Carlson Post 2: The Impact of the Internet on Digital Scholarship

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?

Works Cited:

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.

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4 thoughts on “Carlson Post 2: The Impact of the Internet on Digital Scholarship

  1. feralroots says:

    This topic also grabbed my attention. Coming from the fine arts side of publishing, I am personally very open to the validity of internet scholarship. As Scheibman, Mandell, and Olsen stated, “Just because there is a deluge of data readily available on the Web does not mean that all or even most of it is bad—as if the information deluge were not print-based as well.”

    As I wrote in my blog post for this week, there is tons of scholarship we’re expected to use that is no longer accurate/out of date, which warrants a new edition, and this process takes so much time that could be eliminated with the use of digital platforms.

    I think it makes more sense for us as academics to create online spaces of validity for each other than it does for us to deny the validity of the most commonly used information resource in the world. Maybe creating very specific sites and forums that require an edu email address could facilitate that. Then again, this poses limitations on accessibility to the average person.

    My biggest struggle when thinking about this is, “How do we validate information on the internet? Is an online book review on a major literary site with a lot of traffic more or less valid than a 20-page, scholarly analysis of the same text?” It seems to me that printed, scholarly articles are limited in their lack of interaction with a broad audience and the community they’re trying to reach. The collaborative aspect facilitated by the internet helps us refine our topics, gives us access to more resources on our topics, and allows us to edit one another’s work immediately.

    Additionally, many of us in graduate school cannot afford to buy these scholarly books and articles, so how then do we stay up to date on the latest information in our perspective fields? There’s an elitist, classist aspect to these resources that should be open sources for anyone, not just people paying a tuition, and even then we academics do not have access to all of these resources. So who then is benefitting from this closed structure? Certainly, not us.

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  2. feralroots says:

    There is a ton of scholarship*
    Sorry, not sure how to edit comments.

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  3. j.kirtz says:

    Part of the answer, I think, is understanding the medium in order to access validity or authentication. Would you look for the same signs of authenticity on a handwritten page as you would a typewritten paper? The answer is no, therefore we must evaluate digital material in terms of its medium; so often we still think of this material in its older sense but to do this is destructive. For example, when you say that everything you read online is with a grain of salt, why is that? It’s because of the supposedly ephemerality of material and the ability to change it. Therefore how can we set regulations around locking PDF documents or encrypting them. Another reason people are skeptical of online documents is authorship. That can be addressed through digital signatures. By developing and understanding technology on its own terms perhaps digital scholarship can evolve into something that is more respected in a traditional sense.

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  4. I think this is an interesting topic you’ve chosen, but I have some questions as well. You said you take everything with a grain of salt on the internet in a way you would not with a book in hand. I think this opens an interesting conversation about spaces and how we may be looking at them in a partly physical sense. A library versus the entirety of the internet is like a raindrop in the ocean, or some other reductive simile.

    The way it was always presented when I was younger was that if it was .com or .net it couldn’t be trusted as valid in a way that a .org or .gov could be. Can we say that some sites or locations can be trusted where others can’t? In which case are those individual sites now representative of physical spaces, like a library?

    What makes/will make those previously distrusted domains/spaces valid?

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