Tuesday, December 01, 2009

retiring RCCS

in fall 1994, i began grad school in american studies at the university of maryland, researching and teaching about a new and obscure technology called the internet.

it was a perfect time and place to study new media. at maryland, i was able to work with and learn from john caughey, debra deruyver, katie king, bob kolker, myron lounsbury, ed martini, jo paoletti, kelly quinn, jason rhody, ben shneiderman, mary corbin sies, martha nell smith, donald snyder, and ellen yu borkowski. it was awesome.

what wasn't awesome was the larger academic community, or lack thereof. in those days, one would be lucky to find a single panel on "cyberspace" or the "world wide web" at an academic conference or to find a single article in an academic journal. these were the old days - before conferences like digital arts and culture (or DAC, first held in 1998) or the association of internet researchers (or AoIR, first held in 2000), before internet clusters like the berkman center for internet and society (established in 1998) or the oxford internet institute (established in 2001). back then, academic interest in the internet was building, but an academic community was hard to find.

in fall 1996, i enrolled in an independent study with myron lounsbury. the goal of the independent study was to build a web site which in turn would help foster a community, an online community, that would connect scholars and students interested in studying the internet. i began by collecting relevant course syllabi and conference calls - the two key ingredients for any emerging field of study - and posted them on the web site. i called the site the resource center for cyberculture studies, or RCCS, and launched it on december 8, 1996.

a few months later, i received a review copy of wayne rash, jr.'s politics on the nets: wiring the political process. i found the book interesting, wrote a review of it, and in july 1997 published the review on RCCS. the idea behind RCCS reviews was simple: review books about contemporary media and culture from any and all disciplinary persuasions. i decided RCCS would review books because, first, books often contain interesting, well-developed ideas and arguments, something a new field of study needs and thrives on, and, second, books, unlike web sites which began to multiple and remix at an alarming rate by 1997, are finite in number. the book reviews quickly became the heart of RCCS.

a month later, fellow maryland grad student will winton's review of gary g. gach's writers.net: every writer's essential guide to online resources and opportunities generated a new feature: the author response. shortly after publishing winton's review, i received an email from gach who was excited to see his book reviewed but eager to explain his side of the story. i invited the author to write a response, he did, and the author response was born. when it worked well, the book review + author response fostered a rich and ripe dialogue - a conversation between reviewer and reviewed.

in 1998, a new feature appeared: multiple reviews of a single book. having received a new batch of books in need of reviewers, i distributed a call for reviewers to various lists. when multiple scholars asked to review richard lanham's the electronic word: democracy, technology and the arts, i asked the publisher for an extra review copy. they said yes, i assigned the book to two reviewers, and the multiple reviews feature was born. later, RCCS would routinely feature two, three, four, and even five reviews of a single book. coupled with an author response, these multiple reviews offer multiple perspectives into a complex topic.

from the start, the book reviews and author responses were free and publicly accessible. they were also written by a range of scholars - from graduate students in their first years to full professors in their last years - representing all kinds of fields and disciplines within the arts, humanities, social sciences, and science and technology. refusing a single disciplinary orientation, RCCS included them all.

on december 1, 2009, i published the last (and excellent!) set of RCCS book reviews and author responses. although there will be no more new reviews and responses, the existing ones will remain online as a free and publicly accessible archive.

it's been a nice run. for help along the way: a big and long-lasting thanks to my maryland peeps who helped launch RCCS; a big, big thanks to john klockner and alex fedosov who helped host and configure RCCS; and a massive thanks to nectarine group who helped redesign RCCS.

but most of all, thanks to the hundreds of reviewers who contributed their time, labor, and good ideas to RCCS and to the readers who took the time to read a review or two.


nick knouf said...

Thank you for your incredible service (in many senses of that word) to the community. I was glad that I had the opportunity to write my first review earlier this year, not knowing how soon that chance would not exist anymore. In a field where things come and go so quickly RCCS has been a stable place to turn to for engaged, critical reviews of contemporary works. Thanks David!

Soraya said...

Thank you for all!!

I was follow your activities and reviews from Chile, since a cup of years. Is kind of sad read this news.


Marc Tyrrell said...

David, thanks for all of the work and the great site. It's been great to read and great to review. All the best.

inkTank said...

this is shocking news !!

RCCS has been a MUST for us doing research and actions about new media and cyberculture for (very) long

i hope it stays online for even longer

and i really want to thank david silver not only for his effort relative to keeping RCCS alive for 14 yrs but also for being a true inspiration and role model for me, aspiring to be a new media teacher (almost) as good as he is some day

saludos desde tijuana mexico, david !!

Donald Snyder said...


This was such a great project and I was so lucky to be at MD with you. RCCS and CWG were really inspiring and formative in my development as a scholar. Thanks for everything you did! RCCS will be missed.

Unknown said...

Those were the days, my friend.

Ed Martini said...

