If we “share” what is “legit”?

I really appreciate Sample’s concept of “reproduction and sharing of knowledge”. I also strongly agree with his belief that the numerous debates (like who’s in and who’s out) are simply “a distracting sideshow to the true power of the digital humanities”. I feel like so much time and energy of such intelligent people is being wasted on trying to limit or categorize the field when they could be focused on “building” and “sharing”. This reminds me of our previous article, “The Digital Humanities Divide” where Reid asks, “What would our research, technology design, and thinking look like if we took seriously the momentous opportunities and challenges for learning posed by our digital era?” I like the idea of moving our attention to “sharing” because it is productive and true to the founding intent of DH as a field.

However I think this concept of open sharing and discussion of knowledge is great— in theory. As great as it would be to free our gateway of knowledge from the constraints of “physical printed books, journals production costs, distribution friction, and slowly along ingrained routes”, I feel like there are several obstacles.

I do believe how we share work is limited by an ingrained desire to be considered someone “worthy” or “important” in your field. Previous to our digital era, how we validate academic work? How do we label a project or article as “legitimate” or “scholarly”? Traditional print. We have this sad misconception that work published in a physical book or journal is automatically granted more authority than another posted on twitter or a personal web page. people are still evaluated based on their published work in graduate programs, tenure, and funding. I don’t disagree with Sample’s alternative models for publishing- Kindle Singles and stand-alone journal articles- but the “clunky apparatus of the journal surrounding it” is what we rely on. It seems like that apparatus of traditional publishing promises the content was verified by the publishing unit.

It reminds me of writing essays in high school and (sadly) several classes here at Emory: we could not use websites as sources. We could only use peer reviewed journals and published books. But why? Why do some professors believe that just because the work is a traditional print form it is “legitimate”? This was always so painful—I would find so many great works on the internet, but I would be forced to ignore them to use some poorly written, twenty-year-out-of-date book. Many of my professors argued that the published works were verified by other scholars, and that supposedly made them more “valid” or “authentic”.

I do not support the idea that the traditional publishing should automatically make the content in an article “legitimate” or “worthy”, but I think it is a subliminal thought many people do have. I believe we must overcome this pre-conceived notion before DH scholars fully support this idea of open and universal sharing.

5 Comments on “If we “share” what is “legit”?”

  1. Jordan Nissensohn says:

    You really hit a nerve with your essay-writing example! I always hated it when a teacher banned all online sources for an essay (this happened ALL THE TIME in highschool). Perhaps at one time, we could blame this on a lack of credibility; but come on! It’s already 2011 and 2012 is only 3 months away. The internet is part of us. And just like we can di “The National Inquirer” isn’t as credible as “The New York Times”, we are well-versed enough in “net-speak” to be able to judge a page’s credibility. It’s the perfect example of the “divide” between print and digital. And more importantly is Sample’s conclusion that the divide is nothing but a “distract[ion]”.

  2. Brian Croxall says:

    It’s unfortunate that teachers ban the web from research when what they really should do is teach you how to distinguish good research from inferior. (This is something that has to happen with print books as well.)

    Chelsea, how do you think we could get over our hangups with print? I don’t know that Jordan’s exhortation is going to do it, unfortunately; just because you guys are net savvy doesn’t automatically make you (or me) experts in all things.

    • Chelsea Edwards says:

      I feel like it will just take time….
      I think it will come as society will continue to accept technology for its ease and utility in our activities of daily living. As we allow more digital help into our lives, more people will accept maybe not all technology is evil and trying to take over the world like Irobot.

      Also , more DH classes. Classes that openly embrace digital works along side print forms will help snowball the trend. I think digital appreciate will come slowly like any trend– it will just take more public exposure to gain popularity and acceptance.
      I think as our digital generation comes to power we will see a great surge in the “sharing” because our culture appreciates (and relies on) immediacy and digital tools.

  3. Tim Webber says:

    While I think you raise a decent point here, I think that this issue will take care of itself. If a scholar published a work via Kindle Singles or something similar, I feel like the response of the DH community would determine its validity. In the same way that articles for peer-reviewed journals are viewed and discussed before publication, worthy digital articles will be discussed in blog posts and Twitter feeds.