McGehee Post 2: Considering “Literary” Scholarship in 2015

It is apparent to me, after this weeks reading, that I did not properly understand the existing divisions in Digital Humanities or the difference between the terms ‘humanities computing,’ ‘digital humanities,’ and ‘library sciences,’ although it is clear that all of these things are interrelated. As Susan Schreibman, Laura Mandell, and Stephen Olsen suggest in the introduction to, “Evaluating Digital Scholarship”:

“Too frequently the development of a digital archive or a thematic research collection…is dismissed because it is thought, that is what librarians do; the conception and development of a tool, such as the Versioning Machine or TILE, is what programmers do; and the creation of a Web 2.0 resource such as Digital Humanities Now or Digital Humanities Questions and Answers is what pedagogues do.”

Perhaps, these were also my initial assumptions about the integral, disparate parts working together in this field, although I wouldn’t use any of these aspects to dismiss or halt the development of digital humanities, rather, these separate qualities display the importance of multiple skill sets and their application to humanities.

The “buzzwords” and jargon discussed by Patrik Svensson, as well as Schreibman, Mandell, and Olsen, have added something key to my initial confusion of these moving pieces. This unfamiliar terminology appears as a necessary evil.

It is evident that such work in the digital humanities takes scholars an incredible amount of time and well rounded, specialized skills that take years of development to both create scholarship and then communicate it through digital languages to other scholars (hence jargon as easy communication for such people already in the know).

Schreibman, Mandell, and Olsen directly speak to a growing division within academia. For those pursuing an academic career in the fine arts, like me, and now, I’m sure, most academics pursuing a career in the humanities, we live in a digital world and have for some time. There are endless web-based resources available to us anywhere we go, such as online library databases, but for unexplained reasons, we continue to walk the line between the contemporary literary scene (literature, reviews, scholarly articles) conducted almost exclusively online, and the production of print publications for what is considered to be a tangible product of academic merit (despite the fact that many will not see this scholarship).

The difficulty, for me at least, is that nearly all of our publications are located online. The higher-ups seem completely unaware of this, which makes you wonder what world they live in? It is certainly a world that neither I nor other academics in 2015 occupy.

We are taught very early in our academic careers that the internet is not a viable source for learning, but for many people, this is the first place we go to to look up unknown information. “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” (Schreibman). I have come across print articles and library books that now stand inaccurate, but continue to remain as academic resources. Whereas, a print publication allows an author to immediately amend and update such discrepancies for the most accurate information. Additionally, the web allows someone to communicate such things to an author right away, rather than the author taking five years to realize it on their own.

This notion of printing and putting out another volume to amend mistakes from the first version is the equivalent of writing a letter when you could pick up the phone. It is ineffective, confusing, time consuming, and makes absolutely no sense when there are more effective ways to publish.

The issue of accessibility and exclusivity persists in academia. The acceptance and further pursuit of digital humanities is more crucial than ever. If it were up to the higher-ups in the English department, my body of work would mean nothing at this point, because it is not in print nor do I have a large book, but I have been recognized in my community thanks to the digital aspect of my field.

More importantly in fields like poetry where experimental, digital forms are taking place, “…it is incumbent on the profession to review digital scholarship in the form in which it was meant to be read rather than in a print surrogate…Because multimedia scholarship is even more nascent and experimental than digital textual scholarship, they argue that there is an even greater onus to evaluate it within the infrastructure and systems in which it was created and within which it is presented” (Schreibman).

Many of my students create multimedia literary work, none of which would be possible without technology, and it is clear that they have a desire, as do many of us in the academic world, to marry the technology we use in everyday life with that of scholarship and creative work. The online article has the capability to draw in all types of people and traffic more successfully if only its creator attained the same the level of credit for doing so. The idea of internet publication as somehow lesser is a notion that must disappear in academia if we are to have the most success.

Perhaps the most important thing Schreibman, Mandell, and Olsen leave us with is this:

“…digital scholarship needs to be recognized not only as scholarship, but also as literary scholarship.”

Works Cited:

“Susan Schreibman, Laura Mandell, and Stephen Olsen. “Evaluating Digital Scholarship.” Profession (2010): 277–306. Print.

One thought on “McGehee Post 2: Considering “Literary” Scholarship in 2015

  1. cdeagon says:

    Enjoyed your post! I agree that it seems very strange that the Ivory tower insists on more time-consuming practices scholarship like working independently and publishing in print versus collaborative work and digital/online publication. I find this especially ironic since I get all of my print publications for my own scholarship online through the library’s databases. I just don’t understand the qualitative emphasis on print material. Your post makes me wonder, if the academy doesn’t become more flexile, will we see begin to see the most innovative scholarship taking place outside the university walls? I’m sure to some extent this is already happening; but what if it occurred on such a scale as to render academic work universally subpar? It seems at least productive in terms of breaking down socioeconomic barriers to scholarship.


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