The CCC Online Now (and before and before and for how long)

The other day on the WPA-L mailing list (this is the main electronic mailing list/exchange in the composition and rhetoric world), Bump Halbritter announced the CCC Online, version (edition?) 1.1.  Here’s a link to the public table of contents.  Since I have some history with previous versions of the CCC Online and even with this issue (and since this came up in some Facebook comments too), I thought it over and decided to write a response to the announcement.  A long response.  And I decided to post it here, too.

Read on in the continued part.  Hopefully, I don’t ruffle too many feathers and/or get into too much trouble….

First off, let me apologize in advance for the length of this, and let me also apologize if this comes across as snarky or bitter or mean or scandalous, because that’s not my intention.  It really isn’t.  I don’t want to be a hater, and I congratulate Bump and Jenn for finally getting this thing off the ground. I look forward to reading through this work, much of it by friends and colleagues.  I know Bump has and continues to face some enormous challenges with the logistics and other things associated with publishing this kind of material, and I saw some of that first hand.  Long story short, I submitted and ultimately pulled a video piece from this issue for some complicated reasons, some of which I’ll mention in a moment, some of which I’ll get to in my CCCC talk in St. Louis.  So I know it was not at all easy to get this issue going, and I really do want to applaud Bump and Jenn and all the contributors for getting this off the ground.

However, there are some issues here that give me pause and there are some things I hope smarter folks than me think about as the CCC Online goes forward.

Bump opens his introduction by referring to a shelf of paper *CCCs* and notes as we begin the “very first issue of CCCOnline” that we’re moving from a very stable technology, paper, to something that isn’t. But this isn’t the first issue or “version” of the CCCOnline; it’s the third.  The first version was published back in 2001/2002, and, as Bump points out later in introducing Jim Henry’s piece, there was “an earlier iteration of CCC Online (the original archive of digitized CCC content).”  In one of the appendices of his article, Jim shares the original version of that 2001 article in what was also the CCC Online and writes this:

“The CCC Online publication disappeared a couple of years after it was published. Through subsequent correspondence with CCC and NCTE I was eventually able to get the article re-instated in one version of the digitized print archives. (Search engines using doi protocol such as JSTOR lead to a different version of the digitized print archives, in which the article does not appear. Nor does the article appear in the CCC Online archives.) The website that had originally accompanied the article was also reinstated on an NCTE subdirectory.”

I too had an article disappeared from this original CCC Online. And I use “disappeared” there as a verb intentionally because it did (and, oddly, continues to) feel like a rather violent and purposeful act even though I know it was not.  In any event, my correspondence with the CCC and NCTE was not as successful as Jim’s; you can read more about the story of it all in a “version 2.0” of the piece in *Kairos,* which is here:  

There was also a version of the CCCOnline Collin Brooke and my EMU colleague Derek Mueller edited that was then called the CCC Online but which is now referred to as the CCC Online Archive.  I’m not going to go into the detail about all that, though I will mention that there was a well-attended (though not by me) and heated discussion about this at the 2010 C&W at Purdue; I blogged about the twitter stream here:

The point is this:  while this new version of the CCC Online is taking a different tact, it isn’t new, and I think describing it as new unintentionally marginalizes and disappears the previous work that people did in the name of the CCC Online.   This will be even the more acute if this new version is successful.  Perhaps I’m making too big of a deal out of this, but given that I haven’t (and won’t) publish hundreds of articles and dozens of pieces in the CCCs, the sustainability of past issues of this journal does matter a great deal to me, and it should matter to future scholars and writers, too.

This leads me to the related issues of infrastructure, sustainability, and copyright (or perhaps just “rights”).  As I already mentioned, I (along with some graduate student collaborators) submitted a large video project to this issue of the CCCOnline.  While the review process was late and there were some other complicating factors, I largely agreed with the reviewers’ comments and I think it’s fair to say we were in the “revise and resubmit” category of things.

We decided not to do this for three reasons.  First, revising this piece would have been very difficult, and this is an interesting problem of multimedia scholarship I’ll talk about in St. Louis. Second, we were not convinced at the time that NCTE and the CCCOnline had figured out the server and infrastructure issues of hosting very large files.  And third, we had some concerns regarding rights and we wanted (and this was especially true with my grad student collaborators, btw) to publish our work with a CC license and not behind a firewall.

I think the current solution of uploading materials to dropbox is interesting, but it doesn’t strike me as ideal nor as sustainable. There are some technical/wonky/web writing reasons for this I’m not going to pretend to completely understand myself, so I won’t go into it now.  I do think the dropbox URL is problematic and I also know there are ways to fix this.

I am more concerned with the rights.  In submitting to this issue, we (and all contributors, I assume) were told that we had to have materials that had a creative commons share and share alike license, which means everything we used (video, audio, text, whatever) had to be things where we were given permission to use and to remix so long as we gave attribution to the previous/original source and so long as we didn’t sell it.  The problem is this was (and sorta is) going to be behind a firewall accessible only by NCTE members, and one of the reasons for this is because NCTE retains the rights for the purposes of reprints and the like.

