diffractive in Marczewska, Adema, McDonald & Trettien 2018

ice Press
Page 4

The Horizon of The Publishable in/as
Open Access: From Poethics to Praxis
Kaja Marczewska
Page 6

Design by: Mihai Toma, Nick White
and Sean Worley
Printed by: Rope Press,

The Poethics of Openness
Janneke Adema
Page 16

Diffractive Publishing
Frances McDonald & Whitney Trettien
Page 26


Kaja Marczewska tracks in her contribution OA’s development
from a radical and political project driven by experimental
impetus, into a constrained model, limiting publishing in

etween the doing of scholarship and its political,
ethical and aesthetical elements.
In the final contribution to this pamphlet Whitney Trettien and
Frances McDonald ask a pertinent question: ‘how can we build
scholarly infrastructures that foster diffractive reading and
writing?’. To address this question, they reflect on their own
experiences of editing an experimental digital zine: thresholds,
which brings the creative affordances of the split screen, of
the gutter, to scholarship. By transforming ma

ures. It is, Haraway
writes, ‘the production of difference patterns in the world, not just of the same
reflected—displaced—elsewhere’ (268). If reflective reading forever inscribes the
reader’s identity onto whatever text she touches, then diffractive reading sees
the intimate touching of text and reader as a contingent, dynamic unfolding of
mutually transformative affinities. To engage diffractively with an idea is to become

This question remains not only relevant but is today
increasingly urgent. When Haraway began writing about
diffraction in the late 80s and early 90s, the web was nascent;
it would be several years before Mozilla would lau

ks, and pirated PDF libraries
that constitute our current textual ecology. Much lies at
stake in how we imagine and practise the work of swimming
through these changing tides. For Karen Barad, a friend
and colleague of Haraway’s and an advocate of diffractive
scholarship, reading and writing are ‘ethical practices’ that
must be reimagined according to an ‘ethics not of externality
but rather entanglement’ (Barad 2012). To Barad’s list of
reading and writing we here add publishing. If entanglemen

(2016), Tara McPherson (2018), Gary Hall (2016), Iris van der
Tuin (2014), and others working at the intersection of digital
humanities, scholarly publishing, and feminist methodologies,
we ask: how can we build scholarly infrastructures that foster
diffractive reading and writing? What kind of publishing
model might be best suited to expressing and emboldening
diffractive practices? These are big questions that must be
collectively addressed; in this short piece, we offer our own
experiences designing thresholds, an experimental digital zine,
as one potential model for digital publishing that is attuned to
the ethics of entanglement.


Diffractive Publishing

Over a quarter century ago, Donna Haraway observed that the grounding metaphor
for humanistic inquiry is reflection. We describe the process of interpretation as
reflecting upon an object. To learn from a text, we ask students to write re

y and writerly practices is an ethics of criticism. The
institutional apparatuses that shape our critical practices
instruct us to erase all traces of the serendipitous gyrations
that constitute our writing and reading, and erect in their place


Diffractive Publishing

Frances McDonald & Whitney Trettien


a set of boundaries that keep our work in check. Yet our habits
of critical inquiry are irrefutably subjective and collaborative.
In an effort to move toward such a methodology, we might ask:

of the spaces between readers, writers,
and texts as thresholds rather than boundaries, that is, as
contiguous zones of entanglement? How would our critical
apparatus mutate if we ascribed value to the shifting sprawl
of the wall and make public the diffractive processes that
constitute our writing and reading practices?
To put these questions into action, we have created thresholds
(http://openthresholds.org). We solicit work that a traditional
academic journal may deem unfinished, unseemly, or otherwise

, takes on the acoustic materiality of a riotous chorus. In
‘Gesture of Photographing,’ another collaboratively-authored
piece, Carla Nappi and Dominic Pettman use the threshold to
diffract the work of Vilem Flusser. Each sink into his words on

Diffractive Publishing


photography and emerge having penned a short creative work
that responds to yet pushes away from his ideas.
As the reader navigates horizontally through an issue,
twisting and bumping from theory to fiction to image to sound,

are Lab: Difference + Design. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
van der Tuin, Iris. 2014. “Diffraction as a Methodology for Feminist Onto-Epistemology: On
Encountering Chantal Chawaf and Posthuman Interpellation,” Parallax 20:3: 231-244.

Diffractive Publishing



Poethics of


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