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American Library Association Talk: NINES, RaVoN and the Future of Academic Publishing

Dino Franco Felluga

Purdue University, West Lafayette


RaVoN Splash Page
  • This panel explores the ways in which new media and digital technology are transforming the way we do what we do—and the place of the libraries in that transformation.
  • I propose that the digital revolution offers us a potential escape from the problems facing humanities publication but only if we embrace the radical changes this new medium entails. 
  • My major example of of the new possibilities opened up by the digital revolution is the Mellon-funded (now U of Virginia funded) NINES initiative or Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Scholarship (, though I’ll also mention, by comparison, the more traditional editing project I’m involved with: RaVoN or Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, the expansion of Romanticism on the Net into the Victorian period. 
  • RaVoN is a good example of a skeuomorphic approach to new media, NINES of the radical possibilities and challenges faced by digital scholarship.  I would posit that NINES illustrates for us how editing and scholarship need to take up the challenge of new media, that new scholars must therefore be trained differently than they have been to date, and that libraries have a chance to play a central role in the future of scholarly publishing. 

Skeuomorphs, RaVoN, and NINES

I discuss the skeuomorph’s relation to NINES and to digital scholarship generally in my 2006 article in Victorian Studies, “Addressed to the NINES.”  A skeuomorph is a concept borrowed from achaeological anthropology and used by N. Katherine Hayles to make sense of the persistence of old formal structures within new innovations: “A skeuomorph is a design feature that is no longer functional in itself but that refers back to a feature that was functional at an earlier time” (How We Became Posthuman 17).  Her example is the vinyl on the dashboard of her Toyota Camry, which has been formed to simulate stitching, though the effect is actually produced by an injection mold.  The skeuomorph calls into play “a psychodynamic that finds the new more acceptable when it recalls the old that it is in the process of displacing and finds the traditional more comfortable when it is presented in a context that reminds us we can escape from it into the new” (How We Became 17).  The language used to describe the computer and the Internet is rich with skeuomorphs: Web pages, bookmarks, scrolling, desktops, windows, portals, folders, files, documents, trash. 
Addressed to the Nines: The Victorian Archive and the Disappearance of the Book
Addressed to the Nines: The Victorian Archive and the Disappearance of the Book
Felluga, Dino Franco 1966-