Disembargo An Open Diss, One Letter at a Time
"Some influential academic institutions and scholarly associations recommend that doctoral dissertations be withheld from digital circulation for a period of up to six years, a procedure called embargoing. Like its diplomatic namesake, a dissertation embargo relies on the assumption that limiting the free play of ideas confers a strategic advantage upon the proscriber while weakening the position of those who seek the exchange of ideas. But how does an academic embargo play out? Who benefits from an embargoed dissertation? How much value does withheld research accrue? How long is six years when it comes to scholarly communication? In order to explore these questions I created Disembargo. Disembargo is a dissertation—my own—emerging from a six-year embargo, one letter at a time. Every ten minutes a single letter, number, or space from the final dissertation manuscript is published under a Creative Commons license, an excruciating pace that dramatizes the silence of an embargo. Disembargo launched on September 3, 2013. At the current rate of access (six characters per hour, or roughly twenty-five words a day), the entire dissertation will be available in the fall of 2019. Disembargo is a project by Mark Sample. Special thanks to my fellow creative coders: Darius Kazemi, for the Slow Text engine, and Joel McCoy for helping me to play nicely with my Node.js host, App Fog. Also thanks to Richard Mehlinger for jQuery ideas. And finally, a slow shout-out to my dissertation advisor Jim English, who wouldn't be surprised that I turned my dissertation into a piece of conceptual art instead of a book."