Changes at INC, introducing ‘synthesis’, central INC email list

While we’re publishing a lot, here at the Institute of Network Cultures, trying to facilitate critical reflection on the corona crisis with diaries and essays from around the world, we’re also planning a restart of INC so that we’ll have space and resources for new urgent projects and research networks in this corona period/economic crisis.

As you may have noticed, we’ve just wrapped up our two-year publishing Making Public research project with Here and Now?

Digital publishing research (and output) will continue, as will the MoneyLab network that just got a board. The board can be rearched here: As MoneyLab #8 Ljubjana was cancelled because of the corona crisis it turned into a weekly online lecture series. The program you can find here.

However, with a considerable legacy of projects, networks, publications and a heavy website aka archive, we noticed that we had to spend more and more time just on the maintenance work. It became harder to start new things (also due to changes in the Dutch funding structures). Finally, we’re about to do something about this.

As a start, five mailinglists (MoneyLab, Video Vortex, re-search, Unlike Us and CPOV) have been discontinued and have been replaced by one INC list called synthesis (also responding to the widespread idea of email being a ‘dead medium’).

If you want, please subscribe here:

The synthesis list has three objectives:

1. To inform the wider net community about INC projects and activities.

2. To foster debates about net criticism, tactical media, hacktivism and research into critical network cultures from multiple perspectives such as design and the arts, activism and research.

3. To create links between different INC research fields that were previous running as different projects about online video, crypto currencies, search, social media, future of art criticism etc.

The name ‘synthesis’ expresses a desire to overcome different disciplines, fields and scenes in order to strengthen the critical forces in arts, tech and society.

Soon we will see what other new channels will work to debate, maintain communities, inform and support each other. Please approach us if you have ideas and suggestions, also for common projects, grants, publications, campaigns and other forms of poetry.

Keep on questioning, Geert and the INC team

Open Position: Digital Publishing Intern

For the further development of its publication strategy – combining digital and print publications with web-based content and other media – the Institute of Network Cultures is looking for an

intern with production and research skills, for an internship with our digital publishing team

Internship period: August 31st until December 18th, 2020 (0.8 fte/4 days a week).

The Institute of Network Cultures (INC) is a media research center that actively contributes to the field of network cultures through research, events, publications, and online dialogue. The INC was founded in 2004 by media theorist Geert Lovink as part of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam). The Institute of Network Cultures has a tradition of experiment in digital and hybrid publishing. On the front line of development in publishing, we explore the promises of the digital for the (cultural) publishing industry.

For more information, see:
For an overview of all INC publications, go to:
For previous work on this topic, check out our research programs Making Public, The Art of Criticism, and the Digital Publishing Toolkit, and see the PublishingLab, which INC has previously collaborated closely with:

In this internship, you will work on international publications in the field of online media in different formats (print, .pdf, .ePub), as well as blog series, longforms, and other digital-born formats. The internship offers both practical experience and a chance to conduct research in the field of hybrid and digital publishing.

This internship offers you the chance to:

  • produce .PDF- and .ePub-books from scratch, using the INC digital publishing workflow
  • update the website and blog, including the possibility to write contributions for the blog
  • identify possible authors, books, events to write about
  • assist with the production of new titles, both print and electronic, including editing manuscripts
  • learn how and why applied research in the field of digital publishing is conducted
  • think along for future possibilities and strategies for urgent publishing

You will be a part of a small team within a large institution. Other tasks within the team may include:

  • assisting with general office operations
  • attending meetings
  • collecting and reviewing interesting and relevant literature
  • being part of the crew at INC events

We are looking for an enthusiastic, energetic, inquisitive (former) student with knowledge of and a demonstrated interest in digital publishing. As the INC has an international scope, active English skills are required, in speaking and writing. In addition, you have strong writing and communication skills, and experience with social media management and web administration. You balance a desire to learn, take initiative and suggest better practices and take constructive feedback. A background in (graphic or interaction) design, art (history), cultural studies, or media studies is an advantage.

Monthly compensation: € 400 gross (0,8 fte)

For further information, you can contact or send a CV and motivation letter to the same email address before the 13th of June, 2020.

Natalia Stanusch: I Present You with Myself–On the Evolution of the Emoji

I Present You with Myself: Facebook Avatars and Apple Memoji, or a Brief Account of the Evolution of Emoji*

By Natalia Stanusch

While swiping through Facebook’s people you might know suggestion window, I got genuinely dazed. Among profile pictures of photographed faces, I saw a cartoonish face with exaggeratedly wide-opened eyes and mouth with chopper-like teeth. Her vein-less and wrinkle-less face was as texture-less as her licked brown hair. She was set against a plain purple background, suspended in digital nothingness. And yet when I read the name below the picture, I realized that I know her. This was my friend. This was also Facebook’s new feature – Facebook Avatar. Facebook introduced it gradually over the course of a year, but only after it conquered the US on May 15, it conquered the rest of the globe, with lots of news outlets writing about it (for example CNN, CNBC, TechRadar, and Adweek). But Facebook, which used to be attaching names to real faces, now gives users the option to present themselves as ‘personalized emoji.’ What should we make out of it?

With Covid-19 cozily sitting at our global table for the past few months, we collectively leaped into online communication. There is no better moment than now to think about how we simile, joke, laugh, and cry online, especially while we are doing it now more than ever. The short answer is: 🤣😄🙁 and

Without face-to-face bodily cues, emoji have been extensions of our sociality and personality online. Facebook Avatar, just like Apple memoji, is supposed to represent you in the virtual space and function like emoji which look just like you. What Apple memoji, Facebook Avatars, and their grandpa Bitmoji – let’s call them all personalized emoji for now – have in common is that they embody, upgrade, and extend what emoji offered: a real-time catalogue of ourselves, where we can pick and choose our emotions, looks, identities. We might think of them as silly. But they are not. Instead, they are becoming, more and more, us.

How did we get here? On the origins of 🤔💬📲

Emoji is a yellow smiley face that one chooses from an emoji keyboard on the smartphone. Emoji is one of the seven reactions Facebook offers. ‘Emoji’ is a borrowing from Japanese 絵文字, where ‘the e of emoji means “picture” and the moji stands for “letter, character.” So, the definition of emoji is, simply, a “picture-word”’.[1] The history of digital smileys goes back to the last decades of the twentieth century, but since its beginning it was artificially constructed by designers and engineers for communication companies. Apple initiated the emoji craze by introducing the emoji keyboard on their iOS devices back in 2011. By 2015, emoji were everywhere. Emoji fit perfectly into our communications style, our ‘hybrid writing’,[2] which mixes up written, audio, and visual messages into one digitalized flux. Emoji and personalized emoji both resemble what they send for (a sad face is a sad face) and replace specific words (sad is replaced by a sad face). However, emoji are not words. They are visualizations of emotions and feelings, something which is lost in the disembodied online presence. Emoji thrive as the quintessence of online communication, being digital substitutes for both body and emotion. Emoji take the self out of the conversation by replacing it with a menu of yellow faces.

Emoji and emotion

Can one genuinely choose 🙁 over 😄? To understand personalized emoji, we have to talk about emoji first. Up to 70 percent of our daily communication comes from non-verbal cues,[3] but online, once the screen is tapped, the message is lost. Emoji translate these non-verbal cues into the digital communication space. While emotions materialize in our facial expressions, the way in which they materialize is more classifiable than emotions themselves. Paul Ekman is considered one of the first psychologists who studied facial expressions as a code. By studying the so-called ‘micro-expressions – fleeting facial features’,[4] Ekman created an ‘atlas of emotions,’ with over ten thousand facial expressions, that is now used broadly by scientists, semioticians, and even the police. His goal was to identify the specific biological correlates of emotion and how they manifest themselves in the configuration of the parts of the face.[5]

His major findings indicated that emotions materialize in facial expressions in a similar manner across Western and Eastern cultures, with limited and predictable variations involved. Putting aside whether it is an outcome of inherited or learned behavior, emoji embody the facial materialization of emotions. Whatever the feeling is that you might feel, emoji visualizes it for both you and the person who’s reading it. So maybe emoji are actually a pretty genuine representation of ourselves?

If so, we are pretty happy people. In the past years, several studies implicated a relation between emoji use and users’ positive emotions. Emoji show playfulness,[6] up to 70% of emoji used express positive emotion,[7] and ‘the emoji code is used primarily to enhance the positive tone of an informal message’.[8] More recent research proved that rather than to praise the positivity of the smiley face, one should see it as a mask. Online, positive content and reactions are more likely to ‘receive reinforcement’[9] than their negative counterparts. To sum it up: you will not genuinely choose 🙁 over 😄, at least if you want to get likes and retweets.

