Category Archives: Uncategorized

Some Updates from The Digital Press

For the first time in the history of The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, I have multiple books in multiple stages of production. It would be pretty intense if I didn’t have a great group of collaborators helping to keep all the balls in the air. The magic of a cooperative press is that many hands make light work. 

The project that I’m most immediately invested in at present is preparing the publication of an excavation manual. As several of my trusted advisors have pointed out to me, publishing an excavation manual is not something that happens very frequently. Usually, manuals are in-house documents circulated on a project to maintain consistency and rigor and, if they are made available to the public, it is without the trappings of formal publication. This is a fine and practical approach to making a project’s methodological assumptions available to the people most deeply involved in work, but it falls short of the level of disciplinary transparency that archaeology has come to embrace in recent decades. Certain, particularly thorough, manuals deserve publication as benchmarks against which changes in the field can be measured. 

In any event, publishing a field manual is tricky for lots of technical reasons. First and foremost, there is a demand for legibility both in paper and digital formats. I image this kind of document being read on phones, tablets, and in ratty paper copies strewn about workrooms. I decided to set the book in Lucida Bright at 10 points with headings being san serif Lucida Sans. Technical terms that refer to specific fields in databases or on various forms are in Lucida Small Caps. The font is BIG for clarity and the margins are generous to accommodate sweaty and dirty hands and notes. They also allow for me to put section numbers in the margins to allow a reader to find a reference section quickly without flipping back and forth to find where one is in the book.

CEM 3 12 1 01

CEM 3 12 2 01

The fussiest part about this kind of publication are the various illustrations and tables and the absence of long text blocks. I’ve been struggling to balance the need for variation in font sizes. Below is a draft of a very busy page. I’m not sure that I have it all right, but I think it’s headed in the right direction.

CEM 6 1

 As per usual, feedback of any kind is much appreciated.

As for the other two projects at The Press right now, I’ve blogged about one before. This is Micah Bloom’s Codex. You can get to know this project here. Right now we have eight short, but incisive essays in copy editing and two more on the way. The book design is being handled by Micah Bloom himself and some students at Minot State University, and I’ve been told its well underway. This project is complicated because rather than being just one book, it’s actually three. An archival, color, print copy, reproduced at a very high level and for very limited circulation, a free digital download, and a trade paperback which will be different from the color print copy but a more affordable and accessible way to get into the wondrous world of Codex.

Codex covers i copy

Codex cover digital press no micah

The final project is perhaps the most exciting and the most rapidly approaching (like a run-away freight train!). As local readers of this blog know, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the catastrophic Red River flood of 1997. This flood wrecked Grand Forks and prior to Hurricane Katrina required the largest peace-time evacuation in U.S. history. The memories of the flood remains quite vivid and raw for many in the community, and, despite the resurgence of Grand Forks in the two decades since the water retreated, there remains an ambivalence about the memory of the flood. This year a group of advanced students in the writing, editing, and publishing program here at UND have been putting together a book that brings new material and documents together about the flood under the guidance of David Haeselin. Dave and his students are doing great work so far and we’re looking forward to presenting a teaser for the book early in April.

In the meantime, I’ll put up a couple of cover mock ups and provisional titles just to keep you curious:

 

Haunted by Waters

 

Reflection on High Water 2

A Facebook Live Event: Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is excited to announce a Facebook Live event featuring Eric Burin of the University of North Dakota’s Department of History where he’ll  discuss his recent edited book Picking the President: Understand the Electoral College at 1 pm (CST) on February 21st. It’s the day after Presidents’ Day!

We’re teaming up with the North Dakota Humanities Council to make this happen. This is a perfect match, because the North Dakota Humanities Council “was established to provide people opportunities to engage with and debate powerful ideas, because democracy cannot exist without thoughtful and informed citizens dedicated to freedom and justice.”

Here’s our pitch:

As the attention of America and the World has become increasingly glued to the daily moves (and tweets) of the new president, Dr. Burin will discuss the history of the Electoral College and the contemporary situation that led to Donald Trump’s surprising victory in November. In the book, over dozen collaborators shared their perspectives on the Electoral College. In this Facebook Live event, Dr. Burin will be happy to answer questions about the history of the Electoral College and to discuss how challengers and supporters of this peculiar way of electing the president has historically defied partisan politics and flared up at key times in the history of U.S.

