Competition and Cooperation (Open Humanities Press)



The “transfer of the responsibility of paying for publication to the individual author (or the author’s funding agency or institution)” that is brought about by gold author-pays open access is, as Gary Hall notes in Pirate Philosophy, a “typical neoliberal move.” By placing researchers in a position where they have to compete for the inevitably limited amounts of funding that are available to enable them to publish on an article- or book-processing-charge (APC/BPC) basis, gold author-pays open access serves as a means of introducing yet further competition into the public system of higher education. It also establishes a commercial market for A/BPCs, and with it another way of “inflicting debt” onto the university, to set alongside that achieved by the “imposition of a system of tuition fees in England” (Hall 2016: 193, n60).

It is not surprising then that calls are increasingly being made within the open access movement for non-profit presses, projects and institutions to cooperate horizontally in order to counter the hegemony of both free market economics and commercial publishing. When it comes to actually building non-profit alternatives, however, questions of funding soon come into play. A number of interesting innovations have emerged, not least in the form of library consortium subsidy models that redirect money otherwise used to purchase subscriptions to exorbitantly priced journals. Still, the long-term financial sustainability of numerous open access initiatives currently depends on already overstretched institutional budgets. As a result, even though many non-profit projects wish to work together cooperatively, they find themselves in a situation where they are forced to compete against one other (and against for-profits) for funding from libraries, foundations, research councils and other sources. Regardless of the fact they may consider themselves to have an alternative, even radical, mission, such non-profit publishing initiatives are still being organised according to the logic of the market and its principles of economic competition.

It is this logic that Competition and Cooperation seeks to interrogate by posing the following questions: is competition an inescapable fact of the scholarly publishing landscape given the underlying economics of our society? Or are there ways to negotiate the tension in the open access ecosystem between, on the one hand, the need to compete with others for scarce resources – especially money – and, on the other, the oft-expressed political preference for cooperation and collaboration? What is the potential of new forms of “open cooperativism” in which organisations commit themselves “structurally and legally to the production of common goods (the common good, the commons)” (Bauwens 2016)? The idea behind open cooperatives is to bring together the best practices of the coop movement, with those of the open source software communities, and ask their stakeholders to assist with funding, managing and organizing them (Davies-Coates 2017). Is it possible to follow such examples and devise a grammar or set of key concepts for competing open access projects that promote the ethics of care, collaboration and the building of the commons?

Open Humanities Press


Bauwens, Michel.  2016. Introduction to the republication of Benoît Borrits, “Cooperative And Common Ownership.” P2P Foundation, December 5.

Davies-Coates, Josef. (2017) “Open Cooperatives.” P2PF Wiki, March 2.

Hall, Gary. 2016. Pirate Philosophy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Maddalena Fragnito is an independent artist and cultural activist based in Milan. Her research focuses on models of cultural production and on the care and maintenance of shared spaces and communities as concepts around which rethinking new forms of social production and reproduction. She is co-founder of MACAO (2012), a new center for art and culture in Milan, co-founder of Landscape Choreography (2012), an art collective focusing on the direct participation of bodies in the construction of transformational physical and relational landscapes and co-founder of SopraSotto (2013), a parents self-managed kindergarten. She has worked as an artist and researcher in different Cultural Institutions and Universities such as mare culturale urbano (IT), Santarcangelo Festival (IT), Short Theatre (IT), Studi del presente (IT), CheFare (IT), Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (IT), Biennale di Venezia (IT), S.a.L.E. Dock (IT),Ex Asilo Filangieri (IT), Teatro Rossi (IT), Teatro Valle Occupato (IT), Teatro India (IT), MACBA (SP), Rotor (AU), Dancem (FR), Reina Sophia (SP), Institute for Network Cultures (NL), Documenta 14 (DE), Nottingham Contemporary (GB),Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti Naba (IT), Universitat Pompeu Fabra (SP), Politecnico di Milano (IT), Università degli Studi Bicocca (IT), Sapienza Università di Roma (IT), IUAV (IT).


Valeria Graziano is a Research Associate at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University, currently working at the intersection of care, repair and maintenance. Her research focuses on the organizational import of these re-generative cultural practices to articulate a politics of refusal of work and the possibility of political pleasure. Her approach is informed by autonomous Marxism, institutional analysis, materialist feminism, and critical organization theory. She holds a BA in Fine Art and Art History (Goldsmiths College); an MA in Visual Cultures (Goldsmiths College) and a PhD in Critical Management and Performance Studies (Queen Mary University).


Sebastian Nordhoff is the coordinator of Language Science Press, where
he guides the community-based publication process. He is a linguist by
training (MA from Cologne on the Guaraní language of Paraguay; PhD from
Amsterdam on Sri Lanka Malay) and an open data, open source, open
access, open everything activist by conviction. He has worked on
openness and reuse in publishing (Language Science Press), bibliographies
(, and administration (Open Government Data and
transparency). A further interest of his is the use of Internet to
further democratic decision making and participation.