This weeks readings on Digital Scholarship encompassed a range of topics from defining digital scholarship to open access and copyright to dissertation embargoes. Will Thomas in “What is Digital Scholarship? A typology” provides a basic structure to categorize the various types of digital scholarship being produced. Bethany Nowviskie takes head on the issues involved in evaluating collaborative scholarship, especially in relation to Tenure & Promotion committees, in her awesome piece “Evaluating Collaborative Digital Scholarship (or, Where Credit is Due).” Parker Higgins explains his public domain problems in “Houston, We have a Public Domain Problem” (it is somewhat infuriating) in his article for Medium. Ed Ayers even discusses if their is a future of digital scholarship in his article for Educause Review, “Does Digital Scholarship have a Future?” All of these, and others, were fascinating articles, arguments, and posts on digital scholarship. Yet, I was caught up in possibly a tangential aspect of digital scholarship. Rightfully so, I am engaging with this topic often. It is the very platform from which you are reading right now: Blogging.
A phrase I have returned to often through my academic career thus far, is “…turns like a Battleship.” I have used it in reference to the Latter-day Saint church when studying Mormon history and I have increasingly used it in reference to academia. The field of History, in particular, turns like a Battleship. Even with this paradigm in mind, it is still surprising that an activity as commonplace as blogging in today’s society can be so divisive and inflammatory within the Historical field. Alex Sayf Cummings and Jonathan Jarrett, in their essay “Only Typing? Informal Writing,Blogging and the Academy,” articulate the numerous issues academia takes with blogging. They range from the removal of such gatekeepers as editors or publishers, to the unpolished/informal style of writing and beyond. In contrast, Jarrett and Cummings outline the benefits of blogging as well including the push to constantly write and its use as a vicarious writing group etc. In all, the various “detriments” to scholars that blogging can create aren’t seen as inherent to the platform but rather the residual effect of the long standing, entrenched, traditional structure of academia and the field of History.
Over the past year of my PhD program, I have developed a dynamic relationship with blogging. For different courses, I have been required to blog at least once, if not more, a week over both Fall and Spring semesters which has left a fairly nasty taste in my mouth. An unending stream of “forced blogs/blog topics” does not bode well to foster a lasting relationship with the platform. In fact, the opposite tends to occur, that of not wanting to blog outside of class assignments. In spite of this tense relationship, I have come to appreciate blogs and the level of transparency they provide to the academic process. Having the arena, as a scholar, to voice concerns, ideas, thoughts, and epiphanies fosters continuity in the scholar’s work as well as lasting conversations. As was stated by Cummings and Jarrett, whatever the audience member may be, a blog helps to make the scholar or academic accessible and appear “as approachable and useful human beings.” The blog removes the lasting perception of the scholar as the enigma, contributing every so often through journals and monographs. Instead, I can be anxiously engaged in the field in a transparent way.
The crux of the debate on blogging, and this weeks readings, is whether a blog can be seen as a form of scholarship. This is a difficult question, one that even the authors of the essay disagree on some level. To better frame this question, would be to ask “Is scholarship only scholarship when it is polished and peer-reviewed?” Those are the two paramount critiques of blogging: its unpolished style and its lack of any peer-review process. My answer, in my young scholar’s enthusiasm, is Yes: blogs can be scholarship. This past semester, I had the opportunity to work as an Editor-in-Chief for the online publication Digital Humanities Now. As an aggregate for numerous blogs, I was exposed to hundreds of blog posts. This experience helped me to recognize that the transmission of ideas and concepts stand at the center of scholarship. Blogging does that in an expedited manner without the pretense of polished or refined writing. Lets communicate scholarship to each other through blogs and when that idea or concept etc. is ready, polish it and refine it in a peer-reviewed journal. Why can’t both the polished peer-reviewed and the unfiltered blog fall within the area of scholarship?