It may be unexceptional to note that a book is manifest by a collective effort, but the collaborations behind this work are extraordinary and plentiful.
We begin by thanking Victoria Pittman at Policy Press who suggested that the project should become a book. Then she offered invaluable direction and encouragement throughout the writing and editing process. She and many others at Policy Press, including Alison Shaw and Rebecca Tomlinson, were gracious and accommodating in their willingness to work with us to forge an innovative publishing contract that included significant author partnership in determining the format and distribution of this work. In a book that is very critical of academic publishing, Policy Press is one example of getting it right.
In part, this book is about the JustPublics@365 project, which emerged out of an initial conversation that included Juan Battle, Stephen Brier, Michael Fabricant, Michelle Fine, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Janet Gornick, Deborah Tolman, and about twenty or so other faculty, brought together by Don Robotham under the Advanced Research Collaborative at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY). Don brought us all together to discuss how we might collaborate on interdisciplinary research on inequality, and in a flash of insight, he slammed his hand on the table for emphasis and declared: ‘and, we have the Internet – we could use that to collaborate!’
Jessie Daniels took his declaration as a provocation and volunteered to write a short concept paper about what a project might look like that was collaborative, interdisciplinary, focused on equality, and using the Internet. From there, Michelle Fine and Deborah Tolman read and edited multiple drafts until they midwifed that document into something more like a fully formed grant proposal. Chase Robinson (then Provost of the Graduate Center) took an interest and invited Matthew K. Gold, an expert in digital humanities, to join the project. Gold, Robinson, and Daniels reworked the proposal over several weeks. And Robinson and William P. Kelly (then President of the Graduate Center) took the proposal to the funder. We are grateful to all of these wonderful colleagues for the shared experiences in developing the project on paper.
We were extraordinarily fortunate to have garnered the support of the Ford Foundation, which made it possible to take this experiment from conjecture to reality. We are especially grateful to Douglas E. Wood, our program officer at the Ford Foundation, for understanding the project early on, for guiding us through a time of tremendous change at that foundation, for stewarding financial support for the project, and for keeping the notion alive that social justice projects in higher education are not only possible, but crucial.
We launched JustPublics@365 with the help of a legion of wonderful colleagues and staff. Jen Jack Gieseking, Morgane Richardson, Wilneida Negrón, Brownyn Dobchuk-Land, and Colette Sosnowy offered their insights about the connections between digital technologies, scholarly communication and activism in ways that made the project so much better than we had originally imagined it. Emily Sherwood made every document that left our office look shiny and beautiful. Heidi Knoblauch led all our efforts at podcasting and managed MediaCamp. Stephanie M. Anderson and Amanda Matles created beautiful video recordings of our events. John Boy, Karen Gregory, and Fiona Lee offered creative and practical work on educational technology. All of these people did this challenging, often accelerated, work at the same time they were finishing their PhDs, launching their own careers and managing precarity. They are, each one, remarkable.
The JustPublics@365 project would likely not have happened at the Graduate Center if it were not for Matthew K. Gold. He guided the early stages of the project and helped maneuver it through the sometimes impenetrable institutional bureaucracy. His background in digital humanities informed much of the work we developed here, and we extend to him our deepest gratitude.
One of the key points we make in this book is that digital technologies open up new possibilities for collaborations between academics and journalists. This was a theory when we began, but our collaboration with the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism taught us more fully what is possible if academics and journalists work together. We want to thank our colleagues in journalism: Judith Watson, Amy Dunkin, Deb Stead, Susan Farkas, Frederick Kaufman, Amanda Hickman, and Jere Hester. We owe a special thanks to Sandeep Junnarkar, who did tremendous work to make the MediaCamp workshops a success. Tanya Domi, the Graduate Center’s Director of Media Relations, guided the op-ed workshop in MediaCamp’s last iteration.
We are grateful to our CUNY librarian colleagues who worked generously and enthusiastically with us in exploring open access, scholarly publishing, digital preservation, research methods, and library-based activism: Jill Cirasella, Barbara Gray, Stephen Klein, Alycia Sellie, and Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz. Shawn(ta) performed the bulk of the considerable legwork and author tutoring it took to open access to the #InQ13 course readings. Future reference to our work is possible because of Stephen Klein’s indefatigable efforts to preserve the JustPublics@365 website and associated media, assisted by Suzanne Bernard. And, Anne Hays offered sharp and generous insight about how a publishing contract for this book might best be structured.We would like to thank colleagues at Hunter College, CUNY, where part of this work occurred. When we considered how to situate a participatory, open, online course in a specific New York City neighborhood, it was the material reality of a new CUNY campus in East Harlem that helped make that part of our project possible. The building is the result of a vision by Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, and a generous donation by the Silberman family, that strives to imagine a university doing well by the community that surrounds it. In a very small way, our project tried to realize this vision and it would simply not have been possible without that campus.
We are also grateful to community neighbors and partners in East Harlem who both welcomed us and challenged us to do better. Edwin Melendez, Director of Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (Center for Puerto Rican Studies) at Hunter College, generously opened the archives of their collection to the students in our participatory course and Centro was an essential partner. Marina Ortiz, of East Harlem Preservation, was an active participant in several aspects of the project and is an always thoughtful critic of newcomers to the neighborhood. Dr Marta Moreno Vega, Director of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI), offered us a wonderful example of what could be possible in East Harlem and held our work to a high standard. Edith Velez, a community activist in East Harlem, offered her expertise on the future of public housing in New York. Ed Morales, director of the documentary film Whose barrio?, shared a rights-free version of his work with us. Arlene Davila shared part of her book, Barrio dreams, with us. Anaya-Cerda Aurora welcomed us to her bookstore in East Harlem, La Casa Azul, where we hosted several of our events. Iris Morales, (then) Director of the Manhattan Neighborhood Network El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center, welcomed us into their studio for one of our events. Les LaRue, an East Harlembased graphic designer, offered his beautiful artwork to make literal icons out of a dozen or so neighborhood heroes. We want to thank Caitlin Cahill and Wendy Luttrell, who agreed to the roller-coaster ride of being instructors for the #InQ13 course, an unconventional teaching experience, to be sure, that they both handled with grace and good cheer. Through it all, Edwin Mayora offered his expertise as a long-time student and researcher of inequality and resilience in East Harlem to help guide the project in the neighborhood.
We consider ourselves very lucky indeed to have so many friends and colleagues who willingly offer to read our work and provide feedback. Christopher W. Anderson, Cynthia Chris, Jill Cirasella, Kim Cunningham, Michelle Fine, Leith Mullings, Jules Netherland, Lisa Norberg, John Pell, Arlene Stein, Brett Stoudt, and Maria Elena Torre read various drafts of this book and their comments made it better, by bringing their perspectives from many disciplines and a shared commitment to opening the academy for the greater public good to bear on the manuscript.
Polly Thistlethwaite thanks Jessie Daniels for inviting this exhilarating and rewarding collaboration. And Polly lovingly thanks Liz Snyder for her abundant gifts of encouragement, entertainment, and inspration.
Jessie Daniels thanks Polly Thistlethwaite for being such a congenial co-conspirator in this adventure. As ever, Jessie thanks Jules Netherland for being her soft place to land.