[In lieu of readings this week, our digital humanities seminar chose sections of Writing History in the Digital Age on which to comment during their open peer review stage. You can find my contributions under my name here, or when you read through the two essays on which I commented (I have a feeling these links may not be permanent so my apologies if future people find them to be broken).]
Open peer review is a great layer of scholarly discussion that should be added to, not replace, current practices of peer review. Peer review’s current practices of total secrecy seem a bit excessive, but open peer review is not perfect either. The most bothersome aspect of open peer review is that not everything attracts comments. I was the first commenter on one of the essays and there were several others with few or no comments. For peer review to work, peers need to review every part of a work, which is why three outside scholars will still review of Writing History in the Digital Age as a whole. However, I still found open peer review incredibly valuable. In particular, the potential for discussion is open peer review’s most exciting aspect. The author of the first essay I reviewed had himself commented frequently throughout the essay, prompting discussion. Instead of writing some distant review of the entire piece, I found it more interesting to comment at various points, joining the discussion of the essay at both the whole page and paragraph level. By inspiring discussion about a work, open peer review can remove some of the distance of current peer review practices. The secrecy of peer review prevents any real discussion of the work. There are certainly comments communicated, but open peer review allows a broad range of scholars, not one or two, to make suggestions on the text. Looking over the list of commentators, I recognized several names as active members of the digital humanities community. Though they might not have the time to review every aspect of the book, they can still provide feedback for an essay or two. This type of open review was perfect for an edited volume of essays, though I wonder about open peer review and monographs. Will enough scholars read through enough of a monograph online to make substantive comments?