For one thing, emoji and personalized emoji force the user to self-reflect when choosing them. You have to reflect upon how you feel and what emoji represents your feeling best at the moment. It is a receiver-oriented self-reflection, however. You don’t reflect upon your emotional state to understand it or fix it but to translate it so that it is understandable to other users. It is a mediated and artificial representation of invisible and immaterial emotions. One study suggests that over ‘72 per cent of British eighteen to twenty-five-year-olds believe that Emoji makes them better at expressing their feelings’.[10] But while face-to-face communication is involuntary and unconscious, emojis are voluntary and conscious. Emoji provide the user with the agency to choose emotions as if they were a catalogue of clearly-defined products, a menu of dishes that always taste the same. Emoji seem to create an obfuscated view of communication, where meaning is stable and visible, and each feeling can be directly named, each emotion classified, and each message delivered.

Emoji Corporation: Facebook and Unicode

Basically, emoji, memoji, Facebook Avatar, and Bitmoji, all look pretty much the same across different platforms and express the same emotions. Reason? Only a few companies create their own emoji, personalized emoji, and their design. The transition of emoji to the mainstream was possible mostly thanks to an organization called Unicode. Unicode establishes a universal code for emojis across all platforms. But Unicode itself is made up of big players: ‘Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo, with (…) the committee reps of these tech companies are overwhelmingly white, male, and computer engineers – hardly representative of the diversity exhibited by the global users of emojis’.[11] These companies not only decide how emoji look across different platforms and how they vary (famous case of a water gun on iOS devices showing as an actual gun for Android and Samsung users), but which emoji exist and which don’t. You can petition to Unicode to include a new emoji (for example, the dumpling emoji was ‘democratically’ added because of a single petition to Unicode), but the final decision is still taken by ‘technological authorities’.[12] While both emoji and personalized emoji are supposed to facilitate face-to-face cues online, your body and emotions have to first fit into Unicode’s emotion boxes.

Social media companies took major steps to show that they care to please the digital mortals. Only a few weeks ago, Facebook added a new reaction option, or rather a new emoji reaction, called Care. The yellow smiley holding a heart is a cute gesture but is not that much help in the time of a global pandemic. Some memes quickly pointed that out.

(translation: I knew that you were very concerned with the pandemic, so I prepared for you a hugging reaction. Oh, Vishnu! All our problems resolved! We have a hug!)

But Facebook, similarly to other companies, does it for a clear purpose: these emoji reactions ‘comprise a simpler classification than the thousands of emoji’.[13] Despite the popular phrase that ‘data is the new oil,’ a growing problem is a flood of data most corporations begin to experience. The amount of data collected is meaningless for algorithms which are not able to analyze it efficiently. Emoji are easier to classify by algorithms, and are incomparably simpler and more limited than any language. David Auerbach, a former Microsoft and Google software engineer, explains Facebook’s decision behind employing emoji reactions as follows,

“Those classifications permit Facebook to match users’ sentiments with similarly classified articles or try to cheer them up if they’re sad or angry. If reactions to an article are split, Facebook can build subcategories like “funny-heartwarming” and “heartwarming-surprising.” It can track which users react more with anger or laughter and then predict what kinds of content they’ll tend to respond to in the future. (…) If the restricted set of six reactions has the effect of narrowing emotional diversity, social media and advertising companies view this trade-off as the necessary cost of gathering better data on users.”[14]

Personalized emoji are just another step in this ongoing simplification of us for the sake of algorithms. But Emoji as ‘emotion visuals’ are no longer enough. We have to be given new features to keep up the digital hype. Despite the boredom factor, emoji are more than just clues: they represent us. And we want to be represented more and more accurately, and this is where personalized emoji come in. As Jeremy Burge, an emoji historian and the founder of Emojipedia, explained,

“Increased representation on our personal devices is important, and companies have recognized this by offering alternatives to the Unicode emoji set in recent years. Apple has Memoji, Samsung has AR Emoji, and Google has Minis, which all allow far more customization of individual people than Unicode could ever offer. (…)  they do fill a role that Unicode may never be able to.”[15]

Me, my, mine: memoji

Recently, Apple has been promoting an online Worldwide Developer Conference on their website. Knowing Apple, one would expect highly saturated images of cool-looking people embodying the idea of powerful individuals with MacBooks on their lap. But not this time. Their promo image depicts three figures emerging from the black background: three memoji. They are looking at their virtual MacBooks, and are just as colorful and individualized as actual Apple people would be. Cool design, you can say, and I would agree, but there is much more behind this image than solely its design. Apple is substituting real people with their virtual memoji/avatars/personalized emoji. This design shows the confidence that viewers will understand that memoji are not cartoonish characters, but real, professional, and cool people. These people are online, hence the looks. You want to be as cool as they are? You better get your memoji ready.

While most of us might use personalized emoji because they are ‘fun,’ or to be ‘cool,’ those who design them take it seriously. Apple and Facebook take one step at the time in familiarizing millions of users worldwide to the idea of personalized emoji; it took them six years to arrive at the point where my friends start to replace their profile pictures and comment with their Facebook Avatars, while others WhatsApp me with their memoji. Since my friend changed her Facebook profile picture to her Facebook Avatar, is it still a picture of her? Apple would say yes. I don’t think the answer should seem so obvious.

The 0-1 mask

The idea of an avatar has long been present online. In gaming, one chooses how to “represent oneself during the ensuing social interactions”[16] in the game. Online games provide the opportunity to “graphically represent oneself”,[17] but this representation has nothing to do with one’s physical appearance. Sure, I can choose to have brown eyes like in the real life, but I can choose anything else too, just like I choose to have a sunflower as my WhatsApp profile picture it. I decide on what will be my embodiment in an image as if I was creating a logo that represents me but not my physical looks. But now, there’s memoji. While personalized emoji are your digital (physically-based?) representation, they are used in seemingly daily, ‘real’ conversations.

A virtual world of a game feels way less real than Facebook. Since Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and iMessages took over our sociality from the physical world, it is still real sociality, with real issues rather than virtual quests, fights, and deaths. The problem with memoji and Facebook Avatars is that they assume that either the digital can fully replace the physical with no loss whatsoever, or that digital is indeed the only real realm there is. How I look physically does not matter, what I do physically does not matter, what I feel physically does not matter, but what my memoji is doing does matter, because that’s what others see. To be socially accepted, to be authentic, to express oneself, one enters the highly controlled and standardized system of personalized emoji, provided and controlled by a few powerful who, as stated before, care little or less about real-life implications of their inventions.

You can say that one’s avatar – memoji, for example – cannot replace one’s physical self. But psychologically speaking, one study points out that the more you use the avatar in the game, the more you feel like it was you; ‘in high-use situations, users’ neural activation patterns indicating an emotional connection with their avatars have been measured as roughly equal to the neural patterns indicating an emotional connection with their biological selves’.[18] Think which one you would use more frequently and more emotionally: an avatar-character in a game or a personalized emoji in texts on Messenger, Facebook comments, etc., on daily bases, hour after hour, week after week. As one more and more uses the mask of personalized emoji, one becomes the mask.

My digital ‘I’

Emoji design our emotion just as memoji design our self. Each design element impacts us, mostly without ‘conscious intention or awareness’,[19] such as color. Research proved that color is ‘a dominant visual feature affecting consumer perceptions and behaviors’.[20] Already in 1942, it has been proposed that colors such as yellow – the color of emoji – are ‘naturally experienced as stimulating and disagreeable, that these colors focus people on the outward environment, and that they produce forceful, expansive behavior’.[21] Recent research claims that ‘we alter our facial expressions to match the emotivity of the emoji. Without knowing, we end up mimicking the emoji expression’[22] or even that ‘emoji might indeed play a role in shaping cognition and possibly consciousness.’[23] Still, there is little or less research done on how emoji and memoji influence our self-perception.

Think of the 2009 film Surrogates, where a part of society remotely controls humanoid robots, which are their avatars through which they interact with others. Some reject this concept, resulting in a break with the society: ‘the enhanced separate themselves from the unenhanced, left to fend for themselves in poverty’,[24] yet for humans, as ‘embodied beings, something is missing from disembodied experience’.[25] While both emoji and memoji provide digital materialization of oneself, the cliché that by this avatar-enhancement, we ‘are missing something deeply human’.[26] should not be taken for granted.

We enter a new digital ground where design covers much more than just data harvesting and software. Memoji, and any of its lookalikes, is an unprecedented mix of digitalized techne and psyche. Who are we in it? Rather than talk data, we should talk human. What are the consequences of substituting oneself with personalized emoji? What are its implications for the continuous human-tech merge? How might it intrinsically change the notion of sociality, emotions, communication, and human? Should I paste here my friend’s Facebook Avatar/memoji, or should I see it as a picture of her which is inherently and only hers to use, publish, and show? Who owns your personalized emoji legally speaking? Can anyone use it after you die? You can become this digital doll though. Embrace your personalized emoji: your digital you. There’s no way back, right? It’s pretty, it’s fun, it’s free, it’s equal for me and you: it’s precisely everything that the real world isn’t. But, at some point, you will have to face your real, physical face.


Natalia Stanusch studies Communications and Art History at John Cabot University, Rome. Her research interests include the visual fusion of digital and physical, the intersection of new media arts and social media and issues related to digital images. She is the creator of where she questions recent developments from the crossroad of new media arts and digitalization. She’s been also involved in several projects in the past years, for example as a co-author of “Kid-Directed Family Vacation Planning: Using Ideas from Creative Kids Around the World” (2016) and was an editorial assistant for “The Social Issue in Contemporary Society: Relations Between Companies, Public Administrations and People” (2019).


