Why We Need Webtexts

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Scholarly publishing has been rapidly changing over the last decade to include online, open-access, and multimedia content. This change has come with the rise of popular publishing and social-media platforms such as Blogger, WordPress, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Tumblr, etc. Multimedia-based content is the norm in these venues, but in scholarly publishing only a small portion of venues have begun to consider how traditional methods of research can be transformed into multimedia-rich publications.

There are a number of advances that scholarly and creative journals and university presses have made to include rich multimedia content—what we call webtexts. Webtexts are multimedia-rich, digital, screen-based texts designed to enact an author’s scholarly research. Webtexts can be equivalent in intellectual scope to an article or a book, but are designed using linked webpages or database-drive platforms, animations, images, audio, video, scripts, programming languages, and written text. A webtext might have 50 interconnected files that live on a journal’s server (for archival purposes) as opposed to a word-processing document or PDF with 1-2 image files included as supplemental information – all of which comprises one flattened document.

Scholarly webtexts have great potential to be realized as spatial and temporal renderings of research, not simply near-facsimiles of the print-based journal article or book. The purpose of authoring a webtext instead of a print-based or print-like article is found in the communication potential and additional layers of meaning making that multimedia and networked writing affords.

Vega, as an academic publishing platform, is being built to facilitate the peer-reviewed publication of multimedia-rich webtexts. The editorial processes for publishing those texts are somewhat similar to traditional publication models, and so Vega will accommodate those ways of publishing as well. But the purpose of the platform is to open up the possibilities scientists and researchers have for presenting their work, including the publication of data sets.

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