Here’s how you participate:

First, go and download Picking the President for free or if you really want it a paper copy, ordering on via Amazon.

Then, jump onto the  Picking the President’s Facebook page starting a 1 pm (CST) February 21st. To ask Dr. Burin questions, use the hashtag #PickingthePres on Twitter or Facebook or comment here on this blog post. He’ll be broadcasting for about an hour.

Here’s a photo of him with Abe Lincoln.

burin-and-licnoln

Picking the President: Is the Electoral College Broken?

ec-project-cover2-02cropped
The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is very excited to offer a little trailer for our forthcoming book Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College. The book offers brief essays that examine the Electoral College from different disciplinary perspectives, including philosophy, mathematics, political science, history, and pedagogy. Along the way, the essays address a variety of questions about the Electoral College: Why was it created? How has it changed over time? Who benefits from it? Is it just? How will future demographic patterns affect it? Should we alter or abolish the Electoral College, and if so, what should replace it? In exploring these matters, Picking the President enhances our understanding of one of America’s most high-profile, momentous issues.

The book is edited by Eric Burin of the University of North Dakota Department of History and featuring contributions by Eric Burin, Brad Austin, Bill Caraher, Mark Jendrysik, Don Johnson, Benjamin Kassow, Timothy Prescott, Patrick Rael, Andrew Shankman, Mark Trahan, and Jack Weinstein.

To whet your appetite for what this book will offer, Eric Burin, offers this thought provoking preview:

The Founders Fixed a Broken Electoral College—We Should, Too

In 1787, Americans probably had more experience writing constitutions than any people ever. They had adopted the Articles of Confederation during the Revolutionary War, and had penned thirteen state constitutions, as well. As a result, no one arrived at the Constitutional Convention thinking that the Electoral College was the way to pick a president.

Instead, the convention’s delegates quickly identified three groups that could select the president: Congress, state governments, or the people. Many delegates wanted to put the matter in Congress’s hands (after all, in most states, the legislature elected the governor). The congressional option nearly came to fruition, but a last-minute attempt to privilege the large states, when combined with a lingering desire to make the executive branch more independent of its legislative counterpart, derailed the proposal. The matter wasn’t resolved until the waning days of the convention, at a time when the delegates were greatly fatigued. Ultimately, the framers assembled at the convention adopted the Electoral College. Under this system, electoral votes were allotted to each state based on the size of its congressional delegation (i.e., the number of representatives it had in the House, plus its two senators); state legislatures determined how the electors would be picked; and each elector could cast two votes for president. If a presidential candidate failed to get a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives, with each state getting one vote, would select the president and vice president from among the top five electoral vote-getters.

More than anything, the Electoral College reflected the framers’ understanding of republicanism and their fear that demagogues and foreigners would undermine it in America. In allowing states to determine the means by which electors were selected, the Electoral College, wrote Alexander Hamilton, took into account a “sense” of the popular will. However they were chosen, the expectation was that the electors would be virtuous, selfless men who put the public good ahead of narrow, factional interests. As such, the electors would reject demagogic candidates in favor of meritorious and broad-minded ones. What’s more, the framers assumed that this Electoral College screening would rarely settle the matter. In most instances, they reckoned, a fair number of decent, honorable figures would stand for the presidency, with each enjoying some regional but not national renown. Under such circumstances, it would be unlikely that one of them would receive a majority of the electoral votes. A candidate’s chances of securing an electoral majority were further diminished by the fact that electors had to meet on the same day in their respective states. In light of the era’s technological limitations, coordination among far-flung electors would have been very difficult, and this safeguarded against foreign and domestic intrigue. The Electoral College’s contemporary supporters often argue that it was designed to compel presidential candidates to appeal to different regional constituencies, but the republican beliefs that undergirded the system, along with the anti-collusion aspects of its operation, provides little evidence for this view. Indeed, the framers assumed that, more often than not, the presidential contest would be thrown into the House of Representatives.