* This text was inspired by a research paper presented at Professor Donatella Della Ratta’s course CMS 365 ‘Selfies and Beyond: Exploring Networked Identities,’ John Cabot University, Spring 2020.

[1] Marcel Danesi, The Semiotics of Emoji, London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2017, pp. 2.

[2] Danesi, The Semiotics of Emoji, pp. 5.

[3] Vyvyan Evans, The Emoji Code: How Smiley Faces, Love Hearts and Thumbs Up are Changing the Way We Communicate, London: Michael Omara Books Limited, 2017, pp. 78.

[4] Vyvyan Evans, The Emoji Code, pp. 75.

[5] Danesi, The Semiotics of Emoji, pp. 62.

[6] Dwi Noverini Djenar, Michael C. Ewing and Howard Manns, ‘Youth and language play,’ in Dwi Noverini Djenar, Michael C. Ewing and Howard Manns, Style and Intersubjectivity in Youth Interaction, Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018, pp. 193-230.

[7] Danesi, The Semiotics of Emoji, pp. 22.

[8] Petra Kralj Novak, Jasmina Smailović, Borut Sluban, and Igor Mozetič, ‘Sentiment of Emojis,’ PLoS ONE 10.12 (2015), doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0144296.

[9] Chiara Rollero, Adriano Daniele, and Stefano Tartaglia, ‘Do men post and women view? The role of gender, personality and emotions in online social activity,’ Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 13.1 (2019),

[10] Evans, The Emoji Code, pp. 26.

[11] Evans, The Emoji Code, pp. 23.

[12] Danesi, The Semiotics of Emoji, pp. 47.

[13] David Auerbach, ‘How Facebook Has Flattened Human Communication,’ Medium, 28 August 2019,

[14] Auerbach, ‘How Facebook Has Flattened Human Communication.’

[15] Jeremy Burge, ‘New Emojis Are Here. We’re Not Ready,’ Medium, 12 November 2018,

[16] James K. Scarborough and Jeremy N. Bailenson, ‘Avatar Psychology’, in Mark Grimshaw, The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 2. Available at: doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199826162.013.033.

[17] Deborah Abdel Nabi and John P. Charlton, ‘The Psychology of Addiction to Virtual Environments,’ in Mark Grimshaw, The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 6. Available at: doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199826162.013.022.

[18] Scarborough and Bailenson, ‘Avatar Psychology’, p. 5.

[19] Andrew J. Elliot and Markus A. Maier, ‘Color and Psychological Functioning,’ Current Directions in Psychological Science 16.5 (2007): 251,

[20] Ioannis Kareklas, Frédéric F. Brunel and Robin A. Coulter, ‘Judgment is not color blind: The impact of automatic color preference on product and advertising preferences,’ Journal of Consumer Psychology, 24.1 (2014): 88, doi:10.2307/2661798h.

[21] Andrew J. Elliot and Markus A. Maier, ‘Color and Psychological Functioning,’ pp. 250.

[22] Danesi, The Semiotics of Emoji, pp. 172.

[23] Danesi, The Semiotics of Emoji, pp. 172.

[24] Dónal P. O’Mathúna, ‘Movies,’ in “Movies.” In Robert Ranisch and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner (eds) Post- and Transhumanism: An Introduction, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014, pp. 294.

[25] Dónal P. O’Mathúna‘Movies,’ pp. 294.

[26] Dónal P. O’Mathúna‘Movies,’ pp. 294.


Auerbach, David. ‘How Facebook Has Flattened Human Communication,’ Medium, 28 August 2019,

Burge, Jeremy. ‘New Emojis Are Here. We’re Not Ready,’ Medium, 12 November 2018,

Danesi, Marcel. The Semiotics of Emoji, London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2017.

Djenar, Dwi Noverini, Ewing, Michael C., and Manns, Howard. ‘Youth and language play,’ in Dwi Noverini Djenar, Michael C. Ewing and Howard Manns, Style and Intersubjectivity in Youth Interaction, Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018, pp. 193-230.

Elliot, Andrew J. and Maier, Markus A. ‘Color and Psychological Functioning,’ Current Directions in Psychological Science 16.5 (2007): 250-254,

Evans, Vyvyan. The Emoji Code: How Smiley Faces, Love Hearts and Thumbs Up are Changing the Way We Communicate, London: Michael Omara Books Limited, 2017.

Kareklas, Ioannis, Brunel, Frédéric F. and Coulter, Robin A. ‘Judgment is not color blind: The impact of automatic color preference on product and advertising preferences,’ Journal of Consumer Psychology, 24.1 (2014): 87-95, doi:10.2307/2661798h.

Nabi, Deborah Abdel and Charlton, John P. ‘The Psychology of Addiction to Virtual Environments,’ in Mark Grimshaw, The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199826162.013.022.

Novak, Petra Kralj, Smailović, Jasmina, Sluban, Borut, and Mozetič, Igor. ‘Sentiment of Emojis,’ PLoS ONE 10.12 (2015). doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0144296.

O’Mathúna, Dónal P. ‘Movies,’ in “Movies.” In Robert Ranisch and Stefan Lorenz Sorgner (eds) Post- and Transhumanism: An Introduction, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014, pp. 287-298.

Rollero, Chiara, Daniele, Adriano, and Tartaglia, Stefano. ‘Do men post and women view? The role of gender, personality and emotions in online social activity,’ Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 13.1 (2019).

Scarborough, James K. and Bailenson, Jeremy N. ‘Avatar Psychology’, in Mark Grimshaw, The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199826162.013.033.

Frontiers 2020: a third of journals increase prices by 45 times the inflation rate

A third of the journals published by Frontiers in 2019 and 2020 (20 / 61 journals) have increased in price by 18% or more (up to 55%). This is quite a contrast with the .4% Swiss inflation rate for 2019 according to ; 18% is 45 times the inflation rate. This is an even more marked contrast with the current and anticipated economic impact of COVID; according to Le News, “A team of economic experts working for the Swiss government forecasts a 6.7% fall in GDP”. (Frontiers’ headquarters is in Switzerland).

This is similar to our 2019 finding that 40% of Frontier’s journals had increased in price by 18% or more (Pashaei & Morrison, 2019) and our 2018 finding that 40% of Frontier journals had increased in price by 18% – 31% (Morrison, 2018).

The price increases are on top of already high prices. For example, Frontiers in Earth Science increased from 1,900 USD to 2,950 USD, a 55% price increase. Frontiers in Oncology increased from 2,490 to 2,950 USD, an 18% price increase.

This illustrates an inelastic market. Payers of these fees are largely government research funders, either directly or indirectly through university libraries or researchers’ own funds. The payers are experiencing a major downturn and significant challenges such as lab closures, working from home in lockdown conditions, and additional costs to accommodate public health measures, while Frontiers clearly expects ever-increasing revenue and profit.

Following is a list of Frontier journals with price increases. All pricing is in USD.

Journal title 2020 APC 2019 APC 2020 – 2019 price change (numeric) 2020 – 2019 price change (percent)
Frontiers in Earth Science 2,950 1,900 1,050 55%
Frontiers in Veterinary Science 2,950 1,900 1,050 55%
Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine 2,490 1,900 590 31%
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 2,490 1,900 590 31%
Frontiers in Energy Research 2,490 1,900 590 31%
Frontiers in Environmental Science 2,490 1,900 590 31%
Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences 2,490 1,900 590 31%
Frontiers in Nutrition 2,490 1,900 590 31%
Frontiers in Physics 2,490 1,900 590 31%
Frontiers in Surgery 2,490 1,900 590 31%
Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence 1,150 950 200 21%
Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 2,950 2,490 460 18%
Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology 2,950 2,490 460 18%
Frontiers in Chemistry 2,950 2,490 460 18%
Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 2,950 2,490 460 18%
Frontiers in Marine Science 2,950 2,490 460 18%
Frontiers in Materials 2,950 2,490 460 18%
Frontiers in Oncology 2,950 2,490 460 18%
Frontiers in Pediatrics 2,950 2,490 460 18%
Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 2,950 2,490 460 18%

The full spreadsheet can be found here:



Morrison, H. (2018). Frontiers: 40% journals have APC increases of 18 – 31% from 2017 to 2018. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from

Pashaei, H., & Morrison, H. (2019). Frontiers in 2019: 3% increase in average APC. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from

Cite as:  Morrison, H. (2020). Frontiers 2020: a third of journals increase prices by 45 times the inflation rate. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs :

Anonymize Your Online Footprint-Info Security for Direct Action

Internet-related tips for protesters (document in development here)

Whether you are protesting in person or working in digital spaces (or both) covering your browsing habits, metadata, and search histories is important. These can be ordered as evidence, or can expose others even months or years later. Even without a court order or direct governmental surveillance, your data history can be bought from aggregate services, both legally and illegally.

