At the last ASEH meeting in Madison Marc Hall (University of Zurich) organized a panel titled “Beyond the book”, in which he gathered a very diverse group of people to talk about the opportunities and challenges of creating research outputs that aren’t the traditional book (or article). We thought that the following revised excerpts of an email he later sent to the interested attendees, and in which he recapped the contents of the panel, could also be of interest to a wider audience.

Some people approached me [after the panel], asking what “going beyond books” was all about – and my answer was that our topic is purely exploratory, but very serious: creating non-books. [At the conference there were also a] digital humanities sessions [and an] image session, both subsets of how one may get out their messages in other-than-book ways. Our session included the following roundtable members. […]

  • Anne Milne spoke of embodied learning, and the fact that some types of learning take place through the body. She asks, is deep-learning better accomplished through reading or online exhibits or some other means?
  • Giacomo Parrinello pointed out that most of us are trained to write, and that if we want to communicate in other ways, perhaps we also need training in new media, film, or acting. Can we convince our colleagues that books are not the only way to judge serious scholarly endeavor?
  • Joy Parr noted that since we use a variety of sources (books, oral sources, maps, photos, online info) in helping craft our stories, then we should also consider a variety of sources in presenting our results. I urge you to visit some of the projects that she and her students have created.
  • Tor Oiamo spoke of his own project employing multimedia and narrative. He’s using interactive maps to explore the places where people live. […]
  • Irene Klaver spoke of her own recent experience creating a film documentary about ranching, The New Frontier. Echoing Giacomo, she emphasizes that lots of skills were needed to create this film beyond conceiving the story line. Presenting insights on film, moreover, reshapes the epistemological questions and answers about how one presents this information. Thankfully, some of her colleagues are recognizing the scholarly value of going beyond the book.
  • Myself, I simply gave a show-and-tell report of a side-project called, “Wilderness Scratch-n-Sniff” which aims to present a handful of online essays describing what wilderness might be in non-English terms. Along with Wilko von Hardenberg, Andreas Grieger, and others, we are hoping to add text, images, and sounds describing, e.g., Hungarian wilderness (Vadon) or Icelandic wilderness (víðerni), and place them on the Environment & Society Portal of the Rachel Carson Center.

Our session also enjoyed an excellent discussion, and the acknowledgement that there is so much more to talk about, and so much more to create!

That above is an excerpt of an email sent by Marc Hall on 12 April 2012, revised and published with the consent of the original author. The cover image is a screenshot of one of the projects at, the site coordinated by Joy Parr.

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