After the Constitution was ratified, the Electoral College underwent additional modifications. These changes were spurred by something the framers hadn’t anticipated—the rise in early 1790s of two competing political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. Largely driven by a quest for political power, partisans sought tactical advantages, changing the way their states chose electors, having electoral candidates run not as individuals but as a slate, and tinkering with winner-take-all systems within their states. The infusion of party politics caused the Electoral College to misfire: In 1796, a Democratic-Republican, Thomas Jefferson, ended up serving as Vice President to a Federalist President, John Adams.  In 1800, Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes, causing a constitutional crisis that nearly led to bloodshed. In response, in 1804, the 12th Amendment was adopted, the most important feature of which was requiring electors to cast separate ballots for the president and vice president. As a result, presidential contests became more democratic and partisan affairs, a development that allowed the winners to claim popular mandates that they used to push policy initiatives. This turn of events not only allowed emboldened presidents to challenge congressional power, it also gave them greater control over the executive branch, for the Vice President was no longer the second-place finisher among a host of virtuous candidates, but instead was a mere running mate who could never claim to have been an elector’s choice for president.

If the 12th Amendment signaled the democratization of presidential elections, why didn’t they just scrap the Electoral College altogether and replace it with a popular vote? A review of the original convention debates provides the answer: Southern states, with their large but disfranchised slave populations, would have been disadvantaged by such an arrangement. The 12th Amendment changed many things, but it did not alter the fact that when it came to divvying up electoral votes, states were allowed to count virtually all of their residents (or, in the case of enslaved African Americans, three-fifths  of them), even if many of those residents enjoyed no political rights. The adoption of the popular vote in the early 19th century would not have ended slavery, but it would have encouraged states to expand the franchise, for the more votes their residents cast, the greater their political clout. This line of reasoning is still true today—under a popular vote system, states would have an incentive to increase voter turnout.

Tinkering with the Electoral College continued into the 19th– and even 20th centuries, proof that previous generations did not regard it as something writ in lightening. The Founders, in particular, were willing to embrace change when it was necessary or advantageous to do so. Why was that the case? Perhaps they were more risk-tolerant—indeed, many of them literally had been armed revolutionaries. Or maybe it was because they could not employ the ruse of “appealing to authority” when other arguments failed them—the Founders did not have Founders to use as an intellectual crutch. Whatever the reason, they were willing to alter their system of governance when it was out of kilter with the world in which they lived. Like them, we should assess the Electoral College on the extent to which it aligns with our sensibilities and realities, and the fact that we do not employ anything like the Electoral College in any other contest attests to how poorly it comports with our contemporary values.

Cover Options for Mobilizing the Past

I’ve spent a good bit of time this July laying out the next book from The Digital Press. Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology edited by Erin Walcek Averett, Jody Michael Gordon, and Derek Counts will represent both state of the field survey on digital tools and techniques in archaeological fieldwork, but also offer critical perspectives on these tools and methods. 

Last week, I posted some images of the page layout and got some good feedback on it. This week, I want to post two cover mock ups and get some feedback. Both are designed by Dan Coslett and will invariably receive some tweaking by the time they appear in print. The concepts, however, are pretty fully formed and the play between the trowel and the tablet carries through to the chapters headings throughout the book.

00 MTP Introduction Trial 09 pdf page 1 of 32

Here’s cover option 1:

MtP Cover 3a dft1

Here’s cover option 2 (the grey border is just to set it off from the white background of the blog):

MtP Cover 4a dft1 jpg

What do you think?

The Digital Press is Mobilizing the Past

Over the last six months, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota has been collaborating with a remarkable group of authors, editors, and reviewers to produce an edited volume from an NEH funded conference called Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology held last February in Boston. It was a good conference with good conversations among the participants. After a round of peer review and ample time for revision, the book will be more than just good and will stand as a significant marker in the discussion of digital tool in the discipline. I’m super proud and excited to be part of the project as both a contributor, collaborator, and publisher. The plan is for the book, edited by Jody Michael Gordon (Wentworth Institute of Technology), Erin Walcek Averett (Creighton University), and Derek B. Counts (Wisconsin-Milwaukee), to appear this fall and so far we’re on schedule.

One of the most rewarding parts of the publication process is the design of the interior. For this book, I have been working with Dan Coslett, a graduate student in architecture at the University of Washington. He designed the original poster for the conference and I think it’s just great:

NEH WebsiteBanner rev2jpg

He’s going to design the book cover for us, and help me with interior design. Over the last couple days we went through no fewer than 9 iterations. We had a few challenges. First, after a little discussion, I insisted that we set the book in a serif font, but our “house font” for the press has been the rather stodgy (and 17th c.) Janson. This clearly was not an ideal font for a book that is looking toward our “digital future.” At the same time, I didn’t feel comfortable going with even the classiest sans serif font worrying that it would make what is a serious academic book seem ephemeral. Instead, I looked for a contemporary looking serif-ed font and settled on Tisa. Since I have a few projects on the horizon that might require a more technical, highly legible, and contemporary font, I think having Tisa share our house standard with Janson is a good thing. Finally, I continued a design cue that I used in the Bakken Goes Boom! (buy here or download here!) 

