Monday, September 9, 2013

"Digital scholarship is happening"

Or so Amy E. Earhart and Andrew Jewell claim in their 2010 book The American Literature Scholar in the Digital Age. I linked into the book this morning when I was considering ways of sharing my dissertation online and seeking feedback from others as I work on it. I'd come across a WordPress plugin about a year ago that I was trying to track down again. It's called CommentPress and it looks like a really cool way to share texts online and to have others comment in the margins of each paragraph, rather than at the bottom of the post. We'll see how it goes, if/when I get it installed for my project.

Anyway, while I was scanning the "About CommentPress" page looking for links to example projects, I followed the link in paragraph 12 to a project Shana Kimball apparently spear-headed: digitalculturebooks. Kimball is the Head of Publishing Services, Outreach, and Strategic Development for the University of Michigan library and digitalculturebooks is "an imprint of the University of Michigan Press dedicated to publishing innovative work in new media studies and digital humanities." Their "primary goal is to be an incubator for new publishing models in the humanities and social sciences." Pretty exciting stuff, if you ask me. Then again, since I started writing about literature online, teaching writing and literature online, and thinking about how digital media affect our interactions with literature, I've become increasingly interested in the digital humanities. And I think it's time I became more systematic about my approach to the field.

Because of this, the first featured image on the page---the cover of Earhart and Jewell's book---made my heart skip a beat, so I linked through and read the introduction. It basically positions the book in the rapidly evolving work of digital scholarship and seeks to discuss how that work is---or ought to be---impacting how scholars of American literature approach and share their research. It touches on ways in which the digital humanities are calling into question traditional methods of humanities scholarship and publishing, which are often quite inertial. Hence the authors' statement: "Digital scholarship is happening." Not only does "happening" suggest that digital scholarship is a pretty hip undertaking ("Their totally happening, man!"), the present progressive tense suggests that it's in a continual state of becoming and that its future and its effectiveness will be determined by what scholars do with it in the here-and-now. This necessarily includes an element of risk, especially since many academic institutions don't always recognize scholarship published via digital means. But I think the innovative work of digital scholars is changing that. That's my hope, anyway.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to making my way through this book (and this one, too) and to applying what I learn as a scholar, a teacher, and an editor.