Why We Are Here

The Review of Digital Scholarship is focused on a single, multifaceted mission: We seek to provide to scholars and an interested readership with well-written (or well-produced), engaging, critical assessments of the increasing volume of scholarship being issued in digital formats. We do this for a number of reasons. First, and most evident, is the simple fact that creators and producers of scholarly work are increasingly issuing these works not only as ink-and-paper books but as digital titles. In undertaking the initial work for creating this site, we found, for example, ebook titles of works published by significant number of major university presses. These works are problematized in a number of ways. The most obvious is the lack of a uniform standard for the presentation of digital works. Some are merely digitized images of printed pages; others are issued for proprietary formats, notably the Amazon Kindle™ device, the Barnes and Noble Nook™ platform, or Apple iOS™ devices. Still others are being developed on open-source platforms like EPUB, which appears to hold in prospect the development of substantial, sophisticated digital works appearing for relatively low or no cost. While this variety is not necessarily a drawback in the presentation of scholarly ideas, the present multiplicity of formats complicates greatly a second problem long since settled by the culture of the book—viz., the problem of storage and retrieval. The continuing, not to say accelerating, pace of change in digital formats and in the potential offered by digital technologies to communicate ideas and information offers both tremendous opportunities to scholars and immense challenges to those whose vocation has traditionally focused on the archiving and accessioning of scholarly...

Human Rights as Justice and Jobs Program

Lori Allen, The Rise and Fall of Human Rights: Cynicism and Politics in Occupied Palestine. Stanford University Press, 2013, 280 pp., $24.95 (paperback) By Paul D. Beran II Lori Allen’s book makes a valuable contribution to the discussion of civil society, NGOs and human rights among Palestinian communities in the Occupied Territories, and to theoretical conceptions of social capital, nationalism and institutionalization. The data included in The Rise and Fall of Human Rights provides new ways to understand the dynamics of institutional power and authority, and the application of both on populations in the Occupied Territories. I found the study helpful to my own work on civil society in Israel/Palestine, and believe others similarly involved will as well. The argument Allen advances in the study is that nationalism and state building are in conflict among Palestinian communities in the Occupied Territories.  She uses research on NGOs, and in particular human rights organizations (HROs), to advance the argument. The focus on NGOs is in the form of case studies of different organizations during a variety of time periods in Palestinian history starting in the middle 1980s. Tracking their trajectory, Allen develops the idea that Palestinian society has steadily undergone a process of “NGOization.”  I understood this term to imply a situation whereby NGOs act as largely economic institutions, almost like private for-profit companies, separated from a bottom up social change mandate. The first three chapters of the book construct the argument’s scaffolding. They focus on the role of Palestinian HROs in the late 1980s, how similar organizations have functioned in the 1990’s and beyond, and the growth of mainstreamed human-rights education...

Decisions, decisions

Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work. Crown Business, 2013; Kindle edition read on Android tablet. By Jim Nail In the interest of full disclosure I’ll state upfront that I’m something of a fan boy of Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Decisive. I first came across their work when I was on the Board of Directors of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and they presented their finds from Made to Stick at a conference. I was fascinated by their recommendations on the factors that can make an idea go “viral”. I was even more impressed with Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard, and it has completely changed my approach to my current work in encouraging people and organizations to adopt sustainable behaviors. In Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Live and Work, the Heath brothers prescribe four elements of the Decisive process designed to deliver on the subtitle of the book:. Widen your options Reality test your assumptions Attain distance before deciding Prepare to be wrong These are things we’ve all likely heard from parents, friends, and mentors during our lives. And the WRAP mnemonic is a little cheesy. But that is really the point of the book: even if we know we should employ these ways to evaluate choices, how many of us really do? Instead we fall prey to a series of psychological traps that lead us to shortcut the decision process—and make faulty decisions. The Heath brothers deftly expose how we are wired to make bad decisions and propose their WRAP process as...

