postmedieval's crowd review experiments

"…open peer review has the potential to be explosive in the most daring ways."
Holly Crocker, Introduction, - postmedieval FORUM II

Traditionally, peer review of academic articles is conducted anonymously: neither the reviewer nor the author know the identity of the other, and comments made by reviewers are not released to the public. By contrast, open review provides a platform for public critique — and starting in 2011, postmedieval has experimented with this format, on open blogs that allow for full discussion and transparency. In each case, scholars, and indeed anyone with a contribution to make, are invited to comment and discuss the papers publicly, under their own names, and the authors are encouraged to respond openly. After the Crowd Review has closed, authors have an opportunity to revise their papers before they are published in their final form in the journal, in a designated issue. In this way, the journal offers a valuable model to explore a more transparent process for evaluating and contextualizing scholarly production.

We believe experiments in open 'crowd' review are important, following what Kathleen Fitzpatrick argued in 2011 in her book Planned Obsolescence, that 'the production of knowledge is still very much the academy’s very reason for being', yet at the same time, 'if we cling to an outdated system for the establishment and measurement of authority at the very same time that the nature of authority is shifting around us, we run the risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant to the dominant ways of knowing of contemporary culture'. We also believe in expanding the definition of 'peer' to include not just the specialized experts of one’s narrow sub-fields but also members of the more broad intellectual community, both within and outside the university proper. We believe more open processes of peer review make visible what has always been true about the intellectual and scholarly life, but which is often only quietly articulated in the notes of acknowledgment in articles and books: we think and work together; our brains are already crowd-sourced, so why not make that fact more tangible?

Our first experiment, with our 'Becoming Media' issue, ran from July 15th to September 15th 2011. As the issue editors stated in their editorial, which accompanied the final papers in print: "In the three month-long period of the online crowd review for this volume, scholars generated over 50 individual and detailed responses for the six essays, totalling some 24,000 words – nearly half the total of length of the essays themselves, and containing many ideas and suggestions which found their way into the essays' final forms".

In November 2013, the second crowd review experiment was launched in collaboration with MediaCommons Press at New York University, whose open review experiments, led by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, inspired postmedieval’s first crowd review project. With a new platform and more supple commenting templates created by MediaCommons, the issue reviewed this time, Louise D'Arcens's 'Comic Medievalisms', received over 250 comments from over 30 reviewers.

Breaking News! Third crowd review experiment is now live!

We are delighted to introduce our third online, open Crowd Review, of Nina Caputo's and Hannah Johnson's special issue on "The Holocaust and the Middle Ages", which is being hosted and stewarded by Kathleen Fitzpatrick and company at MediaCommons, New York University. We would encourage all our readers to visit this experiment and collaborate!