The Digital Humanities & Transforming Scholarly Communication

Scholarship, it is a-changin’. I remember when the majority of the academic blogs I read were anonymous, lest tenure-seeking faculty be mocked for “wasting their time” on such an endeavor. Now I follow many librarians and faculty across the world on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and more, their identities and institutional affiliations freely posted. When I finished my MA in Art History, I still had to submit my thesis in hard copy (although I was also one of the first classes to submit it electronically on a one-use CD–remember those?). Sunday, I submitted my final edited dissertation to UNT as a PDF via email. No hard copy, no tangible media, no requirements to print or bind it, ever. Still, there’s debate about “What ‘Counts’” toward promotion and tenure, of these newer scholarly activities and formats–see Ruth Starkman’s article at Inside Higher Ed for a great discussion of the issue. Disseminating your research and discussing it through social media (like Twitter, Mendeley, is a great way to ensure your research is consumed by others as well as to push it further. Research is a conversation that builds on what others have said before you, and will live on as other discuss your work and your own ideas evolve.


I’m currently working on disseminating my own research. The article drafting is slow (and will be even slower to publish), but I recently created a Prezi based on my dissertation research (a PDF version is embedded below). I defended my dissertation last fall using a traditional PowerPoint slideshow (see here), but it was a fairly boring way to present my results. I decided to re-configure it in Prezi with the idea of serving three purposes: 1) serving as an interactive abstract of my research than the text-based one on this website, 2) the basis for a more interesting presentation of my results, and 3) the potential to be printed as a research poster. I like the idea of re-using this one item for all three purposes.

This is fairly tame, as far as digital reinventions of the dissertation go. The Digital Humanities departments at CUNY and NYU have some standout work that make me want to sign up for another doctorate–well, not really. But the implications for affecting how research is done in education and library science are potent and exciting.

Last month, I attended a Digital Humanities workshop at NYU called “Thick Mapping and Spatial Humanities.” Todd Presner of UCLA walked us through several DH projects, including Visualizing Statues in the Late Antique Roman Forum. This fascinating project that uses Google Earth and digital versions of Roman statues to create a three-dimensional walk-through of the Roman Forum with period architecture, statutes, and scholarship about the inscriptions on the statues. I remember dreaming about this possibility when I was an art history graduate student, imagining how much richer art scholarship could be by using technology to experience art in its original context. Another project used GIS data, US Census data, community oral histories, video, Google Earth, and photographs to map experiences over time in a Los Angeles neighborhood.

Doctoral students in these areas are completely rethinking the traditional dissertation. Take a look at this introductory video for the CUNY Graduate Center’s New Media Lab, which helps students think through and execute these projects. Check out the virtual space for sonic interaction that one student is creating! 

So how should academic libraries respond to this shift in scholarly communication? I recently presented a case study of how one library is supporting and could further support evolving methods of scholarly communication with an emphasis on open access (click here for Prezi, or see embedded PDF below).

Here are some more related articles from Inside Higher Ed:


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