Not your father’s revolution

Michael Axworthy, Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic. Oxford University Press, 2013; Kindle edition. By Elizabeth McKeigue Western politicians, scholars, and average citizens alike have long misunderstood the complex historical and cultural depth of Iran and have routinely overlooked its peoples’ rich history and significant contributions to civilization. A new history meticulously examines the last 40 years of one of the most infamous countries in the world and explains for the Western reader what it means to be an Islamic Republic—and why Iran became one. In Revolutionary Iran, University of Essex scholar and former head of the Iran section of the British Foreign Office Michael Axworthy considers Iran’s unique status among Islamic states and why in recent years it has remained intact while other countries under Islamic religious law in the region struggle and fall. Oxford University Press in New York has offered the American edition of this work (first published in Great Britain by Allen Lane early in 2013) as an e-book via EBSCO, EBL as well as Amazon’s Kindle store shortly before the publication of the hardcover copy.  It is the Kindle version under consideration here. As a history, Axworthy’s book concentrates on the turning points in modern Iranian history rather than to “try to chronicle every month and year as of equal weight” (Introduction, location 186).  Axworthy objectively documents the religious, economic, and political climates in Iran that led to the exile of the Shah, the popular rise of Khomeini, and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, a series of events which many historians consider to be one of the most significant...

Of Note: Law Journals Online

By Judith G. H. Edington, Esq. Law review journals are increasingly adding an on-line component to their print presence.  The substantive models usually fall into one of two camps:  one providing different content from their paper counterpart, the other purposefully interacting with that content.  I recently explored the on-line offerings of Boston College Law School, Northeastern University Law School, Harvard Law School and Yale Law School, and find Yale’s approach most engaging. Boston College’s E. Supp. is advertised as an online companion to its law review, but it’s model offers content that is not necessarily tied to that of its paper journal.  In E. Supp. second year students at the BC Law provide brief comments on recent federal circuit court opinions.  The website presents an abstract of the comment, and then invites you to view a pdf of the full essay.  Of the on-line law review offerings I reviewed, BC’s was the most static.  There were no interactive elements to the essay, and the experience was merely one of reading the pdf on the screen.  The three other school’s offerings each had some level of interactivity that made the experience something more. Northeastern Law School, like Boston College, has chosen the distinct content model. Northeastern’s website states that Extra Legal seeks to “offer cutting-edge persepctives [sic] on practical and academic legal issues.”  It publishes shorter pieces but more frequently.  Footnotes in the essays in Extra Legal are live and drop the reader down to the appropriate end note.  Many of the notes themselves contain links to documents referenced in the footnotes. The Forum is billed as the online extension...

Physician, heal thyself

Otis Webb Brawley, with Paul Goldberg, How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Rank About Being Sick In America. St. Martin’s Press, 2012; iBook edition. By Kimberly Bucci, M.D. Otis Brawley and I are contemporaries. Born in the same year, we each graduated from medical school in 1985. While his career has been far more impressive and far-reaching than mine, as an anesthesiologist in clinical practice I have seen much of what he describes. I know he speaks the truth, appalling though it is. I am humbled, and in some ways convicted, by his integrity. His book is intended to spark a transformation in health care he sees as being akin to the civil rights movement. The right to health care will have to be won, like the right to vote, in public struggle, starting with patients, because nothing short of this has worked, to date. At a very young age, Otis, as he prefers to be addressed, must have been an obvious prodigy.  Growing up in a poor, black, inner-city Detroit neighborhood, he eventually completed medical studies at the University of Chicago, a residency at the University Hospitals of Cleveland, and a fellowship at the National Cancer Institute. Brawley leavens an otherwise troubling tale with his compelling personal story, interspersed in short bits through the early sections of the book. Despite the distinction of his credentials, Brawley relates that his most formative encounter came early—with a Jesuit priest at the University of Detroit High School, who impressed upon him the importance of keeping clear in one’s mind the distinctions between what one knows, what one doesn’t know, and...