This issue of rights in academic publishing is a complicated one and very much in the news.  See, for example, this piece in today’s CHE about the growing protest against Elsevier:  But for my purposes here:  I don’t think it is a secret that NCTE makes a lot of money by selling its publications and– and this is very important– it’s reprints in other books/journals and in distribution to things like JSTOR.  I’ll leave it for people who know more about this than I do, but I think it is fair to say that without this revenue, NCTE as an organization would have some problems.

Now, Bump addresses this problem near the end of his introduction:

“You may notice that CCC Online does not offer its content under a Creative Commons license as do many other digital journals in our field.  We maintain a more stringent copyright policy to protect against wholesale repurposing of the intellectual property of our contributors–scholars whose authored works become the concrete building materials of their scholarly careers.  However, ours is an operation of scholarship–of citation–of borrowing and attributing–that will suffocate under stringent copyright control. Consequently, we invite you to remix the content of CCC Online into your own scholarly works with the understanding that you will cite/attribute the materials, language, and ideas you borrow and build upon.  If you have any questions about remixing or republishing the content of CCC Online, please, contact me at or contact NCTE publishing.”

I am no lawyer nor am I a copyright expert, but I have to say I think this is all kind of confusing and troubling.  I’m not sure how it works for NCTE to not present work under a Creative Commons license even though its writers presumably created work with CC licensed materials.  I am not sure how it works to have the materials both behind a firewall and not at the same time, and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t solve the reprint problem.  Hypothetically, NCTE might want to take some of these pieces in this issue and sell them on a DVD of some sort in the form of a reprint, which doesn’t seem quite right to me. How much one is legally and ethically allowed to cite/borrow from these materials with attribution for the purposes of scholarship is pretty much the essence of the major dispute in copyright cases, so this invitation to cite/remix this copyrighted material (and to email with questions) isn’t exactly reassuring.

And quite frankly, it is simply incorrect to say that a “stringent copyright policy” helps protect authors and their “scholarly careers.”  There are tons of open source/creative commons/rights reverted sort of academic journals (both online and in print) that have done quite right by scholars.   Rather, this “stringent copyright policy” protects publishers like NCTE and their revenue streams.

So again, I’m excited to dive into these pieces and I’m happy to see that the NCTE/CCC is joining with other multimedia scholarly venues like *Kairos,* *enculturation,* *Present Tense,* and others I am certainly forgetting, not to mention multimedia/non-print publications in our interests but outside of our fields.  With all the problems, I think it’s important to begin somewhere.  I simply want the CCC Online 3.0 folks to be mindful of their past and to think carefully about mapping their future, and a future where open source academic publishing is the norm.

4 thoughts on “The CCC Online Now (and before and before and for how long)”

  1. Well said, Steve. I concur with all of your points. It’s all very confusing. I’m not opposed to closed-access scholarship, but I’d also like to know what it is authors are getting into. And I’m grateful that this issue is open. I won’t link to it, or use any of it, since I’m not an ncte member right now and the dropbox will likely go away. But I do appreciate being able to see all the current texts.

    I hope you’re presenting on Thursday cuz maybe I can attend your

  2. Oops…. Presentation. And I’d be interested to talk with folks about staffing such journals. (Kairos has more staff than any like it, for a reason, but that also makes it much more difficult to manage…)

    1. Actually, it’ll be on Friday, I think at 10 am. It’s called right now (in the program, based on the proposal) “Amateur Auteurs: The Problems of Teaching and Assessing Multimedia in Writing Classes.” But it occurred to me too late that I can’t really be too critical of my students’ amateurish work, so I’m going to be critical instead of my own amateurish work. And I’m bringing in at least some of this stuff along for the ride, too.

  3. I don’t want to just “cut and paste” the responses that resulted from my post on wpa-l; fortunately, the archives are publicly available, so I’ll post a couple of links instead.

    Here’s a link to Jenn Fishman’s response:

    Here’s a link to Bump’s response:

    Here’s a good post/observation/response from Alex Reid:

    And here’s my response on this, which I assume will be the last time folks want to talk about this for some time:

    To sum this all up: there were many reasons why we (the grad students I worked with and myself) pulled the video we submitted to the CCCOnline for consideration and there are good reasons why it’s a “revise and resubmit” and/or an outright “no.” However, my major concerns about the CCCOnline then are the same as they are now: a lack of “history” of what has come before, a lack of anything remotely resembling a plan regarding infrastructure and sustainability, and confusion regarding the rights. I think for this enterprise to be successful beyond a single issue these things will have to be resolved.

    And I should also add that for the most part, I think that Bump and Jenn would agree with me about these things. I think the real problem here is with the executives (both those elected to the board and long-term employees) at NCTE.

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