Blog-based peer review

MIT Press has authorized what is probably one of the first blog-based peer reviews for a forthcoming book by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, digital media writer, artist, and professor of coummincations at the University of California, San Diego. Every weekday over the next ten weeks, Wardrip-Fruin will post a section of his new manuscript, Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies, on the popular Grand Text Auto blog (where he is a regular author), with the hope of receiving quality feedback from the site's readers. The GTxA community represents a vibrant network of media scholars, artists, designers, gamers and gaming professionals who are perfectly suited to critique this inherently cross-disciplinary work. When Doug Sery, the editor at MIT, asked Wardrip-Fruin who would be the ideal reviewers for the manuscript, his first instinct was to somehow bring the process onto the blog: "I immediately realized that the peer review I most wanted was from the community around Grand Text Auto."

"Given that ours is a field in which major expertise is located outside the academy (like many other fields, from 1950s cinema to Civil War history) the Grand Text Auto community has been invaluable for my work. In fact, while writing the manuscript for Expressive Processing I found myself regularly citing blog posts and comments, both from Grand Text Auto and elsewhere. Now I'm excited to take the blog/manuscript relationship to the next level, through an open peer review of the manuscript on the blog."

The Institute for the Future of the Book has partnered with Wardrip-Fruin to develop a version of its popular CommentPress software (which enables paragraph-level commenting in the margins of a text) that fully integrates with the existing Grand Text Auto site, allowing the manuscript to be woven seamlessly into the daily traffic and intellectual life of the blog.

Although a traditional peer review process will carry on alongside the blog-based one, we believe this experiment affirms the importance and legitimacy of online communities in the development scholarship, and represents a significant step forward by an academic press into possible new hybrid models of publishing and review. The work of the Institute for the Future of the Book is largely dedicated to the idea that building intellectual community and creating infrastructure for scholarly exchange will be major roles that publishers, academic and non, will play in the digital age. With this experiment, we inch a little closer to an exciting fusion of old and new forms.

Please help spread the word in your communities and by all means participate in the discussion on Grand Text Auto.

Important links:

- Noah Wardrip-Fruin's introduction to the experiment
- The Institute for the Future of the Book's introduction
- Coverage in The Chronicle of Higher Education
- First section of Expressive Processing

About the participants:

Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a digital media writer, scholar, and artist whose current work is focused on fiction and play. He has recently edited three books: The New Media Reader (2003, with Nick Montfort); First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game (2004, with Pat Harrigan); and Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (2007, also with Harrigan). His art/writing has been presented by galleries, arts festivals, scientific conferences, DVD magazines, VR Caves, and the Whitney and Guggenheim museums - as well as discussed in books such as Digital Art (2003) and Art of the Digital Age (2006). He has been a research scientist at New York University, a creative writing fellow at Brown University, and an assistant professor at the University of Baltimore. In 2006 he became an assistant professor of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. He is a Vice-President of the Electronic Literature Organization and, of course, he blogs at

Grand Text Auto is a blog collectively authored by six digital media creators and scholars: Mary Flanagan, Michael Mateas, Nick Montfort, Scott Rettberg, Andrew Stern, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Beyond blogging, Grand Text Auto members have shown in major art museums, published a variety of scholarly and literary books, and shipped games that have sold millions of copies. In Fall 2007, at UC Irvine's Beall Center for Art and Technology, Grand Text Auto became the first widely-read blog to spawn a gallery exhibition.

The Institute for the Future of the Book is a small New York and London-based think tank dedicated to exploring the future of reading, writing and publishing in the digital age. Over the past three years the Institute has produced a series of groundbreaking publishing experiments that rethink the book's form and function in the context of social Web technologies. The Institute publishes the popular if:book blog tracking new developments and ideas in the electronic publishing realm.