On the internet, you are tracked. You are tracked everywhere you go, whether by your ISP, advertisers, cookies, or the site itself. This will be your IP address (a unique identification number per network), where in the world you roughly are, other places you have been on the internet, and often what social media accounts you hold. Even just the browser you use can tell someone who you are because of the ‘headers’ your computer sends, called a Browser Fingerprint. Because there are only so many combinations of hardware and software, you may have a unique “fingerprint” simply because your computer’s particular combination is rare. See:

Personal privacy on the internet has been eroded from all sides, including advertisement and commerce, weak government protections, hacked databases, products and services which leak your information (via selling it or accidentally and ambiently). But also, the internet was never really made to be anonymous. It takes work anonymize your information.



On phones / other smart devices:
Turn off your phone or leave it at home
Police can track phones through cell towers – this can confirm your presence or identify you later
Messages can also be intercepted by “stingrays”, which pose as cell powers ->
If you use Android, leave it at home – they have a history of being hacked by police- >
If you have an old/spare/burner phone, consider bringing that instead- even without a sim card, having an empty phone that can connect to wifi and bluetooth might be helpful.
If you do bring your phone
Think about what you have stored on it and if it could put you or anyone else at risk. Delete contacts and messages as needed.
Back up your data, in case it is lost.
Set a difficult passcode
NOT face or thumb Id, not a year or all one number in a row
Turn off home screen notifications – don’t let anything show without unlocking your phone.
Set your phone to go to lock screen extremely quickly
Turn on airplane mode, which will keep your phone from broadcasting.
Make sure that Airdrop isn’t on.
If you lose your device or it is confiscated:
Revoke access & log out of applications remotely
Changing your password to accounts can sometimes force a log-out
Or you can do it manually per account- search “<service name> revoke access for devices”
Use Signal or other encrypted messaging systems to communicate
Police can still surveil metadata (when you’re sending messages to, when) but not the actual contents of an encrypted message
TURN OFF LOCATION SERVICES!! This will keep you from attaching GPS coordinates to photos.
iphone ->
android ->

On taking photographs:
Photographs can be extremely useful, but:
Take photos without unlocking your phone
Do not take pictures of anyone that could be identifiable
If you capture a person in a photo, BLUR OR BLOCK THEM OUT
After you take pictures, screenshot them to remove exif data
Exif data stores information on the image such as shutter speed, if a flash was used, date and time, and GPS information. See- >
This can be evidence – don’t post something directly, but screenshot the image so that information is overwritten.
After you screenshot the photograph, delete the original.
IF YOU POST PHOTOS/INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET, know that this is saying that you were there. Never tag anyone else without their express consent or discuss private plans in a publicly visible space.

On keeping yourself from being identified:
Wear a bandana/mask, sunglasses, and cover any identifying features, especially tattoos.
Don’t wear clothes that have identifiable logos on them, or that are unique. Stick to solid colors, or all-black.
Don’t buy stuff, and if you do use cash! Credit cards / digital payments are immediately traceable.
Bring a change of clothes for after the protest, or if you have to get away quickly.
Bike or walk if you are able – License plate readers may be in use.
Regarding CV Dazzle ( this is cute and cyberpunk and folks like to share it, but it is not as effective as just blocking your face. AI gets better every day, and if you’re still identifiable to a human you’re still at risk. If anything, colorful facepaint might might you more identifiable.



If you’re doing research or online activities that shouldn’t be tracked to you, here are some ways to cover yourself, ordered roughly from least to most difficult/serious.

Use Firefox –
Firefox just got a recent upgrade with increased tracking blocking and other data protections, especially over Chrome.
Don’t install plug-ins you don’t trust, but do install plug-ins that help keep your data safe –
No software without a privacy statement that you believe –
Even stuff you download to your computer that isn’t online can send information
No Dropbox
They are a very anti-privacy company. Use for filesharing.
No Googling things, use DuckDuckGo
Use Incognito mode
Not honestly a solution, but confuses some tracking.
Burner accounts
Always make a new email with no info for new accounts.
Use a fake name
This is legal and you should do it to avoid having your information data mined across services.
Turn off location sharing on your computer –
Never pay with a credit card, use a third party like Paypal, or cash or bitcoins are better
Delete cookies and browsing history a lot.
Turn off Javascript – this is a bummer but really helpful,
Use the Tor Browser
Tor browser – >
Tor makes your traffic semi-anonymous by routing through nodes around the world.
This is how you access the darkweb but you don’t have to go to darknet sites, just use Tor for regular browsing.
There are also other browsers/systems, like Freenet and I2P.
Use a Proxy or a VPN (or both)
A Proxy hides your IP address makes it look like you’re somewhere else, but don’t encrypt your data. Good for lowstakes things.
A VPN also makes your IP looks like it is coming from somewhere else, but is significantly more secure.
More-> What is the difference between a VPN and a Proxy?
Some Proxys:
You can read more about VPNs and pick one out here:
Expect to pay for a good VPN, though some have free versions.
You need to make sure your VPN has had a public audit to ensure that it has no logs, aka no record of what you have used their internet connection for.
Use Proxygambit –
Use an anonymizing OS-
A virtual machine that resets on boot, running on (secure) portable media. You want an encrypted key with Tails or ZeusGuard, or even Windows To Go. Assign a random DHCP address on start. Iron key is a good place to start – >

Once you’re all set up, check against DNS leaks –


And need to button up your online presence in case of identify theft/ hacking/ harassment/ threats/ etc (thanks @somenerdliam from Twitter for some of these links):

Search your old emails
Go through each email you can think of that you’ve used
You’ll need access to them so that you can access other websites you may have signed up to using them.

Delete accounts from forgotten services
Use the search function for each email account and look for “Sign up”, “Welcome”, etc.
Recover and log in to each service.
Purge any content and messages, as the account may be archived even after its ideleted.
Make a note of your username, password, the service, and email used
Delete the account.
If you can’t find where, search “delete account” + “<service>”. You may have to email support.
If you remember being on other sites, go to those sites and enter all your old emails in the recover password box.

Check if your information is already public
Now that you have a list of usernames, emails, and services, see if these are part of a data breach anywhere
Search on Duckduckgo/Google/other search engine for your email and account names.
You will potentially find pastebin links or databases with leaked information. Note what usernames and passwords show up.
Many databases are not indexed by search engines: use to check when and what is public.
If anything shows up, this is the first priority to change or delete!

Remove old information from Google
Even if you delete old accounts, there is cached information about them.
Use the Google Console to request them to delete/update their search engine (which usually takes months organically) to remove those cached results. You have to provide a link to each.

Don’t let Google track you
Here is where you can go through each of Google’s services. Turn them off for every account you have.
You can see (and scrub) your old activity here:
You can report content for legal removal here:

For every service you use, strip down privacy settings to the core.
What is possible will change service to service – it is safer to not have an account, but be sure to change your settings where possible.
Facebook is particularly bad, but if you do want to use Facebook make sure all of your information is set to private so people can’t access photos and information about you.

Delete old emails
After you’ve gone through your old emails for signups, etc, you should delete them.
This is not for stuff you will need in the future, but for personal information that could be used against you or embarrass you.
If you think you might need these emails, make sure to change your security questions and password.

Secure account practices
Change all your passwords regularly, at least a few times a year.
New databases are sold or leaks happen daily.
Never use the same password, passwords that are similar to each other, or personal information in your passwords.
Its easy to guess where an underscore or 0 might go to edit a password. There are even programs that run through password permutations automatically.

Delete your old content regularly
Delete tweets and old photos. If you are a personal target, this information might be studied intensely.
Be careful of posting about your social circle and folks who are physically near you. Even if you have tight data practices, your neighbor might not- and if a hacker knows they are your neighbor, they also know where you live.


More links –


I’m not an expert – if you have additions or corrections, @ this thread on twitter:

Images et réceptions croisées entre l’Algérie et la France

Sous la direction de Hanane El Bachir et Pascal Laborderie

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Né d’un projet de recherche multidisciplinaire, ce livre s’intéresse à la manière dont les publics méditerranéens, en particulier en Algérie et en France, reçoivent et utilisent des images médiatiques, qu’elles soient prétexte à polémique ou favorisent les échanges. Les études proposées analysent ainsi la réception de productions variées (bande dessinée, dessin d’actualité, film, web film) dans des contextes divers (école, université, festival, cinéma, télévision, presse écrite, web news, réseaux sociaux). Elles éclairent la manière dont ces publics construisent leur identité culturelle et se représentent les rapports Nord-Sud au travers de six thèmes : les conflits, les formes récentes d’esclavagisme, les migrations, les langues, les rapports femmes-hommes ainsi que le rôle des associations et des institutions publiques dans la coopération et les échanges interculturels entre la France et l’Afrique du Nord.