My rather hasty first draft of the first page of the introduction looked like this:

00 MTP Introduction Trial 01 pdf page 1 of 33

We thought it was probably a bit too crowded so we started to find ways to give it more space, by reducing the size of the font for the chapter title.

00 MTP Introduction Trial 02 pdf page 1 of 29

I have a tendency to go with very dense text blocks (probably similar to how I write and think!), and to counteract this we decided to expand the leading a bit in an early revision. Dan also suggested that his trowel-and-tablet graphic was maybe a bit too big for the page. Finally, we went decided to bold the chapter title instead of going with all caps especially since we’re going to use centered, all caps for the top headings in the chapters.  

00 MTP Introduction Trial 04 pdf page 1 of 32

 Of course, we couldn’t leave well enough alone and continued to play with the design, particularly the font size of the chapter title and the location of the authors’ names.

00 MTP Introduction Trial 05 pdf page 1 of 32

I tended to want a more prominent chapter title than Dan did:

00 MTP Introduction Trial 06 pdf page 1 of 32

And we both couldn’t resist the lure of all caps!

00 MTP Introduction Trial 07 pdf page 1 of 32

Smaller title font allowed us to keep authors’ names and the title next to the trowel-and-tablet icon.

00 MTP Introduction Trial 08 pdf page 1 of 32

In the end we decided that was simply not that high a priority and likely to change as titles and numbers of authors varied across contributions.

Here’s our final decision (but even it will be lightly tweaked because I forgot to include the chapter number!):

00 MTP Introduction Trial 09 pdf page 1 of 32

More on this project as it gains momentum over the next few weeks. My hope is to have basic layout of the book done by early next week, a table of contents, and have a draft of the cover to show off then too!

So stay tuned!

The Digital Press is Mobilizing the Past

Over the last six months, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota has been collaborating with a remarkable group of authors, editors, and reviewers to produce an edited volume from an NEH funded conference called Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology held last February in Boston. It was a good conference with good conversations among the participants. After a round of peer review and ample time for revision, the book will be more than just good and will stand as a significant marker in the discussion of digital tool in the discipline. I’m super proud and excited to be part of the project as both a contributor, collaborator, and publisher. The plan is for the book to appear this fall and so far we’re on schedule.

One of the most rewarding parts of the publication process is the design of the interior. For this book, I have been working with Dan Coslett, a graduate student in architecture at the University of Washington. He designed the original poster for the conference and I think it’s just great:

NEH WebsiteBanner rev2jpg

He’s going to design the book cover for us, and help me with interior design. Over the last couple days we went through no fewer than 9 iterations. We had a few challenges. First, after a little discussion, I insisted that we set the book in a serif font, but our “house font” for the press has been the rather stodgy (and 17th c.) Janson. This clearly was not an ideal font for a book that is looking toward our “digital future.” At the same time, I didn’t feel comfortable going with even the classiest sans serif font worrying that it would make what is a serious academic book seem ephemeral. Instead, I looked for a contemporary looking serif-ed font and settled on Tisa. Since I have a few projects on the horizon that might require a more technical, highly legible, and contemporary font, I think having Tisa share our house standard with Janson is a good thing. Finally, I continued a design cue that I used in the Bakken Goes Boom! (buy here or download here!) 

My rather hasty first draft of the first page of the introduction looked like this:

00 MTP Introduction Trial 01 pdf page 1 of 33

We thought it was probably a bit too crowded so we started to find ways to give it more space, by reducing the size of the font for the chapter title.

00 MTP Introduction Trial 02 pdf page 1 of 29

I have a tendency to go with very dense text blocks (probably similar to how I write and think!), and to counteract this we decided to expand the leading a bit in an early revision. Dan also suggested that his trowel-and-tablet graphic was maybe a bit too big for the page. Finally, we went decided to bold the chapter title instead of going with all caps especially since we’re going to use centered, all caps for the top headings in the chapters.  

00 MTP Introduction Trial 04 pdf page 1 of 32

 Of course, we couldn’t leave well enough alone and continued to play with the design, particularly the font size of the chapter title and the location of the authors’ names.

