Public Writing

Originally posted on on February 20, 2014:

This experiment in academic public writing began with a compliment.

In a Twitter conversation with @ProfessMoravec, I came across her Rationale for Academic Writing in Public in which she discusses how and why she has decided to draft her academic scholarship in public using Google Docs.

I was intrigued by the model and wanted to learn more about it, so naturally, I tweeted a compliment about it to @ProfessMoravec.

While my own approach has been public, I have not exposed my work in progress at the level of drafting as @ProfessMoravec and others like @wcaleb and @tremblebot have done:

So, since I am in the middle of working on an essay in honor of my former professor, Richard Bernstein, with the working title, The Ethics of Philosophy in a Digital Age, I thought I would further embody the habit of public writing by drafting the essay in public using a Google Doc accessible to the public for commenting. Drawing on Bernstein’s work on fallible pluralism and the practices of dialogue, the essay itself will focus on the practices of philosophy in a networked world. So in opening the drafting of the essay itself to a wider public network, I hope to continue to learn what it means to “do philosophy” in and with a networked public.

Hannah Arendt, I imagine, would not approve. She would likely see this as one more perversion brought on by the rise of mass society. For Arendt, the emergence of the social sphere erodes the distinction between the private and the public to such a degree that idle talk and behavior supplant genuine political speech and action. These latter are possible only when we are prepared and able to speak and act in public as the unique beings we are. ((Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958, 182))

Although I have argued that Arendt herself cannot maintain a strict a dichotomy between the private and the public, (See, “A Fissure in the Distinction: Arendt, the Family and the Public/Private Dichotomy) still, Arendt is right to worry about the reduction or even annihilation of a private space for thinking and reflection. The concerns of the social all too often overdetermine our relationships with one another, preventing us from speaking and acting in ways that disclose who we are to one another.

In my own practices of scholarship, private time and space for thinking and reflection are ever diminishing commodities. I reserve them for careful reading, focused note-taking and, of course, drafting and revising. By opening my drafting and writing processes to public view and feedback, that private time and space is made more porous, but not altogether destroyed. Already with this project, I have used Scrivener to take notes on a variety of texts and consolidated some thoughts for the essay. ((I divide my note-taking tasks in two, using Scrivener to take reading notes directed toward a specific essay or article, and Zotero for more generic reading notes. For a broader discussion of my digital research process, take a look at this Prezi on my Digital Research Circle and my related posts on Digital Research practices.))

So, despite Arendt’s concern about the rise of the social and the erosion of a public space of genuine speech and action, I open my work here in the hope that there is value not only in the developed articulation of the essay’s ideas, but also in the developing process by which the ideas find articulation. That process will, I hope, be enriched by the suggestions and insights of a wider public interested in the themes of the essay itself. My hope too is that the drafting process will be revealing in the sense Arendt associates with relevant public speech and action.

So, continuing the experiment with public research, I invite you to view and comment as I draft this paper on with a working title: The Ethics of Philosophy in a Digital Age.

Peer Review Coordinator and the Collegiality Index

This is a cross posting from my November 27th post on

As we sought to map out the design and functionality of the Public Philosophy Journal with colleagues at Matrix a in November, we began to suggest how a disciplinary economy of an open peer review might be navigated in ways that at once ensure rigor and maximize collegiality.

In order to do this, it will be important to approach the review process not simply as a means to an final scholarly publication, but as itself an important scholarly activity.

(For the idea that review should be valued “itself as a teachable and learnable activity,” see Hart-Davidson, William, Michael McLeod, Christopher Klerkx, and Michael Wojcik. “A Method for Measuring Helpfulness in Online Peer Review.” In Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication, 115–121. SIGDOC ’10. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2010, §2.1. doi:10.1145/1878450.1878470.)

To facilitate this, we intend to assign to each review target a peer review coordinator (PRC) whose responsibilities would include, among other things:

  1. Identifying reviewers with the requisite expertise;
  2. Cultivating a climate of collegiality between the reviewers and the author;
  3. Establishing review criteria, including target specific review prompts (beyond the standard review prompts adopted by the journal);
  4. Creating the conditions for a just review, including, if necessary, toggling on reviewer anonymity;
  5. Facilitating the discussion forum associated with the review to ensure that the most salient and substantive ideas and suggestions have the most influence.

Obviously, with responsibilities like these, it will be necessary (and difficult) to cultivate the requisite habits of digital scholarly communication among the members of the PPJ community. As a start, we envision developing a community of PRCs first among the Philosophy graduate student research assistants at Penn State and Michigan State. But if the PPJ is to be successful, and if we are going to be able to scale up our capacity for open public peer review, we will need to extend our community of coordinators more broadly.

To do this, we envision creating a sophisticated system of credentialing that will be translated into a PPJ user score for each member of the PPJ community. What, precisely, will constitute the PPJ user score will be developed in the months to come in conversation with an emerging community of interested colleagues inside and outside the academy.

However, one measure that should be an important determining factor of the PPJ user score should be something that we might call one’s “collegiality index.”

Drawing on the work done by Hart-Davidson, McLeod, Klerkx and Wojcik, regarding how to measure “helpfulness” in online peer review, we hope to develop a collegiality index. They suggest that a helpful review:

  1. Describes the rhetorical moves a scholar makes to achieve rhetorical aims;
  2. Accurately and fairly evaluates the review target; and
  3. Provides “specific, actionable advice” to improve the target of review (Ibid., §3.).

Similarly, we might consider operationalizing the collegiality score according to how well a reviewer is able to:

  1. Accurately describe what animates the scholarship under review, thus demonstrating a capacity for hermeneutical empathy;
  2. Evaluate the review target in its own terms, thus demonstrating a capacity for hermeneutical generosity;
  3. Engage the community in ways that enrich the scholarship under review, thus demonstrating a capacity for hermeneutical transformation.

A community member’s “collegiality index” would be determined over time based on past collegiality scores and would be integrated into the PPJ user profile to become part of the member’s cultivated reputation. The hope is that by integrating a measurable expectation of collegiality into the fabric of the PPJ itself, we will be able to cultivate a Network of Scholarly Practice capable of creating the conditions under which excellent scholarship can be produced and productive scholars can become excellent.

A Long Day of DH 2014

This year, I plan to gather here a series of posts from my blog,, and other digital content related to various facets of my academic and administrative life that I take, broadly speaking, to be associated with the Digital Humanities.

My definition of digital humanities is brief and expansive: the digitally mediated practice of the Humanities.

This articulation advocates for the humanities itself as a practice. More than a set of disciplines, the humanities is an endeavor: the ongoing attempt to act and think in ways that do justice to the complexity of humanity so as to enrich human culture and community.

As mediated by the digital, this endeavor takes on new, powerful capacities of publicness and collaboration, even if it also runs the risk of losing itself in a vast sea of data with its cross-currents of disconnected information.

My work in the digital humanities includes but extends beyond my academic scholarship in Philosophy to my work in higher education administration and ultimately to my family and personal life where digital media enable me to cultivate habits of mindfulness.

With this definition in hand, I include in my Long Day of DH 2014 posts about my academic and administrative life punctuated by moments of mindfulness designed to remind us that it is the human that brings the digital to life.

So, today you will find posts on:

DH by @cplong

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