Standardisation and difference: the challenges of infrastructures for open access - Samuel Moore
peter.suber's bookmarks 2019-05-18
"In the last few years, there has been a marked shift in the debate on open access publishing from a focus on (mere) outputs to one on infrastructures. With terms such as ‘community-led’, ‘the commons’ and ‘governance’ regularly bandied about, advocates for OA are increasingly looking away from commercial publishers and towards infrastructures designed by and for a more accountable set of stakeholders. One exciting new initiative that launched this week is Invest in Open Infrastructures(IOI), a coalition of individuals and organisations looking to sustain and promote open-source alternatives to proprietary infrastructures. IOI describes itself as a ‘global initiative to increase the availability and sustainability of open knowledge infrastructure’....
Any infrastructural design has to find the right balance between the need for standardisation and a diversity of interactions.
Infrastructures, particularly those that are broad in their application, have a homogenising tendency that may flatten out difference, erase local contexts and promote standardisation of interactions. This is because they are designed for an ‘average’ user and can only realistically account for a finite number of possibilities. Take journal submission systems, for example, which are only able to handle a certain number of submission types, file sizes, image formats, etc. and can never do everything a user wants it to do. (I spent the first two years of my publishing career explaining this to authors, editors and reviewers.) The broader the remit of the infrastructure, and the more users it is designed to support, the more homogeneous the interactions will be....
Too often, advocates for open publishing infrastructures point towards the need for stakeholders to put aside their differences and collaborate on those issues where there is common ground. This sounds ideal in practice, but in reality, the drive for consensus benefits those with the most power (and financial/cultural capital)...."