00 MTP Introduction Trial 05 pdf page 1 of 32

I tended to want a more prominent chapter title than Dan did:

00 MTP Introduction Trial 06 pdf page 1 of 32

And we both couldn’t resist the lure of all caps!

00 MTP Introduction Trial 07 pdf page 1 of 32

Smaller title font allowed us to keep authors’ names and the title next to the trowel-and-tablet icon.

00 MTP Introduction Trial 08 pdf page 1 of 32

In the end we decided that was simply not that high a priority and likely to change as titles and numbers of authors varied across contributions.

Here’s our final decision (but even it will be lightly tweaked because I forgot to include the chapter number!):

00 MTP Introduction Trial 09 pdf page 1 of 32

More on this project as it gains momentum over the next few weeks. My hope is to have basic layout of the book done by early next week, a table of contents, and have a draft of the cover to show off then too!

So stay tuned!

Sneak Peak of the Bakken Goes Boom

Over the next few weeks, Kyle Conway and I will be offering some sneak peeks at our forthcoming edited volume: Bakken Goes Boom: Oil and the Changing Geographies of Western North Dakota which should come out early next month from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. 

Here’s our introduction:

0a Conway

The Changing Geographies of Western North Dakota

This book is about the human side of the oil boom in the Bakken formation in western North Dakota. We began work on it in 2013, when a barrel of crude oil sold for a little more than $90. At that time, economic optimism was the order of the day. People were asking, would the boom last twenty, forty, or sixty years? Harold Hamm, the billionaire CEO of Continental Resources, went so far as to tell the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, “I still think we will reach 2 million barrels a day [by 2020]. I don’t think that’s over the top, folks” (quoted in Burnes 2014).

Now, as we write this introduction at the end of 2015, that same barrel sells for less than $40. What we did not know—what we could not know—when we began was that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would refuse to cut production in the face of dropping oil prices, in an apparent attempt to make oil production from shale, such as in the Bakken, too expensive to continue (Murtagh 2015; Olson and Ailworth 2015). In retrospect, the estimates of a forty- or sixty-year boom seem naive: by all appearances, we were at the boom’s peak. In December 2014, there were 174 rigs drilling in the oil patch; a year later, there are 65. There are also five thousand fewer jobs, and monthly in-state income on oil royalties has dropped from $128 million to $69 million (Donovan 2015). Inadvertently, it seems, we captured an important moment, when the bust people dreaded (but thought would never happen) was just on the horizon.

Our purpose in putting this book together was to give voice to as wide a range of people as we could. We were both professors at the University of North Dakota, so we sought out other scholars. We researched the boom, so we sought out our collaborators. We taught about the Bakken, so we sought out students. But we also read the news, went to art galleries, and read poetry, so we also sought out journalists, artists and museum curators, and poets. The boom was one of the most interesting things we had ever seen, and there were more ways to know it than through the cold rationality we privileged in our scholarship. Journalists, artists, and poets could reveal things we would not otherwise see, experiences or emotions that academic prose could not capture, but art or poetry could. As much as drilling for oil in the Bakken produced an economic and demographic boom, it also was an intellectual and cultural moment for North Dakota, and our book tries to capture that.

Our approach was propitious, if the controversies around hydraulic fracturing (or simply “fracking”) are any indication. In the time since we began soliciting submissions, a wide range of books have been published, each more polemical than the last. In one, an environmentalist asks what happens when she inherits mineral rights in North Dakota and has to choose between her ideals and financial security (Peters 2014). In another, a conservative media darling calls out environmentalists for what he sees as their duplicity and willful ignorance of the human rights abuses inflicted by governments of oil-rich countries on their own citizens (Levant 2014). In yet another, an investigative reporter tells the story of an Alberta woman’s fight for justice from the oil industry (and her own government) after fracking poisons her water supply (Nikiforuk 2015).

In this back-and-forth, it is clear that the pro- and anti-fracking groups are talking past each other. This is where our book does something different. By and large, contributors sidestep the controversies about fracking and focus instead on the social impact of the boom. There is much to learn here: whether we support or oppose fracking, it has had a significant impact on people’s lives. For people living in the Bakken region, life has changed, and we want to understand how. What impact did the boom have on longtime residents? On newcomers? On women? On Native Americans? How did it reshape the healthcare infrastructure? Housing? The media? These are the questions we asked our contributors to answer.

