As a journal founded by graduate students in one of the few visual studies programs in the United States, Refract has always sought to consider its own role within its relatively new and often-contested disciplinary field. This focus on the possibilities and limitations of visual studies methodologies is exemplified by our Voices of Visual Studies section, an ongoing, cross-volume conversation between diverse practitioners. However, we have had fewer discussions about the implications of our open access digital publication method, despite the fact that such a format also represents a relatively novel approach to scholarly production. While Refract’s founding editors debated the merits and drawbacks of digital publication, the majority of our conversations in subsequent years have centered on the goal of increasing accessibility: our digital team has worked to ensure that Refract’s format is compatible with evolving screen reader technology and that we are producing effective alt text, for example.
Recent funding from The Humanities Institute (THI) at our home campus, the University of California, Santa Cruz, has given us an opportunity to extend these preliminary efforts and deepen our understanding of the stakes of digital publishing by producing a special supplement titled “Imagining the Future of Digital Publishing.” We have invited a group of scholars and practitioners to share their perspectives on publishing scholarship digitally and the issues that might shape this endeavor in the near and distant future.