If we “share” what is “legit”?Posted: October 12, 2011
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.