ISBN version imprimée : 978-2-924661-83-3
ISBN ePub : 978-2-924661-84-0

206 pages
Couverture réalisée par Kate McDonnell, photos des auteurs et autrices
Date de publication : mai 2020

Table des matières



1. Étude comparative de la réception d’une bande dessinée chez des étudiant-e-s d’Algérie et de France

2. La réception des caricatures traitant de l’esclavage en Libye dans les réseaux sociaux et la presse électronique maghrébine

3. Web films et réceptions : l’arabe est-il la langue du paradis ?

4. Cinéma, colonialisme et anticolonialisme dans les revues de ciné-clubs confessionnelles ou laïques en France dans l’après Seconde Guerre mondiale

5. Échange des flux d’information entre les deux rives du bassin méditerranéen

6. De la distribution commerciale dans la valorisation des films tunisiens en Tunisie et en Europe : regards croisés

7. Bejaia Doc : co-construction d’un regard documentaire sur l’Algérie d’aujourd’hui

8. Les films associatifs autobiographiques des migrant-e-s et l’espace de réception des foyers parisiens

9. La COPEAM et la promotion de la parité femmes-hommes dans le secteur audiovisuel du bassin méditerranéen

10. Les étudiant-e-s de l’Université de M’sila regardent La Bataille d’Alger

Autrices et auteurs

Annexes : Comité scientifique, traductions, remerciements et sources

À propos des Éditions science et bien commun

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Pandemic and Subversion-Dialogue with Federico Zappino

The Exception of the Minorities: Pandemic and Subversion

A Dialogue with Federico Zappino by Lorenzo Petrachi

Federico Zappino is philosopher, translator and queer activist. He translated into Italian work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Judith Butler and Monique Wittig. Among his recent works are Il genere tra neoliberismo e neofondamentalismo (Gender Between Neoliberalism and Neofundamentalism, ed. 2016) and Comunismo queer. Note per una sovversione dell’eterosessualità (Queer Communism. Notes toward a Subversion of Heterosexuality, 2019).

Lorenzo Petrachi is co-founder of the research group Dalla Ridda, in Bologna.

The interview appeared first in Italian OperaViva Magazine, April the 2nd 2020 and was translated by Eleonora Stacchiotti.

OHO group (Nasko Kriznar), Red Snow, 1969, 8 mm film, silent, colour film, 2’40”, Marinko Sudac Collection.

Lorenzo Petrachi: Almost two months after the declaration of the state of emergency, the measures that have been taken against the spread of Covid-19 are widening the gap that merges and separates two inherently different sets of signs. On the one hand, there are practices of control and domination that address the problem by holding the individuals responsible, for instance, as with the increasing attitude towards blaming the others, authoritarianism and militarisation – which engender forms of slanderous psychosis. On the other hand, the exasperation of inequalities, the healthcare crisis and the fear for the coming bailout of the failing real economy are making tangible the variety of forms of solidarity and struggle, movements that emphasize interdependency over individualism. The pandemic definitely brought about a radical call as regards the question of our existence, especially by doubting the rationalities informing the government of the individuals and, more fundamentally, of the emerging entanglement of people and objects.

These organized practices with their particular subjects have proven to be unable to respond coherently to an adventitious, global problem and are on the verge of an inescapable transformation, although very uncertain in its nature. During one of the most recent mobilisations against neoliberalism in Santiago de Chile, a light installation on a building claimed No volveremos a la normalidad porqué la normalidad era el problema. In these recent days, a growing number of people are sharing this slogan on their social accounts, with a clear reference to the current crisis. Nevertheless, the current crisis is unprecedented for a number of reasons and this is why it is still not clear how this is going to turn out. It is still not clear how the joyful colors of (the more and more realistic) utopia are going to blend with the dull grey of the continuously extended state of exception. Are we then so sure that the “normal”, in these peculiar times, is our enemy?

Federico Zappino: I do not think I can be counted among the defenders of ‘normality’, because this term refers to the white, capitalist, hetero-patriarchal order established on the principles of environmental degradation, of violence and of institutionalized politics of inequality towards women, sexual and gender minorities, poor people, non-white people, people with disabilities and non-human beings. This is what the ‘normal’ actually looks like. Whoever takes part to a politicized minority perfectly knows that the ‘normal’ is the main problem. And those who are still willing to be included – without fighting for the subversion of it – are witnesses of the enormous fascination that the realm of normal has even on those who are oppressed. For this reason, I agree to the spirit of the light installation realized by the Chilean artistic collective Delight Lab, and I completely understand the reason why so many people borrow and make use of such a slogan in these melancholic, uncertain and endless days of collective grief.

However, we can first observe that there is a difference between a crisis induced by a political conflict waged by social movements in the order of “normality”, to which the Chilean slogan refers, and an epidemiological crisis. The current crisis is induced by a pandemic that has plummeted on a global society rather demobilized by the decennial crossfire of neoliberal and neo-fundamentalist policies (institution of the self-entrepreneur subject, dismantling or privatization of public and social services, restoration of the heterosexual family as a form of natural welfare), and which is politically managed through the establishment of a state of exception which – at least from what we can experience in Italy – replaces day by day pieces of ‘normality’ with increasing forms of coercive ‘social distancing’, disciplining, individual blaming, authoritarianism, even with the deployment of military means and practices.

The ‘normal’ that is being replaced by the state of emergency does not correspond with the white, hetero-patriarchal and capitalist order – that is, on the contrary, reinforced by the crisis. The state of exception is replacing the “public”. And while the State-Capital-Heterosexual Family tryptic gains centrestage, the exceptional decrees show us how public space is precisely the precondition for the exercise – albeit unequal, and violently repressed if exercised by minorities – of all those freedoms such as walking, moving, gathering, expressing themselves, protesting, mourning a loss. Of all those freedoms, namely, which have meaning only in their collective and public exercise, and which fail when their condition of possibility fails.

To avoid any misunderstanding, what is at issue here is not whether the state of exception is justified by the need to stop the spread of the virus, whose causes, figures and territorial impact require further detailed analysis. What is a cause of concern now is that even now that health workers and all the workers in the production chains deemed “essential” are denouncing the shortage of protective gear and the lack of the medical resources to face the pandemic, the state shows that it wants to “defend society” by investing in population control devices such as drones, geo-location or monitoring of telephone cells, encouraging the population to relate those who break the rules of what is called “social distancing”, and much more. It would be irresponsible to consider these dark sides of the problem as relatively important, because they are evidently interconnected with the less dangerous aspects of this lockdown.

Lorenzo Petrachi: For instance, some argue that we are called to reflect on the traumatic desolation of the present in order to produce the inner feeling of existential crisis that will not be forgotten once the pandemic is over. Others insist that the pandemic is giving us the “chance” to witness first-hand the precariousness and the vulnerability of human life as the other side of the coin of the hegemonic vision of a subjectivity defined by sovereignty, ownership and entrepreneurial attitude.

Federico Zappino: I am not sure if I completely disagree with what you just mentioned. I believe that dwelling on loss, collectively lingering in mourning, rather than indulging the imperative of removal and restart at any cost, as if death had no effect on those who survive, can be not only transformative for the rethinking of the meaning of a community itself, but necessary. The point is that the labor of mourning does not need to suspend political criticism, as many, animated by dangerous forms of compassionate humanitarianism, suggest. On the contrary: if there was one thing that minorities learned from the HIV pandemic between the 1980s and 1990s, it is that the way to honor the many deaths was to politicize their causes, and to “ideologize” in order to subvert them. It was precisely in that context that queer criticism took shape, for example.

I think this has to do with the fact that, as minorities,  we know that life is vulnerable and precarious regardless of the pandemic: the likelihood that our life is taken away prematurely is a consequence of the marginal position we have in society. If we extend this assumption, we can understand that any form of vulnerability, including those induced by the pandemic, have never happened on an abstract level, but usually occur in specific social conditions. Hence, insisting on the vulnerability and precariousness of (non-)human life only makes sense in relation to the fact that an epidemic is such also, and perhaps above all, in relation to the sanitary means and structures that such a situation requires – or on the contrary, the absence of such means and structures. The heavier the cuts in medical resources, the more authoritarian the emergency measures. This must be made clear. If then we can also grasp the eugenic subtext underlying this connection (in Italy there are a few thousand beds in intensive care for a population of sixty million inhabitants), we can easily understand how it makes no sense to understand as two distinct things ‘governmental’ power and ‘sovereign’ power of life and death over the population.

There would be no need to threaten the application of eugenic criteria for access to limited places in intensive care if these places were not limited, and if their number was proportionate in an egalitarian sense to the idea that the population, in its complex, it is vulnerable. What constitutes an insult to vulnerability is the neoliberal brutalization of public health resources and structures. Clearly, this cannot only be reduced to a critique of what has been done so far by the political classes that have facilitated neoliberal measures, but must be turned to a present demand for a radically different future: we must no longer listen, not even by mistake, that some subjects “deserve” more than others access to medical treatments. This “value”, I fear, has to do with their productive and reproductive capacity of species and whiteness, and which, therefore, ratifies and consolidates the differential value accorded to people in line with principles like gender, race, age and psychic and physical ability. A materialistic and egalitarian commitment to vulnerability requires us not to accept death – or the need to choose who deserves to live – as a tragic fatality.

