that platform – whatever it might be – [OHP, but she is also referring to Anvil Academic here] have taken the riskier move of offering infrastructure and other types of support services that would be uniquely designed to meet the desires and needs of whatever creative and complex types of born-digital scholarship might be conceptualized by individual scholars, and I consider that incredibly progressive and exciting. (Eileen Joy, 'A Time for Radical Hope: Freedom, Responsibility, Publishing, and Building New Publics’, In The Middle, November, 2013)

 In sum, we are not in search of a one-size-fits-all solution to open access. Rather, each project that is ‘part of OHP’ – be it a journal, a book series, a blog or one of our Labs projects – is unique, inventing its own singular way of responding to its community’s needs. 


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