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Launch of Experimental Book Publishing Pilot Project 'Deep Maps: Blue Humanities'

An OBF-funded experimental book publishing pilot project in collaboration with James Louis Smith, University of Westminster Press, and JSTOR Labs.

Published onApr 26, 2024
Launch of Experimental Book Publishing Pilot Project 'Deep Maps: Blue Humanities'

The Open Book Futures (OBF) Experimental Publishing Group is pleased to announce the launch of ‘Deep Maps’, one of three funded pilot projects resulting from OBF's call for experimental book projects

OBF's aim with the pilot projects is to promote the publication of experimental books. To achieve this aim, OBF wants to foster sustainable communities of authors, publishers, developers, editors, reviewers, and open-source technology providers who engage in more experimental forms of book publishing. Our focus is specifically on the publishing process and on adapting academic publishers' existing workflows and processes to accommodate better the multiple forms and formats academic long-form research can take. As part of the pilot projects, the Experimental Publishing Group works closely with the authors, presses, and technology providers to foster communities of practice that can support experimental book publishing. The pilots will further demonstrate and develop the possibilities of experimental scholarly publications thus helping to increase the recognition given to work published in non-traditional ways.

Deep Maps: Blue Humanities

The Deep Maps: Blue Humanities book project will develop a digital-first monograph that explores deep mapping in content and form. The overall conceit of the project is that the book travels deep into the ocean as the argument unfolds. Points in the argument will be pinned to visualizations of stories, media objects and events associated with particular depth. The first half can be read as a continuous descent:

Chapter 1 focuses on the epistemic anxieties evoked by a body of knowledge that is in excess of understanding, and of the culturally contingent nature of understanding an expanse of water below and beyond sight or imagination. It mediates from the comparatively clear waters of the epipelagic zone from (0-200m in depth) as light gives way to darkness in the mesopelagic zone (200-1000m).

Chapter 2 explores the failure of mapping and the limits of knowledge in an age of remote sensing as the descent enters the Bathypelagic zone (1-4000m) in which the Titanic lies and the crush of the Abyssopelagic zone (4-6000m). The book then enters the dark and alien Hadal zone (6000+ m), at which the ocean is deeper than Mount Everest is high.

It is here in the lightless, airless, crushing void that the book pauses for a central case study exploring the history of sounding, mapping and narrating the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the Earth, bottoming out at 10927m. It focuses on the terrain of this strange world, the range of stories and data types used to make sense of its extraordinary depth, and a range of historical attempts to tell its story. This study will be accompanied by an extended period of experimental pre-submission peer review involving the blue humanities research community of practice.

Long Way Down: Mariana Trench | National Geographic

The book's second half ascends from the deep back to the surface and beyond. Chapter 3 meditates on blue subjectivity in a world beset by more-than-human narratives. What can embracing partial and fluid forays into excesses of content teach us about being in the Anthropocene as we rise into the light? Chapter 4, the final essay, breaches the surface to consider what might be next for our understanding of depth and our blue stories. It ends with an excursion to new depths beyond planetary bounds.

In addition to the blue humanities research community, the project will engage with the experimental publishing community of practice, especially around Markdown-based publishing workflows and interactive book design.

The project builds on Juncture’s Markdown-based visual essaying methods and the author’s experimental writing and publication process to create a responsive design that changes as the book dives deeper. To realise the book's design ambitions, we plan to use and modify Juncture in collaboration with our technology partners at JSTOR Labs, who developed the tool.

The University of Westminster Press is the lead project partner. As a new diamond OA university press with a particular strength and interest in environmental humanities, the press is well suited to the project. UWP is further looking to integrate the juncture workflow we are developing into its wider publishing workflows to make the processes available to other book projects that aim to create dynamic designs.

Author: James Smith | Leiden University (Den Haag, NL)

Publisher: Richard Baggaley & Jenny Evans | University of Westminster Press (London, UK)

Open Source Platform Team: JSTOR Labs (Alex Humphreys, USA)

OBF Experimental Publishing Group advisors: Julien McHardy | Mattering Press & Studio Julien McHardy (Amsterdam, NL) & Simon Bowie | Coventry University, UK

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