Some Happy Changes

It is with great happiness that we launch the new site for the Fibreculture Journal. Many thanks to Mat Wall-Smith, our Journal Manager, for setting up this far more flexible platform. It’s been an enormous amount of work, but it’s been worth it. With this platform, we hope to foster a more complex and rewarding engagement between the journal, our readers and our authors. We also hope to challenge the nature of all three. It is perhaps fitting then in many ways that our first issue on this new platform is the Counterplay issue, edited by Michael Dieter and Tom Apperley. This issue takes up ‘unruly innovation’ as ‘an intrinsic dimension of gaming’. It analyses ‘the contingent and transformative dynamics unleashed by games’.

We hope you’ll join with us at the Fibreculture Journal—read, write, and think with us. We hope you’ll join with us not only via our extensive collection of articles, but via our new “mesh”. Our FCJmesh discussion section (you can see the link to it on the right hand menu) will promote a dynamic discussion of the issues that matter to Fibreculture people most. You can already comment on all published articles but these comments will go into the mesh. We hope to greatly enhance the possibilities for discussion as we go. We’re also going to be working on our data and distribution, indeed our fuller immersion in the possibilities of the network. In all this, we encourage you to tell us what you would like the Fibreculture Journal to be (contact myself or Mat with suggestions). We would love advice, and, yes, assistance, in taking things further.

The Fibreculture Journal began in 2002, as the academic journal for the Fibreculture Community. Our scope has since become decidedly international—our Editorial Board, Committee, authors and readers now come from all over the globe. From the beginning the Fibreculture Journal has been firmly committed to both open access and transdisciplinary critique. It is perhaps because of both of this that, as a journal, we’ve had many happy adventures and fortunate meetings with wonderful people along the way. Not the least of these has been our affiliation with our friends and colleagues at the Open Humanities Press. We hope to develop many new initiatives with OHP in the future.

Since 2002, as everyone knows, there have been dramatic changes in publishing—primarily due to digital and networked media. These are now transforming nearly all of publishing in a dramatic and ongoing manner. This in turn has opened up critical research and discussion exponentially, both for traditional research and the new. It’s true that there seem many forces trying to put the genies involved back into their respective bottles. There are many who would like to see open access go away, or prohibitively expensive (if to authors now instead of readers), or highly regulated, or possibly diminished in stature besides that which some still see as “real (commercial, print) publishing”. At worst, open access serves as a bait and switch mechanism in a variety of contexts. Meanwhile, the like of government research ranking systems have sometimes been brought in, in part it seems as a limiting response to the proliferation of platforms for serious discussion and engagement. These rankings can all too easily restrict discussion to a few journals controlled by “peak bodies” and government fiat. The fear of proliferation is matched by a fear of the breakdown of fields (or put simply,  a fear of the new). There are are just as many trying to undermine transdisciplinary critique as there are the proliferation of fora for discussion, for example with (in)appropriate disciplinary research codings, or measured and rewarded outputs. Intellectual discussion becomes a matter of disciplinary regulation, rather than transdisciplinary engagement.

However, we think all this makes the Fibreculture Journal an exciting place to be. We are at the heart of the contemporary struggle over research and publishing. We want to open up discussion of digital and networked media’s role in the corporatisation of intellectual work. Yet we also want to continue discussing the way in which networks open so many possibilities for engagement outside of the corporation. We will work transversally, not only across disciplines but across different aspects of social and political life. We hope to engage with all this and more with our new platform. Forthcoming issues this year will include Counterplay, Media Ecologies, ‘Trans’ and Ubiquity. We have CFPs in process for issues around Embodied Interaction and Design, Utopias, Post-Network Politics, and Contemporary Publishing.

So the Fibreculture Journal will continue to be a powerful voice for those researching digital and networked media. At the same time, we are the more committed to the urgent, contemporary problems beyond the research community per se. These are problems that the network can help solve, as much as it often seems to be part of the cause. Here we are reminded that Bruno Latour has suggested that ‘critique’—even transdisciplinary critique—might have ‘run out of steam’. We take this point seriously—we need to construct solutions to the problems we see, and construct new ways around or through the limits of contemporary culture’s engagement with digital and networked media. Yet we also suggest that if critique has run out of steam, this is critique in a rather limited, if well-known form. Steam is a rather old technology (although this is perhaps Latour’s point). In dynamising networked critique, we hope that electrons can take over where steam is exhausted.  Mind you, we think that this transforms the meaning of critique. It is no longer a policing of disciplines, or even of reason as a whole. It is rather an exploration of possibilities and limits in thinking things through. More creatively, it might involved the moving beyond given limits, in careful constructions of new modes of thinking/living.

A lot of people have put in a lot of work to make the journal what it is today. Our gratitude continues to go to all concerned. As Editor, I remain deeply grateful to the Editorial Committee, who have provided so much support over what is now nearly a decade, and to the Editorial Board, who have always been there when we’ve needed them. I often think how lovely it would be if all of us could gather in the physical world, for a meal, a coffee, or a beer, if only once! Particular thanks must go to our first Journal Manager, Lisa Gye, without whom there really would be no journal today. Mat Wall-Smith, from whom I have already learned a great deal in his first six months as Journal Manager, has put in a huge amount of work. We would never have survived the transition to a new platform without his dedication, his technical expertise and his network wisdom. One of the many wonderful things about Mat is that he is so open to moving things forward, and I know there are already many interesting discussions going on around him about data management in the context of community building. We also thank Estee Wah, who put in many hours late in 2009, in the unenviable task of pulling over the material from the old site to the new. I’d like to personally thank Anna Munster, Gillian Fuller, Chris Chesher, Ned Rossiter, Geert Lovink, Ingrid Richardson and, from Open Humanities Press, Sigi Jöttkandt, David Ottina and Paul Ashton, for support and advice over the years, and during our recent transition.

We hope you’ll join with the Fibreculture Journal in our new environment.

Andrew Murphie

Latour, B. (2004) ‘Why Has Critique Run out of Steam?: From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern’, Critical Inquiry, 30(2),