Scholars and journalists shared insight that they gained from their particular perch. But artists and poets did something more: as they talked about how the boom has reshaped North Dakotans’ sense of self—how North Dakotans see themselves and imagine their future—they evoked something akin to emotional truth. For that reason, we have devoted considerable space in this book to their work. Because art has to potential to affect viewers at a gut level, we included, among other things, a catalogue from an exhibit about the Bakken at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo. We also included comments left by members of the public.

We also decided to open this book with a prologue in the form of a prose poem. Language is an imperfect tool. It serves us relatively well when we describe technical aspects of a situation, but in other cases it falls short. We know this most acutely when we experience powerful emotions such as joy or grief and words fail us. In the Bakken, for instance, it is relatively easy to describe the monetary or environmental costs of an oil boom, but it is much harder to find words for the ache we feel when our home no longer looks the same. But in poetry, language comes closest to breaking free of its bounds. When poet Heidi Czerwiec writes, “Given enough time, a sea can become a desert; given enough time, even a desert has value,” she presents us with an image not unlike the art in the catalogue. In the dried up sea, we see our own fall from plenitude to emptiness. But the loss is paradoxical, in that it brings a new type of value. Her image brings the contradictions that undergird our experience into view. Even if we cannot put them into words, we can see them and feel them.

So what do we learn from all of this? What do scholars, journalists, artists, and poets reveal about the human side of North Dakota’s oil boom? Resources are stretched thin, and to compensate, people have had to rethink the social and physical networks that link them to others. As a result, the geographies of western North Dakota—the ways people understand their relationship to space and place—have changed. Part of this change is material, such as the demographic shift from the eastern part of the state to the western part. A decade ago, nearly a third of the state’s residents, those in Grand Forks and Fargo, lived in the narrow strip between Interstate 29 and the Red River. In other words, almost one out of three people lived within five miles of Minnesota. No longer is that the case, as towns such as Williston, Watford City, and Dickinson have doubled or tripled in size, creating unmet needs in social services, law enforcement, healthcare, housing, and other forms of infrastructure.

Part of this change is psychological, too. The stories people tell to make sense of their place in their community or the world have changed. They understand their relationships with their neighbors differently. Some longtime residents and newcomers view each other with a suspicion that grows out of a disparity in wealth and access to resources. Others look for what they share in common.

One result of these changing physical and mental geographies is that many people have had to make do with less, especially those who were already in vulnerable positions. Rents have gone up, but the stock of quality housing has gone down. Travel takes longer and is more dangerous, and unfamiliar people congregate in once familiar places. Even as the boom has subsided, social networks remain stretched for longtime residents, who face new disparities of wealth and ongoing political challenges, and for newcomers, who have left families in faraway homes in search of work. In short, there are more cracks to slip through.

But there is also resilience and creativity. Longtime residents have found ways to extend hospitality to newcomers. Artists have found ways to reimagine their place—which is to say, our place—in a landscape punctuated by oil rigs and tanker trucks. We cannot understand the challenges posed by the boom without considering the creativity it has brought about, nor the creativity without the challenges. One tugs constantly on the other.

To close, let us consider an interesting potential symmetry. In 2013, the bust was on the horizon, but we could not yet make it out. We must not forget that booms and busts are cyclical. Perhaps the next boom is on the horizon now, but as with the bust, we will see it most clearly in retrospect. As Karin Becker writes in her chapter, change has reached a plateau. North Dakota in 2015 is not the same as North Dakota in 2005. People talk of a “new normal.” The state has reversed its longstanding trend of outmigration, and the population is up almost 20 percent compared to a decade ago. The median age is younger, and jobs pay better: even Wal-Mart has to pay $17 an hour to its employees in Williston, where the average annual salary is still more than $75,000 (Donovan 2015).

The changes North Dakota has undergone are real, and we owe it to ourselves to ask how they have shaped us. We would do well to listen to everyone—citizens, public figures, artists, poets, and even scholars. This book is not the final word on the Bakken oil boom, but we hope readers will find in it something useful, a starting point for understanding how the boom has affected us and who it is we have come to be.

References

Burnes, Jerry. 2014. “Hamm: Bakken Will Double Production by 2020.” Williston Herald, May 23. bit.ly/1JDpCHv.

Donovan, Lauren. 2015. “Oil Patch Slides Toward a New Normal.” Bismark Tribune, December 25. bit.ly/1Sk2ULN.

