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Performing the Scholarly Monograph in Contemporary Digital Culture

5.4 Conclusion

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The last two chapters have explored the systems and narratives that surround the material production of academic books, books that we as scholars produce, disseminate and consume on a daily basis. This analysis has tried to pay attention to the specific technological developments and affordances of the book, its entangled political economy of knowledge production, and the discourses narrating the object-formation of the book in academia and scholarly publishing, which have been the subject of chapter 4. Through this exploration I have examined what specific roles the book as a scholarly object, both materially and conceptually, has come to play in the current scholarly communication constellation, what struggles it has encountered along its way, and what potential opportunities for intervention this might offer.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 In this chapter I have tried to supplement this material-discursive genealogy of the monograph’s object-formation with alternative visions and practices related to both its past and future, to show how a politics of the book can extend beyond dichotomies such as openness and closure/secrecy, experimentation and experience, and object and process. In this respect, the book, and the practices and discourses surrounding the production, distribution and consumption of its material incarnation, offers an important starting point to envision and shape our scholarly communication system differently. Through its open-ended nature (again, both conceptually and materially) (Drucker 2004), the book offers an opportunity for experimental/experiential critique, and for practices of ongoing experimentation. Affirmatively engaging with its affordances can thus enable us to explore more ethical, alternative and responsible forms of doing research. Experimenting through our discourses and practices and through the material form of the book will potentially give us the opportunity to deconstruct and re-cut what we still see as fixed and naturalised features of how we communicate as scholars. Critiquing these structures, however, means at the same time taking responsibility for the new boundaries that we enact, with respect to authorship, copyright, originality and authority. Nevertheless, through our alternative incisions we can start to imagine a potentially new politics of the book, one that is open-ended but which responds to its environment; and with that we might be able to also invent new forms of politics. This critique of our forms, narratives and performances of publishing and research needs to be ongoing however, where it involves a series of continuous critical struggles concerning both the past and the future of the book, materiality, the university, politics, etc. Within this contingent context, our open-ended book experiments will need to respond perpetually to the new technological, economical and institutional constellations that they encounter.

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