Lorenzo Petrachi: The connection that you make between the healthcare crisis – that has to do of course with the public financial cuts – and the growing authoritarianism of the governmental measures is fundamental in various ways. Pointing at this specific interdependence allows us to become aware of the difference between a disciplinary society and ours, by avoiding easy associations between the condemnation of violence of the state and the latter’s irrationality. What we are highlighting here is not the excessive suspension of the exercise of fundamental freedoms, but the modes of operation of a number of governmental rationalities working together. Your analysis also reworks the concept of “normal” that, similarly to “power”, results to be less monolithic than what it seems to be at first glance.

Federico Zappino: My idea is that only emphasizing the multiplicity of rationalities of government we can protect ourselves from the risk of channeling our critical and political attention in one-way ways, as it happened too often on the sidelines of the issuing of emergency decrees. This is no time for binary oppositions. No fans needed. We collectively need to keep a watchful eye on a number of elements like the legitimacy of exceptional measures, the pandemic-induced reshaping of the relationship between capital and labor, the instrumental function of authoritarianism to the neoliberal decimation of public health resources, or the eugenic drifts that threaten, in an unacceptable way, to preside over the distribution of these scarce resources.

Moreover, we need to be aware of the strengthening of nationalisms, induced by the fact that health systems are national and that, in the absence of global and common forms of health organization (as Judith Butler seems to suggest), any vaguely cosmopolitan idea fails at the first pandemic, as evidenced by the closure of all borders. We must be aware of the discursive and mediatic invisibilization of homeless, migrant, disabled and queer populations. Finally, it is of vital importance to acknowledge the hegemony of the heterosexual family and the re-naturalization of the exploitation of work and the violence based on gender that are given within it.

At the same time, I believe that it is fundamental to emphasize that there is no reason not to go back to “normal” if we understand the normal as the restoration of the public space. I believe that minorities should not be taught that public space is constituted and torn by power relations: yet it remains the only space for social and political transformation. Therefore, going back to “normal” is necessary. We need to go back to “normal” to enable the meeting of bodies, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, social conflict, forms of solidarity that fall outside the capitalistic monopoly of digital platforms. Having the possibility of gathering with other people in the public space to demonstrate, to protest, to mourn – also in the name of those who cannot do it, so to go against such an impossibility: aren’t these forms of the “normal”? The point, if anything, is to start immediately to understand what needs to be done once we have returned, and net of what we will find there, certainly not by our choice. The paradox created by the state of exception is that we must go back to “normal” in order to subvert it. We can subvert it by mean of the political, cultural and social instruments that are part of the public space that we envision as radically democratic.

The state of exception cannot be a condition of social transformation, unless this is done through violence – a perspective that does not look intriguing to me. As I understand them, the claims of minorities are requests of a radical subversion of cultural, political and economic factors causing the social differences at the base of systematic inequalities. But the strength of these instances does not need to double the violence that produces them: the anger and the grief we feel can be turned into a transformative politics rather than a violent one.

Lorenzo Petrachi: As regard as the coaching to keep a daily routine during the lockdown, it is interesting to observe how the political use of certain kinds of normality incites the population to keep a productive rhythm with lines like “Put your makeup on as if you were going to work”, “Set your daily goals”, “Stop wasting time and set a schedule”. It is precisely this efficient lifestyle, this form of entrepreneurial and proprietary freedom that is showing its inconsistency and its being unsustainable during this moment of global crisis. The fact that the exceptional measures  stopping the ‘normal’ are still promoting this mode of existence – by reproducing the ordinary repressive structures that you, in your book Comunismo Queer, put at the intersection between modes of production of the subjectivities, of relational spaces and of social relationship – is even more revealing about the true nature of the ‘normal’. The order to stay-at-home, for example, not only does not take into consideration the homeless, but also does not take into account the limits and the iniquities of the majority of people that are living most of the times with their heterosexual family or on their own. This is what is emphatically supported by the popular banner hanging outside a Spanish house: “La romantización de la cuarentena es un privilegio de clase.” The presumably good sense to prioritize basic necessities on an institutional, economic and individual level is based once again on an established meaning of “necessity”, that does not deal with the impact of such measures on different subjectivities. How can we shy away from this evidence?!

Federico Zappino: If we observe the “micropolitics” of this state of exception we can see that it needs to ensure the reproduction of “normality” right in the middle of its suspension. This exhorts us to look at normality in a less dogmatic way, detecting different regimes of competing normalities, so that it is evident that the suspension of a certain kind of normality takes place by means of the corroboration of the modes of production which, historically, come together in its determination.

It was not necessary to wait for a pandemic to find out that the capitalist modes of production operate by transforming ecosystems deeply and irreversibly, to the point where, as some argue, pandemics should be understood as anything but dysfunctional as regards the modes of production themselves. Yet, since the epidemic broke out Xi Jinping has repeatedly (often turning to Trump) asserted that in no way will the virus affect the Chinese economy, which, from his point of view, will restart stronger than before. In Italy too, we are witnessing a precise political will to maintain productive ways and sectors whose “essentiality” is to be proven, and in working conditions often unsuitable for the context of a pandemic. This allows us to highlight in new ways the dependence between a specific mode of production and the form of life it generates, the latter which continue to depend on the former even if the price to pay for this dependence is life itself.

The same goes for all the modes of production of subjectivity which, from my perspective, offer human and symbolic resources by means of which capitalism can assert and reproduce itself. In Italy, the anthropologist Miguel Mellino brought attention to all the racist limits of the governance of the pandemic, insisting that migrants – who often work in agricultural production chains – are made totally invisible by media and institutional discourses. Mellino wonders: “Are there no infections among migrants? Are there no hospitalizations? Or maybe they are not assisted or not even counted? Or are they not even considered as worthy of representation, speech and even less of tampons?” For Mellino, in other words, the state of exception exacerbates a racist rift, reproducing specific white coordinates of social reproduction. In my view, the state of exception is also the product of a heterosexual rift.

While psychologists and pundits urge men and women to dress and put on make-up as if they were going to work – that is, to reproduce the heterosexually regulated “society” even in the times of “social distancing”–, the lives of those constituting an exception in the exception remain equally invisible from the public discourse, still obliged to abide by the criminally binding injunction to stay-at-home: the lives of those who do not have a home or an income, and the lives of those who live in situations of mental distress – and we know how many women and queer and trans people live in situations of housing, income and psychic precarity.

Likewise, women trapped in violent heterosexual contexts who, due to the suspension of public space, can only count on incomplete forms of support from anti-violence centers or other supportive and solidarity relationships; women who bare the full domestic brunt of taking care of children, of elderly or of sick or disabled people, in the general suspension of school and social activities; queer, trans, gay, lesbian, bisexual adolescents and pre-adolescents, in contexts of legal and economic dependence on violent or hostile parents (in most cases fathers), and especially in non-urban contexts; sex workers, for whom the alternatives are either risking exposure in the suspended public space or having insufficient financial resources to pay bills and rent. The list could go on: what is relevant here is that public silence on these issues is only one of the effects of the “heterosexual social contract”, as Monique Wittig would call it. Just like the capitalist modes of production and the white domination, what I call “heterosexual mode of production” is inscribed in the material and cultural hierarchies of the exceptional government of the pandemic crisis, and is clearly reinforced by it. Precisely for this reason, we need to present it with its limitations, in a way that cannot be deferred.

Lorenzo Petrachi: I would like to go back to the issue of public space again, which you have defined as a necessary condition for social and political transformation. In the state of exception, on the contrary, it is not possible to protest using the traditional methods of assembly and demonstration, and even the possibility of striking, in its various forms, is precluded to many of us. Furthermore, the only means we have to communicate and to express our dissent – means that for a not negligible part of the population are unfortunately the only ones imaginable – are owned by private companies. Yet, now more than ever, the success of a number of demands seems not only urgent and unpostponable, but also more plausible. If it is true that restrictive measures unfolding before our eyes have definitively re-entered the field of the politically contingent, the same must be said also for the unprecedented horizons opened by the crisis.

Consider, for example, the claims relating to the suspension of rents and bills, the claim for universal income, the visibility of prison conditions, the certainty of the value of public health… To all this we must add not only the elaboration of unheard practices of social solidarity even in times of “social distancing”, but also the awareness that comes with each of these instances. In other words, are the suspension of public space and the relative difficulty in organizing the struggles sufficient grounds for postponing the articulation of our claims until later? We must undoubtedly return to normal in order to have the necessary means to transform it completely; but can we miss, in this situation and in its narrow limits, the opportunity to create a precedent? We are encountering an exceptional scenario. It is a matter of understanding what about this exceptionality is destined to become transitory and what, for better or for worse, will establish itself.

Federico Zappino: Hoping to go back to “normal” in order to have the means of public space that allow for its subversion, does not mean postponing this subversion towards an indefinite future. Just as the state of exception induced by the pandemic illuminates problems and contradictions of a social system based on inequality and violence, and aims to preserve it, at the same time it begins to favor the possibility of forms of solidarity and resistance which, for the first time in a very long time, seem to be on the brink of possible. In fact, they can create a “precedent”. The demand for an income independent from productive work is perhaps among the most important and the most transformative of social demands. However, its effectiveness, and that of any anti-capitalist practice, will depend largely on the way in which, in the public space, we will manage to thematize and subvert the specific modalities that exploitation and exclusion assume, because each of these modalities refers to specific ways of production that concur in defining what, in generic terms, we then call “exploitation”, “exclusion” and, above all, “capitalism”.