Levant, Ezra. 2014. Groundswell: The Case for Fracking. Toronto: McLelland & Stewart.

Murtagh, Dan. 2015. “Shale’s Running Out of Survival Tricks as OPEC Ramps Up Pressure.” Bloomberg Business, December 27. www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-28/shale-s-running-out-of-survival-tricks-as-opec-ramps-up-pressure.

Nikiforuk, Andrew. 2015. Slick Water: Fracking and One Insider’s Stand Against the World’s Most Powerful Industry. Berkeley, CA: Greystone Books.

Olson, Bradley, and Erin Ailworth. 2015. “Low Crude Prices Catch Up with the U.S. Oil Patch.” Wall Street Journal, November 20. www.wsj.com/articles/low-crude-prices-catch-up-with-the-u-s-oil-patch-1448066561.

Peters, Lisa Westberg. 2014. Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil. Minneapolis: Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Revisiting the Elwyn Robinson Memoirs Project

Years ago, when I was working on writing a History of the Department of History at the University of North Dakota, I stumbled across Elwyn Robinson’s memoirs tucked away in the UND archives. It was titled A Professors Story and offered a revealing glimpse of both Robinson’s life and his work in the Department of History and writing his landmark History of North Dakota. (For more on it, see here and here.)

For the last few years, I had this idea that I could publish his memoirs in 2016 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his History of North Dakota. I’ll admit that I didn’t have a great plan for how to do this, but I kept a slot open for the production in my capacity as publisher of The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.

This is when Prof. Sherry O’Donnell and Michele Eifert entered the picture. I offered the manuscript to Sherry’s editing class in the English Department at UND to give them some practical experience preparing a manuscript for publication. This class spent the semester working through Robinson’s manuscript, preparing focused introductions to each chapter, and even working on format and type-setting. Yesterday, I finally got to see the fruit of their labor!

The result of their work is spectacular. The students’ pride and enthusiasm in discussing this project reminded me of the importance of “making” in the academic process and gives me great hope that the Robinson’s memoirs will be published in 2016.

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Books by their Cover

You can’t open Facebook these days without seeing a profile picture superimposed with a French flag. A year ago, profile pictures had multicolored hues in support of equal marriage rights or gay marriage. At various times of year, social media profiles sport pink for breast cancer, mustaches for prostate cancer, or various other regular designs to demonstrate solidarity or sympathy with this or that cause. Invariably, there are columns that comment or complain about a particular practice, the uncritical and uncomplicated adoption of potentially fraught symbols, and the deleterious effects of “slacktivism.” Most worry that a changed profile picture will substitute for political or social action and superficial expressions of sympathy, solidarity, or awareness will replace genuine engagement with issues. These concerns are so pervasive that they constitute part of the discourse of representation on social media and are in no ways less hackneyed or superficial than the practice that they critique. 

Personal branding on social media is no less complicated than personal branding in any medium and criticizing its simplicity is, in itself, a failure to understand the complications associated with branding and interpretation of branding across various media in our image rich society. My November mustache might be ironic, it might show I’m participating in “Movember,” or it might be that I genuinely like how I look with a mustached lip. Or it might be all these things. Most of us recognize the ambiguities present in these simple personal branding exercises (and even relish the potential for an un-ironic mustache!) and even appreciate the earnestness of people’s efforts to celebrate a cause, negotiate the political landscape, or just to show preference for one brand over another.

When it comes to branding a larger enterprise, we are less tolerant of this kind of ambiguity. I’m waist deep in type-setting a new book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota right and beginning to think a bit about cover designs. I’ve been fortunate that my collaborators on this project have offered images and designs for the cover and these designs are all visually arresting. The book is titled The Bakken Goes Boom and it should appear early next year, but the cover design project represents another chapter in the larger Branding the Bakken project. From Alec Soth’s black-and-white images of the oil smeared worker to Sarah Christianson’s The Skogens’ bedroom window, images have dominated our apprehension of the Bakken boom. It is hardly surprising that my own work documenting workforce housing in the Bakken has generated over ten thousand of photographs and videos. 

The image-driven nature of our engagement with the Bakken means that selecting the cover of the first book-length academic study of the Bakken boom takes on particular significance. Each cover represents a different aspect of the Boom and a different point of emphasis in the book (as well as a different style). 

My co-editor Kyle Conway created an arresting cover image that shows a drill rig situated near his families property in Williston.

