Welcome to the first issue of Public: A Journal of Imagining America! We aspire to be a space where a diversity of people exchange ideas and share projects integrating humanities, arts, and design in public life. We are mindful of the shortcomings of the very idea of a "public," from which whole groups of people have historically been left out. Public, as a platform of Imagining America, a consortium of some hundred colleges and universities, reflects the organization's commitment to creating a vocabulary and sharing initiatives that illuminate the work of public scholarship, making it recognizable apart from service. We support boundary-expanding artists, scholars, and designers whose contributions do not always "count" as knowledge and pedagogy in the academy. We include contributors based on their insights, whether they come from lived experience, rigorous study, or both. We are multimodal in that we appreciate not only words but also still images and moving pictures, maps and orality, as expressions of what we know and how we know it. The discourse we seek goes in both directions–by and for people in arts and cultural organizations, in colleges and universities, and in other public and community-based venues–with some submissions integrating several of these perspectives. Submissions are peer reviewed but we recognize, importantly–as IA founding director Julie Ellison and current co-director Timothy Eatman note in Scholarship in Public–that one's peers in public scholarship and practice are not all to be found in the academy. With reviewers from different professional and experiential locations, the likelihood of Public is a truly public journal increases. This, our first publication, is a double issue, designed to present a range of subjects, formats, and contributors germane to the journal project.
The development of Public has offered us incredible opportunities to engage design as a public act within an online interactive medium. As an e-journal, we had a gamut of examples to choose from: from seriously dry compendia of PDFs to experimental (some inspiring, some not quite functional) new media forays; from academic (and academically styled) journals to mass-media magazines. We have sought to position Public strategically and creatively in response to these various examples: as a robust, dependable, peer-reviewed e-journal with an experimental attitude in a publicly engaging interactive media format. Public foregrounds its informational infrastructure through an exploratory set of data visualizations. A print publication's table of contents and index are conventionally understood visual orderings of the 'data' it contains. They help us access the potentially large and complex body of data by visually associating page numbers with chapters, articles, or terms. The electronic archive's equivalent to the table of contents is an interactive data visualization, facilitating multiple forms of relational indexing