David - What a privilege to have seen this early on. You and RCCS were pathbreaking, and you were (and are) an inspiration to many of us. Congrats on many great years and thanks for all the work.

Michelle Rodino-Colocino said...

Thanks, David. I will miss reading the reviews and am sad to no longer have RCCS as such a reliable source for dialogue on digital media, culture, and to read others' thoughts about what counts as new media. I hope someone can continue the tradition...Congratulations and thank you for all of your work, David.

E. Heroux said...

David S:
Thanks for your decade and a half of work. But rather than let the RCCS die out, perhaps you could solicit an open call for proposals to take over the job. Some hungry grad student out there, like you back in '95, might be willing and able to become the new editor / manager.

Anne Beaulieu said...

Dear David, Under your stewardship, this site became (and will continue to be) a resource in all positive senses of the term.

I'm glad I got to participate as a reader and author. I'm sure I"m not to only one who wants to express how much the site helped me along, as I entered internet studies around 2001. It has remained a useful resource ever since, and the reviews I wrote for the site were some of the most enjoyable pieces of writing of these past few years.


Jeremy Korr said...

You led the way, David. Kudos for 14 good years.

David Brake said...

What Heroux said - RCCS is too useful to let die just because (understandably) you don't have time to do it any more. Maybe more than one person can take it over as a collective?

Unknown said...

Hi David
Thanks for you awesome effort all these years, for giving us a field to work, shaping it, defining its edges (often fuzzy) - its been a great trip, and many around the world have enjoyed the view, ride and stations.

Jonathan said...

Hey David,

Congrats on an excellent run and thanks so much for putting all the time and effort into making RCCS what it was, as well as for your other field-building exercises from that period. If nothing else, it's how we got to know each other!

It's true that there are too few outlets for good book reviews, and the format of RCCS was unique. I suppose that, as some other posters have suggested, you could treat it like an academic journal and find someone to take over from you. But it is also noble for a project to have a beginning, a middle and an end. The advantage of calling it quits now is that RCCS "goes out on top." Sure there are lots of promising grad students who would like to take it over, but without the option, the "graduate student David Silvers of today" aren't lured into continuing your vision from 15 years ago, and instead survey the lay of the land now and figure out What Must Be Done for themselves.


PS -- It looks like I'll be in the Bay Area (Stanford) for 9 months starting in September 2010, so I plan to come up and visit.

Mark Deuze said...

a huge THANKS from us over here at Indiana University as well, David - your work, the site and its reviews have always been a tremendous resource for all of us.

with many others, I hope we can find a way to keep the site alive. I'd be happy to help make this happen in any way you see fit.

Scott W. Campbell said...

An excellent run indeed ... thanks David!

- Scott Campbell

Unknown said...

It was very good to read this history, and to appreciate the ways in which RCCS is a marker of how far our field has come. Thank you, David, for your big contribution to making it happen! The archives will be a valuable resource into the future so your contribution continues. It is very understandable that the time for new creative endeavors has come after a decade+ -- I look forward to seeing/reading whatever you do next!

Bryan Alexander said...

David, what a terrific resource. I've used it from the start, and even contributed a few reviews.

Many, many thanks for your long years of work, which constitute a fine contribution to cyberculture studies.

Glen Worthey said...


Many thanks from a grateful and regular reader and productive user of many years of RCCS reviews.

It may serve as a minor comfort to your Bay Area readers (and, I hope, as a small token of gratitude to you) to know that the vast majority of RCCS-reviewed books live on as an actual, physical, book collection in a real bricks-and-mortar library (weird, huh? I know).

It's called the "Digital Culture and Humanities Computing Collection," in Green Library at Stanford, and I built it largely using RCCS for ideas. Come down and have a browse sometime! (The rest of the RCCS multitudes are of course welcome, too.)

I honestly don't know what I'm going to do with this now that you and RCCS are retiring, but I do hope you'll think of this collection as a lasting physical monument to your thoughtful and dedicated cyber efforts, and to those of your wonderful authors and reviewers.

Thank you, thank you, all.


Michel Menou said...

THANK YOU David for your hard work and unique contribution.
The news were a shock at first though one can sympathetize with your (assumed) need for change.
Like other commentators, I cross fingers for RCCS to be continued or emulated by a new team but continuing its innovative approach.
And of course best wishes for your future endeavours.

Michel Menou said...

THANK YOU David for your hard work and unique contribution.
The news were a shock at first though one can sympathetize with your (assumed) need for change.
Like other commentators, I cross fingers for RCCS to be continued or emulated by a new team but continuing its innovative approach.
And of course best wishes for your future endeavours.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your generosity David!

Patrick B. said...

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute and to read excellent reviews others contributed. Its been a nice community. Best of luck in your future endeavors!

Patrick B.

Richard Holeton said...


Selfishly I'll really miss RCCS, where I got many ideas for stuff to read and where I was pleased to participate as both reviewer and author for review. You leave a terrific legacy in the resource you have worked so hard to maintain. Thanks so much for that.

All the best,