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The Cultural Studies Association has created Lateral an e-publishing platform, that isn’t just an online journal but a place for experimental methods and collaboration.  They also created Lateral Labs, which they have now taken down (I am very sad about this). It was a space for non-linear and not necessarily textual collaboration. There were nodes that could connect to other nodes and the central nodes would adjust to be the one that had the most nodes coming out of it.  It was much cooler than it sounds, and I wish I had taken a screen shot.  In assessing the effort of Lateral Labs, I would have to say it failed because, for one, they took the site down, and for two, it only had a limited participation pool, and I’m not sure that external viewers who couldn’t participate would get as much out of it—linearity does help in making it more accessible on some level.

Lateral however remains an online journal and is described in this way:

“The open and distributed model of scholarly production and publication that Lateral offers sets into play a revaluation of what cultural studies is and can do. It is designed to allow us to respond in supple ways to contemporary events, changing technologies, and emerging collaborations and collectivities. Our aim is to foster research and publication that is attuned to the pace and practices of the overlapping spheres of art, politics, and economic and cultural production. For these reasons, Lateral uses digital and participatory media as a means of enriching and transforming research and scholarship in cultural studies. While Lateral will have the front-stage look and feel of most academic and professional journals, its back-stage production platform will enable participants to work together in ways that allow for open and collaborative forms of commentary on research and scholarship-in-process. Our hope is that our work together will begin to realize the expansive potential of culture as we shape futures that create new political values and, with them, new means of evaluation.”

I wonder how this might play out in different fields where the medium is not necessarily the message?

So far it seems like Lateral is struggling to find its place and its existence.  I am going to the CSA conference at the end of the month and may report back on the direction it is going.  In my opinion, it is an important move and to ‘fail’ with lateral labs and then ‘fail better’ with some other things is a step in the right direction.


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