Digital scholarship is defined in the readings as scholarship that is created using digital tools and is presented in a digital format. In order to be effective, digital scholarship needs to be interactive; use several methods of communication, such as videos and still images, that are integrated with the text; and provide access to primary sources either directly from the site or through an externally accessed repository. Digital scholarship will continue to have the same purpose as traditional academic writing: providing a compelling narrative and argument backed up with primary source evidence.
With digital scholarship, Tim Hitchcock asserts that students, scholars, and professors are moving away from the book and towards online texts. The benefits of moving away from analog sources like books and towards digital sources are many. On the most basic level, online sources are much quicker to use and can provide the reader with a hyperlink to primary sources or other articles on the same topic. Access and audience other key benefits to moving away from the book. With some sources available online for free, knowledge is easily disseminated and can engage with a wide variety of diverse audiences, many of which were unreachable prior to the digital revolution. Digital scholarship is also cost-effective, and can aid in creating an online presence for universities and institutions. Academic journals and presses can, and some have, transport the traditional methods of reviewing, editing, and publishing to the digital realm. While some might find this to be a negative aspect of digital scholarship, I think it’s important to retain these traditional methods in order to ensure the accuracy, reliability, and authoritativeness of academic work.
Blogging is one area of digital scholarship in which editorial supervision is not necessary. Blogs are by nature informal, and several authors in this week’s readings have stressed the importance of presenting ideas and research in unregulated spaces such as blogs. They can be used to interact with various audiences, including academics and others who are simply interested in the topic at hand. They can also serve as writing groups, where authors can share their work and receive feedback. The blogosphere is one area where people are encouraged to write about their research in a less constrained way. As Melissa Terras demonstrated in her article, blogs and Twitter are platforms on which scholars can reach wider audiences and promote their scholarship.
There are some negative aspects of digital scholarship. While I think the informality of blogging is valuable, others find the lack of editorial process and traditional peer review problematic. There is also the issue of permanence, which applies to digital scholarship as a whole. With technology in a constant state of change, will digital scholarship be accessible and usable ten years from now? How will we address this problem in order to preserve our born digital work?
In order for digital scholarship to be effective, there are several issues that must first be addressed. Ed Ayers claims that digital scholarship needs a greater focus and purpose, and more of a sense of a collective identity. In addition, digital scholarship should be seen as a movement across all disciplines of higher education. There are not enough scholars willing to use digital scholarship. People are still too hesitant to trust digital scholarship as a true and serious form of academic history.
As a librarian, I must strongly object to Tim Hitchcock’s statement that the book is dead. I worked as a public librarian, and can easily refute Hitchcock’s claim that the book is dead, at least for the wider public. As a student, I still largely rely on print books and print-based sources for conducting research. I am curious as to what my other peers in Clio think about Hitchcock’s radical assertion. Do they primarily use digital sources now? While I understand there is a growing trend in the academic community towards the digital, is the book really dead?