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5. Conclusion

Looking back after five years, I feel generally vindicated concerning the original ambitions of my e-monograph. Its intertextuality is expressed beautifully. Its formal open-endedness and the continuously evolving content as a 'living text' have remained unchanged, exploiting the writing opportunities of hypermedia in radical ways. Its multilinearity is complex and challenging and, at least to some, it has also been very rewarding.

The originally foreseen problems, although very real, have not grown so large that they would now bring into question the viability of similar projects in the future. Many issues are still unresolved though. Screen-reading is not always easy or convenient and required different ways of both writing and reading. Orientation and navigation through a multilinear document can be challenging. Not everybody may be up for travelling 'at speed in all directions at once' and find depth by exploring width. Many of these challenges are at least in part due to existing expectations of how to read an academic work, and those are subject to change. Reliable long-term preservation of electronic publications, on the other hand, may yet turn out to be impossible. But this is only a problem if looked at from a certain view of how academic scholarship is supposed to operate.

Some five years after submission, my electronic monograph has demonstrated that many conventions we have got used to in academic discourse can be challenged at a fundamental level and could change in the wake of the electronic revolution. Although a number of different aspects of traditional notions of scholarship are affected (and have been discussed in this contribution), this relates in particular to the expectations scholars have of a scholarly monograph, especially when it is (based on) a Doctoral dissertation. Not everybody agreed that my monograph is compatible with 'the spirit of scientific enterprise'. But others got a sense that we are indeed witnessing the beginnings of a 'revolution' in academic discourse. At stake is credibility: both my own credibility as an academic and the credibility of the academic community I represent. Changes are inevitable but they will invariably be slow.

What I find perhaps most satisfying at the present moment is that my electronic monograph may have contributed a little bit to the establishment of the World Wide Web as a publication format that enables intellectually and academically challenging work to be published independently from the interests of commercially orientated publishing companies.


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