JHI Working Group 2010-11 Proposal

May 18, 2010 at 11:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

VERSION 3 (draft)

Rethinking Humanities Scholarship in the Digital Age

Recent discussion about the ‘crisis in the Humanities’ has identified a number of contributing factors, including the troubled economics of scholarly publishing, the tyranny of the monograph, the casualization of the academic workforce, and the general public’s indifference and even hostility to the humanities. And yet, amidst this crisis, scholarly practice and communication in the humanities still largely consists of scholars presenting their developing work to other scholars at conferences and disseminating completed work in academic print journal articles and monographs, despite the proliferation of alternate modes of communication and new audiences enabled by the digital age. This lack of change in how humanities scholarship is done, evaluated, disseminated and consumed has recently led to a call by the President of the Modern Language Association (MLA) to reinvent the monograph-like dissertation as a means by which students can “navigate a scholarly environment in which the modes of production are increasingly collaborative, the vehicles of scholarly dissemination increasingly interactive, the circulation of knowledge more openly accessible, and the audiences…purposely varied” (http://www.mla.org/fromthepres). Such a scholarly environment would not only transform scholarly communication, but would require new partnerships with librarians and information technologists: how would such scholarly work be preserved, maintained, upgraded, catalogued, aggregated, accessed and made usable for multiple audiences?

This working group’s purpose is to examine how the digital age impacts on modes of humanities scholarship, the criteria used to evaluate this scholarship, the audiences for this scholarship, and the ways in which this scholarship is designed, developed, curated and preserved. In the digital age, social impact and relevance is integrally related to being accessible online – not just in presenting static content online, but in collaborating on and sharing content and providing feedback. Given this situation, what is of more value: an article published in a ‘prestigious’ print-only journal with a small and specialized academic readership (only some of whom actually read the article), or a series of blog postings that are tweeted about, stumbled upon, declared delicious, garnering a wide and diverse readership, and engendering an extended online discussion and new perspectives and insights? Thinking about an expanded audience for humanities scholarship – including scholars in other disciplines, teachers and students of all levels, librarians, university administrators, policy makers and grant officers, the general public – requires serious consideration of new models of collaboration involving a wide range of participants involved in new forms of scholarly communication, which must be evaluated using new metrics for scholarly value.

This group’s membership consists of faculty, graduate students, librarians, technicians, and researchers at UofT. Through regular meetings and online discussion, this working group intends to build an online repository that collects material relating to the issues of humanities scholarly communication and the criteria for evaluating scholarship in the digital age. This collection will inform the report this group will produce outlining current problems in humanities scholarship, proposed solutions and future challenges.

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