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WVU receives NEH grant to host publishing institutes

In the ever-changing publishing landscape, multimedia publications are not without their growing pains.  

Cheryl Ball

Scholars, journal editors and peer-reviewers alike are still relatively new to the process of publishing multimedia-rich work.

West Virginia University English professor Cheryl Ball is at the forefront of ensuring they receive training to not only edit and publish multimedia-rich scholarship, but preserve it long-term.

Through a $220,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities’ Institute for Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities, Ball is developing digital publishing institutes for authors and editors to experience instruction individually tailored to their own projects. 

“Over the last 15 years, I’ve discovered authors aren’t often privy to what happens after their work enters the editorial process,” said Ball, director of WVU’s Digital Publishing Institute. “Part of the workshops’ purpose is to educate people about what happens once the text leaves the authors’ hands—the processes, assurances, checks and balances that will help us preserve a piece of digital media for the scholarly record in the long run.”  

Multimedia-rich scholarship uses tools like audio, video and interactive graphics to help convey arguments in researched writing.  

“The design enacts the argument as much as the writing does,” Ball said. “Form and content are inseparable.”

Separate institutes will be offered for authors and editors to personalize their experience. Both formats will be staffed by instructors with multiple decades of experience in digital media scholarship.

Digital publishing institutes for authors  

The author institutes will be offered as residencies on WVU’s campus, giving authors a chance to build a scholarly and a social community.

“Providing a residential workshop for authors is an important component to ensuring that hands-on professional development leads to scholarly production in this institute,” Ball said. “It also helps build a cohort of scholars with shared concerns who will be given tools to promote digital scholarship and become change agents at their institutional and disciplinary homes.”

Through the Digital Publishing Institute at WVU, 15 beginner authors will be invited in summer 2017, while 15 advanced authors will be invited in summer 2018. The small class sizes will allow for individual and small-group conferences as well as guided peer-review of in-progress work. 

Participants will reside in Honors Hall for two weeks while working out of the Downtown Campus Library. The mornings of the two-week residencies will focus on seminars and discussions, while the afternoons will be dedicated to lab time with support from expert instructors.

“We are teaching authors how to write for publication across disciplines in multiple media platforms,” Ball said. “Our goal is for beginning authors to create a full multimedia proposal of their conceptualized ideas, and we hope advanced authors can develop their prototypes to a final draft of a submittable project.”

Digital publishing institutes for editors   

Because the editor institutes are the first of their kind in the industry, they are shorter and more informational than the residency-style author workshops. Each institute will be limited to 20 participants.

The one or two-day seminars will precede leading national editorial and publishing conferences to take advantage of convenient times for editors while also accommodating their work schedules. Instead of working through building a project, the editors and publishers who attend will study and discuss peer-review, copy-editing, publishing platforms and preservation strategies for scholarly media.  

“We want editors to leave the institute with a set of digital media best practices to create action plans for further learning and implementation,” Ball said.  

Follow the development of the digital publishing institutes at

Photo credit:  Philippa Willitts
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