When we talk about exploitation, are we sure to include within it also the exploitation of women’s domestic work by men, in the vast majority of heterosexual cohabitative contexts? When we talk about the exclusion of the minorities from the public space, are the material and economic implications of this concept clear for us or do we limit ourselves only to those aspects that we like to define as “cultural”? Is it clear for us that the cultural construction of entire social groups as “diverse” means exposing them to the greatest likelihood of poverty, indigence, violence and premature death? Are the links between symbolic and verbal violence and its substantial premises and material consequences clear? If we do not keep all these implications in mind, and if we do not endeavor to subvert them, a highly transformative instrument such as the universal income can easily be turned into its opposite, that is, an instrument to normalize already existing power relations.

The vast majority of women will continue to serve a man inside the house – but with an income; and so on. Any means that aspire to be “universal”, however, must deal with the fact that the universal has always been internally torn by power relations, and in the absence of an effort aimed at healing that fracture, every universality will be destined to reproduce as much. This aspect is very difficult to understand if you are not part of a minority group, or if you are not aware of it. My idea is that only by thematizing and keeping together all the forms that exploitation and exclusion assume, we can understand what capitalism needs in order to function – and indirectly, also what needs to be done to subvert its unjust and violent order. This, at least, is what I have attempted to illustrate in Comunismo Queer. Until a few weeks ago, the various currents of queer, feminism, anti-speciesism, decolonial thought could be conceived as utopian, brave, full of hope and anger, certainly ridiculed by those defending, consciously and unconsciously, the sad and criminal heteropatriarchal, white, capitalist and speciesist “normal”. The exceptional thing is that they could instead constitute the theoretical framework from which to draw inspiration from now on for the next transformative and instituting practices.

The cost of Open Access books: a publisher writes

The cost of Open Access books: a publisher writes

The cost of Open Access (OA) book publishing has been the topic of some discussion in the UK due to UKRI’s consultation on its Open Access policy, which proposes that all UKRI-funded research published in book or chapter form should be Open Access from 2024.

One of the biggest objections to the plan is that it will be too expensive to fund the OA publication of academic books—some of the more breathless coverage has speculated that this policy might herald the end of the monograph as a viable format for scholarly work.

At Open Book Publishers (OBP) we have published all our books Open Access since our founding in 2008—so we disagree. Our books are rigorously peer-reviewed, award-winning, innovative, and available in multiple Open Access editions (PDF, HTML and XML) as well as physical and ebook editions. We do not charge authors ‘Book Processing Charges’ (BPCs) to publish with us—quality is the only factor that determines whether or not we publish a book.

It can be done.

But many of the conversations about the financial viability of Open Access book publishing are predicated on a single business model—that of the BPC—and they assume there will be no revenue when a book is published OA.

The debate is usually held on these terms because up-to-date, detailed information about how much it costs to publish an OA book, and the revenue streams that are available to meet these costs, is sorely lacking. Such information is rarely made public, in part because commercial presses are reluctant to do so on the basis that it will put them at a competitive disadvantage. Recent estimates have therefore tended to be drawn from the charges some well-known publishers levy to produce an OA book—but price is not the same as cost.

As Elizabeth Gadd has recently pointed out, the purpose of research dissemination is not to prop up broken publishing systems. Open Access is much more effective at communicating knowledge than a non-OA system, as the current pandemic is starkly demonstrating (and as was obvious before to those without access to a well-stocked academic library, with the funds to pay for expensive monographs and to cover hefty journal subscription costs).

Therefore, if a BPC model cannot support Open Access for books in a fair and sustainable way, it isn’t Open Access that should be thrown out—it’s the BPC model.

We decided it would be useful to lay out our own costs and revenue for the last financial year (1 October 2018 - 30 September 2019), to provide some of the numbers that are currently missing and to counter some of the prevailing assumptions about funding OA books. We explain our business model in some detail to demonstrate that there are alternatives to the BPC approach, and that they can produce high-quality, Open Access academic books.

The post is set out as follows:

About OBP

OBP has published award-winning Open Access books (including monographs, edited collections and textbooks) since 2008. In that time, our output has grown to over 170 titles, at a current rate of between 24-30 books per year. Our books mostly cover subjects in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

We are an independent, not-for-profit social enterprise, run by and for academics, based in Cambridge, UK. The press’s founders and Directors are researchers in the Humanities and Social Sciences, as are several of our team. We are committed to making academic books freely available for everyone.

The cost of Open Access books: a publisher writes

All our books are available in high-quality Open Access editions (PDF, HTML and XML), and reasonably priced paperback, hardback and ebook editions (EPUB and MOBI), all created from the same master file and published on the same date with no embargo period.

We do not charge authors to publish with us. We believe that charging authors is an unsustainable and inequitable way to fund Open Access.

Our titles are accessed by millions of people around the world. A monograph typically sells 200 copies over its entire lifetime, but our books are viewed an average of 400 times per title every month. In total, we have received over 3 million book visits, and this is only from those sources we can measure: actual usage of our books will be far in excess of these figures.


All our books are rigorously peer reviewed: first an author’s proposal is assessed internally by our Board of Directors and members of the Editorial Board and Advisory Panel, and then, if judged of sufficient quality, the full manuscript is sent for review by at least two experts in the relevant field. Based on these reports, our Board of Directors makes a final decision.

Our titles have been submitted for scrutiny as part of the UK REF assessment exercise and they are reviewed by academic publications including The Times Literary Supplement, Times Higher Education, Choice Review, Essays in Criticism, Modern Language Review, and many more. They have received prizes in recognition of their excellence, and we are particularly proud that our authors often commend the quality of our editorial and marketing work, comparing it favourably with that of larger presses.

The cost of Open Access books: a publisher writes

Our publications often include multiple full-colour images, embedded sound and video, and other innovative features to enhance the reader’s understanding of a subject. With the use of URLs and QR codes in paperback and hardback editions, our titles make good use of the digital medium without abandoning the printed book.

Each book is marketed to researchers, journals and libraries, and thanks to our Library Membership programme our titles are listed in the catalogues of academic libraries all over the world. We work in partnership with organisations such as Worldreader, who make our books accessible for people who only have basic mobile phones, and the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) who create editions for those with visual impairments.

Our printed editions are available via print-on-demand and all our books are preserved in the UK legal deposit libraries at the British Library, OpenEdition, Google Books and the Internet Archive.

All this is to say: we don’t get away without charging BPCs because our work is sub-standard; it is of high quality.


Studies of Open Access business models often focus heavily on revenue (as have some discussions of the UKRI OA policy, with their emphasis on the author-fee model when discussing the funding of Open Access books). But this is the wrong place to start: more revenue is required if costs are bloated.

Conversely, if costs can be managed, revenue does not need to be as high. As detailed above, our cost efficiency is neither at the expense of the work we publish nor the experience of publishing with us. High costs are not in themselves an indicator of quality.

We are a non-profit publisher, so we do not need to make additional revenue for shareholders. Our operations are entirely structured around our key objective: making high-quality research as widely accessible as possible. Financial sustainability is obviously important, but any profits are reinvested so we can publish more titles. Our full financial statements are publicly available online at Companies House.

During the last financial year (ending 30 September 2019) we had two operational centres within OBP: a publishing centre (the core of our work, publishing OA books) and a software development centre (developing open source software to support OA book workflows and infrastructure). The latter was funded entirely from research and development grants received for that purpose, and had no direct impact on the funding model of the publishing centre. So here we separate out the costs and revenue of our publishing operation.

The cost of Open Access books: a publisher writes
OBP costs and revenue, 2018-2019

During this period, we published 25 new titles.

For comparison with other studies, it might be informative to consider the average ‘first copy’ cost of production for our titles. This can be obtained by considering Total Costs less Printing Costs & Royalties (which are associated entirely with costs incurred after the first copy) and dividing by total number of titles published

Average ‘first copy’ cost of production = £5266  per title

For complete transparency, we should note that our offices in King’s College, Cambridge are kindly provided to us on favourable terms. If we were to be renting office space in Cambridge at commercial rates our rent would be approximately £12,500 pa higher than we are presently paying -- so for comparison with some other studies it may be reasonable to add an additional £500 per title to the first copy production costs to reflect that. Even then our first copy production costs come in at under £5,800 per title.

By comparison, the Ithaka report into publishing costs at university presses in the US (2016) estimated average first copy costs of production at around $30,000-$50,000. So why the huge difference in these production estimates?

We provide a more detailed breakdown of our estimated costs of production on our website:

The cost of Open Access books: a publisher writes
OBP standard publishing costs

In informal discussions with some traditional university presses it appears that our costs of copyediting/proofreading and typesetting are comparable to, if not a little higher than, many other presses -- but that the largest difference is in expenditure on acquisitions. Other presses invest a lot of resources in “acquiring content, an area closely tied to the character and reputation of the press [...] selecting and developing the most promising authors and topics to the press.” However, we would suggest it is unfair to pass this cost onto the author (or funder) in the form of a BPC -- a cost that is invested essentially to burnish the reputation of the press and to make it stand out compared to its competitors, rather than directly to support the publication of an author’s work.