The Difference of Different

Youngme Moon, Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd. Crown Business, 2010; iBook edition. By Marina Chen Is it any different on an e-book? Different.  What does it mean to be different in a world where competition pushes us to become more and more like each other?  Particularly in a culture and time described by Michael Sandel as characterized by “economism,” it seems blasphemous to say that competition hurts us.  After all, any economics class will tell you that competition improves the efficiency of markets—the invisible hand’s workings between the interactions of consumers and suppliers. In her bestseller, Different, Youngme Moon discusses the importance of standing out from the crowd rather than falling into the trap of conformity.  Companies generally begin in a moment of innovation. Yet, according to Moon, as companies continue to innovate they are all too often looking in the wrong direction.  Rather than creating the next big thing, the next discontinuous idea, companies are instead choosing to modify their existing products incrementally, trying to deliver the “new and improved” version that will outperform that of their competitors.  But are these improvements really necessary? Perhaps not. Moon offers a perspective that on first glance is counterintuitive—but which comes together compellingly after a closer read.  There is a point beyond which the small differences between products no longer carry significance; the item itself it has reached the point of “heterogeneous homogeneity.”  The differences are there, but they are lost “in a sea of sameness.”  People are not looking for the new, improved product.  People are looking for the different product—the one that stands out from the rest, the one that knows...

Two Tales of Two Cities: Architecture, Historic Preservation, Urban Planning, and the Varieties of e-book experience

Nezar AlSayyad, Cairo: Histories of a City. Harvard University Press, 2011; DeGruyter ebook edition. Massimo Brini, New York Modern Architectures: A Photographic Excursus. GCR Publishing, 2012; iBook edition. By Gwen Majewski Those of us in the profession of architecture are not unaccustomed to the concept of processing and analyzing information in newer, more innovative ways.  The way we learn is often times highly visual, collaborative, and engaging. Given this, the potential of digital formats for communicating ideas between architects would seem to be, at first glance, immense. Ironically, perhaps, it does not seem that publishers themselves have caught up with this possibility; few substantial works in architecture have yet appeared departing from the traditional (and, in our field, often staggeringly expensive) ink-and-paper format. Two recent works, both significant undertakings of scholarship, show the promise and (at least for now) the peril of architectural works rendered as digital scholarship. Though both discuss a specific aspect of architecture, there are more distinct differences than similarities with regard to their format, method of presenting information, and even their emergence into the digital world. It is apparent even before downloading Nezar AlSayyad’s Cairo: Histories of a City that the work was clearly designed to be read as a hard copy, with conversion to an e-book format at best an afterthought.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; yet had the print and digital versions been developed simultaneously some issues might well have been averted, therefore providing a more satisfactory experience for the reader. With both his architectural background and comprehensive knowledge of Cairo, Professor AlSayyad delivers an outstanding product that is well organized and...

A Note for Publishers and Authors

We are eager to receive new titles for inclusion in The Review of Digital Scholarship. Because our mission focuses on scholarly work published in digital formats, we require that review copies forwarded to us be digital in nature. We accept no payments or incentives to include work in The Review. Digital copies of the work must be made available to us to pass on to a reviewer. Because publishers often provide digital work in more than one format, we leave to the discretion of publishers the choice of which version is selected for review. In making this choice, we encourage publishers to provide for review the version they feel best represents the potential of digital technologies to accomplish the objectives of scholarly communication. While we encourage all publishers of digital scholarship to submit titles for consideration, we cannot promise that all works provided to The Review for consideration will be examined in our pages. We place considerable emphasis on finding the right reviewer for each work, and that match has priority on shaping our editorial decisions. Publishers must understand that The Review of Digital Scholarship is an open access publication. While we will of course consider all works for inclusion here—those that are published under proprietary copyright and those that, like The Review, are published under Creative Commons licenses—we will give priority to open-access titles here, and all reviews appearing here are available to all readers with an internet connection without payment of subscription. Titles or inquiries should be sent to submissions@thereviewofdigitalscholarship.org....