Notes on Gray Literature

Published by Ted Striphas on Fri, 03/23/2012 - 13:42

(1) What is “gray literature?”

(a) it is not the other of academic publication per se, i.e., the unofficial as opposed to the official

(i) i.e., the difference between the one and the other is not absolute but relative

(b) Gray literature exists on a spectrum of more or less official

(c) And in this sense you might say that nearly all scholarly literature is, to greater and lesser degrees, gray…

(d) …because, for example, different scholarly publications have different reputations, giving work produced in, say, Reputable Journal A more credibility, more officialdom, than work produced in Reputable Journal B (which are not necessarily the same as cachet)

(2) Part of what’s important to recognize about and represent in gray literature is its many possible genres:

(a) Working papers (or papers in progress) including various amounts/types of commentary

(b) Pre-prints (“polished” versions of work submitted or accepted for publication)

(c) Wiki-based collaborations that defy conventional attributions of authorship

(d) Archives/dossiers of material related to the production of an essay

(e) Works involving multimedia, and strictly multimedia works

(f) …and surely many more

(3) Because gray literature often departs from the typical form of academic publications (i.e., words on a page), it is important for such work to be well curated

(a) Something about interfaces

(b) Something about a movement away from paper-, and even document-centrism

(4) Notice, though, that all of this begins as it were from a conceptualization of the document, presuming, as it were, the social relations/interactions that will subsequently enrich whatever documents may be hosted on the site

(a) This is why social networking is so intriguing, in that it turns the social relations themselves into the hub of interaction such that documents become subordinate to or dependent upon those relations to begin with

(b) Deleuze (from Klee): “The people are missing.”

(c) While we may not have architected a platform around a social network per se, we nonetheless take a cue from the world of social networking…

(d) …in recognizing the importance of architecting social relations alongside the platform we’re developing

(e) Journals, i.e., serve a constitutive function in addition to disseminating research

(i) i.e., they help give material form to a “people” or research community…

(ii) …one that usually pre-exists the publication’s founding, and one that almost inevitably mutates thereafter

(5) Note potential problems here, re: when the officially official and the unofficial collide

(a) e.g., Taylor and Francis’ and others’ publication embargoes, which stipulate how the gray literature related to a publication must “disappear” from the internet for some specified period of time, typically a year or more

(i) fn: Victor Mayer-Schoenberger, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting does the internet ever really forget? Can it?

(b) e.g., academic societies and journal editors bristling at work that’s been “published” online in advance of a journal submission

(c) the very vexing matter of promotion and tenure, and how the system as currently configured tends to reward the official and punish the unofficial