We are pleased to announce the launch of the Semiotic Review, which continues the Semiotic Review of Books [1990-2012], with our first thematic issue, guest-edited by Matthew Wolf-Meyer, Parasites.
As incoming editors, we (Paul Manning and Kane Faucher) felt that the launch of the Semiotic Review presented an opportunity to continue the inherited mandate as well as develop emergent tendencies over the years. Inasmuch as the prototypical contribution to the SRB over the last decade had ceased to be a book review essay, but continued to be essays of various kinds (including book review essays), we felt that we needed to recognize this emergent change in focus, while retaining a sense of continuity, in the change of the title, shortening it to the Semiotic Review. As we explain on the home page of the new journal (www.semioticreview.com):
The original mission of this refereed journal was to provide its readership with substantial and critical accounts of recent books, debates and events, explaining their disciplinary relevance and importance for the development of neighboring disciplines. We continue this commitment under our new name. However, developing the main tendencies of the journal over the last decade, the journal now interprets this mandate very broadly to include not only review articles in the strict sense but also a range of other interventions developing from this mandate, including original essays that explore semiotic themes and connections less directly arising from recent books or debates. Our new name registers this emergent change in focus.
In addition to changing the name to register the widening of focus from review essays to a wider collection of (usually short) essays on semiotic themes, we have made several changes to the format of this journal. The first of these is that we have dispensed with the print edition and subscriptions and moved to an open access and online format, making individual articles freely available online in both html and pdf formats. In our contemporary publishing environment, the near monopoly of ‘paywall’ non-open access journals run by monopolistic publishers (and related developments like impact factors) have created a situation in which the ambiguities of the very word ‘publish’ increasingly replicates the antinomies of capitalism. The term ‘publish’ finds itself torn between two increasingly dichotomous understandings: (sense 1) surrendered to a publisher, that is, converted into alienated private property for sale as print commodity, virtual or otherwise, by a mediating publisher, and (2) having a public, that is, reaching the largest and most general possible audience. Currently we sense that authors increasingly have a hunger to publish in sense (2) and not sense (1), and since the two are now antithetical terms, we are among a new wave of other online journals that offer free open access publication. Meanwhile, publishers attempt to offer open access publication on an ‘author pays’ basis. Here again we are developing the tendencies of the Semiotic Review of Books. We are delighted to report that while our editorial office is not without expenses, they are manageable enough that we can offer our journal to the public for free. In addition to not replicating these endemic internal contradictions inherited from print capitalism, we also endeavor to not replicate other forms of invidious distinction of status typical of traditional publication: for example, we do not take into account the title or affiliation of any author in our review process and this information is not printed under the name for any author. Authors can provide contact information (an email address) but we believe that requiring an affiliation, or even allowing an affiliation, has a tendency to marginalize academics who are in a precarious employment situation, which is increasingly widespread, and also allows ideas and arguments to be assessed not on the basis of their merit, but on the basis of the status of the one who articulates them. We oppose this.
As we break with print format completely, we have changed our format in other ways. Now individual publications in our journal are individually searchable and available in both html and pdf format, as noted. Our use of a non-print centered format allows us to avoid remediating the design drawbacks of a print journal in an online environment. Now we can publish contributions to any volume when they arrive. This means that our thematic issues, for example, are different from a normal group submission in that the whole volume is not held hostage by the slowest member. In addition, we can leave our thematic issues ‘open’ to new contributions indefinitely, so each thematic volume is not ‘closed’ in the same manner as a print volume: once opened, the discussion continues, and the RSS feed ensures that interested individuals can subscribe to this growing discussion. Each thematic issue is prefaced therefore by a Call for Papers on a given theme (currently we have two on our age: Parasites and Monsters), sometimes these are proposed by the editors, and sometimes by guest-editors who wish to develop a discussion based, for example, on a successful panel at a conference. We have set ourselves somewhat arbitrarily a goal of two thematic issues per year, but we see no reason in sticking to this limit, since it implies a serial form of publication of a certain number of volumes per year which we have dispensed with, for the most part. For thematic issues, then, we have abolished the punctual seriality inherited from print, but at the same time, we retain a non-thematic yearly issue for each year which publishes essays which have in common only that they arrived that year. This yearly miscellaneous issue continues the diversity of the Semiotic Review of Books, and it is here too where we expect to publish review essays along with other essays that are not linked to any proposed theme.
In addition to widening the scope of the sorts of genres we publish and opening up access to the journal and individual publications (since individual contributions are now searchable using any search engine on the web), we also seek to maintain the multidisciplinary approach of the previous journal, hence the need for multiple editors (with complementary strengths) and continuing the former editorial board but also adding new members, something which is well underway.
After a year of making preparations, we were pleased to launch our new web site, two calls for papers and our first essay at the end of last year (2012). We are now pleased to announce that our first issue, Parasites, now boasts a quorum of original essays with more coming in, and our second thematic issue, Monsters, already has a fair number of submissions promised or arrived, and our yearly non-thematic issue for 2013 already has its first essay with more submitted. We now seek more submissions to either thematic issue or the non-thematic issue, and ask our readers to spread the word and involve themselves in other ways. We are pleased that we can continue the twenty year history of the Semiotic Review of Books in this fashion, and we believe the new journal is already showing that this model of publication will be very successful.