Modern Languages

Digital technologies and the changing face of Modern Languages: An interview with Niamh Thornton

Our Journals Publishing Assistant Megan Ainsworth, interviews Niamh Thornton, Section Editor for Modern Languages Open. 

As an academic in the age of digital technologies, you will have noticed changes to the conventional way of publishing academic research. How has MLO changed the course of publishing in the Modern Languages?

Digital technologies have opened up the opportunity to publish and disseminate work to a wider community of readers via Open Access. As is made clear in the Copyright notice, MLO operates a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence, which means that the work can be shared and referenced freely. MLO shares this with one of the leading Humanities organisations, the Modern Languages Association (MLA). The MLA created an MLA Commons that is ever-adapting to the changing face of academic publishing. Where the MLA is a large subscription-based professional organisation, LUP has launched MLO on a smaller scale with large ambitions. Supported by LUP the editors of MLO have an eye to the developing face of digital publishing and are keen to build and evolve accordingly.

MLO is an interdisciplinary platform within the field of Modern Languages. How important is communication between researchers across the modern languages?

In the expansive field of Hispanic Studies we have always had a broad and long view of disciplinary studies and collaboration. Therefore having this common platform that includes other languages also allows us to think across the modern languages as editors and researchers. Hopefully, readers who find their way to articles from one field will be tempted to read articles across the languages. We have also exploited the affordances of digital technologies by inviting academics to contribute to pieces that go beyond the typical single discipline (and single author) article format. In 2015 Claire Taylor and I created a blog and invited colleagues interested in the Digital Humanities to participate in a Writing Sprint. We could publish this on MLO because the platform allows for such reflective writing as well as position papersbooks, and manifestoes.

How has MLO benefitted from being published by a university press?

The move to digital born journals in the Humanities has been slow. Reticence to publish in this mode is understandable, because of the measurements that are used to assess work. For this journal to be attached to LUP has been a boon not only because of LUPs reputation, but also because many of the bigger conglomerates have been harshly criticised for the high costs of journals. Although more of an issue in the Sciences than in Humanities, there is a need for greater transparency and affordable costs. MLO has the advantage of its upfront fees that make the articles OA. These are further reduced if the institution is a member. There are additional advantages aside from the reputational. On a practical level, rather than setting MLO up as a journal purely run by time poor academics, LUP has been able to provide both the publishing expertise and support to get this running and to sustain MLO in the long term.

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Modern Languages Open (MLO) is a peer-reviewed platform for the open access publication of research from across the modern languages to a global audience.

Niamh Thornton is a specialist in Latin American Studies with a particular focus on Mexican film, literature and digital culture. She has a research interest in the war story, the Mexican Revolution, the curation of online selves through online tools and sites, user-generated content, Chican@ studies, and star studies. She is currently working on a project on commemorative film events and memorialization.