Another aspect of costs worth highlighting is distribution. The costs detailed above, and included in most studies of publisher costs, exclude the cost of distribution, as these are typically taken out of sales revenue prior to receipt of that revenue by the publisher. Most distributors, of both printed editions and ebooks, take a margin of 30-60% of the sale price of the title. Given that our printed titles typically retail at less than £15-£30, and ‘legacy’ publications typically retail at prices in excess of £60-£120, it seems likely that distribution costs associated with our printed titles are, at most, half of those for legacy publishers. Of course the comparison of distribution costs for digital editions are considerably more striking -- with the vast majority of people accessing our digital titles at no cost (with the hosting costs for that incorporated into our ‘Overheads’ cost).


There are four strands to our revenue:

The cost of Open Access books: a publisher writes
OBP revenue model

The largest is sales—an aspect often completely ignored in discussions about how to fund Open Access books. As previously mentioned, our books are freely available in OA editions from the date of publication as well as in reasonably priced paperback, hardback and ebook editions. Generating significant income from sales of Open Access books is by no means unusual, as studies have shown—and as other presses have noted.

Grants and donations: we do not impose charges to publish with us, but we do encourage authors if they can to apply for grants to defray production costs—this enables us to take on more books that do not have any grant income attached. The availability or otherwise of grant money has no impact on our publication decisions, which are entirely dependent on the outcome of the peer-review process detailed above. We have also included donations given directly to OBP to facilitate our work (i.e. not associated with any particular title).

Library Membership programme: our Library Members pay an annual fee of £300 to support our work, in return for a range of reader-targeted benefits for members of the university. This innovative programme has been in place since 2015 and it has proven popular—we currently have over 170 member libraries from all over the world, and other presses are beginning to create similar programmes. Many libraries see their membership as an investment in the future of Open Access and as part of the transition away from expensive, closed-access models of research dissemination. We are proud to have their support in making research freely available for everyone.

Title production charges: While we do not impose publishing costs on authors, we are sometimes asked by authors to provide additional services such as image-processing and indexing, which we charge for separately.

But how does it scale?

This is a common rejoinder to discussions about our business model. An obvious answer might be: we could increase our revenue via our Library Membership programme and by hiring more staff to publish more books, thus boosting our sales income. But we want to facilitate a more powerful expansion of OA book publishing—by facilitating the growth of more presses like ourselves, which publish OA books without charging authors.

Despite the habitual focus on a small group of large legacy presses, there is huge diversity in the Arts and Humanities publishing landscape. Simon Tanner has noted that, for REF2014, 1,180 publishers were associated with the books submitted to Panel D (Arts and Humanities). Many of these were small and/or specialist presses, with the top ten publishers accounting for less than 50% of submissions.

We believe the scholarly ecosystem is best served by this diversity among publishers, producing a rich variety of books. The best way to ‘scale’ what we do is therefore not to grow bigger ourselves, but to facilitate OA publishing among multiple presses by developing the systems and infrastructures that will enable other publishers to produce Open Access books without needing to charge authors BPCs.

The cost of Open Access books: a publisher writes

We are a key partner in the £3.5 million COPIM (Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs) project, an international partnership between researchers, universities, librarians, OA publishers and infrastructure providers, which is building community-governed, open systems and infrastructures to develop and strengthen OA book publishing. (COPIM is substantially funded by Research England and is mentioned in para. 112 of the UKRI consultation as a ‘supporting action’ for the OA monographs policy.) It is exploring alternative business models to enable non-OA presses to flip to Open Access, as well as building systems to facilitate better funding, dissemination and archiving for OA books. Everything it creates will be community-owned and open, so that it serves the dissemination of research in a sustainable and equitable way.

The cost of Open Access books: a publisher writes

We also participate in groups such as the Radical Open Access Collective and ScholarLed (which we co-founded), developing practical ways for OA presses to mutually support each other. The five not-for-profit, academic-led Open Access presses of ScholarLed have between us published over 500 books, and expect to publish over 80 new titles in the coming year. What would the publishing landscape look like if, rather than 5 presses, we were 25, 50, or 100 in number?

In conclusion

We believe that public discussions about the future of Open Access books, which have intensified thanks to UKRI’s policy review, urgently need to broaden their scope. Rather than taking costs of around £10,000 as a given and focusing on author charges as the only possible revenue stream, there needs to be much more awareness of the diversity of presses operating in Arts and Humanities book publishing today—particularly those presses that are already Open Access—and the range of business models and strategies they adopt.

How might we imagine the future of scholarly book publishing if we consider its whole landscape, rather than focusing on the practices of a few big publishers whose approach to Open Access is so inadequate it is inspiring fears of the death of the monograph?

What can be learned if we widen our perspective, and how might that guide our progress?

We hope this post will contribute to fostering that broader and more informed debate about the future of Open Access book publishing.

Virtual Book Stand

This post documents our first attempts at creating a virtual book stand for member publications. Available at:

Pop-Up Book Stand

As part of the 2017 OpenAIRE project, “New Platforms for Open Access Book Distribution”, ScholarLed developed a shared book stand, designed to promote Open Access publishing and to present our collective catalogue at conferences, fairs and events. The book stand was designed as a pop-up platform able to be easily transported to and rapidly deployed at relevant conferences attended by conference members. This allows one press to represent the entire collective at a conference, increasing the reach of all participating presses as well as introducing the collective as a non-competitive association of presses. The design of this book stand is available under a CC BY-NC licence, which allows other not-for-profit presses and publishing project to use our step-by-step guide to adapt and develop the stand according to their own needs. The Radical Open Access Collective adapted this low-cost, portable book stand to promote ROAC and ScholarLed members and share our publications at conferences all over the world. As part of this book stand we cross-promote each other’s publications, and promote the ideals and values that sustain our projects: around open access, not-for-profit and scholar-led publishing, experimentation and an ethics of care. Our aim is to advocate these forms of publishing within our academic communities in order to showcase the existence of alternative models for open access publishing. We also want to make a public and political statement about how not-for-profit presses can start to collaborate through these kinds of projects.


A Virtual Book Stand

Now that due to the Covid-19 pandemic our events and conferences have been moving online or are increasingly being completely envisioned online (such as the Open Publishing Fest), we feel the book stand needs to be reimagined too. In many ways, the argument can be made that as all our open access publications are already online and openly available for free, our virtual book stand already exists. For example, the function of a virtual book stand is represented through essential organisations such as the DOAJ, the DOAB, and OAPEN (which also hosts the ScholarLed Collection). However, were these discovery platforms and repositories are crucial for the promotion of open access content, they do not necessarily replace the function of a book stand, and the specific targeted promotion that book stands can do at conferences and events. As such we want to explore what a virtual book stand could be for the ROAC and ScholarLed, and we hope to do so together with our community, so please be in touch if you have any ideas or suggestions on what a virtual book stand could look like and what it should encompass for you. For now we have made a start by updating the ROAC’s Latest Publication page and rebranding it as our Virtual Book Stand. You can find our book stand here:

Changes at INC, introducing ‘synthesis’, central INC email list

While we’re publishing a lot, here at the Institute of Network Cultures, trying to facilitate critical reflection on the corona crisis with diaries and essays from around the world, we’re also planning a restart of INC so that we’ll have space and resources for new urgent projects and research networks in this corona period/economic crisis.

As you may have noticed, we’ve just wrapped up our two-year publishing Making Public research project with Here and Now?

Digital publishing research (and output) will continue, as will the MoneyLab network that just got a board. The board can be rearched here: As MoneyLab #8 Ljubjana was cancelled because of the corona crisis it turned into a weekly online lecture series. The program you can find here.

However, with a considerable legacy of projects, networks, publications and a heavy website aka archive, we noticed that we had to spend more and more time just on the maintenance work. It became harder to start new things (also due to changes in the Dutch funding structures). Finally, we’re about to do something about this.

As a start, five mailinglists (MoneyLab, Video Vortex, re-search, Unlike Us and CPOV) have been discontinued and have been replaced by one INC list called synthesis (also responding to the widespread idea of email being a ‘dead medium’).

If you want, please subscribe here:

The synthesis list has three objectives:

1. To inform the wider net community about INC projects and activities.

2. To foster debates about net criticism, tactical media, hacktivism and research into critical network cultures from multiple perspectives such as design and the arts, activism and research.

3. To create links between different INC research fields that were previous running as different projects about online video, crypto currencies, search, social media, future of art criticism etc.

The name ‘synthesis’ expresses a desire to overcome different disciplines, fields and scenes in order to strengthen the critical forces in arts, tech and society.

Soon we will see what other new channels will work to debate, maintain communities, inform and support each other. Please approach us if you have ideas and suggestions, also for common projects, grants, publications, campaigns and other forms of poetry.

Keep on questioning, Geert and the INC team