Readings, Part II: The First Three Articles

Note: Part 2 of the readings, looking at the first three articles. Click here for Part I.

          Dan Cohen, The Ivory Tower

This rough draft of an introduction chapter has been posted online to facilitate discussion and feedback, as modeled in Planned Obsolescence. The Content of the article is like the book read for this week, so let’s instead focus on the comments. A few readers noted the long introductory narrative of Nate Silver as seeming not totally connected to the greater point. Others found issue with lack of disciplinary definition. Yet another had thoughts on grammar and sentence construction. Cohen responds to these commenters to explain himself, offer further insights, or even explain how the draft has already changed.

  1. Does this seem like a productive discussion?
  2. How does this mirror the examples given by Fitzpatrick in Planned Obsolescence?

          Sue Baughman, Transformation of Scholarly Communication

This introduction by Sue Baughman presents an article by Rikk Mulligan. Mulligan provides an overview of the history of the article and scholarly monograph, as well as problems and potential solutions to the form in the digital age. This article is presented in a super weird format I’ve never seen before, and after initial hesitation was actually pretty cool, though there’s little functionality beyond a traditional pdf. There is a social sharing options on the side, which is kind of cool if you have friends who are overtly concerned with the state of scholarly monograph.

  1. What did you think of the reader this article used?
  2. What value does the monograph have?
  3. What are some solutions offered by Mulligan? Are they feasible?

Griffiths, Dawson, and Rascoff, Scholarly Communications

As a graduate student, reading this article was very strange. It clinically breaks down the ways in which historians use specific types of sources, why, and their feelings on the digitization of those sources. Their conclusions are that historians will be remarkably slow to push for better coordination with the digital age (with the exception of Africanists and public historians). There’s a lot to digest for short article, especially concerning the enshrinement of the monograph (considering journals are more widely used and written), and the concern that undergraduates won’t seek out non-digital works. This was written in 2006. They’re talking about us.

  1. Does it exist if it isn’t digital?
  2. How has this been reflected in your own research?
  3. Does this twelve year old article reflect the current situation?

7 Replies to “Readings, Part II: The First Three Articles”

  1. In regards to your questions about “Scholarly Communications”, I do think its a touch unfair to claim that “it doesn’t exist if its not digital” especially for undergrads. I think journals, books, and archives may as well not exist for undergrads if they are not accessible in the library or online, because what undergrad has the resources to go to archives in France or Egypt?
    There is a degree of truth for something not existing if its not digital, but only if there is no trace of it in searching online records. If I’m trying to find a primary source that is key to my research and pops up in an archive in a small archive in England, I’d sure try to my hardest to get to that archive, but I have to know that the document even exists in the first place. I think this is something that historians and archivists are still working on and have been since 2006.

  2. Just because something isn’t digital (yet) doesn’t mean the object doesn’t exist. Sure, it might be harder to find or the actuality of the thing still existing might cause one to think the object is lost, but we should always be optimistic that it’s out there. You never know when you might find a little piece of history; the History Channel even capitalizes off this very notion! Look at American Pickers or Pawn Stars!
    I think this comes back to conversations we’ve had in class before about funding. Depending on the size of the institution, museums, houses or small historical societies cannot afford to digitize everything or the programs that could help them organize their collections. For example, a lot of smaller institutions use PastPerfect which if you’ve seen the interface looks like it’s straight out of the early 90s computer setups. There are a few iterations of this program, however updates are not a big concern since the program still operates and these institutions wouldn’t have the money to pay for newer technology anyways. One day, mostly everything will be digitized but without money and man power that day will be farther away than we’d like.

  3. Regarding the Scholarly Communications article, I tend to agree with the two comments above. It seemed to me at least that one cannot definitively say something does not exist if it isn’t digitized, which negates their argument from the start. I think an important distinction to make here is not if something “exists”, but if it is “accessible”. It is easier for us as grad students to access scholarly articles because we are lucky enough to have access through our institution’s library, but not everybody has that option. I know there are particular conversation’s going on even today regarding this, wherein independent scholars are having difficultly gaining the type of access academic scholars have, and how that affects the field. While there are drawbacks to each of these arguments, a positive aspect that comes from this is that it sometimes forces us as budding scholars, independent scholars, or even undergrads, to look at different avenues to find sources, therefore opening up gateways to information that might have otherwise not been looked at. For example, if one wanted to head to Russia to study primary documents within the Moscow archive but was unable to, and the documents were not digitized, it would force the scholar to creatively think of ways to find their information, which turns the process itself into an intellectual exercise with the potential to produce something unique, therefore moving the field forward.

    Although this may be a positivist look at their argument, we do have to remember that it was written 12 years ago. So much has changed, and continues to change. Therefore, while it is important to note that this article may not be completely applicable, a takeaway can be the fact that these studies are conducted in the first place. Self-awareness, whether we agree or disagree, can again help move the field forward. Hopefully in the digital environment of 2018 and beyond.

    1. I definitely agree with you about accessbility of material that is not digitial. Even though the material exists regardless if it is digitized or not, I feel like now more and more people are relying on digital articles or texts in comparision to non-digitized material. I know for me, I am more likely to read an article that I find online or through the different databases that AU pays for, then find a book and spend the time to see if it is worth reading or not. For many people, the first thing they do when researching a topic is to go online and see what material is out there. I feel like material that is not digitized or doesn’t have some sort of digital presence often gets overlooked and left out because people just don’t know that the material is out there.

  4. I enjoyed the Scholarly Communications article, because I find it fascinating the way they spoke about monographs. While it’s easy to say that they are the way of the past, or that they only get written because academics want tenure, that’s not the only purpose they serve. Published works outside of academic journals can often provide a more nuances, more fleshed out argument while still remaining accessible as a digital book. They also serve as a treasure trove for historians researching topics, as the footnotes often concisely speak to the conversation at large, and how the monograph is aligning or breaking from that pattern. Many online journals have hefty monetary walls, unless you are in the academic world. A library that gets monographs, however, can make the accessible to all those wishing to learn more. This article does show its age, but it seems like it’s forgetting that “irl” and “digital” can’t coexist together. It’s not the format, but the understanding of how we can take that format and make is accessible to those who need or want it.

  5. Cohen’s introduction is an excellent example of so much that we are talking about this week. This discussion demonstrates the utility of interaction as Cohen is able to receive instant feedback as he continues to alter the work. I think Cohen sums up perfectly much of the material when he describes 538 as an example of “iterating toward perfection” rather than publishing a fully polished work. 538 shows that this format offers non-traditional scholars or professionals the chance to engage in the field in ways that without digital platforms they may not be able to. As a whole this discussion sums up the benefits of interaction and continuous work.

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