This week’s readings on evaluating digital scholarship were an interesting follow-up to our recent class discussion wherein we asked the question “what is the digital humanist’s equivalent to the monograph?” While the digital scholar is certainly capable of producing high-quality scholarly digital work, the difficulty comes in having this work recognized as an academic equivalent to the traditional monograph. This point was driven home for me in the introduction of “Evaluating Digital Scholarship,” which stated that the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) had recently equated the process of peer reviewing materials available on the internet to “’social networking’ and ‘popularity’ contests that can too easily ‘be gamed’” (Schreibman et al. 130). This clear lack of regard for the scholarly nature of new media work is what leads to the “double standard” pointed out by Anderson and McPherson, wherein the digital humanist is forced to “produce traditional print work . . . in addition to their digital work in order to be taken seriously for tenure” (137).
While it’s extremely frustrating to read about the difficulties that digital humanists face in academia, I began to ask myself why it is that society (and especially the portion of society that is involved in evaluating academic work) is so hesitant to give credit to digital scholarship. Having grown up with access to the internet, I tend to take the things that I read online with a grain of salt unless I see a persuasive reason not to (i.e. a reliable source or credible evidence). The availability of the internet essentially means that anyone who wants to publish something online has the option to do so. While I can pick up almost any book in the library and safely assume that it is a well-researched and reliable source, it would be ridiculous to assume the same about any website, blog, or other project that can be found on the internet. While it’s clear that scholarly work does exist on the internet, have we trained ourselves to assume the worst about the nature of the work that is available in a public domain?
Anderson, Steve and Tara McPherson. “Engaging Digital Scholarship: Thoughts on Evaluating Multimedia Scholarship.” Profession 2011.1 (2011): 136-51. Web.
Schreibman, Susan, Laura Mandell, and Stephen Olsen. “Evaluating Digital Scholarship: Introduction.” Profession 2011.1 (2011): 123-35. Web.