Bakken cover off center

Photographer Kyle Cassidy who has worked with our team in the Bakken and has a contribution in the volume offered several fantastic cover designs:

Bakken goes boom cover 1

Bakken goes boom cover 2

Bakken goes boom cover 3

Bakken goes boom cover 4

Bakken goes boom cover 5

Comments and feedback are appreciated!

University Press Week

While The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota does not conform to the characteristics of most “real” university presses, I think it’s probably fair that we celebrate a little at the margins of the event. To get into the spirit of the week, be sure to check out the American Association of University Press’s blog tour with particular attention to Tuesday’s posts on the Future of Academic Publishing.

Anyone who has read my other blog over the past couple years knows I’m incredibly sanguine about the future of academic publishing. Like many of the folks at university presses or mainstream academic publishing, I recognize the first decades of the 21st century as period of tremendous disruption to academic publishing with the rapid growth of digital outlets and technologies reshaping the publishing landscape on a regular basis. The nimble character of many university presses has made it possible for them to position themselves at the cutting edge of academic publishing and to find ways to leverage productively both digital media and the growing expectations of open access movement.

Further hurdles await, of course, as universities race to adopt 20th-century business models (dominated by an image of the efficient assembly line) in their effort to convince legislative and popular stakeholders holding 19th-century attitudes that they’re ready to take on the 21st century. The expectations that all parts of the university bring in revenue (which is often narrowly defined) willfully ignores the tremendous impact that 21st century companies like Google, Apple, and even IBM have wrought from creative enclaves, skunk-works, and policies that divorce innovative from profitability (at least in the short-term). University publishing runs the risk of being squeezed out, at the very moment when its potential to contribute both to the intellectual and, as much as we’re loath to admit it, financial the life of the university and community is greatest. A nimble, adventurous, risk-taking university press can probe the edge of media economy. This is unlikely to be a revenue neutral endeavor, but if we see universities as 21st-century organizations, we realize that ideas have an equal part in the production of value as products.

A few more observations:

1. Collaboration and Cooperation. A number of the established university presses have celebrated the collaborative spirit of the university press. As the academic world has come more and more to embrace collaborative and cooperative work, the university press represents an appealing model. The shading of professional skills (editing, design, marketing, et c.) into craft allows for individuals to move from the production of content (for example, in a traditional scholarly mode) to the design, layout, and editing of a volume with minimal disruption. This allows for a press to scale quickly from a few people to a larger group of folks for a project because so many of the basic abilities are shared across academia. 

2. Grounding the Global in the Local. As big presses look more and more to big books with big audiences, they have left room for local presses to develop. Unlike big presses with established overheads and global reach, small presses can cultivate niche audiences, collaborate with local institutions, and produce meaningful books that help transform big ideas into local realities. This is where the rubber meets the road, and local presses play a key role in this.  

3. Dynamic. Anyone who has paid even a little attention to the publishing industry knows that it is in a tremendous state of flux right now. Books, blogs, ebook, open access, open peer review, price gouging, pirates, and print-on-demand services have transformed how we think about disseminating content. Small presses have an advantage in that they can pivot quickly, experiment with new media types and processes, and focus on media as much as delivery methods. This is especially the case (see my point 1) as the tools for engaging the publishing industry have democratized over the past two decades. It is now possible to produce high-quality, visually interesting, media on a laptop computer, sell it without a storefront, market it over social-media, and disseminate it across multiple platforms from a comfy chair in front of a fire.   

4. Fun. As I have become more and more engaged in the world of academic publishing (as both a producer and a publisher), I’ve become more and more interested in the potential for academic publishing to be fun. When I go to an academic conference or work on an archaeological field project, I have fun. This doesn’t mean that I don’t take it seriously, but I find the interplay between scholars, students, and ideas exciting and entertaining. I sometimes fear that the business side of publishing – with deadlines, formalities, and budgets – robs the process of some of the joy associated with moving interesting content to completed publication. I think small presses provide a space to cultivate a shared sense of mission, energy, collegiality, and fun. The absence of institutional structures allows small presses to develop the same energy as any number of ‘zines, doomed record labels, and academic projects. There’s something about the DIY spirit that makes any undertaking a bit more of an adventure.

Do take some time this week to click over to your favorite University Press website, and please check out our friends at the Institute for Regional Studies Press at North Dakota State University, and be sure to go and download something for free from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota!